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Liar Liar´s, Amps on Fire

I've finally found it — my get-rich-quick plan that'll land me a job in Hollywood as a reality show executive producer. The idea goes like this: Take a band, book them four shows with completely disparate audiences in a 24-hour period, give them all the liquor they can drink, and see if they can pull it off and win over each crowd.

I have to confess: The reality show part of the idea is mine, but the rest was actually accomplished on St. Patrick's Day by the Liar's Handshake, local purveyors of Irish/country/punk/acoustic. A couple of days before St. Pat's Day, I was drinking a beer with singer Jared Christy, who was telling me about the shows — the first of which was at 1 a.m. Saturday at the Stray Cat in Tempe, the second from 10 to noon at Seamus McCaffrey's block party in Phoenix, the third opening for Flogging Molly at 5 for a sold-out show at Mesa Amphitheatre, and the fourth at the Scottsdale Block Party at 9:15 p.m.

I've spent many hours drinking with Jared, guitarist Billy Culbertson, and standup-bass player Nolan Thompson, and I wanted to see how they'd manage to both celebrate the biggest drinking day of the year and pull off four shows, each for a completely different audience. The band's 20-year old violinists, Brittany Sanner and Megan McCluskey, aren't old enough to drink, so I didn't think they'd have any issues. But with the other three, I knew I was in for an adventure.

The first show, at the Stray Cat, was a piece of cake. It was the Fuck You Ups' 7-inch release party, with Casket Life also playing. I hadn't seen either band in a while, and the lineup attracted a packed house of punk rockers (free admission, folks). When Liar's finally took the stage at 1 a.m., the crowd (and the band) were sufficiently inebriated to throw down an exciting, punk-oriented set (many of the songs in the band's repertoire can be amped up or slowed down, depending on the atmosphere). They killed this one, with honorary mascot "Boston" Eric Matthews jumping onstage (as he often does) to help Jared sing "Trading in Your Friends for a White Belt and a $60 Haircut."

After shutting the bar down, everyone split to get a few hours' sleep before rolling to Phoenix after the sun was up. At 8:15, I heard the band's manager, Sean Shepherd, outside my bedroom window and quickly grabbed some clothes and my journalism gear, then met up with the band and their cohorts at Jared and Billy's house.

By 10:05 a.m., the band was onstage under a white tent on Monroe Street in front of Seamus McCaffrey's, beers in hand. Nolan was talking on his cell phone, obviously drunk from the night before, and Jared was staring daggers at him. The crowd was mostly middle-aged, with a few families and a few senior citizens sitting at long, white plastic tables, and didn't know what to expect from three punk-rock guys and two diminutive girls with violins.

This was the first time I'd noticed that all five members of the Liar's Handshake wear glasses. They busted out with the traditional "Boys of the Old Brigade," with Nolan becoming increasingly animated — this would be a theme throughout the day. The band soon had the audience clapping along (the audience has to clap or there's no percussion to the songs). In-between songs, though, Nolan let the word "fuck" fly and was berated by Jared — "That girl over there is only 11 months old, man."

"Well, if she can't accept my apology, I don't know what to say," Nolan replied.

I've said it before, but I have an issue with these guys and their habit of taking their shirts off while they play. Jared's chest is concave and Nolan has a perma-sweater of hair covering him. It happened nonetheless, after the band played "Dirty Old Town," "Wichita," and Johnny Cash's "Cocaine Blues," among others.

That was two shows down, both successful. When Shepherd and I arrived backstage at Mesa Amphitheatre, the possibility of things going downhill increased. There was plenty of Guinness available, and Will Anderson, promoter for Lucky Man Presents, was walking toward the band waving a fifth of Jameson's Irish Whiskey. Casket Life was there, too, playing the set before Liar's for a quickly filling amphitheater.

By the time Casket Life finished, there were close to 3,000 people in the amphitheater, making it the biggest show Liar's Handshake had played. This one went beautifully. The band had printed Liar's Handshake "spirit towels" that they threw out to the audience, and Jared was amped up as fuck, closing the show while standing on the barrier that the crowd was pressed against, with audience members and a security guard steadying him.

Between Mesa Amp and the Scottsdale Block Party, we took a breather at Frasher's Steakhouse, but unfortunately, that didn't do much to ease Nolan's intoxication (not that we all weren't bowed up considerably).

At the block party, it was exactly the crowd you'd expect wandering around Craftsman Court, mostly ignoring the tiny stage where Liar's set up. It took about 15 minutes until all the band members were rounded up. By then, Jared seemed pretty pissed off. The audience was mostly apathetic, and the sound guy told the band that if they continued to curse, the Scottsdale P.D. would fine them. That egged Nolan and Billy on, while Jared looked on in frustration. After the final song, Billy hollered into his microphone, "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, meat curtains."

All in all, it was the most impressive feat I've seen by a local band, despite it ending on a frustrating note. Anderson tried to get the band to play a fifth St. Patrick's Day show at the Stray Cat for the Flogging Molly after-show party, but it just wasn't in them. Besides, we realized that we'd left Billy, who was unaware we'd left, wandering around the Scottsdale Block Party.

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Brendan Joel Kelley

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