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It's been a little more than a year and a half since Crescent Ballroom opened, and about nine months since the downtown Phoenix venue celebrated its first anniversary a little early with the first Los Dias de la Crescent. The second Los Dias de la Crescent is Friday and Saturday.
Out of context, all that might seem a little rushed, but the Crescent has moved so quickly into a central role in the Valley's music scene that a full year between anniversaries or ostensibly annual local music festivals just seems wrong, somehow. We're probably lucky that Friday and Saturday's shows actually take place on Friday and Saturday; they're very busy over there.
Los Dias de La Crescent 2013 is still defined by what's local — the music, the beer, the food, the fans — but the Crescent hasn't even waited the full 3,000 miles for its first tuneup. This year's schedule looks like a tightened-up version of last year's format — and it somehow finds a way to bring "Stairway to Heaven" into a celebration of Arizona music in the process.
308 N. 2nd Ave.
Phoenix, AZ 85003
Category: Bars and Clubs
Region: Central Phoenix
Day 1 now brings an explicitly Latin night of Arizona music, with Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta's frenetic mambo leading a parade of sounds and styles that includes cumbia (Vox Urbana), salsa (Jaleo), flamenco (Flamenco por la Vida), mariachi (the all-female Mariachi Pasión), and the globetrotting beats of DJ Seduce. Some of those bands are holdovers from last year's event, but their collection on one side of the bill leaves each day with its own distinct identity.
And it leaves Saturday night open for leaving identities behind. A Very Special Episode of Cover the Crescent will bring local rock to bear on international bands on one stage, in pairings that range from ingenious (synth revivalists Vial of Sound as New Order, the slinky guitars of Snake! Snake! Snakes in the service of the Strokes) to ingeniously weird (Dry River Yacht Club will finally give Led Zeppelin's oeuvre the bassoon parts and stompy breakdowns it's long cried out for).
Of course, other bands, including blues rockers Sara Robinson and the Midnight Special and the spacily anthemic Iamwe, will be playing themselves in the meantime. Tempe's unclassifiable Black Carl mixes pre-rock 'n' roll cool — laid back, aloof — with warm, impassioned soul vocals; Phoenix-based Kongos' stomping riffs are imported from their childhood in South Africa and London, which makes them local in a distinctly Arizonan sense.
The point of Los Dias de la Crescent isn't that Crescent Ballroom is the uncontested champion of live music in downtown Phoenix or that two crowded nights can even come close to accounting for every thriving culture and subculture in the area. The Valley is enormous, and it's only going to get bigger and harder to navigate and more diverse; it's not a scene so much as scenes, communicating with each other across hazy borders of city and age and genre. No venue and no festival could (or would want to) speak for all of them.
What these shows celebrate, then — and what makes them worth celebrating — is that it's also a place where people are willing to get into their unbearably hot cars, drive half an hour from wherever they are, and go listen to music that's similar only inasmuch as it's good and worth listening to.