Local Wire

10 Phoenix Area Bands to Watch in 2019 (Part 1)

2000 Foot Turtle
2000 Foot Turtle Mirna Estrada
click to enlarge Sad Dance Party - COURTESY OF SAD DANCE PARTY
Sad Dance Party
Courtesy of Sad Dance Party
You could spend another new year bettering yourself by learning Mandarin or reconnecting with an emotionally distant father. However, if you’d rather avoid that inevitable, mid-March disappointment, why not try expanding your personal jukebox instead? Be it with tours, new albums, or mini-music festivals, these acts will spend the year entertaining folks while further highlighting the bountiful talent within Arizona. Consider great music a nifty consolation prize over learning scrimshaw.

This week, we'll be introducing you to 10 Valley rock bands you can slap into your 2019 playlist. Here are the first five.

Sad Dance Party
Were Phoenix’s music scene a family tree, there’d be a sturdy branch between AJJ and Sad Dance Party. They share a similar sound, equal parts Elliot Smith sentimentality, They Might Be Giants quirk, and Pixies thrash. They have a commitment to ceaseless touring: SDP will tour the West Coast, central, and northern regions in 2019 supporting a flexi-disc and a split 7-inch with Audrey Heartburn. And each reps the Valley through various shows: SDP will not only continue its house-show series JURY DUTY, but also launch Pleasure Fest featuring music, vendors, and water balloons. Despite these similarities, SDP stands alone, a jagged, imperfect little band that snarls about sadness and mental health over catchy guitars and sugar-addled melodies. They’re a new collective ready to carry Phoenix’s rock scene into the future while also commemorating that storied past, a band that makes you feel and forget at the same time.

click to enlarge Commiserate - ALFONZO MISSAL
Alfonzo Missal
There’s something wildly intriguing about things that avoid categorization (and if anything is true about music journalists, it’s that we adore categories). Phoenix’s Commiserate, featuring members of Colour TV and Fatal Hit, are a musical mixed bag, and their 2018 self-titled EP darts the sonic spectrum song by song, note by note. There are bits of performance art and spoken word, mixed together with overwrought emo and ramshackle New Wave, all united by an unabashedly lo-fi aesthetic. No matter what the music is called — emo-wave-try? — it’s dense with the purest sentiments. It’s music as both entertainment and an emotional salve, with Commiserate all about “striving to create a memory everybody can share,” according to member Tommy Lake. There’ll be loads more memories to make as Commiserate continues into 2019 with a new full-length record and an accompanying tour with other local acts. And if all that potential emotional vulnerability is too daunting for you, their live shows are a sweat-soaked, multifaceted rock ’n’ roll bonanza. Still want a category? Try “good time.”

2000 Foot Turtle
2000 Foot Turtle describe themselves as a “couple pals makin’ funkadelic music in the ’burbs.” Maybe that elicits quaint images of dudes in sweater vests, but 2FT nevertheless deliver grimy grooves from the badlands. Last year’s It Came From The Swamp is four tracks of filthy, lo-fi blues rock, slick and sexy on one hand, and utterly brash and bizarre on the other, less the swagger of The Black Keys and more the unkempt vigor of a Hasil Adkins. For 2019, 2FT is set to hit the road for a weeklong spring tour of Arizona and a subsequent West Coast jaunt. Both outings will highlight the band’s live show, which they describe as the battle between “the musician and the music, and out of that struggle comes something beautiful.” That very same live show will be recreated with the band’s upcoming full-length, Bald Man In A Wet World, which, true to the band’s “suburban” roots, was recorded in the garage of singer-guitarist Clay Knutson’s sister. 2000 Foot Turtle: a pillar of family values and ultra sludgy blues-rock.

click to enlarge 2000 Foot Turtle - MIRNA ESTRADA
2000 Foot Turtle
Mirna Estrada
Heavy Breather
Here’s everything you need to know about Heavy Breather, and why you should learn to adore the band ASAP: They formed in late 2013, they play “real garage glam shit rock,” and they’re a relatable collective of “five working-class assholes.” More than having a killer CV, Heavy Breather is a new and intriguing chain in the resurgence of ’80s hardcore skate punk. This summer’s Worse EP highlights the band’s two-pronged approach of pulverizing noise and crunchy feedback. What those tracks lack in nuance or complexity, they more than make up for with hooks that smack you in the face with a cacophony of bile and angst, ceaseless noise packed with striking emotions. These fine, upstanding gents will continue to play a slew of shows into 2019 in support of the upcoming full-length Worser, and if teaser track “Nuclear War” is any indication, it’ll be infinitely more crushing than its predecessor. It may not be “the greatest thing to have ever come out of this shitty planet” (as the band claims online), but then again, maybe it is?

Closet Goth
Closet Goth may claim to hail from “Party City, Phoenix,” but their actual home may be somewhere in SoCal circa 1988. That’s not just because theirs is a very specific brand of punk, bouncy hardcore made for weirdos to listen to on cassette, skating around and smoking dope. There’s also the fact that the band champions that early hardcore mentality of releasing as much stuff as possible. This year alone saw Closet Goth release the single “Why Is No One Laughing At My Jokes?,” a full-length titled Friendship Village, and a four-track EP, Paradise Video. That latter release encapsulates what makes Closet Goth so great: a free-flowing, kinetic brand that pays homage to the likes of Black Flag and Suicidal Tendencies while setting the playbook ablaze in favor of newfound sonic devastation. You may have heard the band during one of their million shows in 2018, including a 2.5-month U.S. outing and dates back home with Guerilla Toss. In 2019, the party’s set for a new setting, as the band works on a new LP complete with “genre change to go with changing members and such” before a southern tour this March, according to leader Col Bauer. Wherever the future promises, it’ll be a real good time.
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Chris Coplan has been a professional writer since the 2010s, having started his professional career at Consequence of Sound. Since then, he's also been published with TIME, Complex, and other outlets. He lives in Central Phoenix with his fiancee, a dumb but lovable dog, and two bossy cats.
Contact: Chris Coplan