By Lauren Wise
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By Troy Farah
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Okay, so acts like M.I.A., The Dead Weather, Tool, and The Black Keys are not playing Arizona Fall Frenzy, as they did at the two geographically but not musically comparable festivals, San Diego's Street Scene and Denver's Mile High Music Festival.
That's not really the vibe organizers are going for at the inaugural three-day fest assembled by two area radio stations and a local promoter. Fall Frenzy is more like a three-day successor to Edgefest — a chance for hipsters to stay home listening to Pandora while those whose taste spans the spectrum between "pop" and "pop punk" party down along the Salt River.
Here are the five sets I'm most excited to see:
Jason Mraz: Sometimes a musician can be so white-bread that he defies any sensible rebuke. Maybe it's that cute little fedora or maybe it's the way Mraz dares use the term "hippie song" in a non-pejorative way while describing his smash single "I'm Yours," which spent 70-plus weeks on Billboard's Hot 100, but you'd be hard-pressed to accuse him of anything other than total authenticity. Mraz is that guy playing acoustic guitar at the frat party you want to leave, even if that guy was — despite his headgear — a damn good songwriter. This will definitely be a set worth checking out.
Fall Out Boy: Fall Out Boy loves Phoenix. Not only did they film their live DVD here, they seem to come around every six months or so. That's fine with me, because whatever you may think of their guyliner, they're a legitimately impressive live act, with solid guys at drums and guitar, and stars at bass and vocals. The only hitch here is the possibility of a shortened festival set (their appearance at Phooson last year was entirely too brief). Here's hoping we hear all the From Under the Cork Tree goodness you'd like out of F.O.B.
Asher Roth: Speaking of white bread, Asher Roth more or less fetishizes the stuff, naming his April debut Asleep in the Bread Aisle and posing on a stack of the stuff for the record cover. Roth is being marketed as a poor man's Eminem, but more astute listeners will hear echoes of geek-core icon MC Chris on his first single "I Love College." His flow isn't bad — check out his version of Lil Wayne's "A Milli" for a side-by-side comparison — but his drowsy chant-a-longs are what really set this 24-year-old Pennsylvanian apart. When Roth sings "Chug! Chug! Chug!" at the end of "I Love College," you can bet he'll find plenty of young Sun Devils willing to oblige.
Ben Harper: Lots of bands aspire to blend alt-rock, folk, reggae, blues, and gospel, but few succeed as well as this California singer-songwriter. Harper's complex work is the outlier at this festival, where he's the only act using a slide guitar as more than a prop. Harper's songs aren't always as catchy as some similar artists, but sandwiched between the straight-ahead sounds of Flogging Molly and The Bravery, he'll be a welcome side of noodling.
Social Distortion: Topping off Sunday's (comparatively) old-school lineup, Social Distortion brings 30(!) years of material to the banks of the Salt River. Singer Mike Ness, the only original member, is the sort of cantankerous old greaseball who ages well, even if it's now hard to believe he released his "I'm all grown up" anthem, "I Was Wrong," 13 years ago. As a hardcore act who went country before going country was cool, Social D has a nice array of sounds to pull from, even if their most recent record is now five years old. Here's hoping they toss in the brilliant cover of "Under My Thumb," which closed out their most successful album, 1996's White Light, White Heat, White Trash.
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