Music Features

What Concert Made Phoenix Feel Like Home?

What show made you feel like you were home?
What show made you feel like you were home? Jorge Mariscal Valle

Can a music concert make you feel like you're home?

As we were wrapping up this year's Best of Phoenix issue (on newsstands now, by the way), we started thinking about when we knew the Valley must be the place.

For culture editor Jason Keil, who moved to Tempe six years ago from a small town between Chicago and St. Louis, it was a They Might Be Giants concert at Marquee Theatre. He walked to see one of his favorite bands from his apartment his first week in town and was ecstatic he no longer had to drive hours to see a show. Everything was within walking distance or a light rail ride away. When you're a music fan, accessibility can mean everything.

We asked other Phoenix New Times' music writers what show made them feel like they were home (or in one case, knew they wanted to stay). If you want to share your story, please leave it in the comments. We would love to read them.

'...Nothing Shreds Like Home Sweet Home'

I may technically be a transplant of Phoenix, but since I relocated at age 3, it’s been easy to erase Bay Shore, New York, and cast myself as a sun-soaked native.

But it took me quite a long time to connect home with all the pop culture I’ve loved so dearly. I’d seen plenty of great shows as a youngster, from Bloodhound Gang at Celebrity Theatre to AJJ at some random house show. And as inspiring as all those were, they just happened to be gigs in Phoenix.

But in April 2013, I journeyed alone to Crescent Ballroom to catch METZ. I discovered the Canadian noise-punk trio in July 2012 while visiting Chicago as a writer for another music publication. Their first self-titled LP aligned with my newfound love of the Second City, both these perfect hybrids of snark and wit and bone-shattering feedback. To see METZ perform these songs in my town, tearing through roaring epics like “Headache” and “Wasted,” made not only for a visceral release, but helped me sort my larger feelings for Phoenix. Here was this music I loved intensely, found first in this city I’d only dreamed of calling home, but they all came to life in my little central Phoenix bubble.

Sure, the band traveled elsewhere, but that was the point: It meant Phoenix mattered as much as L.A. or Boston. Leaving the club that night, stepping out into the cool(-ish) spring air, it felt like a cultural sea change for our little ‘burg (if only for myself). Even after I moved to Austin, Texas, and Chicago in 2014, eventually consuming heaps of music in these Meccas, nothing ever rang as true as that METZ show. It goes to show that it only takes one night to remind you that nothing shreds like home sweet home. Chris Coplan

click to enlarge Local folk punk artist Andy Warpigs. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Local folk punk artist Andy Warpigs.
Benjamin Leatherman

'It Was A Community ... in the Desert, of All Places'

I’m from a small town best known for being the birthplace of Mark Ruffalo, so I wasn’t exposed to the most diverse music in the world.

We had a handful of small metal bands composed of greasy teenagers who played to a crowd of about 12 at the only bar in town with a stage. Coincidentally, it was also one of the few spots that hosted Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

After I moved to Phoenix, the first show I had the privilege of seeing was an Andy Warpigs set during an ASU music festival in Tempe. I had never really listened to folk punk before, sans occasional AJJ tracks. It was something different from the typical sad-boy croonings I knew of the genre. There was a palpable energy to the music, which (at the time) was simply a voice and an acoustic guitar. It was something deeply Southwestern, more punk, and politically charged.

I remember the sounds, feelings, and people the most: the warmth from the sun, the crunching of gravel instead of grass under my boots, and Warpigs (accompanied by a sizable crowd) shouting the lyrics to “STFU.” There were goosebumps and joy, and people skipping in circles in a small pit, playfully knocking against me and their friends.

After the set, Warpigs was walking around selling his CD Folk Punk Yourself. I told him I didn’t have any money. He gave me a little disdainful look and gave me a copy anyway (bless him).

I became friends with Warpigs and many other people. I kept going to DIY shows, meeting musicians, bands, fans, supporters, activists, writers, many of which were transplants themselves. I still have Folk Punk Yourself in my car. I went into music journalism with the support of people who made DIY music in Phoenix.

I realized what I was really missing growing up in that tiny town in Wisconsin wasn’t a “cool” music scene. It was a community. And I certainly found it here, in the desert of all places. Em Casalena

click to enlarge Peachcake playing The Rogue Bar in Scottsdale in 2012. - DEVON CHRISTOPHER ADAMS
Peachcake playing The Rogue Bar in Scottsdale in 2012.
Devon Christopher Adams

"Sometimes You Gotta Sniff the Cool Shit Out for Yourself"

The old adage is true: Familiarity does breed contempt. As someone born and raised in Arizona, I had grown weary of the Valley by my mid-20s. I was convinced that the whole region was a cultural wasteland and there was no reason to stay here other than family.

That attitude came from an ignorant place. I never tried to seek out interesting stuff. I was just an impatient baby bird, jaws wide open, waiting for someone to come along and regurgitate the good stuff into my mouth. It wasn’t until 2004 that I learned a valuable lesson: Sometimes you gotta be a truffle hog and sniff the cool shit out for yourself.

My friend Kevin and I went down to Modified Arts to see Polysics, a band we both dug. They were touring off their fantastic Neu album. They sounded like a Japanese Devo on speed on their records. We were curious if that spastic energy translated to their performances. They did not disappoint. They closed out the evening with a manic performance that had the crowd going so hard it felt like the floor was gonna give.

But the big surprise was that the local openers almost stole the show out from under them. There was Peachcake, with a booty-shaking dance set; nerd-rapper Fancy Pants, spitting out goofy yet compelling lyrics while leaning on a cane; and Osama bin Sars, a deranged art-punk trio composed of two girls in colorful wigs screaming about being crack whores on Van Buren while a dude dressed as a Slim Jim played some sick skronky guitar.

Seeing so many fascinating homegrown weirdos rock the Modified stage made me realize that Ecclesiastes was wrong. There are plenty of new things under the sun. I just had to get out my front door and go find them. Ashley Naftule
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Phoenix New Times Music Writers