Kanye West announces Phoenix show… but a little too late for some.

This weekend, many of my friends and I will be decamping to either Las Vegas or Los Angeles to see Kanye West perform on his Yeezus tour. It’s the rapper’s solo tour in five years and comes on the heels of possibly his best and certainly darkest album, Yeezus, so understandably the announcement of the tour was met with fevered anticipation. Most everyone I know bought tickets for the closest shows as soon as possible, disappointed at the lack of an Arizona concert but more concerned with the goal of seeing Kanye some way, somehow. We’ve been waiting for this week for a while, but something funny happened that we suspected wouldn’t.

Mr. West booked a show with opener Kendrick Lamar at the US Airways Center in the heart of downtown Phoenix.

Although apparently some insiders knew well in advance that an Arizona show was planned, it is sad for us, the lowlife commoners who wanted so badly to bask in Yeezus’s glory from the comfort and convenience of our own state. Without a tip-off, we’re now stuck to our commuting commitments and transportation costs—after investing somewhere between $50 and $200 each on a ticket, we’re sticking to our Plan A.

I joked to a friend that Arizona “finished last,” but he reminded me to remember that, all the same, Arizona “does tend to finish!” I’m glad Mr. West will be making an appearance in the Grand Canyon state, so that my friends who didn’t buy first-round tickets will still have a chance to see him—not to mention get to chide us with some healthy I-told-you-so-ism.

But I also ask: Why is Arizona the forgotten, red-headed step-child state for some major performers? Perhaps some damage lingers from Zach de la Rocha’s anti-SB 1070 Sound Strike in 2010, a coalition of musicians who refused to perform in Arizona that included Mr. West in its numbers.

While it’s too late for those of us shipping off to Vegas tomorrow, the rest of you can enter to win tickets through Phoenix New Times, Zia Records, and KISS FM (and maybe some others I didn’t find). Or you can, you know, buy tickets.

Record store collaboration Double Nickels Collective opens in Tempe

dubnix opening

Double Nickels Collective, a new record store selling music and more from multiple Valley vendors, celebrated its grand opening in Tempe on Saturday, Oct. 5. The grand opening brought many collectors to Southern and Mill avenues to look at what the store offered, and, like any proper music fan does, make immediate and uninformed predictions about what its success would be.

Thankfully for the store, those initial impressions, especially for this reviewer, were nothing but positive. The variety of music, vendors, gear and price made for a truly expansive experience, all under one roof.

Vinyl

Double Nickels Collective was actually the successor to another store, Eastside Records, in collaboration with other businesses. Eastside, which was also based in Tempe, sold both popular and rare records with everything ranging from hardcore punk to pop, rock to jazz, spoken word to soundtracks. The store closed down earlier this year to revamp at this other location. Now, the door of Double Nickels Collective features a label of a small ghost next to the words “The Ghost of Eastside Records.”

dubnix sign

However, this is not so much a ghost of the previous store as it is its blazing phoenix, rising from ashes into great heights. Eastside Records’ collection looks much more organized in a larger space, with the Collective exposing the same great finds that hid in the previous location. This collector found a “hard-to-find” (so proclaimed the sticker) copy of Stars of the Lid’s And Their Refinement of the Decline (albeit missing one record), which was definitely unexpected.

dubnix inside

But the best thing about Double Nickels Collective is that dedicated collectors/sellers can occupy a space in the store to sell their records. Record High, Stereophonic High Fidelity, Redfield Records and King of the Monsters were some of the vendors stacking booths at the store, and each one had something special to offer. While King of the Monsters offered an assortment of metal records, Record High amassed a group of rare, hard-to-find and pricy Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab vinyl.

Stereophonic in particular got the Miggy “nod of approval” for having cheap and critically acclaimed vinyl. And of course, the Stinkweeds crates of new and used vinyl were a comforting touch.

Gear, Books, Clothes and More

In addition to a pleasing smorgasbord of vinyl in all shapes, sizes and colors, Double Nickels Collective stocked a decently priced selection of amplifiers and turntables. There were also plenty of CDs and cassettes, including a pristine tape of post-punk band Wire’s seminal album Pink Flag (spoiler: it has a pink flag on the cover).

Finally, the store carried several books and comics, both fiction and non-fiction, and a rack with women’s and men’s clothing from Meat Market Vintage Clothing. However, since this is a music blog, I am not properly qualified to review these items. Sorry. (Except for that rad leather jacket with Joy Division emblazoned on the shoulders).

dubnix joy division

Michael Pawlicki, owner of Double Nickels Collective, said the whole premise of the store was very quickly arranged and that empty plots on the floor would later be filled with more booths and items. We all can thank him for his quick thinking and instinct, since inside the walls of this building is a store were both the large and small collector can live in harmony. Double Nickels Collective will hopefully take its place among the best record stores in the Valley.

dubnix dog

Photos by Miguel Otárola/DD

Two independent record stores: Stinkweeds and Revolver

Phoenix suffers in comparison to some other major American cities in certain categories. It isn’t a Los Angeles, San Francisco or Portland (no one’s a Portland) when it comes to record store proliferation. But that’s all the more reason to spotlight the fighters out here who make Phoenix a place worth living for avid music fans.

In Phoenix, Stinkweeds and Revolver Records are two of the very best music spots around. Here’s why each holds its own.

Stinkweeds is a venerable independently owned record store that ought to be ranked with some of the best nationally. It’s not downtown, but it’s just off the light rail station at Camelback and Central Avenue, making it a worthy stop for music lovers from anywhere in Phoenix.

stinkweeds

Stinkweeds has a remarkable selection of new records and CDs, which is its strength, while it also reps racks and racks of used stuff. Stinkweeds is notable for its events and in-store concerts. It’s also a great location to pick up music books and magazines — it’s the only place I know of to buy 33 percent books, the series that covers classic albums — or to buy tickets to concerts around the Valley. Stinkweeds is likely the best one-stop shop for any Phoenician music lover.

inside stink

Revolver Records, on Second and Roosevelt streets, is one of the most bustling stores in the Valley. With a mind-boggling collection of used records and frequent turnover of recent arrivals, Revolver is the best location for the avid crate-digger. It also wins for its specialization in genres like metal and jazz (bring back the psych rock section!).

rev recs

For those not prone to search for a diamond in the rough among dusty classic rock, First Fridays is the best time to visit. In addition to hosting art, food and live music on its lawn, Revolver always whips out their best findings from the previous month on First Fridays, so the cream of the crop is readily apparent to any visitor.

inside rev

In related news: the Ghost of Eastside Records, in a Tempe location last year just outside the ASU campus, is currently in limbo. An August email from the owner announcing that a new location was forthcoming has yet to be followed up. Hopefully, Eastside chooses to set a permanent brick-and-mortar home somewhere in the Valley, instead of relegating its remarkable collection to the reliable but ephemeral online station of eBay.

Four essential picks of 21st-century Arizona punk and alternative

In the 21st century, Phoenix punk and alternative rock have had an underappreciated renaissance, an emergence of boundless energy and new creative forms of music not possible in earlier times. To highlight the resurgence of the Arizona rock scene in the past decade, we’ve chosen a short sampling of some of the great new albums that give a taste of what’s been happening.

Dog Problems (2006) – The Format
Before he went on to found fun. and reach international stardom, Nate Ruess was in a not-very-little, not-at-all-obscure band called The Format. The band’s blending of mid-2000s pop rock with some of the prominent folk-punk elements in Phoenix’s music scene made them a national success. While it’s tough to argue that The Format were anywhere near as influential as their fun. counterpart (thanks for making every pop song need orchestral strings, Nate Ruess), they were part of a movement that kept guitar pop fresh through the 2000s when it easily could have stagnated.

Dog Problems came at a critical point in The Format’s career, as it was the first album released after the band’s departure from Atlantic Records. The band used their newfound freedom to publish Dog Problems on their own label: The Vanity Label. This resulted in an album that took more chances than some of the band’s early work. The mix of ’70s- and ’80s-style pop with Arizona’s folky cowpunk influences resulted in something special, even if it doesn’t stay in your head the way “Some Nights” might.

People That Can Eat People Are the Luckiest Kind of People in the World (2007) – Andrew Jackson Jihad
Andrew Jackson Jihad’s People That Can Eat People Are the Luckiest Kind of People in the World is to acoustic folk-punk what My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless is to shoegaze: it defines its subgenre. The country twang of cowpunk and the political consciousness of folk music combined to build this collection of catchy analysis of Arizona’s social problems. While People didn’t exactly inspire a wave of acoustic folk-punk imitators within the Phoenix music scene, it did put Phoenix and AJJ on a shortlist with the likes of Ghost Mice and Defiance, Ohio.

Musically, People is catchy enough for a casual listen, with most of its depth and replay-ability coming from singer Sean Bonnette’s lyricism. It seems fitting that one of Phoenix’s definitive albums would cover topics ranging from replacing religion with people to ending racism, HIV and drug use in one fell swoop. Phoenix is a city that tries to tackle everything in a grassroots art scene, and People is an album that tries the do the same with just a few acoustic guitars.

Knifeman (2011) – Andrew Jackson Jihad
Knifeman signaled Andrew Jackson Jihad’s transition from a top-tier local band to one with national acclaim. Thematically, it maintained much of what AJJ came to be known for –- social and political commentary that hits extra close to home in Phoenix. It feels like most Phoenicians can relate to lyrics like “I wish I had a bullet big enough to f—— kill the sun/I’m sick of songs about the summer/And I hate everyone.”

While Knifeman‘s lyrics may have only been a small progression from albums like People, it was a more notable evolution on a musical level. The simple acoustic setup from People was mostly gone, in favor of electric guitars and a full band. Strangely enough, the band’s musical styling grew closer to the hardcore punk bands that are prevalent in Phoenix today as they expanded further away nationally.

Checkognize (2012) – Treasure Mammal
Some people might say that anything with synthesizers and spandex doesn’t belong on a punk rock list. Some people might not have heard of Treasure Mammal. Few things are more definitively Phoenix than the blow-up doll-“interacting,” ripped clothes-wearing, audience-harassing joy that is Treasure Mammal. While they haven’t exactly blown up on a national level, they’ve certainly become a mainstay in Phoenix’s scene -– and they might be the only synth-driven band to do so.

Checkognize itself is as manic and all-over-the-place as a Treasure Mammal live performance. The album varies dramatically, from the dance-y, feel-good “Shake Weight” to the emotional (but still feel-good) ballad “Bromance.” It’s tough to really put the music of Treasure Mammal in words, though. Like any great performer, their loveable insanity must be experienced live to truly be appreciated — and their location means that’s an advantage the Phoenix music scene has.

———

We’ve chosen a low number of albums for this new time period, and we’re hoping to encourage response. Phoenix has never been a greater wellspring of underground rock than it has been in the 21st century. What albums do you think should be enshrined with the greats?

Profile: Sister Lip

Amid a constant sea of new local bands, Mesa-based Sister Lip provides a refreshing twist in the music mecca that is metropolitan Phoenix. The jazz-inspired all-female group, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary this month, has been brightening up local venues around the area and across the country with its unique and soulful vibes.

Photo by Becky Brisley/DD

Photo by Becky Brisley/DD

Sister Lip consists of vocalist and guitarist Cassidy Hilgers, keyboardist and vocalist Jenny Rebecca, drummer Ariel Monet and bassist and vocalist Cheri French.

“(Our formation) was an accident,” Monet said. “They asked me to fill in for them until they found a better drummer. I’m good, though, so it doesn’t matter.”

According to the group, the fact that they are all female is incidental as well. Hilgers and Rebecca were the only two left from a previous project, and they were seeking out new members. The band originally had a male drummer. Then, after seeing French’s bass skill, Sister Lip was formed.

“Our bassist happened to be a girl. She’s really good, and she was just born that way,” Monet added.

The group released their first EP in February and released an acoustic album in July. Sister Lip went on an acoustic tour to showcase their skill and said their acoustic album is more of a demo rather than an embodiment of their normal sound.

“It’s definitely the more detailed version of our music,” Rebecca said. “Our live stuff is louder. (With this album) we could sing the vocals more separately and everything is very low-sounding.”

Sister Lip is planning on creating both a cdbaby account and a Spotify in order to purchase that acoustic album and future ones. The band does plan on recording another full-length album once funding is received.

“We recorded a single (“Flat Pillow”) at this studio called Chaton,” Hilgers said. “I think we’re just going to go around and do one (song) at one place and another at another place.”

Until then, their EP is available for free download and most of their acoustic tracks are available as well for $1. While the whole acoustic album is not yet available online, it can be purchased from the band at shows.

“There’s just some songs that you should have to pay for,” Monet said. “But we don’t care if people burn it and give it to a friend, that’s totally chill. Just give it to your friends, your dog, your grandma. Someone the other day was like ‘I’m really sorry I burned a copy for my mom’ and I’m like ‘burn ten more, I don’t know.’”

Sister Lip’s music embodies soulful jazz/blues with a few twists of modern beats and guitar riffs. Hilgers’ voice is full of vibrancy, pairing well with the smooth melodies belted out by the three other members and her own jazzy picks. Notable qualities are Rebecca’s powerful chords and use of harmonica, as well as Monet’s contemporary approach to syncopated beats and French’s stellar bass riffs.

Self-described as “jazzy blues rock,” each of the members has her own personal inspirations. Hilgers’ pick is Jeff Buckley, Rebecca’s is Regina Spektor, Monet’s is Neon Trees and French’s is lesser-known indie music, most notably Victor Wooten. Although the band has different influences, their sound is hard to compare to another artist.

“I don’t even try anymore (to compare us to anyone),” Rebecca said. “I can’t even.”

Sister Lip has performed at a number of locations in Phoenix and Tempe, as well as across the state. These venues include Phoenix’s Trunk Space, Lawn Gnome Publishing, Last Exit, and The Firehouse. The band also went on an acoustic tour throughout the United States and Canada, visiting California, Oregon, Washington, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, New York, Tennessee and Louisiana.

Rebecca and Hilger’s previous band name was called Sister Foos. When newly formed, the band knew that they wanted to remain “sister-something.” After booking a show under the name JuJu Kittens, the real name needed to be chosen.

“I was laying in bed about to go to sleep, closed my eyes, and Sister Lip came to my mind,” Hilgers said. “I typed it in on my phone and thought ‘Hmm, maybe.’ I still have it on my phone.”

Now Sister Lip has an immense local following. Throughout their journey to the ultimate goal of being successful through their passion and traveling the world, fans in the area will continue their treasured mantra: “SISTER LIPPIANS UNITE.”

Five essential picks from ’90s Phoenix alternative rock

The ’90s is the decade that punk splintered into alternative, achieving a mainstream visibility as the spirit of the original punk diffused into an incredible diversity of styles across the world. Similarly, Phoenix punk transformed from the familiar punk sound of the ’80s into new sounds.

Forbidden Places (1991) – Meat Puppets

Meat Puppets hopped onto a major label for Forbidden Places — the ultimate gesture of ’90s alt-rock opportunism — with a successful elaboration of their country-punk fusion. They kick it off with “Sam,” which runs at about quadruple tempo to their earlier material, country at the breakneck pace of hardcore. “Open Wide” also buckles the band into a turned-up hard-rock speed with virtuoso guitar showmanship that comes as a surprise from the previously lackadaisical band. Other songs like “This Day” slow things down to a jangly, laid-back speed with an eye for the wide-open desert sky. Despite the major label bump, the band never quite took off in the age of grunge, even with the endorsement of superstar fan Kurt Cobain.

Sacrifice (For Love) (1991) – Greg Sage

Greg Sage is the driving force behind experimental punks The Wipers, a legendary Portland act whose first three albums are still recognized as pioneering examples of hypermodern, sleek post-punk. Sage was the undeniable auteur of these records and even envisioned The Wipers as a band that would only exist in the recording studio without any touring presence — a dream that was deflated by fans clamoring for live shows. Few that come to The Wipers’ original albums today know that Sage left Portland for Phoenix in the late 1980s. Sage’s solo album from the period, Sacrifice (For Love), completely embraces the mood of his new locale, from the cacti and smiling skeletons decking the cover to the sun-scorched, rootsy sound contained within. In Arizona, Sage left behind his previously uber-tight modernist aesthetic for swingier, open pop arrangements. Hearing Sage adopt the persona of a lonesome, western cowboy, equipped with only a drum machine, should be an exciting experience for both committed Wipers fans and newcomers.

330,003 Crossdressers from Beyond the Rig Veda (1996) – Sun City Girls

This is where it gets weird. Avant-garde band Sun City Girls released two double-album opuses in the decade, 1995′s Dante’s Disneyland Inferno and 1996′s bafflingly titled 330,003 Crossdressers from Beyond the Rig Veda. On Crossdressers, the Girls indulged in their impressions of Southeast Asian and Indian folk sounds, free-form improvisation and psycho bugged-out jams for more than two hours. If this sounds daunting, well… it is. But the album is also one of the most rewarding experiments in rock music history, a frenetic display of what a band that is at once totally in control of their direction and yet completely off-the-wall unhinged can come up with.

A Fascination with Heights (1996) – Half String

Half String is one of a handful of shoegaze southwestern rock bands who adapted the British genre to the desert. Shoegaze, most associated with My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Ride, is a mix of dreamy pop and crushing layers of distortion, reverb and echo. A Fascination with Heights backs soaring guitar lines and mumbled vocals with powerful, propelled drumming. The band’s best-known alumna is Kimber Lanning, who owns Stinkweeds record store and Modified Arts and runs Local First Arizona. If you see her at Stinkweeds and want to make her day, pick up this album.

Clarity (1999) – Jimmy Eat World

Simply put, Jimmy Eat World reinvented the possibilities of emo for the 21st century on Clarity. Though its commercial failure would result in the band getting dropped from Capitol Records, Jimmy Eat World set the stage for their triumph on 2001′s Bleed American while simultaneously growing the scope and ambition possible on an emo record. Countless “third wave” emo took direct inspiration from the expansive palette of the album, which includes electronic beats and lush orchestration. Its position as a predecessor to emo’s popular breakthrough certainly warrants attention, but the album holds up as a classic across genre lines.

So, there it is: Proof that some interesting things were actually going on in 1990s Phoenix rock.

The Prowling Kind “just rock” at album release show

The Prowling Kind played an album release show for Tennessee, their debut LP, Aug. 28 at the Crescent Ballroom. Members Mickey Pangburn, Jesse Pangburn, Erin Beal, Zach Tullis and David Maddox are looking to make a splash in both their local Arizona scene and on a national stage.

The band started the interview before their show with smiles on their faces. They ended it the same way. When asked what genre they wanted to be associated with, they thought for a couple of seconds and joked about a few answers until Mickey Pangburn said, “just rock.”

Despite this answer, the band is more than “just another rock band.” Tennessee is eclectic. Each song is different from the previous one, and each has a deeper meaning behind it. The whole album is an autobiography of Mickey Pangburn’s life. It tells the story of when her mother took her and ran away from their Knoxville home, seeking refuge for 15 years from Mickey Pangburn’s convict father.

Every song has passion and soul behind it. The lyrics are beautiful, and each song tells its own story while relating to the larger story that makes up the whole album. A highlight from the album is “Babycakes,” which tells the story of Mickey Pangburn and her mother fleeing their home in the night. The song sounds like The Joy Formidable soaked in blues rock.

The band members couldn’t come to a consensus on what their favorite song off the album is. They mentioned the responses they had gotten to the songs and how everyone they meet likes a different song.

“Everyone can relate to this album, and everyone can find one song that they relate to,” Mickey Pangburn said. “That is exactly how an album should be — something people can listen to and find comfort in.”

Photo via theprowlingkind.com

Photo via theprowlingkind.com

The live performance of the album brought into light how different each song is and how different each band member is.

Mickey Pangburn is only 5-foot-3-inches, but her voice and presence make her stand a foot taller. The unemotional Tullis’ smile count may have only reached four or five on stage, despite guitar shredding that deserves a grin. He said that “cutting loose” is his favorite part about performing on stage, and the band definitely did that and more.

Jesse Pangburn, who wrote the majority of the songs on the album with his wife, is a drummer who clearly loves performing on stage. David Maddox and Erin Beal round out the band and bring plenty of their own personality to the table. Maddox plays the bass and Beal does a little of everything – keyboards, back-up vocals, dancing and generally having a great time, which apparently doesn’t come naturally.

“The music video (for Tennessee) makes me look so much less awkward than I actually am,” Beal said.

The climb to where they are now has not been easy for The Prowling Kind. The band recorded their 10-track album in eight days. Despite a complicated ascent, the band’s goal is simple: as Maddox said, “to make a living and to be able to quit our day jobs and do what we love.”  That is nothing short of the American dream.

While The Prowling Kind may have roots in different genres, what they play is clearly rock ‘n’ roll. This old-school style gives them a niche in Phoenix’s music scene, but it’s their energy that gives them a chance to rise to stardom.

A sample of the band’s show at Crescent gives insight into the scope of their music.

“Others decided it was nowhere except for where they stood”: 10 essential records of early Phoenix punk rock

jfa punk art

Collage art from the inside of JFA’s Valley of the Yakes. Phoenix is rarely identified as one of the great ’80s punk rock scenes — but why not? Though it’s unlikely to topple Los Angeles, New York or Minneapolis in … Continue reading 

Full moon shenanigans at The Trunk Space

Doctor Bones

Doctor Bones

As finals drew ever closer, music-loving Phoenicians jammed out under a full moon at The Trunk Space Thursday night. The evening was an eclectic mix of punk-influenced sets, pounding drums and heavy distortion as Great American Youngbloodz, Mr. Atomm’s Bombs, Algae & the Tentacles and Doctor Bones took to the stage.

Great American Youngbloodz opened the evening, and they brought quite the crowd with them. The five-piece band mixed heavy bass with light psychedelic tones and synthesized chords to create a summery feeling. If disco-era high schoolers could go on a tour of Machu Picchu, this band would play their theme song.

The Great American Youngbloodz also debuted a new song in their set, much to the excitement of the audience. Among the themes of the songs were masturbation, surfing and straight-up tripping. The band’s sound wasn’t so clean, organized or necessarily well-rehearsed, but it was obvious that they were having fun with it.

Up next came Mr. Atomm’s Bombs, a heavily distorted punk outfit. The band kept things short and to the point — no flowery lyrics or complicated melodies, and few of the songs lasted more than two minutes. A mixture of bass, electric guitar and drums blared to narrate tales of imminent death and one extremely huge moment of “oh shit.” Mr. Atomm’s Bombs veered toward a dirtier, choppier Sex Pistols-type style. Additionally, mad props to the guitar player — he hand-pierced both ears with multiple safety pins, and was wearing them as über-edgy earrings. It’s so punk, it hurts … literally.

Visiting Tucson locals Algae & the Tentacles followed, with a decidedly less messy set. Drums accompanied an electric guitar to create the first obviously well-rehearsed set of the night. The exquisite rhythm and control of the drummer and the seriousness of Eddie Vedder-style vocals wooed the audience. Before long, a cacophony of the guitar player and lead singer’s looped vocals combined with a gnarly beat to raise the energy — his glasses came off, and the audience knew it was serious jam time.

Despite a slightly rocky beginning, the evening at The Trunk Space finished in triumph with the extreme showmanship and killer musical skill of Doctor Bones. The influence of ‘80s synth pop was obvious in the five-piece band, and much of its unique sound harkened back to darkwave rather than punk. Think the bass lines of The Cure, the guitar riffs of Flock of Seagulls and the vocals of Fred Schneider of the B-52’s and Gary Numan. Bass, electric guitar, drums, keyboard synthesizer, ethereal feminine vocals, tambourine and extremely high energy created a performance that truly topped the night. The lead singer theatrically rolled around on the floor and danced in the crowd, the bassist screamed like a crazed lumberjack on more than one occasion and they sang about killing old ladies.

You can’t get more memorable than that.

Regardless of the full moon, every one of the bands created an exciting atmosphere on Thursday evening. Although it wasn’t packed full, The Trunk Space hosted yet another night of noteworthy shenanigans.

Photos by Katie-Lee Faulkner/DD