Shows Around Town: The First Half of May

As some of you may or may not know, I became freed of my day job on May 1st–the news of which I greeted with, at worst, ambivalence and at best a fair amount of happiness. Honestly, I’ve been missing out on a lot of killer shows during the week and the opportunity to spend a few weeks checking out what’s happening between Sunday and Friday, kind of thrilled me. This time has not gone wasted, though, I’ve not spent every night at a show–I’ve certainly tried to make the most of it. I would like to say that first Wednesday in May I went out immediately to a show, but no, instead, I was kidnapped by friends and taken to a bizarre sports bar in Scottsdale, got to meet some new friends, who in the end have accompanied me to many a show. This, actually paid off in the end, pretty well. It was a good night with good company in a setting that was so unlike any of us that it just added to the amusement. Thus, the music action didn’t really get kicking until the next night.

Thursday, May 2, 2013-Stuck Outside of Phoenix-Tempe

Photo by Lisa Sanders

This was the night of the premiere for Stuck Outside of Phoenix at Tempe Cinemas. This is an amazing movie and in retrospect, I’m only sad that I couldn’t catch it’s second showing, because I want to see it on the big screen again. You can read more about the movie HERE! Or rather, I suppose, my perceptions on it. Nevertheless, immediately after that showing, I headed to a backyard show that featured Huckleberry, who I had missed and Matt & D.A. of Blank Tapes. It was a wonderful friendly, intimate fest with wine and beer and lots and lots of love. Great music, great friends, as we all sat together with wide smiles on our faces. That being said, it was then off to the Yucca Tap Room for the Stuck after party. I had promised a bunch of people I would go and I went and then I ended up hanging out with completely different people than I promised I would go with. By the end of the after party, Nico Holthaus was suggesting an after party for the after party. This ended up at the Scottsdale Beer Museum in which many songs were played on acoustic guitar (a few completely in French), some sung both well and badly by all of us (including The Smith and The Stone Roses) and in the end, I’m pretty sure a fantastic time was had poolside by all of us. This was all and all a great start.

 

Friday, May 3, 2013-Fayuca Album Release Show-Scottsdale

Photo by Brandi Suzanne Fjeld

I had originally intended to catch a couples shows this night. Namely, Fayuca and also head to Last Exit Live to catch Dead Hot Workshop since they were heavily represented on the soundtrack from the night before…the latter part did not happen. The reason for this was that I was greeted within Martini Ranch by just a fantastic vibe of wonderful people everywhere and we were all happy to see each other, share drinks and just enjoy the music. Seriously, some of my favorite people that I don’t see often enough were there and it was just a tremendous time at a great venue–so filled with smiles and hugs and great tunes. Seriously, not was Fayuca there playing all the best from Barrio Sideshow, but there was Pride Through Strife, Ruca, Black Bottom Lighters, The Wiley One and more…there was no way I was leaving. It actually became an impossibility when members of The Hourglass Cats subsequently kidnapped me for some after party fun until nearly dawn…second night of waking up, somewhere in Scottsdale. Not a bad way to be.

Saturday, May 4, 2013-SoundsAroundTown Showcase-Phoenix

Photo by Chantal Marie

I haven’t thrown a showcase in this town before, and when I booked it, nothing was going on that night. Alas, a lot of great things went down that night, but it was still a damn good show at Last Exit Live–if for no other reason, the lineup alone: Fairy Bones, Rough Tough Dynamite, Zero Zero and The Oxford Coma. I turned a lot of people on to music they’ve never heard before and that felt good, plus there was some great commentary about the sound of the lineup and how consistent it was, how the bands just seemed to work into a dizzying frenzy. Everyone played at the top of their game and I couldn’t have been more impressed with their perfromances–the next one is scheduled for June 22nd and I am looking forward to another killer, consistent lineup. I turned Fairy Bones onto The Oxford Coma, I may have turned Zero Zero onto Fairy Bones, I turned everyone on to Rough Tough Dynamite and everyone is always turned on to Zero Zero. When the dust settled, it had been a great night, but far from over, it was time for the No Pants Birthday Party for Audrea Lim at Long Wong’s in Tempe, which I had promised to attend after my own show. I wore pants, but very nearly no one else did and I didn’t think to bring anything else to change into. My goal was to catch the debut live performance of OGBYN. I also got to catch most, if not all of the return of TKLB? It was a great end to a perfect night that just seemed to go until dawn.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013-Built To Spill-Phoenix

Photo by Ben Tietgen

As I said, I haven’t gone to shows every night. If I had my druthers, I would have been at Last Exit Live and Rhythm Room for Sunday’s shows on Cinco De Mayo–especially, Last Exit Live with Dolores, Spirit Cave and The Nix, the latter of whom are returning to the Phoenix music fold, which pleases me greatly. Truth be told, I had personal matters to attend to on Sunday and Monday and honestly may have not even gone out on Tuesday were it not for the perfectly timed suggestion of Ben Tietgen (The Vanjacks, Dearspeak) who invited me to see Built To Spill at Crescent Ballroom…I needed another night out and one of my favorite bands who I learned to love through performances in Arizona (Boston’s, Nita’s Hideaway) was the perfect remedy for what was ailing me…have any doubts? Check out the freaking set list from this unbelievable show, and if you don’t know what this is about, get familiar with some Built To Spill:

Three Years Ago Today
In The Morning
The Source
You Were Right
Hindsight
Else
The Plan
Kicked It in the Sun
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss
Here (Pavement cover)
I Would Hurt a Fly
Stab
Joyride
Carry the Zero
Encore:
Heart (Things Never Shared)
Jokerman (Bob Dylan cover)
Sludgefeast (Dinosaur Jr. cover)
Big Dipper
Car

Wednesday, May 8, 2013-Small Leaks Sink Ships-Tempe

Oddly, in the last two weeks, I’ve begun to see more shows that feature either nationally known bands or bands well known on the indie circuit from out of town. Clearly, I had originally worried about making this show, because I was employed and worked nights. Once freed of that constraint, this was one of the first shows I knew I would be able to attend and I was excited about it. Now, the bill I had said that Nicholas Villa, As In We and Small Leaks Sink Ships were playing. When I arrived at Yucca Tap Room I questioned my sanity immediately, it was a total metal fest. I began to wonder if I had misunderstood the venue it was supposed to be held at, began to question reality, if it was the right day…I had no idea what was going on. Luckily, I ended up talking to a guy that I had met on the light rail a year ago and he assured me I was not insane, though he in fact clearly was–madness is as madness does. I was famished and ordered one of their new burgers–which was amazing, then gave my light rail friend most of my tater tots as he was debating if he could afford french fries. Speaking of which, and this is completely rand, but the Yucca Tap Room menu is now officially out of this world–not sure what happened, not sure I really care, but this is amazing…seriously, if you’re a little peckish before a show at the Yucca, just plan to eat there, drool over the menu and then make your choice, you will not be disappointed, seriously, unreal. Now…back to the music. I’m not saying metal is a bad thing at all, but when you show up at a venue on time, expecting to hear indie rock, it’s a little startling to sit through two raging metal acts that want to devour your soul. If I had some preparation, I would be fine with this. Nevetheless, I was standing on the front patio, when suddenly the sounds of, uh, well, not-metal started coming through the door. It was As In We from San Francisco and it played out like the Bay Areas version of Undeground Cities with one of the most searing female guitarists I’ve ever seen in my life. I suddenly felt better and their entire set put me at ease that I was indeed at the right venue and the vibe of the room had completely change. Next up was Small Leaks Sink Ships–now this is a band I’ve been following and writing about for years and honestly, if they played more, either one of two things would happen: a) they would become the most adored indie rock band in town or b) their performances would not be the mind blowing, soul expanding, holy fuck nights they are–I’m honestly not sure which. All I know is that I’ve seen Small Leaks Sink Ships twice in the last month and I can’t get enough. Every set ends too soon, I want to hear more songs, I want them to play all night long and on and forever. They may not be everyone’s favorite band, but they may actually be the best–and for those that think you are, you may want to catch one of their shows to check your heads. Yes, I have a lot of extra-perceptual experiences when I go to see a band, but with Small Leaks Sink Ships, it’s every damned time…every time. Well played.

Thursday, May 9, 2013-The Prowling Kind-Phoenix

Photo by Bill Goodman

This may well have been another night where I was not going to go out. When I declared this at some point, a friend popped a live acoustic video of  The Prowling Kind up for me and I realized my destiny for the evening. Even based on that video, I had no idea what to expect in any capacity. A beautiful, lone singer songwriter named Alyssa Sky opened for them and you may want to keep your ears peeled for more performances from her, I’d also like to see what she could do with a band. Still, when The Prowling Kind took the stage, my mind was subsequently blown. Here is a band I want to watch grow in the months to come leading up to the release of their debut album Tennessee. Some of my friends had been scared away by the folk connotation that The Prowling Kind had been dubbed with and I was sincerely glad I had not been–because, they are not folk, hell, I’m not even sure how to categorize this group. Yes, one or two songs have a folk vibe, but I’m not sure that other songs that have a jazz backing or a locomotive, Johnny Cash feel could count as folk. What this band has, is the power to move you and they do so through delivering songs that could be defined by multiple genres in a way that maintains the consistency of their sound. Their influences on Facebook are “Loretta Lynn, Buddy Holly, Beck,  the Black Keys, Fiona Apple, Jack White, Jimi Hendrix” which actually sums it up nicely. The band seems to be guided by the vision and memory of the incredibly interesting life of Micky Pangburn–the charismatic lead singer and guitarist for the band. It was an amazing experience to see this at Last Exit Live and to want the set to go on and on, from a band I had never heard before that day.

Friday, May 10, 2013-Echo Bombs CD Release, Palms at Yucca-Tempe

Photo by Francisco Cordova

Some days you want to slam six shows into one night and this past Friday was certainly one of them. Not only did I want to be at The Sail Inn and Yucca Tap Room, but I also wanted to be at Last Exit Live and Tempe Tavern. Alas, choices must be made, so I drove back and forth between Sail and Yucca, watching my intake and concentrated on taking in, instead, as much good music as possible. With that, I was greatly rewarded. Sometimes there is no winning, but the list of some of my favorite bands playing within a few miles of each other was overwhelming: Rough Tough Dynamite, Instructions, The Echo Bombs, Future Loves Past, PALMS; and the list of bands I hadn’t seen before: Sister Lip, Naked Pizza, Numb Bats. I knew I had to stay in Tempe, no offense to the bands I missed in Phoenix, but I have to weigh these things out for coverages sake. I want to see what’s going on everywhere and sometimes it gets to a point where I know more about what’s going on in the East side or I know more about the West side and then I need to correct myself and collect some more info. I also, need to have a good time some times and forget these rules. I did a little of all of that on Friday night and it worked out incredibly well, with a few minor exceptions, including wearing an entire Pabst Blue Ribbon. These things happen. To note, PALMS gave their greatest performance I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen them play A LOT. I don’t like to drive that much, but you got to do what you got to do and I had an agenda…I’m looking forward to seeing ALL of these bands again.

Saturday, May 11, 2013-Gospel Claws-Phoenix

Resisting a Gospel Claws show is, for me, like resisting dark chocolate or good wine or water or breathing. It’s probably not going to happen. Try as I might, it will be in the back of my mind and you will find me there and I will be dancing and making a fool of myself from the utter joy they cause my soul. I love their sound, I love everything they’ve ever recorded and they are the one band I haven’t written about as much as I want to in town, because I don’t feel competent enough to sing their praises correctly. Seriously, one day I will release my thoughts on their recordings, but it will take so long for them to occupy my soul until I find the words that adequately express my adoration that it may seem  dated. Maybe I’ll be quicker on the draw with their next release. There are also some things you should know–Spirit Cave was on this bill and they are quickly becoming one of my local favorites that I may drop anything to do to go see and Snake!Snake!Snakes! have incorporated Dan Tripp into their fold and are developing a new sound that I love and played it that evening for maybe the third or fourth time. I don’t want to write less about this mind altering gig than all the others, but damn, what else can you say? Actually, the only thing I have to say is that I always feel so constricted by the time length exercised on bands at the Crescent…I always want more from the supporting acts (quantity…they bring plenty of quality to the table) and especially the headliner. Gospel Claws could have played for another thirty minutes without anyone in the ballroom blinking an eye, we would have danced ourselves further into sweaty wreaks and our smiles would have lasted hours more. Looking sincerely forward to more from these bands, both in releases and live performances. Seriously catch all of them again as soon as they allow you to.

Monday, May 13, 2013-The Hoot Hoots-Tempe

I had to take another Sunday off…not even a Sunday Funday, but a Sunday…just be lazy day. Trust me with the pace I keep, every now and then, when I’m unhinged, I have to have a break. I probably would have taken Monday off again too, but I promised myself that the next time The Hoot Hoots were in town I would absolutely tear down the walls to see them. Luckily, it just took getting up and going out. Due to the urgency of nearly everyone that saw their last show in town, especially Kevin Gassman, I had to check this out, plus I had listened to everything they had online, repeatedly. It was also a killer lineup at Long Wong’s with Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold, Club C@z, and Danger Paul & The Psychedelephants in tow…this was going to be something that made me smile if nothing else did that day–and I was right. I can’t seem to avoid catching Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold nearly anywhere I go these days and it’s literally two guys, one with a guitar, another on banjo, locomoting at breakneck speed through their set–it’s like thrash bluegrass and it’s brilliant. I can’t recall ever catching Club C@z before, I might have once, but I was impressed with the promise that their talent will surely deliver and their growing fan base was apparent. The Hoot Hoots are from Seattle and I have to admit, while I’ve been listening to their recordings for a while, their live show is over the top impressive. Usually, I’m not that much of  a sweating wreck unless I’ve just been dancing the entire time through a KONGOS show, but I couldn’t stop–this was just high energy indie power pop that blew my mind–never once a lull in their performance, never once a moment that I didn’t stop smiling, never once a pause to ponder if I liked it or not, it was simply amazing from start to finish. It was everything their recordings and everyone had told me their performance would be. Danger Paul and his crew finished with what I would have to say was their most blistering performance to date, I haven’t caught them in a while and I was completely blown away with what I witnessed, from the songs I had heard before to the new material I sat their stunned. My soul was shaken, my jaw had dropped and the sound had slightly raped my soul. Perfect night to attend? Indeed.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013: DeadFoxx Residency-Tempe

So, I write about a lot of bands and probably spread myself a bit to thin and honestly, I could name probably a dozen bands I’ve been meaning to see, maybe more that I just keep missing. Tuesday I corrected a couple of those oversights. I have to mention that on the way to Long Wong’s I was listening to KWSS 93.9′s show “Erratic Radio” which I’ve been tuning into for a few weeks now and I heard a  band called The She Riffs playing in the studio and they kind of stole my Grrrrl Power heart, it was at that point I knew it would be a good night, I took it as a sign. More to follow on them I’m sure. I got to Long Wong’s just in time to catch one of my numerous oversights, which is Exploding Oranges (AKA photographer extraordinaire Joel Ekdahl). I have been trying to catch Joel in action on the stage for ages and it just never seems to happened. Turns out Tuesday was my lucky night. First of all, this is cool psychedelic, one man, pop joyfulness–seriously, one friend said, “I just him to play all the time in this bar, because it’s so wonderful, you can still have a conversation through it and appreciate it all the same without feeling bad…it’s just beautiful.” That sums it up. Ekdahl is a damn good songwriter and his very trippy tunes are worth hearing and if you didn’t arrive stoned, his music alone will you induce you to feel that way. Also, kudos for covering Future Loves Past “Mountain” and Paul McCartney’s “Ram”–both were “Oh, damn” moments. Now, I want to see Ekdahl accompanied by a female vocalist for harmonies who can swing a twin guitar, my vote is Sadie Jane Ramsey who I could hear laying that down with no effort, but with much love. My second oversight, or rather a band I could never get to see through scheduling complications was DeadFoxx. Former drummer for 88MPH, Miles Tippett has been urging me to see his new band in which he plays guitar. Well, this finally happened and I was stunned. I was honestly, not ready for how fucking heavy it would be, but that was just simply goddamn refreshing. This is psychedelic, jazz influenced, deep blues early metal with a touch of manic screaming here and there. Everyone seemed to want it and love it and I was glad that I was not alone in this matter. Additionally, their cover of “Helter Skelter” was top notch, especially since I know they had only worked it out in the last 24 hours–hell, I almost wanted to go and kill everyone at Roman Polanski’s house after that rendition. Terragaia was up next and if you haven’t seen them yet, you’re kind of missing out–this is intense, flashback inducing space rock, that simply blows my mind every time. If there is ever a chance I can catch these guys I absolutely do so–I think I’ve said this before, but I would love more singing and harmonies from bassist Josh Kneisel, because that guy has the voice of an angel. Finally, the night ended with Sasquanaut–I actually try to stay away from Sasquanaut shows these days, mainly because I’m convinced they are aliens sent from the Planet Rock to devour our souls and perhaps pillage our villages. No, seriously, their brand of instrumental frontal rock assault bad-assery astounds me every goddamn time. Perfect ending, perfect night, pure space rock madness.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013: ¡COMPAÑEROS! and The Madera Strand-Phoenix

Photo by Bill Goodman

 

It was 80s night at Last Exit Live and though the Blondie cover band had to due to Strep Throat, The Madera Strand and ¡COMPAÑEROS! more than held their own and I’d say over half the crowd came dressed in homage to the decade of sunglasses, pastels, popped collars, big hair and makeup for both girls and boys. It was a pretty rad time. First of all, though there were some initial problems with the sound mix for The Madera Strand it was worked out halfway through the set and overall their performance was pretty magnificent and far more extended than they thought it would be. It was the  first time I could clearly hear d’Averill Demetrulias’ vocals on all of the songs, even though there was a bit too much bass at first, it didn’t take away the pleasure of watching this quirky quartet perform both originals and astounding renditions of “Roxanne” and “Burning Down The House.” Their finale of the Police’s “It’s Alright For You” was actually one of the most stunning moments of the set. I had never heard ¡COMPAÑEROS! play on a great sound system before and it turned out that it was everything I could hope for–seriously, these guys rocked it hard and they rocked it loud. They even rocked Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses At Night”, much to keyboardist Kevin Parks chagrin, during which he went for a beer. I have been hoping to hear these guys in a place just like this, as though the room was built for them, the sax could be heard beautifully, the guitars jammed into the air, the drums pounded, the vocals were perfect and soulful, the bass thumped through the very walls. Some members thought they were sloppy, but if they were, the audience sure wasn’t aware of it. This was kind of the perfect finale for a two week run of shows that have blown my mind, kept my spirits high and allowed me to smile every night of the week.

Without pause…the next voyage begins tomorrow night, let’s see what happens during the second half of May and hope it’s just as epic!

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