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The 9 Best Female Fronted Bands in Phoenix in 2017

SvT's L. Hotshot gets in your face.
SvT's L. Hotshot gets in your face.
Melissa Fossum
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It’s a great time for music in Phoenix these days. There are always lulls in every music scene, but right now ain’t one of them. Many of these active acts are bands that feature a mix of male and female performers playing every style you can wrap your head around, from sweet alt-country to ferocious punk rock. We compiled a list of nine female-fronted area bands going strong right now, so you can check out their aural offerings and get your playlists updated accordingly. Although the bands from last year’s list are still out there going strong, we didn’t include them on this year’s list, so that we could shine the spotlight on nine different acts.

9. Electrisad
This is one of those cases where the band’s name explicitly outlines what you’ll get when you give them a listen. It’s synth- and guitar-driven pop songs tinged with a pervasive sad sentiment. Love and heartbreak are some of the recurring themes in Electricsad tunes, sung by two singers with equally sweet voices. As they harmonize, the whole package becomes an even gooier concoction, while the sense of melancholia remains a thread. It’s nice how the electro beat sometimes defies the overall mood and gives the dynamic some tenacity. You might want to dance and cry at the same time, and that’s okay.

8. The SunPunchers
Whether indie-Americana band the SunPunchers are taking you down a dark and twisty country road in songs like “Sodium Pentathol Blues,” or lifting the pace a bit with tracks like “Coming Through,” they’re relentlessly soulful. Their EP Honey may as well have been named after singer Betsy Ganz’s voice, because no matter the message, she brings it with a rich and bluesy thickness that is nothing but sticky.

7. The Darling Sounds
Singer Grace Bolyard’s voice might be a little more temporal than the ethereal flow offered by Miki Berenyi, the singer of noted '90s indie dream-pop band Lush, and that’s okay. She maintains the dreamy sensibility of that seminal act while proving that you don’t need to be totally ghostly to be haunting. Her voice maintains a sweetness whether lulling you into a slumber-y dream state or keeping you on your toes with some jumpy, catchy pop action. Bolyard sings and plays rhythm guitar along with Zach Nelson on percussion and Cutter Videan on lead guitar, and together this trio crafts hooky, delicious earworms that invade, and set up shop, in your brain.

6. Man Hands
Driving, intense, and noisy are three words that come to mind when describing Man Hands. It’s a riotous blend of garage rock and post-punk delivered with intent. Vocalist Jackie Cruz’s voice shreds right along with her forceful guitar playing. She alternates singing with the band’s other guitar player, Marc Berry. Though the two have different tones to offer, they share a volatile vocal delivery style that continuously teeters on the brink of explosion. Matt Spastic’s drumming and Colin Sick’s bass work lay the foundation of urgency that this band stands upon.

5. Nanami Ozone
Local or otherwise, Nanami Ozone dropped one of the notable releases of 2016 with their nine-song release, Desire. Their hazy and dreamy rock is tinged here and there with a bit of jangle – just enough of a splash to be completely noninvasive, and some grungy garage elements that gives the mix a nice layer of gravel and depth. Guitarist Sophie Opich doesn’t sing all the songs, but when she does, her rich sound lends itself well to the eerie persistence prevalent in their musical dreamscape.

Mariachi Pasion
Mariachi Pasion
Courtesy of Mariachi Pasion

4. Mariachi Pasion
What was born in a music class at ASU more than a decade ago has evolved into an all-female, 15-member band, or more like a tour de force, of mariachi music. Clad in traditional garb and armed with the keenest of musical skills, from captivating vocals to the blend of instruments that include guitar, trumpet, flute, and vihuela, for a magical mix. These ladies showcase all the beautifully complex layers of the mariachi sound, which can range from fun and whimsical, to sweeping and dramatic, reflecting the fluidity of life.

3. Fairy Bones
Fairy Bones have been the recipients of much praise over the last few years. We gave them the Best Local Band crown back in 2015, and plenty of other media outlets have also penned the ways that they’ve been dazzled by the band. Led by Chelsey Louise Richard, who sings and plays the keys, it’s always solid rock with this band, whether they’re blending in facets of glam or punk, or getting a little artsy with the whole shebang. Richard’s pipes are powerful, never not oozing with strength in whichever direction she takes them. You don’t question whether she means business; you either get on board or get out of the way.

2. House of Stairs
Not every band can blend genres and maintain consistently cohesive and intriguing results. House of Stairs can, though, and does with maximum proficiency. The group, which is Holly Pyle on vocals, Shea Marshall on saxophone/bass clarinet/synth, Garrison Jones on keys, and Stephen Avalos on drums, often gets plopped in the jazz category, and while they’ve embraced jazz, there is so much more to their sound: soul, for one thing, and enough of it to keep your skin tingling, and funk, for another. And that’s not all; they get digital with it, adding looping and digital instrumentation to the mix. They conjure up the spirit of acts like Morcheeba and Portishead as much as they do classic jazz. Focus on Pyle’s drug-like, stirring voice, and it will lull you into the beyond.

1. Scorpion vs. Tarantula
You could sum up a Scorpion vs. Tarantula show like this: Band walks into a bar, band destroys bar with blistering show of punk rock-and-roll led by a throaty, wrecking ball of a woman named L. Hotshot. In fact, if you used that summary every single time, you wouldn’t be wrong. While Hotshot rips through the crowd, mic in hand, fists pumping and singing her glorious guts out, the band – Jay Bennett on guitar, Tana Satana on bass, and Michael “Cappy” Renfroe on drums – is busy providing a ferocious backdrop that keeps the crowd in full fever mode until the last note is rung.

Editor's note: This list originally contained 10 bands, including JJCnV. After publication, we became aware that the author of this piece, Amy Young, is in a side project, Sturdy Ladies, with JJCnV frontwoman Dana Stern. While JJCnV is a storied Phoenix band well deserving of a spot on this list, we've removed it in order to avoid an appearance of conflict of interest.

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