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.
They play a familiar style of garage punk that sounded like a mix of some popular Phoenix acts like Destruction Unit and Snake! Snake! Snakes! But then also got far more upbeat in the style of some of the more popular Rubber Brother bands like Petty Things and Red Tank!
Once Meatbodies finished up the wrestling announcer could be heard from outside the venue area so a decent amount of Meat Bodies goers moseyed over and checked them out.
The next band up was local heroes Andrew Jackson Jihad and as well as Meatbodies drew it seemed modest compared to AJJ. Even with a soundcheck that seemed to be never-ending, Sean and Ben retained a massive crowd, they even got a little bit of a mosh pit going on.
Unfortunately for their legions of fans the set was only about 25 minutes long. But for 25-minutes they really brought in the middle of the street in their hometown. It certainly won't be the last time they roll through town but this one did seem kind of special.
Thee Oh Sees came up next and John Dywer was not fucking around at all. Like all the rest of the bands on that stage there were some technical difficulties, but also in kind with the other bands Thee Oh Sees persevered.
The mosh pit was absolutely raucous during their set and it was also the only set where people crowd surfed at The Monroe Stage. The set was just loud and abrasive, and absolutely brilliant. Dwyer is a master on the guitar and his dual drummers were really in sync.
They kept their short set mostly to songs off their new album Drop, but they also rocked to songs from their earlier catalog. Honestly, as I am write this my ears are still ringing and I blame it mostly on Thee Oh Sees.
Coolio was up next, but who could resist the chance to check out Jim Adkins inside the Masonic Temple. After catching two songs of Jim's completely packed, hot, and sweaty set, I'd had enough and made the fanstastic voyage back to catch Coolio's set.
Coolio's set was basically a sound engineer's worst nightmare. After technical difficulties caused delays lasting more than half an hour, the juggalo from Compton finally took the stage and promptly had his mic give out on him.
I lost count of how many times the mic cut on on Coolio, and there were enough issues going on up there that that Coolio actually shouted that the sound guy was embarrassing him. Coolio opened with "Hit 'Em High" went into "Boyfriend" then "See You When You Get There," before "Fantastic Voyage" and then the obvious closer "Gangsta's Paradise."
Not only did Coolio overcome the sound issues to put on a great show, but he seemed to have a genuine connection with the crowd. His set was short and late, but he did the tracks that the entire crowd could sing along to. He even jumped on the guard rail right in front of the crowd to greet his faithful audience. He was a surprisingly great showman.
Immediately following Coolio it was a dash to Punk Rock Alley to catch the end of Playboy Manbaby electrifying the stage, before heading back to Monroe for Fishbone. I knew nothing of Fishbone's music going into the set, but I'm probably going to dig any band selling t-shirts that say "Fuck Racism."
The band was funky and energetic, and they really had a great set even though it was the least attended of any of the sets on that stage. But even though the turnout wasn't huge they really seemed to have a lot of genuine fans out there.
It just looked like a lot of the people who stuck around to catch them were either wearing Fishbone t-shirts, carrying Fishbone merch, or singing along to every word and getting down. I have never seen an all black ska band before, and Fishbone masterfully switched between ska, funk, soul, and rock to make for a terrific show.
The best word to describe Stateside Presents' 2-year-old Viva PHX music festival is "exciting." For one night downtown Phoenix is transformed into a giant music venue (complete with venue drink prices), and the streets fill with Phoenicians who are all out in their capital city looking to have a good time. It's like First Friday on steroids, and its great to see events like this in downtown Phoenix.
Saturday Night: Viva PHX, Monroe Street Stage, Meatbodies, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Thee Oh Sees, Coolio, Fishbone
Overheard in the Crowd: "When does this band end? I want to see more wrestling!" A seriously confused person during Thee Oh Sees
Random Notebook Dump: It really sucks when the same police sergeant who chased you all over town for protesting is working the stage you're covering at Viva Phx.
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