Viva PHX

Here's What Happened When Viva PHX Took Over Downtown Saturday Night

Alexandra Gaspar
More than the music, what Viva PHX brings to downtown Phoenix is buzz.

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.

And inside seemingly every building with a stage, there is music.

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.

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Summer Cannibals
Daniel Rose
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 bill, unofficially deemed the "old folks show," had a lineup that boasted longtime legendary rockers X and Bash & Pop – led by Tommy Stinson from the Replacements. Summer Cannibals, led by singer and guitarist Jessica Boudreaux, delivered a sincere and charged-up set of their rock-and-roll mix. The four-piece kept heads – both young and old — steadily bobbing to the hard-rock riffs incorporated into their fuzzy punk tunes. They worked through songs from 2016’s Full Of It, as well as older stuff. AMY YOUNG

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The Mowgli's
Jim Louvau
7:32 p.m.: The Mowgli's, Comerica Theatre
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

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The Drums
Jim Louvau
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

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Pure Bathing Culture
Alexandra Gaspar
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

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Bash & Pop
Daniel Rose

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 a "I can't believe we're actually covering 311" look in his eyes. During his set, he started crowdsurfing as well. When he finished, he said, "Someone threw an empty beer can at me. That means, 'I like your band, please keep going!'" Props to Rosenstock's keyboard player, who sported a Bragg's Factory Diner T-shirt. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

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

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David Accomazzo is a music wrangler, award-winning reporter, critic, and editor with more than a decade in the business.
Contact: David Accomazzo
Troy Farah is an independent journalist and documentary field producer. He has worked with VICE, Fusion, LA Weekly, Golf Digest, BNN, Tucson Weekly, and Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Troy Farah
Taylor Gilliam
Ashley Naftule
Anthony Sandoval
Contact: Anthony Sandoval
Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young