Concert Review

Shizzfest Offers the Chance to Reunite With Old Friends and Make New Ones

My name is Benjamin Leatherman and I'm a former Shizzaholic.

Back in 2004, local music message board The Shizz was practically the center of my universe. I used to regularly check the site several times a day to catch up on the most recent gossip and goings-on of the downtown Phoenix music scene. I confess that I mostly lurked and rarely posted, but reading The Shizz regularly I gleaned tidbits about what shows were happening that night, which bands were forming or breaking up, or what CDs other users were listening to.

Through the site I gained some good friends, got the skinny on some great music (Fatigo, Mr. Pacman, I Hate You When You're Pregnant), and had the chance to attend some killer shows few other people knew about (like some underground gigs put on by the Minibosses at their south Phoenix practice space).

The Shizz started back in the early part of this decade by local musician Donald Martinez as a list of links to local bands he dug and grew exponentially from there. As former music editor (and current food critic) Michele Laudig described in her 2004 piece on the site and Martinez, the site created a sense of community amongst the musicians and bands of the downtown Phoenix music scene.

According to Martinez, it had been six years since the last Shizzfest went down in 2003, and he felt it was time for a another one. The night was similar in spirit to the annual Bands on Grand festivals he organized in 2006 and 2007, with more than a dozen different local bands (13 specifically) performing both inside on the Grand Avenue venue and out back on a dusty outdoor platform. The event was organized and booked by both Martinez and Emperors of Japan guitarist/frontman Tony Poer, and the line-up they put together was quite excellent, even if you weren't an ex-Shizzite like myself. Roughly two-thirds of the groups in attendance were Shizz regulars (Fatigo, Vine Land, The Necronauts), and the rest were bands that both Poer and Martinez enjoyed and felt would fit perfectly into the mix (Yukon Ho!, Oh No Not Stereo). Each band received a 30-minute set, and believe me, they used that half-hour to its fullest.

I particularly liked the sets by Art for Starters and Fatigo. If you're not familiar with the former, it's an uptempo indie sextet with some fairly catchy melodic songs and a pair of female backup vocalists (look for a music feature on the band from

Probably the act I was most looking forward to watching was After Any Accident. The "smart-core" rock trio of guitarist John Lipfert (formerly of Minibosses), his wife Christine on bass, and drummer Scott Mead had broken up almost five years ago, but staged a one-off reunion for Shizzfest. It felt like the band had lost none of its luster over the last half-decade, as they sounded almost as powerful as when I last saw them perform at Modified Arts in 2004. They were extremely energetic, blowing away the 30 or so fans who gathered to watch them play. I'm guessing the Lipfert's had a lot of pent-up performance energy to burn off, as their most recent project, Chief Beef, has been on hiatus since August of last year due to the lack of a drummer.

Equally tight were Emperors of Japan, who painted the Trunk Space with their spacey indie rock hooks. This was my third time watching the band do their thing, and they were just as impressive as the first two times I saw them. Another potent performance came by way of Yukon Ho!, a hyperactive outfit made up of teens and younger 20somethings who had something of a challenge cramming all seven of its members into the Trunk Space's tiny stage/performance area. I mistakenly took them for a ska band initially (due to the fact they utilize a saxophonist, trombone player, and keyboard) but they rock more of an post-punk/indie rock sound with horns. Yukon Ho! was quite phenomenal, getting the crowd majorly pumped with vigorous songs that induced dancing by a few audience members.

It was just a feelgood kinda night that I wished could have gone on much longer. If fact, my only complaints about Shizzfest are selfish ones: I would loved it if the event could have run all day long and featured twice as many bands, including folks like Minibosses, Sweetbleeders, or Sonorous. Hopefully Martinez and Poer won't wait five years to book another event.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Shizzfest at the Trunk Space on March 14.

The Line-Up: Fatigo, Emperors of Japan, Oh No Not Stereo, Art for Starters, Halema'uma'u, Destoroyah, Cagematch, Colorstore, Vine Land, France vs. France, Feel Free, After Any Accident, Yukon Ho!, and The Necronauts.

Better Than: Bands on Grand 2009

Personal Bias: My user name on the Shizz is fanarchy.

Random Detail: After the show, many attendees headed for the adjacent Bikini Lounge (natch) for drinking, dancing, and conversating.

Further Listening: This, a compliation of Shizz bands released in 2003, which included tracks from Fatigo, World Class Thugs, After Any Accident, Budget Sinatra, and others.

By The Way: Shizz founder Donald Martinez was wearing a snazzy tux for most of the evening (see picture above), and later told me he's "98 percent gay," though I'm certain he was joking about any homosexual leanings.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.