Captain Squeegee at Strong Beer Festival Saturday

Captain Squeegee

Arizona Strong Beer Festival Steele Indian School Park
Saturday, February 19, 2011

The annual Strong Beer Festival has been blessed with great weather in recent years -- sunny with warm air and clear skies. In other words, typical weather for February in Phoenix.

Such a thing should never be taken for granted, nor will it be again by the soggy souls who froze their asses off drinking high-powered beer and watching two local bands, Captain Squeegee and Snake Burner, rock out Saturday afternoon.

It was a cold, windy, rainy day -- probably the city's worst weather day of the entire year, unless you count some muggy monsoon in July -- which would have left a lesser event almost empty. But this is Strong Beer, the best fest, a very special festival where beer geeks can get a fix of special stuff they might never see again. So people huddled together under tarps -- each brewery having its own tent of varying dryness and warmth, plus two big tents in the middle and a tent for the band.

About the band's tent... Normally, an Arizona beer fest band -- even the mighty 2 Tone Lizard Kings -- plays to a crowd scattered about the grass, sunning themselves and only half paying attention. This year's circumstances were different. You had to either hang back in one of the two big tents chanting "your tent sucks" at the other one (this actually happened) or get right up close to the rock 'n' roll show.

Thanks to a driving rain that only stopped part way into the main set, it was more like a club show than a big ol' beer festival as Tempe's Snake Burner, which played a selection of 60s and 70s classic rock covers, gave the stage to Squeegee. Although they also have horns, Squeegee is a lot less of a good time party band than 2 Tone Lizard Kings. It's a lot harder to get fans who don't know you into more experimental songs like "You Own Invention" and "Nothing Vs. Everything" than a Specials cover. Fortunately for Captain Squeegee, they had a captive audience and that audience seemed pretty impressed from where I stood. Their set had great energy and so did the crowd -- it was more like a drunken house party or a big name band's club show in an oversold venue than your run-of-the-mill festival set. 

Then again, maybe folks just wanted to dance some color into their cheeks and wiggle their limbs to stave off hypothermia.

Either way, a fun and memorable day, though I could stand a little more sun next year.

Critics Notebook:

Saturday Afternoon: Captain Squeegee at Strong Beer Festival

Personal Bias: I've thought CS is one of the more interesting local acts going for awhile now. Snake Burner was good at what they do, but I hate to see regular rock 'n' roll cover bands at these events -- hearing "Brown Eyed Girl" makes me gag, so I'm always thrilled to see organizers go out on a limb with a local band playing originals.

The Crowd: I was most impressed by how well everyone was dressed for the weather in Phoenix. I saw a few dudes in $1 plastic ponchos, sure, but most people seemed to actually have a legitimate rain jackets capable of confronting this sort of weather.

Overheard: Screw what I heard there -- check out these hilarious twitpics of people falling down/getting arrested/passing out.

Random Notebook Dump: Phone is gonna get fried if I take notes -- better try to remember what I can, which will be a challenge. Eek.