Dry River Yacht Club released its newest album, El Tigre, on November 16 and threw a party at Crescent Ballroom to celebrate it. At the height of the party, the Yacht Club had more than 400 people packed into the Crescent, losing their minds to some of the best performers the Southwest has to offer.
"The show was packed, and it was hot, and it was great," said Zach Lewis of DRYC, after headlining one of the biggest local shows of 2013.
Upon entering the venue, it was evident something special was going on, because of the two-stage setup within the Crescent. Adding a second stage where most bands usually set up their merch booths added a whole new dynamic to a venue that for the past two years already has been head and shoulders above the rest.
Flamenco por la Vida opened the night with a free performance in the Crescent lounge before Two Visions opened up the main stage to officially start the party. Dylan Pratt took to the second stage next, before Tucson-based Sweet Ghosts and Austin's Technicolor Hearts.
The Technicolor Hearts were a visual and auditory delight, mixing a wide array of colored lights, some samples, a violin, and a cache of interesting sounds including a xylophone that they played with a bow. By the end of their set, the crowd, full of fans and fellow musicians, was really filling in, and the excitement was reaching a boiling point.
Besides members of other Phoenix bands, it seemed everyone in the room was interconnected in a hodgepodge of local musicians, writer, bloggers, photographers, and a wide array of other local music lovers.
"A lot of our band friends came out, and there was lots of mutual support, which made it all awesome and amazing," said Kristilyn Woods, bassoon player for Dry River Yacht Club.
After Technicolor Hearts came the night's secondary, but still important, record release. The release of Bernard and DRYC bass clarinet player Fred Reyes' side project, The Sun Punchers EP. The Sun Punchers are for more bluegrass than the Yacht Club, injecting some slide guitar, banjo, and mandolin into the already instrument-filled night.
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For a band releasing their first EP, on a night designed for another band, The Sun Punchers had an amazing crowd. 300 people crammed themselves as close to the main stage as they could to catch country-looking crew, except for Reyes, who spent the night in a spiffy tuxedo.
Mujeres del Sol took the second stage next, and along with them came a whole new vibe for the night from the twangy sounds of The Sun Punchers. Mujeres was an all-female dance troupe that brought out powerful drum lines mixed with spoken word poetry to make the event seem more like a celebration of the arts and culture of Phoenix than just a celebration of the music.
Their set time was the shortest, at 20 minutes, but their contribution was enormous for bringing an entirely different consciousness to the show than the rest of the performers. Following their set Michelle Ponce of Mujeres del Sol explained that besides being a performance troupe, the group is also mean to create a safe space for girls and women of all ages to artistically express themselves through poetry, music, and dance.
With a lovely preface of strong, beautiful women telling the crowd it was more than okay to dance, Future Loves Past brought their progressive disco sounds to the main stage, and the crowd was ready to use those dancing shoes.
FLP has been getting stronger and stronger since "Lushfest," their September album release, and if there's anything they do better than everyone else it is their use of vocal harmonies. All the musicians in the band are talented, but as they play more and really embrace their poppy sound the vocal harmonies are propelling the group into a different level of music making.
Mujeres Del Sol made the crowd feel like dancing was okay; FLP made the packed house feel like dancing was a requirement. For 40 minutes everyone in the house was at the very least tapping their feet and nodding their heads.
Sedona-based progressive folk act decker. took the second stage next, and at this point Last Exit Live promoter Matty Steinkamp could no longer contain his excitement; he brought the energy levels up with a howl of "I love you decker!" just before they started playing.
Honestly, if Dry River Yacht Club was watching, they may have been kicking themselves for booking decker. directly before them, because they had to be a hard act to follow. Their set was a half-hour psychedelic trip to whatever dusty southern bar decker. would have rather been playing, set to some of the most powerfully soulful music of the night.
If FLP was the heartbeat of the night, decker, was definitely the soul as he played his jammy tunes, with his skull tattoo showing out of his half-open shirt and his glasses perched just on the end of his nose, begging to fall off at every strum of the guitar.
Following decker. came the set that everyone had been waiting for, and when Dry River Yacht Club took the stage they boarded it like the dancing pirates that they are. Reyes had been the best-dressed person to grace the stage for the evening until Garnet, lead singer of DRYC, took the stage dressed to the nines like a fairy tale princess, tiara and all.
They exploded into their set with horn blasts and drum wraps, and all the fans were merely cannon fodder; when the stringed instruments joined in the crowd (and guitarist Corey Gloden) lost all sense of inhibition and swayed and danced to their hearts' content.
"Big props to the horn section, for the horns are what make our tunes pop," said Bernard, who was responsible for quite a bit of the "poppingness" himself. Besides being one of the driving forces behind the entire event, he also played one hell of a set.
The entire hour DRYC was on stage could only be described as theatrical. Every musician on stage was not only playing their instrument but playing a role on Garnet's rusty yacht. The Yacht Club obviously stuck mostly to songs off of El Tigre, but they also brought it back to some older DRYC tunes as well for those who had been supporting them since day one.
While Bernard was a driving force behind the band, Gloden was front and center entertaining the crowd. His strong play, theatrical presence, and hilarious faces added a layer to the night that none of the other bands were able to capture. With a lead singer like Garnet and a lead guitar like Gloden it is obvious why much of the band feels as though DRYC really found their sound on this last album.
The Yacht Club will be continuing their Arizona album release tour in Flagstaff next weekend, and for those who did not make it to Crescent, next weekend might be a good time to head north and catch a show.
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"I like making a big crowd happy," said Woods. "It feels good; that's why we do it."