Concert Review

Injury Reserve Brought High Energy to the Ambitious Secretfest Show

Ritchie with a T from Injury Reserve at Secretfest in Tempe.
Ritchie with a T from Injury Reserve at Secretfest in Tempe. Tanner Stechnij
Squeezing 11 bands on two stages in six hours sounds impossible, but that didn't stop Amp ASU from trying.

The new collective, which has come to life in the wake of The Underground Foundation’s (TUF) fold earlier this year, hosted their first event, Secretfest, on Saturday night. It ended up being more of an open secret, and the Secret Garden on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus was stuffed to the gills by the time Injury Reserve, the night’s headliner, played at 11 p.m.

When attending house shows that TUF put on in the past, there was a certain genre of music that was prevalent. And for good reason. The punk rock, garage-y sound is a staple of the Tempe music scene. But Amp ASU pulled together a much more genre-inclusive lineup.

The only bona fide punk band was Acne Superstar, who performed first. They brought energy to their set and were having a good time — the lead singer had a smile on his face nearly the whole show. However, microphone problems persisted, making the two singers of the band impossible to hear. Unfortunately, this became a theme for the night.

Other early highlights included Breakup Shoes, who performed dreamy indie-pop as the sun was setting. Eye 19’s low-fi jazz-pop stood out, thanks to the Amy Winehouse quality of the lead singer's voice.

The Secret Garden filled up more and more as the night progressed. The audience at the beginning seemed to be about half curious ASU students who wandered in after seeing a flier and half established, familiar members of the local music scene.

click to enlarge Some paintings that were on display at Secretfest. - TANNER STECHNIJ
Some paintings that were on display at Secretfest.
Tanner Stechnij
Accompanying the musical performances were various art displays including a person-size combat boot made out of paper, paintings, and sketches. Interactive projections assisted in setting the mood for each of the bands. The dynamic images, created by ASU-based artist Andrew Robinson, interacted with the bands, moving and changing in rhythm as the music got louder.

As the night went on, the show drifted further behind schedule.

When The Color 8 took the stage, the show was about 45 minutes delayed, and sound issues escalated. The volume was low, but that didn’t stop The Color 8, who play a genre-defying blend of jazz, rap, and punk music, from delivering a set that kept the crowd energized as they were heading into the last couple of hours of a long day of music.

Inner Wave closed out the second stage with an impassioned set that was well-mixed and intelligible, barring a kick drum that was way too loud. Synth and guitar lines danced around each other as the calm vocals sat nicely on top. Their refined sound played in tandem with Pro Teens, who preceded them on the first stage, and both bands relaxed the crowd before the inevitable mosh pits broke out.

click to enlarge Inner Wave closed out the second stage. - TANNER STECHNIJ
Inner Wave closed out the second stage.
Tanner Stechnij
By the time Injury Reserve opened up with “Oh Shit!!!,” it was 11:15 p.m., more than an hour after their set time. Still, Ritchie With a T delivered his opening verse with gusto, and performed something more akin to screaming than rapping. Stepa J. Groggs matched Ritchie’s energy but brought a calmer, swagger to the stage.

The first third of the set was composed of songs from Floss, their 2016 album. “What’s Goodie” got the crowd throwing elbows and growling the confident lyrics: “Yup, what’s goodie / I’m the hottest around, my city.” The moshing didn’t stop until after “Eeny Meeny Miney Mo,” Injury Reserve’s most raucous song — for a second, it felt like a Death Grips concert. At one point, producer Parker Corey jumped into the audience and moshed along as his beat sustained in the background.

The sound problems permeated through the experience most during “North Pole,” a slow, depressing song that reflects on mortality and past regrets. The set was just far too quiet, especially when the crowd wasn’t familiar with the new music and not shouting along. The trio seemed disappointed in the volume levels as well, but they compensated with more energy.

After closing their proper set on a subdued, but highly interactive take on “ttktv” from Live From The Dentist Office, Ritchie shouted, “We have two options: We can either go home or go hard.” They then performed an encore performance of “Oh Shit!!!,” only this time it was about 20 beats faster. The crowd, now comfortable with the music and each other, danced even harder and screamed louder.

Ultimately, Amp ASU put on an impressive, ambitious event. Securing Injury Reserve, who just announced their first headlining tour, is a feat on its own — as is getting through a whole day of music in a matter of hours. But for future shows, they need to turn up the amps and be more realistic with set times.

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