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.

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.

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

Courtney Marie Andrews matures on new album

In her young career as a songwriter and musician, Courtney Marie Andrews has rarely fallen short of brilliance. Her latest album, On My Page, is no exception. Long-time fans will notice a new maturity and polish to her sound. They may also miss the comparatively loud, raw energy of some of her earlier work, but the peacefulness of this album is by no means a detriment to it. Andrews’ vocal performance, always impressive, is virtuosic on this album. The musical arrangements flow beautifully, often featuring sweet, simple strains on piano of violin against Andrews’ complex finger-picking on guitar. The quality is excellent throughout and each song is moving in its own way.

Some brief highlights:

The opening track, “Woman of Many Colors,” which feels like a kind of mission statement, setting up themes of identity and life experience that permeate the album.

“This Time,” which demands a comparison to Joni Mitchell, speaks particularly on life experience. This song has a wonderful energetic sound, making great use of percussion (cymbals!) and happy piano lines.

“Haven’t Seen It” is full of soul, strength and honesty. Andrews’ voice, in the low parts of her range on this song, is powerful.

The delicate interplay of piano and guitar on “500 Nights” is very beautiful. Add in the lyrics and this song is dangerously likely to make you cry.

“Paintings From Michael” has a lovely bright sound, but is particularly notable for its engaging story. Listen to it and make your own interpretation.

Finally, “On My Page” has some of the most beautiful guitar and vocal work on the album, which is saying a lot. Again, Andrews’ vocal stylings remind me of Joni Mitchell in the best possible way. The instrumentation is spare but powerful.

Give On My Page a second listen if the power of these songs doesn’t hit you at once. As I said, it is a peaceful album, but the messages embedded in Andrews’ songs are intense and interesting. On My Page, a beautiful album featuring excellent musicianship, is a work of art you shouldn’t miss.

Photo by Alex Scoville/DD

Record Store Day celebrates classic vinyl

If there’s one thing the young and old can agree on, it’s that vinyl is pretty cool. Even in today’s world of instant music downloads and Internet streams, something is just better about having a huge disc of plastic to play music through.

Record Store Day, held on Saturday, April 20, is an international event celebrating the continuing existence of records and the stores that sell them. Record Store Day features a list of exclusive releases that range from classic rock (Bob Dylan, King Crimson) to modern metal (Between the Buried and Me, All That Remains) to indie mainstays (Phoenix, Titus Andronicus).

The full list of releases is available here. It should be noted that stores don’t know exactly what records they’ll be getting until they arrive – they can put in requests, but they won’t get everything they want.

Thankfully, the light rail gives downtown Phoenix residents access to some excellent record stores for Record Store Day.

(Marianna Hauglie/DD)

(Marianna Hauglie/DD)

STINKWEEDS

The Place: 12 W. Camelback Road. From the light rail, it’s just off Camelback and Central. Stinkweeds feels like home for many of downtown’s record enthusiasts for good reason – they combine the sense of community of a local shop with impressive selections.

The Event: Stinkweeds has an impressive list of local acts along with national headliner FIDDLAR. Food truck favorites Short Leash Hot Dogs, Mama Toledo’s Pies and Pizza People will all be there providing their services.

The Verdict: With quality local bands like Playboy Manbaby joining FIDDLAR and a variety of food trucks, Stinkweeds is probably worth a quick trip down the light rail. They’ve also ordered every single RSD release. While they certainly won’t get all of them, their dedication is impressive.

(Madeline Pado/DD)

(Madeline Pado/DD)

REVOLVER

The Place: 918 N. Second St. Set on Roosevelt and 2nd streets, Revolver is the closest record store to ASU’s Downtown campus and the only one accessible without the light rail. With the beautiful mural on its outside wall and the quirky personalities sure to be inside, it fits in well with the rest of Roosevelt Row.

The Event: Popular local act Dogbreth and the incredibly interesting Minibosses (they play prog metal covers of video game music) highlight a lineup of local bands. For food needs, Revolver is surrounded by RoRo coffee shops and restaurants.

The Verdict: Revolver occasionally gets criticized for only having an impressive selection during First Fridays – they’re likely to pull out all the stops for RSD as well. While it’s unknown what exactly they’ve ordered or are getting, Revolver has posted pictures on their Facebook page with lots of boxes, so there should be something nice.

(Thomas Hawthorne/DD)

(Thomas Hawthorne/DD)

ZIA

The Place: 1850 W. Camelback Road. There are a few Zia Record Exchanges throughout Arizona and Nevada, but this one – just off the light rail at Camelback Road and 19th Avenue – is large, new and nice.

The Event: Zia hosts a big name headliner for Record Store Day this year in Wavves. The very successful beach punk will be performing there at 3 p.m. and signing autographs. Emerson Fry Bread will be there selling food, but only for the early risers – they’ll be there from 8 to 10 a.m.

The Verdict: A chain like Zia may not have the personality of a more local shop, but it’s hard to argue against seeing Wavves before he performs at Crescent Ballroom that night. Imagining Zia’s huge store full of Record Store Day releases should also be enough to make vinyl fans take a ride to the second-to-last stop on the light rail to check it out.

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