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20 Favorite Concerts at The Sail Inn

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If you ask any of the local musicians that have performed at The Sail Inn what they'll miss about the Tempe venue -- and we did -- you can expect its outdoor stage to be one of the most common answers. And probably some memories about all the many great shows they either saw or participated in while at the bar.

Given that Sail Inn's been around since 1990, owner Gina Lombardi's estimate that her place has hosted "literally thousands of shows" isn't hyperbole in the slightest. Since this is The Sail, of course there were hordes of jam-heavy gigs by The Noodles, Xtra Ticket, or other crunchy, funky, jazzy, or reggae-y artists. Indie bands both local and touring were big here, especially in the last five years, as were any and all flavors of rock 'n' roll.

In honor of Sail Inn's three-day "Farewell Festival" this weekend, followed by its closing, we've assembled a look at some of our favorite shows at the venue, Arranged chronologically, as seen through the eyes of our various contributors, as well as a few gigs that others in the music scene enjoyed.

While it's admittedly a mere fraction of the sheer amount of shows that happened at The Sail Inn, it's a small sampling of the sort of jams you could catch at the joint.

Vince Welnick (2004)

I played with Vince Welnick, the last keyboard player for the Dead, on the outdoor stage which was really cool. I used to do in-between sets for the Noodles out there when I was really getting my solo thing together. I was getting ready for my thing, everyone comes walking up, and he came and sat down at the piano, and got the band up with me and it was a really good feeling as a younger player getting to play with all those seasoned musicians. -- Mikel Lander, Sugar Thieves

The Noodles (2005)

I'm completely out of my indie rock element, but it's quite the scene at the Sail Inn on a recent Sunday afternoon: pretty (and friendly) granola girls twirling around in flowing skirts, squealing little kids running around with bubble-blowing machines, gray-haired guys in tie-dyed shirts with their guts stretching the trademark Dead dancing bear into a rotund jiggling blimp.

No visible drug use, but I see plenty of squinty red eyes, and there are certainly enough VW buses parked in the lot to duck into. It's a throwback, for sure, to a point on the cultural time line that I didn't witness and don't regret missing, though there are plenty of folks my age reliving their parents' past to the grooves of the Noodles, the Tempe-based Grateful Dead cover band hosting the matinee. -- Brendan Joel Kelley

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Z-Trip (2006)

Me and [DJ] Hyder did a couple club nights over there, back in the day, just this funky little night there back in the day on Sundays after the Noodles. We even had Z-Trip come in there and play after a show on Mill Avenue. It was awesome. We were packed. I've never seen that many people at Sail Inn before. Totally cool. -- Dumperfoo, The Blunt Club

David Bazan (2010)

David Bazan was worried he'd be marginalized. At least that's what he told me over the phone a few weeks prior, discussing public reaction to his latest album, Curse Your Branches.

"Honestly, what I actually thought was that the record was going to be so marginal, because anyone who cares so much about these topics this much, I thought, would be offended by it, and anyone who didn't care about it, or believe it would just say, 'Why is this guy obsessed with this stuff so much?'"

Judging from the packed crowd at Sail Inn, Bazan's words and songs haven't had that effect. At all. The former Pedro the Lion frontman held the crowd rapt in attention, suggesting the tunes have resonated with listeners in ways that would have surprised their creator. -- Jason P. Woodbury

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MarchFourth Marching Band (2010)

Probably my favorite show I saw was a few years ago when MarchFourth Marching Band played a show on the outdoor stage. It felt as if we where having a mini-Burning Man festival right then and there. The energy of the night, the dancing, the good spirits -- I think even Gina [Lombardi] was dancing. -- Charlie Levy, Stateside Presents

Dry River Yacht Club played with MarchFourth Marching Band there. Fucking awesome. I mean, we got to meet MarchFourth because of The Sail Inn, we got to become friends with MarchFourth because of The Sail Inn. We got to play shows with them because of The Sail Inn. -- Henri Benard, Dry River Yacht Club

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Besnard Lakes (2010)

After watching the Besnard Lakes hour-long set at the Sail Inn on Friday night I thought to myself, that had the Montreal band been around in the '70s they may have been one of the biggest bands in the world.

I say this for a couple reasons. The most obvious reason is the bands music. On the Besnard Lakes third record The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night, you can definitely hear a strong '70s influence. And when played live last night the band included plenty of classic rock style guitar solos. Then there is Besnard Lakes frontman Jace Lasek, who took to the stage last night wearing a black western shirt, orange-tinted glasses and long, shaggy hair and looked like he would fit in nicely with just about '70s era rock band. -- Mike Escoto

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The Aggrolites (2010)

It was one of those shows where everyone checked their worries at the curb, knowing the Aggrolites' feel-good vibe would make caring about anything else simply impossible. The show got off to a loud start with guitarist Brian Dixon shouting, "We are the Aggrolites!" and jammed out right away with "Funky Fire," which could be heard all the way from Mill Avenue.

The smile that lead singer Jesse Wagner couldn't wipe off his face was contagious, as was the band's music. Their songs are easy to catch onto even if you're not familiar with them at all, and even people who didn't know the lyrics seemed to have caught on quickly and found themselves singing along. Needless to say, the crowd couldn't help but lose themselves in the groove. -- Lenni Rosenblum

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Dex Romweber & Exene Cervenka (2010)

It was ironically named The Losers' Ball, but if you know anything about how people market stuff nowadays, you'd correctly guess that Sail Inn's show had incredibly cool musicians playing for a bunch of incredibly cool people. That started right at the top of the bill, with North Carolina's Dex Romweber duo, a sort of primordial White Stripes brother/sister blues duo, and Exene Cervenka, of Los Angeles' X.

The name was fitting however, because the performers and the crowd were unpretentious and didn't take themselves very seriously at all. The locals performing all seemed thrilled to be there. Exene Cervenka and the Dex Romweber Duo are pretty big names, and getting to share the stage with them is no small honor. While Exene was considered the headliner, the Duo stole the show and the hearts of those in attendance. -- Sarah Ventre

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Peelander Z (2011)

If you can imagine the Power Rangers slamming six-shot lattes only moments before making a musical guest appearance on Yo Gabba Gabba during which they are allowed only to speak in the most broken of Engrish patois, you're almost there.

Peelander Z is one of those acts that you can only understand by seeing them live. If you've never seen them before, you've missed out; numerous times in fact. Unlike most Japanese bands who make only the rarest of stops here in the Valley, Peelander Z manages to bring their self-described punk rock "circus" to town just about every year -- and what a circus! -- Jonathan McNamara

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Nightlands (2011)

Nightlands is the solo effort of The War on Drugs bassist, David Hartley. Perhaps an allusion to the name of the project, the music is a sincere interpretation of what it might feel like to wake-up in a state of hazy, mental exuberance. Their music fits right into the burgeoning "Dreampop" genre, complete with drowned out vocals, strummed guitars, and soft-hitting synths.

It might seem a tad bit cliché for me to use the word "dreamy," considering it's so often bounced around these days, but this is one of the few instances where I don't mind coming across a little cheesy. Perhaps "ecstasy" might be a more appropriate substitute, but after Nightland's spectacular performance, I would be more than happy to dish out every possible metaphor for describing the serenity of their music. -- Ade Kassim

BRAIDS (2011)

The thing most interesting about BRAIDS is the band's ability to create elegant, intricate post-rock without coming off as overtly eccentric. There's a reason why they engage in a side-stage group-hug before hoping on stage. Crafting music as delicate as theirs requires them to be on the same sonic sound-wave, being able to completely feed of each other.

Friday night's performance showed their ability to create a cerebral, surreal sound -- manipulating their layered composition and building a prodding wall of sound. It was magnificent. -- Ade Kassim

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NEXTfest feat. Crusher Sound System, & Mr. Meeble (2011)

You know, the old substance over style debate can get a little old. Isn't it possible to have both? It sure seemed like it watching Mr. Meeble on the outdoor stage at Next Fest at Sail Inn. The band was premiering its new laser system, and, combined with the smoke machine and synchronized video, the visual element was impressive. But the sights never overshadowed the sounds of heavy electronica and pedal steel-lead post-rock.

Though not everyone dropped the kind of stage effects cash that Mr. Meeble did, the vibe of the festival was intensely visual, with artists creating on-the-spot hip-hop and street inspired art. The party vibe, worked, too. It was awesome to see so many people come out for an all-locals event, especially the lady out front with the flaming hula-hoop. -- Jason P. Woodbury

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White Denim (2011)

http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/uponsun/2011/05/white_denim_at_the_sail_inn_la.php White Denim was pretty much all business. They tore through their fast-paced set, and most songs transitioned quickly into the next with the band only stopping for the occasional tuning of their guitars. While the group is pretty well known for shifting genres depending on the song they are playing (everything from garage and psychedelic to dub and punk), many songs from last night eventually broke down into a funky jam session.

A good portion of the set list consisted of songs off of D, like the first single, the spacey psych-dance tune "Drug." But the group also managed to include some popular songs from their earlier albums, as well. Songs like "Shake, Shake, Shake," "I Start To Run," and the soulful jam "Don't Look That Way At It" were some of the highlights of the night. -- Mike Escoto

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The Men, & Lower Dens (2012)

Brooklyn's The Men also embody a strange concoction, but one that cuts deeper and sounded more compelling. Originally counted among New York's pigfuck revival bands, the honed their hardcore sound into a catchy psych funnel with their latest album, Open Your Heart.

Sounding extra loud on the outdoor stage, it initially felt very much like seeing hardcore dudes ham-fist their way through a mid-tempo Neil Young stomp. But then they broke into speedy album opener "Turn It Around," with its gorgeous vocal melody, and the Men's conflicted sound blossomed. -- Chase Kamp

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decker. (2013)

The band's intensity, its ability to tap into spooky Old Testament terror as well as pastoral Verde River amble, is what sets it apart from the ever-crowded indie folk populace. Plenty of young songwriters are content to sing about trains and "the good o'l days;" decker. explores darker (but no less traditional) folk themes: murder, damnation, and solitude.

It's a lyrical stance shared with Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, and Neko Case far more than fashionable moppets like Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, and the band's undercurrent of darkness assures that only the most adventurous Starbucks music supervisor would ever slide the band into rotation over the coffee grinders. -- Jason P. Woodbury

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Rampage Fest feat. Nü Sensae/White Lung/Allah-Las (2013)

The platter of varying delights that is Rampage Fest, a collection of SxSW-bound bands passing through the desert, offered a taste of beach-crashed pop-punk, sonically loyal garage rock, and blistering hardcore. Under normal circumstances, bills like this can soar -- other times, it's the combination of oil, water, and cement. Thankfully, the various contingencies were well represented, even if each one couldn't be perfectly accommodated. -- Chase Kamp

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PhoChella (2013/2014)

We started doing shows there in 2010 with Phochella, our local independent music festival. They've always been really good to us. Our first two shows were some of the best show I've ever been a part of. Kongos headlined the second one, Mergence headlined the first one. Kongos? Insane. Mergence? Insane. The second year that we did Phochella, we had 800 people there. And it was packed. The most amount of liquor sales The Sail Inn has done in history there. So we drank em dry. It was just jam-packed. Everyone put on a fantastic set. Everyone brought their A-game and I felt like they delivered on both those shows. -- Beef Vegan, KWSS-FM

Synrgy (2014)

The entire show was played on the Sail Inn's indoor stage, which generally would be a bad thing. (Even jovial Synrgy fron man Brian Zach called having to play indoors "a bummer" in the days leading up to the show.)

But with island music coming from all directions, all problems of venue were easily forgotten as the crowd swayed to the chill tones of the three acts. With the tie-dye apparel tent set up in the corner, Tempe Town Lake in sight, and a bar area that rapidly became as humid as an island night, the show almost began to feel like it was part of a tropical vacation. -- Jeff Moses

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Feast for the Famished (2013)

Tempe-based Jared and The Mill took the outside stage sounding tighter than ever, still riding high following their recent album release. For Jared and The Mill the crowd got noticeably bigger, swelling by easily more than 100 people during their set. As the crowd grew, so did the numerous local music regulars like Danger Paul Balaz of Danger Paul and the Pschadelephants, Joel Ekdahl of Exploding Oranges, members of Flagstaff-based The Wiley One, and Tristan Dede of Future Loves Past. A staple of any great local Phoenix show is support from the greater music community.

With bands starting up inside while bands were still playing outside it was not only difficult to keep track of who was on stage when, but absolutely impossible to see all of anything. During Jared and The Mill's set Fat Grey Cat was on the inside stage. -- Jeff Moses

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There is a stark contrast between the playing styles of Field Tripp's Dan Allmond and Brandon Decker. To wit: Decker appears to be a driven perfectionist looking to squeeze every bit of soul out of each note, while Allmond seems content as long as there is music in the air, more so if he happens to be the one making it.

And though their personal styles may clash, their music most certainly does not. For Valentine's Day, the two groups laid it down at The Sail Inn with a co-headlining performance during their dual release party Friday night. -- Jeff Moses

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Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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