Category Archives: live

DJ Z-Trip in Ariz. tonight

I’m long overdue to post on DJ Z-Trip. Yeah, he lives in Los Angeles now, but he cut his teeth in Tempe/Phoenix, and we still consider him one of ours. He’s playing Hollywood Alley in Mesa tonight (I’ll be at work … woe is I) with Connie Price & the Keystones.

I don’t need to tell you what’s going on with Z-Trip now: He released his major-label debut Shifting Gears this year and he’s been touring like a madman. In my mind, he was the forefront of the “mashup” trend; his underground classic with DJ P that never was released, Uneasy Listening, Vol. I, is the benchmark of mashups. (Read a Q&A I did with him earlier this year.)

I was lucky enough to be going to Arizona State while Z was playing weekly gigs in town with his Bombshelter DJs crew: Emile and DJ Radar. These sets were — if I may — off the hook. They did solo sets, dual sets or just went nuts with the 3×6. There was dancing, b-boys, drinks, freestyles. Thems were good times, I tell ya.

In all honesty, Z-Trip is one of my favorite artists — and I use that word in the truest sense. He has a keen ability to bridge genres and fans. Where Radar was the technical wizard on the turntables, Z really brought out the best in the party and the vibe; he’s probably one of the most well-rounded deejays out there.

Being a packrat, I saved a lot of the flyers and such from those days. I scanned ‘em in for your viewing pleasure.

Z-Trip | Rockstar

Artwork by Jim Mahfood.

Artwork by Jim Mahfood.

Dios recap / bad news

Before I get to the Dios (Malos) photos, some horrible news: Saturday’s Grand Cayenne Festival — that was to feature a pretty incredible lineup with Spoon, Mates of State, the Album Leaf, etc. — was canceled. I don’t know the official reason for cancellation, but I can only guess lack of ticket sales. It’s a sad and frustrating statement of our city that a show like this can’t spur interest. If the Phoenix/Tempe metro market wants to be a major music player, this show should have sold tickets in a heartbeat. My guess is you folks from other cities will be somewhat appalled by this. Thoughts?

Moving on to Dios

These guys are cool, cool, cool. Modified is a small — shall we say … “intimate” — venue, and Dios rocked it. It was loud, but in a fulfilling kind of way. The dual keyboard action makes for some great noises/effects on the tunes. They played some of my favorites off the new album: “Feels Good Being Somebody,” “EPK” and “Grrrl” (I’ll love you to the end / psyche, I’m just kidding. The best.) And, yes, they played “Starting Five” (duh).

I’m also convinced that the Dios drummer and the Bloc Party drummer were separated at birth. But I’ll have to dig up photos for proof.

On to the photos of the show:

Death Cab recap

Even under the influence of Newcastle, I can tell you that Death Cab for Cutie puts on a great show. However, I slacked and didn’t bring my camera (bad blogger!).

I wasn’t overwhelmed; their style, their sound doesn’t translate to a larger setting very well. And, as my brother bitterly pointed out a few times, they didn’t play Blacking Out the Friction — their “best song ever”; I’d have a hard time disagreeing with big bro there. Still, there were plenty of highlights: Amputations and President of What? (off Something About Airplanes), We Laugh Indoors and Transatlanticism, with assistance from members of opener Stars, as the ultimate closer.

And, oh, Different Names for the Same Thing is quickly becoming my favorite songs off Plans.

The crowd … well, what do you expect now? They skew younger and that can be hard to swallow for the faithful. I guess you just have to laugh at it. It was obvious that when they played older material, the interest waned accordingly.

Death Cab for Cutie | We Laugh Indoors (dub mix)

ACL recap: Saturday

I forgot to mention a few minor details in the first ACL post: It was damn hot and damn dusty. Still, the shows must go on. For us Arizona kids, it felt really humid (I know Midwest Dodge scoffed at that.)

Saturday started at 1:30 for us with Mike Doughty’s Band. I love solo Doughty, although his band setup is strangely starting to resemble Soul Coughing: upright bass, drum kit, synth/electronic noise. Still, it has a totally different sound than Soul Coughing. Doughty is a cool cat. I mean, they covered Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf. He also rocked a few tracks off Rockity Roll, including my faves: 27 Jennifers and Ossining. He was so good we scrapped our plan to leave early to stake out a spot for Built to Spill at 2:30.

Next was Built to Spill. OK, BTS has been one of my favorite bands, so it pains me to say that I was not impressed or very enthused by their set. They didn’t look thrilled to be there and they didn’t play a new song, which is strange considering a new album is due in the fall. They played some good ones: The Plan, Big Dipper and I Would Hurt a Fly.

We had a little break after Built to Spill, and I staked out a spot for Death Cab for Cutie. We somehow managed to stand behind a junior high pot party. I swear, this kid had sandwich bag full of canibus. Regardless, Death Cab was solid. They played a couple of older tracks, including President of What?, that seemed lost on the O.C. Generation. My worst fears of Death Cab going major came to fruition when I overheard a kid after the show say, “I just wish I knew more of their songs.” Sigh.

The real fun began at 5:30, when we found out that Chris’ girlfriend, Melissa, got us backstage to the Heineken stage. Just in time for the Walkmen. (And shade and water and beer.) This made all the difference in the world. We might have fainted otherwise. And, oh, it made for some killer pics of the Walkmen.

We had an hour to spare before Bloc Party — what, you thought we’d go see Jet? We got a pretty good spot, although I wish the lighting were better (read: I wish I knew how to use my digital camera better). Anyway, this show turned out to be a highlight of the weekend. The BP drummer blew me away, and we had a good laugh when singer Kele Okereke seemed to take a shot at Oasis, which was playing after BP: “You still have Oasis to see, so that should be fun, right? … speaking of, this next song is about arrogance.” Solid.

Needless to say, we bailed on Oasis. I wouldn’t have been able to handle their preening and boasting anyway. We capped the night with some quality mexican food and margaritas with Chris, Melissa, Dodge and MJ, despite Dodge’s, uh, fears of the clientele. Next up: Sunday’s busy finale.

ACL recap: Thursday and Friday

My wife and I spent much of Thursday driving from El Paso (where we stayed Wed. night) listening to satellite radio, fretting about Hurricane Rita. When we hit Johnson City outside of Austin, a gas station was out of unleaded and a woman there told us to make sure we had our room reserved because of everyone coming from Houston. I thought for sure we’d be paying $5 per gallon in about a day.

Alas, we had little trouble making it into the city and checking in. We scrapped our original plans to see Z-Trip open for Thievery Corp. at Stubb’s ($25, yikes) and instead decided to go to Blackalicious at Emo’s ($17, a little better). That’s when we met Chris and Jesse and Chris’ girlfriend Melissa. We were all a little beat from driving and/or working.

Regardless, Blackalicious rocked it. Gift of Gab’s flow is ridiculous. We all came away a little less than impressed with another Quannum act, Apsci. Maybe we were just tired, but it seemed the vibe was lacking.

Friday was the first day of the festival. The schedule was a little light; seeing Spoon was our top priority. (Next to meeting Dodge and his wife later in the night, of course.)

Here’s how our first day broke down:

We checked out Austin’s Hairy Apes BMX at 12:50 p.m. I was kinda diggin’ it, thinking they were Fishbone reincarnate. And then when they brought out my boy David Garza (below, left) for a guest spot, I was sold.

We caught about three songs of Kasabian (eh, they were OK) then checked out Dios (Malos) at Chris’ recommendation. I gotta say, I dug it. They’re coming to Phoenix Nov. 17, and I think I might just have to go.
We killed some time (read: found shade) before heading over to see Mates of State, a husband-wife duo. Again, another good first impression. With just keys and drums, they make some pretty damn good melodies.

After Mates, we listened to Lucinda Williams for a bit then headed back across the park for Spoon. It was our first time seeing them, and we were not disappointed. A pretty solid set in front of a really large crowd. Britt Daniel doesn’t strike me as the most entertaining front man, but his voice translates really well on a big stage.

We had to cut out a little early to get prepped for the biggie — Arcade Fire and Black Keys at Stubb’s. That’s when we met Dodge and MJ. Couldn’t be nicer people. This was my first time seeing both bands. Cripes. It was overwhelming. For starters, Black Keys just bring it. Chris had it spot on when he said: “I’m still not exactly sure how two white boys from Akron, OH, make noise like that.”

The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney punishes his drum set.
Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.
OK. What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said about the Arcade Fire? I don’t think I was prepared for that live set. Only now are my wife and I able to appreciate what they did. It was wild, sensory overload in the best way.

There’s a multitude of instruments and other odds and ends. Win Butler has a commanding stage presence, but I was totally enthralled with his brother, William, who just terrorizes the stage with energy, beating cymbals with drumsticks, climbing the speaker, throwing himself into a wall. What can you say? Really, it was hard not to get the chills when they opened with a Bob Dylan’s Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall and faded into Wake Up, with everyone singing the “oooooooh, oooooh” part. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Better was when Win introduced Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) by saying, “You guys are pretty tame for a bunch of drunks in Texas.” Holy bejesus. The place went bonkers when that song kicked in.

A busy Saturday recap to come, and maybe even some music. What a novel idea for an mp3 blog, eh?

ACL quickie recap

After two long days in the car — and a night in Las Cruces, N.M. — we made it back to Arizona in one piece. The festival was a friggin’ blast, if not a little on the hot side. I’ll have plenty of photos and details, but for now just a few quick things:

For starters, big shout-outs to Chris, Jesse, Melissa, Dodge and MJ. Finally getting to meet all of them was a pleasure and my wife and I are more than happy to call them our friends. The festival wouldn’t have been the same without their company.

I’ll break down the festival in coming posts, but the highlight of the weekend was without a doubt seeing the Arcade Fire and Black Keys at Stubb’s (and getting backstage to Heineken stage … more on that soon). Holy crap. It was my first Arcade Fire show and I can’t even explain how great they are live. On top of that, the Black Keys blew me away. That was, without a doubt, one of the top 5 live shows I’ve seen.

A few pics as an appetizer:

More to come …

Sufjan’s got spirit … how ’bout you?

OK. I’m sold. I like Sufjan. I really, really like him.

Monday night’s Sufjan Stevens show at Marquee Theatre in Tempe wasn’t just a concert; it was a spectacle. The whole Illinoisemakers shtick wasn’t a put-on: Sufjan and Co. come dressed in full Illinois cheerleading regalia. If there are concept albums, this is a concept concert. Sufjan himself likened it to a pep rally.

The opener was an ode to the 50 states, a roll call of sorts. The chorus: “The 50 states / pack your bags/ it’s never too late.” A few songs were preceded by well-rehearsed cheers, pom-poms and all.

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“Gimme an ‘I’!”
There was, of course, music. The arrangements were really quite wonderful. An array of instruments — trumpet, trombone, xylophone, banjo — fleshed out the presentation. I was most impressed by how his voice — ever precious on record — held up in a pretty large theater. He hit those high notes (think the “oh my god” refrain on John Wayne Gacy Jr.) with nary a problem. His backup singers bolstered the cause. Liz Janes, who opened, was a part of the group.

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Liz Janes (a cutie) is in the middle.

Sufjan is really quite personable on stage. He didn’t stray far from the new album, although he took a “detour” to Detroit to play Sister, from Seven Swans. He followed that (if memory serves) with John Wayne Gacy, one of my favorite tracks on the new album. The imagery of the song, combined with his vocals, really held the audience quite still. Again, I can’t get past how his voice carries so well.

He broke the mellow mood in funny fashion: “We’re going to lift your spirits. That part of the set reminds me of midseason, where we’ve lost about three games in a row. We’re gonna win the next couple.” He could have been a cheerleader in a previous life.

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Sufjan gets down.
As you might guess, they played all the biggies off Illinois: Man of Metropolis, Jacksonville, Chicago (another fave), Casimir Pulaski Day. And, of course, Come On! Feel the Illinoise! — their “theme song.”

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“I pledge allegiance … ”
The encore included a cover (I guess you’d call it) of the Star-Spangled Banner: a folksy twist on our national anthem. The crowd ate it up. Sufjan seemed genuinely appreciative of the audience, saying he “feels like we’re in a stadium. We feel like Bon Jovi.”

I truly was impressed. Where so many times you plop down money to see someone sterilely strum through their catalog, this felt more like a show, a feast on the senses.

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“I love your blog this much.”
To cap it off, the Illinoisemakers attempted the human pyramid “for the first time ever.”
Check it out:

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Can’t wait for that Arizona album …

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“We’re gonna rock this sh*t, Phoenix-style”

And with those opening words, I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy Brendan Benson’s set on Thursday night at the Clubhouse in Tempe.

Sadly, it was scarcely attended: I’d guess 100 people, at most. The ones who were there were very into it. Benson was really personable, talking with the crowd, cracking the usual “I don’t know how you guys live in this heat” jokes. One funny exchange with a fan: Benson asked if there were clubs in town similar in size to the Clubhouse. He said he remembered playing somewhere in Phoenix with Keane. One fan hollered out, “Celebrity Theatre.” Benson: “Oh, cool. Were you there?” Fan: “No.” Benson (smiling): “Excellent. Moving on to the next song then … ”

Being that my introduction to his music is his latest album, The Alternative to Love, I didn’t recognize much of the set, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and then was convinced enough to purchase “Lapalco” afterward. His band is solid and I just enjoyed the crisp rock they play. Nothing really pretentious about it but nothing bland about it either.

I will say this: Brendan needs to eat a few milkshakes. Dude is skinny. Check the pics for yourself. And no photos of openers Robbers on High Street, but they were good: poppy and happy.

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A few more:

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Recap of Richard Buckner/Tucson

Well, another Richard Buckner show (my fourth, I think) and another fine performance. The venue, Plush, was intimate, sorta perfect for Buckner’s songs. We sat and drank on the patio beforehand and Buckner, seemingly wanting to enjoy a moment alone, was approached by a fanboy, who asked, “Mind if I sit here?” when there were about seven other empty tables. Buckner kindly obliged. I felt like saying something to Buckner, like, “Hey, I really appreciate your music” or something like that, but it always comes off sounding so … so … I don’t know. That whole dynamic of approaching the musicians seems strange: Do they want to know you’re a fan or do they want to be left alone? Ah, anyway …

Anders Parker opened, and I was really impressed. He played heavily off his newest album, “Tell it to the Dust.” He switched between acoustic and electric guitars and took a few turns on a Wurlitzer piano. His voice hardly holds a room like Buckner’s, but his guitar playing seems a little more technical. And I love his disheveled-I-just-woke-up-and-look-how-messy-my-hair- is look. Plus, he was drinking bourbon. What self-respecting alt-country artist doesn’t?

As for Buckner, well, my only complaint is that interaction with the audience was minimal. Not that I expect inane chatting, because that gets old, but there was literally nothing until he was finished. He used recorders to loop guitar lines and then played over those, thus filling the would-be silence in between songs. Nevertheless, you get the impression he’d rather just play.

My pictures of Anders Parker didn’t come out as well as I would have liked (so, see below for music treat). I’m still learning the ways of my Canon PowerShot; it was the first time I messed with no-flash, delayed-exposure picture-taking. There are a couple of Buckner in which I, uh, accidentally used the flash; I’m sure he was appreciative of that. Hey, I was having a few drinks.

Here are some pics:

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Ever wanted to see what Speedway Blvd. near the Univ. of Arizona campus looks like from the Jack in the Box drive-thru under the influence of alcohol at about 1 in the morning? I knew you did:

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This one is just to tease Chris; that’s right, Sufjan is even coming to Tucson:

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Don’t think you’re getting outta here without music. As promised, we hit up PDQ Records, a massive warehouse of vinyl in Tucson. I plucked some fantastic 45s, which all will get their time here. One of the finds was a clear vinyl promo “limited edition” of Varnaline, which is essentially Anders Parker before he decided to go by Anders Parker; I really like “Hammer.” Enjoy the warmth of analog because I’m too tired to clean it up right now. Besides, we have Brendan Benson to go see tonight.

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Varnaline: Hear
Varnaline: Hammer

Concerts and more concerts

Upcoming shows I plan on attending (or at least hope I will):