Last night I took the drive to downtown Phoenix to check out some local bands playing at The Crescent Ballroom. And while all the bands had something to offer, Banana Gun clearly stole the show and were the hit of the night.
First, let me set the stage. Arriving 20 minutes until set time, I secured a parking spot out front on the street. Yep, it was that not busy. Pretty sure I need to enjoy that one moment cause it’s never happening again. But, it was a Wednesday night. So at the first set time, sparse is the best description of the crowd. At best.
Field Tripp hit the stage on time to a few gathered to hear what they have to offer. Right off the bat, I will say I love the drummer who also bangs the drums for a few other bands in town. Animated is putting it mildly, but “in time and pushing it hard while having a blast” best describes his style. On their song about their dog, the slide guitar work was masterfully executed. And the use of the clarinet was pretty cool and unique in a valley that is full to the brim with new indie bands. Unique is good. I’ll remember you for that. Their female lead’s voice is very similar to Shirley Manson of Garbage. Their male lead sounds a bit like he wants to sound like Johnny Cash. Maybe it was the allergies and colds that are going around right now, but last night the blend of those two voices just seemed a bit off. They show promise and I hope to catch them another night so I can give them another listen. Again, with Eliz, singing the more alternative edged tunes, you have a band to watch here.
Pale Face Sailor was the next band. Between sets, the patrons had all gathered in the outside bar for food and drinks. So, when PFS started playing, it was mostly to an empty room. But slowly, as people heard the music streaming to the patio, they worked their way inside and caught this group. The first thing I noted was the confidence the band members exude. They have a mature, confident air about them. While on stage, they jam together and don’t feel stale. Their drummer is very powerful and though some of his rhythms have a very simple basis to them, with his strength the sound is similar to John Bonham. Their guitar work along with their bass playing is top notch when they click, especially in the last song they played. By the time they finished, quite a crowd had amassed. My only piece of advice to Pale Face Sailor? Have definite endings to your songs. The people standing, listening, watching? They were with you. They wanted to feel part of your gig. They wanted to cheer your success. But by not ending your songs together and then having a drum vamp between songs, it was difficult for anyone to do just that. In comedy, actors are taught comedic timing. Let ‘em laugh for just long enough and then cut them off and continue until the next laugh. Leave ‘em wanting to laugh some more. Well, in music it’s the same way. You need to end a song so we, the audience, know it ended which allows us to clap, holler, and/or raise a beer in a toast to your efforts. And then head right into the next song so we don’t get anxious wondering if something has gone wrong or thinking you’re not prepared. Only a few, rare bands can successfully play a set an entire way through without endings and/or communicating with the audience. I can count them on one hand. So, try having clear endings at your next few shows. I think you might be surprised at the results. Let us applaud your efforts. We are a well trained bunch!
Banana Gun began their set to a semi-vacant room, but that quickly changed. I’m going to hazard a guess that everyone inside and out was in the ballroom. They attacked their set with only the enthusiasm that they can bring to music, stealing the show. I’ve said it before, and I will again. These five people were made to play together. And they do it well and with a fervor you rarely see. Take any one person out of the mix and the music would fall flat. Together, they’re fabulous. They’re funny between songs reminding each other, “Hey, they wanna see you shake your ass, not hear you talk. Let’s go!” From the moment they hit the stage, people had feet tapping, hips swinging, and heads bobbing to the music. I dare anyone to keep still and not get into a Banana Gun set. Not. Gonna. Happen. And they played a fantastic set making it even more impossible. I’d describe their music, but it’s uniquely their own sound, which I find very exciting for them. It’s definitely an alternative jazz, rock, blues, indie sound. Did that clear it up? Nope, not for me either. Here’s a sample of one of their slower songs with a strong blues line. They are clearly a band to watch as they get set to explode on the scene. Their next show is the 13th at The Sail Inn. Check ‘em out!
The Midnight Vitals closed the sets for the night. The crowd thinned out a bit, but those remaining seemed to be followers, enjoying their music. They had good use of rounds in a song or two and their harmonies were pretty sweet. They were very polished and together, but again, maybe because everyone has been under the weather here in the valley, their performance felt a bit flat. Or maybe there just wasn’t an energy they are used to feeding of off when they play. That happens to the best of them. The bass player has some mad skills playing his instrument like a guitar with amazing speed. Unfortunately, the vocals were a bit on the low side compared to the keyboards and bass, so they didn’t shine the way I think they could. I hope to see them out and about again some time to give this band a fair shake as well.
So goes another musical night in the valley. Lots of great things happening here. Get out there and enjoy! More photographs of the evening are available at Southwest Shots Photography website and facebook page.