Review: Hardwell, Zeds Dead at Phoenix Lights EDM Festival

Categories: Last Weekend

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Benjamin Leatherman
At least one girl had fun.

As the sunset, shadows of buildings crawled through the empty streets of downtown Phoenix on Sunday, transitioning the city from day to night, from weekend to work week.

You would never guess from the quiet and calm streets that the world's number one ranked DJ -- at least according to DJ Magazine (whatever that means) -- Hardwell, had landed in Civic Space Park.

The nearly three-acre park was gated off, and from the the outside looking in, was filled with the movement of 20-somethings dancing under laser lights and to the thump of a kick and snare.

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Kendrick Lamar Brings His Self-Contained Universe to Tempe, Doesn't Play Anything New

Categories: Last Weekend

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Christian San Jose for Top Dawg Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar wouldn't let us take pictures at the concert, so here's one from his Facebook

Remember that one line in "Still Dre" where Dr. Dre tries to establish his credibility and continued relevance after a few years out of the spotlight by stating that his last album was The Chronic? Or that part in "The Takeover" where Jay-Z is ripping apart Nas's somewhat mediocre output but at least acknowledges that the dude wrote Illmatic? Both these lines deal with a major past achievement being like a talisman that wards off the most severe pronouncements of wackness. Jay-Z won't completely destroy Nas because at least he made one of the most influential albums of the '90s. Dre basically gave the world Snoop Dogg, so everyone needs to step back a bit.

I thought about these lines a lot as I watched Kendrick Lamar headline the second night of the Pot of Gold Music Festival at Tempe Beach Park.

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Andrew W.K., Unwritten Law - Viva PHX - 3/14/15

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Melissa Fossum
Andrew W.K.

With so many good bands taking the stages at nearly 20 venues throughout downtown at Saturday night's Viva PHX event, I thought I'd have a hard time staying in one place for the whole night, ogling texts and Facebook posts about what I was missing elsewhere. However, once I got to the Monarch Theatre and heard the sounds of Father Figures (featuring New Times contributor Tom Reardon on bass and vocals), a local and personal favorite, pouring out of the front door, all was good. Because of the early slot, the band probably saw the lightest crowd of the evening, though the room was by no means empty. It didn't matter, they showed everyone why they are so beloved -- delivering a fierce set of their powerful post-punk tunes, driving those hooks into eagerly awaiting fans and capturing some new ones. I overheard more than a few people chatting after about not having seen them before but definitely will be seeing them again.

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Fishbone, Thee Oh Sees, Andrew Jackson Jihad - Monroe Street Stage - Viva PHX

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Jeff Moses
Fishbone had a small but dedicated crowd

The acts that took the Monroe Street Stage at Viva PHX on Saturday night were absolutely phenomenal, despite a subpar sound crew. It didn't seem like a single set went off without some sort of glitch, but the performers themselves didn't let that hurt their swag one bit. Not bad for a stage that stood out as the (or maybe one of two) de facto mainstage.

The stage itself seemed bigger than it was last year, and they definitely had more food trucks and vendors on the walk up to it at Third Avenue and Monroe Street. The stage was also positioned in close walking proximity to Cityscape, Grace Chapel, the Masonic Temple, Crescent Ballroom, Punk Rock Alley, and the Lucha Libre wrestling ring, making it a pretty centralized location.

The stages opener, L.A. punk outfit, Meatbodies went on at 7 p.m. to an already hefty crowd. I had never heard of them before the Viva lineup came out but upon seeing them live I know why they had such a great turnout here in Phoenix.

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Neighbors to SXSR Festival: Turn It Down!

Categories: Last Weekend

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Serene Dominic
Paper Foxes, just before the cops shut the party down.

Friday night's South by South Roosevelt festival in the older neighborhood (older as in less gentrified) went off without a hitch but Saturday night was apparently alright for fighting, as one perturbed neighbor, intent on playing Mr. Wilson to SXSR's Dennis the Menace, started complaining about the noise to police as early as 3:30 p.m. at an hour where there are probably leaf blowers carrying a higher decibel count than some of the bands playing there at South Roosevelt and Third Street in Tempe. And for Chrissakes, the show was in direct line with a Sky Harbor flight path.

Whoever this person was complaining to the police, he certainly was picking a fight with the mellowest of adversaries. Very little of the music before 7 o'clock when police shut down the festival was music anyone under 68 would find objectionable. This was hippie-hewn bar bands and jam rock, the kind that wouldn't seem out of place at a hemp festival.

Speakeasy took the stage an our later than their scheduled time and displayed nice three-part harmonies and space-rock guitar solos. On the second to last number they did an upbeat thumper that inspired the goofiest hippie mosh pit I'd ever seen. Far from getting hurt, everyone looked like they came down for a game of duck, duck goose.

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Riff Raff Gets On Stage, Raps, and That's It

Categories: Last Weekend

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Melissa Fossum
Riff Raff should've talked more. Full slideshow here.

I'm unable to decouple Riff Raff, the rapper, from the character of "Alien," as played by James Franco in Harmony Korine's 2012 film Spring Breakers. This is not an uncommon thing, as even Riff Raff himself is insistent that the character is not just inspired by him, but is him, to the point of using first-person pronouns when talking about the character in the movie and making apparently unsubstantiated threats in the past about planning to sue some party or another involved with the film for millions of dollars for unattributed use of his likeness.

However, this toyed with my expectations a bit in seeing him live for the first time at Club Red in Mesa Friday night. It wasn't as if I expected seeing him would lead me down the path of YOLO-culture and crime as his alleged cinematic portrayal suggests he might, but that whole episode in general, with him essentially claiming to be the sole proprietor of a certain brand of post-everything tastelessness, dressed in neon and transmitted through goofy Vine clips, made me expect a performer who would be very assertive about his identity.

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Zola Jesus Roars Into Her Birthplace With Primal Performance

Categories: Last Weekend

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Melissa Fossum
Zola Jesus, Phoenix native, returned home Friday night. Full slideshow here.

Nika Rosa Danilova, better known to her fans as Zola Jesus, walked onstage Friday night at Crescent Ballroom and slowly raised her arms in a style reminiscent of the savior as depicted in the Catholic faith. The soothing blue stage lights turned a deep crimson as she danced wildly to the haunting loop of her vocals from the opening title track of her latest album Taiga. She shook her head back and forth like some sort of hip-hop punk princess as the bling she wore on her arms and fingers reflected in the eyes of a rapturous audience.

For five albums, the self-proclaimed musical recluse has been acclimating herself to life outside of the serene forests of her childhood home in Merrill, Wisconsin. Her earlier work, which includes collaborations with electronic artist M83 and a remix of her song "In Your Nature" by director David Lynch, had brought her critical acclaim in indie music circles. The journey of moving away from her isolated adolescence in the Midwest was an influence on Taiga, which is Russian for "boreal forests." The 2014 release was the focus of the night's set list. Both the album and her performance danced a delicate line between pop and the avant-garde, and were filled to the brim with theatrical exaggerations. She was telling the story of evolving away from her post-punk roots and focusing on finding more of a commercial sensibility to her musical output.

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10 Observations from the Jeff Bridges Concert at Livewire in Scottsdale

Categories: Last Weekend

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Melissa Fossum
"Does the female form make you uncomfortable, Mr. Lebowski?" Full slideshow here.

1) Livewire is a quite the venue. It's surrounded by nightclubs in the middle of the most happening part of Scottsdale, but it's not just a club. It will attempt to double as a concert venue and a club, which is somewhat irregular in Old Town. As we wrote when the club opened just before New Year's Eve, "While live music isn't a foreign concept to the city, as venues ranging from bars like The Rogue and Pub Rock to the esteemed Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts regularly host concerts -- it's something of an anathema in the club-heavy entertainment district." It seems like the organizers aren't going to limit themselves to the EDM producers and DJs that would fit so naturally in its location. Jeff Bridges, the Dude himself, and his country band were the first act to grace the stage Friday night, and the next night the two-tone legends English Beat played the venue.

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Young Jeezy Leans on Older Music at Concert, but Who Cares?

Categories: Last Weekend

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Jeff Moses
Sure, he's no Drake, but is this really a camera-busting mug?

Young Jeezy's performance at downtown Phoenix's The Pressroom Saturday night was absolutely stunning. Almost a decade after his major label debut Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101, the 37-year-old Georgia based rapper with the raspy voice is still one of the most entertaining performers in the game. Jeezy is one of the few contemporary rappers who never seems to get "G-checked" as they say. It seems universally accepted that "Jeezy really lived it." But at the same time his impeccable street credentials, including winning "Trapper of the year" an astounding four times in a row, have not hurt his commercial appeal whatsoever.

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Man-Cat's CD Release Party a Celebration of Phoenix's Musical Fringe

Categories: Last Weekend

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Jeff Moses
Man-Cat: Further proof that Phoenix does weird pretty damn well.

Phoenix music seems to breed more weird acts than American Horror Story: Freak show, and the Trunk Space very often acts as its circus tent.

Things were odd at the Trunk Space for Man-Cat's album release from the very beginning. Protesters arrived at the venue early and set up life-size cardboard cutouts of people holding signs with phrases like "Man-Cat Murders," and "Protect Your Pop Idols." Others wore complimentary "Stop Man-Cat" T-shirts and held up signs given to them.

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