10 Artists I Saw Live This Semester (That You Need To)
10 Artists I Saw Live This Semester (That You Need To)
by Deanna Romani
This past semester, I’ve had the opportunity to see some amazing bands live, whether they were just a support act or a headlining act; some I even saw for a second or third time. I’ve gone to plenty of gigs where I’ve sat through a number of incredible (and some pretty terrible) performances, but I usually leave a show being impacted by one of the bands on the bill. Regardless of how many times I saw these musicians, here are 10 artists I saw this semester who you need to see live once in your lifetime.
Thanks to the Super Bowl festivities taking place in Downtown Phoenix earlier this semester, I was able to catch some really amazing bands right down the street from where I live—for free. One of them was indie-rock band WALK THE MOON, who I have been listening to for nearly three years now, and the last time they played a show in Phoenix (and not Tucson) was those three years ago. It was a little over a month since their second album, TALKING IS HARD, came out, so the crowd was treated to live debuts of a few tracks and lots of jumping followed by extremely colorful lighting. Half of the crowd had never heard of them before, but WTM had the entire crowd dancing to the now-top-40 single, “Shut Up And Dance” and a few assisted front man Nick Petricca into scaling the crowd during “I Can Lift A Car.” Also, shout out to bassist Kevin Ray for those sweet dance moves.
Best live song: Up 2 U
My second time seeing New Politics was at the Pot Of Gold Music Festival, and they definitely get better and better with each live performance. New Politics are a band who genuinely love what they do and are so happy to do what they do, which is something that’s extremely noticeable by the audience. Front man David Boyd involves the audience in a few of the songs they throw on the set list, even allowing himself to fall into the crowd’s arms during their performance of “Fall Into These Arms.” Drummer Louis Vecchio points out members of the crowd behind is drum kit, serenading them with his own band’s lyrics, which is just enough to make everyone swoon. If you’ve seen them once, you’ve experienced one of their full live shows, but there’s always the unexpected. Even while performing as an opening act, they make it seem like it’s a headliner.
Best live song: Dignity
The best thing about Arizona is the great local music scene and the sounds that have come out of it. A band that’s been around for a while here in Phoenix but is finally getting the recognition they deserve is The Technicolors, a three-piece rock unit who not only sound incredible live, but know how to write a real tune. Ever since they signed to local collective 8123 and opened for WALK THE MOON at Super Bowl Central, they’ve finally been getting the recognition they deserve. An added plus is that lead singer Brennan Smiley’s vocals sound exactly the same live as they do on a recording, but with a little twist. I’ve seen them twice full band this semester and once acoustic, and no matter the setting, you’re completely captivated by the lyrics Smiley refers to as “sneaky” and the smooth guitar riffs.
Best live song: Tonight You Are Mine
Just this semester alone I’ve seen Panic! At The Disco twice, adding to my grand total of four times I’ve seen them. Each performance is better than the last, and they always promise their crowd to leave completely exhausted and wanting more, which is exactly what I’ve gotten every time I’ve seen them. Strong vocals, simple yet intricate stage set ups, and just an all-around great time, there hasn’t been one time I hated seeing this band. Even in 2015, I leave Panic! shows with bruised knees and a strained neck from head banging, which are two things I now expect to happen whenever I see them live. Side note: they play a ton of free shows (I’ve only paid to see them once,) so there’s no reason to not see them live at least once.
Best live song: Time To Dance
You’d think after seeing the same band twice within a one month time period, I wouldn’t enjoy myself, but I’ve had a blast every time I’ve seen Bleachers. fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff’s side project was a project I didn’t know how I felt about at first, but once Strange Desire was released last year, it became one of my favorite albums of 2014. There’s something about Bleachers that sets them apart from other indie rock bands I listen to, and I’m not sure where to start with it. Both times I’ve seen them has been at festivals, but both festivals had completely different vibes. Even with sound malfunctioning at the Pot Of Gold Festival, Antonoff chatted with the audience and put on one of the greatest sets I saw that weekend at the festival (the two days I went, anyway.) I’d see Bleachers again and again and again in a heartbeat.
Best live song: Wild Heart
Third time is most definitely the charm. twenty one pilots has been one of my favorite bands for almost two years and although their live show is typically the same every time I’ve seen them, they manage to make it different. I’ve seen them in three completely different settings (first was at Crescent Ballroom back in 2013, then at The Marquee in 2014, then the Chipotle Cultivate Festival this year) but the different settings didn’t stop the duo from climbing atop of the audience, engaging the crowd in songs, and putting on a top notch performance. My favorite time is still the first time, because between every single song, front man Tyler Joseph chatted with people in the front, explained what each song meant to him or why he wrote it, and called some people out in the audience.
Best live song: Trees
The first time I saw Smallpools, I did not think I would have as much fun as I did. Before their debut full length record, Lovetap!, came out, they played at the Viva PHX Festival and I was lucky enough to catch their set. Complete with members walking the barricade like a tightrope and their crew tossing huge inflatable pool whales into the crowd during the infamous single “Killer Whales,” this band is really fun to watch and you leave one of their sets with a huge smile on your face and sore calves from jumping up and down so much.
Best live song: Killer Whales
Local band gone big The Maine is a band that I’ve seen around Phoenix a few times this semester, but as far as a huge live show goes, that was once. Whether acoustic or live though, lead singer John O’Callaghan’s vocals are just as powerful and raspy as ever, which really forces you to listen and sing along softly. The first time I saw The Maine was at The Rhythm Room in Phoenix when they had a secret show (if you weren’t there, just imagine about150-200 high school and college-aged kids crammed into a blues club in central Phoenix with the band’s families. It was wild.) and even with no real production, just a band up on a tiny stage, they put on one of the best shows I had ever been to in all of my years of going to concerts. The second time I saw them full band was on the American Candy Tour in April, and playing a decently packed venue with the only stage setup being a huge “M” that lit up and some lighting fixtures captured this band’s “do-it-yourself” mentality very accurately.
Best live song: My Heroine
- Magic Man
No band I listen to sounds exactly like Magic Man and no band I’ve seen live puts on a performance like Magic Man does. The five-piece synth-rock group from Boston, MA captivates the crowd and front man Alex Caplow has the audience in the palm of his hands from the moment he steps out onstage. You don’t realize how much of their catalogue you know until you hear it live, and that’s such a weird thing to come across. I would probably see this band in any setting imaginable; from a small club to a huge theatre to a festival. They know how to work the space and get vibes from the crowd, not to mention their phenomenal Jimmy Eat World cover they sneak in at the end of every set.
Best live song: Texas
Rounding off this list at number 10 with my favorite band: Fall Out Boy. Ever since they came off of hiatus two years ago, their live performance has gotten way stronger (I constantly thank front man Patrick Stump’s solo record for that.) They don’t necessarily need a crazy stage setup or anything to make it seem like they’re great live, although the cool lights and clips they show on screens add to it. Compared to other bands that have been around for just as long as these guys, they do a pretty decent job of splitting their set list up every night to play songs from all six of their records, because they don’t forget where they came from all those years ago. At the Pot Of Gold Music Festival, they had something on that set list for everyone, which was definitely the high point of seeing them live for me. And yes, Pete Wentz still screams at the end of their performance of “Saturday.”
Best live song: Saturday