PigPen Theatre Co., Prowling Kind, Dry River Yacht Club - Hotel San Carlos - 3/7/14
Photos by Benjamin Leatherman PigPen Theatre Co. performs at the Hotel San Carlos last night at Viva PHX.
PigPen Theatre Co., Prowling Kind, Dry River Yacht Club, & More
Hotel San Carlos
True to Hotel San Carlos' history as a schoolhouse the Viva PHX lineup schooled the audience in the art of drama (and banjos, but we'll get to that later). There were a few surprises throughout the night, and a few issues during sound checks, but overall it was a good time with a Phoenix-dominated lineup of bands.
Locals The Prowling Kind warmed up the stage with a sweet, strong set of indie songs (there were shoegaze-y moments, too). Front woman Mickey Louise Pangburn was positively captivating, even during her more subdued moments, though it's when she's getting so into a song that her voice kind of goes on rails that she really shines. We say if she left the microphone covered in lipstick, she got her message across.
The room's energy level took a shift when South By Southwest-bound act Something Went Awry! launched into the waves of funky jazz jams "Potato" and "Stand Still." The audience was a little taken aback by the group's aggressive mix of genres (including rock, metal, and prog) coming at them in the style of jazz improvisation.
When lead guitarist Brandon Biallas started playing his instrument with his teeth during "Stand Still," it may have helped to break the ice a bit. The audience definitely seemed more accessible from that point on. SWA's roots as a ska band, when it surfaced, brought a sense of humor to the set. Just leave at this: For a jazz band, they rocked.
Viva PHX attendees at the Hotel San Carlos last night.
The next band, two-piece bluegrass group Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold, was added to the bill on the night before Viva PHX, and thank local promoter that is Psycho Steve for that. Through the first two acts, the audience felt it was in control -- people left and had personal conversations -- but that stopped in the presence of charismatic vocalist and guitarist Tyler Matock, who vigorously worked the crowd, walked among 'em, brought a few people on stage to dance and even made a murder ballad sound really damn peppy (ah, bluegrass music).
The truly impressive thing about Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold, though, is banjo player Jesse Gray. According to a local bluegrass expert in the audience, Gray picks in a soft-handed style called clawhammer on a banjo that's designed for much harder playing styles like Scruggs. Basically, when he plays his banjo it probably hurts -- a lot. Not that this knowledge could make his playing any more beautiful and impressive (I mean, at some point he made his banjo sound like a sitar), but, wait, yeah, it does.