It's not often that band names are as straightforward as Masked Intruder. They wear masks, they claim to be interested in breaking into your house and stealing your VCR, the end. Something like "Earth Crisis"--you're left wondering what the crisis is, and why they're named after it.
Of course, Lyle Lovett is just this guy's name, which also works. For a somewhat closer look at five Phoenix shows this week, click through; while you're at it, view our complete concert calendar here.
Masked Intruder - Yucca Tap Room, Tempe - Monday, August 12
Madison, Wisconsin's pop punk quartet Masked Intruder has been stealing hearts and VCRs across the country this year, and for good reason: The band's debut full-length sounds a bit like Screeching Weasel and The Ergs!, with a pinch of lovelorn Weezer added for good measure. "ADT Security" seems like the band's answer to "The KKK Took My Baby Away," only Masked Intruder sings about following a crush to her house.
Unrequited love not conquering all is a dominant theme to the band's songs. Cases in point: "I Don't Wanna Be Alone Tonight," "Why Don't You Love Me in Real Life," and, not surprisingly, "Unrequited Love." The band keeps its members secret, identifying each by nothing more than a color and a matching mask and Chuck Taylors. Singer/guitarist Intruder Blue says the band formed in prison, because "crime and love songs go together like chocolate and peanut butter."
Though Masked Intruder mostly focuses on those love songs, tunes like "Stick 'em Up (I've Got a Knife)" provides just the right balance between gimmick and authenticity for this group of four Midwestern guys who (probably) haven't done anything more incriminating than stealing the occasional pizza. --Melissa Fossum
Vintage Trouble - Crescent Ballroom - Tuesday, August 13
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Hollywood-based retro-rock outfit Vintage Trouble may only have one studio album, 2012's The Bomb Shelter Sessions, but the band's résumé is impressive nonetheless. Vintage Trouble already has opened for The Who, Dave Matthews Band, and Bon Jovi. The band played alongside Kiss' Paul Stanley at his 60th birthday party, and lead vocalist Ty Taylor was invited to front Queen for Freddie Mercury's 65th birthday celebration.
At SXSW, Vintage Trouble was named the fourth-best live performance of the festival by Paste, and that left them behind only The Jesus and Mary Chain, Jack White, and Bruce Springsteen. Steeped in the musical history of Laurel Canyon, the four-piece's sound is reminiscent of vinyl and jukeboxes, of '50s and '60s blues-based rock -- think Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, The Animals.
The band's recording methods are just as historical. Taking their distinctly American music to Europe, the band found itself moving from small, underground pubs to opening stadium gigs for Bon Jovi. Having edged out Rihanna and Glee on the Amazon UK charts, Vintage Trouble returns to the United States to tell its story. Told with an intuitive grasp on influences like Otis Redding, Funk Brothers, The Beatles, The Black Keys, and Ike & Tina, it's a story you don't want to miss. --Lauren Wise
Poeina Suddarth - The Lost Leaf - Thursday, August 15
Rumor has it Poeina Suddarth cancelled her June 27 Phoenix show because she couldn't arrange transportation to the Valley, let alone the venue. Suddarth is currently supporting Poeina on her Trains, Planes and Automobiles tour, relying on the ridesharing kindness of fans, strangers, and truckers to get her from gig to gig since her van broke down almost a year ago. It's a challenging way to go, but what's a determined singer-songwriter to do but crowd-source travel funds or, when that fails, stick out her thumb? And hitchhiking these days is not as innocent as in the 1970s. "What's in that guitar case?" passersby must speculate. "Certainly not a guitar, Mildred!"
How wrong they are -- Suddarth puts her guitar and assorted effects to good use in her wandering brand of old-time Americana-flavored, indie rock-infused, otherworldly pop. That's a lot of hyphens, but Suddarth's music is hard to define. Rich and atmospheric, haunting and raw, songs are fleshed out with unexpected (and understated) instrumental flourishes from reckless percussion, clawing banjos, jittery mandolins, floating violins and, occasionally, full-string sections. Her evocative, emotive vocals float on top--another layer providing gritty depth.
Will she make it to Phoenix this time? Show up to find out. --Glenn BurnSilver
Lyle Lovett - Mesa Arts Center - Thursday, August 15
It's hard to figure out exactly what to make of modern country's flirtations with genres outside Nashville's rustic confines. Taylor Swift's Red incorporated an (ever-so-slight) dubstep wobble into her pop-country frame. The Zac Brown Band is covering Metallica live. Former Hootie and the Blowfish front-man Darius Rucker gets as much mileage out of his old alt-bro hits as he does his new country ones, and rising stars like Brantley Gilbert show off as much nu-metal as pedal steel.
"Accidental Racist," Brad Paisley's blundering buddy-cop outing with LL Cool J, is an unavoidable trainwreck, and will undoubtedly go down as one of 2013's worst hick-hop singles in a year when that designation isn't a rarity or outlier at all.
In light of such general weirdness, it's tempting to suggest building a "dang fence" to keep the "real country" safe from its mutant offspring. But that would put someone like Lyle Lovett out of a job, and considering the care and craft he's exhibited for more than three decades, that would be a shame. --Jason P. Woodbury
Earth Crisis - Pub Rock Live, Scottsdale - Thursday, August 15
Earth Crisis is the epitome of the obnoxious vegan straight edge subculture. Not that there's anything wrong with being vegan or straight edge--both practices require a lot of discipline and are healthy if done correctly -- but being preachy about it on this level is rarely cool. The title track of the hardcore band's 1993Firestorm
EP features the lyric, "Violence against violence, let the roundups begin. A firestorm to purify the bane that society drowns in. No mercy, no exceptions, a declaration of total war."
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This record set the tone for Earth Crisis' controversial subject matter and the dangerous ideas of "no exceptions." Of course, it appears that Earth Crisis took a bit of artistic license with promoting violence; band members frequently state in interviews that they do not condone these behaviors. The Firestorm EP lives on as an iconic straightedge album that influenced a new generation of hardcore bands, and a reason for Earth Crisis to hit the road. After a six-year hiatus, the band is on tour in honor of Firestorm's 20th anniversary, and -- with an irony they probably have to deal with often--is performing at a bar. -- Melissa Fossum