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Sleigh Bells - 4/9/2014
If you were to trace out how energy flows between a crowd and the performers, it would look like this: Crowd cheers loudly for musicians. Musicians get pumped up on the energy and become more confident in their body language and stage banter. Crowd reacts to increased level of showmanship coming from stage by cheering louder. Musicians, fueled by the applause, perform even better, and so on and so forth. Those moments when the musicians and the crowd feed each other's intensity like that often produce the most special concerts, and when Sleigh Bells performed at Crescent Ballroom in 2014, this idea was in full effect. Alexis Krauss and her band practically exploded onto the stage that night, and from the first song had the crowd in the palm of her hand. The packed crowd hung on to her every word and every lyrical phrase, and Sleigh Bells accomplished that night what so few bands have achieved at Crescent: getting the entire crowd of hipsters to pocket their cell phones and dance. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

Peter Murphy - 7/13/2013
Smack dab in the middle of July 2013, the sweaty heart of the Phoenix summer, Peter Murphy hopped off a flight from his home in Turkey and onto the stage of the Crescent Ballroom. The granddad of goth has had an incredibly successful solo career, but this night was devoted to playing the music of Bauhaus, the gloriously gloomy, post-punk band that he fronted, which formed back in the late '70s.

The pre-show chatter was nothing but words of anticipation and excitement; the impatient crowd was loaded with hardcore fans. When he finally hit the stage, there were some faces streaked with runny eyeliner, and it wasn’t just from waiting below the warm lights or the summer season. Those were some emo tears, as Murphy ripped through Bauhaus classics, from the extra-dark and haunting like “King Volcano,” and “The Spy in the Cab,” to the beautiful, like “Silent Hedges,” right into relentlessly driving favorites like “Dark Entries.” 

Even though it was just Murphy and not the rest of the original lineup (who have all reunited over the years for short tours), it was still pretty magical to hear him bellowing out those essential classics in such an intimate setting. AMY YOUNG


twenty one pilots - 11/12/2013
Now a platinum-selling band known for their crowd drumming  and hamster-ball stunts, twenty one pilots wasn’t always playing at 18,000-seat venues like Talking Stick Resort Arena. Once upon a time, on November 12, 2013, the indie-rock duo Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun walked into Crescent Ballroom sporting red and blue ski masks.

Before “Car Radio” hit car radios, before “Blurryface” was released and before songs like “Ride” and “Stressed Out” dominated playlists, the band put on a big show in the small space.

The band’s light shows, introspective lyrics, and stage tricks look almost unreal in a big venue, but in Crescent, that show was just as exciting and had a more intimate feel to it. Throughout the night, the duo turned off the mics and Joseph pulled out his signature ukulele, playing songs like Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love.” Yet they still retained their energy, diving into the crowd with flashing lights.


It was the kind of show that will likely never happen again the band’s history, but will still stand as one of the best performances to hit Crescent Ballroom. MEGAN JANETSKY

Highly Suspect - 4/15/2016
For the pace at which rock trio Highly Suspect took over the internet with controversial music videos and raw, honest Pink Floyd-esque songwriting, Crescent Ballroom’s atmosphere was ideal to see the band, which has been nominated for two Grammys. Not too crowded, more than enough room to dance, heavy with dry ice and lavender lighting.

Highly Suspect sauntered on stage like they weren’t quite sure why they were there. The mix of hipsters, college students, Rastafarians, metal heads, DJs, and middle-aged couples made it clear that the connection to the music isn’t unwarranted. Blood, sweat, and tears; beautiful audacity; cigarettes and leather ... hope for the future of rock 'n' roll.

Highly Suspect inundated the crowd with the true feeling of rock and nostalgia for the devastating nuances of musicians giving all their energy to the people. Yes, the self-destruction of Highly Suspect is likely — the venues will get bigger, the fame larger.

The trio's instruments were like extensions of themselves, and singer Johnny Stevens thrashed the microphone while belting out his desperate, carnal vocals. Instrumentals weaved with the latter in a hypnotic, head-on collision-type manner. The band let songs like “Bloodfeather,” “Serotonia,” and “Lydia” showcase their talent, somehow appealing to underground and radio fans alike, with their only interaction being a “thank you,” and Stevens toasting the crowd: “Let’s all get fucked up together.” Just the way rock 'n' roll should be. LAUREN WISE

Vince Staples - 5/13/2016
God bless Crescent for letting us see spectacular artists in an intimate setting "before they get big," as the Vince Staples show I saw this May certainly felt like the last time the up-and-coming rapper would perform for such a small crowd in Phoenix. In fact, maybe a little too small, as we were packed like sardines in the sold-out venue. But when Vince took the stage, all 550 of us moved as one, bouncing and swaying to the pulse of the beat, whether we wanted to or not. The rapper's autobiographical, socially conscious debut album Summertime '06 translated into a set of bangers that Vince could deliver with overwhelming conviction and passion.


Some of the other artists on this list might have gotten here thanks to a particular gimmick or memorable happenstance, but Vince Staples didn't have any special lighting display, any costumes, any stunts, anything but himself and his music. It was this purity of performance, the amount of fun I had throwing myself into the shoulders of those around me while shouting along "Bitch you thirsty, please grab a Sprite" at the top of my lungs, that gave me a feeling of serendipitous connection to the other attendees and to the artist that only a handful of concerts ever have. This was one of those shows that made me realize anew what I love about live music, not to mention what I love about Crescent Ballroom. STEVE JOZEF

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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
Melissa Fossum
Contact: Melissa Fossum
Megan is finishing her bachelor's in journalism at Arizona State University and hopes to be an investigative reporter. She loves everything from classic rock to rap — except country, of course.
Contact: Megan Janetsky
Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.
Eric is a freelance writer covering music, travel, science, and food and drink.
Contact: Eric Swedlund
Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise
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