VIVA PHX came back for its second year. Stateside powerhouse and resident mastermind, Charlie “President Gator” Levy, had said that the first VIVA PHX was an experiment that wasn’t planned on being repeated. Thankfully there was enough clamoring to entice the downtown businesses to allow yet another venture into the Phoenix streets.
After going back to the drawing board, and seeing what worked and what didn’t from the year before I think it’s safe to say that this year was considerably more successful, at least from a fan’s point of view. There was more organization, more attention to details, and thankfully a more thought out layout. With a festival literally sprawled out in downtown streets the added organization made massive improvements to the overall experience; instead of worrying about crossing busy streets to get the net set, there was plenty of officials watching out for patrons and festival goers.
Starting out the night, at least personally, was none other than Phoenix locals Andrew Jackson Jihad; playing in the middle of Monroe Street just south of the Crescent. This group composes their folk rock in a similar vein to that of the Mountain Goats. They’re heartfelt lyrics blend a sense of sarcasm with deep seeded sentiment crooning to their parasympathetic nervous systems, and speaking to the human condition from their point of view.
South of Monroe street sits Cityscape, one of Phoenix’s downtown hubs that has been taken over and repurposed for the evening as VIVA PHX’s main stage. The best thing about the spread out nature of the festival is in the shorter lines getting into different venues, since everyone is spread out, congestion, (at least in the early sets,) is less of a hassle. Managing to arrive at the main stage just in the nick of time to see the beginning of Smallpools was a glorious turn of fate, every stage being ten minutes late also helped tremendously.
The band that reignited the fervor for VIVA PHX, Twin Shadow, followed Samllpools on the main stage. It had been the first time George and crew had made their way through the valley since 2013, and though the agony of their departure last time was only amplified by their extended absence, their return had proven to be a great remedy. This time they weren’t able to hide in the shadows of the Crescent Ballroom, but instead play on the Phoenix streets as if it were their very own Jimmy Kimmel stage.
Their sound creates an ideal soundscape for a nighttime anthem, blending a sultry mix of deep sensuality with sharp and pivotal rock anthem mixed for good measure. Twin Shadow’s rhythms combine to epitomize the essence of the night, something elusive and powerful, yet dark and inviting. Time has only worked to increase the profound affinity that is held for this group, a truth that escapes many artists as extended touring breaks can see them losing on support.
If Twin Shadow is night, then Geographer would be day. There are too many similarities to note, even down to the physical composition of lead singers. It’s much more beneficial to examine their differences; and whereas Twin Shadows lyrics and sound often encompass a darker tone, Geographer’s lyrics and music seem to speak to a brighter, and dare I say, more optimistic theme, (at least by comparison.)
Of course traveling through the city streets is going to force some hard decisions to be made, and some brilliant acts to be missed. Unfortunately Best Coast and Coolio were forgone for Geographer, and after an evening of traipsing around the downtown the highly anticipated Still Ill, Smiths cover band also was abandon in hopes of salvaging what little strength the knees had. Knowing that this year was never really supposed to happen leaves me with little to no expectations for next year, which means anything as a follow-up would be appreciated. Knowing how Stateside likes to outdo itself I think it would be fair to assume that any attempt at another year would undoubtedly yield even better results.