Has there been any point in the last 50 years in which people weren't convinced rock and roll needed saving? Fall Out Boy's latest album isn't a boast or a promise so much as the natural career path for rock stars who've become monstrously successful and lived to tell about it, Huey Lewis and the News' admirable insistence that the heart of rock and roll was still beating notwithstanding.
This week in Phoenix you can see--in addition to Fall Out Boy--all kinds of bands who could be said to be doing Rock and Roll God's work, depending on how you see the genre. Here's just five of them.
Kepi Ghoulie - Trunk Space - June 11
In 2007 divorce did what 20 years of lineup changes couldn't, ending the bubblegum pop-punk career of the Groovie Ghoulies, history's least intimidating horror-themed band. Before you get too broken up about it, though, listen to the solo work frontman Kepi Ghoulie has produced in the years since.
2011's I Bleed Rock 'n Roll is as immediate and catchy as--well, as any other Ghoulies album. 2012's Kepi for Kids makes it clear that said catchy, immediate pop-punk was much closer to childrens' music already than any of us had a right to guess. Even when he's gone acoustic it hasn't thrown his straightforward melodicism for a loop.
Fall Out Boy - Marquee Theatre, Tempe - June 11
Fall Out Boy is to blame for a lot of what was bad about the middle of the last decade: The broad acceptance of 19-word song titles; males wearing the jeans that inspired Kanye West to rap, "They just buy tight jeans 'til they nuts hang all out, boy"; even the continuous presence of Ashlee Simpson, who married FOB bassist Pete Wentz.
So when Fall Out Boy announced its indefinite hiatus four years ago, it seemed everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Juding by the band's 2009 Tempe Beach Park performance, where fans booed as singer Patrick Stump looked dejected, even Fall Out Boy appeared to be sick of Fall Out Boy.
For all that, when the group announced it return the same day it dropped its new single, "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)," still-devoted fans rejoiced, propelling the song to number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
The ensuing tour, which saw the band forgo the huge venues it played at the end of its initial run, quickly sold out -- including today's stop at Marquee Theatre. And FOB's latest album, Save Rock and Roll, boasts guest stars ranging from Big Sean to Courtney Love and Elton John. In a music world increasingly reliant on the sale of singles, Fall Out Boy's long-suffering fans are a rare and precious commodity: They buy the whole album, more than 150,000 copies in the opening week. -- Nicki Escudero
The Thermals - Crescent Ballroom - June 12
Didn't think apocalyptic chic could translate into an existential-blend blink-182? Think again. The Thermals swirl your Interpol with Ted Leo before throwing in a dash of humor to balance out the depressing despair of existence in the shadow of nuclear bombs, drone strikes, and rising sea levels.
But if your anti-Bush-era metaphors won't carry you, it helps to have hipster friends in high places. When The Thermals were less than six months young, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie gave Sub Pop Records a nudge. That and a $60 recording budget led to their first album, More Parts Per Million. It also doesn't hurt that they were once joined by Jordan Hudson of M. Ward, or that they grabbed Isaac Brock and Wild Flag/Portlandia favorite Carrie Brownstein for the video for "I Don't Believe You."
See, they're not just cool because they live in Portland and get AAA SPARS codes stamped on their vinyl -- they're cool because their anti-establishment commentary resonates with a generation completely burnt out by the fucked-up things around them. The only response is cynicism. There's biting sarcasm and then there's sarcasm that grinds your teeth to dust, and The Thermals are the latter. -- Troy Farah
Hip Don't Dance - Trunk Space - June 12
Hip Don't Dance's Facebook about page has the Tucson natives playing something called "No holds, bar bell, neo-alternative, hangover punk," which is as much a genre as anything else, I guess.
Their 2011 The Library EP--you can find it on Bandcamp--reads as hangover punk only inasmuch as it fights the natural urge to follow up the excesses and mistakes it details with a retreat to a dark room to sleep and drink coffee.
What happens instead is a not-quite-acoustic forced march through the worlds they draw--they're going to confront the mistakes they made even if it... well, not even if it kills them, but even if they have to aggravate that nasty headache they woke up with. Supporting at Trunk Space: Green Line Operator.
Grace Potter - Celebrity Theatre - June 13
A hippy love child from Vermont, Grace Potter's gone her own way and found substantial success in the process. Her crisp sonorous voice recalls Sheryl Crow, only bluesier. Though first embraced by the roots-jam crowd for the loose folk-funk of their 2005 debut Nothing But Water, Potter's never been one to sit still.
Her 2007 follow-up This is Somewhere, dipped toes in MOR and jazzy songwriter folk, and her eponymous 2010 release teamed her with producer Mark Batson (Alicia Keyes, Béyonce). That album's exploration of polished roots/pop-soul suits Potter's powerful pipes and is their best charting release.
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Not long after she dueted with Kenny Chesney on the "You and Tequila," which was nominated for two Grammys. Yet with broader success within her reach, Potter took a different tack on last year's The Lion The Beast The Beat. It retains their facility with pop hooks but ramps up the rock attack after emerging somewhat chastened by the Chesney stadium-tour experience. "I'm not saying I want to stay small and be some meek, sad singer/songwriter character," Potter says. "But I don't think I'm destined to be coming down in parachutes or having Cirque Du Soleil dancers behind me while I'm singing." - Chris Parker