Keeping with the advent of new festival experiences in the valley, local alternative radio station 93.3 took a swing at festival season with the premiere of FestivALTAZ at Quail Run Park in Mesa Arizona. The lineup, though limited, packed a punch bringing in Coasts, Meg Meyers, Family of the Year, Glass Animals, Panic at the Disco, and Death Cab for Cutie.
For those in the valley unable to make there way the 250 miles out to Coachella this weekend, FestivALTAZ proved to be the best alternative we could hope for, with added bonus of seeing Panic at the Disco, and Death Cab for Cutie who were absent from the Coachella lineup. With Friday afternoon traffic in the Phoenix Metro area barring anyone with a typical 9-5 from making it out to Mesa until well into the evening, the unfortunate reality was that early afternoon acts were going to be missed—thus turning a festival day into a well packed concert night.
Though riddled with sound difficulties, faulty equipment, and hot weather Glass Animals, the new quartet from Oxford, England, performed “brilliantly!” Having witness countless setup difficulties across festivals and concerts all around the world, I’ve seen the gamut of reactions, all of which indicating the intrinsic levels of professionalism from the artists. The way in which Glass Animals responded to their moment of adversity was levelheaded, and with a smile—this is undoubtedly the best way to respond in the moment. If this performance was the first time you ever heard of Glass Animals, there would hardly be any acknowledgment that their music was bad, even despite missing guitars and electronic percussions within several key songs. If nothing else this should be a sign as to how expansive their sound can be, and how even stripped down their music stands strongly on its own merits.
With their first Coachella performance scheduled right after their FestivALTAZ performance, similar to Chromeo in performances past, Glass Animals performed a rendition of 2Pac’s “California Love.” Unlike Chromeo who provide an electric-rock version, these English gents came off slightly more charming due to the loveable accents and boyish excitement.
Panic At The Disco
Truthfully its been years since I’ve sat down and listened to Panic at the Disco, at least for pure enjoyment or interest. Perhaps that period of life has been locked in an old desk draw, reserved for only angst-laden nostalgia. With that being said, I was surprised by how easily all the lyrics seem to be regergetated from memory; it’s mildly infuriating as I can often forget important dates, appointments, numbers, and various others pieces of necessary information but half of A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out is still rattling around upstairs. Meh, c’est la vie, right?
The casual reversion into Panic at the Disco’s lyrical library stored in my mind did in fact help make the performance unexpectedly enjoyable. This isn’t to imply that I was dead-set on having a bad time, nor am I inclined to speak-ill of Panic, they’ve just never been heavy on my shuffle and so the fact that they apparently strike an especially strong chord within came as pleasant shock. These moments of clarity and redefinition of once held beliefs can be invigorating, like a splash of cool water on the face sending that blissful shock through the bones.
Death Cab For Cutie
After doing the promotional rounds all across this great nation, Indie-Rock powerhouse Death Cab for Cutie decided to embark on their upcoming international tour in… Mesa Arizona. Hey, I’m not complaining, it just seemed like such a curious place to set sails across this vast blue marble we call home; with literally thousands of venues, concert halls, theatres, stadiums and festivals at their whim they’ve begun the initial leg of their Kintsugi* tour out of our humble little state—it really does warm the cockles of one’s heart.
If music is a drug, then Death Cab was certainly a personal gateway. Of course I experimented with Nirvana, and Pearl Jam; tasted a little Mars & Morrissey mixture even, but it was Mr. Gibbard’s All-Time Quarterback and eventual lead to Death Cab which drew me in, and saved me from the pangs of Top 40’s. Death Cab for Cutie is one of the first bands I’ve had the pleasure of seeing from meager beginnings into international festival headliners, and for just cause. Don’t let the pop ballads confuse you, Death Cab are musicians just like any other, and when they let their creative freak-flags fly their foray’s into live performances can be ripe with intermittent drum solos, and large enveloping rock progressions; add a hoard of fans with deep knowledge of Death Cab’s expansive library and everything culminates into an indelible experience. Death Cab was of course the first act announced in anticipation for FestivALT AZ, and truthfully they were the only ones needed to warrant the already awesome $35 price tag.
*Kintsugi is a Japanese word for repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted/mixed with powdered precious metals; additionally it represents the beautiful philosophy that something once broken and repaired is an aspect to be honored, as it is part of its history, as opposed to something that should be disguised.
FestivALT AZ was an unexpected gem, manifesting itself seemingly out of nowhere and acting as the beginning of an interesting experiment being undertook by 93.3. With the following day playing host to a drastically different festival, this explains why the Friday schedule. Saturday’s festival, though different in name (U-Festival,) and drastically different in sound, (Rise Against, Three Days Grace, All That Remains, and More,) will undoubtedly bring in an interesting crowd ready to spend a warm Arizona day baking, and “baking” to some good ole’ fashioned rock.
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