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.

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.

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.

“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 

First downtown McDowell Mountain Music Festival a success

By all accounts, the 2013 McDowell Mountain Music Festival pulled it off.

The festival, celebrating its tenth year and first time in a downtown venue, represents a big step-up for Phoenix’s live music game. A mid-sized festival of this size — equally welcoming to families and younger festival goers — was exactly what the area needed.

Located in Margaret T. Hance Park in the heart of downtown, the non-profit festival did an admirable job of matching local bands with legendary national artists. The balance was perfect for the festival, simultaneously drawing big acts downtown while giving local talent a bigger stage.

That the original plan for Hance Park called for an amphitheater should be no surprise to any festival-goers. The acoustics were absolutely stellar: crisp and propulsive, without ever becoming overwhelming.

The Roots’ Saturday performance marked the high point of the three days, with a tight, funky performance that included their own songs mixed in with covers like “Jungle Boogie,” “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” and “Immigrant Song.”

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes impressed the crowd with their affable indie-barnyard-boogie style on Friday, equaling the performance of that day’s headliner, The Shins.

Other noteworthy performances included locals Dry River Yacht Club and Decker, Dr. Dog, and the always odd bass-slapping wonder Les Claypool trying on yet another new hat with his new Duo de Twang.

MMMF’s announcement this year brought amazement at the quality of the line-up and the new location. It’s a credit to the festival that even before it had wound down, folks were buzzing about how the line-up and layout would shape up next year. With a festival like this calling downtown home, it’s hard not to already feel excited at the prospect of next year.

Photos by Brandon Kutzler/DD

Phoenix bands perform at MonOrchid’s first show

sketching in stereo monorchid

Saturday saw MonOrchid’s first concert, a free show featuring Phoenix-based rock bands Sketching in Stereo, Former Friends of Young Americans and The Alchemy Heart. Jonathan Carroll, owner of Songbird Coffee and Tea House, organized the event and invited the performers. … Continue reading