Jason Devore, Skky Brown, The Insects and Crusher Sound System at New Times Soundcheck, 2/11/12

Jason DeVore sings with Aarin Lugar of Inept Hero for a song
Jason DeVore sings with Aarin Lugar of Inept Hero for a song
Photo by William Westfall

New Times Soundcheck Saturday, February 11, 2012 Club Red

Two stages: check.

Fourteen bands: check.

Sound: check.

The New Times Soundcheck Festival concluded last night at Club Red with 14 kickass local acts. Day two emulated Friday's kickoff with a varied musical palate that included an injection of Valley hip-hop flavor for your ear.

The bands were divvied up between the second and main stages and provided a welcome ebb and flow to the night.

See the full Soundcheck 2012 Day Two slideshow.

The smaller Red Owl stage played host to the bouncing hip-hop fans, while rock and roll ska heads perused around the main stage.

Rob Randolph got the night started on the main side, but unfortunately we just missed his set. We'll have to make sure to show him some love in the future, but in the mean time you can check out his new album, The Truth We Tell Ourselves here.

As concertgoers slowly trickled in, Joshua Micheal provided some acoustic-driven rock which included some pretty nifty covers of The Coasters' "Down in Mexico," Incubus and Bill Withers. He also knocked out a couple of his own jams behind course vocals and sharp strumming. In the middle of making his pitch to the crowd to pick up his merch he somehow worked in a $5 blowjob offer which quickly sparked an auction for the dreadlocked Micheal's.

True Publiq opened up the second stage with a rousing rap-rock set that not enough people showed up in time to watch. DJ Bam Boogie laid down slow grooving beats and keyboardist Paul chimed in with timely key strokes. Lead MC John Q. shredded on guitar while flexing some aggressive rapping chops although he stretched his vocal capacities during, "Why." He quickly acknowledged that he was reaching during the verses that are normally sung by someone else. The five-piece band had good energy though and set a good pace for the next act.

With seemingly larger gaps over on the main stage, the Red Owl acts hogged most of the crowd early on, easily packing the smaller section of the venue.

As main lay dormant for a little more than an hour, rapper Span Phly followed True Publiq. With his DJ behind him laying down some wicked beats, Phly walked around the stage in a grey hoody and low-sitting Arizona Diamondback cap. His high-pitched vocals often sounded like desperate gasps for air as he spit rhyme after rhyme. Quickly following his 20-minute set, Everyday Affiliates members Choice One, Mike Paris and DJ Blesd 1, jumped on stage and further worked up the crowd. Instead of the slower methodical approach by Phly, the fellas combined rapid licks with deep reverberating backup vocals.

Around the same time reggae rock trio, Eye of Fire brought some life back to the other side with some ska-twang. Singer/guitarist Manny Anaya confessed, "We like a bit of the reggae, a bit of the rock." True to form, funky bass lines set a slow reggae rhythm with the occasional rocking guitar riff. Although Anaya's vocals took a back seat to the music (it was sometimes barely audible), the set inspired some slow-dancing by the stage.

Music collective The Writer's Guild had some early technical difficulties but quickly worked through them. The "top-notch poet and four fly emcees" aptly shared the stage, taking turns showing off their lyrical wit. They bounced around the stage, mugged in their best B-boy stances, and created some good vibes.


Following Eye of Fire, hardcore punk outfit Inept Hero ratcheted up the tempo with some double-hitting bass kicks and snapping snares. Vocalist Aarin Lugar controlled his vox, harmonizing and growling when he saw fit. Authority Zero's Jason Devore made his first stage appearance of the night, joining the quartet for a tune. The quickened pace had kids thrusting their fists into the air, as they had to resist the strong urge to mosh. Club Red frequently reminds patrons that there is zero-tolerance for that sort of agro-behavior in their establishment.

During their set, Mouse Powell displayed his steady rhythmic cadence with a heavy dose of his breakout debut album, Where It's Cloudy. Powell laid into his verses as he slowly loosened up, pointing at and engaging the crowd while ILL AL backed him on stage.

Luckily, The Insects fit in right between Inept Hero's and Skky Brown's slots as they were arguably one of the best acts of the night. Emcee Brad B and DJ Dumperfoo owned the nearly 30-minutes they played with rapid-fire rhymes and phat bass beats. Accompanied by a "visual orchestra," two artists painted stunning images on canvas over Brad's spastic rapping. The set played like dance jams with a hip-hop flare.

Shortly after 11 p.m., the very animated Skky Brown gave a soulful and funky showing with the help of musicians provided by Soul Sound Productions to eventually win over the main stage crowd that seemed interested in hearing only Jason Devore. Most of the crowd stood at the back of the club and barely ventured towards the front of the stage for the majority of the night. Brown didn't seem bothered as he wailed, grunted and beckoned to concertgoers. Fans continued to keep their distance, but eventually started clapping and hollering before his set was done.

Crusher Sound System and Def Star wrapped up things on the second stage, while Jason Devore took care of business on the main stage.

With turntablist Pickster One bumping classic hip-hop tracks and drummer Scottie Does matching him beat for beat, Crusher turned the floor into a dance club. Def Star duo closed things out on a chill level using synths and robotic voice treatments.

Devore proved to be the consummate professional, taking the stage promptly at 12:30 a.m. "I flew in from Philly six-hours ago, so if it looks like I haven't slept it's because I haven't," Devore says. Jet lag didn't show as he picked up his acoustic guitar and belted out "Call Out" to start. With easy up and down strokes, Devore was accompanied by Sugar Thieves drummer David Libman who provided percussion on a wooden throne he beat with his hands. He was supposed to fly out at 7:30 this morning, but as he got deeper into his setlist, the more unlikely it looked like he was going to make the flight.

As concertgoers finally crowded the stage, Devore was gracious to everyone who stuck it out to see him and lauded the local music scene.

"You have to support it," he says. "You never know what's going to come out of it."

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Phoenix New Times Soundcheck at Club Red with Rob Randolph, Joshua Micheal, Eye of Fire, Inept Hero, Skky Brown, Jason Devore, True Publiq, Span Phly, Everyday Affiliates, Writer's Guild, Mouse Powell, The Insects, Crusher Sound System, Def Star.

The crowd: A genre-blurring concoction of rock and roll heads mixed with flat-billed backwards baseball caps.

Better with: Two whiskey-waters and a couple of Rolling Rocks before 9 p.m.

Tattoos of the night: The Oakland Raiders logo and of course a tribal arm band.

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Club Red

1308 W. University Dr.
Mesa, AZ 85201


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