The Technicolors, Kitten, Pinback and The Neighbourhood Viva PHX's Central Avenue Stage at Cityscape 3/8/14
While it was expected to be one of the most diverse lineups of any stage at Friday night's Viva Phoenix Festival, the CityScape main stage offered up rock performance after rock performance. Local darlings The Technicolors, L.A. showstoppers Kitten, indie mainstays Pinback and the princes of the evening in The Neighbourhood trudged through technical difficulties while each put their spin on a riotous live show.
The average listener would never show up at a Technicolors set and expect the band to be a local act -- the whole group possesses that kind of seasoned bravado that's usually reserved for musicians from the Golden State, but we've got them right in our backyard. They were an appropriate kickoff for the evening with vocalist Brennan Smiley sashaying and shredding his way through the set, evoking a young Julian Casablancas with riff-heavy instrumentation to back it up.
Their keyboardist, a seemingly new addition to the band, stole the show from the other members while having what looked to be a very public exorcism during their last two songs, his glasses flying off numerous times. The warm crowd reception was probably bolstered by the five-to-one male-to-female ratio that was cemented in place until The Neighbourhood's set.
Poor Kitten got the short end of the stick, though they managed to put on the most vivacious performance of the evening as the most definitive a rock band can be in 2014. Due to a patch cable issue, according to Pinback bassist Zach Smith, Kitten hit the stage 30 minutes after their scheduled slot time. Smith jokingly said that the sound crew "[didn't] really know what they were doing here," and that was soon evidenced in spades by equalization issues and vocalist Chloe Chaidez's mic cutting out during Kitten's first song.
All issues were soon quashed and Chaidez and company set to work putting on a show, going from the Cardigans-esque "Chinatown" to a full display of her range on "Cut It Out." Chaidez's antics and outfit alike were dazzling, whether she was shaking it on top of guitarist Waylon Rector's amps or actually performing gymnastics onstage in between crowd-surfing sessions. They only got five songs in, but managed to be a hell of an act to follow.
Pinback played to a completely different demographic and looked to win some new fans in the process. Opening with a massive rendition of Information Received's "True North," even the steadfast teenyboppers couldn't help but to dive into the San Diego three-piece's huge sound and vocal interplay between guitarist Rob Crow and Smith.
While there were some low end issues after "Non-Photo Blue," to which Crow made some understandably irritated comments about ("Do you guys want any bass? Do you?"), and the band's projected backdrop being displayed upside-down, Crow delivered a stellar, impassioned version of "Fortress," displaying those vocal chops that belie his appearance. Every audience member over 25 was stoked out of their minds, but a group of teens in the middle of the crowd clapped along to the majority of Pinback's set -- a sight that warmed my heart and gave me hope for the future.
The influx of high school-aged girls after Pinback's set and their subsequent compacting of the crowd was nothing if not indicative of the staying power The Neighbourhood looks to have. It was the definition of a fever pitch when vocalist Jesse Rutherford took the stage, opening with new cut "Silver," to which half the crowd already knew the lyrics to. Rutherford, the focal point of the female attention, still exudes that "aw, shucks" stage presence that one would expect to have worn off by now, but it suits him well. For all their boy band vibes, the band jumped into a hearty breakdown on "W.D.Y.W.F.M." and tossed in a throwback with "Wires," much to the delight of their "hoodlums."
Volume seemed to be an issue throughout the set, oftentimes too loud and lacking midrange, but that didn't stop the new tracks from The Neighbourhood's upcoming Black & White EP or the smash hit charm of "Sweater Weather."
Rutherford is nothing if not great at whipping a crowd into an estrogen-fueled frenzy and did so with closer "Afraid," garnering a bigger response than any other song of the evening. While The Neighbourhood often gets labeled as a pop act, they deliver a set that's worthy of any rock title, even if they're driven by Rutherford's R&B vocals and bassist Mikey Margott's lines rather than just guitars.
With three out of four bands being touring acts and none of them with any control over the sound issues of the evening, the CityScape stage seemed to appease all listeners with acts that kept everyone moving throughout the night. Some soundchecking and EQ foresight might be a timely benefit for next year, but everyone walked away with at least one favorite song having been played and some new respect for bands previously out of their scope -- all who rocked nonetheless.
Personal Bias: Pinback's "Penelope" was one of three songs that changed my world view when I was 15. From the looks of it, that may have happened to a new generation tonight.
The Crowd: Peacocking swag-bros, many, many over-perfumed high school girls, the occasional thirty-something shimmying to Pinback.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Waiting between sets is like foreplay: It's a little exciting, but draw it out too long and I lose interest -- and I've lost it."
What We Learned: Preparation isn't everything in terms of live sound design (though I know, I know, it's difficult to do well outdoors) -- competent help helps too.
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Random Notebook Dump: Blond girl in front of me and I are singing "Sweater Weather" to each other. Should I propose to her? I'm gonna propose to her.
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