By Heather Hoch
About two years ago, John Vanderslice made a promise to a Phoenix audience that he would return to Modified Arts again. Though you couldn't blame anyone who wanted to avoid Phoenix this time of you, Vanderslice delivered, while supporting his newest release Romanian Names, making his Sunday show at Modified one of his tour's final stops. Vanderslice said again on stage how much he loves the venue, and after the show, he explained that he loves the people that come to the Modified.
"There's no chattiness," he said "Everyone's more focused on the show... or maybe just sweeter."
One thing Vanderslice regulars have come to expect is exceptional opening acts. From the smal-scale fame of St. Vincent to up-and-coming Bishop Allen, Sunday's show was no different. The Tallest Man on Earth took the stage before Vanderslice with songs he described as "mad" or "sad love songs." Armed with an acoustic guitar and gritty vocals, one-man-band Kristian Matsson proved how loud folk can get. Vanderslice said it is important for him to tour with bands he is into and "hunt(s) them down ahead of time."
"They're mostly just bands we loved," he said. "I've never wanted to kill someone more than people I didn't like on tour because you're with them every day."
Matsson made another appearance on stage during Vanderslice's set to give him a hug, which seemingly set off a chain of awkward moments involving invasion of personal space. From nuzzling his guitarist's ear to hugging each and every fan that stopped by to say hello after the show, Vanderslice seemed in high spirits during and after the show. He said this is just simply because he still loves touring and being around his fans, unlike some other bands he's spoken to. "Why the f**k would you leave the house if you don't like touring?" he said.
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During the show, Vanderslice showed his prowess as a storyteller in and out of songs, telling goofy stories about past shows and life on the road. Ornately orchestrated, full-band songs shifted to lighter, acoustic songs, each moment keeping the large Modified audience captivated. As his final song, Vanderslice popped off stage, into the crowd, and sang one final song complete the evening, with a flute solo and everything.
By the time the show had ended, Vanderslice had suggested both a large-scale ultimate Frisbee competition and a Public Enemy dance party, but fans seemed more interested in getting his autograph. He took his time with each fan, answering questions, signing albums, and, of course, giving hugs. He said he planned to be back in February 2010.
With showmanship and attentiveness like that, how can you not like John Vanderslice?