Tag Archives: concert

REVIEW: System Of A Down & Korn Help Phoenix Get Lost in the Grandeur (1-31-22)

PHOENIX — In 2020, System Of A Down announced a massive tour co-headlining with Faith No More and Korn, with support from Helmet and Russian Circles. As the pandemic progressed, the shows were postponed a total of three times, with the final postponement due to Serj Tankian (frontman of System of a Down) contracting COVID in October. Faith No More also announced that they would be canceling the concerts so Mike Patton could step back to handle mental health issues. Korn had dropped out, but once Faith No More canceled, Korn returned. To the delight of the metal faithful in Arizona, it was also announced that this line-up (excluding Faith No More and Helmet) would be playing a show at an arena in Phoenix now known by many names. This arena, built in 1992, is now known as Footprint Center and is now on it’s 6th name. The arena just completed a much needed remodel, which brings the once dated arena firmly into the 21st century.

The show started off with Russian Circles, a group that was founded by two childhood friends, Michael Sullivan and Dave Turncrantz, who play guitar and drums respectively. They are joined by Brian Cook, who is the bassist, baritone guitarist, and keyboardist for the instrumental band. Surprisingly, the set was only 18 minutes and 3 songs, but in that short timeframe the post-metal band impressed the audience with their highly technical prowess. If Russian Circles is billed as an opener, it is well worth your time to arrive early enough to catch this trio’s excellent mastery of crescendos and crashes of bass and drums.

Jonathan Davis of Korn in concert at Footprint Center
Jonathan Davis (Vocalist) – Korn
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

With a “Here we go!” from lead singer Jonathan Davis, the first bars of Korn’s “Here to Stay” began, spotlights flashed from the stage, and strobing lightboxes backlit the band. Throughout the night, the unmistakable voice of Davis was replaced many times by the audience, as he solicited audience participation. When performing live, Korn has an underappreciated ability to echo the sound of their studio recordings, and it speaks to the vast talent of not just Davis, but guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer, drummer Ray Luzier, and Ra Diaz (who is filling in for Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu while he takes time to “heal and reflect at home”). 

Brian Welch of Korn in concert at Footprint Center
Brian Welch (Guitarist) – Korn
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Korn is well known for their staggeringly large discography, with 13 studio albums having been released, and a 14th out on February 4th named “Requiem”. The audience was treated to the live debut of the song “Start the Healing”. As part of the upcoming album release, Korn will be playing a “Requiem Mass” on the evening of February 3rd at Hollywood United Methodist Church, which will be live-streamed worldwide.

Jonathan Davis (Vocalist) & Ray Luzier (Drummer) – Korn
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Three songs later, Davis came out on the stage with his bagpipe, playing the intro to “Shoots and Ladders,” the third single from their eponymous debut album. This, predictably, caused the crowd to erupt, much to the delight of Davis. There is a connection and love between Korn and the audience, which takes the shows to another level. Davis is 4 months removed from his battle with COVID, which saw him have to sit on a throne and use oxygen while performing during a show on August 27th. It is a relief to watch him move around with no noticeable side effects from his battle, which he said scared him shitless.

Jonathan Davis (Vocalist) – Korn
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

The crowd, at the urging of Davis, held up their middle fingers collectively during “Y’All Want a Single” – a song written in response to Sony asking for them to “write a radio hit.” This likely is not at all what the poor sap who made this request expected to get, but it has become a fan favorite. Other hits included “Freak on a Leash,” “Did My Time,” and “A.D.I.D.A.S.” As Korn wrapped up, Davis thanked the fans, and almost ominously said, “…we’ll come back and fuck this motherfucker up one more fucking time.”

As the opening notes of “X” played, System Of A Down was silhouetted against the curtain in the moments before it dropped. Serj Tankian – vocalist and keyboardist – was center stage, flanked by guitarist Daron Malakian to his right, bassist Shavo Odadjian to his left, and drummer John Dolmayan almost directly behind him. “Prison Song” was performed next with an arsenal of nearly blinding strobes that assaulted the audience. An extraordinarily intense light show, designed to match the intensity of their music, would persist through the night.

Serj Tankian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Serj Tankian (Vocalist, Keyboardist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

To watch System Of A Down play is like watching one of the great Renaissance masters paint. A great painter must carefully select their canvas, their paint, and then they must be able to combine these quality pieces in such a way that it withstands not only the test of time, but withstands the test of the taste of that particular moment. System Of A Down does this with an ease that defies the expectations of a band that has only released 2 new songs in the last 16 years. Tankian’s voice is the paint over the music that stands in for the canvas, and we in the audience are the viewers who do not necessarily realize what beauty we are witnessing in the moment.

Serj Tankian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Serj Tankian (Vocalist, Keyboardist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Tankian has one of the greatest vocal ranges in all of metal at 4 octaves. This was on full display in “Chop Suey,” one of the songs that landed them squarely in the mainstream limelight, though the metal community was made aware of the band a few years before with the release of their first album and the success of “Sugar” and “Spiders.” While lavish praise should be heaped on Tankian for his immense vocal talent, the same praise should also be heaped onto Odadjian and Malakian, as they make highly technical and rather difficult riffs look absolutely effortless.

Imagine how incredible it would have been if Tankian and his would-be tour mate, Mike Patton of Faith No More (who boasts an unbelievable 6 octave range) accompanied each other for one song.

It is impossible to discuss System Of A Down and their impact without discussing their political contributions. Tankian in particular acts as a prominent voice for the downtrodden and the less fortunate, both in lyrics and in his personal capacity. The two new songs, “Genocidal Humanoidz” and “Protect the Land,” were released in response to the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020. The two singles raised about $600,000 for the Armenians who were affected by the devastating war. Both songs were played separately during this concert, with Malakian first thanking the audience for the last year, and then starting to explain what the song “Protect the Land” was about, only to turn to Tankian to ask him to explain the song. Tankian turned to the audience and said, “This one goes out to all the indigenous people in the world that are fighting for their rights. For all of the people in the world protecting their families against evil and injustice. We are all united, and we are one.” As the band launched into the song, the lights behind the band lit up in the colors of the Armenian flag.

Shabo Odadjian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Shabo Odadjian (Bassist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

It could be argued that the mark of a great show is that it alters the perception of the passage of time. In this case, by the time the band played the opening notes of “Sugar,” their first hit that made the metal world take notice of the band with Dadaist lyrics, a distaste of the exploitation of the less fortunate, and a lyrically devastating take on war – both the wars between countries and the war on drugs – it felt like only moments had passed, when in reality it was an hour and a half set.

Serj Tankian of System Of A Down in concert at Footprint Center
Serj Tankian (Vocalist, Keyboardist) – System Of A Down
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Earlier in the night, Davis had said, “It’s so good to be back up here, y’all. The world has been going through some crazy shit, and this is where I get to forget all about it. I want y’all to do me a favor tonight: I want you to just forget about everything. We got System Of A Down coming up, and I want you guys to do this for me: just forget and have a good fucking time!” This challenge was accepted by the enthusiastic crowd, who spent 4 hours losing themselves to the sounds of these masters of metal as they performed their greatest hits.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

System of a Down & Korn – Footprint Center 1-31-22

Trouble loading? Click here to view on Flickr

Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
All Rights Reserved.

System Of A Down Online:

Korn Online:

Phoenix Pays Tribute to the Late Stefan Pruett of Peachcake, The Guidance (1-15-22)

PHOENIX — Near the heart of an ever-evolving downtown Phoenix, set back a bit from the intersection of 2nd Ave and Van Buren, sits a music venue named Crescent Ballroom – constructed in 1917 and renovated from The F.L. Hart Garage. Since its 2011 opening, the brick exterior has changed some, with an expansion adding a second level of outdoor seating. It would be here that friends, family, and loyal fans of Stefan Pruett would gather to remember the radiant and deviant man who changed countless lives, leaving everyone whom he met a better version of themselves. (Read our June 2020 memorial article Remembering the Power of Peachcake – In Loving Memory of Stefan Pruett…)

This night’s celebration of a life so rich and well-lived was a fitting way to remember Pruett. For over a decade, he was the charismatic frontman of Peachcake – a band that had started out as an experimental electronic music duo with his childhood friend John O’Keefe, and blossomed into both a nationally and internationally known band. 

Among the many incredible achievements that Peachcake and Pruett attained over the years included being made honorary members of the International Peace Bureau in 2009 for their efforts to promote tolerance, peace and love through music and live performance. The IPB, along with Demilitarize.org, later selected their song “Were We Ever Really Right?” in 2011 as the official song for a worldwide event to support demilitarization worldwide. The band dissolved 6 months after their Unbelievable Souls LP was released, and Pruett went on to continue in music solo, under the stage name The Guidance.

The front room of Crescent Ballroom serves as a lounge and restaurant, as well as an additional place for other acts to perform when a larger concert is going on. Straight back from the entrance to this room is a set of double doors that leads to a large room with a stage and a second bar within. Upon entering this music venue, all guests were handed two items: The first was a brochure / program with a vastly condensed story of Pruett’s incredible life, and the second was a packet with QR codes to stream albums that included unreleased music he had worked on. It also contained a card for a drink – one last round on Stefan, with which we could raise in his memory. There was also a guestbook so that everyone who loved him could stay in touch. 

Merch sales were set up in the back to the left of the stage as usual, however all proceeds from this show would go toward benefitting Rosie’s House – a music academy for children – and HEAL International (Health | Empowerment | Aid | Light).

Nearly 9 years prior, Peachcake had played their final show on this very stage. On the stage sat a lit up cut-out letter sign that simply said “HAPPY” – the same sign featured in a publicity photo by AJ Colores.

Stefan Pruett photo by AJ Colores
Stefan Pruett (Vocalist) – Peachcake, The Guidance | Photography: AJ Colores

To the left of the stage was also a fantastic homage, put together by Pruett’s loved ones, exhibiting items from his life and performances. Two of the outfits he had performed in were displayed on body forms – an impactful sight for those that witnessed those shows at which he donned them. The criminally underrated Unbelievable Souls record was mounted on a plaque, which was given as a gift to everyone who worked on the record as a celebration of its release. A poster for The Guidance’s headline show at the Brooklyn Fire Records showcase, on March 28 of 2019, inconspicuously hung on the wall behind the exhibit, and across the room from this was a commemorative display of prints related to that music project.

Beautiful artwork on the exhibit table paid tribute to the late singer – a painting by Chris Babicke, a large mixed media piece, a poster designed by Quokimbo, and the Peaches comic book by band member / artist Johnny McHone. A photo book titled The Magic Man featured a collection of press and social media sentiments following his passing. An article written by music journalist Ed Masley of the Arizona Republic had been laminated and laid out, along with another article from The Entertainer! Magazine by Christina Fuoco-Karasinki. Some of the photography in the articles and books was contributed by Katherine Amy Vega (Kataklizmic Design), Uriel Padilla, and Jeremiah Gratza (former manager of Peachcake, owner of The Thunderbird Lounge and President Gator Records). Scrapbooks documented Peachcake on tour, and Pruett’s personal life.

Peachcake member Mike McHale – who put enormous amounts of work into planning this beautiful night – started the evening off by thanking everyone for being there, and then introduced Forrest Kline, lead singer of the band hellogoodbye.

The show began with a somber performance that contrasted the normal upbeat and pulsing dance music that Peachcake and The Guidance produced, but it set the tone perfectly. Kline sat on a stool holding an acoustic guitar, and in between songs he talked about his memories of Pruett; one of which was a chance meeting on the streets of LA after Pruett moved there. He spoke of how much of an inspiration Pruett was, about the two of them texting back and forth about making new music, and then – in reference to making music with him – said, “I thought we had plenty of time, you know? You never know how much time you have.

Forrest Kline of Hellogoodbye
Forrest Kline (hellogoodbye)
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

An acoustic cover of Peachcake’s “Stop Acting Like You Know More About The Internet Cafe Than Me” was recently released by Kline’s band.

Producer Jeremy Dawson, one of the founding members and keyboardist of Shiny Toy Guns, took the stage next to DJ the songs from Pruett’s solo career. In the middle of the set, a small crowd took to the floor in front of the stage to dance – the first of many moments that brought the joy back into focus. At long last, this is now, the album Pruett and Dawson completed shortly before his passing, dropped on January 14th – the day before this memorial event. How bittersweet it was to hear the culmination of all of their efforts – never able to tell him how incredible the album is.

Jeremy Dawson (Shiny Toy Guns) DJs just-released music of The Guidance
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“As a means to honor his life and all the work spent on the creation of this stunning album, together Dawson, Pruett’s family and Handwritten Records decided to continue with the release. This Is Now, is the first and last album from The Guidance.” – FindYourSounds

After Dawson wrapped up, and as the stage was being transformed for the final set of the night, a video played of McHale, A Clarie Slattery and others talking about the impact that Pruett and his music had on them. The consensus – both in the video and from everyone who spoke at the show – was that he made life fun. He reached into people and pulled out the person they didn’t realize they were, and he showed them that anything really is possible in life. There was also a short clip of Pruett talking about 4 heart surgeries he had, and his pacemaker, speaking on the congenital heart disease that would eventually claim his life – but he did not let that stop him from living life to the fullest.

“If you ever think you can’t do something, and I know everyone in this room has their obstacles and stuff they’ve gone through… don’t let that shit hold you back.” – Stefan Pruett

“He was living on borrowed time his entire life. He knew that from the time he was very, very young. He didn’t think he was going to make it out of being a teenager. Every minute of every day was bonus points. He knew it and he lived in such a way that he never made you forget it.” – The Entertainer! Magazine

There was also an anecdote from his brother’s memorial service, which was an experience described as profound. Pruett played the song “Someone Great” by LCD Soundsystem in memory of Alex Pruett, who passed away in 2007. With his “unique ability to bring people together”, he encouraged people of all walks of life to close their eyes and share “in this beautiful musical moment… creative moment with Stefan.”  His aunt beautifully encapsulated who Stefan Pruett was, speaking of him as a honeybee – something his mother called him. He was, as she put it, “a builder of dreams,” in the same way a bee builds a hive.

Steven Pruett, the father of Alex and Stefan, spoke after the video ended; the pride he felt for his son and the pain of losing him evident in his voice. He spoke of the amazement he felt regarding his son becoming a singer, saying that Stefan did not even like singing in church. Calling Peachcake an iconic band, he reflected on the journey his son had taken, from MySpace, to a touring group, to an internationally known band.

It was a reunion of sorts for Peachcake. Guest singers performed in Pruett’s stead, with the first being Jessica Biaett, who was his girlfriend, singing “Hearts Can’t Lie.” Normally a peppy, yet wistful song, she gave it a hauntingly beautiful quality, making an incredible tribute to the man she lost.

Jessica Biaett
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

McHale (vocals, guitar, keys, percussion) became frontman for a few songs, and just as Pruett wore a shirt that said “NOT A DJ” at this venue 9 years prior, he wore one that said “NOT A SINGER”. Other guest vocalists included: Chris Babicke, Damien Salamone, Mickey Pangburn (The Prowling Kind, MRCH), Jake Greider, and Jason Catlin

Mike McHale ( Guitarist) – Peachcake
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 had been blazing its way through friends and family prior to the show. As such, a balance had to be struck between the crowded nightclub-like environment of a typical Peachcake show, and social distancing. Throwing back to staples of Peachcake shows, the crowd was encouraged to crouch down and spring up during the climax of “Welcome To The Party To Save The World”, and later formed a circle for mirror dancing during “Souls Have No Drum Machine”.

Crowd anticipates springing up
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
Mike McHale, Peachcake
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Peachcake closed by accompanying a video of Stefan singing “We Never Pretended To Know Anything, Why Would We Now?” in at Modified Arts (Phoenix) in 2009. It was a moving, perfect way to end the night, allowing a man who touched so many lives to posthumously perform for us one last time. With that, Peachcake ended their set, and Jes Danz took to the stage to DJ some of the songs Pruett loved and was inspired by as the night faded out.

Stefan Pruett’s “final performance”
| Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

McHale later told Burning Hot Events, “Everything I did with putting together the memorial show for Stefan really helped me get through a lot of emotions that I had with hearing of Stefan‘s passing... Stefan‘s mom, Paula, had mentioned to me how much that show meant a lot to the people that had come to it and how much it helped her and her husband as well. To me, that was the most rewarding thing about doing this show for Stefan. I wanted to give some sense of closure and celebrate him properly when we were able to.

It has been said that Stefan Pruett left this world on June 14th, 2020, but I would argue that Kline was correct when he said that “no one really goes anywhere. We keep them in our memories and in our hearts. He lives on through his art and the connections he made.” Pruett burned brightly and fiercely, a force for good to be reckoned with, in the best way possible. He made the most of every day of his 35 years on this planet, and those he met had their lives changed for the better.

To quote the band Sleeping At Last’s song “Saturn”:
You taught me the courage of stars before you left, how light carries on endlessly, even after death.

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

Open Album in a New Window

A Night Celebrating the Life and Music of Stefan Pruett of Peachcake and The Guidance 1-15-22

Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
All Rights Reserved.

The Guidance Online:

Peachcake Online:

REVIEW: Authority Zero Celebrates 25 Years with Friends at the Marquee (12-28-19)

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.

ZeeCeeKeely

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.

ZeeCeeKelly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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.

ZeeCeeKeely Online:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify

Black Mountain Moonshine

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.

Ethan Minney (Vocalist, Mandolinist), Black Mountain Moonshine
Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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.

Blue Mountain Moonshine Online:

Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Bandcamp

Skull Drug

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. 

Evan Williams (Vocalist, Guitarist), Skull Drug
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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.

Skull Drug Online:

Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |
Bandcamp | Spotify

Madd Dog Tannen

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”. 

Brian Willey (Vocalist), Madd Dog Tannen
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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. 

Madd Dog Tannen Online:

Facebook | ReverbNation | Spotify

Authority Zero

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.

Jason DeVore (Vocalist), Authority Zero
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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. 

Dan Aid (Guitarist), Authority Zero
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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. 

Jason DeVore (Vocalist), Authority Zero
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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.

Mike Spero (Bassist), Authority Zero
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

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.

Authority Zero Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately:
Authority Zero | Madd Dog Tannen | Skull Drug
Black Mountain Moonshine | ZeeCeeKeely

Authority Zero 25th Anniversary – Marquee Theatre 12-28-19

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Tool Prove to be Sharp as Ever In Latest Comeback (10-23-19)

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.

Tool fans awaiting the band’s entrance.
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.”

Maynard James Keenan (Vocals), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Danny Carey (Drums), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Adam Jones (Guitar), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Justin Chancellor (Bass), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Maynard James Keenan (Vocals), Tool
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Tool – Gila River Arena 10-23-19

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved


REVIEW: AWOLNATION Conquers the Coliseum at AZ State Fair (10-23-19)

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 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.

AWOLNATION
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

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.

Aaron Bruno (Vocals), Michael Goldman (Bass), Isaac Carpenter (Drums), AWOLNATION
Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

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.

Zach Irons (Guitar), AWOLNATION
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

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.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Andrea Stoica

AWOLNATION – Arizona State Fair 10-23-19

Photography © Andrea Stoica. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Saints and Sinners Celebrated in the Mosh Ring of Fire with Flogging Molly & Social Distortion at Mesa Amphitheatre (9-29-19)

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

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.  

Mike Ness (Lead Vocals), Social Distortion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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. 

Brent Harding (Bass), Social Distortion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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”.

Social Distortion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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

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.

Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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. 

Matt Hensley (Accordion), Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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. 

Spencer Swain (Guitar), Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

“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. 

Dave King (Lead Vocals), Flogging Molly
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

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.

Photo Galleries

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately: Flogging Molly | Social Distortion

Flogging Molly & Social Distortion – Mesa Amphitheatre 9-29-19

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Puddles Pity Party Treats the Crowd Like Royals in Mesa (12-7-18)

PHOENIX — Many of us have been invited to a pity party and more than likely, we have no desire to attend. When Puddles the sad clown hosts one, however, I recommend you RSVP and make it a priority on your calendar.

I was one such lucky attendee amidst several thousand others that packed the Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center. Not knowing what to expect of the next 110 intermission-free minutes aside from a sweet serenade from the 6’8” baritone crooner in a clown costume, I kept my mind, ears, and eyes open.

Three minutes before the show was set to begin, the house lights were still up as people shuffled to their seats. There appeared to be commotion on the mezzanine level as several audience members looked up to see the unmistakable giant, cuddly clown making his way through the sea of people giving hugs, handshakes, and posing for photos. He effortlessly hurdled the chairs and made a concerted effort to greet as many of his party “guests” as he could, before making his way down to the ground level where he popped through the back doors and dashed to and fro, greeting attendees as he made his way up to the stage.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Puddles Pity Party is anything but predictable, and after enthusiastically giving high fives to some of the folks in the front rows, he hoisted himself up onto the stage and awkwardly rolled to his feet despite the fact that there was an accessibility staircase not 10 feet to his left. It was at this moment I realized that things were going to be shaken up into a concoction of splendor and entertainment that would take all of us on a wild adventure of fellowship and laughter.

The festivities began with Puddles amusingly popping a whopping amount of gum into his mouth and loudly chewing as he read an AARP magazine featuring Kevin Costner.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Much like other aspects of the show, these pieces may have seemed trivial at the time, but became integral parts of his act. Perpetually animated and childlike in his movement at times, Puddles — brought to life by Mike Geier — scoots about the stage on his stool and takes his sweet time getting to center stage to watch a montage of his trials and tribulations while appearing on America’s Got Talent. The sad clown with the golden voice sang his rendition of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”, only to be abruptly stopped by a loud buzzer and a giant red X like the one he received while performing for the show. Despite this, Puddles pressed on.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The irony was not lost in respect to a silent comic entertainer who uses only his vocal ability to belt out emotional tunes; however, the heartfelt depth of his singing left the partygoers absolutely stunned. Puddles performed “The Sound of Silence” to a video of ASL translator, Zoey Stormes, signing a moving performance. Though he is a sad clown who expresses tremendous variety of emotion, from melancholy, to gratitude, to wonderment, it’s virtually impossible to be sad while in his presence. Laughter and words of encouragement from the crowd consistently permeated the silence.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Puddles has several obsessions that attendees learn throughout their time with him, two of which are Kevin Costner and coffee. Never have I attended a party that entailed a coffee break, but there is a first time for everything. In fact, Puddles Pity Party contained many firsts, which takes the Vaudevillian style act from being a show to a full-fledged experience. I lost count of how many times Puddles left his wad of gum behind on his suitcase of goodies and plucked it back up to resume chewing. Additionally, I lost count of how many times he rolled himself off the stage to interact with the audience and bring a new friend up to be a part of the show. Attendees were swept away, transformed into an environment where excitement is found in the simple and absurd.

It was when I oddly caught “the feels” from hilarious snippets of robots falling over to the sound of Puddles’ emotional rendition of Coldplay’s “Fix You” that I realized the power and magnitude of this king-sized clown’s voice. No love song directed at a cup of coffee will ever feel so pure and heartfelt as it did in that theater.

Partygoers were just as much a part of the show, and were brought into Puddles’ world of make-believe. One woman transformed into a wolf that Puddles waltzed with. A gentleman enthusiastically sang the karaoke version of “All By Myself”. Another got to be a rocket scientist, and yet another got to stuff his face with cupcakes while being reminded that the word “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts”. Puddles even had one of the party attendees summon Kevin Costner, albeit after a failed attempt that accidentally summoned Kevin Bacon.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party with concertgoer
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Other celebrities were attending in spirit, as it was impossible to miss the homages to Axl Rose, Freddie Mercury, and the King himself, Elvis Presley. Puddles’ prowess as an accomplished musician was made apparent through performing on his cardboard guitar that asserts “Do Good Work”, to his various beats on both real and video game drum sets, to his unique song mashups.

Geier, affectionately known as “Big Mike”, who has run a burlesque performance troupe out of Atlanta and also performs with the Kingsized Jazz Trio, has the performer gene coursing through his veins. Traveling with Puddles Pity Party, he has made audiences giggle and laugh warmly all over the world while wearing his endearing heart on his ruffled sleeve.

All you would have to do is go on YouTube and search “Puddles” to encounter countless videos of the sad clown with the golden voice. One of his most captivating being his rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier”, which partnered with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox and also performed on America’s Got Talent to agape jaws and an uproarious standing ovation.

The party on Friday was no exception and the crowd had their phones out to record video of his most notable serenade, as is encouraged. This did not stop Puddles from giving his adoring fans the up-close and personal show they were hoping for, as he grabbed one phone to sing to it and place it in the hand of another individual while picking up their phone and passing it on until there were multitudes of attendees who had incredible footage of Puddles and the cell phone of their fellow party-goer. The laughter that ensued afterward while people scrambled to find each rightful owner was memorable. If anyone can bring people closer together with their fellow man, it’s most definitely Puddles the sad clown.

Puddles Pity Party - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Puddles Pity Party
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

If you have the opportunity to attend a pity party put on by Puddles, I highly encourage it. How a sad clown can make everyone in a room light up with laughter is a special kind of magic that can only be felt and seen by experiencing it firsthand.

 

Photo Album

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Puddles Pity Party – Mesa Arts Center 12-7-18

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Justin Courtney Pierre Gets Intimate With Fans at Valley Bar (11-30-18)

PHOENIX — Justin Courtney Pierre returned to Arizona for an intimate underground show at the historic Valley Bar Friday night, revitalizing fans with a colloquial performance of his latest solo-album In The Drink. Since Motion City Soundtrack’s “So Long, Farewell Tour” in 2016, it had been unclear when and if Pierre would continue making music in the future.

Post-MCS I just really wanted to focus on the art,” Pierre told Billboard during a recent interview, “so, I built a team of people around me that I can utilize for all the other stuff – the production, the business. What’s nice about this is I don’t have to ask anybody for permission or get four people to agree on whatever we’re doing. I can just do my ideas whether they’re stupid or not, for better or for worse. I thought, ‘OK, so if this is the only record I ever do, great. I’m just gonna do it exactly the way I want it.’

Produced by Motion City Soundtrack bandmate Joshua Cain, In The Drink is heavily influenced by the sound of the 90’s, classic guitar and, as Pierre puts it, (in direct reference to noted inspirations Swervedriver, Polara, Guided By Voices, and Frank Black’s “Teenager of the Year”) “a lot of movement going on”.

During a coinciding interview with boutique pedal company ZVex, Pierre went on to explain the experimental nature of his work which he revealed, lead him to his newfound love affair with the ZVex Fuzz Factory 7, as well as the ZVex Effects Vertical Vexter ’59 Sound, which he utilized throughout Friday night’s performance. When it comes to guitar, this singer-songwriter prefers a more improvisonal approach – toying with different combinations until his fancy footwork yields a sound he likes.

Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Justin Courtney Pierre
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design.
All Rights Reserved

Pierre’s tourmates for his latest solo album include old friend and master of effects – guitarist Thomas Rehbein, sensational vocalist and guitarist Lydia Liza, emotive bassist Shannon Burns, and relentless drummer David Jarnstrom.

David Jarnstrom - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
David Jarnstrom (Drummer)
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design.
All Rights Reserved

I’m listening to Flaming Lips in my headphones to drown out all this other bullshit”, Pierre joked before jamming out the opening notes to “I Don’t Know Why She Ran Away”, following opening tracks “Undone” and “Anchor”. “Just kidding!”, he laughed – noting that the night’s opener had been unable to make it due to an undisclosed transportation issue. As a result of that last minute change, the night became increasingly conversational. Fans shouted back and forth as Pierre responded between tracks from on-stage, speaking on everything from his struggles with alcohol, to new “dadhood”, and even his strong distaste for Burger King. Pierre casually guided the audience through an evening of impromptu storytelling between each new track from In The Drink, but not without some nostalgic surprises along the way.

Shannon Burns - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Shannon Burns (Bassist)
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design.
All Rights Reserved

Preceding the Farewell Continental portion of the evening, a tribute to Pierre and Rehbein’s passion project since 2008, “My Girl Margo” off a “special upcoming EP” got fans jumping for more. With the night’s energy at its peak, “Total Devastation” had diehard JCP fans weak in the knees.

Justin Courtney Pierre - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Justin Courtney Pierre
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design.
All Rights Reserved

Next up was a new Farewell Continental song that’s not yet been recorded. “It’s called ‘Tossing and Turning’”, Pierre told fans, “It’s a motif I’ve used before and I’m aware of that,” he laughed, “And I like to remind people, it’s supposed to sound like this.” Farewell Continental takes the undeniably esoteric undertones of In The Drink one step further, culminating a uniquely chaotic blend of power-pop-meets-classic-rock. The band finished out a lively performance of “Do You Wanna Tangle” also by Farewell Continental, before abruptly leaving the stage where only Pierre was left to tame the spotlight.

Justin Courtney Pierre - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Justin Courtney Pierre
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design.
All Rights Reserved

Without question, the moment we’d been waiting for since 2016 had finally arrived; it was time for a little Motion City Soundtrack. Pierre explained that since the band had chosen not to continue making music two years prior, he’d decided to play only MCS  songs which he’d “brought to the party” so to speak. Members of the crowd shouted out track after track in hopes of hearing their longtime favorites. Pierre responded by teasing onlookers with a candid rendition of “Stand Too Close” before breaking for a quick story – “The Caffeine Story” he called it: “Listen, listen. I haven’t had a drink of alcohol in over nine years, and a few years after that I quit caffeine. And now I have nothing.

As fans applauded, “Atonia” began rumbling out from the speakers. Fans sang along loudly as Pierre pieced together a nostalgic solo tribute session including “When You’re Around” and “LG FUAD”, to which the entire bar sang aloud. “Okay, now I am going to invite the band back to the stage,” Pierre announced before launching into a cover of Guided By Voices’ “Motor Away” which he credited as one of his favorite songs to date. “Some of these guys just heard it for the first time today,” he told fans as they hooted and hollered at Pierre to “do it again!

Lydia Liza - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lydia Liza (Guitarist, Vocalist) & Justin Courtney Pierre
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design.
All Rights Reserved

The evening closed out with “Shoulder the Weight”, “In the Drink”, and “Goodnight Hiroyuki” – the last three tracks off of Pierre’s latest solo expressional, sending fans off with a phantasmal intermingling of sludgy, otherworldly tones. Rehbein could be seen sliding his guitar back and forth against everything from the guard rail to the speakers and even Liza’s guitar while her robust, angelic voice offered a sweet contrast to the whirlwind of instrumental experimentation unfolding on stage. “This is it. I love you all, except Kevin!”, Pierre exclaimed.

Thomas Rehbein - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Thomas Rehbein (Guitarist)
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design
All Rights Reserved

Following a staggering twenty track setlist, fans continued to swarm the stage in hopes of one more. Band members could be seen handing out copies of the setlist, and even notes from practice sessions to outstretched hands eager to claim their prize. Following the performance, Pierre stayed true to his reputation of being the down-to-earth artist we’ve all come to love and hung out to greet and take photos with anyone and everyone who chose to stick around. Although he was lacking in words (as he announced that he would not be speaking, in order to protect his voice), Pierre’s charismatic demeanor radiated off of him as fan after fan stepped up to meet the man of the hour.

After two years of wondering, Pierre took us back to the driving spirit and endearing authenticity behind what made Motion City Soundtrack great. It’s that permeating willingness – to care and connect with his fans, to tell the stories that need to be told, and if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that we absolutely cannot wait to see what this performer is up to next.

 

PHOTO ALBUM

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

Justin Courtney Pierre – Valley Bar 11-30-18

Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: A Perfect Circle Finishes North American Tour “On a High Note” in Phoenix (11-20-18)

PHOENIX — A Perfect Circle ended “on a high note” for the last date on the third leg of their headlining North American tour, to the city that frontman Maynard James Keenan thanked for being the “marijuana-stinking cherry” on top. Dark electronic duo Night Club and trip hop artist Tricky supported the band starting from October 20th, leading up to this night at Comerica Theatre. A PerfeBetct Circle delivered a performance that repeatedly went from smoldering to bellowing, and took the transfixed audience on an escape of commiseration through hard rock.

This year, A Perfect Circle released Eat the Elephant, which is their first album release in fourteen years, and their fourth studio album. Today, A Perfect Circle released a limited-edition 7” vinyl single featuring the latest single, “So Long, And Thanks for All the Fish”. Included on the release is a B-side, a cover of AC/DC’s “Dog Eat Dog”. It is available exclusively from the Record Store Day Black Friday event at select brick-and-mortar record stores.

The tone of their performance in Phoenix was first set with a dark stage as they invisibly began the instrumentals of the title-track of their latest album, “Eat the Elephant”.  Anyone who has previously experienced A Perfect Circle live may have come to expect a giant white sheet shrouding the stage front leading up to, and remaining through the entirety of, the first song, before dramatically dropping to the floor. However, the sheet was absent this time around. Each band member was gradually backlit by just a bit of light, one-by-one, until all appeared as nearly pure-black silhouettes.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Jeff Friedl (Drummer), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Greg Edwards (Touring Keyboardist), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

Blue and white rays of light and rising smoke backed them, in front of a curtain displaying their logo, and they were surrounded by white panels that would feature visuals catered to each song throughout the night.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
A Perfect Circle at Comerica Theatre
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

True to character, Keenan remained even less visible than his bandmates for the entire performance, on a platform in the back of the stage. Sometimes he blended in with the darkness and visuals so well that one might question whether he had left the platform, seeing that he remained stationed upon a second glance.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Maynard James Keenan (Vocalist), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

When A Perfect Circle performed at Comerica Theatre in April of 2017, Keenan offered a few encouraging words. This time around, he almost seemed to be out of supportive messages.

Perhaps referencing the “despicable false claim”, in his words, made against Keenan earlier this year, he said, “Crazy, crazy, crazy, insane times we’re living in, wouldn’t you say? Insanity… People all mad at each other over a fuckin’ internet thing. It’s stupid… I’ve heard it said love is the answer… but because of all of the marijuana, I can’t remember the question.

However, substantial sentiments and motivational speeches may not be necessary every time, considering the volumes that the messages in their music speak, and how emotionally evoking the dynamics of the music are. As usual, A Perfect Circle performed with nearly album-quality sound. Often, elements of the songs that may go unheard when listening to recordings were clearly audible during this performance, bringing new life to the music and a deeper appreciation for the composition. Furthermore, hearing lyrics to new songs for the first time live, versus via studio recording, can cement a different impression of the song as the concert experience packs in the emotion emanating from the artist.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Maynard James Keenan (Vocalist), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

Eight of the songs performed this night were from Eat the Elephant. Lyrics that really strike a chord in relation to the status quo, religion, and the political climate are contained in their songs, such as the following from “The Doomed” from the new album:

What of the pious, the pure of heart, the peaceful?
What of the meek, the mourning, and the merciful?
What of the righteous? What of the charitable?
What of the truthful, the dutiful, the decent?

Doomed are the poor
Doomed are the peaceful
Doomed are the meek
Doomed are the merciful

For the word is now death
And the word is now without light
The new beatitude:
“Fuck the doomed, you’re on your own”

The lighting and visuals on the screens became increasingly dramatic, matching the intensity of the music throughout the night. They designed a setlist that felt narrative, which crescendoed and climaxed. Along with that, the colors shifted from cool and neutral, to bold and loud red, white, and black. Behind the band, the all-seeing eye displayed where their logo once appeared. The audience was united in a cathartic experience, as they let go and got lost in A Perfect Circle’s trademark indignation and disdain.

One fan in the audience was overheard saying, “I forgot how hard these guys rock!” and with unrestrained, unabashed love and respect for the band, he yelled louder than all around him.

“We’re gonna end on a high note here in Arizona. Off to Europe for about 3 weeks. So thank you very much for being the cherry on top. A marijuana-stinking cherry.”Maynard James Keenan

Before going into “Dog Eat Dog”, a tribute to the late Malcom Young of AC/DC, Keenan took a moment to introduce the band members. It was interesting to note the many other music projects all band members are a part of, emphasizing how much of a supergroup A Perfect Circle is. 

“Our rhythm section: from Beta Machine, Ashes Divide, Eagles of Death Metal, and Puscifer — Mr. Matt McJunkins, Mr. Jeff Friedl.” McJunkins (Bassist) is also a former touring member of Thirty Seconds to Mars.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Jeff Friedl (Drummer), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

He continued, “Guitar & keyboards: from Autolux and Failure, Mr. Greg Edwards.” Edwards is filling in for James Iha, who is currently touring with Smashing Pumpkins. He was also a member of Lusk and Replicants in the past.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Matt McJunkins (Bassist) & Greg Edwards (Touring Keyboardist),
A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

“My partner-in-crime: Mr. Billy Howerdel,” he concluded. Howerdel (Lead Guitarist, Keyboardist, and Backup Vocalist) is also frontman of Ashes Divide.

A Perfect Circle - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Billy Howerdel (Guitarist, Keyboardist, Backup Vocalist), A Perfect Circle
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design © All Rights Reserved

Of course Keenan is also a member of multiple bands on top of A Perfect Circle, including Tool and Puscifer.

Some find the media policies for A Perfect Circle’s shows to be pretentious or mistreating to fans. Like a performance in a symphony hall, the band sends the message that it is a faux pas to raise up a phone in the air during theirs. Others feel that it not only preserves an important atmosphere that keeps integrity to the music and sets their performances to a different level than other rock concerts, but also actually appreciates their fans because the band wants to connect with them like they did in the days before smartphones. There were some in the crowd that could be overheard during the show actually expressing appreciation for the absence of cell phones in the air throughout the concert. The impression was that most, if not all, in attendance left satisfied and delighted.

Following the climax of the performance with four ferocious songs, A Perfect Circle closed out the concert with “Delicious” from the new album. It had the fitting mood of the falling action of the storyline, lyrically segueing into a resolution of sorts:

How inconvenient and unexpected and harrowing for you,
as consequences tend to be
For the rest of us,
so delicious to witness your dread.
Poetic justice consummate.

During these times, it is interesting to see swathes of artists such as A Perfect Circle, Cake, Otep, Eminem, Taylor Swift, and many more, using their platforms to speak out against or oppose President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. While some feel that entertainers should “stay in their lane” in topics such as these, it is undeniable that they historically have significant ability to influence the public, for better or for worse. With the success of their world tour, and the large attendance of a concert on a Tuesday night, it is evident that there are a significant number of people that aren’t repelled by their political leanings. In the current political climate, A Perfect Circle’s brooding music serves as an outlet, a beacon of intellect and sanity, and a unifier for like-minded fans that are equally frustrated, angry, and despairing.

While it would be unlikely that Keenan and his band would skip playing his home-state, Arizonans were undoubtedly grateful that they had the opportunity to experience A Perfect Circle live after getting some fresh music from them. Keenan stated in a June 2018 interview that “there should be” more albums in the future. Though Eat the Elephant has proven worth the wait, hopefully it will not be another fourteen years before the next release. Hopefully fans can be treated to another tour in support of the next release, or at least more Arizona shows.

Considering the solid quality and atmosphere of their live performance, the sizable setlist, the supportive experience, and love of their intense music, any fan that may hesitate to make the investment in a concert ticket can rest assured this one is worth it. A Perfect Circle’s show in Phoenix was not a buzzkill.

REVIEW: Covet Blossoms on Stage at The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix 7-22-18

PHOENIX – Covet, touring with special guests and friends HOLY FAWN and Vasudeva, bloomed in a magnificent way at The Rebel Lounge and shared their sublime sounds during the hottest period of the unrelenting desert summer. Luckily, nobody was a pile of goo by the time the show started.

This esoteric collection of musicians was a sight to behold, sharing a fascinating mix of influences from genres such as post-rock, math rock, ambient music, alternative rock, indie rock, experimental sounds, and many more. While stage banter and lyrics may have been at a minimum, fans certainly have a lot to talk about after witnessing this stunning bouquet of musical aptitude.

HOLY FAWN

Kicking off the evening was local band HOLY FAWN, self-described as “four creatures making loud heavy pretty noises.” They certainly lived up to their description, as the noises varied from gentle electric sounds to earth-shattering riffs and screams. They were also the only band of the evening to feature some vocals in their songs, but for the most part, they fit right in with a heavy focus on unique instrumentals.

HOLY FAWN - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
HOLY FAWN
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

HOLY FAWN began their set with some ambient music playing over a dark stage covered in laser lights. The darkness and the soothing sounds made for some great ambiance, but soon it was time to rock. Without really announcing themselves, HOLY FAWN made their way to the stage from the merch booth area — not a long walk at all in the cozy, intimate Rebel Lounge. One member said “alright, let’s do this,” as they prepared for the show.

As HOLY FAWN began to play along with the ambient music, their energy slowly rose until climaxing with some epic, loud sounds. The vocals were hard to discern in The Rebel Lounge, but the music was still enjoyable. It was all about the instruments, with some screaming thrown in every once in a while for good measure.

Vasudeva

Vasudeva took the stage shortly after HOLY FAWN, and they brought a different sound to the room. Their approach is purely instrumental, and each band member can play their instruments brilliantly. Watching all three of them on stage is a beautiful sight, and it is clear they love playing music together. Not only is their music beautiful and enjoyable, but so is their presence on stage. Their commitment to the craft is hypnotic.

Vasudeva - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Vasudeva
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

Vasudeva spent most of their time on stage rocking out and sharing their captivating sounds with the crowd, but they were sure to add a quick “thank you” after each song was over. They were also sure to throw in a few other tidbits, such as “this is dope,” “this is so cool,” and “righteous.” They were also sure to thank Covet for asking them to go on tour together. Vasudeva said, “Our friends Covet are on after us. Give it up for them! We’ve been touring with them for about a week now. Wish it was longer.”

Each member of Vasudeva was really into the music and the performance, and they finished their set with an energizing finale. While many people may have come to The Rebel Lounge to see Covet, Vasudeva certainly gave them their money’s worth. The crowd was prepped for more scintillating instrumental music, but it was clear that everyone had immensely enjoyed the show so far. Unfortunately for Vasudeva fans, merch was sparse; as they said, “we’ve been on tour for a while, so we’re running low on merch. We have 2 records left. It’s crazy.” That didn’t stop people from rushing to buy things later, though.

Covet

At long last, it was time to effloresce. Similar to how HOLY FAWN began, there was ambient music playing — a prologue to the epic odyssey that was about to commence. Covet took the stage by gentle storm, with David Adamiak coming out to join the ambient music and add some bass currents to the mix. Shortly after that, Yvette Young and Forrest Rice joined him on stage to a ton of applause.

Covet - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Covet
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

As Covet says, they are “just 3 people making music” — this is the best way to describe their performance on stage. Rather than one person taking center stage, with the others supporting them, Covet is a group of musicians who somehow share the spotlight evenly. What could easily devolve into a discordant mix of conflicting instrumentals becomes a truly majestic melody.

Covet - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Forrest Rice (Drummer), Covet
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

Rice, the drummer, truly rocked The Rebel Lounge into oblivion. His performance was spectacular, and by the look on his face, he loved every second of it. He gave the music so much energy, and his massive smile could pierce even the darkest of sorrows. Meanwhile, Young was in the zone, hyper-focused on plucking the strings on her collection of beautiful, unique guitars. Tying it all together was Adamiak, traipsing around the stage with his bass guitar, really getting into the music and the moment.

Covet - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Yvette Young (Guitarist), Covet
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

Young has made waves in recent years with her unique style of playing the guitar, and she has also recently been featured in a few interesting articles that reveal some insights into her artistic powers. While she plays many instruments, the way she plucks the guitar strings is quite unique; the sounds this technique creates are fascinating and entrancing. Not only does this show off her sheer mastery of guitar, but her immense creativity as well. It is no wonder she has been called a true “Renaissance woman” by many. 

Covet - Photography: Rodrigo Izquierdo
David Adamiak (Bassist), Covet
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved.

Adamiak brought his own creative spin to the show as well. While he merrily wandered all over stage, he made sure to engage with the audience whenever possible. If he didn’t make eye contact with every single person in The Rebel Lounge, it must have been close! He also seemed to have a great time making silly faces at people, as well as jumping out at the crowd from time to time to really rock out. At the end of the show, he made sure to dispense plenty of high fives to those at the front, too! Rice ran up to join him in the high fiving at that point, so there was plenty of love to go around.

Covet had such a pleasant presence on stage and infected the entire crowd with their joy. Along with spreading the music love, they also shared some beautiful stories and useful information. They referred to HOLY FAWN and Vasudeva as their “ultra homies,” told a story about the importance of staying hydrated, and thanked the audience profusely for joining them that evening. As Adamiak said, “thanks for staying out so late with us, on a Sunday night of all nights.” He repeated similar sentiments at the end of the show.

effloresce - Album Cover

At the end of the show, Covet performed “Howl” from their new album effloresce, which just came out on July 13th; this song is a great way to send a crowd on their way, as it is full of phenomenal energy truly worthy of a grand finale. After, Adamiak said “you guys make us really happy” and mentioned they’d all be by the merch later if anyone wanted to say hi. However, the crowd chanted “one more song” for a brief time after they had left the stage, so the grand finale wasn’t so final after all.

They came back on stage, and Adamiak said “y’all are a bunch of sweethearts, thank you.” As he was letting his hair down, he added, “we’re gonna do one that doesn’t require hair ties.” Then, “on a very serious note,” he introduced the song “Ares” as their actual final song for the evening. While not quite as thunderous as “Howl,” it is still a superb way to end a show.

When the show was over, Covet, Vasudeva, and HOLY FAWN were all hanging around the merch area waiting to greet fans, sign merch, and say some farewells. For fans of HOLY FAWN, the farewell isn’t so long either — earlier in the show, Adamiak also added that HOLY FAWN will be having an album release at The Rebel Lounge on September 21st, so mark that one on your calendar!

 

Photo Album

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Covet, Vasudeva, & HOLY FAWN – The Rebel Lounge 7-22-18

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved