fun., your best bet at a dose of The Format methadone, is in town this week. At the same time, Future Loves Past and approximately a million other cool local bands will be performing at Lushfest in Tempe over the weekend.
So if you missed your chance to be a fan of the Format left with extremely conflicting thoughts about fun. going international, take a close look at the 20-some bands you'll see there. (View our complete concert calendar here for even more options.)
fun. - Comerica Theatre - Tuesday, September 10
Diehard fans of The Format had a lot of soul-searching to do when fun.--the band formed by erstwhile lead singer Nate Ruess--hit the mainstream with Some Nights. Some of it was about the music, and some of it was about the reaction: What are you supposed to do when somebody who isn't from Phoenix tells you how much they love fun.?
Thankfully, Express Feelings of Intense Betrayal appears to be the least-popular option. I've certainly come into contact with people who believe that Ruess leaving for New York and (even) poppier production values was an unthinkable betrayal of anyone who spent 2007 forcing "The Compromise" onto their friends, but most of them are at least able to avoid shouting "You lie!" at that Chevy Sonic commercial.
Read More: Nate Ruess Has Some Fun. at Zia Records
Things have calmed down, and even if you miss The Format it's now acceptable to just enjoy fun. for what it is. Now that the storm has passed--at least until their next album, and the next Chevy Sonic commercial--you can lay down your weapons, put on your Format shirt, and just go see fun. play live. Of course, if a few giddy 13-year-olds happen to hear Interventions + Lullabies playing on your boombox outside the show, afterward, so be it.
Mickey Hart Band - Marquee Theatre, Tempe - Tuesday, September 10
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Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart is one musician who can claim to truly tap the cosmos for musical inspiration. Mysterium Tremendum features and Hart and band concocting wild jams that veer from funky to trippy against a backdrop of sampled light waves culled from space telescopes. It was an ambitious (and certainly far out) project, one that worked thanks to the concept itself and the far-out nature of the band.
Instead of reaching out to space for his latest album, SUPERORGANISM, Hart instead spaces out and taps his inner psyche via brain wave signals harnessed from a special electrode-filled cap that reads and translates the throbs and signals of the brain into musical pulsations. As Hart puts it in a press release: "This time we journey into the micro, the hidden worlds of rhythm within us, within our bodies. The brain, Rhythm Central, the place of dreams is explored."
Long-time Grateful Dead collaborator Robert Hunter adds lyrics to Hart's rhythmic impulses, which are accentuated by a fluid backing band currently featuring Tea Leaf Green's bassist Reed Mathis. --Glenn BurnSilver
ZZ Ward - Crescent Ballroom - Wednesday, September 11
The fans' enthusiasm at ZZ Ward's soulful performances has been all the fuel she needs to keep going.
"It really does help," says Ward. "It makes a huge difference. When we walk into a room and the people are pumped, and they're cheering and screaming, and they want to have a good time--that makes it so much more fun. No matter how tired you are sometimes, people can really get you pumped up."
People have good reason to be pumped up about Ward, because she brings it on her full-length debut, 2012's 'Til the Casket Drops. Ward's throaty vocals give the hip-hop piano title track a confident vibe, and she puts the smack down on a woman trying to take her man in the Motown-flavored rocker "Put the Gun Down." Ward's lyrics make the already groovy "Move Like U Stole It" hotter than a five-alarm fire, and when she howls on the bluesy "Cryin Wolf [ft. Kendrick Lamar]," the results are electric. Her live shows produce a similar result.
"Fi-yah!" Ward exclaims, when asked what her live show is like. "My band and I love playing. We love being on stage and we love music, so there's going to be a lot of energy, and the audience is going to feel our passion for music. We give it our all. We leave it all on the stage! That's what people want to see and what people keep coming back to see." -- Brian Palmer
Matt Wertz - MIM Music Theater - Wednesday, September 11
All right, '80s fans: You're going to have to get your hands on Matt Wertz's new release, Heatwave, right away. It sounds like a time capsule from that decade. Hell, even the video for the single "Get to You" is filled with spandex, neon colors, fluffed up hair and dance-offs, in addition to sounding like a B-Side from the Kenny Loggins catalog. All that's missing are Pop Rocks and the famous movie trailer voiceover guy announcing that Top Gun II is hitting theaters this fall.
The guitars on "Last Good Girl," over a thick layer of drum machine, sound like a precursor to the ones you heard on Michael Jackson's "Black or White," while "Sunny Day" definitely takes some musical cues from Jackson's "Why" and Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." None of this is to say Wertz doesn't put his own spin on things; "Shine" is the sort of mid-tempo pop-rocker modern radio loves, and "Thing About Freedom" falls into the traditional singer-songwriter acoustic wheelhouse.
If Wertz's falsetto and his taste in decades keeps your attention, you'll have a hard time not enjoying the barrage of love songs that come your way on this record. --Brian Palmer
Lushfest - The Sail Inn, Tempe - September 13-14
Future Loves Past's debut album gives "polish" a good name. "Disco," too. That's not the only musical jargon the Tempe natives rehabilitate onAll The Luscious Plants
, but they're the first ones you'll have to confront when you listen to it. This is a polished, dancey, slick--that's another one--album.
The production, from Bob Hoag at Flying Blanket Recording, is certainly a part of that--the 2013 version of "Mean Love" sounds a lot like the 2011 version, only moreso. But where many bands use their first full-length album as an opportunity to expand, Future Loves Past has used the additional time, experience, and (presumably) money they had to record All The Luscious Plants to narrow their focus. It's a statement of purpose, and a successful one--it distills the most important things about Future Loves Past into 10 songs and leaves the rest for the second album that now seems inevitable.
Read More: Listen to Future Loves Past's New Single, "Grow Up Tall," from All The Luscious Plants.
Which is good. Because if All The Luscious Plants weren't a success, things might become a little uncomfortable at Lushfest, the full-blown event that's grown out of the band's record release party. On two stages over two days at The Sail Inn 19 other local bands will join Future Loves Past, who will play the new album in its entirety.
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After Future Loves Past finishes performing All The Luscious Plants Friday night the show will continue until two in the morning, with Snake! Snake! Snakes! and Instructions continuing inside. Saturday's bill features bands like Wooden Indian, Sundressed, St Ranger, and Vial of Sound, all of whom have attracted attention outside Arizona for their own success stories.