PHOENIX — Imagine you’re in your teens during the early 2000’s, public school is the definition of a living hell, and one of the only things keeping you going day after day are the sweet sounds of whining pop punk vocalists leaking in through your earbuds. Sound familiar? This was a very real scenario for many people back in the days when Motion City Soundtrack were first gracing the music scene with their lyrically intelligent and synth-laden brand of pop punk. Many of those same people, among legions of others, were in attendance at their show in downtown Phoenix, supported by Doll Skin and Mom Jeans, and they were still as young at heart for their love of pop punk as they were back in the good old days.
Kicking off the night were the incomparably talented band, Doll Skin who got their start right here in Phoenix. What they lack in size they most certainly make up for in aggressively inviting energy and excitement that most bands could only dream of achieving on their own. The charisma pouring from each member on stage, especially lead vocalist Sydney Dolezal, is something that cannot be easily described without witnessing it for yourself first. Doll Skin is a band that knows how to kick off a party and with songs like “Love is Dead and We Killed Her” and the excellent Florence + The Machine cover of “Shake It Out”, it’s very easy to see why.
Given the unenviable task of having to follow Doll Skin, Berkeley, California band, Mom Jeans took the stage with an undeniable sense of pure joy erupting from their faces. This is a band that truly loves what they do and that love is very contagious to members of any audience lucky enough to catch them. It’s incredible watching a band with only two studio albums to their name pump up a crowd so much with instant classics like “Now This Is Podracing”, “Death Cup”, and obvious crowd favorite, “Shred Cruz”. The mood was set for an exciting night ahead but no one could’ve prepared themselves for what came next.
Motion City Soundtrack
By the time Motion City Soundtrack took the stage, one might assume that most people would’ve been easily exhausted from dancing to all the other great music preceding them. This was definitely not the case though considering the audience full of that many diehard fans crammed to capacity inside The Van Buren’s acoustically pristine walls. Motion City Soundtrack sounded more energetic and polished than ever by the time their turn to play came along. This is a band that has truly come into their own over the years and there’s no sign of them losing that momentum for the remainder of their reunion tour.
Lead vocalist Justin Pierre’s quirky and painfully honest lyrics still continue to ring true for the armies of screaming fans who have had them committed to memory for over a decade at this point. The loyalty of their fan base is certainly not to be underestimated; as with the help of Justin’s beautifully gifted voice, it’s highly likely that many of the audience members were able to train themselves to sing in key along to the band’s music over the years — a truly incredible feat that made the concert experience all the more enjoyable and fun.
The rest of the band had no shortage of energy either, and anybody who struggles with maintaining optimum energy levels during their 9-5 desk jobs would benefit greatly from learning their secrets. This was especially true for keyboard player, Jesse Johnson, who would regularly thrash around on stage at his own wild pace. At one point that daredevil even held a handstand on top of his instrument for no less than 5 seconds. The movements were as fluid, crazy, and natural as they’ve been since the inception of the band and it was a beautifully refreshing thing to behold.
Justin graciously thanked the audience for attending and supporting live music more than once throughout their set. This was another highlight of the show because he came off like an approachable, friendly person, which only confirms everything most people have already heard about him. Throughout the show he’d go back and forth with audience members shouting random things at him like “I named my dog after you!” which prompted him to ask, “Is your dog HERE? I’d like to meet him!” It was incredibly endearing and is something that other bands should definitely take notes on. After ripping into timeless classics like “Everything Is Alright”, and “L.G. FUAD”, the band continued tapping into people’s nostalgia with perfect renditions of “Hold Me Down”, “Make Out Kids”, and “This Is For Real”.
Capping off the night with an encore of “The Future Freaks Me Out”, this only solidified their legacy as an endlessly fun, receptive, and crowd-pleasing band.
Tempe, AZ — Authority Zero has reached a milestone that all bands aspire to: a quarter of a century of putting out incredibly great music — in their case, punk rock. To celebrate 25 years, they threw a bit of a party, inviting their fans as well as four local bands to join them in celebration. Madd Dog Tannen, Skull Drug, Black Mountain Moonshine, and ZeeCeeKeely all preceded Authority Zero, playing to a rowdy and energetic crowd.
To the uninitiated — those who have never had the joy of attending a punk, ska, or reggae show — it would be easy to be a bit puzzled as to how all three are related. The first wave of ska formed in the 1950s, and reggae evolved from ska in the 1960s. Punk’s roots are also in the 60s, stemming from the garage band scene, and was focused mainly in England and New York, while ska and reggae got started in Jamaica. Ska punk, closely associated with third wave ska, blossomed in the 80s and 90s. The punk scene from the start was anti-establishment, and that carries into today. There is a sizable underground punk scene in Arizona, with smaller venues such as Yucca Tap Room, Pub Rock, Chopper John’s, Last Exit Live, Rebel Lounge, The Underground and others playing host to some loud and fun concerts on a weekly basis.
This underground scene does not get the recognition it deserves; there are many massively talented local bands and artists that play every week, but they rarely rise to the level of national stardom that some ought to. This show was a duality of a celebration of a band that rose to fame, and the introduction and showcase of local bands that are hidden gems.
There was a buzz around Marquee Theatre as the crowd started to trickle in with eager anticipation of the night ahead and the experience of Authority Zero. This is a band who has worked hard to get where they are and appreciate the fans and those that come behind them.
The first band was a reggae band from Tucson: ZeeCeeKeely. They were the perfect choice to start the night off. Their music is excellent, albeit a bit calm compared to what the rest of the night had in store. But they are still a loud, energetic, and fun reggae band to watch.
The short 7-song set included a very nice surprise: a reggae version of “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd. With great vocals from Zachery Keely and a group of talented musicians that will soon include horns, this band is one you should catch if you enjoy reggae. They will perform on February 23rd, 2020 at Rawhide during the Arizona Roots festival.
After a quick stage change, the second band, Black Mountain Moonshine, took the stage. Shortly after they started, a staple of a punk show formed: a mosh pit — a unique and nearly sacred place where total strangers can run into each other and pummel one another, and at the end of the night, hug each other and leave exhausted and elated.
The lead singer Ethan Minney plays an electric mandolin, a piece that is not often seen in a punk band, and plays it very well. Their sound is also unique: at points it sounded like they were about to launch into a country song, while at others, you would swear that Flogging Molly was on the stage. Currently, they have no shows showing as scheduled, so following them on social media is a must to find when and where you can catch this unique, talented band.
Skull Drug was up next, and it immediately became apparent that we were in for an incredible set. When asked before the show how to identify lead singer Evan Williams, the band manager described him as looking like he had murdered a muppet. This was accurate, as Williams had bright red hair, a green shirt and blue plaid pants.
The set unfortunately did not start smoothly, but this did not keep them down. While working through technical issues with Williams’ guitar, the guitarists Justin Waldrop and Roger St. John kept the crowd entertained and bantered with them until everything was worked out, including asking the crowd, “Are you ready to party?” Party they did, launching into the loudest and most entertaining set of all the openers.
All three are amazingly talented guitar players, backed by an incredible drummer in Wyatt Clark. They also have a stage presence and can get the crowd involved to work them into a frenzy. The set felt extremely short, even though it was over 30 minutes long. The style is loud, in- your-face, and impossible to not want to move to it in some way – either by bobbing your head, by running into your neighbor in the mosh pit, or by dancing. All three of those scenarios played out that night. Williams and Waldrop danced around the stage nonstop during this set, and kept the party going after their set ended. Waldrop was spotted crowd surfing during the Authority Zero set while Williams was in the crowd next to the mosh pit.
Together since 2010, it would not be a stretch of the imagination to see Skull Drug headlining their own tour at some point in the very near future. Their set, from their stage presence to the music, was every bit as memorable as Williams’ hair. You can catch them on January 4th at Yucca Tap Room. They also have an album coming out sometime next year called Your Government and God Won’t Save You.
Madd Dog Tannen took the stage next as the final opener. For those who think that the name sounds familiar, it should if you are a Back to the Future fan. All members were a bit of a contrast to the previous bands: well-dressed, looking more like they were about to close a business deal with you than melt your face off with some amazing punk music. As they did a quick sound check before their set, Brian Willey (lead singer) comically tried to lead the crowd in a rendition of “Deck the Halls”.
Willey and his band quickly jumped into a fantastic set, at times bringing out a younger guitar player as their fifth band member. They are veterans of the music scene, playing since 2006, and have opened for Authority Zero in the past. Willey is an imposing figure on the stage as he puts everything he has into the performance. He is entertaining to watch and produces great power with his voice. While mainly a punk band, there was some ska mixed into the music. As they wrapped up their set, they played a cover of “When I Come Around” by Green Day. They, too, are a band that should be followed on social media to hear about their next dates. You won’t regret tracking them down to see their shows.
As Madd Dog Tannen left the stage, the anticipation built for Authority Zero. The chant “We want Zero!” started right before the band took the stage, growing in volume until they got what they wanted.
To the delight of the band, the crowd exploded as they walked onto the stage. Lead singer Jason DeVore greeted the crowd with a grin and launched into “A Passage in Time,” from their first album. The opening bands had slowly cranked the intensity up to 10, then Authority Zero quickly cranked it up to 12 and never slowed down. DeVore seems to be utterly indefatigable, a force to be reckoned with after nearly a quarter of a century as the lead singer of Authority Zero. He delivers each line with fury and passion, and yet looks out at the crowd awestruck that he’s lucky enough to keep doing this.
While DeVore is keeping the crowd pumped up with his incredible delivery, drummer Chris Dalley is tasked with keeping the beats going in the unimaginatively fast songs that are the staple of Authority Zero’s catalog. He seems to do this effortlessly. Rounding out the band are guitarist Dan Aid and bassist Mike Spero, both of whom are incredibly talented and fun to watch.
As the set progressed, the mosh pit showed no signs of slowing down and the crowd surfing started. DeVore repeatedly reached out to the crowd surfers to help them as they were being set down, giving a couple of high fives, pointing to crowd members and acknowledging them throughout the night. He announced that they were going to use that night as a New Years Eve party, which hyped up the rambunctious fans. DeVore has apparent and enormous appreciation for the fans and the bands who opened for them.
It would be fair to say that this was not just an early New Years Eve party, not just a celebration of the 25 years of making music, influencing and inspiring the Arizona and national music scene — it was something more. It felt like a love letter to the fans, the people who have faithfully shown up even when the venues were tiny, when the sound wasn’t great, when the band was struggling. DeVore held the mic out to the crowd, asking them to sing lines in the song, gesturing for them to be a bit louder, and all in all, making sure that every single person walked away from that show happy. He also repeated “Thank you Arizona!” more than once, obviously meaning it from his heart every time.
As the night drew to a close and after returning to the stage for the encore, DeVore called out onto stage a young fan, one who is known for his incredible music talents. His name is Recker Eans, a name that I believe we will hear many more times over the years, and he played the drums for the song “Mesa Town”. It was a great way to end the night, almost the passing of the torch to the next generation, though I believe we will have many more great years to look forward to with Authority Zero.
The night was one for the ages. It is also a night that happens weekly around the valley, albeit on a much smaller scale than what was at the Marquee on Saturday. The punk scene is alive and thriving, and there are many, many great bands out there who deserve to have you stop by and listen to their music, to watch their shows. There are hidden gems playing in small venues, bands that love their craft and love their arts. The appreciation that these bands all have for each other is clear, and the love for Arizona and the punk scene that Authority Zero has was on full display on a magical night — a celebration of the upcoming new year, and the birthday celebration of an influential and great band.
PHOENIX — There is an age-old argument over when exactly the Christmas season starts. Some would say that the day after Halloween is the official date that you can start preparing for Christmas, and others argue that the day after Thanksgiving, and not a day before, is the proper date to throw some Christmas music on and start feeling festive. It should be postulated that neither of these are correct: The first day that it officially feels like Christmas is the day of the first concert in Lindsey Stirling’s annual winter tour.
The tour is in its third year now, first named “Warmer in the Winter” in 2017, “The Wanderland Tour” in 2018 and now “Warmer in the Winter” again. Stirling, an Arizona native, noted during the show that the name came from all of the warm winters she spent here in Arizona. “The Wanderland Tour” bypassed Arizona, which may possibly explain why the tour changed names last year.
Arizona winters are indeed warm, and this one was no exception up until earlier this week. As the doors opened and the public began pouring into Comerica Theatre in Downtown Phoenix, there was a chill in the air, one that announced that winter actually does come to Arizona. In the moments leading up to the first wisp of smoke from the machine on stage, the audience filtered into the theatre and found their seats with a growing buzz of anticipation, as excited conversations built toward a crescendo as showtime drew closer. All ages had come out to see Lindsey Stirling, from the wide-eyed young girls who wore dresses that looked much like the dresses that Stirling wears in her music videos, to the older fans who looked like they were ready for a Sunday morning church service. For the young, they had come to see their hero. For the older, to see an artist who has redefined what it means to be a violinist. No one left disappointed.
The “Warmer in the Winter” tour was a delight in every way possible. From the first few moments after the smoke machines kicked on to announce the start of the show until the final notes of the last song, “I Wonder While I Wander,” each and every second was packed with magic. Stirling and her dancers moved effortlessly through incredibly difficult maneuvers, drawing the crowd in. She is well known for her violin skills and her dancing, but she is also an incredible singer with a wicked sense of humor. Backed by a talented band including Kit Nolan on the keyboard and Drew Steen on the drums, Stirling danced, sang, and cracked jokes throughout the night.
The production includes special effects, props, and costuming that inspire awe and joy. The backdrop was a massive screen, which was one of the key elements to the show. Throughout the night, it would be used to show a clip of Stirling’s alter ego Phebla, become a backdrop of the universe while she played “Between The Twilight” from her newest album Artemis, and finally to have us fly through a field of mushrooms as a nod to Alice In Wonderland during “Carol of the Bells.” She explained that she named the album after Artemis because Artemis is the Goddess of the moon, and the moon brings light into the darkness.
Her concerts are always an inspirational and moving experience because heartfelt speeches in between songs are a regular part of the show. She told the audience, “I want you to think about how amazing you are, because I think that’s something you may not tell yourself enough…every single person in this room is incredible and powerful…as I play this song, maybe even close your eyes and see yourself for how beautiful you are and for your own light, because the world needs every single person to shine.” As she started to play “Between The Twilight”, the spotlight turned off, and the screen behind her showed the universe, or the stars in it at least. The ethereal sound took the audience on a journey of light, of sound, of beauty.
Stirling is also a fierce advocate for her fans. After a visually stunning “We Three Gentlemen,” She gave an emotional speech, talking about her journey to get where she was. She then told the audience “Nobody else can write your story. Never let anyone else tell you what you can do, what you can’t do, what you’re good at, what you’re not good at — because you’re the only one who knows what you can do, what’s inside of you.” She admitted that her insecurities had not changed from before she found fame until now.
Stirling spoke at length, her voice quivering a bit as she talked about losing her best friend to cancer 4 years ago, and her dad 3 years ago. It was an emotional, vulnerable speech. She spoke about angels and how she felt they surrounded her. This led into “Angels We Have Heard on High,” during which she stood at the top of the stairs in front of the screens with a mesmerizingly beautiful light that followed her every move with her bow. It was the most impactful song of the show.
She spoke with gratitude of how much she appreciated the shows in Arizona, saying that she looked forward to them because, “I feel like this is my family.”
“Thank you guys so much for coming! It’s only because of you guys and the support I had from home from the very beginning that I am here. Thank you.”
During Stirling’s “favorite song to play,” “Hallelujah,” the tone switched away from happy, jovial, and infectious. The entire venue was utterly captivated by the otherworldly beautiful sound of the violin and backing guitar. There were some in the audience wiping away tears as the last notes faded away and Stirling again thanked everyone.
There are those that dedicate their life to the mastery of the violin, and others who train to lead the dance troupe at the theatre. To be able to do both at once – and do it well – is rare indeed. As the show started it became apparent the immense amount of planning and attention to detail that went into each and every step of this spectacular display. Each costume change was so well-planned that it would not be noticed or delay the show, and each dance move was tightly choreographed. Stirling has a zest for performing, a love for the fans, and a respect for her craft that lends itself to a show that would be hard to equal.
Everyone had gathered for a concert, but those in attendance received so much more than that. Viewing the show through the eyes of one who has seen many, it was an incredible, exciting show — one that lingers in the back of the mind. She is a wonderful role model to the young that view her as a giant. They aspire to one day reach her greatness after witnessing the impact of her beauty and grace.
Stirling has a self-awareness that gives strength and power to those around her, saying what people need to hear before they even know they need to hear it. She is, in a word, rare. She is a once in a generation talent who has captured the imagination of the young, inspires the broken and gives peace to all who hear her. As the show ended and we walked into the cold night air of her hometown, it was hard not to feel refreshed and ready to celebrate the season. And that, in the end, is the magic of Lindsey Stirling.
PHOENIX — In the middle of downtown Phoenix is a nondescript alley with a door halfway down it. Over that door is a neon sign with the words “Valley Bar” spelled out. It casts a stark and yet warm glow into the alley. It is not an easy venue to find, but it is absolutely worth the trek if you’re looking for great music. For this particular event, Heather Woods Broderick and The Building was playing on a Wednesday night.
The Building is fronted by Anthony LaMarca, a talented and accomplished music veteran. He is currently the guitarist for the band The War on Drugs, and has played drums for St. Vincent on tour. He also has his own record label, named Primary Records. Broderick has toured with Sharon Van Etten as part of her backing band and has also played in bands such as Horse Feathers. To be able to see musicians as talented as these two in a venue as intimate as the Valley Bar is indeed a treat.
By the time the show started just after 8:00pm, the entire audience had shown up. There were fewer than 20 people in attendance — likely due to a somewhat hard to find venue and a midweek show. For those of us fortunate enough to be in attendance, we were treated to a downright solid show.
Heather Woods Broderick
Broderick took the stage first with Andrew Carlson on the bass guitar, and Dean Anshutz on the drums. Carlson and Anshutz would be on stage for most of the evening, since they play in The Building as well. Broderick started with an acoustic guitar. Her fingers flew across the strings as a nearly ethereal sound came from the guitar — a sound that would be present for much of the evening. Her otherworldly vocals are enough to find your mouth agape. There is a beauty in the melancholic, enthralling tone of Broderick’s music.
While most of the songs are slower, she turned up the tempo with “Quicksand” from the album Invitation, which is a song that is rather drum heavy and a very nice change of pace. Anshutz was a joy to watch during the show because of his precision on the drums and how much he gets into it, but he was even more so during this song. Broderick also played “I Try” and ended the show on “Invitation”. With the voice of an angel and impressive control, Broderick yodeled through the closing notes of the final song, which is a delight that can only be experienced live since these fluctuations are not heard on the studio recording of the song.
Mid-show, she mentioned that she was surprised at how warm it still was outside and what there was to do in downtown Phoenix. Later on, she also spoke about touring with The Building, and said “They’re very sweet people and I love hearing them play their stuff every night.” It was also mentioned that there was a week and a half left in the tour.
The Building took the stage shortly after 9:00pm, and LaMarca greeted the audience with “We’re called The Building, we’re from Youngstown Ohio, thanks for being here!” and launched into the first song. He seemed to forget the lyrics after the first line of the song, but instead of powering through and going to the next line, he stopped the song and cracked a joke about the mistake. He noted that it was better to acknowledge the mistake and fix it, saying “It’s like when you go to a sandwich shop and you order turkey on a sandwich but instead they give you fish and it’s just not as good.” The song was restarted, and the night was back on track.
There is a bit of a wistful feeling to these songs, perhaps owing to the fact that the drums were rarely used throughout the set. Watching Carlson play the bass grants a new appreciation for how precise each note needs to be. There is also a mellowness to the songs that feels a bit like quiet reflections in musical form. The soothing mood of the music would pair well with The Paper Kites on a relaxation playlist.
Midway through the show, LaMarca stopped to chat with the audience. He noted that this was their first time in Phoenix and then asked if anyone had any dogs. Surprisingly, only one person indicated she did, and they had a conversation about the three dogs she owned. The latest album is named after LaMarca’s dog Petra, a German shepherd. There is a story on their website about the name of the record and his dog Petra, and it is one we highly recommend reading.
As the night drew to a close, LaMarca announced the final song as “Peace’s Eternal Truth Renews All,” or “PETRA”. Each of the songs off of the latest album are quite personal, as he has battled Multiple Myeloma twice in the past few years and this was written and recorded during his latest battle, but PETRA feels more personal than the others. As the last notes faded, the show ended, and the few of us fortunate enough to be there made our way up the stairs and back into the alley in downtown Phoenix. Watching LaMarca and The Building in such a small venue is not an opportunity that should be taken for granted. All members of the band are extremely talented, and as such, the music was excellent.
Glendale, AZ — Tool stopped in Glendale night to play the Gila River Arena to an ocean of patiently adoring fans that could not have been more excited to hear the band rip into their ear drums. However, little did everyone in attendance know that what transpired next would be far beyond even what their lofty expectations could prepare them for.
One might think after a 13-year hiatus from recording new music, that a band might be well past their prime but fortunately for Tool, they’re clearly an exception to the rule. With the release of their latest album, Fear Inoculum, this is a band that has proven they won’t compromise their artistic vision for the sake of putting an album out every two years or so. They take their time perfecting a raw, mysterious sound that fans have come to revere over the years.
UK veterans Killing Joke kicked off the night and proved to be an excellent opening act, getting the crowd pumped up with their whiplash-inducing brand of quasi-metal and goth rock sounds. They were definitely an interesting choice for the opening band, but Tool has always brought their friends and greatest musical influences along with them on tour. It was fascinating to observe and clear how Killing Joke’s unique take on music clearly influenced Tool’s own iconic sound as their set went on. Notably, Killing Joke has had many lineup changes throughout the years. But recently, all of their original members are officially back in the band. This brought an inspiring energy to the night that would only flourish in intensity as the time grew closer for Tool to take the stage.
Fans of Tool know very well the law of the land at their concerts: no photos or videos. One might find this to be disappointing, but in many ways, it enhances the concert experience as people allow themselves and others to become fully engaged in the moment. As the lights fell to black, the sounds of cheering cut in front of the ambient noise with the swiftness of a starving octogenarian jumping to the front of the line at an early-bird dinner buffet. You could reach out and touch the energy in the room, and just when it seemed like the arena would burst from the crowd’s anticipation, guitarist Adam Jones played the opening swells to the new album’s title track, “Fear Inoculum.”
This was a very good choice for the opening number, not only because it’s the first song on the new album, but also because it represents the first example of new music they presented to the world after a 13-year drought. The song was recreated beautifully in the live setting, and it was accompanied by some of the most impressive Alex Gray-inspired visuals to date. Incredibly long threads formed around the stage in a circular formation as intensely colorful images were projected onto the screen towering behind the band. These threads also allowed the images projected on stage to glide across them in a pseudo-3D effect that was nothing less than spectacular for lucky enough to capture it firsthand.
Familiar clay aliens and faceless men in business suits adorned the screen as fans were treated to the corresponding music videos for each of the band’s older songs. One particular highlight included a full live rendition of “Parabol/Parabola” in all of its 9-minute glory, to the uncontainable delight of many fans in attendance. The drums punched through the mix with a primal fury not seen from many other bands around today, thanks to the incomparable Danny Carey behind the monstrous kit. His effortless playing and ad-libbing enhanced the songs without it sounding too busy or as if he was showing off. Every single drum strike was as tasteful as the last, which is no small feat when you have such a large kit at your disposal to tempt a less stoic individual into overplaying.
Guitarist Adam Jones and bassist Justin Chancellor were also both in exceptional form throughout the night, proving their playing only continues to improve. The ear-piercing squeals of Jones’ dark Les Paul mixed with Chancellor’s thunderous yet melodic bass lines are truly a match made in heaven.
Other notable highlights of the night included the second song of the set “Ænima”, introduced by singer Maynard James Keenan happily declaring “Alpha Omega. AZ. It’s good to be home. We just got back from LA.” Immediately followed by the familiarly breathy “hey” repeated throughout the intro of the song about a great flood of biblical proportions consuming the entirety of Los Angeles in all of its perceived decay and decadence. This was followed by excellent performances of “The Pot”, “Jambi”, and “Schism”, with the latter incorporating an unexpectedly sped-up bridge section that had to be heard to be believed.
Tool have achieved what so many other bands who have been together for as long as they have only dream of doing successfully: standing the test of time. So many bands of yesteryear lapse into obscurity or worse yet, self-parody, as they make their comebacks. Tool is not one of them. They continue to deliver unprecedented, phenomenal live shows and mind-blowing visuals that only get better as time flows onward. If you get the chance to see them live, do yourself a favor by not missing out, because they deliver every single time.
PHOENIX — AWOLNATION returned to Phoenix after a nearly year long absence, playing at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum for the first time. The energy and the noise that AWOLNATION brought with them felt like it would bring down the Coliseum. AWOLNATION took a bit of a break from touring in 2019, only playing a total of four concerts all year thus far. This does not mean they sat back and took a year off; rather, they used this time to record. A teaser clip of “The Best” was released on social media on October 15th, and it will be released on November 5th. Next year’s tour dates should be released soon, and per frontman Aaron Bruno, will include another stop in Phoenix. (UPDATE: Despite Bruno’s comments during the concert, Phoenix was not included when the tour dates were announced.)
‘The Best’ is coming Nov 5! click below and pre-save it to get exclusive content & tour info.
The Arizona State Fair concert series are unique in that they are shorter, are often only a single band and under an hour and a half in length. AWOLNATION only needed 70 minutes to nearly shake the roof off the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. There was a small crowd on hand when the lights dimmed and Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” started to play. Halfway through, it was cut short by the start of “Run”, creating a juxtaposition of the peaceful and the loud, of the lyrics, “And I think to myself what a wonderful world,” and, “I am a human being, capable of doing terrible things.” It was attention-grabbing. it was jarring. It was fantastic.
There are very few artists who can control the energy of an audience like Bruno does. He spoke to the crowd throughout the show, inviting them to dance right before launching into “Hollow Moon (Bad Woof)”. Right after finishing up “Kill Your Heroes”, he announced that he, “Came to party with you tonight!”,as the first notes of “People” were being played. It was indeed a party, a dance party to be precise: “We’re trying to throw a dance party tonight! I’m looking for the best dancer in the building, someone doing something I’ve never seen before!”
If one were to scan the crowd while “Not Your Fault” was playing in the moments after that pronouncement, they would find the old and the young doing everything they could to show him something that he had not seen before. He slowed the dance party down from an all-out frenetic dance to what he called a “perfect opportunity to have an old school slow dance” with “Table for One” — a slower track that lends itself to just that.
AWOLNATION did not keep the energy down for long, quickly bringing it back up with “Miracle Man”. Bruno had another request midway through this song: “I want everybody to jump with me. You don’t have to, but it’d be a lot cooler if you did.” In a matter of seconds the stands were shaking.
While much of the focus is on Bruno and his ability to connect and energize the fans, it is very important to note that the rest of the band is incredibly talented. In fact, Bruno seemed to insist that we recognize this, stepping out of the spotlight a couple of times so the entire focus was on the band. The first was “The Buffoon”, a song that starts slow and works the tempo up until one must wonder if it is humanly possible for Isaac Carpenter to play the drums much faster. The second was for a cover of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”, with Zach Irons absolutely shredding on the guitar, leaving many mouths agape.
The show ended with “KOOKSEVERYWHERE!!!”, played for the first time in concert since mid-2017, and finally Bruno looking out at the crowd and saying, “So. What should we do now?” “Sail”, of course. The song that really introduced the world to AWOLNATION closed out this incredible show.
If you missed out on this concert, fear not. AWOLNATION made it very clear that they will be back next summer, and you will not want to miss this one. Keep an eye out for the tour announcement, and buy your tickets to see this amazing band as soon as they go on sale.
SEATTLE — For nearly two decades, producer Daniel Graves’ attention-grabbing and infectious industrial pop project, Aesthetic Perfection, has defied the world’s demands for definitions by blending genres and reinventing what it means to be a dark electro artist.
Last year, Aesthetic Perfection announced the “Into The Black World Tour 2019” to support their fifth studio album, Into The Black. The European leg of the tour commenced in the month of April in the UK, and the North American leg began in the beginning of September in San Diego. For the second date of this leg, they performed in Mesa, AZ — home of Burning Hot Events. Aesthetic Perfection’s North American tour made one of its last stops at Highline Bar with supporting acts Empathy Test and LAZERPUNK.
LAZERPUNK, from Budapest, set an apropos dark and gritty tone, with electronic music so heavy that it feels like it resonates with your flesh and courses through your veins. The intensity of the music, especially as it was coming from just one man wearing an Adidas baseball cap, was nearly beyond comprehension.
Stepping into the environment of the club that night and being smacked with the power of these beats was like being dragged into an alternate universe. It was easily a reminder of why so many of us go out to industrial shows for the cathartic experience — communally flipping a switch that turns on a stifled side of our souls that is screaming and clawing to get out and rage during the mundane day-to-day, as we dismally watch our world socially and environmentally corrode around us. It is here we are uplifted, escape, and achieve balance in a combination of commiseration, unadulterated passion for music, and unjudged embracement of our dark, but not necessarily evil, sides.
With Isaac Howlett’s British vocals that feel longing and aching, and an ethereal touch, synthwave act Empathy Test has no doubt drawn some associations to Depeche Mode innumerable times. As a blend of 80s sci-fi soundtracks, 90s guitar bands, and modern underground dance as influences, they are a duo in the studio (Howlett and producer Adam Relf), and currently a trio performing live. The beautiful thing about electronic music, as demonstrated by LAZERPUNK and Empathy Test, is that something so big can come from so few people. With the aid of Angel Metro on keys and Christina “Chrisy” Lopez on drums, the trio pulled the entranced audience at Highline into a galaxy of emotion. In between songs, Howlett brought some levity back to the room with charming, good-humored banter. Teeming with talent, Empathy Test are also responsible for their breathtaking artwork.
When Aesthetic Perfection hit the stage, it wasn’t long before the integrity of the building structure was tested as the crowd unapologetically jumped with such force the floor could be felt bouncing under your feet — admittedly not the most comforting feeling when you’re on the second story of a building.
Consisting of the aforementioned vocalist and programmer Graves, Elliott Berlin on keys/guitar/bass, infamous drummer Joe Letz (formerly of Combichrist and a slew of other industrial bands), this trio contrasted Empathy Test with deliciously harsh aggrotech.
The band added a delightfully creative “speed dating” VIP upgrade experience for this tour in which fans got a guarantee to interact with every band number. Additionally, the package included a signed setlist, signed polaroid, signed poster, and VIP laminate — basically all of the essentials that any diehard fan is going to want to collect from a show, and a really smart offer on the band’s part to turn a profit on their tour.
The diversity of Graves’ vocal techniques shine in sexy transitions between a vicious growl and a timbre that might be described as an approximate blend of Jay Godon (Orgy) and the late Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) — this vocal flux is exemplified in the track “Ebb and Flow”; there is a broody and agonizing cover of ‘NSync’s “Bye Bye Bye” (featuring guitarist Nikki Misery of New Years Day) in which he hits an impressively powerful high note with chest voice at the bridge, a beautiful falsetto in the new Into the Black opening track “Gods & Gold”, and even an OTEP-like quality in the theatrical track “Dark Ages”.
Berlin jumped back and forth between instruments, with hair flying wildly to no end, and making himself an entertaining spectacle each time he climbed upon his keyboard and thrashed around amongst the rising smoke.
Meanwhile, Letz made apparent why his percussive skills are so acclaimed, as the vigorous force of the backing beats that he was responsible for nearly brought down the house.
“Holy shit,” was the sentiment that coursed through my head all night, and near the finale of their set, Graves showed that those in the crowd were not alone in sheer awe of the magnitude of the immense energy pervading the venue, as he let out a clearly sincere, “Holy shit Seattle!”
Aesthetic Perfection will go on to tour in Germany from October 25th through November 2nd, with alternating and combined support by Empathy Test and Iris on select dates. If you’ve lost touch, this lineup is a mind-blowing reminder of what there is to love about industrial shows, that they are alive and well, and it is still a scene worth supporting.
Mesa, AZ — Flogging Molly, closing their “Life is Good” tour, and Social Distortion, about to hit the studio again, put on a spectacular show of endurance and exuberance for an all ages crowd at the Mesa Amphitheatre. Together, they demonstrated that punk’s not dead, but alive and well, with new albums and more tours to come for future fans in attendance that were not even born yet.
Openers — Le Butcherettes & The Devil Makes Three
The opening bands, Le Butcherettes and The Devil Makes Three, did a fantastic job at getting the crowd pumped and ready for the headliners. With spastic moves and strong vocals, Le Butcherettes surprised and impressed the audience with their style and polished delivery. Then, the bluegrass punk mix brought in by The Devil Makes Three brought in their excellent performance, gaining fans throughout the audience that came in early enough to be rewarded by their unusual, yet fantastic musical talents.
Social Distortion’s Mike Ness and his 40 years of rock and roll experience kept the crowd cheering and fired up during their energized performance. Early into their set, Ness thanked the openers one by one, encouraged the crowd to cheer for them, as he then also shared how the Mesa crowd was so far superior from all the other ones, especially the recent night in Las Vegas. There were nonstop mosh pits during Social Distortion’s performance, staying true to the punk tradition of chaos and high energy.
Halfway through the set, Ness made an announcement that their fans were ecstatic to hear by saying, “I have some great news! Social Distortion is going into the studio in January to record a new album.” Since their last album release was Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes back in 2011, the crowd went crazy. Social Distortion rewarded their fans’ loyalty with a new song called “Over You” from the not-yet-recorded new album.
Ness connected with the audience between every song, telling stories about his musical journey and pouring his all into each song. One of the stories that stood out the most was about an assignment he received while in high school back in September of 1980 where he was told to read about WWII. Ness, with a smile, commented that he spent that time writing a song, and shortly after he dropped out of high school because it was getting in the way of his rock and roll life. That song is called “1945”.
As their set was nearing its end, they were joined by band members from The Devil Makes Three and Flogging Molly for the song “Sometimes I Do”. Social Distortion closed the last stop of their tour with an appropriate song for their 40th anniversary tour; “Story of My Life”.
Flogging Molly hit the stage to end what, for them, has been long 3 years of constant touring. Their well-deserved break will include a couple of weddings and international trips: Spencer Swain, who plays the mandolin, banjo, guitar, and vocals, is to be married within a week of the show’s end; Nathen Maxwell, who plays bass guitar and vocals, is also getting married within a week after the show; finally, band leader Dave King — their lead vocalist who plays the acoustic guitar, and bodhrán, and his wife Bridget Regan, who provides backing and lead vocals and plays the violin and tin whistle, were going on a trip to Ireland almost immediately after the show at 7:30 the next morning.
King and company rocked the stage and brought a performance to Mesa that was a prime example of fun, energy, and professionalism, demonstrating their 22 years of experience and true dedication to their fans.
A memorable moment arose in the middle of their set as King wanted to give a special shout-out to a fan that flew all the way from Tokyo, Japan, just to see them play here. King greeted this young fan, Kazu, in what seemed to be fluent Japanese, causing an explosion of cheers and clapping from the audience. Flogging Molly played one of their most popular songs, “Tobacco Road”, for this traveling fan.
As Flogging Molly played the energetic, musically and lyrically powerful song “Crush,” King stopped mid-song and said, “On the last day of our tour, after 3 years without emptying our suitcases, let’s have some fun,” and started to sing “We Will Rock You” by Queen with the crowd chanting loudly, then seamlessly went back to the song “Crush”.
King then introduced each one of the 7 Drunken Pirates, as the band members call themselves, one by one and thoroughly thanked the entire crew. He stated that after touring for years, this was the best crew they’ve ever had — “except for this asshole right there,” he jokingly said while pointing towards the backstage area without specifically singling anybody out.
“If I Ever Leave This World Alive” was their last song, powerfully and beautifully performed from the stage to a cheering crowd that didn’t want to see this show end. These fans had been gifted with phenomenal performances from two of the most recognizable punk bands of our time.
As their last song came to an end, the speakers began to play the theme song of Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, a British comedic classic, with their positive and uplifting message: “Always look on the bright side of life.” The stage began to fill back up with the members of Flogging Molly and The Devil Makes Three as they said goodbye to their fans, throwing guitar pics, drumsticks, playlists, and anything else they could find to give away while King waved away his fans, ready for their well-earned break.
SEATTLE — Like a gentle breeze, The Paper Kites brought in a soothing and refreshing performance to Neptune Theatre, accompanied by special guest Harrison Storm. Purely cathartic, The Paper Kites’ dreamy indie/folk rock music serves as a lullaby, the stitches that mend broken lovers, escapism for the weary and hopeless.
Held in a historic theatre with ornate Renaissance-influenced architecture and folding chairs, there seemed to be some ambiguity as to whether the crowd should handle themselves formally or casually, whether they should keep silent in reverence or cheer, sit or stand. Singer-songwriter Harrison Storm helped assure the audience that they had permission to applaud, although the presence of chairs still persuaded all to stay planted in their seats for most of the night.
Storm was a good lead-in for The Paper Kites, with a personal and minimalist style. He will be parting ways with the band following their September 20th show in San Luis Obispo, and embarking on a headlining tour in the UK and Europe beginning on October 11.
Being a performing arts venue, Neptune Theatre didn’t have overhead lighting directed toward the band, and the lights on the edge of the stage were low, leaving The Paper Kites mostly backlit. This lent itself to the midnight mood of their music, and also often illuminated drummer Josh Bentley and bassist and synthist Sam Rasmussen more than the others.
Sometimes the combination of blue and magenta lights resembled the neon sign on the cover of twelvefour, creating an even deeper sense of immersion.
The lone woman of the group, keyboardist and guitarist Christina Lacy, has a humble stage presence despite the prominence of her vocals within the harmonies in their songs. On this night, her entrancing vocals, along with those of Dave Powys, were nearly as soft as a whisper.
Powys entranced onlookers when he played the lap steel, an instrument that many had undoubtedly never seen.
Frontman Sam Bentley brings authenticity to the stage, sharing endearing stories that brought some levity, and visibly drawing on his emotions as he sang verses and held notes like a long, slow yoga exhale. Seeming to channel a trance-like state, each musician in the five-piece band performed with otherworldly control and subtlety.
We often like to impose our own lives onto the music we listen to, giving it particular relevance to ourselves, but it was interesting to hear some of the tales behind the songwriting that Bentley shared that night. The meaning behind the lyrics is often so much more interesting and creative than what you would assume. Some of the best parts of the show were a couple of times when every member of the band came together to sing into a single microphone. One of the most shining moments for Bentley’s vocals was the climax of “Give Me Your Fire, Give Me Your Rain” off of On the Corner Where You Live — the second of a two-part album release in 2018. They closed out the night with all five on a guitar (incl. bass) for “Standing in the Rain” from the first 2018 release On the Train Ride Home. Including the encore, The Paper Kites performed a 16-song setlist.
Beginning in British Columbia, this was the second stop on The Paper Kites’ 2019 fall tour that will be traveling down the United States and passing over Phoenix, Arizona — home of Burning Hot Events. They will be making stops in the south, working their way north up the eastern seaboard, visiting the Midwest, and heading back up to play their last date in Alberta. In 2018, they toured in support of their two releases that year. The 2018 fall tour was concentrated primarily in California, Canada, and the northeastern US, so Phoenix wasn’t privy to this tour either, whereas Seattle had the privilege of being slated for both tours. However, Seattle holds a special place in their hearts, being that it was a location they ventured to in 2015 to record the one and only twelvefour. On this night at Neptune Theatre, Bentley called Seattle a “second home”.
It seems that Arizona was last graced with their presence in 2017 when they performed at Club Congress in Tucson. Since they have performed in landmark venues such as Club Congress, Seattle’s Neptune Theatre, and San Francisco’s The Fillmore, perhaps one day they will be hosted by The Van Buren in Phoenix — converted from a historic vintage auto dealership. Good luck Phoenix… You could use a chill night like this.
PHOENIX — On the cusp of their sophomore album release, Chase Atlantic and opener Lauren Sanderson celebrated at Crescent Ballroom with contagious energy. Touring the US from coast to coast with 29 stops, and their self-produced PHASES set to release on June 28, the alt-pop three-piece have played to sold out venues in Pittsburgh, Nashville, Charlotte, Ft. Lauderdale, and now Phoenix.
“This album feels as though it is truly a work of astronomical measures,” says lead vocalist, Mitchel Cave. “It’s the first time we were able to honestly and openly hone into something so monumentally special and raw without compromising even an inch of our integrity as artists. We’ve developed a completely new sound within a matter of months that has never been tapped into before. Chase Atlantic is now dwelling within a realm of its own; it’s both scarily isolating and blissfully euphoric at the same time. Welcome to a whole new era.”
Lauren Sanderson, an Indiana native with a huge Twitter following of over 100,000 people, gave her first Ted Talk, titled “Stay Positive N’ Stay You”, only a year after graduating high school. Shehit the stage with a bright smile and a burst of energy that set the table for the main course of the night: Chase Atlantic.
During the intermission between Sanderson and Chase Atlantic, the music kept the audience energized and singing along as they played one of Lauren’s songs, to the crowd’s delight.
When the lights went out, the crowd went wild with anticipation. The back LED screens came on, and a fantastic and electrifying drum solo by Jesse Boyle got everybody screaming. A few seconds later, the shouts intensified as frontman Cave walked onto the stage, followed by band members Christian Anthony, Clinton Cave, and Patrick Wilde.
Mitchel yelled to the crowd, “Make some noise if you came with a friend!” The crowd roared and the song “Angels” began a night of jumping and motion that could practically induce seasickness.
During “What U Call That”, “Her”, “The Walls”, “Friends”, and “StuckInMyBrain”, the madness continued with nonstop singing, jumping, and partying like the world was about to end.
As they hit the stage again, following a quick and well-earned interlude, they made the announcement everybody was waiting for: their new album PHASES was just made live a day early, and Cave encouraged the whole crowd to open up their cell phones and download the song right then and there. He even asked to get a thumbs-up once each audience member had finished the transaction. An ocean of cell phone screens lit up the inside of Crescent Ballroom as the download frenzy went on for a few moments, to the delight of the band. Thumbs started to go up enthusiastically and smiles filled the faces of the musicians.
The crowd was rewarded for their instant downloads with one of Chase Atlantic’s most popular and well-known songs, “Swim”, followed by “Love Is Not Easy”, then by Cave and Anthony taking off their shirts suggestively right before their song “Lust”.
Cave’s statement matched that of the opener by saying that “this has been the best show of their whole f***ing ride.”
“Drugs & Money” kept the energy as high as it had been since the opening and continued with “Heaven And Back”, followed by Anthony asking the crowd, “Who feels like a rockstar?”, then pointing towards Cave and telling him, “I know you do,” then playing “Like A Rockstar”.
During their last song, “Uncomfortable”, Cave took a cell phone from the audience to take a selfie with the crowd, then carefully returned it to the fan without breaking or slowing down the energetic performance.
As they walked offstage, they said to the crowd, “We can play a f***ing encore if you want one more!” The crowd chanted incessantly and, over the speakers the band instructed everyone to scream “F*** yeah!” in unison. The crowd again obliged and chanted until the band returned to the stage.
Chase Atlantic closed the show with their last song, “Okay”, commanding the crowd in a way seasoned musicians do. The band coerced the whole crowd get down low, almost lying on the ground, and brought them back up to dance and jump. They welcomed Lauren Sanderson back to the stage for a high-octane rock n’ roll sound with heavy guitar riffs and powerful drum beats, and the night ended by leaving the audience exhausted and excited, as only great and memorable shows can do.