It wasn't just Depeche Mode that brought their road show to the Phoenix area last night - - though you'd never have known it by the seemingly endless amounts of pictures and videos that were flooding Facebook all night.
Downtown's Crescent Ballroom featured another prolific band formed in early '80s England, the Legendary Pink Dots, who are in the midst of celebrating their 33rd tour--yep, three decades-plus.
Edward Ka-Spel, Phil Knight and Eric Drost gave the modest but obviously devoted crowd a taste of their avant-experimental songs that come from the union of keyboards, electronics, and guitars.
In general, the band has mastered fusing elements of synthpop, noise rock, neo-folk and psych to create layered pieces that, especially at live shows, provoke a simultaneous response of equal parts dance frenzy and heady restraint, keeping you riding a consistently boisterous wave, sometimes moving you into a closed-eye dream state. Ka-Spel's voice may sometimes sounds like a bastard child of his peers Peter Murphy and Current 93's David Tibet, but the way he commands it sets it apart. His vocal power and interest in lyrical tales of lore came through with some real intensity, especially in songs like "Casting the Runes."
It would have been easy to shut the night down on LPD's ambient and oft-relaxing sounds, but I thought, "nah, screw that," and headed to Trunk Space to catch Kepi Ghoulie (of the Groovie Ghoulies), who, lucky for us, tours so much and plays in Phoenix so often that tonight I overheard an argument in which one party insisted that he is a downtown resident.
Having been mellowed by the Legendary Pink Dots, I quickly shifted gears as Kepi took the stage backed by Miss Chain and the Broken Heels, who did a set of their own just before I arrived. With his usual, unparalleled exuberance, Kepi was off and running with an array of super catchy garage-y, poppy punk tunes that got the crowd into a non-stop dance party, limbs simultaneously flailing to the music and making sure the balloons floating around the venue never hit the ground.
It's Kepi's M.O. to tour with a band and have them also back him up for his set; he's rolled through towns with a few different acts supporting him in this fashion, and it's always a kick to see how each band brings some of their own style to the mix, as well as makes it feel like they were born playing Kepi songs.
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Miss Chain pounded her guitar with fury and lent her growly vocals to the punchy show -- it was clear all the band members were infected with Kepi's fuel. They made their way through crowd favorites like "Nikki Lee," from Kepi's 2011 I Bleed Rock 'n Roll, and the fun sing-along number "Beast with Five Hands." Kepi Ghoulie -- a blast of a show, as always, but you try taking a picture of that guy!