Short of a miracle, this year's concert calendar is pretty much a wash. Which is a fairly tough pill to swallow, especially right now, as summer is always a magical time for concerts. (Even if Phoenix experiences a slump this time of year, there's no avoiding that luster.) So, in a case of making lemonade from a burned-down lemon tree, we asked several local music fans to share their favorite shows from summers past. Let these jaunts down memory lane spark your own remembrances and keep you sated until the next time we're all (safely) in the pit.
Henri Benard, Drummer
I was on tour in Colorado in 2016, and I got the day off. I went to get a tattoo because I love the state of Colorado. It has the Colorado "C," but instead of the sun in the middle it's a heart. I started talking to someone, and they said that Warren G was going to be at Summit Music Hall, and they might have tickets if I would want one. At one point, Warren dipped his fingers in this urn and said, "I'm gonna do it for my boy Nate Dogg one time," and then they played "Nobody Does It Better."
I got chills like I've never gotten before in my life. And I remember thinking, "If I'm not doing shows at least half this size, I'm never going to get anywhere." That whole run ended at this really cool festival in Oklahoma, and after that, I just knew I had to stop. I didn't tour for a year, year and a half after that. I spent that time building my studio, and then Okilly [Dokilly] came along [later] and none of it I actually planned.
It definitely helped me set a new standard for myself and say, "Well, if you really want to achieve your goals, you just have to try to get there." The show changed the trajectory of my life.
Alexis Whetzel, Drummer, It's Embarrassing
All through both high school and college, the highlight of my summer was always seeing Bomb the Music Industry! From, like, 2007 to when they broke up around 2013, they'd play here, usually at the old Trunk Space.
It was sheer punk rock aggression. The one show that really sticks out to me is they did a kind of co-op set with AJJ. They'd take turns and switch off every song or two, and then they ended up doing this collaborative thing where they covered "Holland, 1945" by Neutral Milk Hotel. It was like the songs kind of belonged to everybody and they were always encouraging people to just grab the mic and sing. I can't imagine seeing a band like that in a different place, not being surrounded by 100 sweaty strangers and everyone screaming in your face.
And plus Jeff Rosenstock's a big hero of fine. They gave away all their music, and so do we. He's just been this huge influence. You could shake your ass to all those songs, but they were still so self-deprecating and depressing — it's such a perfect synthesis and everything good about punk rock.
Bryant Powell, Guitarist/Vocalist, El West
It was maybe 2008 or 2009, and my girlfriend and I (who is now my wife) went to California. There's this big food festival there, and we found out that Broken Social Scene is playing. I celebrate the entire Arts & Crafts record label, but You Forgot It in People is in my top four records. But then we actually got to talk to Kevin Drew for like half an hour, and it was really great. Then, the next day, we see Radiohead at the Hollywood Bowl. In Rainbows is probably one of my top three records as well.
So in hindsight, it was just such a fantastic weekend. I would love to be like, "I'm playing in Barcelona and then I'm playing in Austria." But I have to speak to myself in the mirror sometimes and say, "Hey, you're already successful." You and I are, very basically, just moments and learned behavior. So then if I can give these types of moments to people, or if I can reach some people, that's truly what the human endeavor is all about.
I would love to be the type of person that's part of the situation that's been the soundtrack to other people's lives. But I think the moral of the story is I don't think you could actually really get these interactions if you're not putting yourself out there.
Jeremiah Gratza, President Gator Records
My favorite summertime concert experiences have been on the road touring with bands that I manage. I've spent Fourth of July in St. Louis when I was on tour with Peachcake and Fourth of July over various years in Chicago, watching the fireworks over Lake Michigan. Or, I remember going to San Diego one summer to go see Weezer and The Get Up Kids. We were driving home and there was this ska festival with Save Ferris and Less Than Jake. We weren't planning on going to it, but we stopped because it was this free outdoor park.
But the one thing I'll remember is piling into a car with friends to drive to Nita's Hideaway to see Jimmy Eat World [circa 2001]. They're filming this music video and then the monsoon starts coming in. Wind's blowing and the curtains flapping — it's just so crazy, almost like this post-apocalyptic Mad Max scene. Then they finish their set and the band's like, "Hey, you know we hate to do this, and we've never done this, but would you guys mind if we play that song again? Just so we can have some extra footage?" And everyone's, like, screaming, "Yeah!"
So many bands have these references to summer. It's just all that nostalgia, having the summer off. Like, "let's just have some fun."
David Moroney, Stateside Presents
Maybe 20 years ago, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon toured together. They played all these Triple- and Double-A baseball stadiums. I'm from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and we have [Fifth Third Ballpark] for the West Michigan Whitecaps. Dylan and Simon are like two luminaries, and they've shaped so much of my songwriting and honestly, like, getting me into different styles of music.
They rolled through a bunch of really great Dylan material; that's the first time I heard "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" live. Dylan's just so spontaneous, and the way he plays songs from night to night changes. And I was pleasantly surprised when Simon came out with a 12-piece band. Everyone in his band was just phenomenal and they ran through the whole canon.
I will always love Dylan maybe the most just in terms of how he wrote about the state of American civil rights, and just the realness and the rawness of those messages. But there's something in Simon's approach that I've subconsciously mimicked in terms of being such an interdisciplinary and loving all kinds of different music from all over the world.
This was right at a time when the great American pastime was dying, and so they wanted to help invigorate that. It was just such a positive message of bringing people together. I remember standing way, way back in some grassy area as the sun was setting, and seeing this guy, like something out of Woodstock, wearing this American flag. He was just dancing and in such ecstasy.
Maggie Keane, Valley Artist
A-ha is one of my favorite bands, and I take a lot of heat for that but I don't care. So one day my son showed me a video of this band covering "Take On Me," and I thought no one could ever touch that song. But Ninja Sex Party did such a good version of that. That's what inspired me to do their mural in Phoenix.
Later, they were playing at The Wiltern that summer, and I took my son and his friends. During the Q&A, he raised his hand and said, "My mom did a mural of you." I sent that to their Facebook page. The following summer I saw them again in Philadelphia, and I said, "Hey, I'm the one that did that mural, you know?!" I eventually said to them, "Next time you're touring, put Phoenix on your radar."
And then they played Valley Bar — three times, I think — and Crescent Ballroom and later the Marquee Theatre. I missed their Q&A at Marquee, but someone said they asked about me. There's so many fans and they're a lot younger than me, and I'm old enough to be their mom. But I'm the cool mom!
For some bands, it's all about getting famous, and that is such a dead-end road. These guys have other lives and other things that interest them, which I respect. If I really love a band and what they do, this is how I like to give back. I like to immortalize them somehow.
Meghan Herring, Doll Skin (Drummer)
One of my favorite summer concerts that I ever saw was probably the Red Hot Chili Peppers. It would have been [September 2012 at Gila River Arena]. It was a surprise gift from one of my best friends, and it's kind of bittersweet now because she passed away last year.
They're all just these monster musicians, but it's just insane to see Chad [Smith] play. He's just such a pocket player and he's played on all these projects. I distinctly recall there was a light fixture hanging above him, and he just stood on his drum kit and started climbing on it. They maybe played for two or two and a half hours and I think I knew everything that they played. Chad just makes things in such a way that it's hard for me to explain; he's just so mind-blowing. I started playing drums at age 9, and then maybe a couple years later, I asked for his cymbals cause they had the asterisk on them.
I've had times where we'll be touring and I'll have a kind of "eh" show on my part. Then a fan will come up to me, specifically a female fan, and say, "Oh, you inspired me to play the drums." Then it's just like, "OK, now that was a really great day." It sort of makes me feel like I'm leaving an actual musical mark.
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