Mesa, AZ — Award-winning performer, artist, and activist Otep Shamaya rallied fans at Club Red Tuesday night in an impassioned, politically-charged performance. Heavy metal veterans OTEP (the band) [an anagrammatic name derivative of the word “poet”] recently dropped their eighth full-length album entitled Kult 45 via Napalm Records. According to an exclusive interview with Blabbermouth.net, “This is OTEP like you’ve never heard them before.”
Along with Kult 45’s highly anticipated release, OTEP announced a headline tour, to tease their newest work of art; beginning at The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on July 5th, and ending in Ventura, California on August, 18th 2018. Tour-mates include Dropout Kings, an AZ-based nu-metal band on the rise (who just released a burning hot new album called “AudioDope” this past Friday), and European progressive rock band Ragdoll Sunday. First to take the stage was anime-themed punk rock band Usagi (formerly Unagi Usagi), followed by progressive metal group CharonIncentive — a band heavily influenced by iconic black and death metal styles, and groove metal band Fatal Malady, whose skull-faced aesthetic captivated the now overflowing trickle of bodies entering through the back of the venue.
Following a supercharged performance by Dropout Kings, audience members began to chant in unison, “OTEP! OTEP! OTEP!” Drummer Justin Kier could be seen jetting on and off the stage, while crew members worked diligently to set the scene. Illuminated only by sporadic flares of light, Kier stepped forward to address the crowd, breaking the ice with a little marijuana-related humor before being joined by bandmates Ari “The Spartan” Mihalopoulos on guitar, and bassist Andrew Barnes. With time to spare, Kier went on to talk about a new, lesser known project in collaboration with Phoenix’s own hard rock female-fronted foursome Doll Skin, which they’ve aptly named “PETO”, once again utilizing OTEP’s iconic anagram, only this time – backwards. The trio commenced with an ear-splitting rendition of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”, immediately provoking a mosh pit nearly the size of the entire room.
After the music faded and fans had settled into standing-room-only once again, Shamaya exploded onto the platform between two vertically-balanced rifles, adorned with severed baby heads, faux weapons, LGBT symbolism, the U.S. flag, and a variety of other props yet to be revealed. Hanging delicately beneath the deceased infant’s haunting yellow eyes was a crooked sign that read, “Where are the children?” It’s no coincidence Shamaya’s performances have been dubbed “a two-decade invasion of the senses” and it’s clear she has no intention of dulling that edge now.
“We want to empower people,” Shamaya says of Kult 45. “This album wasn’t written to only wake people up, it’s meant to carbonate people with the hope and confidence that they can make a difference.”
“Are you ready to riot?!”, Shamaya asked the crowd, growling into the mic with intensity while being met with a reverberating wave of hoots, screams, and howls.
Beneath a beer-soaked haze of golden strobe lights, attendees raged along to political anthems “To The Gallows” (during which Shamaya fiercely spun a hangman’s noose from the end of her mic), “Battle Ready”, and “Lords of War”, succeeded by what is arguably one of OTEP’s most iconic tracks to date, “Crooked Spoons”. Shamaya playfully pulled from her rifling of props for each new track, punching her fist in the air as a bloody, severed pig head was tossed out from behind the stage.
Fans roared along to every word of “Blood Pigs” and “Apex Predator”, off OTEP’s earlier albums Sevas Tra (2012) and Hydra (2013), erupting with raw emotion and appreciation for the purpose embedded in each verse. OTEP is a band that’s known for it’s ultra-loyal fanbase, but the reasoning behind that is something so much deeper than fame or catchy music. Shamaya’s ability to continually utilize OTEP’s music as a vessel for societal change through a variety of synchronized creative mediums is seriously impactful and evidently similar to that of legendary musical influencers like Woodie Guthrie, Bob Dylan or Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against The Machine.
OTEP went on to make their stance on mass shootings known with newly released track “Shelter In Place”, during which Shamaya aimed a presumably plastic, silver pistol at one of the severed doll heads while chanting with the room, “enough is enough!” Shamaya did go on to clarify her stance however, noting that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” before moving into “Zero” off the group’s 2016 album Generation Doom, which was followed-up by a couple of surprise tracks from the group’s self-titled poetry EP Wurd Becomes Flesh— originally released in 2005, one year prior to OTEP’s infamous addition to Ozzfest (2004).
The audience rippled with excitement as Shamaya waved her rainbow flag high. OTEP moved to close the night with staple track “Equal Rights, Equal Lefts”, prior to transitioning into an anger-charged protest, which peaked to the opening notes of “Wake Up” by Rage Against The Machine; a cover included as the second-to-last track on Kult 45.
In one final call to action, OTEP ignited fans with an ear-splitting performance “Confrontation” from The Ascension (2007). The props did not end there though; Shamaya had one final trick up her sleeve – a fake severed Trump head. Almost in a single motion, Shamaya plunged the barrel of one of the rifles into the base of Trump’s rubbery neck, twirling him around until the two were facing eye-to-eye, spitting in the mock President’s face before a final punch which sent Trump’s spitclad face soaring out of view.
It was a night of disruption, a night of rage, empowerment, catharsis, emotion and unity. It’s obvious that Kult 45 was intended as more of a social catalyst – a statement piece that simultaneously disrupts and unifies. This is an album that gets people to look; each track furiously spotlights a variety of recurring social issues in the forefront of the United States’ current political landscape. Regardless of whether or not you agree with their stance, OTEP is making one thing exceptionally clear: “Art is resistance. Art aloows us to fight back without violence.”
“This is why we rally, this is why we march, and this is why I write. Because when I look back someday I want to know that I did everything in my power as an artist, activist and citizen.” – Otep Shamaya
MESA — As the first day of fall descended upon the Phoenix metro area, locals were preparing for a much-anticipated event hosted by local alternative radio station ALT AZ 93.3, featuring many wonderful bands and headlined by Bleachers. While it was maybe a little long for a concert, and a little short for a music festival, it was just the perfect length of time for music fans attending the Dia De Los ALT music festival in Mesa Amphitheatre on Friday, September 22, 2017. Luckily, the weather this year also seemed to participate, with a lower-than-average high of 86 degrees. A beautiful afternoon of music entertained a slowly-growing crowd, preparing them for a fantastic night of great alternative bands and temperatures in the 70s. What a wonderful way to welcome these musicians to the Valley of the Sun.
Dia De Los ALT may have been headlined by Bleachers, but 5 other incredible bands also blessed Mesa Amphitheatre with their presence – and their tunes. The lineup included local band Rival Coast, Los Angeles/Seattle band Tangerine, Los Angeles-based Sir Sly, the Copenhagen/New York musical sensation New Politics, and finally the London (by way of Los Angeles) queen of alternative, Bishop Briggs. Each band brought their unique style and sound to the festival, showing how truly diverse and interesting alternative music can be. This was also reflected by those in attendance – Dia De Los ALT was a wonderful way for all types to come together and enjoy beautiful music and a fantastic time.
First up was Rival Coast, a young yet capable local Phoenix band. The festival started at 4pm, and with the recent venue change and rush hour traffic in Phoenix, the venue was just starting to gain a sizeable number of attendees. While Rival Coast are still just getting started, they just recently released their first EP – Red Lights. These young men may have only recently graduated from high school, but their talent and love for music are both crystal clear. Since they have all been friends since childhood, it was also easy to see that they love playing music with one another.
Each band member totally rocked the stage and entertained a small yet enthusiastic crowd. They only had the spotlight for 20 minutes, but they made ample use of the time they were allotted. They have likely gained at least a few new fans after their stellaalr performance. They are energetic and enthusiastic, and they pair fantastic vocals with excellent instrumentals. The highlight of their performance was definitely their last song, “Shiver,” a portentous yet spirited tune with a fun, memorable chorus. It was certainly a great choice with which to end their brief performance.
After a brief break and a word from some of the ALT AZ hosts who thanked everyone for coming out early, the next band – Tangerine – was introduced. They started with great energy, fun vibes, and a very chill stage presence. Their music is considered alternative pop, and they certainly have a unique sound. The band consists of two sisters, Marika and Miro, and their best friend Toby. It was easy to tell how close they are to one another, and this made their performance a seriously enjoyable experience.
Tangerine has been making music for quite a while, but they have yet to release a full album. They do have singles and EPs out, however, and their latest song ”Sly Moon” was released last month. Other highlights from the show include the songs “Sunset,” “Girls Like Us,” and “Nothing Better.” They seriously brought out some fun and chill vibes for the growing crowd near the stage as others found seating in the shade around Mesa Amphitheatre; attendees were throwing beach balls around, eating some snacks, enjoying some beverages, or getting some free face painting done with various Sugar Skull themes. Their music perfectly complimented the easy-going nature of the festival. Prior to playing their last song, they threw in a wonderful comment: “We love Phoenix so much! This is our second time here.” It was great to have them visit again – Phoenix loves you too, Tangerine!
Between shows, ALT AZ played some select songs from Bleachers, New Politics, and Bishop Briggs to hype up the valley for their performances later in the evening. However, Sir Sly was on next. Sir Sly dominated the stage with their interesting music and fantastic stage presence, bringing the energy levels of the festival up a few notches. The synth music was out in full force, and the bass was certainly bumping. There were some tinges of 80s music in there, but this was certainly a unique musical experience. Landon, the vocalist, concentrated all of his energy into moving around the stage and sharing his fantastic vocals with the crowd. Most importantly, he shared his smooth dance moves with the audience, with a PBR in hand. That man can move!
Sir Sly recently released a new album – Don’t You Worry, Honey – and played a few of these new songs during their set. The best part was that the band members are very close to one another, and Landon said it was wonderful to create this new music with his best friends, Jason and Hayden. He also shared that “it’s good to be back once again,” as their very first show outside of California was here in Phoenix; it obviously holds a special place in their hearts, so being back was a truly special experience for everyone that night.
It was clear Sir Sly loved performing their music, and some highlights were new songs “Altar” and “Change.” The songs were full of fun, yet sometimes sardonic and cutting lyrics and backed up with lots of bass, guitar, drums, and synth. They also employed some voice filters to interesting effect during songs. The highlight of their performance, however, was when they played the song “&Run” just as the sun began to set over Mesa; they sang the lyrics, “Heavy as a setting sun…” and “I’ll run into the setting sun…” at the perfect moment. This truly made their presence at the show truly unforgettable.
During another brief break, as dusk set itself upon the Phoenix metro area, more people began to arrive to the Mesa Amphitheatre. The temperature was dipping into the 70s, and people were getting excited for New Politics coming on next. People were grabbing more beers and cocktails, more people were getting some face painting done, lots of people were finding spots to sit down or hang out with one another, and entire families were enjoying one another’s company; in fact, there was one family with small children playing with one of the many beach balls floating around the amphitheater. One young boy had ear protection on and a shirt that read, “HERE TO ROCK.” I’m sure he wasn’t alone!
Just as twilight was setting in, New Politics came on at about 6:30pm. They were the first to have a dramatic entrance onto the stage, and dramatic it was – they played some epic background music while the band members came on stage one at a time. First up was the drummer, Louis Vecchio, followed by guitarist Søren Hansen, and finally, lead vocalist David Boyd. The crowd was screaming, and they did not waste any time getting into things. They started the show with a huge bang, rocking out pretty hard and getting the crowd jumping. Now that it was getting dark, it was time for some fantastic lighting, and New Politics’ light show definitely delivered.
New Politics was great at getting the crowd involved, and everyone certainly loved the attention and engagement. They discussed how it was great to be back in Phoenix, how they have a new album coming out next month (Lost In Translation), and sang one of their new songs, “CIA.” During this song, David threw his hat off to really get into the mood of rocking out and moving all over stage with his ridiculous yet entertaining dance moves while sporting his bright red microphone. He even told the audience he hoped they had their dancing shoes on so they could join him. During the show, they played some of their greatest hits, such as: “West End Kids,” “One of Us,” and “Just Like Me.” They also played a new song, “Color Green,” while illuminating the entire stage in green lighting (of course).
Not only did New Politics play some amazing songs, but they also brought a message of hope and love. They thanked ALT AZ for having them and bringing everyone together, citing them as the main reason they were all there that evening. They also praised ALT AZ for spreading music and love, how they love alternative music because it is truly the best. Continuing on this theme, they also discussed how, when we all have each other, through all the bad stuff like hurricanes and earthquakes, we’re here for each other; “All it is is just a lot of good people listening to music and sharing love.” This is when they started singing “One of Us,” which was perfect timing.
The most beautiful moment of New Politics’ performance was when they busted out the ukulele sang “Fall Into These Arms,” at which point a little girl popped up on her parents’ shoulders towards the front of the crowd. In the middle of the song, David pointed out to her and said, “I LIKE YOU!” The little girl was overjoyed, but that wasn’t the end of this beautiful moment. David also, quite literally, fell into those arms by gently diving into the crowd. The excitement levels of the crowd were off the charts by this point, and it was such a wonderful moment where everyone truly was brought together by some beautiful music.
Sadly, at about 7:15pm, New Politics’ time was up. Before parting ways, they announced that Bleachers were coming up later, but first, the “most beautiful woman in alternative rock” was coming on – Bishop Briggs. They then got together at the front of the stage, bowed to the audience, and threw some guitar picks and drumsticks into the crowd for a few delighted fans to catch. After that, they were off, and after another short break consisting of an awkward word from the show’s sponsors, Bishop Briggs took the stage.
First on the stage were Bishop Briggs’ band members, and the lighting was quite dark. They started playing music, and after a few moments, Bishop Briggs herself jumped out on stage with incredible energy. Dark purple lighting flooded the stage, but right at the perfect moment, the big 93.3 ALT AZ banner in the back was lit up in bright red right as Bishop Briggs started singing the first lyrics of her first song of the night. It may have been a bit difficult to see anything on stage, but what stood out were her signature dual hair buns and jumpsuit – a black Adidas tracksuit that evening, with bright white iconic stripes down the sides. This was just the outfit she needed, because not only was she singing, she was also running! This made the show feel a bit like a high energy workout routine, but it certainly made the audience move and jump too.
The first song Bishop Briggs played was “Dark Side,” containing the lyrics “Welcome to my dark side, it’s gonna be a long night;” perhaps that’s why the stage was so dark during her show! Regardless, the intense beats and maximum bass were perfect accompaniments to her high-energy lyrics and her almost-non-stop jogging and jumping around the stage. What also stood out was her massive smile the entire time, and it was easy to tell she was truly enjoying her time up on stage. She also had a unique style of inserting a little scream into the perfect moments in her lyrics and just talking to the crowd, with such moments like “How is everybody DOING?!” followed by an enthusiastic “GOOD!!!”
Her music was loud, aggressive, and entertaining, and there were even guests staying in the nearby Marriott hotel who came to their windows to look down at the amphitheatre to see what all the commotion was about. Hopefully they enjoyed their free view of the show! The crowd definitely did – everyone seemed to be jumping up and down, dancing, and singing along with Bishop Briggs’ songs. To show her appreciation for everyone, she stated that she was “so honored to be in this lineup. It’s great to be alive in this little bubble we have going on here.” On that note, she ended her show with her wildly famous hit single, “River.” The crowd went wild!
During another short break, it was easy to feel the anticipation in the air; clearly, there were many people at Dia De Los ALT who were there to see Bleachers. During this break, one could hear the final calls of the Lemonade man, who had been shouting all evening: “Lemonade, Lemonade, like Grandma… made!” Attendees had grown accustomed to him and his impressive set of lungs, particularly those who had been in the amphitheater since the doors opened at 3pm. During this time, technicians took down the huge 93.3 ALT AZ banner and replaced it with the new stuff for Bleachers’ elaborate stage setup.
Finally, at about 8:50pm, the moment many had been waiting for had arrived. Bleachers came out on stage to the screams, shouts, and claps of the audience. They started out with the fact that they are from New Jersey and that they have never headlined in this part of the world before, so this was a very special night for them. They also continued to hilariously decide if it was okay for them to call everyone “Phoenix” since they were in Mesa, and they asked if that was offensive. They decided, “f*ck it, we’ve never headlined in Arizona before. All of AZ is here tonight!”
Their high-energy, anthemic songs uplifted and roused the crowd; their music was coupled with one of the best light shows possible, which added a new level to the experience and pumped the crowd up even more. Their songs encourage people to sing along in many ways, compounded by the fact that four out of five of the band members pipe in from time to time to sing along with Jack Antonoff. Not only that, but Jack frequently encouraged the crowd to sing along with shouts like “SING IT LOUD!” and “holy sh*t, you guys don’t f*ck around!”
After a few of their songs, Jack ripped off his jacket; things were getting serious now. They also had a huge surprise for everyone that night – Jack announced they had a birthday in Bleachers very recently. The crowd cheered a bit, but to his displeasure, not loud enough: “Come on, you can do better than that! Do you guys not give a sh*t?! There was a birthday, like, a WEEK ago!” The cheering got much louder at this point, to which he shouted, “That’s more like it!” At this point, everyone sang happy birthday together with the band to one of its drummers, Mike Riddleberger. Jack then brought out a cake and handed it to the crowd, stating “You all can share it.”
Jack then followed the birthday celebration up with how he knows Bleachers hasn’t been to Arizona enough, but he considers Phoenix a home away from home; it meant a lot for them to be there at Dia De Los ALT. After a few more songs, Jack punctuated the show with another little personal story. He first made the crowd get quiet, and then he made bass guitarist and keyboardist Mikey Hart stop all background music. Everyone then listened to how quiet it was outside in Mesa, and then Jack had Mikey start playing a low, humming sound. He then went on to explain how he loved Yaz (Yazoo) when he was young, and he heard this beautiful yet sad synth humming sound in the song “Only You.”
He became obsessed with that sound, and he bought the type of synth Yaz used to make it. He would play it all night long in his bedroom, which inspired him to write the lyrics to the songs that would one day become Bleachers. He wanted to make sad sounds, sad lyrics, and sad stories sound beautiful. He then stated that it would “sound something like this,” and then the other sounds of the beginning of their massively popular song “Rollercoaster” began to play. The crowd instantly screamed and cheered; this was truly one of the greatest build-up moments, and the crowd loved it. They were hanging off Bleachers’ every note, every lyric, and every word. Of course, Jack inspired the audience to sing it with him, and they most definitely sang along.
Since Jack has been a part of many beautiful moments in recent alternative music history, including being a part of the band Fun., they just had to include a slowed down version of “Carry On.” The crowd enjoyed this lull in the hype, sang along, and swayed solemnly. This more somber moment was followed up by additional slower songs, such as “Foreign Girls.” After this point, Jack discussed how they were excited to be touring with Bishop Briggs again in November, and they asked, “How are we doing on time? Someone give me a sign… I don’t want to f*ck this up.” Someone in the audience jokingly announced that it was over, to which Jack replied, “Oh, that’s it? Okay, I guess we’re done then!” However, they were far from done.
Jack next shouted out to the audience, “We’ve gotta keep it moving!” and inspired the crowd to pick up the pace once more. Next up was the song “You’re Still a Mystery,” which certainly brought the energy back again. After this, it was time to introduce the band, which was a significant moment in the show. They did a musical introduction to each member, along with a fun fact about each. Some even got to do a sort of musical solo after being announced.
Some exceptional moments were when the audience found out that Sean Hutchinson lived in Phoenix for a few years. We also learned how Mike Riddleberger is the “original Jersey hipster;” apparently, he started the entire movement! Finally, Mikey Hart was introduced, and the crowd learned he has a brother who lives in Phoenix. Mikey then treated the audience to a wickedly awesome saxophone solo, which was met with raucous applause.
Bleachers ended the evening strong, with two high-energy songs: “I Wanna Get Better” and “Don’t Take the Money.” While the crowd desperately wanted an encore, time was unfortunately up, and the festival had to come to an end. The guests staying at the adjacent Marriott were likely relieved, at least!
All in all, despite the last-minute venue change from Fear Farm on the west side of the valley over to the Mesa Amphitheatre, Dia De Los ALT was a raging success! Citizens of the Phoenix metro area truly did come together to share love and music, and it was wonderful to see so many people of all ages and types enjoying these bands and the beautiful fall weather together. With any luck, the Phoenix area will continue to enjoy beautiful weather from here on out, and it would be great for all the bands from the Dia De Los ALT lineup to return and play in Phoenix again soon. After all, many of them seem to love Phoenix, and many of them did throw Phoenix into their lyrics as frequently as possible!