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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Ten More Phoenix Bands to Catch at Viva PHX

Categories: Viva PHX

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MRCH is playing Viva PHX, and you should see them.

No, you can't see everything you want to at Viva PHX, but you could make a tour of some of the best local live bands if you wanted to make it a hometown event. There are other festivals this weekend not featuring local bands, but this one has a ton of them. Sure, you may want to catch Best Coast or Andrew W.K., but you could also catch some intriguing talent that is making beautiful noise in your own backyard. Plus, this approach will probably have you attending their shows again and again. No real favoritism here, I'm going in the order they play, despite some scheduling conflicts.

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Unwritten Law's Scott Russo Takes Us on His Mushroom-and-Tequila Disneyland Adventure

Categories: Q&A, Viva PHX

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Unwritten Law Promo Picture
Unwritten Law will be performing this Saturday, March 14 at Viva PHX.

"Hold on, I'm buying tequila."

These are the first words that Unwritten Law singer Scott Russo says after answering his phone for a New Times interview. In the background he asks a liquor store clerk for advice on the bottle that offers the best bang for his buck and ultimately deciding to go with the recommendation: Camarena.

"We have chocolate mushrooms and we're going to Disneyland -- it's going to be awesome," Russo tells me -- plus, tequila now too, apparently. "Oh, Hollywood," he adds, wryly.

Russo wastes no time in revealing the other member of "we" in his planned psilocybin-and-blue agave Disneyland caper: "I'm with my ex-girlfriend, Tara Holt, right now; do you ever watch that show Californication? She's Melanie in Californication," he says before putting Holt on the phone.

"Nobody knows," Holt says when I ask her what in the world she's doing with Russo, "but it's provocative!"

Later in our conversation Russo elaborates further on his evening by saying that mushrooms are a heavy commitment and that "I have to be in a secure place to even do mushrooms as a whole, but these little chocolate joeys are amazing." It is, however, with that perfect rock 'n' roll-esque salutation that I am first introduced to Russo. It served as a great prologue for the ensuing conversation, during which we examined the more than two-decade history of his pop-punk/rock quartet, Unwritten Law -- featuring Russo, founding member and recently returned drummer Wade Youman, guitarist Chris Lewis, and bassist Jonny Grill -- born and bred in San Diego, California.

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Guide for the Over-40 Set to Viva PHX

Categories: Viva PHX

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Thee Oh Sees should be on your list.

Viva PHX is back and you're a year older, 40-somethings. Bolder? Maybe. Clever, definitely, and probably more inclined to party downtown than last year. In fact, it's obvious the over-40 set is taking back the night, since so many of you are out and about on a regular basis, running the music scene, and making cool things happen without demanding to be noticed. Your generation practically runs the place anyway, but since the younger crowd isn't reading this, your secret is safe, at least for now.

Will you be biking around the festival this year? Bikes are really, really popular these days and it really is the best way to get around. Good for the air, good for your legs, and if your bike is super cool, even better for your image. Perhaps you'll depend on your hush puppies, which are probably desert boots or converse all-stars, and this is okay too, especially if you're not afraid of potential blisters ruining your night. Whatever your mode of transportation, Viva PHX is spread out like a mofo this year, and while you may have good intentions of seeing as much as possible, you still need a game plan.

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A Guide to Catching Phoenix and Arizona Musicians at Viva PHX

Categories: Viva PHX

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Benjamin Leatherman
Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World

2014's winner for Best Festival, Viva PHX is back for round two and this year it is even bigger. Bigger headliners, more touring acts, more local acts, more venues involved, more activated spaces, and lucha libre wrestling. The only thing that Stateside is leaving out is the kitchen sink ... though you could wash your dishes in a Smallpool ... I try.

But anyway, at a show like Viva it is just completely impossible to catch everything even with perfect prior planning. But with the right game plan going into the show you can optimize your festival time. For me that means packing my Viva schedule full of Phoenix locals and catching them playing at as many of the different venues and activated spaces as possible.

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A Confident Best Coast Tops the Bill for Viva PHX

Categories: Viva PHX

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Janell Shircliffe
Best Coast comes to town for Viva PHX.

By her own admission, the 2015 Bethany Cosentino is far more comfortable in her own skin than the 2009 version.

Cosentino, the lead singer and principal songwriter (along with multi-instrumentalist Bobb Bruno) for Los Angeles indie-pop duo Best Coast, first burst into public consciousness with the unfathomably catchy "Boyfriend," from her band's 2010 debut Crazy For You. The song is a wistful yet sunny song yearning for unrequited love, with a sort of early-'60s girl group charm and a surf-pop tinge that sounds like it couldn't come out of anywhere except a sunbathed Los Angeles apartment. It's a touch innocent, perhaps, and her desire for friendship to blossom into something more seeps into other songs on the album. This vulnerability in her lyrics helped make the band accessible and relatable, and these themes and the ones she explored on the band's follow-up, 2012's The Only Place, contributed to the her reputation as a singer who wrote only about relationships.

Those days might be behind her, at least partially. Best Coast has a new album, California Nights, out May 5 on Harvest Records, and the only single the band has released so far shares a name with the album, meaning, as you might guess, it has more to do with geography than interpersonal drama.

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10 Sleeper Bands to Catch at Viva PHX

Categories: Viva PHX

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Mike Rosati
Stone Foxes are a band you should try not to miss at Viva PHX

Viva PHX 2015 offers festival goers 90 bands at 20 different venues for an incredibly reasonable $24 ticket price. For you mathematicians, it works out to an average of 4.5 performers per venue and if you were to catch say, five of them during the course of your night, that's $4.80 per act. Though you're probably familiar with the headliners like Best Coast, Coolio, and Thee Oh Sees, there are probably dozens of acts on the lineup that are mysteries to you. We thought we would give you a list of 10 sleeper bands to keep in the back of your mind as you look at the schedule and plan your route around downtown Phoenix.

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Fishbone Continues to Experiment With New "Reality" Show

Categories: Viva PHX

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Steady Jenny
Fishbone continues a career of relentless experimentation with The Fishbone Reality.
With seemingly every alternative rock band of note reunited to dolefully tour the classics, Los Angeles band Fishbone remains a vital exception to the "play the hits" rule. For 33 years, the group has experimented and evolved, incorporating influences including ska, punk, hardcore, psychedelic rock, soul, funk, reggae, and jazz into a varied and uncompromisingly diverse discography. The band hasn't released solely flawless records, but it's never failed to issue interesting ones.

"That's part of the legacy of the band," bassist and founding member John Norwood Fisher explains. "The minute we stagnate and become a band that just goes over where we've been . . . maybe that's okay at some point, but I'm just not there yet. I'm trying to figure out: What haven't we done? What can keep the vibe fresh?"

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Viva PHX Releases Schedule

Categories: Viva PHX

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Janell Shirtcliff
Best Coast tops the roughly 75-band bill for Viva PHX.

Viva PHX has announced its schedule, giving a pretty complete picture of who's going to be playing where during the festival, which will all but dominate downtown Phoenix on Saturday, March 14.

Check it out.

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