Andrew W.K., Unwritten Law - Viva PHX - 3/14/15

With so many good bands taking the stages at nearly 20 venues throughout downtown at Saturday night's Viva PHX event, I thought I'd have a hard time staying in one place for the whole night, ogling texts and Facebook posts about what I was missing elsewhere. However, once I got to the Monarch Theatre and heard the sounds of Father Figures (featuring New Times contributor Tom Reardon on bass and vocals), a local and personal favorite, pouring out of the front door, all was good. Because of the early slot, the band probably saw the lightest crowd of the evening, though the room was by no means empty. It didn't matter, they showed everyone why they are so beloved -- delivering a fierce set of their powerful post-punk tunes, driving those hooks into eagerly awaiting fans and capturing some new ones. I overheard more than a few people chatting after about not having seen them before but definitely will be seeing them again.

Judging from the crowd's anticipation, plenty of the people in attendance were way more in the know about PPL MVR than I was. I had heard some rumblings and seen a small chunk of a video but was ready to be seriously unimpressed or just annoyed by their gimmick-y nature. See, PPL MVR is one of those bands that like to keep it mysterious. They have released no information about who's beneath those yeti-like costumes and vocoder-ed vocals, leaving it wide open for speculation. The chatter on the Internet rumor mill is that these guys are the members of New York band Brand New. Turns out, I don't really care. The shtick worked in their favor. Their heavy rock, laden with plenty of Sweet Leaf-style riffs, synchronized moves, and cheeky sensibility made for a zesty experience. The singer, who goes by the name SNWBLL, spent a good amount of time in the crowd, using his big, furry paws to push people around, and at one point did some serious people-moving to become totally surrounded by audience members. From the middle of this circle, he led his self-created circle in some unified head banging; heavy metal hands firmly in the air.

By this point the room was pretty full and everyone was blabbing about what they saw and where, and Coolio -- the man dominated a lot of the Viva conversation, it seemed, whether folks caught his set or not. Another local, Fayuca, took the stage next to a really excited crowd. Mixing Latin flair, reggae and punk, this is one really tight, energetic band. They tour a lot and it shows, along with their love of hometown fans who they didn't fail to repeatedly acknowledge. Their keyboardist/percussionist is like a one-man band on his own, flying about the stage like a little dreadlocked imp, keeping the people pumped. They seemed to hit a note with one of their final numbers, "Shoot It Up," much of the crowd joining in on the singing. Fayuca was followed by Unwritten Law. The SoCal rockers delivered their pop-punk tunes to a full house laden with fans old enough to still be sportin' that '90s chain wallet inside their oversized shorts. They plowed through a collection of songs with gusto, keeping it fast and furious. There was some to-do over their set getting cut short but it seemed to get worked out as they did one more song after the hazy scuffle. And then. . .it was time to PARTY!

Andrew W.K. is a ferocious, seemingly tireless, complete powerhouse of a human being. In every good way possible. He and his bandmates just destroyed it last night, killing everyone with more than an hour of hard rocking, serious motherfucking fun. The ringleader of his crazy, chaotic circus, W.K. didn't stop, running from stage front mic to the vocal microphone at his piano to blast out the vocals on favorites like "Party Hard" and "Party Til You Puke." He also expertly banged the hell out of those piano keys, being classically trained since near birth. Everything about that guy is infectious. His band is wicked; a team of stellar players who chime in on vocals and keep the level of chaos and fun at a ten at all times. The crowd was nuts from beginning to end, singing, screaming and plenty of stage diving throughout the set. The whole night was bookended with power, with a lotta goodness in the middle.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Viva Phoenix at Monarch Theatre with Father Figures, PPL MVR, Fayuca, Unwritten Law and Andrew W.K.

Personal Bias: Knew the Father Figures would kill it, as usual. Was correct.

The crowd: Andrew W.K. party disciples, music lovers, and some folks just along for the Viva PHX ride. Good vibes.

Overheard in the crowd: "I really, really want to make out with my Uber driver, maybe tonight will be the night." Viva Phoenix, indeed.

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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young