ShowsAroundTown: Crescent, Rogue and Firehouse…

So, this is probably not the best way to start off an article that lauds the joy found in a few recent local shows, but the one thing that all three had in common was an uncommonly low attendance. Maybe I’m just being drawn to shows that are off the beaten path, maybe I’m taking chances on seeing bands that people haven’t even heard of yet, maybe I like to go to shows that no one else is covering or will attend because I generally hate people and I don’t really want to be social. Maybe it’s all of these things. Maybe it’s the heat. I actually see this happen every June. When the heat starts kicking in softly through the lower realm of the triple digits, people recoil in a sense of fear and panic for a month (or three in some cases) stunned by how the Valley of the Sun has turned on them. Usually by the time July rolls around everyone has acclimated as best they can and they are back at it. So I will chalk this up to the heat, because the shows have been great, but the turnout has been depressing. I’m cool with it, it’s like I get my own little show for me and twenty other people that I actually want to talk to and its a great time, but I feel bad for the bands and the venues. That being said, you all missed some seriously cool shit.

Photo by Tim Hardy


Sunday, June 1st- Crescent Ballroom: Genre, Bad Neighbors, Anthony Fama & The Redemptions, Matt Klassen

I was excited as all hell about this show, because I loved every artist participating in it and I’ve written about all of them in some capacity (or a lot of capacity) before. This was my first show out in a few weeks and I have to admit, sharing it with only a few dozen people made it feel like it was just for the little crowd that was loving every second of it. I had already written two pieces before the show and I didn’t think I was going to review it, but I must admit that about three songs into Matt Klassen’s set I realized that I should have brought a notebook and I started taking notes with my phone, which is a terrible thing to do and it looked like I was texting the entire evening when, really, I was just trying to keep track of what the hell was happening. I wish this entire evening had been recorded from beginning to end, because it was flawless. One thing I totally admire is that all of the artists involved, no matter the attendance, brought their A Game and played their hearts out–it didn’t matter if there were twenty people in the room, they all played as though there were hundreds.

As I said, I didn’t realize until I was deep into Matt Klassen‘s set that I was going to write about this, so I wasn’t taking notes, I also realized I had no notebook and I hate taking notes on my phone, but so be it. I wasn’t sure what Klassen’s set would bring, didn’t know if it was going to be a solo gig or what, but when I saw Charles Barth (Saddles) take the stage and Chris Julian man the drums I knew it was going to be great. I had seen Klassen with Barth before during their Billy Idol set, which was amazing and I hoped for more that evening and I pretty much got it. The height of their set was, for me, when the two frontmen traded songs. Klassen had a great time performing Saddles’ “Whiskey Summer” and Barth took the reigns on “Bad Reaction” two of my favorite songs by both bands in no uncertain terms. They also seemed to live it up in a cover of an oft-forgotten Jermaine Stewart hit from the 80s called “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.” Best conversation during the set? “Who is this?”, “That’s Matt Klassen from The Cold Desert”, “He’s great, I’ve never seen him before”, “I try to never miss him.” Seriously, Klassen impresses me no matter what he does and I hope to see more of this trio at shows, because it’s golden.

Up next was Anthony Fama & The Redemptions, one of my favorite up and coming acts who are playing around a lot these days. So much so that they are the sole band that were at all three shows I’m writing about here. This is something of a super group here and with each passing show their set is getting better and better, tighter and the crowd reaction is pretty great. Composed of Anthony Fama (Doctor Bones), Danger Paul (Danger Paul & The Psychedelephants) and D.L. Harrison (Companeros) this trio continually blows my mind and it was awesome to hear them on the Crescent sound system. This night was especially great as they included two new songs into their set and it appears they are working toward an entire albums worth of material. Opening with “These Walls” which has never sounded better and may well be mistaken for a single, then on to “What We Do Is Secret” which is one of my faves and then “Call Me (When You Want)” which they announced would be the approaching, inevitable single. The first new song was “But Any Way” and it seemed to me that this was a “band composition” and it grooved in a great way. “Rain” followed but was overshadowed by another new song, “There With You.” Again, the newer songs seem to sound like a band becoming a band more than a rhythm section backing a front man, which is pretty freaking great. They finished off with three of their best songs that are all single worthy: “Seventeen,” “My Body” and “A Little Bit More.” Brilliant, every bit of it.

Genre was up next and I was super psyched for this because their computer broke. That sounds horrible, but it’s true–they were going to have to get a live drummer for this gig and they got none other than Sun Ghost’s former frontman Trevor Denton to do the honors. The results were spectacular and something I suspected all at once. Genre needs a live drummer, they are pretty great without one, but with Denton on the skins, they are phenomenal.They played every one of their songs from the Scrape Your Voices On The Stars EP and then some with a live drummer and absolutely slayed. I’d list the highlights, but every one of those six songs is a favorite of mine. The highlights for me were songs I hadn’t heard in recent show, songs like “More Human Than Ever” from their first EP, new songs like “Beatle Shirt” and “Get It Out” were amazing to hear for the first time–they went all out. In fact to conclude this amazing set they paid tribute to the man behind the drums and covered Sun Ghost’s “Pale Blue Dot” with so much fierce energy, I’m not sure if I like their version more than the original. This set was solid from beginning to end. I can’t emphasize enough how much of an impact and effect that Denton’s drums had on the whole affair. It was nice to see Corey Gomez and Zac Markey just rock the hell out and not worry if the right thing was queued up on their computer or not–they were liberated and it showed. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen those two so happy and I suspect it was because they found a chemistry that worked so well. There are some video snippets of this show online, but nothing compares to what went down there live.

Finally, my favorite debut band of the year, Bad Neighbors closed out the show. I’ve seen every show I can by this band (though it was made clear I missed their Yucca debut that evening) and they just keep getting better. Now, what I need is a bass player to free Martin Shaffer from providing this necessary element so that he can be the crazed madman that he was before they realized they do in fact need bass. He’s actually making it work pretty well, but he can bring you so much more if unencumbered. Their set was brilliant and amazing music made by Tim Allyn and Collin Fall that guide the histrionic vocals of Shaffer have come a million miles away from when I first saw them. Every one that sees them, every one I bring to one of their shows is simply astounded and rightfully so. They played all of their songs, which now number at seven and with each show these guys perfect their offerings, polish this perfection and present a proud property of perplexing profundity. And only fans of the band will get that, though I encourage you to become one soon. I cannot wait until I hold their debut release in my hands, I cannot wait to play it for everyone I know–until then, I’ll just keep taking people who have never heard them to their shows.

Friday, June 6th-Rogue Bar: Lawnchair EP Release Party
So here is the deal. I wanted to get to this from the start. The lineup was stellar: Day Before Plastics, The Thin Bloods, Anthony Fama & The Redemptions, Rook and The Raven and Lawnchair. My day did not work out that way and there was an entire hour long drama that involved a grocery store that should have been a 15 minute trip. The long and short of the story is that much to my regret I missed both Day Before Plastics and The Thin Bloods though it is my understanding that they both killed it. I showed up about thirty second before The Redemptions got their set going and I swear to all that is holy that in the short five days since I had seen them last they had gotten even better–especially on the new songs. I also heard an arrangement in my head for “Seventeen” that wasn’t there and shared it with the band. That was my musical revelation of the night with The Redemptions. Some times I hear things that are not present and I mention it to a band and sometimes they run with it, they usually like it and it usually turns out favorably for everyone.  Throughout their set and after, I was continually told how great the sets were by DBP and The Thin Bloods and I realized that I can’t afford to miss the next sets by either band. I was still cursing the grocery store well past midnight.
Rook and The Raven from Manchester, England were up next and they were pretty fantastic. I had been to the Rogue once before to catch them and their visas were held up and couldn’t make it that evening. Luckily, I got to catch them on Friday and they were great. Amazing guitar rock with transcendent harmonies like you wouldn’t believe. They have a set list that kind of sneaks up on you. At first you are mildly interested, good harmonies, a smashing keyboard, a few cool hooks here and there, but by the end of the set it is balls to the wall straight out rock’n'roll that goes well beyond smart outfits and great hair. Their songwriting is superb and its clear they write for the strengths in each other, recognizing whose talent will best suit the song. There set was pretty astounding upon recollection and I would not pass up an opportunity to catch them again.
The reason I was at the show, however, was not for any of those bands, as great as they were. I showed up at the Rogue on Friday for one band and one band only. Lawnchair. Now, it’s been well over a year since I’ve seen Lawnchair and honestly, I thought they had broken up. Now Anthony Thrailkill had alluded to the fact that something great was in the works, but I never expected this in a million years. They rocked it so hard that my mind was blown. I was glad I hadn’t listened to the EP that he had given me the night before, because I was happy to have experienced it live first and it was amazing. The lineup for Lawnchair these days is Guitar/Vocals – Anthony Thrailkill, Drums – CJ Mcnichols and Bass – Nick McKee and its simply perfect. They played every song from the EP, opening with “Lunchtime” and working through “Generator”, “Neon Pig”, “Survey”, “Sperm Donor” and “Legz” they even had a new surprise as well. The biggest surprise though was Lawnchair, yes, it was their show, their EP release and they were the headliners, but anyone that witnessed it were completely blown away by how well they deservedly stole the show and people were still talking about it the next day.
Saturday, June 7th-Firehouse Gallery: Tripp’s Woody Guthrie Tribute
I think famed hobo songwriter and anti-fascist activist would have been proud of the happy go lucky, ramshackle affair held in his honor by Dan Tripp this past Saturday at the Firehouse Gallery in Phoenix. It was a fascinating mix of friends and family that gathered to pay as much tribute to Woody Guthrie as they did to Dan Tripp, who has been working on this tribute to one of his musical icons for well over a year. By the way, for future reference, when the Firehouse has an event in the dead heat of summer, they have a wonderful mister system that keeps everyone more than cool. Seriously, this is a great venue and I hope to catch many more shows here this summer. This show had a lot going for it with Hannah Bones opening the set with a handful of songs joined by the original Chad from Doctor Bones (you know, the other guy that wrote the catchy songs in that band) and the only thing I wished was that the amps were just a little bit louder. I’d definitely like to see this duo do some more gigs because there is more than a hint of promise in that combo. The Redemptions stepped up for an impromptu three song set when no one was sure what was going on, hell I even got to call out a song (“My Body” for the record) which was a nice unexpected surprise. Dan Tripp took the stage to deliver a set of Woody’s songs to get things truly kicked off. There were so many great moments it was hard to describe, but we kind of sat around like family, drinking and smoking and smiling and just enjoying the dusk as evening settled upon us. One of the highlights was a never before occurring acoustic set by Snake!Snake!Snakes! and I can say this, I wish the whole damn thing was recorded, because I never thought it would work and it was perfect. I would love to have Snakes! release an acoustic version of whatever EP or album they release next because its a whole different experience in a very great way. Tripp was left to his Woody Guthrie devices again and one by one guests appeared on stage: Danger Paul, Anthony Fama, Carol Pacey, fellow writer Jeff Moses and even myself. We sang and we smiled and we had a great time doing it up, for Dan, for Woody, for each other. It was one of the most relaxed events I’ve ever been to in my life, mainly because Tripp was doing it all out of love and loving it all the while. The Guthrie tribute ended with all musician joining Tripp on stage for a massive version of “This Land Is Your Land.” Carol Pacey and Andrew Borunda delivered a set of songs, mostly not from the new album other than “Take Your Bad News And Go Away” in order to confound me. And finally Dan closed the evening with a couple of Field Tripp numbers, with my favorite being “John Wayne”. It was the perfect end to a perfect evening with perfect friends. (Photo above by Jeff Moses)