Phoenix is on the cusp of something great, musically speaking. New festivals are popping up every year with big concepts and bigger headliners. As time progresses and the bands on top of the scene either blow up or fade away, it will be the younger acts out there stepping up the play the True Music Festivals, the Los Dias de la Crescents, and all of Phoenix's other terrific musical events. Though, of course, being 25 is a far cry from being washed up, we have our eye one generation younger. These are the top 10 bands and musicians under the age of 21.
Cassidy Hilgers of Sister Lip It would be outrageously hard for me to believe that anyone under 21 in Phoenix music had a better year than Sister Lip's lead singer and guitarist, Cassidy Hilgers. Her jazzy four-piece finally released their long-awaited album in May. The band took a two-and-a-half month summer tour that went all they way to New York City and Canada, and they found their way on to the biggest and best shows the Phoenix metro had to offer. They even managed to get their music on KJZZ, NPR's Phoenix affiliate. She is the face of a band that is one of the most well-respected musical ensembles in town. Even people who don't like their music still respect the musicianship of Sister Lip. Her voice is the catalyst that makes it all come together for the group, and her sweet green hollow-body guitar gets almost as much attention as her smooth vocals. Hilgers turned 21 at the beginning of November, so she won't be in contention for this list next year, but major props to her for making it two years in a row.
Leonardo DiCapricorn In 2014, Leonardo DiCapricorn managed to force their way to the front of the pack of the Rubber Brother Records bands.They released three EPs, played on many of the label's biggest events, and even were able to go on a brief tour with the labels biggest act, Playboy Manbaby. Their part-punk, part-rap style of rock 'n roll is really fun, but what may truly separate the three Arizona State University juniors from everyone else is their creative song titles. Their tracks "Scuba Steve and Kangaroo Kip," "Happy Little Genesis," and "Black 4loco dolphin" are some of the most oddly named tracks in town, and their split EP with Red Tank! Nerf War is titled as great as it sounds. Leo DiCap made our 14 bands to watch in 2014, so they were a pretty easy pick for being one of the 10 best bands under the age of 21, and if the steadfast resolve of lead singer Damon Dominguez to rock every show they play is any indicator, they will be making good on both classifications.
The Linecutters These Gilbert-based punks made the list last year, and may Joe Arpaio send me to tent city if there is a better underage punk outfit in the Valley. Last year, they were just a really tight-sounding punk band emulating their favorite late-'90s groups. In 2014, they are jumping up three spaces because not only did they release a killer EP in Pirates of Suburbia, but they also found their way on to the lineup for Phoenix Ska Punk Bowling as one of the only underage acts to rock the festival. As the band continues to evolve they have begun experimenting with a more metal sound, partially due to the insistence of their jackhammer of a drummer Jon Heiligenthal, but they are still keeping the punk and ska. What makes their brand of punk so great is that it shows an acute awareness of both their plight as teenage punks in suburbia, as well as their privilege . . . as teenage punks in suburbia.
Injury Reserve Two of the members of this Tempe-based hip-hop trio — Ritchie, 19, and Parker Corey, 18 — are below drinking age, while the third member Stepha J. Groggs is 23. They go for the more laid back style of hip-hop very reminiscent of groups like Jurassic 5, Naughty By Nature, and Dilated Peoples, the last of which they opened for on December 4. Also, in the fashion of groups like Jurassic and Dilated Peoples, their lyrics and overall message reaches a bit further than many hip-hop groups touching on deeper social issues. Their EP Cooler Colors is definitely a record that any group can be proud of, and if they stick together, look for them to quickly become a force on the local hip-hop scene.
UFN UFN competed in and won a competition for a slot on Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding this year, and will open for the OG shock rocker on December 13 at Comerica Theatre. The competition was pretty stiff, but the teenage groove rockers edged out everyone else to earn the coveted spot along with country singer Laura Walsh. They also were chosen to be a part of the Epic Proportions Tour in the early fall and were able to take their tunes to high schools, colleges, and military bases all over the country. Local pop-punkers Halocene are also alumni of the Epic Proportions tour, and since arriving back in Phoenix they are still doing pretty well for themselves. Halocene is a little older and a little more experienced than UFN, whose average age is 19. But at such an early stage in the bands development having chops like theirs is definitely an indicator for future success.
The Ricardos Phoenix does garage rock pretty well, and The Ricardos, whose average age is 16.75 years old, do it better than the average Phoenician. These four high schoolers definitely have a knack for the muffled, dirty sound of lo-fi rock. But high schoolers being good at garage rock makes sense, as garages are some of the only places teenagers can play without a hassle. Some of the other places they can get on with playing without a problem include Lawn Gnome Publishing, Trunk Space, 51 West, and formerly the Parliament and The Ricardos have rocked them all. The band's EP #1 is pretty spectacular.
Andrew Pedro of Requiem If Jon Heiligenthal of The Linecutters is a jackhammer, than Andrew Pedro is a wrecking ball. The 20-year-old ska-core Tasmanian devil hits his drums harder and faster than just about any musician in the Valley, let alone just those under the drinking age. To go along with his duties as drummer for Requiem, one of the hardest crust bands in town, he is also the band's lead singer and their booking manager. Requiem manages to get themselves on to a lot of the shows that come through town that match up with their sound, which means they play a lot of backyards and smaller venues. But don't let that get you down on them; the quality of the music definitely shines through. Requiem may never headline Coachella, but music isn't even always their number one priority. Besides playing pipe-rattling music, they are political — regular participants in demonstrations against the Loop 202 expansion, and against the effluent used to create the snow on the San Francisco peaks.
Captain Samurai These three high schoolers do not make beautiful music; they make gritty garage rock. They are uninhibited and unafraid on stage, and pretty often stellar frontman Amador Diaz finds a way to lose his shirt. The kid might not look it, but on stage he is as close to being a rock god as any 17-year-old guy has ever been. Like label mates Leonardo DiCapricorn, Captain Samurai is a clear cut favorite of just about all the bands on Rubber Brother Records and have turned up on some of the label's biggest events, like Rubber Brother's Fall Fest. They are an impressive group with a lot of growing up still to do, and it's definitely going to be fun to watch them mature and find their sound.
Doll Skin Drummer Megan Shea Herring is the old maid of Scottsdale-based punk band Doll Skin, and she's only 18. At an average age of 16 years old, Doll Skin is the youngest band on this list, which also means it has the most potential upside. The group has been around only a short while but was a finalist for Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding battle of the bands. The lyrics have a ton of growing up to do, but that's obviously to be expected from a 15-year-old lead singer. Even with all the space for improvement they are obviously impressing a lot of people which is most evident by how many of their t-shirts are showing up around other local punk shows. If these kids can avoid the everyday pitfalls of teenage life, there is no reason why they won't be jumping headfirst into the punk scene, when they are old enough for all of the venues.
TheKards TheKards were another finalist in Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding show and when they were asked to do a cover, they went with a stalwart Phoenix favorite "The Wolf" by Black Carl. While that may seem like a strange decision to some, it's actually a classy move. They were paying homage to a band from their local music scene who are a perennial headliner on all of Phoenix's biggest shows. As TheKards work their way through the local ranks and get their sound together, they are definitely a band worth keeping an eye on.
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