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REVIEW: Failure Lands in the Desert for Crescent Ballroom Show (6-5-22)

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Phoenix, AZ — Failure returned to Crescent Ballroom for the third time since their reunion in late 2013, much to the delight of an eager and boisterous crowd. This was the first US tour in over 3 years, thanks to COVID, and was to support their newest album Wild Type Droid. This is their sixth studio album, and marks a major change for the band. Their previous albums have carried the band and their followers into outer space – one of the descriptors of the band is “space rock” – but this time the theme of the album will be a bit different. In a press release, guitarist and bassist Greg Edwards stated that “This feels like a good place and time to abandon the space iconography and theme once and for all. In a lot of ways, this album feels like a return to earth. All minds have been called back to their bodies. There’s a lot to attend to right in front of us.

Failure promo photo
Photography: Priscilla C. Scott

As Failure reached down to firmly grasp terra firma once more, their fans welcomed the news of the latest tour with open arms and thinly veiled excitement. They have been described as having “cult status” by Rolling Stone, and based on the buzz that was flowing through the venue as fans eagerly awaited their beloved band, it is a fitting moniker. Failure, formed in 1992, has embraced social media with a fierceness that is not often seen in bands that formed before the amalgamation of the internet and social media. In an era where word of mouth was currency, they built a following through tours with Tool, and a solid discography that has withstood the test of time. In fact, it could be argued that while formed in the 90s, Failure is anything but a 90s band. They were merely a band before their time.  

Failure completed the albums Comfort in 1992, Magnified in 1994, and Fantastic Planet in 1996. They stepped into a Lollapalooza slot in 1997 when Korn dropped out. Citing “personal differences”, they officially broke up on November 19, 1997, only to reunite in 2013. In the interim, former Failure rhythm guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen joined A Perfect Circle, who recorded a cover of Failure’s “The Nurse Who Loved Me” for their Thirteenth Step LP. 

Failure’s cosmic sound appears on 2015’s The Heart is a Monster album and 2018’s In The Future Your Body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind. Their tour for their recent release Wild Type Droid blends celestial sounds of previous albums with the “return to earth” sound they are making now. The band may have an on again, off again relationship, but their fans are here to stay. 

In a social media announcement on March 31st, 2022, Failure informed their fans that they could preview a 30-minute trailer for their upcoming eponymous documentary, which is slated to be released in 2023. A nearly 7-minute teaser of the documentary, a trailer of the trailer as it were, was played right before Failure took the stage. This announcement of the band’s upcoming film was met with unfettered excitement online, and this carried over into the night of the show.  

Those who have attended live music events at any point know that it is not unusual for fans to slowly trickle in, but on this night the vast majority of the crowd was in the venue when the lights were turned down at exactly 8:30 pm. The extended Failure documentary trailer brought raucous cheers from the eager crowd. It is a safe bet that much of the crowd had watched the teaser online, and there was an air of anticipation. Indeed, some in the crowd cheered at every new musician or actor who appeared on the screen to discuss Failure’s impact on them personally and their music careers. 

The preview had a parade of big music industry names: Hayley Williams (Paramore – who covered “Stuck On You” in their 2006 EP The Summer Tic), Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle, Puscifer), Butch Vig (Garbage), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and commentary from actress and comedian Margaret Cho, among others. As the sneak peek wrapped up, the conversation turned to the drug use that led to the band break up in 1997. As of yet, no release date has been given for the Failure documentary.

Ken Andrews (Vocalist, Guitarist), Failure
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Failure’s current members are frontman and lead guitarist Ken Andrews, multi-instrumentalist and backing vocalist Greg Edwards, and drummer Kellii Scott. The trio took the stage with a “What’s happening Phoenix?” shout out from Andrews. They launched into the hard-hitting song “Submarines” off Wild Type Droid. This was the first song the band wrote after the world shut down due to the pandemic. There is a certain risk in writing a song that relates to a world changing event such as the pandemic that upended nearly every smidgen of the day to day lives of all of us, as future generations likely will not fully understand the trauma and impact it left on all of us. That is where the beauty and timelessness of the band’s songwriting comes in: while this generation will immediately understand the deeper meaning of the song, it will resonate later on for a new generation of music lovers for a completely different reason.

Greg Edwards (Guitarist), Failure
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

The music video released for “Submarines” consists of the band staring into the camera – giving the viewer a sensation that perhaps the band is attempting to look deep into their souls – while also having their profile featured, glitching in and out. The intensity of this video carries on to their concerts, with a focused Andrews rarely speaking – though he did acknowledge the fans who called out between the songs. His abrupt (but not rude) style of communication while on stage is a drastic contrast of his voice, which is – in itself – a juxtaposition to the music. Andrews’ smooth vocals mixed with the crunch and crash that comes with the grunge-meets-space-rock sound that Failure is associated with has a familiar and comforting feel to it. Imagine a warm, well-worn blanket wrapped around you as you stare off into space imagining the possibilities of the unknown, and you have an idea of what a concert with Failure is like. 

Failure performing live at Crescent Ballroom
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

They pulled from each of their 6 albums during the show. Right before the band played “Counterfeit Sky” from The Heart Is a Monster, Andrews stated they were doing double shots from each album – at least two songs back-to-back from the same album. There was a single exception to this: “Salt Wound” was the sole song from Comfort, their very first album. Indeed, there was a near symmetry to the show, with 2 songs from Magnified, The Heart Is A Monster, and In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind, as well as 6 songs from Fantastic Planet, and 6 from Wild Type Droid

As incredible as the evening was, it was not without some small flaws. The first was when the sound cut out suddenly during the opening moments of “Distorted Fields,” stopping everyone except Scott, who was so focused on his craft – and also had headphones on – that he continued to drum for a few more seconds. While the sound techs scrambled to get the show back on track, one fan called out “Acoustic version!” which was followed with a rimshot by Scott. The techs quickly fixed the issue, and the show got back on track. The second was a restart of fan-favorite “Stuck On You.” Neither mishap detracted from the overall magic of the show and had the paradoxical effect of enhancing it a bit with how quickly and gracefully they were handled.

Kellii Scott (Drummer), Failure
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

After finishing up “Half Moon,” from Wild Type Droid, during the encore, Andrews told the ecstatic audience “You may have noticed we haven’t played anything from our 3rd album.” This was rectified quickly, as the final 6 songs all came from Fantastic Planet, culminating with “Daylight,” which is also the final song on the album. 

The concert was a journey as the music videos playing behind the band throughout the night took the fans to another planet and then back to earth to get rather macro with various insects, such as a praying mantis named Iggy from their latest music video. After the finale, it felt like an extended goodbye with a long instrumental performance, and this journey came to an end with Andrews telling the fans, “Thank you Phoenix, we love you!” 

Failure performing live at Crescent Ballroom
| Photography:
Kara Blakemore © All Rights Reserved

Failure is a band that is absolutely worth going out of your way to see perform live. There are layers upon layers to their music. It would be easy to forget it’s a band of only 3 members. It is easy to see how the band continues to thrive by word of mouth, and why the fans are loyal to the point of near obsession. The praise they receive is well-founded and deserved.

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    Failure’s Phoenix Setlist

  1. Submarines
  2. Mercury Mouth
  3. Salt Wound
  4. Frogs
  5. Wonderful Life
  6. Atom City Queen
  7. Counterfeit Sky
  8. Distorted Fields
  9. Force Fed Rainbow
  10. Bring Back the Sound
  11. Headstand
  12. Bad Translation
  13. Half Moon
  14. Segue 3
  15. The Nurse Who Loved Me
  16. Another Space Song
  17. Stuck on You
  18. Heliotropic
  19. Daylight

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Photography: Kara Blakemore

Failure – Crescent Ballroom 6-5-22

Photography © Electric Eye Photo AZ
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Jimmy Eat World Launches “Surviving” Era with Hometown Show at Crescent Ballroom (10-6-19)

PHOENIX — Jimmy Eat World announced on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on October 1, 2019 that they would be playing a hometown show at Crescent Ballroom in support of their 10th and newest studio album “Surviving”, which will be released a couple of weeks later on October 18th. The tickets went on sale at the same time the show was announced, and those lucky enough to be on social media at that time managed to snag a ticket or two to what would turn out to be one of the most incredible shows the valley would see in 2019. The opener was Gabriel Sullivan, a Tucson native who also was playing in support of a new album, his 4th: Black Crow, released on September 27th this year.

Gabriel Sullivan

Crescent Ballroom in Downtown Phoenix was less than half full when Sullivan took the stage, his band playing a nearly ethereal opening few notes with the stage bathed in blue light before he bounded onto the stage. Gabriel has a passing resemblance to a younger Eddie Money, his low, growling voice reminiscent of Nick Cave, with a sound that would be at home in a Quentin Tarantino movie. He is, in short, what one would think of if someone mentioned music that sounded like the desert.

By the time the final note had played, he had the crowd’s rapt attention and had many heads bobbing along to the music. Mid show, he raised a can and talked about how incredible it was to open “for your hometown heroes, Jimmy Eat World!” He also made mention of Casey Golden, who had played in the lounge before the show and told everyone to grab the record of a fellow Tucson native.

Jimmy Eat World

 As the stage was prepared for Jimmy Eat World, the anticipation in the crowd built, with a near electric feeling prevalent in the room. Finally, the time came for the band to take the stage, with frontman Jim Adkins wasting no time in starting the show: “Howdy y’all! We’re Jimmy Eat World from Mesa, and this is Surviving!”. The title track off of the upcoming record had a retro sound and yet was brand new. This was the magic of the evening; 21 songs, some new, some old, all sounding timeless and explosive.

Jimmy Eat World just reached 25 years as a band, a milestone that is no small feat, and in that quarter of a century of existence they have released nine records with Surviving being the tenth. To say that they have released some incredible songs over those years would be an understatement, and many songs have resonated with fans in various stages of life. To that end, as past hits such as “Pain”, “Sweetness” and “The Middle” played, Adkins’ face would light up as the fans sang every single word back to him, matching his passion and his energy. Very little time was spent talking to the audience, but every word he said was full of gratitude. Repeatedly, he would wait until the applause died down and would say, “Thank you so much!” At one point, while wiping sweat off his face, he told the audience, “you guys are fantastic. It’s just better when we have our fans.

Jimmy Eat World
| Photo courtesy of Nate Wert

Seven of the songs on the expansive setlist were from Surviving. “All The Way (Stay)” and “Love Never” were already familiar to much of the audience, as they were singles that were released when the album was announced on September 23rd. Others, like “Surviving”, “Criminal Energy” and “555” were new and well-received, with the latter two being heavy, and yet soaring songs, a sound that has traces of “Integrity Blues” and traces of the time Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who produced the album, spent with Nine Inch Nails.

Jimmy Eat World has played many venues all over the world, from the majestic Red Rocks in Colorado, to the enormous music festivals such as Kaaboo Del Mar in San Diego and the massive Rock am Ring in Germany. They can, and do, sell out massive amphitheaters, and yet they appear to still be in awe when they return to their hometown and play a concert in a cozy venue such as the Crescent Ballroom.

Saw some old friends. Made some new friends. Pretty solid afternoon. 🙏@rockamringofficial #rockamring

Posted by Jimmy Eat World on Friday, June 1, 2018

The respect they have for the fans could be witnessed multiple times throughout the night. After “Bleed American” Jim asked the audience to give themselves a hand because “That was really cool!”. Later on he would thank the Crescent Ballroom for allowing them to play, and announced, “We’ll be on Jimmy Kimmel next Thursday! Is it Thursday? It might be Thursday.” As the last notes of “The Middle” were still fading away, members of the band shook the hands of the fans in the front of the stage, gave some high fives, and thanked everyone for coming out again.

One of the coolest parts of the night did not happen on stage. Rather, it happened by the merch booth, where Adkins stood and took pictures and talked to fans up until the point Gabriel Sullivan took the stage. Jimmy Eat World came from a Phoenix music scene that was rough in the 90s, and rose to the top of the nationwide charts. However, as this show proved, they have not and will never forget their roots. This show was a love letter of sorts, a thank you to the fans in their hometown.

There will be a Surviving listening event on October 18, with a Zia Records/Jimmy Eat World pop-up shop, while DJ Chelsey Louise (of Fairy Bones) spins emo classics at Arizona Wilderness. Don’t miss it!

It’s finally here. Can’t wait for you guys to give this a spin. #Surviving #vinyl https://smarturl.it/Surviving

Posted by Jimmy Eat World on Wednesday, October 9, 2019

REVIEW: The Melvins Bring Sludge Metal Back to Phoenix with Basses Loaded 5-31-18

PHOENIX The Melvins concluded the spring portion of their ambitious two-part 2018 tour schedule to promote the April 20th release of their album, Pinkus Abortion Technician, at The Crescent Ballroom on Thursday, May 31. Los Angeles-based rock band All Souls warmed up concertgoers with songs from their newly released self-titled album.

Rockers of all ages flooded the intimate venue to experience the heavy, experimental sounds of one of the most influential and notable grunge/sludge metal bands to pave the way for the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The drinks flowed and the smell from the food being run from the kitchen to Cocina 10 permeated the venue as All Souls hit the stage.

All Souls - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Antonio Aguilar (Guitarist, Vocalist), All Souls
Rodrigo Izquierdo. © All Rights Reserved

After a quick introduction, they jumped right into the music with their melodic, guitar-heavy sound that ranges from deep and dark, to grunge, to downright ethereal. All Souls, comprised of Drummer Tony Tornay, (formerly of Fatso Jetson), bassist Meg Castellanos and guitarist/vocalist Antonio Aguilar (both formerly of Totimoshi) as well as guitarist Erik Trammell (formerly of Brothers Collateral) proved that, though they’ve only been together for 3 years, they’ve uncovered a winning combination of musical talent to generate a polished sound worth listening to on repeat. At then end of their set, Trammell thanked the Melvins for a “blissful” five week tour together to which Meg added that it also included a broken foot. This concluded the band’s stint with the Melvins, who take a small break and then tackle another ambitious 5-week tour schedule to include four nights in Canada.

Following All Souls’ performance was the anxiously awaited Melvins who planned to take listeners on a musical trip through their discography that spans 34 years. Their newest creation to add to their collection is Pinkus Abortion Technician, which pays homage to the likes of The Beatles and The James Gang. The album brings bassist Jeff Pinkus from the Butthole Surfers back on a collaboration once again to create a whole new sound along with fellow bassist, Steven Shane McDonald, who joined the band in 2015. The Melvins have toured with two drummers and also with two lead guitars, but having two basses is a first. Being the experimental musicians they are and willing to take a chance, they brought forth a sound rarely experienced. The walls reverberated with what felt like a collective heartbeat, a depth of sound that had audience members moving their heads in unison.

The Melvins - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
The Melvins
Rodrigo Izquierdo. © All Rights Reserved

The band came out to experimental pedal and guitar sounds that primed the audience for the journey they were about to embark on for the next few hours.The musical journey began with visceral and gritty “Sesame Street Meat” off their 23rd studio album from 2014, Hold It In, on which bassist Jeff Pinkus collaborated. Drummer Dale Crover was immediately seated and fitted with his over-the-ear mic, while outgoing bassist McDonald dazzled with a series of high kicks. Bassist Jeff Pinkus took stage right, where he remained the majority of the evening deeply engrossed in his music and showing an occasional glimmer when his guitar hit the light just right. Guitarist and lead vocalist Buzz Osborne restlessly moved about the stage as though energy were traveling through him in a higher capacity than he could possibly emit. Next stop was 25 years in the past with “At A Crawl”, followed by a zig zag to “Kicking Machine” from 2008’s Nude With Boots, which brought the crowd to a higher level of excitement when a mosh pit ensued. Next were two covers: David Bowie’s “Saviour Machine” sung by Steve McDonald and Red Kross’ “What They Say” which had all-hands-on-deck vocally.

Buzz Osborne took front and center once again with “Anaconda” off of their 1991 album, Bullhead. Next up, Buzz got into character over dead silence and sauntered up to the mic with a smirk to tell everyone, “Well… well… well, I’ll be moooving down to Floriduh,” to kick off the Butthole Surfers’ “Moving to Florida” with a mix of their new song “Stop Moving to Florida” off Pinkus Abortion Technician.

The Melvins - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Buzz Osborne (Guitarist, Vocalist), The Melvins
Rodrigo Izquierdo. © All Rights Reserved

Other notable mentions are McDonald’s long locks blowing in the wind of the fan off on stage left, his Superman move of pulling his blazer open to show his sparkly “punk rock” written across his chest, and one cannot forget the slower tempo of “Don’t Forget to Breathe” off of the new album, with credits for writing going completely to Pinkus.

The Melvins - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Steven Shane McDonald (Bassist), The Melvins
Rodrigo Izquierdo. © All Rights Reserved

The Melvins ended their energy-fueled, seventeen-song setlist by taking fans all the way back to the beginning with “Eye Flys” from their debut album Gluey Porch Treatments. Drummer Dale Crover’s elbows were moving at seemingly lightning speed, reminding everyone why he was worthy of a shout out during Nirvana’s 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.

As the crescendo of the last notes of the night filled the room, shook the ground, and flooded the ears of each fortunate audience member, Crover stood up and dropped his drumsticks to a crowd of sated fans who uproariously applauded. Drenched with sweat and playing with the same amount of gusto as the first moment they set foot on stage, it was evident that the Melvins have the masterful talent of a band that has been around for 34 years and the ambition to put on a show for their fans like a band that is just up and coming.


Photo Album

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

Melvins – Crescent Ballroom 5-31-18

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: New Politics, Dreamers, & The Wrecks Help the Phoenix Crowd to Lose Themselves 3-11-18

PHOENIXUnity, love, and an all-around good time were the three main focuses of the Lost in Translation Tour’s stop in Phoenix. “Don’t ever forget that each and every one of you here has the power to do anything you set your heart on,” said David Boyd, lead singer of New Politics.

New Politics, Dreamers, and The Wrecks put on an sensational sold out show at Crescent Ballroom, with each band bringing the energy of a headliner.

The Wrecks

The Wrecks - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
The Wrecks
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design
View The Wrecks Photo Album

The Wrecks were first in the lineup with an electrifying set. Lead singer Nick Anderson’s unique voice took the crowd to a new level. The energy from the five piece band was reminiscent of early 2000’s pop punk. Their new EP Panic Vertigo, just released last month, showcased the growth of the band. The Wrecks played an unreleased song “Live”, and Anderson said the band only plays it when people in the audience have enough energy to give back. They ended with the upbeat angst filled song “Favorite Liar” which has been played frequently on 93.3 Alt AZ. The Wrecks hinted at wanting to do a headline tour with a stop in Phoenix soon.

The Wrecks - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
The Wrecks
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design
View The Wrecks Photo Album


Dreamers - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Nick Wold (Vocalist), Dreamers
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design
View Dreamers Photo Album

Their band name describes their set: dreamy. The three-piece band played fan favorites such as “Painkiller” and “Sweet Disaster”, which have been on rotation on 93.3 Alt AZ as well. With catchy guitar riffs from lead singer and guitarist Nick Wold, strong rhythm from bassist and back-up vocalist Marc Nelson, and striking drums from drummer and back-up vocalist Jacob Lee Wick, the band amped up the crowd.The upbeat set proposed the feeling for New Politics’ upcoming performance. Their song “Bleed Through”, Wold explained, is about people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and coming back from that ledge; also for any who has fallen.

New Politics

New Politics - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
New Politics
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

Inspiring the crowd to raise their hands immediately, the energy exuded by the three piece band from Copenhagen, Denmark, was mind-blowing, to say the least. With Boyd sporting pants that could have been inspired by Beetlejuice, and a John Lennon style hat, his charisma got the crowd rocking.

The trio started their set off with “Istanbul” from their latest record Lost in Translation, which was released last year (2017). Their set consisted of a variety of songs that showed how diverse they are.

“Girl Crush”, “Everywhere I Go (Kings and Queens)”, and “Dignity” were noticeably among the crowd-favorites.

“Tonight You’re Perfect”, “One of Us”, and “Harlem” are among the most well-known songs from the trio.

One of the more intimate songs played during the set was “Color Green”, which Boyd dedicated to his newborn daughter.

Guitarist and lead/backup vocalist Søren Hansen and drummer Louis Vecchio, were highly animated throughout the 20 song set. It was impressive to see the same energy that  Boyd offers in Hansen and Vecchio.

New Politics - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
New Politics
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

Boyd knows how to perform. The lead singer engaged the crowd from all angles, and got intimate with the crowd multiple times by resting his leg in fans’ hands as he sang. It also seemed as if he would sing directly into fans’ phones. ULTIMATE FANGIRL DREAM.

By mentioning unity more than once, it was clear that Boyd places importance on giving fans a unifying experience. He showed his gratitude to the fans at the end of “One Of Us” by making bowing gestures toward them, suggesting that this experience is just as meaningful to him.

New Politics - Photo credit: Katherine Amy Vega
New Politics
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design

I don’t want this to end”, Boyd exclaimed before the final song. “There’s only one thing we’re gonna have to do, is come back soon, right?”, he continued. “So what we’re gonna do right now, ‘cause endings are so sad, we’re gonna do the opposite. We’re gonna take this energy here, and we’re gonna celebrate that we f***ing did it! Alright? And we’re gonna cherish every memory of tonight, and we’re gonna even make it better, and there will be a surprise…

The band certainly knows how to end a show with a grand finale, by playing the explosive “Yeah Yeah Yeah”, with Dreamers’ Wold singing the first verse, and The Wrecks’ Anderson coming back to rap during the second verse.

How to end a show: with Hansen crowd surfing as he plays his guitar solo. √ CHECK



Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

New Politics, Dreamers, & The Wrecks – Crescent Ballroom 3-11-18

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

REVIEW: Poppy Catches Phoenix in Her Interweb on Valentine’s Day at Crescent Ballroom 2-14-18

PHOENIX – A rainy Valentine’s Day evening in Phoenix, Arizona – what a perfect night for one of the most bizarre acts to come through town. Moriah Rose Pereira, who goes by the name Poppy on the internet, is a multi-talented internet phenomenon. A young veteran in dancing, singing, acting, and creativity, Poppy was able to bring her peculiar act to the desert. Fans and onlookers of all shapes, sizes, and types gathered together at the Crescent Ballroom to see the internet come to life and behold the spectacle that is the “Poppy.Computer Tour. It certainly did not disappoint.

What Exactly is Poppy?

Believed to be an android by many, a cult leader by some, and an all-around weirdo by “normies” on the internet, Poppy found massive notoriety over YouTube after releasing her infamous video “I’m Poppy,” which can be viewed here. Produced with the help of Titanic Sinclair, another well-known internet phenomenon, musician, and director, Poppy was quickly able to gain the attention of the modern world, mostly through her series of outlandish videos.

She eventually turned this YouTube sensation into an effective tool in the pursuit of her ultimate dream: becoming a pop star. In fact, Poppy even won a Streamy Award in late 2017 for “Breakthrough Artist.” However, it would likely be more apt to label her an anti-pop star, as her work seems to revolve around calling out the absurdities of contemporary popular culture, pop music, and fame in the modern world.

While Poppy originally claimed not to be in a cult a little over a year ago, with Titanic Sinclair vouching for the accuracy of this claim, the “Poppy.Computer Tour” seemed to prove otherwise. This humorous take on possibly spinning criticism on its own head and turned it into another powerful tool in their digital and cultural arsenals; Titanic Sinclair and Poppy seem to embrace this cultish mentality, and they certainly took it and ran with it.

This cultish theme led to some fabulously interesting and entertaining moments during the show; from the computer-rendered speech synthesis-style narration, to fans “drinking the Kool-Aid,” this cult-themed joke certainly balances itself on a thin line between satire and reality. Nonetheless, the screaming fans—aka “Poppy Seeds”—and fascinated observers did not seem to mind either way. After all, is this not the essence of modern popular culture? Undying fealty to those famous people all fans have sworn allegiance to.

Poppy.Computer Tour

The “Poppy.Computer Tour” is Poppy’s first time visiting real people as a musician, and it was originally planned to visit only 20 cities across North America, but likely due to its greater-than-expected success, the tour was expanded to include a stop in London, Tokyo, and 15 other stops in North America. Poppy and Titanic Sinclair planned this epic adventure in order to promote Poppy’s first official album, Poppy.Computer.

The most interesting aspect of this tour is that, with the exception of her Toronto show, there were no opening acts. Instead, Poppy substituted the time slot traditionally reserved for an opener for one of the characters off her YouTube channel – Charlotte the Mannequin. This same character also happens to be the main antagonist from Poppy’s new YouTube Red film, with a potential to become a series, titled I’m Poppy.

Poppy also traveled with two amazingly talented backup dancers, Alec and Jason. These two stole the spotlight during many points, yet they always made sure to give it back to Poppy when the time was right. They were their to support and augment her, after all, with their keytar dance moves, air drums, and even their own take on what looked like a Thousand Arms Dance. Complete with tutus, bleach blonde wigs, and face masks, they offered an unsettling yet oddly charming addition to the stage.

Charlotte the Mannequin

As fans eagerly awaited the unexpected, uncertainty swirled in the air. Would there be an opener? How would they start the show? What, exactly, was this going to be like? Those who knew Poppy from the internet likely had all sorts of wild ideas, and “Africa” by Toto was playing on loop as they contemplated the imminent future. As the song itself has become its own infamous meme, it seemed only fitting to fill the void of time while everyone waited for the show to start.

Charlotte Quin, or Charlotte the Mannequin, sat alone on the stage, aside a MacBook DJ setup and between two massive screens. She opened the show with a pre-selected audio set. While she isn’t the most animated character, she does have her very own YouTube channel where she occasionally copies Poppy’s ideas, makes her own versions of Poppy’s songs, and otherwise wreaks havoc on Poppy’s online presence. She also happens to have a diverse but excellent taste in music, sampling and playing songs of all genres and eras. There was certainly something for just about everyone in her playlist, and her transitions were seamless.

Songs and artists featured during this most interesting of opening DJ acts include: Daft Punk, Baha Men, Missy Elliot, N.W.A., Vanessa Carlton, TLC, Cake, Abba, Ke$ha, The B-52s, Of Montreal, Talking Heads, Madonna, Rihanna, LMFAO, Justin Bieber, Billy Joel, Britney Spears, Lou Bega’s Mambo No. 5, Jimmy Eat World, Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Dr. Dre, Cyndi Lauper, Ed Sheeran, Nena’s (Original German) “99 Red Balloons”, and Miley Cyrus.

Throughout this playlist, symbols resembling every meme about the Illuminati played, mixed in with some of the visuals from Poppy’s videos—most notably, “This Birdcage” and “Where is Poppy?”, a video made in collaboration with entertainment company and internet phenomenon Super Deluxe. Strung throughout the set were also sound clips from various Poppy videos, most notably increasingly-frequent statements of “I’m Poppy.” Charlotte’s own statements of “Hello Internet and how she is going to be the “Queen of YouTube.” It also featured some sound clips of Poppy and Charlotte discussing the Bible, internet meme sensation Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That, and an old Blockbuster commercial.

Towards the end of Charlotte’s set, there was some banter between her and Poppy, ending with Poppy stating she was “Uncomfortable,” with Charlotte replying, “Uncomfortable? I’ll show you uncomfortable!” Poppy called for “Security!” As the final two songs played, the unusual opening act ended with the question, “Are you ready for Poppy?” playing over and over. They then played just about every ending theme ever, and random noises or themes, from things such as: The Simpsons, Castle Rock Entertainment, Windows ME, Viacom, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, and so on. It was hard to keep track of since they were only samples given in rapid succession, but the result was immensely entertaining.


To capitalize on this hype, Titanic Sinclair came out on stage just before the show began. He presented what was most likely a delicious Poppy beverage (Kool-Aid) prior to sampling some himself. He then set down the pitcher and prepared the crowd for initiation. Warning messages popped up on the screens, and then fans were inducted into the Cult of Poppy over three different Programming Sequences, complete with all the necessary digital and broadcast noises to make it just weird enough. Titanic Sinclair proceeded to pour cups of the delicious Poppy beverage during this time.

With all the grace granted to an android, Poppy slowly and quietly proceeded on stage with her two gender-ambiguous backup dancers, taking her place center stage with her back facing the audience. Her fans were ravenous, but Poppy is the master of timing and patience. Once the appropriate time came, she began to perform her iconic song and first single from her new album, “I’m Poppy“. She followed this up with “Computer Boy,” the second single from her new album.

P O P P Y I’m Poppy!

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These backup dancers have the BEST job in the universe!

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Once “Computer Boy” concluded, Poppy played her video “Doritos Monster Energy Drink,” because when else is a perfect time?

She continued the weirdness by asking the audience, “Do you love me?” She then proceeded to hand out her delicious Poppy beverage, passing out Kool-Aid to a few people in the front row. Titanic Sinclair and the backup dancers also helped with cup distribution. It was a beautiful, if not strange, moment.

Later on, Poppy also brought up the LOVE METER on the large screens, and her backup dancers hyped the audience up – everyone screamed, cheered, and clapped as loud as they could in order to fill the meter up. It turns out that the crowd does, in fact, love Poppy, as they were able to fill the meter up completely. What a way to spend Valentine’s Day!

Illuminati confirmed.

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Poppy performed many of her popular songs from the new album, including “Let’s Make a Video,” “Moshi Moshi,” “Interweb,” and “Bleach Blonde Baby.” The music videos, styles, and live performances are all uniquely performed and designed, and they are all quite reminiscent of Japanese Pop Music (J-Pop).

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (KPP) especially comes to mind when exploring Poppy’s musical styles and approaches – especially her songs “PONPONPON,” “CANDY CANDY,” and “Invader Invader.” The latter two of these are especially reminiscent of Poppy’s live performance, particularly regarding her backup dancers; CANDY CANDY features what is likely a male impersonator of KPP, dancing behind her with a wig in her same hairstyle and a mask that is an anime version of her face. In Invader Invader, she has many gender-ambiguous backup dancers as well. There certainly seems to be a lot of inspiration here from J-Pop, making Poppy’s performance a great mix of American and Japanese pop music styles.

Another marriage between pop styles can be seen with French pop artist Yelle, who is also famous for her interesting approaches to music, live performances, and music videos. While the connections aren’t as clear as between Poppy and KPP, Yelle’s upbeat and interesting approaches to pop culture certainly are sights to behold. Yelle’s hit song “Ba$$in” is particularly apt, as well as “Comme Un Enfant,” “Safari Disco Club,” “Complètement fou,” and “Ici & Maintenant.” If anything, her unique dancing styles are certainly comparable to Poppy’s own take on dance, which was Poppy’s first love.

I’ve caught you in my interweb… I’ve caught you in my internet…

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In the middle of Poppy’s performance, she played her video “3:36 and followed it up with some live additions: “Should we end the show early?” The audience, of course, said no, and she replied, “Okay.” However, it would not have been much of a surprise if she had ended it early.

Throughout the show, Poppy made excellent eye contact with just about everyone in the crowd. She was excellent at engaging people in that way while still maintaining her android-like, robotic façade. At one point, she did go through the front row and gave high fives or held hands, briefly, with as many fans as she could. Her backup dancers also, at one point, took 2 phones from fans in the crowd and took some photos of Poppy from their perspectives on the stage. It is clear that Poppy and company are trying their best to maintain their fans’ loyalty and love.

As the end approached, Poppy asked, “Can I be your Valentine?” The crowd, of course, agreed with great enthusiasm. However, all was not perfect, as Charlotte had to make her final attempt of the night at overthrowing Poppy – her voice popped up over the speakers, as she had just been sitting there, quietly, on stage throughout Poppy’s performance.

Can I sing a song?” Charlotte asked.  “You’ve already had your turn,” Poppy replied. She then requested for the crowd to join her in chanting, “Bye bye, Charlotte!” Apparently, at some point, Charlotte’s head was removed, so it is clear the crowd was quite serious about quieting her pleas for fame and recognition.

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Poppy’s penultimate song for the show was her song, “Where’s My Microphone?” The audience, backup dancers, Titanic Sinclair, and Poppy all joined in on worrying about where Poppy’s microphone was, but everyone was quite relieved when she realized it was in her hands the whole time! “Oh, there it is!”

Finally, the time came for Poppy’s last song, “Software Upgrade.” She gave it her all, and her energy was quite infectious. Most in the crowd were having such a great time singing and dancing along, with a few wallflowers hanging around and enjoying their interesting Valentine’s Day adventure. Poppy finished the song by assuring everyone that she loved them prior to departing the stage as mysteriously as she had appeared, and the crowd chanted and screamed for an encore.

A beautiful finale with some Kyary Pamyu Pamyu vibes! That dancing! 😂💃🕺

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Unfortunately, that encore never came, and it ended up being an early evening for Poppy fans and Crescent Ballroom guests. Charlotte the Mannequin had played her set from about 8pm to 8:40pm, and Poppy performed from that point until 9:30pm. It was a short show, but it can be said this was certainly not the most traditional concert or musical experience anyway. While it would have been nice to see Poppy perform a couple of her original songs prior to the Poppy.Computer album, such as “Money or “Lowlife,” it was still an immensely surrealistic and enjoyable experience to see such an internet phenomenon in real life.

Overall, Valentine’s Day with Poppy at the Crescent Ballroom was an interesting yet amusing way to spend an evening, and it is clear Poppy will be going places. Her partnership with Titanic Sinclair has, so far, been wildly successful, and it will be interesting to see where they go and what they do next. If they do choose to come back to Phoenix, however, it might be best to visit another venue – Crescent Ballroom was a bit too small for her sold out show, and the stage is too low for everyone in the audience to see the screens fully. At times, it was even difficult to see the backup dancers or Poppy herself, which was disappointing during certain moments. This was a show one did not want to miss a moment of – so many small details were hidden throughout.

One thing is for certain, though – the lack of encore and the resuming of “Africa” by Toto at the end of the show was the greatest troll moment of all. Disappointing and unexpected, yes, but one cannot help to smile after such a thoroughly bizarre experience.

REVIEW: No ‘Wasted Tears’ at Haley Reinhart Show 6-9-16

PHOENIX — Haley Reinhart played at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on Thursday as part of her latest tour to promote her new album, Better, which hit record stores on April 29 of this year. The show opened with melodic vocals and soft acoustic guitar tunes from Miller James followed by a hybrid mix of soul and R&B songs by Jacob Luttrell who’s also Reinhart’s keyboardist. By the time Reinhart took the stage, the intimate venue was packed.

Jacob Luttrell © Kataklizmic Design
Jacob Luttrell © Kataklizmic Design

Reinhart started the night with “Talkin’ About” from her new album. “It’s a party in here tonight. I can feel it,” she said before continuing with “Behave.” With little persuasion, Reinhart had the room swaying and clapping to the beat. Reinhart followed it up with “Keep Coming Back” from her 2012 debut album, Listen Up!

Haley Reinhart © Kataklizmic Design
Haley Reinhart – Crescent Ballroom

Reinhart and the band had a great energy together. When the song didn’t end, Reinhart turned to Luttrell, “You just don’t want to quit this one, do you?” she smiled, then got the audience to dance with her while the band just kept jamming. “We’re having so much fun with you guys that we’re just making stuff up,” Reinhart laughed when the song finally ended. Afterward, she sang “Wasted Tears,” dedicating it to all the ladies in the house.

“It was so nice to meet a lot of you earlier,” Reinhart said during the concert. The former American Idol star seemed to genuinely enjoy engaging with her audience. She even held a meet and greet session with fans before the show. “She was really down-to-earth,” one delighted fan commented about the experience. When she finally sang the title track of her new album, “Better,” she changed opening lyrics to “Now I’m right where I want to be, out on the road to Arizona.” At one point, she brought a hula-hoop up onto the stage that had been given to her by a fan and hula-hooped while the band played.

Haley Reinhart © Kataklizmic Design
Haley Reinhart © Kataklizmic DEsign

Before singing “Love Is Worth Fighting For,” Reinhart spoke to the audience about having the courage to chase their dreams, something that you could say Reinhart has spent her whole life doing. “Channel whatever you’re feeling in life and follow that,” she told concert-goers. Despite being dropped by major record label Interscope Records in 2012 after the disappointing reception of her debut album, Reinhart has continued to pursue her musical career. Since then, she has expanded her agreement with her music publisher, Ole, and in March of 2016, Reinhart also signed with ICM Partners.

Haley Reinhart © Kataklizmic Design
Haley Reinhart © Kataklizmic Design

The playful and fun mood of the show lasted the whole night. When the room started to get uncomfortably warm, Reinhart and the band spontaneously broke into an interpretation of Nelly’s “Hot in Herre” for a couple minutes at one concert-goer’s suggestion. Reinhart also covered “Black Hole Sun” in her unique jazzy style, performing it as a duet with Luttrell. After singing “Bad Light,” a delighted Reinhart accepted a flower from a fan at the front of the stage and placed it in her hair. “If it falls out, just know that it falls out with love,” she said while she secured the purple daisy in her hair.

Other songs Reinhart performed included “Good or Bad,” “Check Please,” and “I Belong to You.” “It was like I was entranced,” Reinhart said of writing “I Belong to You.” “I felt all the kinds of emotions you feel when you’re falling in love,” she said before delivering a passionate performance of the new track. She finished with “My Cake,” ending the song by introducing the band, each with their own solo.

When Reinhart returned to the stage for an encore, she gave concert-goers just what they had been waiting for. “I have a question for you. Have you ever seen an Extra gum commercial that made you cry?” she asked before singing her cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” Reinhart initially recorded the cover for a Wrigley’s Extra gum commercial, which exploded on YouTube, garnering over seven million YouTube views and more than 78 million Facebook views within a week of its digital release. By the time the song ended, there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

Haley Reinhart's Setlist - Crescent Ballroom
Haley Reinhart’s Setlist – Crescent Ballroom
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Fortunately, Reinhart didn’t end the night with sniffles. “We’ve got one more song for you, and it’s kind of important too. We live on a beautiful planet, don’t we?” Reinhart asked. “It’s up to all of us to protect it. We’re all in this together,” she said before singing, “Listen.” The upbeat rhythm had the room dancing and swaying one last time before the night was over. Afterward, Reinhart stood arm in arm with the rest of the band on the stage and bowed to thunderous applause.

PHOTO ALBUM by Katherine Vega

Haley Reinhart & Jacob Luttrell – Crescent Ballroom 6-9-16

Photography by Katherine Vega, © Kataklizmic Design