Concert Review

Tempe Music Fest 2009: How 3 Doors Down, Kid Rock, All-American Rejects and Shiny Toy Guns Rocked Us

This weekend Tempe Music Fest 2009 united us once again from scattered Valley citizenry to one cohesive force bent on rocking the hell out. This year Fergy and My Chemical Romance got traded in for straight ahead rock-'n'-rollers Kid Rock and 3 Doors Down with a couple of All-American Rejects and Shiny Toy Guns thrown in for good measure.

If you were there, you know what a great time it was. For those who got stuck at home here's what you missed out on:

Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers Roger Clyne showed nothing less than his usual South-of-the-border swagger on stage at TMF despite being backed by a new Peacemaker. In January, Jim Dalton, formerly of Railbenders, took over lead guitar from Steve Larson who was part of Dead Hot Workshop before joining The Peacemakers. Even with a new hand on deck, Clyne and the boys jammed out a full set of including "Maybe We Should Fall In Love," "Counterclockwise" and a few tracks from Turbo Ocho.

While the performance was not all that different from what we saw at the last year's Circus Mexicus in Rocky Point, Clyne did spice things up with a mariachi-style horn and percussion section.

Kid Rock Of course a little brass and a few maracas were just a drop in the bucket compared to the Twisted Brown Trucker Band and if Kid Rock's smirk as he opened his set on Friday night is any indication, he knew it.

Kid Rock came right out of the gate with "Bawitdaba" jumping several feet in the air and tossing his mic around like it was a hand grenade only seconds from going off.

It was an electric performance...for the first few songs or so anyway. Then a strange thing happened to Kid Rock: he started showing his country roots and the energy he'd created by fist-pumping the air and screaming his name slowly began to dissipate as he morphed from arena rocker to a honky-tonkin' good old boy.

And an emotionally sensitive one at that. Kid Rock took several minutes out of his show to read a note sent to him from a fan who apparently held others to her extremely strict religious standard until she happened into a Kid Rock concert and realized she should treat her fellow man with love and respect.

"That note was on the back of this," Kid Rock said and revealed an Arizona license plate with the words "KID RCK" imprinted on it.

A touching concert memory? Sure. But eventually you've got to ride that wave of audience sentiment back up to an explosive finish. Instead, Rock showcased his musical skills on various instruments starting with the turn tables. It was when Kid Rock jumped on guitar, however, that the musician with the southern drawl started going South. Kid Rock made multiple attempts to play "Cat Scratch Fever" but kept getting the riff confused with "Smoke on the Water" instead. Kid Rock eventually gave up, despite tag-teamed-teaching efforts from guitarists Marlon Young and Jason Krause, and took over Stephanie Eulinberg's drum set instead.

"I can't play it on guitar, so I'm going to sing it while I play drums," he said.

It was an awkward end to Tempe Music Fest's first night that left us anxiously looking forward to Saturday.

Shiny Toy Guns Season of Poison, Shiny Toy Guns' sophomore album, may not have scored as many direct hits on Billboard's Modern Rock charts as their debut We Are Pilots, but the songs that have placed hit big. "Ricochet!" ranked 17 after its release in September of 2008 making it the highest rated song released by the Shinys.

Perhaps their chart success is shining through in their live show as well, because things were even more refined than their performance at Martini Ranch in September 2008. At that time Sisely Treasure was still a recent addition to the line up after original female vocalist Carah Faye Charnow left the band due to a dreaded case of artistic differences. Now Treasure seems like a natural fit capable of holding her own on new songs like "Ghost Town" and oldies-but-goodies like "Le Disko" as well.

Shiny Toy Guns are currently traveling around North America with The All-American Rejects on the Honda-sponsored "I Want To Rock" Tour. There's no word on when they're headed back to The Valley, but we hope it won't be long.

Mute Math Shortly after the guns left the stage, Shiny Toy Guns vocalist Sisely Treasure snuck down into the photographer pool to catch Mute Math up next. She clearly knew a great thing was about to happen on stage. Anyone who didn't realize the event of musical magnitude they were about to witness needed only look to Mute Math drummer Darren King. Shortly before the opening notes, King duct-taped his headphones to his head while shooting a knowing gaze at the audience.

What followed was an eruption of keytar magic propelled by Paul Meany's golden vocals and backed by a three man crew of extremely talented musicians.

The word is Mute Math has a new album scheduled for an August 2009 release. To drum up hype, the band has released reaction videos of people listening to the new songs on the streets of New Orleans.

After Saturday's performance, we don't think it's possible that a few videos are going to get us anymore hyped.

Tom Morello AKA The Nightwatchman and the Freedom Fighters Orchestra As Tom Morello took the stage transforming from his Clark Kent day-to-day to the fueled-by-guitar-heroism Nightwatchman, we couldn't help but overhear someone in the V.I.P. section say "I like Tom Morello best when he's, you know, playing for Rage Against the Machine."

With guitars covered in messages like "arm the homeless" and "whatever it takes," Morello kept up the anti-corporate spirit inherent in the works De La Rocha, but without Zack, we agree there's something missing. Even Audioslave's Chris Cornell fails as a replacement, but we can manage the ex-Soundgarden front man.

Still, Morello redeemed himself and his Freedom Fighters by taking the alternative, American anthem "This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie and putting in the protest song verses they took out in grade school.

All-American Rejects Clad in more red than a Hallmark store on Valentine's Day, All-American Rejects Front Man Tyson Ritter hit the stage like an explosion of concentrated power pop. That's not to say the rest of the band was sitting still. As my compatriot Kelly Wilson pointed out, the Rejects were in full rocker form; dancing and lining up at stage's end for some up-close guitar soloing. But it was Ritter, with his wild man stares and enthusiasm for dropping to his knees mid-song that got the crowd up and moving.

If we'd written that many break up songs, we'd probably be a little crazy too.

The Rejects moved through their catalogue incorporating "Dirty Little Secret," "Move Along" and "Gives You Hell" into their set as well as giving a nod to the original album with tracks like "Paper Heart."

If paper hearts could bleed, Rejects, ours would be bleeding for you.

Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman Okay, he didn't perform per se, but the man knows how to stir up a crowd. Despite holding a mic in his very own hands, the ever-rambunctious Hallman let everyone know how proud he is to be the mayor of Tempe by ecstatically shouting it to the winds. The mayor even hinted at a rivalry with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon when he asked the crowd to shout louder because "I don't think Phil Gordon heard you."

You go get 'em, Mr. Mayor.

3 Doors Down Shortly before 3 Doors Down took the stage at Tempe Beach Park, a photographer informed us she'd heard a rumor that there would be a jet fly-over during 3 Doors Down's set. It didn't materialize, but standing there watching the band's performance it didn't seem so out of the question.

It can't be denied that 3 Doors Down is now irreversibly intertwined with the armed forces after writing "Citizen Solider" for them and are brilliantly using that exposure to build an expansive fan base. So much was evident during their performance of "Citizen Soldier" which they pulled off with stern conviction standing in front of the very same music video for the song you know from your last trip to the movies.

Unlike most of the acts at TMF, the stage was near-vacant when 3 Doors Down took it save for a structure like a pyramid built out of bleachers where drummer Greg Upchurch pounded out beats during the performance. The stage didn't need anything else, it had 3 Doors Down on it.

In all honesty, before Saturday we thought 3 Doors Down was noteworthy primarily for "Kryptonite;" a song that is now 9 years old. Yet they drew a full house of fans screaming their name and singing the lyrics to songs such as "Be Like That" (as featured in this Sun Sessions Video).

Whether you're a fan or not, Tempe Music Festival 2009 deserved an explosive finish and 3 Doors Down delivered.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night (and Friday Night): Tempe Music Festival

Better Than: Last year's. Let's keep going, Tempe!

Personal Bias: Music Editor Martin Cizmar mentioned on his twitter account and on this very blog that Shiny Toy Guns are my "personal Beatles." While I would never seek to usurp the house that Lennon and McCartney built, I will say that as much as I love Shiny Toy Guns they are second to X-Japan at the very least.

Further Listening: The Dorsets. These guys won the College SRP Garage Band Competition and took 15 or so minutes on the main stage. Check them out.

By the Way: Apparently some of the merch shirts had the wrong tags. Here's hoping nobody went home with a S that turned out to be an XL.

One More Thing: to the guy who somehow managed to convince me to air drum to Metallica between bands and video-taped it: please don't upload that to YouTube.

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Jonathan McNamara