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REVIEW: Apocalyptica & Lacuna Coil Make Phoenix Rise at The Van Buren (4-15-22)

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PHOENIX — Apocalyptica finally brought their Cell-0 Tour to The Van Buren after being postponed for almost two years. Originally, they were scheduled, with the support from Lacuna Coil, for May 10th, 2020, but due to the pandemic it was pushed to April 2022. Having been released in 2020, this is the first time songs from the Cell-0 album were performed by them live in Phoenix. Most know The Van Buren as a standing-room only venue, but this show was seated to allow guests to close their eyes and lose themselves in the music.

Lacuna Coil

Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil performing
Cristina Scabbia (Vocalist), Lacuna Coil
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Lacuna Coil kicked off their set with the song “Blood, Tears, Dust” from their 2016 album Delirium. Vocalist Cristina Scabbia addressed the crowd before the following song, saying, “Phoenix, are you out there?” and the crowd roared back.

They did not disappoint fans, playing a song from nearly every album, and five from their newest one released in 2019: Black Anima. Known as a gothic metal band, it’s clear they lean into that image with bassist Marco Coti Zelati, guitarist Diego “Didi” Cavalotti, and drummer Richard Meiz all wearing black and white face paint. Meanwhile, vocalists Scabbia and Andrea Ferro were dressed in all black with the band’s logo on top of their sleeves and fake blood painted on their hands.

Andrea Ferro of Lacuna Coil performing
Andrea Ferro (Vocalist), Lacuna Coil
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“Phoenix, Arizona, how are you guys doing tonight? It’s been forever and it feels great to be back in this beautiful place with you guys celebrating this comeback after twenty-six fucking months. I’m telling you; it still feels very surreal to be back, but we have all the energy of the world to share with you guys tonight. Are you ready to party with us? I think it’s time to be reckless!” Scabbia shouted before they played “Reckless” from Black Anima.

Richard Meiz (Drummer), Lacuna Coil
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“Are you having a good time so far?” Scabbia asked, pausing as the crowd cheers. “Good, because this is exactly what we’re here for. Well, I don’t know if each one of you is familiar with Lacuna Coil, but you might remember this next song, it’s called ‘Heaven’s A Lie’.” Many in the crowd stood to film and sing along with “Heaven’s A Lie”, a throwback from their 2002 album, Comalies.

Diego Cavalotti of Lacuna Coil performing live
Diego Cavalotti (Guitarist), Lacuna Coil
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“This goes out to all of us for surviving this damn pandemic! Just wanna save me!” Scabbia screamed as the intro to “Save Me” began. Later on, she said, “We came all the way from Italy to raise our truth!” as the band started the song, “Our Truth.”

Marco Coti Zelati of Lacuna Coil performing
Marco Coti Zelati (Bassist), Lacuna Coil
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Lacuna Coil concluded their ten-song set with “Nothing Stands in Our Way”. Most of the crowd stood for their entire set, singing and raising their horns in the air.

Lacuna Coil performing at The Van Buren
Lacuna Coil performing at The Van Buren
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Apocalyptica

Apocalyptica performing at The Van Buren
Apocalyptica performing at The Van Buren
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Over black, nature music swelled in the background before the sounds of strings drifted over the audience. Then, drums shook each person to their core as the lights went up, highlighting that Apocalyptica had now joined the stage. After opening with “Ashes of the Modern World”, cellist Eicca Toppinen paused to address the excited crowd, “Good evening, Phoenix. How are you guys doing tonight? It sounds like you’re already having a good time. Are you ready?” He paused to hear the audience’s fervent response, and with enthusiasm, he added, “Come on! Are you ready?” The crowd screamed back, ready for more.

Eicca Toppinen of Apocalyptica performing
Eicca Toppinen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Their first three songs were all instrumental as Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, and Perttu Kivilaakso shredded their cellos and Mikko Sirén rocked on the drums. “Thank you!” Toppinen replied to the roaring audience. He continued, “Do you guys happen to know any of our vocal tracks? Are you ready to sing with us? Let’s welcome to the stage, Franky Perez!” Perez ran on stage, mic in hand, and sang, “I’m Not Jesus” from their 2007 album, Worlds Collide.

Paavo Lötjönen of Apocalyptica performing live
Paavo Lötjönen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Toppinen leaned on his cello as he addressed the audience again: “Hello, Arizona. Actually, just before this tour, January 2020, we released a new album called Cell-0. Anyone here heard of it?” He shielded his eyes, looking over the cheering hands in the air. “Good for you,” he jokes. “Just makes me wonder what the fuck is wrong with the others. But don’t worry, we will give you a dose now because we’re going to play a few of those instrumentals. Let’s start with the ballad, it’s a song about hope: ‘Rise’.”

Eicca Toppinen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“I actually have to say at this point, that how incredibly amazing it is to be here tonight. After waiting over two years and all you people coming still to have fun with us. It’s beautiful.” Toppinen then motioned to the side of the stage and said, “Let’s get the maestro himself back on stage, Franky Perez!” Toppinen and Perez then side hugged.

Franky Perez performing with Apocalyptica
Franky Perez (Vocalist), touring with Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

“As many of you might know we made a full album with Franky in 2015, the Shadowmaker, and toured for two to three years but after that, we went into this 20th anniversary Metallica thing so it’s really cool that Franky reached out to us. I thought this would be perfect for us to be together,” Toppinen concluded as their newest single “I’ll Get Through It” (released March 17, 2022) began.

The song whisked people away. Couples cuddled closer in their seats. In the front row, a man drummed the beat onto his wife’s back as her gaze was glued to the stage, and she mouthed along with the words. People all around were caught in the moment, truly feeling the music in their hearts, in their bones. Being in the middle of the audience you can understand why this Finnish symphonic metal band from Helsinki has been killing it since 1993.

Eicca Toppinen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

Franky smiled, saying, “You guys are going to do this a bunch of times tonight but I want to join you, please join me in giving this amazing band a round of applause tonight.” A sea of clapping hands and cheers filled the venue. “So, my name is Franky Perez and I’m from Las Vegas, Nevada. When you think about people from Vegas and people from Arizona, we understand each other. We see each other on the street and we just know… it’s the dry heat.” It’s funny ‘cause it’s true. “This song is called ‘Shadowmaker’,” Franky finished, as the cellos and drums shifted into the song’s intro.

Mikko Sirén of Apocalyptica performing
Mikko Sirén (Drummer), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

The crowd banged their heads along with Toppinen and Kivilaakso as their bows cut into their strings and their long hair flew. At times, they raise their cellos in the air. The energy was alive, the music was alive. Toppinen grabbed the mic, shouting, “Come on Arizona. Sing if you know it!” as they played a cover of Metallica’s “Seek & Destroy.”

Paavo Lötjönen of Apocalyptica performing live
Paavo Lötjönen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved
Perttu Kivilaakso of Apocalyptica performing live
Perttu Kivilaakso (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

After playing fifteen amazing songs, Toppinen asked, “What do you think, should we play one more song? Do you want to hear one more? Good. That’s very nice because I really think we should play you one more song. As you know from our background, we are classical bastards so I think it’s fair to play one classical for you tonight. During all the times Apocalyptica actually only recorded one so far but it makes sense to stay on our socials because you never know what’s going to happen next. But now, a classic from black metal.” They concluded the show by playing the Edvard Grieg song, “In the Hall of the Mountain King”. 

Cellists Eicca Toppinen & Paavo Lötjönen, Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

As the music faded out, Apocalyptica was given a standing ovation. A cheerful Lötjönen handed two eager fans their paper setlists, and Toppinen addressed the audience one final time: “Thank you, Phoenix. Thank you so much. Thank you everybody for coming and taking your time to come tonight. I also want to thank our Italian friends, the great first band tonight. Let’s give a big hand for Lacuna Coil. Have a good evening. On your way out, pick up a new t-shirt because you smell like shit. I don’t know, maybe it’s us.” The crowd laughed, and Toppinen chuckled before getting serious, “Honestly, take care of yourselves, take care of each other. Love each other and love yourselves. See you guys all soon. Because Apocalyptica will be back and that’s for fucking sure!” 

And with that promise, Apocalyptica exited stage right as their fans screamed. What an epic concert for metal fans! It was definitely an unforgettable show for everyone who was lucky enough to bear witness.

Eicca Toppinen of Apocalyptica performing
Eicca Toppinen (Cellist), Apocalyptica
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © All Rights Reserved

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Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

View Separately (with more pics!):

Apocalyptica | Lacuna Coil

Apocalyptica & Lacuna Coil – The Van Buren 4-15-22

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

REVIEW: Ministry’s Brings an Intense, Primal Experience to The Van Buren (4-12-22)

PHOENIX — Ministry’s concert at The Van Buren, with support from Corrosion of Conformity and Melvins, has been a long time coming. Originally scheduled for July 29th, 2020 and featuring a completely different lineup (Ministry, KMFDM, and Front Line Assembly), the show was of course forestalled by the pandemic. Various attempts were made to reschedule with varying lineups, including a pre-Halloween show with Helmet and Frontline Assembly last October. Through these fits and starts, the show finally happened this past Tuesday, and it was worth the wait. 

Corrosion of Conformity

“How many of you fuckers here in Phoenix like heavy shit?” was how Corrosion of Conformity lead singer Pepper Keenan greeted the crowd, as the band launched into “Bottom Feeder (El Que Come Abajo)” from their 1995 album Wiseblood. Heavy was what was promised, and heavy was what was delivered. Pulling from nearly every album since 1991’s Blind, when the North Carolina band moved away from its earlier thrash/hardcore days with the addition of Louisiana native Keenan, their set covered everything from hits from their biggest selling album, 1994’s Deliverance, to the criminally underrated America’s Volume Dealer (2000). 

Pepper Keenan (Vocalist, Guitarist) & John Green (Drummer), Corrosion of Conformity
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

“Nice pipes, y’all”, Keenan said mid-set in response to the crowd’s fierce sing-along to “Shake Like You”, adding, “Thanks for getting here early. We appreciate that shit. I’ve been home sitting in my garage for two years, and that fucking  sucked.” In fact, the band was stepping in to replace the previously scheduled Helmet on the tour. CoC’s blend of hardcore and southern rock had the crowd in a frenzy, with the mosh pit never slowing down. 

Mosh pit for Corrosion of Conformity
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Closing out their set with the 1-2-3 punch of “Albatross,” “Who’s Got the Fire,” and an extended jam on their biggest hit “Clean My Wounds,” it was an instance where you wish every band on the bill could get a full set of time, as their set didn’t even get a chance to touch on recent albums IX or No Cross No Crown nor dip back into the early thrash records like Eye for an Eye or Animosity. Still though, as the crowd would obviously agree, 45 minutes of Corrosion of Conformity blows away 90 minutes of most bands. 

Crowd raising hands up at Corrosion of Conformity concert
The crowd is hyped for Corrosion of Conformity
Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Melvins

“The Melvins are coming up next to bulldoze you,” Keenan had promised at the end of their set, and bulldoze they did. Opening their set with “The Kicking Machine” from 2008’s Nude with Boots, Buzz Osborne’s guitar stands out in the band’s sound. Osborne himself, whose large shock of white hair and stage outfits that have him resembling the leader of an alien race from a long-lost 1950’s sci-fi cult film, is the perfect visual representation of the band’s sound, as it manages to be at times trippy and psychedelic and then shift into something more heavy and dark.

Buzz Orborne of Melvins performing live
Buzz Orborne (Vocalist, Guitarist), Melvins
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The rhythm section of drummer Dale Crover, whose drumming is so heavy you half-expect to see him using cinder blocks and not drum sticks, and bass player Steven Shane McDonald, whose own all-white outfit, long hair, and goatee made him look like a 1970’s transcendental meditation guru, fill out the band’s legendary sound. 

 Steven Shane McDonald of Melvins performing live
Steven Shane McDonald (Bassist), Melvins
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

For those not familiar with the Washington natives, Melvins’ experimental style has led people to compare them to bands as far-ranging as Black Sabbath to Black Flag (frontman Osborne, for the record, cites Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn as his biggest influence), and the band inspired so many other legendary bands from the Pacific Northwest, which is evident from their entire Tuesday-night set, as you can hear what elements of their sound other bands spent their whole careers trying to emulate.

Their set covered all eras of the band, with some nice surprises pulled from their mid-nineties classic albums: 91’s Bullhead (“It’s Shoved” and “Anaconda”), 93’s Houdini (“Hooch” and “Honey Bucket”), 94’s Stoner Witch (“Queen”), and 96’s Stag (“The Bit”). The band was joined by Ministry drummer Roy Mayorga for the two Houdini tracks, playing in perfect tandem with Crover. 

This summer, Melvins will be hitting the road again in June and July on their Electric Roach Tour, supported by Helms Alee and Harsh Mellow, stopping in Tucson on June 18th for their only Arizona date.

Ministry

With a chain-link fence set up across the front of the stage before their set began, Ministry had already set a specific atmosphere for their performance. Just moments before they came out, a visual was cast with the familiar blue and yellow Ukrainian flag and a message reading Ministry Stands With Ukraine across it. While other bands choose songs specific to their sound to walk out to, they elected to further drive home their message of solidarity by entering to the Ukrainian National Anthem.

Ministry - The Van Buren
Ministry
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Each member filed out one by one, with lead Al Jourgensen out last. As the band stood ready to perform, he stalked the stage, moving in front of the fencing like an animal who smelled fresh blood. He clawed at, banged on, and swayed the fence back and forth, all the while the audience in turn lurched forward in response, like an aggressive lion tamer goading the beast into action. With the band’s two-drum assault, this dance moved with the rhythm of each song, like watching a violent wash crash into a rocky promenade and then just as quickly recede back.

Al Jourgensen (Vocalist), Ministry
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

It’s hard to fathom that Ministry is approaching the 40th anniversary of their first release (1983’s With Sympathy), as their sound still feels eons ahead of its time. Having recently passed anniversaries for two of their greatest albums, they opened their set with “Breathe” from 1989’s The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste and “The Missing” from The Land of Rape and Honey. Their entire performance was a multimedia experience, as their backdrop featured images and video that thematically connected to each song, like witnessing a live music video. Mid-set, they broke out a trio of songs from Jourgensen’s many side projects, including 1,000 Homo DJ’s cover of  Black Sabbath’s “Supernaut” from Sabbath tribute album Nativity in Black and two songs from Pailhead, Jourgensen’s band with Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye. 

Ministry - The Van Buren
Ministry
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The band has never shied away from its politics (their 2018 album AmeriKKKant features the track “Antifa,” for instance), and despite being now almost a 30-year-old song, their performance of “NWO” from Ministry’s landmark album ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ (also known as Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed & The Way to Suck Eggs) seems more appropriate for the times than it did upon its initial release, in this era of increasing social and political upheaval and seems to speak even more so to the political tensions in the country in the five years, especially in light of their opening tribute and show of support for the people of Ukraine. They ended the night with an encore of “Alert Level”, “Good Trouble” (both from 2001’s Moral Hygiene), and a blistering cover of Iggy and The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy”.

Al Jourgensen of Ministry at The Van Buren
Al Jourgensen (Vocalist), Ministry
| Photography:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Ministry alone is an intense, primal, and heavy concert experience, but when you add to it the Melvins and Corrosion of Conformity it enters an entire new realm. Yes, this concert has been two years in the making, but it was two years worth it. After all, after such a wait, we were all ready for some heavy shit.

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Ministry Setlist - The Van Buren, Phoenix 4-12-22

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Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

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Corrosion of Conformity
 | Melvins
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Ministry, Melvins, & Corrosion of Conformity – The Van Buren 4-12-22

Ministry Setlist – Phoenix, AZ 4-12-22

  • Breathe
  • The Missing
  • Deity
  • Stigmata
  • Supernaut (Black Sabbath cover)
  • Don’t Stand in Line (Pailhead cover)
  • Man Should Surrender (Pailhead cover)
  • Burning Inside
  • N.W.O.
  • Just One Fix
  • Thieves
  • So What

Encore:


  • Alert Level
  • Good Trouble
  • Search and Destroy (Iggy and The Stooges cover)

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Dashboard Confessional Impassion Fans at Sold Out 20 Year Celebration at The Van Buren (2-7-20)

PHOENIX — 20 years ago, Dashboard Confessional was started as a side project of Chris Carrabba, the lead singer and guitarist who also fronts Further Seems Forever. In those 20 years, Dashboard Confessional has been a soundtrack for many; the songs for triumph in the high moments, and the songs for the low moments to help them rise back up. The tour that brought Piebald and Dashboard Confessional to The Van Buren on this night was a celebration of these moments and memories that these fans had gathered to relive.

Piebald

First out onto the stage was Piebald. Much like recently reunited The Format – who, coincidentally enough, they opened for during the final tour as a band – Piebald went onto a hiatus after one final show in 2008, though they have played a handful of one-off shows since then. Frontman Travis Shettel, guitarist Aaron Stuart, bassist Andrew Bonner, and drummer Luke Garro released a Christmas album titled A Christmas (seven-inch) Adventure. It is a vinyl of three Christmas songs, an odd choice for a band that seems to pride itself in being quite odd, so perhaps it’s a perfect choice for them.

Dana Bollen (Hype, Tour Mgr, Merch), Piebald
Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

As the show started, it quickly became quite apparent how differently these guys do things. As the first song started, suddenly a head popped up over the crowd: Dana Bollen, who would play the role of hype man/tour manager/merch guy. Throughout the set, he would go from standing on the barricade, flailing his arms around to get the crowd pumped, up to the stage to play some excellent cowbell, succeeding to inspire the crowd to flail along with him when he returned to the barricade. It was a genius touch, and a memorable addition to their excellent show.

At home on stage, Shettel bantered, at one point hosting an impromptu Q&A session with a crowd that was enjoying their quirky performance. At one point someone yelled out, “You’re my favorite!” to which Shettel pointed at them and exclaimed, “You’re MY favorite! OUR favorite, actually!

Travis Shettel (Vocals, Guitar), Piebald
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

All of the songs they played were 12 years old, but yet felt so new. Piebald has managed to make their music sound timeless. Times have changed, and now the lyrics to the song “The Monkey Versus the Robot” have a much different and deeper meaning; one that anyone and everyone who works a 9-5 grind has felt at some point: “Work should not control our every minute, Eat to work, sleep to work, live to work, work.

It is not unusual to attend a show and find yourself confronted with a band trying entirely too hard to relate to you and the crowd around you, forced dialog and ham-fisted lyrics. Piebald is none of these things. Rather, they are a quirky band that is at home playing songs that aged beautifully, with the rare ability to walk onto a stage in front of an audience who made up of many who may never had heard of them, and win them over in under 45 minutes.

As Piebald cleared the stage and the preparations were finished for Dashboard Confessional, the lights dimmed and “Sweetness” by Jimmy Eat World started playing. A casual observer would have assumed that the crowd was there for a Jimmy Eat World concert with the reaction the song generated. The crowd gleefully and loudly followed the lyrical instructions to “Sing it back,” demonstrating that there truly is never a bad time to play a Jimmy Eat World song.

Dashboard Confessional 

To attend a Dashboard Confessional concert is to realize that your neighbor is probably going to spend a good deal of the show singing at the top of their lungs. That’s ok, because you likely will be doing the same at some point. This is the magic of Dashboard Confessional: Chris Carrabba is the rare songwriter who can encapsulate not just the words of the moments in life that we all have, he manages to paint a masterpiece with the music behind it.

Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World has a similar talent, and it could be argued that if everyone from this generation were to compile a soundtrack of their lives, it is likely they would have at least one song from these two bands on it. They have mastery of their lyrics and music, and we are an awestruck audience that has not fully realized how lucky we are.

Chris Carrabba (Vocals, Guitar), Dashboard Confessional
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

To call what was experienced on this night a concert does not quite do it justice, as it was really a journey through space and time with each song. “Vindicated,” a song from the soundtrack of the 2004 movie Spider-man 2, took us into the past, though it doesn’t feel like that song can get its drivers license this year. Carrabba was a skillful guide through the trip, knowing exactly when to step back from the microphone to allow the crowd the opportunity to belt out their favorite lyrics – saying at one point they sang beautifully – and when to step in and to tell a story before the next stop in this fanciful tour.

Scott Schoenbeck (Bass), Dashboard Confessional
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Halfway through the set he traded his electric guitar for an acoustic and performed alone onstage. Carrabba is an extraordinarily talented guitar player, bringing quite a few guitars on tour and often switching up during the show, but his mastery shines the brightest when he plays acoustic. His vocals were also on full display, holding a note for a superhuman length of time, holding until the cheers finally drowned him out.

Chris Carrabba (Vocals, Guitar), Dashboard Confessional
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

As the rest of the band rejoined Carrabba, he introduced them as Scott Schoenbeck on the bass, Armon Jay also on the guitar, Chris Kamrada on the drums, and Dane Poppin who alternated between the keyboard and guitar. The journey that Carrabba took the audience on would look drastically different without the band, which he introduced twice during the show.

Dashboard Confessional
| Photography:
Andrew Marshall © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

The reluctant, final stops on this journey included a rendition of “Hands Down” that felt something akin to a religious experience, with almost every person in the venue singing out as loudly as they possibly could. It was a celebration of Dashboard Confessional – a celebration of two decades worth of music and meaning, of memories, and of the songs that seemed to know what we needed to hear when we didn’t know ourselves. It was also a sold-out crowd saying “Thank you” to Carrabba in a way that means the most to an artist: by knowing every single word of every single song and serenading him throughout the show. The tour ends on 3/28 in Nashville, TN at the Ryman Auditorium.

Photo Galleries

Photography: Andrew Marshall

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Dashboard Confessional | Piebald

Dashboard Confessional & Piebald – The Van Buren 2-7-20

Photography © Andrew Marshall
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Snoop Dogg Makes Show a Personal Block Party at The Van Buren (12-11-19)

PHOENIX — This past August, Snoop Dogg released his 15th studio album: I Wanna Thank Me. In the now 27 years since he first burst onto the scene alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop has never slowed down. He’s never stopped hustling, he’s never stopped releasing bomb-ass albums, and he’s never left the conversation for the greatest rapper alive. Simply put, Snoop is timeless and is a true hip-hop living legend. Now out on the “I Wanna Thank Me” tour with support from Trae Tha Truth, RJMrLA, and Warren G, Snoop brings his own personal party to every city he plays. To see him at The Van Buren, though, offered a rare chance to see him up close and personal: a megastar in a more intimate setting. 

Trae Tha Truth

Trae Tha Truth

Touring in support of his just-released album Exhale, Houston hip-hop veteran Trae Tha Truth opened the show. His rapid-fire chopper-style vocals, which date back in hip-hop to Kool Moe Dee’s days with the Treacherous Three, got the crowd moving. Throughout his 20-minute set, the bass in his tracks was like a hip-hop defibrillator. “Long Live The Pimp,” his 2012 collaboration with Future, was one of the high points in the set. With the rest of the night putting a spotlight on the West Coast, Trae’s Texas flavor was the perfect counterbalance.    

RJMrLA

RJMrLA

Brought out by DJ Goofy, the Los Angeles-born RJ (sometimes RJMrLA) rode the wave of momentum with the crowd, as he put his new spin on West Coast hip-hop. His opening track “On One” from his recently released Oh God, featured the line “I was taught to fear no one,” which feels like it should be RJ’s mantra. If “On One” was the ignition, “Flex” from his 2013 debut O.M.M.I.0 3 was the blast-off. Hip-hop is about the boast, and “Flex” was the ultimate boast in his short but explosive set.   

Warren G

Warren G

It is incredible enough to see one legend in Snoop Dogg live in concert, but to have Warren G as one of the openers is an undeniable bonus and a rap fan’s dream come true. His debut album, 94’s Regulate… G Funk Era was an instant classic of West Coast hip-hop. Even 25 years after its release, Warren G still has the same smooth vocals that made him an immediate star, and they were on display throughout his 30-minute set. Opening with “This D.J.” from his debut, the crowd jumped on the hook, “It’s kind of easy when you’re listening to the G-Dub sound/Pioneer speakers bumpin’ as I smoke on a pound.” 

With the crowd feeling it, he immediately launched into “Do You See,” with the crowd again singing along, as they waved their hands from side to side. Missing from the song was the departed Nate Dogg, Warren G’s long-time collaborator and friend. His presence hung over many of the songs, and he was honored by both Warren G and Snoop Dogg (the three started out together in the hip-hop group 213 in 1990). 

Warren G
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

A late-set request from the audience brought one of the night’s more spontaneous highlights. Following “Summertime in the LBC,” he asked the crowd if anyone had a lighter, and as soon as the words left his mouth, the stage was instantly showered with lighters thrown from every spot in the crowd. Jumping out of the way of a seemingly steady stream, he laughed and reminded the crowd he just needed one. He retrieved one of the lighters, and after lighting up, he tossed it back to its owner, a man named Luke. “Luke? Like Luke Skywalker,” he asked the man, before leading the crowd in an impromptu acapella sing-along of 2 Live Crew’s “We Want Some Pussy,” before launching into 213’s “Mary Jane.” 

Following “Nobody Does It Better,” Warren G closed out his set with the timeless “Regulate.” If hip-hop has a list of greatest sing-along songs, “Regulate” would be high on that list. When it came time for Nate Dogg’s vocals, instead of just playing it from the track, the crowd sang his parts, with prompting by Warren G. It may be celebrating its 25th birthday, but the song sounded as good as ever and was the best way he could close out his set. 

Snoop Dogg

View Setlist

Snoop Dogg
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica
© All Rights Reserved

You may have seen some artists you truly love live in concert and felt that surge of excitement when they walked out to start their set, but Snoop Dogg is a certified living legend. When we talk about a person who is exceptional in any field, oftentimes they are described as a “rock star,” which instantly denotes that they have that certain extra something that defies simple categorization or explanation. Have no doubt about it, Snoop is a rock star, and when he came to the stage at The Van Buren, he did it with a swagger many of us wish we could have in our day-to-day lives. When Snoop came out, with his blinged microphone in hand, the atmosphere in the room instantly changed. While some people can make a party, Snoop is the party. 

Opening with “What U Talkin’ Bout” from his recently released 15th studio album I Wanna Thank Me, from which the tour got its name, the energy in the room instantly changed. The new songs stood proudly alongside the classics from across his career, and what commenced for the remainder of the evening was a party, Snoop style.

Snoop Dogg
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

His stage set up, with DJ Premium flanked on both sides by picnic tables and a large fire hydrant in front of his table, was immediately reminiscent of a block party, and that was the vibe Snoop brought upon his entrance. However, this wasn’t just any block party – this was Snoop Doggy Dogg’s block party. So in addition to those picnic tables and fire hydrant were two poles, each positioned at the far edges of the stage, with dancers on them on and off throughout the night. 

In his set, Snoop mixed his own songs with verses from his many guest appearances on other rappers’ tracks. His set was a mix of nearly every hit in his long career. His work with Dre was hit early, with “Next Episode” and  “Nothin’ But A ‘G’ Thang’” played back to back. His groundbreaking debut Doggystyle was best represented with “The Shiznit,” “Ain’t No Fun” (with Warren G coming back out to drop his verse), “Gin and Juice,” and “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” all making appearances in the set. “Countdown,” “P.I.M.P.” (his 2003 collaboration with 50 Cent), and “Sexual Eruption” were all set highlights. 

As he closed out his main set with “Snoop’s Upside Ya Head,” D.J. Premium told Snoop that since he didn’t have time to cover all of his hits in one night, he would play a mix of them, while Snoop took a break. With Snoop off the stage for a moment, Premium cut a mix of The Doggfather’s hits and guest appearances on other rappers’ tracks, while video snippets played on the screen behind him. 

After ten minutes, Snoop re-emerged and started his encore with “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” his 2004 hit. Following it up with “Snoop Dogg (What’s My Name Part 2)”  and “Take Me Away,” he then blew the roof off with his verse from D.J. Khalid’s “All I Do Is Win,” which for a crowd already hype, it was little an extra shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. 

Snoop Dogg
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

While “All I Do Is Win” is the perfect track to summarize Snoop’s career of hit after hit record, he wasn’t there just to remind the crowd of his greatness. On a tour named to celebrate his long career and with a multi-generational; multicultural crowd of fans there to help him do so, Snoop turned the attention away from himself and shined a spotlight on the many friends and contemporaries lost over the years, sharing his love for those lost with the crowd who loved them too. His mini-tribute set, included love for Eazy-E (“Boyz In The Hood”), Notorious B.I.G. (“Hypnotize”), and Tupac (“Gangsta Party”). 

The most poignant moment on a night that took time to honor so many gone-but-not-forgotten hip-hop legends came when Snoop honored his dear friend Nipsey Hussle with a moment of silence, while a video tribute to him played. Following this moment of silence, Snoop hit his verse from K2 Tun’s “One Love” for everyone lost. 

Snoop returned to the party atmosphere of the night, as he moved to close out the show with “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?,” his debut single from Doggystyle. “I love you Phoenix, and Snoop Dogg will keep coming back here any motherfucking time you want me to!” Though he didn’t play “I Wanna Thank Me,” the song is about honoring yourself for the positives and appreciating hard work and accomplishments. Over the 27 years since he first gained national attention with his verse on Dr Dre’s “Deep Cover (187)” in 1992 and across 15 albums, Snoop has earned every accolade and every bit of love the crowd gave to him and that he gave back. 

Snoop Dogg
| Photographer:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved

Phoenix, we about to get out of here, but before we go, sing along with me,” he implored, as he closed out his set with his 2011 collaboration with Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars “Young, Wild, and Free.” If any song should be hip-hop’s answer to any number of show-closing ballads from across the history of pop music, it’s “Young, Wild, and Free.” After 27 years, Snoop Dogg is an institution, still the gold-standard for what it means to be eternally cool, and his music will always serve as a fountain of youth for his audience. To see Snoop live is to be transported to a place where the party never stops and the vibes are always good because Snoop is the party from the moment he steps on stage to when he steps off of it.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Andrea Stoica

Snoop Dogg – The Van Buren 12-11-19

Setlist

  • “What You Talkin’ ‘Bout?”
  • “Next Episode” (Dr. Dre cover)
  • “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” (Dr. Dre cover)
  • “Countdown”
  • “P.I.M.P.” 
  • “The Shiznit”
  • “Wrong Idea” 
  • “Focused” 
  • “Sexual Eruption” 
  • “I Wanna Love You” (AKON cover)
  • “D.O.G.’s Get Lonely 2”
  • “Smile Bitch” (Lil Duval cover)
  • “Ain’t No Fun” (with Warren G)
  • “I’m Fly” (with Warren G)
  • “Snoop’s Upside Ya Head” 

ENCORE

  • “Drop It Like It’s Hot” 
  • “Snoop Dogg (What’s My Name Part 2)” 
  • “Take Me Away” 
  • “All I Do Is Win” (DJ Khalid cover)
  • “Boyz In The Hood” (NWA cover)
  • “Hypnotize” (Notorious BIG cover)
  • “Gangsta Party” (Tupac cover)
  • “Gin and Juice” 
  • Nipsey Hussle Tribute
  • “One Love” (K2 Tun cover)
  • “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” 
  • “Young, Wild, and Free” (Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa cover)

Photography © Andrea Stoica.
All Rights Reserved.

REVIEW: New Politics, The Mowgli’s, Plain White T’s — 3 Dimensions of Music Come to The Van Buren (12-1-19)

PHOENIX — The weekend after Thanksgiving can be a bit of a challenge when it comes to energy levels. Between possibly overindulging on turkey (or tofurkey) and pie, grinning nervously through family dinners, and running through the aisles of the local electronic store, it is indeed easy to feel completely worn out by the time Sunday night rolls around. However, this year there was a cure for the fatigue: The “3 Dimensional Tour” at The Van Buren. Triple-headlined by the New Politics, The Mowgli’s, and Plain White T’s, it was a night filled with energy and noise, and a perfect antidote to the anecdotes you heard over the helpings of holiday fixings.

Plain White T’s

Plain White T’s started the night, as a backdrop lit up with the cover of their latest album Parallel Universe, before drummer De’mar Hamilton came out and sat down to set the tone for the rest of the night. Hamilton is an exceptional drummer, and it was truly fun to watch as he laid down a solid beat throughout the set. As the first notes of “Light Up The Room” were played, lead singer Tom Higgenson strode to the microphone with a huge smile on his face and said, “What up Phoenix?! Let’s have some fun!” Higgenson and the rest of the band delivered on that promise, with Mike Retondo deadpanning “Thank you for liking my bass,” as Higgenson asked the audience to applaud Retondo after “Rhythm of Love”. Higgenson interacted and joked with the audience extensively throughout the night, taking time to thank everyone for coming out, and taking notice that “It looks like you’re having a good time! Everyone in the front is smiling!

Tim Lopez (Guitarist), Plain White T’s
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Indeed, it is hard not to feel jovial at a Plain White T’s show, as Higgenson keeps smiling throughout the night. As the set started to wind down – entirely too soon, it seemed – Higgenson and the band started to play “Hey There Delilah,” the song they are best known for. The crowd took over singing for him as he backed away from the microphone with a look of joy and gratitude on his face. After “Our Time Now,” he thanked the audience once more and the band left the stage.

The Mowgli’s

After a quick stage change, The Mowgli’s came out while a video played in the background, showing clips from movies meshed with scenes that gave a bit of a psychedelic vibe to the start of the show. In fact, the video continued throughout the set, and at certain points, it displayed the lyrics of the songs. As the first song “Spacin’ Out” started, the shift in energy was very apparent: where the Plain White T’s generate the audience energy through engagement with fans and having fun, while The Mowgli’s generate energy via the audience by turning the stage into a massive dance party. 

Katie Earl (Vocalist, Percussion), The Mowgli’s
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Vocalist Katie Earl never once stopped moving, even imploring the audience multiple times to dance along. It was a challenge to stay still as they played songs like “Real Good Life,” “I’m Good,” and “San Francisco,” and so the crowd gladly obliged her requests. She also talked about the need to talk through the tough conversations to come to an understanding with another person. The Mowgli’s have quite a bit of fun on stage. At one point during “Talk About It,” — off of their latest EP American Feelings — almost the entire band switched positions, with everyone playing a different instrument. As the last notes of “San Francisco” faded, Hogan and Earl jumped off the stage, high-fived some in the crowd, and shook hands with others. There was a great deal of appreciation from the band toward the audience.

New Politics

The show ended with a loud, chaotic set from the New Politics. David Boyd pranced onto the stage while rapping the opening lyrics to “Unstoppable,” the first song off of the new album An Invitation to an Alternate Reality. Boyd has a stage presence that is unforgettable, as he prowls and dances like an uncontainable bundle of energy around the stage. At one point during “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” Boyd jumped over the barricade and had the audience gather around and jump together with him.  Those in the crowd were visibly exuberant as they interacted with Boyd and circulated energy amongst each other.

David Boyd (Vocalist), New Politics
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

During another song break, he promised everyone that the band would sit in the back after the show and sign everything that was purchased at the merch table. While it became a bit difficult to see the stage at some points due to the amount of smoke, the show was incredibly high energy, even when things didn’t quite go as planned. Guitarist Soren Hansen threw his guitar into the air, and while it didn’t hit the stage, it also apparently didn’t do what he had hoped it would do. He recovered quickly, brushing off the mishap as if nothing had happened. 

David Boyd (Vocalist), New Politics
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved
Band Photo Gallery

Part of the magic of a New Politics show is the apparently inexhaustible front man: As the show came closer to the end, Boyd seemed to only become more energetic — At one point, right before “Harlem” started, Boyd started breakdancing, ending up on his head in an impressive pose. As the last notes of “Everywhere I Go (Kings and Queens)” faded, Boyd stood on the drum kit — his back to the audience — and did a backflip, sticking the landing and getting a massive cheer from the astonished fans.It was the perfect end to a night of noise and energy, a night that saw three extremely talented bands take the stage and leave the audience energized, with the food coma of the recent holiday in the rearview mirror. The “3 Dimensional Tour” wraps in Sioux City, IA on December 20th, and is a show that should not be missed. (View Tour Dates)

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately: New Politics | The Mowgli’s | Plain White T’s

New Politics, The Mowgli’s, Plain White T’s – The Van Buren 12-1-19

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: Bad Religion Brings Their Age of Unreason Tour to The Van Buren (10-5-19)

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PHOENIX — Bad Religion’s concert at The Van Buren, with support from Emily Davis and The Murder Police and Dave Hause & The Mermaid, was more than just a legendary punk band giving a show at an intimate venue in support of a new album. It was a night where their legacy was felt not only in the crowd but on the stage, too.

Their recent tour is in support of the band’s 17th album, Age of Unreason, released earlier this year. The reason for the band’s longevity is that from their initial formation in 1980 and first release, 1982’s How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, they have stayed true to their ethos and written righteous punk anthems exploring many of the same themes recurring in our society across those 39 years. Any doubt of their staying power could be quickly dismissed with a quick sweep of the audience, where longtime fans of the band loudly sang along and pumped their fists in the air, alongside kids ranging from teenagers and younger. At one point, a father hoisted his daughter up on his shoulders, so she could rock out hard to “Generator” late in the set. 

Emily Davis and The Murder Police

The show’s opener was Emily Davis with her backing band The Murder Police, consisting of Jose Macias, Jorge Torres, and Tomas Tinajero. Davis has three previous solo releases, and is touring in support of her debut album with the band, 2018’s Same Old World. Hailing from El Paso Texas, Davis managed to flip the initial impressions given off by the country-ish twang of her vocals, as the songs would quickly explode into all out rockers. Davis describes her songs as “aggressive, introspective folk music,” which could be heard as she and her band tore through seven tracks from the new album with an intensity reminiscent of Neko Case fronting The Attractions, in place of Elvis Costello.

Emily Davis (Vocals) and The Murder Police
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Late in her set, she told the concertgoers what an honor it was to be touring with Bad Religion, adding that her introduction to them came via Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, which means “You” from their 1989 album No Control was her introduction to the band. She closed out her set with “Circles” and the album’s title track “Same Old World.” 

Dave Hause and The Mermaid

Up next was Dave Hause and The Mermaid, and if anyone didn’t already know his music (and you should), they might have been fooled by their sound from his quick soundcheck with his band, consisting of short bursts of riffs from songs by Lynyrd Skynyrd and Metallica, which drew some surprising whoops of approval from the punk crowd. When Hause (pronounced like pause or cause, for the record) and the band came back out to start their set proper, he took a moment to joke with the audience that despite their appreciation for the soundcheck, they wouldn’t be hearing covers from either band. “For the rest of the night, you’ll only be hearing songs by me and Bad Religion because this is a punk show!” The crowd roared in approval (although that didn’t stop someone from yelling out for Metallica mid-set). 

Dave Hause (Vocals) & The Mermaid
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Hause and his band are touring to support of Kick, his fourth solo album since leaving his previous band The Loved Ones in 2009. His set drew heavily from the new album, save for one track from 2017’s Bury Me In Philly. Prior to forming his backing band The Mermaid, Hause performed most of his shows solo with a guitar, bantering with the audience between songs. Since forming The Mermaid, the sound is louder, but the impromptu moments of interactions with the fans have remained.

The band features Hause´s brother Tim on lead guitar, Miles Bentley (the son of Bad Religion bassist Jay Bentley) on bass, and Kevin Conroy on drums. His stellar song-writing aside, Hause shines when it comes to instantly generating a rapport with his audience. Even when he encouraged everyone to put up a middle finger and direct it towards a particular politician in Washington, and an audience member booed the moment, Hause turned the moment around to something light: “Oh, do you not agree with me? That’s okay. We’re not always going to agree, so go start your own band and write songs about why you think he’s so awesome.” The crowd (including the person who booed) laughed, and Hause tore into “Dirty Fucker.” Hause closed out his set with Kick highlight “The Ditch.” He’ll be back to Phoenix to headline in February. 

Bad Religion

Any band that’s approaching their 40th anniversary would be excused if their live shows were a serving of pure nostalgia and built a set list around the songs the audience loved from years ago. While Bad Religion managed to cover points all along their discography, what stands out the most about one of their live shows is how prescient the songs feel, with thirty-year-old songs feeling like they were a three-minute prophecy of events yet to happen. All of this is because as a band, Bad Religion has railed against the same ills of society since the band’s inception. 

Led to the stage first by drummer Jamie Miller and guitarists Brian Baker and Mike Dimkich, original members bassist Jay Bentley and singer Greg Graffin came out last. Without a word, the band launched into “Them and Us” from 96’s The Grey Race. The song hit the room like an atomic bomb and sent everyone into a frenzy of moshing and crowd surfing. Security guards at The Van Buren earned their checks over the next ninety minutes, as they caught, set down, and guided out multiple people. 

Greg Graffin (Vocals), Bad Religion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

We put out a new record this year, Age of Unreason,” Graffin exclaimed after “Them and Us” faded out,  “which is #17 for those of you who are counting, and we just wanted to get back to play for you before the end of history,” setting up a track from the new album. 

“End of History” was followed up by the to-the-point “Fuck You,” from 2013’s True North. Graffin complimented The Van Buren for being the perfect rock club. “How many of you have been to a lot of shows here before?” he asked. With everyone yelling out the number of shows they’ve seen, he joked, “Well, this will be the best one you’ve ever seen here!” This was followed by “Stranger Than Fiction,” the title track from their 1994 album, which in itself laughs at the absurdity of the real world. 

They next performed “Dichotomy,” “Recipe for Hate,” and “Chaos From Within,” before Graffin paused again to survey the sea of people, noticing the range of ages staring back at him. Spotting one kid in the audience, he asked how old they were, but after being told the kid was 12 and starting to say that has to be the youngest one, another kid called out she was only nine. Laughing for a moment, Graffin said, “Well, I’ve always said it’s the kids who are our future,” which might have been a double entendre, referring to either society or the band. The show’s next fifteen minutes was a sprint through the band’s catalogue, covering songs from 1989’s No Control through the recently-released Age of Unreason.

Mike Dimkich (Guitar) & Jay Bentley (Bass), Bad Religion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

To watch a Bad Religion show, you wouldn’t instantly know how long they’ve been playing together, as they bring the same energy to every song now as punk-rock elder statesman, as they did as kids starting out. Pausing after “Automatic Man,” Graffin looked around and asked the crowd where he was. “Oh yeah, that’s right: Phoenix! No matter where we all are, this is still the new dark ages,” as they played “New Dark Ages” from 2007’s New Maps of Hell, an album whose cover art and title served as a knowing nod to their first album How Could Hell Be Any Worse?, on its then-25th anniversary. 

Taking a jab at himself, Graffin mused that he was born in the 1980’s and was only two when he wrote the next song. Guitarist Brian Baker chimed in that he was born in 1981. The song was the timeless “We’re Only Gonna Die,” from that first album, a song that shows no signs of being a now 37-year old song. It was quickly followed by “No Control,” which reignited the crowd. “Generator” and “Conquer the World” were played with the same fervor as when they were new releases.

While playing “21st Century (Digital Boy)” from their 1990 album Against the Grain, there was a moment that showed just how much their music has connected to everyone in the grade, both young and old: As the crowd sang along, a kid no more than 15 crowd surfed while screaming the lyrics “I don’t know how to read, but I got a lot of toys!” like the song was written only for him and his generation, even as he passed over the heads of men and women easily three times his age who sang it with the same energy. Bad Religion is still here because their music doesn’t age. There’s no nostalgia in their set. Songs from their debut all the way through the new album live in the moment, just as each member of the audience experienced them the first time. 

Brian Baker (Guitar, Backup Vox), Bad Religion
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

We’ve reached the climax of the show, and after you’ve reached the climax, you move into a refractory period. In this moment, we want to dedicate this next song to our favorite people: You!” After the No Control classic and “Paranoid Style,” Graffin told a story about their first album: “Back in the 80’s there wasn’t a whole lot of color choices, so we chose red with the shadowy figure of Los Angeles in the background, and we asked a simple question: How could hell be any worse?” The band’s original anthem led into “Sorrow” from 2002’s The Process of Belief, which was another sing-along across the generations in the crowd. As the song closed out, each member walked off the stage one-by-one, led by Graffin. 

For the next two minutes, the fans cheered, clapped, and called out for one more song, before the band emerged for an encore. “I could get all sentimental about Phoenix,” said Graffin, “It was the second city we ever went to play a show. This song is about you and me.” The band closed out the show with “Infected” from Stranger Than Fiction, and “American Jesus” from Recipe for Hate. Before leaving the stage, they took one final moment to acknowledge the audience, pulling up their set lists and giving them to the kids in the crowd, and solidifying the next wave of fans who will continue to carry them on as a band who defies time and continues to produce powerful, relevant music that unites fans of all ages. 

View Setlist

Bad Religion will return to Arizona on March 28, 2020
with Alkaline Trio at Marquee Theatre.

Tickets

Photo Galleries

Photographer: Rodrigo Izquierdo

View Separately: Bad Religion | Dave Hause & The Mermaid | Emily Davis and The Murder Police

Bad Religion, Dave Hause & The Mermaid, Emily Davis and The Murder Police – The Van Buren 10-5-19

Bad Religion Setlist 10-5-19

  • “Them And Us”
  • “End of History” 
  • “Fuck You” 
  • “Stranger Than Fiction” 
  • “Dichotomy” 
  • “Recipe” 
  • “Chaos From Within” 
  • “Los Angeles Is Burning” 
  • “Anesthesia” 
  • “My Sanity”
  • “Automatic Man” 
  • “New Dark Ages” 
  • “Lose Your Head” 
  • “Suffer” 
  • “Only Gonna Die” 
  • “No Control”
  • “Modern Man”
  • “Do What You Want” 
  • “Generator”
  • “Conquer the World”
  • “21st Century (Digital Boy)”
  • “You” 
  • “Paranoid Style”
  • “Fuck Armaggedon”
  • “Sorrow”  

ENCORE

  • “Infected”
  • “American Jesus”

Photography © Reagle Photography
All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: The Growlers Kickoff Tour with Heaven in Hell — A Sold Out Show in Phoenix (7-17-19)

PHOENIX — Opening their headlining Arizona show with an aptly titled track, “Heaven in Hell”, California beach goth rockers The Growlers played to a sold-out Van Buren venue that prepared them for their ambitious 2019 tour. The tour will include 52 concert nights over the next four months, finishing up in the heavenly City of Angels and Stars on Halloween night. Supporting The Growlers is Rinse & Repeat, an Orange County post-punk band.

Rinse & Repeat
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

Rinse & Repeat

Rinse & Repeat can be best described as a space age psychedelic synth group that have a perfect mix reminiscent of The Aquabats, Divo, and maybe even some Peter Gabriel. Full of energy and theatrics, the nice commenced with their performance that was engaging, fun, and showed much dedication from the band members: Aaron Bones on bass, Riley on guitar, and Rodney on the drums. They put on a show that went beyond their songs and took us through their “space” struggles and successes. 

The Growlers

Sufficiently warmed up and likely grateful the show was in the climate-controlled venue, the crowd thoroughly enjoyed and sang along to each and every song with lead singer Brooks Nielsen, as if the lyrics popped up before them like a karaoke video.

The Growlers - Photo Credit: Rodrigo Izquierdo
Brooks Nielsen (Vocalist), The Growlers
| Photographer:
Rodrigo Izquierdo © All Rights Reserved

The Growlers went through a total of 23 songs and 2 encore pieces, and unlike most mainstream bands, did not spend much time talking to the crowd in between songs, instead engaging them through their music. 

Setlist:

Heaven in Hell
One Million Lovers
Dope on a Rope
Orgasm of Death
Naked Kids
The Daisy Chain
Someday
Love Test
Beach Rats
Rare Hearts
Hiding Under Covers
Who Loves the Scum?
Problems III
When You Were Made
Monotonía
Pavement and the Boot
Empty Bones
Vacant Lot
Night Ride
City Club
Drop Your Phone in the Sink
Chinese Fountain
I’ll Be Around

Encore:
Humdrum Blues
Going Gets Tough

With such a jam-packed setlist, the fans got what they paid to see, The Growlers singing their favorite songs live, with an extensive sample of their successful discography. Perhaps, referencing lyrics from the opening song, their fans were able to “find a haven” in their immersion in the music and energy of one of their favorite bands. 

Nielsen seemed shy and tired, as he himself mentioned after singing just a few songs, “I’m tired, and it is only day one”, but as the show evolved, so did his energy and engagement. As their night ended, he expressed his gratitude to the audience for the boost, saying “Thank you Phoenix, we’re ready to tour now!

The lyrics from their closing song “Going Gets Tough” seemed to be applicable for The Growlers that night:

Still always remembering
When the going gets tuff
That the labor of our love
Will reward us soon enough

Photo Gallery

Photographers: Rodrigo Izquierdo (Reagle Photography) & Andrea Stoica

The Growlers and Rinse & Repeat – The Van Buren 7-17-19

Photography © Reagle Photography & Andrea Stoica, Respectively.
All Rights Reserved

Featured (top) photo by Rodrigo Izquierdo

 

LP Shakes Up Phoenix with Sold Out Crowd at The Van Buren (3-6-19)

PHOENIX — Long-time American songwriter Laura Pergolizzi, also known as LP, brought raw energy and charisma to Phoenix. Originally booked at the Crescent Ballroom, LP sold out the 550 capacity room, forcing the show to move to The Van Buren’s 1800 capacity venue. The bold move proved beneficial as LP sold out the Van Buren, with fans still hoping to score tickets at the box office before the show.

LP may be news to the majority, but she has been gracing the music industry with her songwriting since the late 90’s, writing songs for artists like the Backstreet Boys and Christina Aguilera. Her hard work and consistency paid off big time when she released her first studio album, Heart Shaped Scar, in 2001.

It was clear within the first few moments of the show why LP and her band have fans scrambling for tickets, and promoters moving her show to venues three times the size originally booked. The simple explanation: she’s a star. She has a commanding presence, and the moment she lets that first note slip between her lips, you’re sold. In that moment, you know you’re watching someone born to be on stage.

LP - Photo Credit: Andrea Stoica
LP
| Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.

Taking her time to walk out on the stage, lights dimmed as the band came out, the music began with a slow build creating tension in each eager audience member waiting to see LP and hear her bold voice. The intensity of the crowd matched the tension built from the music until the moment LP came out, and then it’s on. Beginning the show with “Dreamcatcher,” the first track off her latest album, Heart to Mouth, she quickly captured attention from all in attendance.

She gracefully glided across the stage, singing with her incredible range and compelling the crowd to move with her. The music flowed into an explosion of sound and dance. Her writing has an incredible balance of emotion and freedom from your former lover, while at times you can feel her broken heart as if it were yours.

It may take seeing the show live to understand the passion each song has to offer. The show takes each person through a story of heartbreak and raw, pure feelings with songs such as, “I Gave You the Great Unknown,” and her second hit single “Recovery. ” Her lyrics ask honest questions like, “Did you let me go?“, and make real statements like, “I can’t stop sleeping in your clothes.” Her powerful voice soars through the crowd, piercing through each member of the audience. The dynamic vocals are accompanied by a slight quiver in her voice that drives home that heartbreak.  

LP - Photo Credit: Andrea Stoica
LP
| Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.


LP not only has the songs to remind you of the love you lost, but she has the ability to get you dancing to the same heartbreak. Along with her great presence is a solid, passionate, and exhilarating band. The dynamism and musicianship they bring to the show support LP with a humility that reflects that they believe in the music they are playing and know they are in the right place.

LP - Photo Credit: Andrea Stoica
LP
| Photography:
Andrea Stoica © All Rights Reserved.


If there is one takeaway for LP when she leaves the Valley, it’s that Phoenix wants her back, and it would be no surprise to see her in an arena when she returns. This is a show made for everyone: the broken-hearted, the healed, the happy, the lonely, the dancer, the dreamer  — LP has something for you.

Photo Gallery

Photographer: Andrea Stoica

LP – The Van Buren 3-6-19

Photography © Andrea Stoica. All Rights Reserved

REVIEW: In This Moment Thrills Phoenix Fans With ‘Ritual’ Style Performance 4-16-18

PHOENIX — Amidst their “The Witching Hour” tour, shock rock quintet In This Moment had fans spellbound during a thrilling visually-charged performance at historically-located venue The Van Buren. Openers on the bill included The Word Alive  — a metalcore group from Phoenix who’s most recent album Deceiver reached No. 97 on the Billboard 200 (2010), and fellow AZ-based nu metal band Ded, who’s been on the rise since the release of their wildly successful debut track “FMFY” in 2016. Audience members were elated to hear that In This Moment had offered both opening groups the option to extend their setlist for the night, in celebration of the obvious outpouring of support from local fans.

After a vigorous crowd sing-along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” ferocious frontwoman Maria Brink dawned the stage through a storm of purple-red smoke, spookily cloaked in all-black attire which was somewhat reminiscent of Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Maria Brink (Vocalist), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

As Brink positioned herself center-stage, horror-esque slivers from In This Moment’s music video for title track “Blood” spliced on and off on a large overhanging screen. Current members Chris Howorth (Lead Guitarist & Founding Member), Travis Johnson (Bass Guitarist), Randy Weitzel (Rhythm Guitarist) and Kent Diimmel (Percussionist) followed close behind her also dressed to shock and impress in true gothic metal fashion.

The group transitioned into a haunting yet brutal performance of “Blood”, which was seamlessly followed by “River of Fire” from In This Moment’s latest album, Ritual (2017). In between these first two songs, Brink seductively shed her dark ceremonial garb for a ghostly white dress that shimmered beneath the spotlights.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Maria Brink (Vocalist), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

With a mix of fire and wind enveloping her silhouette, Brink immediately dominated the stage with her display of unique showmanship and incredible ability to personify her lyrics through purpose-driven theatrics. Her gruff throaty screams and eerily dazzling vocals are a fitting accompaniment for the band’s vehemently aggressive rhythms, sludgy guitar and relentlessly rhapsodic percussion.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Chris Howorth (Guitarist), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega
© Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Although In This Moment’s 2017 album is in fact less sexualized than albums in previous years, Brink’s outlook on the highly-debated topic remains the same. The singer changed from costume to extraordinary costume throughout the show reappearing on-stage in everything from skin-tight bodysuits and ritual garb, to Krueger-like talons, a top hat, and faceless creature masks. Backup dancers morphed from demons and witches to twinning alter-egos as the show’s storyline evolved before our eyes, exquisitely interpreting the lines of each song. Brink seduced the crowd with ease, gripping the audience with infectious performances of “Adrenalize”, “Roots” and “Burn”, which preceded a chilling vocal performance of ballad “Lay Your Gun Down.”

After an official band introduction, Brink disappeared from the stage leaving Howorth, Johnson, Weitzel and Diimmel in the spotlight for a savage Metallica tribute beginning with the opening instrumentals to “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and leading into a monster drum solo harnessing the chunky classic rock vibes that we all crave.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Kent Diimmel (Drummer), In This Moment
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Next, Brink stepped center stage once again beneath a large crescent-shaped entryway, which appeared as two halves of a glowing moon, altar-style. The opening scene from “Black Wedding” featuring Rob Halford (of Judas Priest) strobed in and out to church music, teasing the energized duet between Brink and Ded frontman Joe Cotela which was to follow. The night finished strong with blazing performances of fan favorites “Big Bad Wolf”, a cover of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight”, “Sick Like Me”, and “Oh Lord” which had fans raging.

In This Moment - Photography: Katherine Amy Vega
Maria Brink (Vocalist), In This Moment & Joe Cotella (Vocalist), Ded
Photography:
Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved.

However, there was still one song yet to be desired. Audience members roared as Brink stepped out from behind the curtain for one final song this time wearing the infamous blood-smeared dunce hat as featured in “Whore”, which Brink described to Steppin’ Out Magazine as “an empowering, beautiful song for women.” On-stage, as oversized balloons began bouncing across the crowd, she went on to explain that “Whore” is about reclaiming control of what hurts us and rising above it:

I was told that I would amount to absolute shit”, she told the crowd. “That I would become nothing at all. So, you see this next song, this last song is about rising above other people’s expectations, all of these ideas about who and what we should be. This song is about taking other people’s hate and turning it into something powerful and liberating within. So tonight, ladies and gentlemen, if I can inspire just that, turning hate into love, then I am proud to say to you Phoenix tonight, I will be your whore!

The song’s title “Whore” is actually an acronym created by Brink to further communicate its underlying purpose:

Women Honoring One Another Rising Eternally


It seems that with their most recent album, Brink and her bandmates have finally perfected the delicate balance between their sultry sex appeal and crust punk approach to the ideals of empowerment and strength embedded in their music. “The Witching Hour” tour is more than an unforgettable performance; it’s a wakeup call. We truly cannot wait for more.

 

PHOTO ALBUM

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

In This Moment – The Van Buren 4-16-18

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

REVIEW: Nothing More Lets ‘Em Burn at The Van Buren in Phoenix 10-25-17

PHOENIX — Nothing More put on an explosive performance in Phoenix Wednesday night at the city’s eye-catching new venue, The Van Buren; named in honor of the historic Martin Van Buren. Once inside, it was a pretty swanky setup: grandiose crystal chandeliers dripping from the ceiling, marble double-sided bars wrapping around the room and on the back wall, an enormous, technicolored mural of the Sonoran Desert surrounded the stage — a fitting theme considering the band was formed out of San Antonio, TX. Interestingly, Nothing More frontman Jonny Hawkins is actually an Arizona native. This is a fact he shares with drummer Ben Anderson who is known for his presence in local success story Digital Summer.

Nothing More - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Ben Anderson (Drummer) – Nothing More
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

After stirring performances by Hell or Highwater, My Ticket Home, and Palisades, it was obvious the crowd’s anticipation was at its peak. All eyes were on the stage as the lights dimmed and the introduction to “Christ Copyright” rumbled out from beneath Anderson’s drum set. In a flash of white light, Hawkins entered the stage rocking his classic barefoot, shirtless style while yelling, “What’s up Phoenix?!”, as the remainder of the band stepped on stage behind him. A haze of blue and red light filled the room as the band moved right into meteoric performances of “Let ‘Em Burn”, “Mr. MTV”, “Don’t Stop”, and “Ripping Me Apart”; kicking things off with a mixture of heavy-handed tracks from Nothing More’s fourth and fifth studio albums, Nothing More and The Stories We Tell Ourselves.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves was an immediate favorite among fans after its release in mid-September of this year, coming in at 15 on the Billboard 200. And rightfully so, as the band’s live stage presence is both wildly unapologetic and deeply emotional.

Their set featured a variety of face-melting solos by each of the band’s highly talented members, but after their hit single “Go To War”, Hawkins and lead guitarist Mark Vollelunga decided to slow things down a bit. Midway through the night, the duo came together for a heart-wrenching acoustic performance of track “Just Say When”, which moved some neighboring fans and myself to tears. It’s a song that Hawkins said “almost didn’t make it onto the record” because they thought it might be “too sappy“. As is the case with many classic emo-toned favorites, the sad love story of the troubled rock star hit us right in the feels.

As “Just Say When” came to an impassioned end, the remaining members of Nothing More took the stage once again, throwing themselves into songs “I’ll Be Okay”, “Here’s To The Heartache”, and “Do You Really Want It”. Fans visibly rejoiced as bassist Daniel Oliver strapped his instrument into the infamous “Bassinator” while Vollelunga and Hawkins aggressively plucked and tapped along the fingerboard. They were, presumably, pumping up the audience for a prolific performance of profoundly personal track “Jenny”, the third single off Nothing More’s self-titled album which spotlights Hawkins’ sister’s struggle with mental illness — a topic that hits hard for many of the band’s listeners.

Nothing More - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
 Jonny Hawkins (Vocalist), Daniel Oliver (Bassist), & Mark Vollelunga (Guitarist) – Nothing More, playing The Bassinator
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

Just as we sang along to the closing lyrics of “This Is The Time”, Hawkins stepped forward to address the crowd for one of the last times that evening. “Well it’s that time of the night; it’s our last song. Who has seen us before? [Cheers] Who has never seen us before? [Cheers] We are a band that does not give encores because one: they’re fake, and two: they’re fake. We’re just going to play our last song instead, and give it all we’ve got.

Nothing More - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
 Mark Vollelunga (Guitarist) – Nothing More
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

And just like that, Hawkins was back at it again, flinging his water bottle into the crowd and jumping all over the stage as he and his band mates poured their souls into iconic track “Salem – Burn The Witch”, standing atop their latest mega-futuristic, one-man-band machine – a 400-pound, 14-foot tall instrument. The members of Nothing More dubbed it as “The Scorpion Tail” in an interview with local radio station 98 KUPD earlier this week. The crowd went absolutely insane for it, cheering Hawkins on as he not only drummed with his feet, but sang as well. Even employees of the venue gathered to watch in awe, some with their fists thrust into the air.

Nothing More - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
 Jonny Hawkins (Vocalist) – Nothing More, on The Scorpion Tail
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

To say this performance was “impressive” would be to sell it short. Nothing More swept us off our feet yet again, and Phoenix will absolutely be back for more.

Nothing More - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
 Nothing More
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega © Kataklizmic Design. All Rights Reserved

PHOTO ALBUM

Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega

Nothing More – The Van Buren 10-25-17

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