PHOTOS: Lindsey Stirling – Comerica Theatre 11-12-16

PHOENIX — Lindsey Stirling, the awe-inspiring dancing violinist, brought her Brave Enough Tour to Comerica Theatre last night. Hailing from Gilbert, Arizona, it’s no surprise that the venue posted low ticket warnings on social media, and a horde of fans came out to see her live.

High production light shows and other grand visual effects are a staple of her concerts, and they make for a truly magical experience. Watching her spirit take flight when she does what she was meant to do, and fought to succeed, sends chills through your body. Lindsey Stirling is a strong inspiration and encouragement for her fans, especially in Arizona, to aspire for great things and persevere.

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Lindsey Stirling – Comerica Theatre 11-12-16

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PHOTOS: Diarrhea Planet – Valley Bar 11-9-16

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by Katherine Amy Vega

Diarrhea Planet – Valley Bar 11-9-16

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PHOTOS: Spafford – Last Exit Live 10-28-16

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by Katherine Amy Vega

Spafford – Last Exit Live 10-28-16

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REVIEW: Don’t Call it a Comeback – Jimmy Eat World & Good Charlotte Wake the Dead at Zombie Prom 10-22-16

PHOENIX One day after the release of their ninth studio album Integrity Blues, as well as an intimate in-store performance and signing at Zia Records (Mesa) in homage to their roots, Arizona’s own Jimmy Eat World returned to the stage for 93.3 ALT AZ’s Zombie Prom Music Festival.

Now more than halfway through the U.S. leg of their album release tour, J.E.W. was slated as the night’s headliner, preceded by a long-awaited performance by pop-punk legend Good Charlotte. The full lineup also included The Struts, Lewis Del Mar, Barns Courtney, K. Flay, and The Hunna.

It’s hard to believe both of these iconic bands have been dominating the alternative rock scene since the early nineties, famed for timeless hits like Good Charlotte’s “Anthem” (2002) and Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle.” (2001). Blood-spattered prom dresses and tattered tuxedos speckled the lawn of Fear Farm this past Saturday while undead fans began spilling through venue gates as early as 2:30p.m.

Following a Steven Tyler-esque performance by The Struts frontman Luke Spiller later that night, Good Charlotte collectively stepped into the spotlight for the first time in five years. The group announced an end to their hiatus in November of 2015, and have since released their sixth studio album Youth Authority, a revitalizing tribute to the heavy-handed, punk rock sound Good Charlotte fans have come to know and love.

Good Charlotte - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Joel Madden, Good Charlotte © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

All at once the intro to “Anthem” roared across the stage, lights throbbing in rhythm as onlookers burst into a sea of fist-pumps, audibly singing along to every word. Good Charlotte’s drummer Dean Butterworth was unable to accompany his bandmates to their comeback performance. They were, however joined by Tony Palermo of post-hardcore band Papa Roach. Joel went on to explain that Tony had learned the setlist on his way to the show, with no rehearsals.

Good Charlotte, Zombie Prom
Good Charlotte at Zombie Prom © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

The energy of the crowd seemed to mirror the intensity of the music, surging through classic throwbacks like “The Story of My Old Man,” “Girls & Boys,” and “Riot Girl.” As the audience raged with excitement, Joel’s voice once again took over the speakers.

“We were off for five years! We made a new record and I want to play a song off of it. This is our first night on tour. If I teach you a song, will you sing it with me?”

Good Charlotte - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Benji Madden, Good Charlotte
© Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

His question of course, was met with a resounding and exuberant, “Yes!”

Next up on the setlist was “Life Changes” off of Good Charlotte’s latest album. Despite having been released in May of 2016, this track sounds like it could have been off their first album The Young and the Hopeless back in 2002. The band followed up their latest hit with Avenged Sevenfold collaboration, “The River” and lastly, “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Needless to say, Good Charlotte hasn’t lost their touch — and they still put on one hell of a show. (View Full Setlist)

After a brief soundcheck, members of Jimmy Eat World took the stage one-by-one. Some might say that Good Charlotte would be a tough band to follow after a year off from music, but Jimmy Eat World is one of those bands that is absolutely electrifying when seen live. Zombie Prom was slated to be J.E.W.’s first major Arizona performance since the Summer Ends Music Festival in 2015.

Jim Adkins, Jimmy Eat World
Jim Adkins, Jimmy Eat World © Kataklizmic Design
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As a shimmering blanket of blue and violet fog billowed out above the stage, Jim Adkins humbly stepped forward, greeting the crowd as if we were all old friends. “We are Jimmy Eat World! Originally from Mesa, Arizona. Thanks for being a bunch of dead people,” he joked. The first few notes of “Get Right” echoed across the venue, and the audience was once again overjoyed, yelling out song titles in hopes of hearing their favorite tracks played live. Although Jimmy Eat World has a definite down-to-earth quality about them, their stage presence is one to be reckoned with.

Rick Burch, Jimmy Eat World
Rick Burch, Jimmy Eat World © Kataklizmic Design
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Adkins and Linton seemed to become one with their instruments as the group passionately moved through popular songs like “Bleed American” and “I Will Steal You Back.” The authentic quality of Adkins’ vocals was especially evident as the band transitioned into a few newly released tracks including “You Are Free” and “Pass the Baby” — a particularly unique composition off of Integrity Blues due to its soulful metaphors, hard-rock undertones and one mega-explosive breakdown.

Jim Adkins, Jimmy Eat World
Jim Adkins, Jimmy Eat World © Kataklizmic Design
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Saturday’s show also included “You With Me” and “Sure and Certain” off of Integrity Blues, among a myriad of other hits from previous records over the years. Of course, the night wouldn’t have been complete without a crowd-thumping performance of “The Middle” and “Sweetness,” each of us singing the lyrics back through every verse. It was the ultimate album homecoming party, with a robust 19-track set list to boot. (View Full Setlist)

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Zombie Prom: Jimmy Eat World & Good Charlotte

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REVIEW: Phoenix Rises Again for CHVRCHES’ Highly-Anticipated Return 10-6-2016

TEMPE, Ariz. — Fans of Scottish synthpop / indietronica band CHVRCHES have been saving their tickets since the April show, when Martin Doherty charismatically fronted three songs before the trio had to cut their performance short unexpectedly. The group returned with an overwhelming response this past Thursday, selling out their second show at Tempe’s Marquee Theatre within six months. Frontwoman Lauren Mayberry announced last minute openers Thursday afternoon, adding local indie-electronic duo MRCH to the lineup.

MRCH - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Mickey Pangburn, MRCH © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

MRCH took the stage at 8 p.m sharp, greeting fans through a haze of vibrant blue-green lights. “We are very excited to be here!” vocalist Mickey announced. “My last time at the Marquee was to see Bone Thugs-N-Harmony,” she added through smiles. Mickey radiated an energy similar to that of Debbie Harry while energetically serenading the audience with romantic, electronically-infused vocals — although the synth and percussion were a bit overpowering, making the quality of her performance difficult to hear at times. Towards the end of their set, MRCH won over the crowd with an effervescent performance of Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass,’ showcasing Mickey’s unique, vintage pop sound.

CHVRCHES - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
CHVRCHES © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

CHVRCHES wasted no time getting started, drenching the audience in a mesmerizing, strobe-like display of geometric white light and signature esoteric beats. The crowd erupted as silhouettes of Iain Cook, Martin and Lauren marched across the stage, kicking off their performance with a throwback to the April show  — “Never Ending Circles,” the first track from their latest album Every Open Eye. The group immediately engaged listeners with a few fast-tempo favorites and of course, Iain’s electrifying dance moves behind the keyboard.

CHVRCHES - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Iain Cook, CHVRCHES © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

As the audience sang along Lauren’s voice cut in, “We return to the scene of the crime!” The audience responded in applause once again. “Thank you for coming back to see CHVRCHES! I know many of you came to see us many months ago, but things didn’t go as planned,” she continued, struggling to untangle a mic cord at her feet. “Much like this,” she joked. “But this  — this I can deal with.”

She went on to give an electrifying performance before handing the mic over to bandmate Martin for “High Enough To Carry You Over” and “Under The Tide,” a nostalgic selection considering the band’s courageous performance last April, in which they continued without Lauren in order to satisfy their fans. Lauren did re-appear at the end of their shortened set during the April show, fighting extreme illness in order to give fans one final song.

The band’s dedication to their fans was not lost on the people of Phoenix. Lauren’s hypnotic stage presence combined with an impeccable sixteen track set list Thursday night colluded seamlessly with the crowd’s energy, truly making this heightened performance one for the books. CHVRCHES left the stage on a high note, leaving the audience excited and hungry for more. Spectators spottily chanted “One more song! One more song,” lingering to see if the band might continue.

CHVRCHES - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Lauren Mayberry, CHVRCHES © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

Suddenly Lauren took the stage once again, stepping forward to address the crowd. “I’m not trying to make you guys jealous,” she said coyly, “but I am going to see Beyonce tomorrow and I’ve got to make it all the way back to the east coast. So, we are going to play you a couple more songs.” The crowd exploded in ecstasy once again, vibrating the floor of the venue as they began to fist pump along to “Afterglow.”

At this point, the group had now performed more than double their set list from last April, and continued to pour their souls into each track making for an unforgettable display of commitment to their fans. Lauren paused, holding Martin’s drumsticks in a crisscross formation above her head as the crowd roared, begging to hear the final song of the night. CHVRCHES then concluded things with their timeless hit, “The Mother We Share” from album The Bones of What You Believe, drawing on the communal energy exhibited during the April show one last time.

Their show Thursday night was more than high enough to carry us over. In fact, we think it’s safe to say this was one of CHVRCHES’ most impressive performances to date.

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

CHVRCHES & MRCH – Marquee Theatre 10-6-16

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REVIEW: Blink-182 Goes ‘Overboard’ for Phoenix 9-24-16

PHOENIX — With the word “FUCK” emblazoned in flames behind them, Blink-182 opened their set to a packed house at the Ak-Chin Pavilion on Saturday, Sept. 24. Despite steep ticket prices, the long-awaited return of the pop-punk headliner, along with openers All Time Low and A Day to Remember, brought fans out in droves. And they didn’t disappoint. Even after 24 years, Blink-182 was able to bring the same energy and bawdiness fans have come to expect.

Blink-182 - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Mark Hoppus, Blink-182 © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

The set opened with “Feeling This” from Blink’s self-titled album, followed by “What’s My Age Again?” “Family Reunion” and “The Rock Show.” Finally, they gave the audience a taste of their new release, California, with the song “Cynical.”

Since hitting record stores in July, California has already topped the Billboard 200, making it Blink’s first number-one album since their 2001 success, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. It was also their first album produced by John Feldmann whose past production work has included albums for Good Charlotte, The Used, All Time Low, and 5 Seconds of Summer.

However, what was perhaps most notable to long-time Blink fans was the absence of founding band member Tom DeLonge, who was replaced by Alkaline Trio lead vocalist and guitarist Matt Skiba at the start of 2015. The change came after DeLonge decided (for the second time in the band’s history) to take an indefinite hiatus from the group.

His announcement was a match in the powder keg of turmoil that had been brewing after DeLonge’s work with Angels & Airwaves and other projects were cited as the cause of long delays to recording a new Blink-182 album. But with Skiba in the band as a ready and willing partner, it looks like Blink-182 has finally put an end to the false starts and opened a new chapter.

Blink-182 - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Matt Skiba, Blink-182 © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

If Phoenix fans had any reservations about Skiba, there was certainly no evidence of it Saturday night. During one of several “audience participation” segments, Mark Hoppus told concert-goers, “Oh Phoenix, you’re in for a fucking treat now. This is ‘Sing Along with Matt.'” He paused, looked back at the crowd sternly, then repeated more seriously, “I said, this is ‘Sing Along with Matt.'”

Without hesitation, the entire venue erupted into a cacophonous choir and joined Skiba in singing “Reckless Abandon.” Then after playing “Kings of the Weekend,” Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker jammed together for a moment to loud cheers and applause, clearly having a good time. “You’re welcome because that was me and Travis time right there,” Hoppus said.

Blink-182 - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Travis Barker, Blink-182 © Kataklizmic Design
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

“We’re switching out the set a little bit tonight,” Hoppus announced at one point. “Just for you… Fuck all the other cities we’re going to,” he joked. Then during the part of the set when Blink would normally play “Not Now,” they gave concert-goers an unexpected treat and played “Man Overboard” instead. “Just for you, Phoenix!”

The show was rife with special effects, from fountain fireworks flowing from the rafters at the end of “Down,” to plumes of flames shooting up from the back of the stage during “Bored to Death.” During “Dumpweed,” several blow-up dolls were passed out to the audience and bounced around like beach balls. And later, the group turned off all the lights and played “Happy Holidays, You Bastard” to the light of thousands of mobile phones.

Blink-182 - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Mark Hoppus, Blink-182 © Kataklizmic Design.
Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega

“You guys having fun? Not anymore. Not. Any. More. This next song is fucking sad,” Hoppus told concert-goers before playing “Stay Together for the Kids.” He joked that the song was so sad, it was practically emo, comparing it to what would result if Jimmy Eat World and The Used had a baby. He also dedicated “I Miss You” to all the ladies.

[Setlist]
#1 Feeling This
#2 What’s My Age Again?
#3 Family Reunion
#4 The Rock Show
#5 Cynical
#6 First Date
#7 Down
#8 I Miss You
#9 Bored to Death
#10 Built This Pool
#11 Dumpweed
#12 Stay Together for the Kids
#13 Reckless Abandon
#14 San Diego
#15 Man Overboard (replaced “Not Now” on printed setlist)
#16 Violence
#17 Kings of the Weekend
#18 Happy Holidays, You Bastard
#19 Dysentery Gary
#20 Los Angeles
-Encore-
#21 Carousel
#22 All the Small Things
#23 Brohemian Rhapsody
#24 Dammit

But it was Blink-182’s encore that really hit it out of the park. Skiba and Hoppus returned to the stage with neon pink and white guitars and played “Carousel” to more fireworks. They followed it up with “All the Small Things,” turning a kiss cam on the audience. Then they rounded it out with “Brohemian Rhapsody” and “Damnit,” which ended with thick plumes of confetti spewing from either side of the stage onto the audience. And even when everyone had cleared the stage, Hoppus still came back one more time and gave concert-goers a short drum-solo to wrap up a wild night.

PHOTO ALBUM
by Katherine Amy Vega

Blink-182 Ak-Chin Pavilion 9-24-16

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PHOTOS: Wes Williams Band – Last Exit Live 9-11-16

Photos of Wes Williams Band performing at Last Exit Live in Phoenix, Arizona on September 11, 2016.

Wes Williams Band – Last Exit Live 9-11-16

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REVIEW: No Rain Check for Marilyn Manson Show 8-20-16

PHOENIX — There’s nothing quite like seeing a show at an outdoor venue in the middle of Arizona’s monsoon season. Preceded by a torrential downpour and accompanying thunder and lightning, Marilyn Manson played at Ak-Chin Pavilion on Saturday, August 20, opening for headliner Slipknot.

The deluge started shortly after metalcore band Of Mice & Men took the stage to get the show rolling. Fans seated in the lawn area at the back of the venue probably weren’t expecting to need a towel, nor did they care. Front man Austin Carlile incited the crowd to cheers and shouts as the rain fell harder.

However, after Of Mice & Men finished their set, the show took a disappointing turn. An announcement came over the pavilion loudspeakers asking concert-goers to exit the venue and seek shelter. Due to the presence of rain and lightning, the show was being postponed until the storm passed. The announcement, unsurprisingly, was met with boos and fans chanting “Fuck that shit,” later changing their chants to “Rain or shine.”

It’s not surprising that concert-goers were disappointed. The show had already been postponed by more than a month due to Corey Taylor’s unexpected surgery after the Slipknot vocalist broke his neck without realizing it.

Many of the people in the back lawn left the venue or waited in their cars for the storm to pass. Others crowded into the walkways and stairways under the pavilion to take shelter. It wasn’t until just after 8 p.m. that the loudspeaker finally announced that the worst of the storm had passed and the show would go on. Fans filed back onto the lawn and into their seats in droves after waiting nearly one and a half hours for Manson’s set to begin.

With curtains up, “Bitch Better Have My Money” by Rihanna played over the speakers. Then when the curtains dropped, Manson was standing on the stage in a suit and tie, wearing his iconic gothic makeup. He opened the show with “Angel with the Scabbed Wings” from his 1996 album Antichrist Superstar.

Marilyn Manson - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Marilyn Manson © Kataklizmic Design

“Technically, I may have caused that,” Manson joked about the rain. “You guys fucked with a fucking thunderstorm to be here. Thank you,” he said after playing “Disposable Teens.” “How many times does it rain in Phoenix? I’m just saying,” he continued. “Sometimes when you bring the sun, you get caught in the thunder.”

Marilyn Manson - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Marilyn Manson © Kataklizmic Design

Manson followed up “Disposable Teens” with “No Reflection.” Then after joking that he was glad he was able to make the rain stop, he sang part of the chorus to David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.” Manson, who is an avid fan of Bowie’s music, wrote a touching tribute to the iconic singer songwriter for Rolling Stone after the announcement of Bowie’s death earlier this year.

Manson then sang “mOBSCENE” from his 2003 album The Golden Age of Grotesque, followed by “Cupid Carries a Gun” from his latest album, The Pale Emperor, singing the lyrics “pound me the witch drums” as he pounded his mic on the stage. “I’m sorry to make you all wait,” Manson told concert-goers, referencing the lightening again. “But now we can all say what we wanted to say—we love hate,” he said as he launched into “Irresponsible Hate Anthem.”

“Do that again,” he told drummer Gil Sharone, making him re-play the drum solo at the very end of “Irresponsible Hate Anthem.” “I know. I know. Cocaine is a powerful drug,” he said before playing “The Dope Show,” changing the lyrics to, “drugs, they say, are made in fucking Phoenix.” Afterward, Manson came back on the stage in stilts and arm braces to sing his cover of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”

Marilyn Manson - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Marilyn Manson © Kataklizmic Design

The highlight of the performance came when a huge podium was added to the stage during a set change. Manson stepped up to it and began his sermon. “And behold, there was a great red dragon, and its name was Phoenix,” he preached before launching into “Antichrist Superstar.” During the song, he set a Bible on fire before tossing it aside, with huge plumes of hell-lit smoke bursting from the front of the stage every time he screamed “Repent!”

Marilyn Manson - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Marilyn Manson © Kataklizmic Design

Manson wound down the show with an emotional performance of “Coma White”—one of the most controversial tracks off the Mechanical Animals album—ending the song by letting the mic fall over as he stepped back off the stage. Then he wrapped it up with, perhaps his most well-known song, “The Beautiful People.”

By the time the show ended, the night skies were clear and not a drop of rain was falling. No rain checks required.

PHOTO ALBUM by Katherine Amy Vega

Marilyn Manson – Ak-Chin Pavilion 8-20-16

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REVIEW: The Piano Guys Strike Chords in Phoenix 8-5-16

PHOENIX — YouTube sensation The Piano Guys shined with the power of their unique piano and cello arrangements of popular music to an audience of 3,500 at Comerica Theatre. The Piano Guys not only create orchestral versions, but they also create hybrids of classical music and pop songs; such as “Hello / Lacrimosa“, bridging Adele and Mozart, and “melting together” Disney’s Frozen and Vivialdi with their rendition of “Let it Go“. Something that is to be truly appreciated is how they manage to keep classical music relevant for new generations.

Jon Schmidt, The Piano Guys - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Jon Schmidt, The Piano Guys
© Kataklizmic Design
Steven Sharp Nelson, The Piano Guys - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Steven Sharp Nelson, The Piano Guys
© Kataklizmic Design

The Piano Guys consistd of Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson, Paul Anderson, and Al van der Beek. The majority of the concert featured Schmidt (pianist) and Nelson (cellist). Al van der Beek joined the duo for vocal performances of “Father’s Eyes”, and “OKAY”, their debut to an upcoming release. Paul Anderson joined them for a couple of epic jams featuring all 4 of them, “Ants Marching/Ode To Joy” and “What Makes You Beautiful“.

The Piano Guys - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
The Piano Guys © Kataklizmic Design

They had a couple of delightful surprises for Phoenix when they were joined with guest performers from Chandler School of Fine Arts and Phoenix Youth Symphony for “Beethoven’s 5 Secrets“, and Mesa Caledonian Pipe Band for “This is Your Fight Song“. The young performers on the strings moved me to tears, and the climactic energy of the bagpipers gave me goosebumps.

Guest Youth on Strings - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Guest Youth on Strings
© Kataklizmic Design

Jon Schmidt and Steven Sharp Nelson have great senses of humor, taking jabs at each other and interacting with the audience. They also engaged the audience with funny, entertaining and inspirational stories about things like how they started and became what they are today, getting a piano on the great wall of China, Nelson’s sneaky goal behind “Cello Wars“, and much more. At one point Schmidt got up from his piano and did an unanticipated and highly animated dance that, combined with Nelson’s hilarious reaction, had the audience cracking up.

Jon Schmidt, The Piano Guys - Photo Credit: Katherine Amy Vega
Jon Schmidt, The Piano Guys
© Kataklizmic Design

Seeing The Piano Guys live is definitely something you want to add to your bucket list. You might be pleasantly surprised and how much a concert featuring the piano and cello will rock your world.

The Piano Guys' Setlist – Comerica Theatre
The Piano Guys’ Setlist – Comerica Theatre
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PHOTO ALBUM by Katherine Amy Vega

The Piano Guys – Comerica Theatre 8-5-16

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PHOTOS: Brand New – Comerica Theatre 7-25-16

 3 Demos, Reworked - Album Cover
3 Demos, Reworked (Album Art)

PHOENIX — Brand New came to Comerica Theatre alongside Modest Mouse for their co-headlining 2016 tour. The show came very shortly after the July releases of a 10″ EP called 3 Demos, Reworked, and a 7″ single of Mene. The band started touring on June 1 in Vancouver, and will finish on July 31 in Portland.

The young crowd of Phoenicians might have had viral case of “the Mondays” spreading amongst them, or perhaps all of Brand New’s die-hard fans from the early 2000s were stuck “adulting”; because as Brand New took took the dark stage guided by flashlights, the audience’s hush with an occasional lackluster “WOO!”  was equivalent to that of a crowd at a local pub who weren’t quite sure what they were in for. But without a hint of concern or scolding, the band went along with in it good humor by sushing the sparse cheers. Frontman Jesse Lacey whispered their introduction and title of the first song.

With their signature sound and high energy accompanied by strobe lights, Brand New woke them up and rocked their socks off. The audience was transfixed during their moody downtempo songs, and they showed their love for the rest of the show!

PHOTO ALBUM by Katherine Vega

Brand New – Comerica Theatre 7-25-16

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News & Reviews from the Fiery Mosh Pits of Arizona