More than the music, what Viva PHX brings to downtown Phoenix is
The echoes of punk bands rise through the air around the Punk Rock Alley outside Valley Bar. A brass band entertains passersby on a seemingly random corner. Lucha libre wrestlers pummel each other to the cheers of onlookers unsure of how to cheer for the faux-wrestlers.
Around 100 bands from all over the country filled 20 venues with music Saturday night. More than 12,000 people attended the madness, an all-time high for the festival's fourth year. With bands like Fucked Up, Temples, Joyce Manor, and The Menzingers underscoring headliners like Girl Talk, The Maine, and Wyclef Jean, the eclectic music festival certainly had something for everyone.
New Times sent a team of reporters out to cover the madness. Here's what we saw.
7:05 p.m.: Summer Cannibals, Masonic Temple
Hovering in that late-20s/early-30s age range, Portland’s Summer Cannibals looked like a shiny penny amidst a sea of weathered pocket change as they kicked the night off at the Masonic Temple. The
7:32 p.m.: The
Phoenix is fiercely loyal to its favorite local bands, as evidenced by the first three rows of the Comerica Theatre pit being packed with fans of The Maine by 6:30 p.m. Maybe it was karma, but those were the same rows that only got distant echoes of sound during the whole set — the speakers weren't configured to broadcast to the front of the crowd. All six Mowgli's spent the opener giving each other confused looks but shrugged it off and rocked on. "It was still a lot of fun, though," said guitarist/vocalist Josh Hogan later at Valley Bar, despite the technical difficulties. And that sort of easygoing optimism sums up the band's attitude. TAYLOR GILLIAM
7:58 p.m.: The Drums, Comerica Theatre
Viva was in full swing early in the night — by which I mean buzzing crowds, winding lines, commercial vendors, and smiling, inebriated faces. After walking past a giant inflatable [whiskey brand redacted] and a brand new [car brand redacted] and a guy getting a haircut(?), I found myself bathed in the poppy, post-punk aromas of The Drums. Catchy, shrill guitar matched with wavy vibes brought to mind The Strokes with a dose of The Smiths. Frontman Jonathan Pierce jabbed his mic at a large crowd, swinging his arm like an infinite bowler. The night had begun. TROY FARAH
8 p.m., Pure Bathing Culture, Crescent Ballroom
As my ears were still ringing from the pummeling Death Hymn Number 9 gave them, Pure Bathing Culture kicked off their set. The boys in Death Hymn, wearing black eye makeup that made them look like they lost a fight with a gang of chimney sweeps, played a fast and furious set of punk music. Pure Bathing Culture is their polar opposite: The members look like they’re dressed to model for a Bed, Bath, and Beyond catalog. They stand in front of a soft pink screen, playing music that sounds like Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” strung out on painkillers. It's as balmy and luxurious as a bubble bath. ASHLEY NAFTULE
8:06 p.m. and 8:14 p.m.: Bash & Pop, Masonic Temple
Bash & Pop got off to a false start midway through their first song. Technical difficulties saw frontman Tommy Stinson putting the kibosh on the tune. He let the audience know they’d be back when shit got worked out. Fortunately, it didn’t take long ,and they were back giving an eager crowd hooky, raspy rock tunes full of dive-bar grit, grime, and twang that reflect Stinson’s Replacements’ roots in all the best ways. Stinson’s first version of the band in the '90s only lasted a couple of years before he shelved it. New tracks like “Bad News,” “On the Rocks,” and “Not this Time,” from this year’s Anything Could Happen, make the wait worth it. AMY YOUNG
8:19 p.m.: Jeff Rosenstock, Crescent Ballroom Outdoor Stage
Viva PHX happened on March 11, a date known to some, as I learned when I arrived for Jeff Rosenstock's Viva PHX set, as 311 Day. To celebrate, Rosenstock and his sizable band covered "Down," 311's once-inescapable rap-rock anthem about the tribulations of a rock band. Rosenstock had a grin the size of 311's fandom stretched across his face during the song, kind of
8:22 p.m.: Las Chollas Peligrosas, Renaissance Hotel
Only days removed from their debut performance, freshly formed Phoenix Latin folk fusion quintet Las Chollas Peligrosas opened up the stage at the Goldwater Room in the Renaissance Hotel. The group’s name loosely translates to, “the dangerous cholla cactuses.” If you missed that there are two L’s in “Chollas,” you may have been surprised to find five badass-looking females fashioned in Southwestern and traditional Mexican flair, as opposed to hardened Latina gangsters from East Los. Either way, the only danger posed by this troupe was the imminent threat of a dance party breaking out. It was early in the night, but a good-size group filled the ballroom for the ranchera, mariachi, and cumbia-infused sounds. There was nothing prickly about this set. ANTHONY SANDOVAL
9:02 p.m.: HEALTH, Punk Rock Alley
Past Daniel Funkhouser adjusting absurd costumes, past the smoldering food trucks and various busking brass bands, HEALTH was already halfway through "Get Color," their best electro-industrial tune. The alley acoustics of this little sliver of concrete were perfect for this noisy trio — the blasting drums bounced
9:04 p.m.: Deap Vally at Valley Bar
It's hard to understate the swagger singer/guitarist Lindsay Troy and drummer Julie Edwards of Deap Vally bring to the stage. Ferocious, fuzzy, and feminist, the band is the complete rock 'n' roll package: infectious riffs, clever lyrics, and in-your-face attitude. The second song of the band's set was "Smile More," a song that served as the band's statement of purpose of sorts. "Yes, I am a feminist, but that isn't why I started this," Troy sings before pummeling your eardrums with her fuzz-laden guitar. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
9:05 p.m.: Sad Girl, Last Exit Live
I grabbed a beer and perched up at the bar when LA-based, surf-punk trio Sad Girl opened up with a cover of Link Wray’s memorable track “Jack the Ripper.” A driving bassline, twangy guitar strums, and singer Misha
10 p.m.: Classixx, Crescent Ballroom
Just a couple of walls away from the smoky haze of Second Avenue was a disco dance party led by two guys and a computer. Los Angeles-based duo Classixx, composed of childhood friends Michael David and Tyler Blake, packed Crescent Ballroom and treated us to last year's Faraway Reach almost in full but also went back to their roots, introducing "the first song we ever made" early into the set. Neon lights, backdrop dancing geometric shapes, and glowing iPhone screens provided the beginnings of sensory overload in the venue, where moving at all was nearly impossible. Heard in the crowd: "The '70s are back and I'm not even mad!" TAYLOR GILLIAM
10 p.m.: Buyepongo, Renaissance Hotel
As promised, my party people showed up in full effect for the world music beats of Buyepongo. Their name is supposed to mean “to cause a ruckus,” but there was nothing disturbing about this hybrid of Latin-American rhythms. From the pulsing
10:05: Joyce Manor, Second Ave Stage outside Crescent
“Are you not entertained?” For the crowds gathered 'round the Lucha ring on Monroe, the answer was no. Nobody popped when masked wrestler Shadow Fox scooped up heel Mike James and dropped him
11 p.m.: Fucked Up, Punk Rock Alley at Valley Bar
This set easily falls into the be-sad-if-you-missed-it category. Canadian band Fucked Up took the already-punk alley and completely destroyed it with their ferocious and tireless hardcore-on-steroids punk rock. Honoring their country’s tradition of producing killer hardcore bands with dynamic lead singers, like D.O.A. and SNFU, Fucked Up might not have the initials, but they do have singer Damian Abraham. That guy worked his way through the crowd numerous times, climbed walls, and offered up some sound advice about just trying to be a good fucking human. The nonstop pit was fueled by the band’s outstanding musical force. From “Two Snakes” to sing-a-longs like “I Hate Summer,” this was a brutal attack of fun. AMY YOUNG
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11:10, X, The Masonic Temple
I lasted two songs before leaving X’s show. They're not bad — they're perfect. Too perfect. Listening to them feels like listening to Los Angeles and Wild Gift at home. I feel the need to hear something I haven't heard before, so I walked over to the Orpheum to listen to Mothers. I was up on the second floor — it was dimly lit and almost empty. I felt like I was in the guts of a haunted hotel, and Kristine Leschper’s voice is a forlorn ghost trying to draw me into her underworld. Immersed in darkness, I felt their music rattle the entire floor. For the first time all night, I was alone, and it felt wonderful. ASHLEY NAFTULE
11:13 p.m.: Temples, Valley Bar
The whole music hall glowed orange as if by candlelight during Temples' set, full of psychedelic riffs and painfully British sounding offhand comments muttered between the band members. The highlight: the wave of crowd roaring rippling through during the very first notes of alternative radio hit "Shelter Song." TAYLOR GILLIAM
11:14 p.m.: Girl Talk, Comerica Theatre
Ran into a musician friend leaving a set; we shared a joint and passed to him as a cop brushed past. He cupped the roach just in time — Officer Friendly didn't notice. Next, I bumped into a stranger who begged me not to leave him. He'd taken too much of a medical marijuana brownie. He puked, and I stayed with him until his brother picked him up, thanking me. It was no problem, it happens, just glad he was okay. It didn't make a difference being late to Girl Talk