By Luke Holwerda
The show was already going at 8:45 p.m. I fumbled through the door with my camera bag, quickly getting a hand stamp and a wrist band, and I made my way to the front of the venue. The place was pretty full for a Thursday night.
I slipped through a few rows of people and finally got upfront. The Grand Ole Party was onstage, already roughly half through their set. I could see lead singer Kristin Gundred from where I was standing in line and I was pleasantly surprised to notice her behind a drum set. She was slamming the skins on mark with any of the bands I've seen of late. The sort of jazzy/alternative style of the music made for some great drum lines, which Gundred hammered out of her four-piece kit making it sound huge. Her vocals were also fueled with the same ferocity.
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Gundred's beats were nestled very warmly by the classic thumping tone of Mike Krechnyak's Fender Jazz bass and percussive sound of John Paul's road-worn Tele. The Grand Ole Party performed an electric set ending the night with a very catchy "Look Out Young Son."
Playing songs from all three of their albums, Rogue Wave started the set with some chilled-out textures and kept that vibe through the entirety of the show. With well-written melodies and solid song structure, Zach Rogue and the band would take the audience on an exciting alt-rock journey. Truly emotive performances and well placed high points in the set list kept the even first-time listeners interested. In between the standard guitar, bass, and drum rock sandwich, the boys in Rogue Wave peppered layers of samples, piano, keyboard, and pedal steel among other small noise makers.
All of the members onstage seemed to be genuinely enjoying their stop in Phoenix. Lots of smiles and cheerful body language onstage rubbed off on the audience, who remained one giant mob pressed to the front of the stage. The packed house of the Rhythm Room was aglow with positive energy. For drummer Pat Spurgeon, who recently underwent a kidney transplant, the night was made even more emotional by the attendance of the family of his late donor.
At the end of the night, piles of people grabbed CDs and T-shirts at the merch table. These are definitely two bands to check out if you're looking for something to fit nicely in your laid-back alt-rock CD collection.