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Live Review: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls with Will Varley and The Arkells at Livewire, Scottsdale, AZ – 27th January 2017

 
By on Wednesday, 8th February 2017 at 2:00 pm
 

Show #2015, in which yours truly makes intentional physical contact with a complete stranger

. . . but that happens later in the story. What happened first was a trip north from Tucson to Scottsdale, accompanied by my brother. Entirely certain that Casey would love Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls as much as I do, I had bought tickets for the two of us months ago. The host venue for the evening was Livewire, where I recently saw Kaleo with The Wind and the Wave and Bishop Briggs. I mentioned my opinion of the venue in that earlier review, but I’ll add here that its mild level of pretention was perhaps at odds with an artist like Turner, whose shows have never pretended to anything more or anything less than folk-punk-rock at its finest. The main criteria for the venue choice might have been capacity. Turner and his colleagues had played a slightly smaller Phoenix venue, the Press Room, on their last visit, and they apparently made a good impression. On this night they sold out Livewire, to their own credit and much to the benefit of their special guests, Will Varley and The Arkells.

Will Varley photo

The amber glow of Livewire’s initial stage lighting was a perfect match for the warm, organic timbre of singer/songwriter Will Varley’s acoustic guitar and singing voice. The effect was marred slightly by the fact that Varley took the stage with the zipper of his trousers clearly open, sending a small ripple of giggles through the crowd gathered near the stage. Though Varley acknowledged the zipper midway through his set, he never bothered explaining it, instead effectively focusing his audience’s attention squarely on his music. Varley’s songs fluctuated between facetious absurdity (‘Talking Cat Blues’) and sincere sentimentality (‘From Halcyon’), and while he never took himself too seriously, it quickly became clear to the rest of us that his was not a talent to be overlooked. His latest album ‘Kingsdown Sundown’ is available now from Xtra Mile Recordings.

Canadian rock band The Arkells took the stage next, with a brash swagger and confidence more suited to a proper headline act. Lead singer Mike DeAngelis commanded his audience’s attention from beginning to end, punctuating the band’s energetic anthems with a combination of spontaneous banter, well-rehearsed yarn-spinning, and musical improvisation.

The Arkells photo

The Arkells started with three strong, high energy tracks from their 2016 album ‘Morning Report’ before dipping back into previous LPs ‘High Noon’ and ‘Jackson Square’. Keyboard player Anthony Carone’s impromptu mini-set of crowd-sourced Elton John covers, including ‘Rocket Man’, ‘Tiny Dancer’, and ‘Bennie and the Jets’ was among the most memorable moments of the evening, but it didn’t overshadow the end of The Arkells’ set, which they ended with latest single ‘My Heart’s Always Yours’ and the older favourite ‘Leather Jacket’.

Frank turner band photo

Frank Turner opened the headline set of his Show #2015 with a politically-tinged song written specifically for the current tour cycle, titled ‘The Sand in the Gears’. Starting with the lyric “Can’t I just spend the next four years at a punk show?” and ending with the line “let’s be the sand in the gears for the next four years”, the new track is best described as a call to action. Building on the crowd’s ever-growing energy, Turner and The Sleeping Souls swept through a vigorous set of crowd-favourite tunes from across his prolific back catalogue. Songs from Turner’s most recent album ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’ included ‘The Next Storm’ and an impressive full band version of ‘Glorious You’. After American radio hit ‘The Way I Tend to Be’, Turner paused for breath, taking a solo-acoustic moment for a fan request with ‘Least of All, Young Caroline’ and ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’.

Frank Turner solo

Between songs, Turner spent a lot of time proselytising about music as an area of common ground among fans in the current societal swirl of divisive social and political issues. It was a notable, if mildly condescending, departure from the typical artist-vs-politician banter, but it also turned out to be carefully scripted, leading his audience to a specific and pointed conclusion.

At the end of the set proper, during crowd-favourite track ‘Photosynthesis’, Turner split the general admission audience down the middle and prepared us to enact a “wall of death”. I was unfamiliar with the term, and my brother explained, to my horror, that a wall of death is a mosh pit ritual typically reserved for metal shows, in which the two sides of a divided crowd rush at each other during the heaviest part of a song and collide with extreme force. At the last suspenseful second, Turner recanted his wall-of-death wish, instructing his crowd to instead institute something possibly more scary: a “wall of hugs”. (The video below is from Turner’s San Francisco show a couple of nights later, posted by YouTube user Brian Greenaway.)

[youtube]https://youtu.be/mv2m5wQI3ug[/youtube]

Which brings me back to the opening lines of this review. Frank Turner was asking each of us to hug another punter. Not a friend or companion; no, we were to hug someone we didn’t know. My ever-stoic brother flatly refused. But I was so swept away in relief at not having to participate in a wall of death the spirit of the moment that I turned and exchanged a warm embrace with the person standing on the other side of me. I’m not 100% sure if the person was male or female (or neither or both), but I’m 100% sure it didn’t matter. Gender, race, age, political persuasion—none of it made any difference. We were both fans, experiencing a moment of FTHC rapture, and we shared a glorious moment of fellowship. Hmm . . . maybe this is what Turner was getting at all along.

TGTF’s previous coverage of Will Varley is back here and our archived coverage on Frank Turner is right through here. For a full list of Frank Turner’s upcoming live shows, including his Lost Evenings at the London Roundhouse this May, consult his official Web site by clicking here.

After the cut: Will Varley, The Arkells, and Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls’ set lists.
Continue reading Live Review: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls with Will Varley and The Arkells at Livewire, Scottsdale, AZ – 27th January 2017

 

Live Review: David Ramirez at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 18th November 2016

 
By on Monday, 28th November 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Austin-based singer/songwriter David Ramirez passed through Phoenix before the American Thanksgiving holiday, making his second appearance here in just over a year. If you’re a regular TGTF reader, you might remember my review of his previous show in the same venue, downtown Phoenix’s Valley Bar. On that occasion, Ramirez was accompanied by a full band and special guest Liza Anne, but by design, this gig was quite a different event.

Ramirez is playing completely solo on his current tour, without either a backing band or a support act. Dubbed the ‘Bootleg Tour 2016’, these shows also involve the element of live recordings, which are being distributed via download to all ticketholders within a few days of the show they attend. The souvenir recording is a unique and intriguing digital age concept, and it became even more appealing as we in the audience discovered, much to our delight, that Ramirez had a few yet-to-be-released songs up his sleeve.

Without an opening act to warm up the crowd, Ramirez began the night somewhat unceremoniously by simply walking on stage, saying a quick greeting and starting to play. He opened with a sequence of old favourite songs, starting with ‘I Think I Like You’ from his 2011 ‘Strangetown’ EP before turning to his more popular 2015 album release ‘Fables’. ‘How Do You Get ‘Em Back’ and ‘Communion’ were apparently more familiar to the punters gathered near the stage, and Ramirez’s set quickly gained momentum. Despite his own admission to feeling a bit under the weather, the grit and raw power of his singing voice held up admirably to the stripped back song arrangements presented here, especially in the bitterly poignant ‘Harder to Lie’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/_M1jNw5GCjs[/youtube]

Of the new songs in the set, ‘Too Far Away’ grabbed my attention straightaway, with the coincidentally relevant lyrics “Well, I’m coming to London, gonna bring you back to Texas / you’ll have your first Thanksgiving and you’ll meet the parents.” Like so many of Ramirez’s songs, this one has a bittersweet twist, which he immediately counteracted with the dry cynicism and dark blues edge of another new track, titled ‘Stone Age’.

David Ramirez internal

In the end, Ramirez played quite a lengthy set, 22 songs in total, including the unreleased tracks and a remarkably fitting cover of Neil Young’s ‘Vampire Blues’. He seemed to take advantage of the relative success of last year’s ‘Fables’, interspersing songs from that album with older releases that might not have been as well known. It must be said that Ramirez’s acoustic version of ‘The Bad Days’, from 2013 EP ‘The Rooster’ was exquisitely effective whether his audience knew it already or not, and he indulged a shouted request for ‘Fires’, which dates back to his 2009 album ‘American Soil’.

Though I missed the backing vocals I was accustomed to hearing in the full band arrangements of several familiar tracks, Ramirez’s voice and acoustic guitar were equally compelling on their own, especially in a small, intimate venue like the Valley Bar. And if his new songs see the light of day, so to speak, it will be interesting to listen back to the bootleg recording and compare the fully arranged studio versions to these stripped back preliminary performances. Ramirez’s Bootleg Tour 2016 continues through the end of December; you can find the remaining dates listed here.

David Ramirez is currently listed as a showcasing artist for SXSW 2017, which will take place in his hometown of Austin next March. As always, any information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts, and the artist lineup is subject to change. To keep abreast of David Ramirez’s upcoming plans, we recommend that you keep an eye on his official Facebook. For news and updates on SXSW 2017, you can consult the festival’s official schedule here.

After the cut: David Ramirez’s set list.
Continue reading Live Review: David Ramirez at Valley Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 18th November 2016

 

Live Review: LANY with Transviolet at Crescent Ballroom, Phoenix, AZ – 15th November 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 22nd November 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Los Angeles synthpop trio LANY have made a sudden and impressive appearance onto the pop scene in 2016. Comprising frontman Paul Klein, guitarist/keyboardist Les Priest and drummer Jake Goss, the band have released three EPs in quick succession, starting with ‘I Loved You.’ in June 2015, and followed by last December’s ‘Make Out’ and June 2016’s ‘kinda’. After playing a slew of American summer festivals this year, including Bonaroo, Sasquatch and Firefly, LANY embarked on a headline tour of the U.S., which has just wrapped up with a hometown show at the Fonda Theatre in L.A.

I had a chance to catch LANY just before the end of their ‘kinda’ tour, at the Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix last Tuesday night. Despite the relative newness of the band, they sold out the 550-capacity Crescent Ballroom, and when I arrived to the gig, I noticed something rather unique about their audience. Like many concert venues in Arizona, the Crescent Ballroom separates younger patrons from punters 21 and over, in an attempt to avoid underage drinking. For this particular show, the under-21 section was unusually large, and it was given priority in the section directly in front of the stage, rather than its usual position off to one side. The apparent majority of the crowd was underage, and their youth was matched only by their buoyant enthusiasm for LANY.

On further examination, the relatively young age of the crowd shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. LANY are what you might call an Internet sensation, having made a name for themselves via Spotify’s Discover Weekly feature. Their single ‘ILYSB’ has amassed over 27 million Spotify streams as of this writing, and Billboard + Twitter listed them as the number one Emerging Artist after the release of their video for recent single ‘yea, babe, no way’. (Check out the video for ‘yea, babe, no way’ at the bottom of this page.)

Transviolet internal

On this night, LANY were preceded on the stage by New York pop quartet Transviolet, whose own electropop was an appropriate prelude to the main event. Despite singer Sarah McTaggart’s struggle with illness, her voice rang through the bright synths and throbbing bass of her bandmates Judah McCarthy, Michael Panek and Jon Garcia. (McTaggart and Transviolet would miss a subsequent show in San Francisco, but we understand that she recovered in time for the tour’s final date in Los Angeles.) Transviolet’s recent single ‘Future’ was a standout in the opening set, but even better was edgy earlier track ‘Girls Your Age,’ which resonated strongly with the teenaged ladies at the front of the stage.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/b_aQgB7xkjA[/youtube]

Though Transviolet were well-received, it became evident before the end of their set that the punters down front were impatient to see LANY. A near riot ensued when Klein and his colleagues took the stage with an extended instrumental introduction and a visual display that incorporated Whitney Houston’s famous national anthem performance at Super Bowl XXV (way back in 1991, for those of you who aren’t old enough to remember it!). LANY’s tech crew deserve a special shout out here; the strikingly effective visual backdrop was a major highligh of LANY’s live set.

LANY internal

The slick visuals were a perfectly scripted accompaniment to LANY’s clean, sophisticated brand of synth pop, and for their part, the band didn’t stray far from the well-loved recorded arrangements of their songs. Frontman Klein was clearly the focal point of the show, as guitarist Priest was hidden in the shadows on the stage left side, while Goss and his drum kit were situated only slightly more prominently at stage right. Every song was greeted with screams of approval from the largely (but not entirely) female audience, starting with ‘4EVER!’ and ‘yea, babe, no way’. For me, the evening’s defining strong point came early in the set, with the infectiously catchy, deeply existential ode to California, ‘WHERE THE HELL ARE MY FRIENDS’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/5zGahFzBoJk[/youtube]

A handful of rather indistinguishable tracks followed, including the cringe-inducingly trite ‘like you lots’, which admittedly made a stronger connection with the younger crowd. However, Klein was charmingly personable throughout, smiling and making eye contact when girls shouted his name, even accepting a bouquet of roses from a swooning audience member at one point late in the show. LANY made a much stronger impact at the end of the set, finishing with the ethereally dreamy track ‘pink skies’ and the yearning trans-Atlantic romance of ‘current location’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/eD7kpZRGyGs[/youtube]

Hit single ‘ILYSB’ (which, for those of you unaware, is an acronym for “I love you so bad”) had yet to make an appearance on the evening’s itinerary, so there was little suspense as to whether LANY would perform an encore. But the band held their audience in anticipation just a little bit longer, starting the postscript with an extended version of ‘Walk Away’, featuring Klein on keyboards. Everyone on the general admission floor unleashed their dance moves for for the giddy high of ‘ILYSB’ before Klein and his colleagues endeared themselves once more by taking an old-fashioned curtain call and a synchronised bow.

Paul keyboard internal

If you’re a fan of cool, West Coast style synth pop with just a hint of r&b soul, both LANY and Transviolet will fit nicely onto your next playlist. Though both bands appear to be taking a break through the end of 2016, you’re sure to hear more from them next year as their stars continue to rise.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/pVUq8Q7bNUM[/youtube]

 

Live Review: Kaleo with Bishop Briggs and The Wind and The Wave at Livewire, Scottsdale, AZ – 2nd November 2016

 
By on Thursday, 10th November 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

My most recent TGTF road trip took me north from Tucson to Scottsdale, which is part of the Phoenix metro area, and a slightly longer drive than my usual 2-hour gig trek. The night’s venue, Livewire AZ, is located adjacent to Scottsdale Fashion Square, an upscale suburban shopping center, and at first glance, its ambience is as sterile and superficial as you might expect from such an overtly trendy venue. Aside from its lack of distinguishing character, Livewire turned out to be, well, not a bad place to see a show, and a singularly appropriate venue for the night’s headliner, Icelandic/American alt-rock band Kaleo.

Wind+Wave2

I arrived at Livewire to find a long queue of patrons, and though the queue moved quickly, the evening’s first support act had already taken the stage when I got inside. Luckily for me, it was a band I’d seen quite recently, Butch Walker protégés The Wind and the Wave. The Austin-based folk-rock duo had impressed me back in September at Los Angeles’ much smaller Teragram Ballroom, and they didn’t disappoint here at Scottsdale’s Livewire.

The brighter acoustics of the room benefitted The Wind and the Wave’s warm guitar and vocal quality, especially the ringing harmonies between singer Patricia Lynn and guitarist Dwight Baker. Though most of the crowd seemed new to their music, The Wind and the Wave garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from their Arizona audience with single ‘Grand Canyon’ and the title track to their recent album ‘Happiness Is Not a Place.’

Bishop Briggs

The evening’s mood took a heavier turn with the decidedly dark electropop of second support act Bishop Briggs. London-born but currently based in Los Angeles, Briggs takes her pseudonymous stage name from her family’s hometown of Bishopbriggs, Scotland. Her stage persona at first reminded me of Gwen Stefani, complete with girlish pigtails and sporty sneakers, but Briggs’ music packs a noticeably weightier punch. Her all-too-brief set was dense with forceful lyrics and deep bass grooves, and her cagey movements on stage were both energetic and decisively edgy.

Briggs is fairly new to the music scene, having only begun releasing songs last year, but a fair few punters in the crowd apparently already knew her first single ‘Wild Horses’. For me, the knockout blow came in the form of Briggs’ recent single and set closer ‘River’. Her live performance of the song was even more powerful than the recorded version below; watch for this track to become a radio hit in the very near future.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/h5jz8xdpR0M[/youtube]

Headlining band Kaleo already have a handful of radio hits under their collective belt, at least here in America. Their debut album ‘A/B’ is the only established back catalogue they have to draw from for live shows, but that catalogue is packed with hit singles, including ‘All the Pretty Girls’, ‘Way Down We Go’ and ‘No Good’. All of these naturally found their way into Kaleo’s live set, along with a handful of as-yet-unreleased songs thrown in for variety and good measure.

JJ solo

Kaleo made a rather dramatic entrance to the stage, starting the set with their heartwrenching album closer ‘I Can’t Go On Without You’. Lead singer and songwriter JJ Julius Son was spotlighted early on, and his vocals were flawless from beginning to end, switching effortlessly from raw and raspy to sweet, finely-tuned falsetto. He quickly followed ‘I Can’t Go On Without You’ with another bittersweet ballad, ‘Save Yourself’, which you can view for yourself just below in a live performance from Iceland’s Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/oCi0RHLrauU[/youtube]

From that point forward, Kaleo firmly established their rock ’n’ roll credentials with the hot and heavy blues number ‘Broken Bones’. It must be said here that the band’s absolute best live moments came in down-and-dirty guitar tracks such as these, which were plentiful and strategically placed in the setlist. The mid-set sequence of ‘Hot Blood’ and ‘No Good’ ratcheted up the intensity level in the room by factors of ten, though Kaleo would never quite regain those giddy heights.

For all their obvious talent, Kaleo were a bit stiff on stage, rarely engaging with their audience. Julius Son was remarkably serious and concentrated throughout the set, stopping to speak to the crowd only to introduce a song in the band’s native Icelandic, the hauntingly beautiful ‘Vor í Vaglaskógi’. Far be it from me to dictate anyone’s facial expressions, but I did think it might have been nice to see a smile on his face at some point. As for the rest of the band, they only really let loose during ‘Backdoor’, when bassist Daniel Kristjansson and lead guitarist Rubin Pollock came together for a brief jam in front of drummer David Antonsson’s kit.

jam photo

Despite their rather indistinctive demeanor, Kaleo played a tight and polished show, overall. They stuck to what they’re good at, and let it be said that they are indeed very, very good. They ended the night with a scorching version of ‘Way Down We Go’ before rocking out to close the set proper with ‘Ladies Man’. Their choice of encore played to their obvious blues rock strengths in the extended and appropriately-titled ‘Rock ’n’ Roller.’ If you haven’t had a listen to Kaleo yet, there’s no time like the present; the band will be on tour in America through the 12th of of this month before hitting the UK and Ireland for a short list of already sold out November live dates. A complete list of Kaleo’s upcoming live dates can be found on their official Facebook.

 

Live Review: The Crookes at the Rhythm Room, Phoenix, AZ – 26th September 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 11th October 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Monday night, the 26th of September, was a busy one on American shores. The first debate between presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was televised that evening, as was an early season Monday Night Football game (that’s football of the American variety). Even just in Phoenix, that Monday night was unusually active for music gigs, with shows on at several local venues, including the Marquee Theater in Tempe, the Crescent Ballroom, Valley Bar, and the Rebel Lounge.

Whichever of those events people in Phoenix were busy with that night, the entire city missed out on the best show in town, bar none, at a well-known and long-standing music venue, the Rhythm Room. Usually a blues bar, the Rhythm Room has lately expanded into other genres of music, and this night they took a chance on a band not as well-known in this part of America, Sheffield alt-pop quartet The Crookes. Their gamble might not have paid off in terms of ticket sales, but as the tiny crowd in the club that night can attest, the quality of the performance was no less than top-notch.

Crookes internal

I arrived around 7:30 for a show that was advertised to begin at 8:00, but as there was no support act on the docket (earlier shows on the tour had included The Young Wild and Zipper Club), The Crookes apparently were in no great hurry to start their show. But the patrons in the bar, who numbered exactly 9 at my count, including myself, were antsy with anticipation and nonetheless enthusiastic when the band did eventually take the stage.

Crookes internal 1

First and foremost, I have to commend The Crookes for the energy and heart in their performance, despite the infinitesimal crowd. I’ve seen them play several times in the course of my tenure at TGTF (going way back to their American live debut in 2013!), and I must say that they gave this show their full and undivided effort, where many bands might have been tempted to get lazy or write it off as not worth their time. Frontman George Waite was smooth and ever professional, despite a bit of heckling from the peanut gallery, and his voice was sounded as good as I’ve ever heard it. Drummer Adam Crofts, who might still be considered new to the band, having joined only last year, played through the show with an engaging smile on his face. The acoustics in the venue were bright and clear, and the guitars in particular, played by Tom Dakin and Daniel Hopewell, sounded amazingly crisp from start to finish. Much moreso, in fact, than when Mary and I last saw The Crookes earlier this year at SXSW 2016.

Daniel internal

The Crookes’ set list at the Rhythm Room was tight and exquisitely composed, starting with a few popular favourite tunes from breakthrough album ‘Hold Fast’ before touching on new tracks from their excellent current album ‘Lucky Ones’ and diving momentarily into their growing back catalogue. Though I did miss hearing live favourite ‘The Cooler King’, I was delighted that they chose to include ‘A Collier’s Wife’ from ‘Dreams of Another Day’, which I must admit had an air of novelty about it for me, as I hadn’t listened to it in quite some time.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/kORZ3unOfo0[/youtube]

A small audience allows for a bit more flexibility in a band’s set list sometimes, and The Crookes did take the opportunity to deviate a bit from their plan for the evening. Judging from the set list photo below, they hadn’t intended to include new album track ‘No One Like You’, but in the end, they did play an intense version of it that created a nice dramatic peak in the set. Then, in a truly brilliant manoeuvre, they took advantage of that intensity and the rapt attention of their audience with a refreshingly cool and polished cover of Bruce Springsteen’s steamy ‘I’m On Fire’. This, for my money, was a fantastic addition to the Crookes’ set, even if it does steal precious time away from their own four full albums’ worth of music.

Crookes set list

Waite didn’t spend a lot of time on banter between songs on this rather subdued Monday night, but of course, he couldn’t let the evening pass without a comment on the heat in the Arizona desert. He and his bandmates have travelled through the American southwest a few times now, and I suspect that they’re becoming a bit more accustomed to the climate. Still, l do hope The Crookes receive a much warmer welcome the next time they pass through the Valley of the Sun. I’ll most certainly be looking forward to seeing what they do next.

By the time this review goes to press, The Crookes will have wrapped up their Autumn 2016 American tour, which saw them following their wanderlust to a few new and unusual places, including Eugene, Oregon; Visalia, California and Birmingham, Alabama. But if you’re on the UK side of the pond, you’ll have the opportunity to see the Sheffield lads later this year. The Crookes will close out 2016 with a special Christmas tour of England this December; all the dates are listed here. TGTF’s extensive previous coverage of The Crookes is collected through here.

 

Live Review: Ash with Avery at Rips Bar, Phoenix, AZ – 24th September 2016

 
By on Tuesday, 27th September 2016 at 2:00 pm
 

Veteran Northern Irish rock band Ash are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album ‘1977’ with a live tour, on which they’re playing the album in its entirety, along with a few more recent favourites. On the North American leg of the tour, they’re visiting a mix of small and mid-sized venues, but surely one of the smallest on the list was Rips Bar in Phoenix. Rips is a stand-alone club tucked into a residential area just northwest of downtown Phoenix, away from the hustle and bustle of other Phoenix venues and with an extremely relaxed vibe that seemed to suit Ash perfectly.

Avery internal

Ash’s three band members went largely unnoticed by the bar patrons as they set up on the indoor stage at Rips. Meanwhile, the small crowd in the venue were treated to the opening act on the outdoor patio. Local folk-rock band Avery were just getting started when I found my way outside, and they came as a pleasant surprise ahead of Ash’s unabashed punk rock stylings. Avery’s lineup features singer/songwriter Mariah DeRaet on lead vocals, her smoky timbre uniquely accompanied by cellist Allison Galbreath at the front of the tiny stage on this night. The cello adds a deep sense of yearning to Avery’s lovelorn lyrics, as you can hear in their single ‘Hospital Call’ just below.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/KzTMDnh6O0w[/youtube]

Back inside the bar, Ash were nearly ready get back to ‘1977’. Or, more precisely, back to 1996, when the album was actually released. I was buried in my own classical music studies at university in 1996, and thus I missed out on the album the first time around. But anyone with even a passing interest in UK or Northern Irish bands will have heard of Ash, and editor Mary assured me that they were not to be missed live, so naturally my interest was piqued. Unfamiliar with the songs on ‘1977’, I had assumed that the title referred to songwriter Tim Wheeler’s birth year (also, coincidentally, my own). But in the course of doing some pre-gig homework, I discovered that it also paid homage to the release date of the movie ‘Star Wars’. which is referenced in the album’s opening and closing tracks, while other bits of 1970s pop culture are mixed into the middle.

"Ash

The audience, though still small, had grown a bit while I was outside listening to Avery. I hadn’t expected to see many longtime fans of the Northern Irish indie rockers at this gig, but there were, in fact, a handful of dedicated Ash fans milling about wearing the band’s t-shirts. There was no need to crowd the stage in a venue as small as this one, but we did all creep a bit closer as frontman Wheeler, bassist Mark Hamilton and drummer Rick McMurray tore into ‘1977’ opening track ‘Lose Control’. They hit their stride early on, even with the more pensive tones of ‘Goldfinger’ and moreso in the higher energy of ‘Girl from Mars’, and it must be said here that McMurray certainly got his workout in during this set, pounding relentless rhythms throughout.

The sound quality inside Rips was surprisingly good, given the small size of the venue, and mid-album tracks ‘Kung Fu’ and ‘Oh Yeah’, were especially energetic. Despite the almost complete absence of between-songs chat, or perhaps because of it, the band’s momentum from those tracks carried through to the end of the ‘1977’ set, which Wheeler announced as the final album track ‘Darkside Lightside’.

A true encore might have been overkill in this tiny venue, but luckily Ash had more to offer. Following the ‘1977’ sequence, Wheeler paused again to introduce the band’s debut single ‘Jack Names the Planets’ before the band added a few newer songs to round off the set. One enthusiastic punter squealed out for a song called ‘Default’, and Wheeler seemed puzzled for a moment, until he realised that she meant ‘Dispatch’, from Ash’s most recent album ‘Kablammo!’, which came out last summer. This would have been a more familiar song for me as well, but alas, the band weren’t prepared to play it, opting instead for another new track, ‘Let’s Ride’ before closing with ‘Burn Baby Burn’ from 2001 album ‘Free All Angels’.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/t5ZtotlZ0ug[/youtube]

They may not have had a large number of fans in attendance in Phoenix last weekend, but Ash most certainly won a new fan in me with their combination of punk energy, deft melodicism, and engaging stage presence. If you’re like me and ‘Kablammo!’ was your first real exposure to Ash, I strongly recommend browsing through their back catalogue for the gems you might have missed.

Ash internal final

Ash will continue the North American leg of their ‘1977 – 20th Anniversary Tour’ with larger shows in cities including Chicago, Washington, DC and New York through the start of October. They will bring the tour to the UK in November and December; those live dates are listed just below. A full listing of Ash’s worldwide tour dates can be found on their official Web site. TGTF’s previous coverage of Ash is right back here.

Thursday 10th November 2016 – Dublin Olympia Theatre
Friday 11th November 2016 – Belfast Mandela Hall
Thursday 1st December 2016 – Gloucester Guildhall
Saturday 10th December 2016 – London Roundhouse
Sunday 11th December 2016 – Manchester Ritz
Monday 12th December 2016 – Nottingham Rock City
Wednesday 14th December 2016 – Aberdeen Garage
Thursday 15th December 2016 – Glasgow Garage

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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