For anyone who has ever made the claim that Phoenix has no music scene, I direct you to Robbie Pfeffer, Gage Olesen, and Rubber Brother Records. Since June, the partners have been running their successful cassette tape label and providing Phoenix with some of the most eclectic, community-based, do-it-yourself shows around.
Their biggest show to date took place Friday, December 27, when they brought in 56 mostly local bands to the downtown Phoenix art district for the second annual PHX FMLY FEST. The all-day event encompassed nine DIY stages spread out among eight local businesses. In most cases, the stages constituted little more than a place where a P.A. was set up, but it hardly mattered.
"Oh, man, it was really incredible," says Pfeffer. "Honestly, it was so much more fun than last year, just way, way, way cooler. There were more people, the peoples' level of enthusiasm and participation was way better."
The show kicked off at 3 p.m. with Fractal Freeway, Powdered Milkmen, Just Animals, and Ichi Sound. A lot of the earlier bands comprised high school students, including the Powdered Milkmen (from Desert Vista High School) playing in Jobot's backyard. The 17- and 18-year-olds had a crisp rock 'n' roll sound reminiscent of Weezer and were pretty damn awesome.
The schedule was constructed such that a new round of bands started every hour on the hour, with each venue taking an hour break throughout the day. The 4 p.m. bands included Sister Lip, who even in the mid-afternoon still commanded an audience of more than 60 in the Made Gallery lot. Garage-punk high-schoolers Captain Samurai's lead singer earned a comparison to "a young Aydin Immortal" (of local punks Wolvves) from Lawn Gnome Bookstore owner Aaron Johnson.
FMLY Fest's first real mosh pit broke out at 5 p.m., when Phoenix-based punks Red Tank got going in Bodega's backyard stage area. The audience really got into their set, even lifting lead singer Chipper up flat on his back and carrying him around the back yard. While Red Tank was rocking out, the more slow-paced Adventurer Outfit was playing its slow jams in Jobot's backyard.
Adventurer Outfit sounded like the type of music one would hear at the prom in a cliche '60s movie. It made for an interesting juxtaposition when blended with the punk rock sounds of the Echo Bombs going on directly next-door in the Made lot.
The lineup was enough to make you dizzy, but traversing the Phoenix arts district and bumping into friendly faces from stage to stage was simply fun -- there's no other way to put it.
The 6 p.m. hour featured Celebration Guns in the Made lot and Twin Ponies at Aside of Heart, among many others. While Celebration Guns brought a more progressive rock 'n' roll sound, Twin Ponies was more poppy and upbeat.
Bacchus and his Demon Sluts played in the Modified Arts lot at 7, and the Austin Rickert-fronted funk band had a spectacular set that included a cover of "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthin' Ta F' Wit" and had the entire 40-person audience dancing, while Dogbreth had what one audience member called "the biggest turnout at Lawn Gnome since Saul Williams."
Treasure Mammal owned the 8 p.m. time slot -- I'm sure all the 8 o'clock bands played valiantly, but none got down like Treasure Mammal. Their hour-long set, which attracted upwards of 150 festival-goers, was out of control.
In addition to a costume change (into a spandex onesie), the set included a rendition of "Shake Weight," during which they invited the audience on stage to dance with them. Austin Rickert of Bacchus jumped off the roof of Bodega 420 onto the stage, and then they closed with a rendtion of "Amber," during which they once again invited the audience on stage, this time for a slow dance.
The final round of outdoor performers took the stages at 9 p.m, and it included Emby Alexander, Snake! Snake! Snakes!, Instructions, Rough Tough Dynamite, Diners, Faust Ghoul out of Cali, Adventureface, and jazz act The Great American Youngbloodz.
Following the 9 o'clock acts, the show headed down Roosevelt to Grand Avenue's Trunk Space for the after-party -- and that's where things got out of control. After a full day of great music, a raucous crowd of more than 200 was ready for the climax.
The first band up was Wolvves, and they went stageless, setting up in the middle of the floor with their rabid fans all around them. They started the set slow, playing a down-tempo version of "Dance," off their Live Forever EP, after which they went balls deep into their set.
"It was okay," frontman Aydin Immortal said afterward. "It was like a six on a scale of one to 10. It would have been a 10 if we didn't get cut short, but that was my first crowd surf. I got my mouth crunched by a fist down on the floor."
Guitarist Issac Parker added, "People kept bumping their heads into my guitar."
The absolutely out-of-control set -- in which Parker's brother, bass player Xack Parker, really came alive and owned the raucous set -- was a great way to kick off the after-party. "The story ought to be a fluff piece on my brother," Issac said afterward.
Unfortunately, Wolvves were cut after four songs. The Thin Bloods had an equally short set, playing the entire thing in about the time it takes to drink a beer at the neighboring dance dive Bikini Lounge.
"It was probably the most wild show that we've played and I've ever been to. it was pretty awesome," said Thin Bloods drummer Joe Caldwell.
The Robbie Pfeffer-fronted Playboy Manbaby took the stage next, and crowd-surfing was the norm throughout. The five-piece punk act got the entire venue worked up; Pfeffer pointed out that he could see a mist of sweat emanating above the crowd.
Fans were jumping on and off stage, and it seemed as though Pfeffer and his cohorts were so ecstatic about the festival that they did didn't know how to contain themselves. Few Phoenician frontmen have as much control over the crowd as Pfeffer exhibits over his loyal fans, some of whom even stopped him for a post-show photo.
"It was just crazy," said Thin Blood Brendan Garrison. "I don't know if I've felt so much energy in one show before. It got wild."
If Phoenix has no music scene, no one told Robbie Pfeffer, Gage Olesen, TK Campo, Austin Rickert, Evan Bisbee, Jason Kron, and all the other musicians and scenesters who helped put this show together. "Just close friends who were also playing stepped up and took care of that shit," says Pfeffer."Everything we got was completely from the community. We had so much support . . . I really really really love this community and these people and this music and it means more to me than anything else."
Top 5 Performances: 1. Treasure Mammal 2. Wolvves 3. Playboy Manbaby 4. Iji 5. Red Tank!
Top 5 Band Names: 1. Something Villainous 2. Hug of War 3.Vacation Dad 4.Captain Samarai 5. The Coral Chiefs