Date: Friday, February 3rd 2012
Line up: The Expendables, Fortunate Youth, MTHDS, Through The Roots
Location: PGA The Roxy Lounge. Scottsdale, AZ
Each year, right around the time the temperature starts to dip below freezing across most of the country, and there is a certain annual Winter Blackout Tour that has warmed the spirits of reggae rock fans from coast to coast. With The Expendables once again headlining their own spectacle, they brought out The Pier’s 2011 Breakout Artist of the Year Through The Roots hailing from San Diego, Los Angeles’ own Fortunate Youth and Denver’s finest MTHDS.
Essentially, there was a favorite flavor, or four, of music for all. That was the case on night number two of this year’s winter edition outside the country’s sixth most populated city, as the Roxy Lounge in Scottsdale, Arizona was filled beyond capacity. A sold out show was evident long before doors even opened as fans wrapped around the street corner. Yet, as soon as fans stepped through the doors, they were at the mercy of the melding styles of reggae, rock, metal roots, hip hop, funk, dub, punk, blues, and an extended acoustic set by the headliners was thrown in for good measure.
Opening up the night was Music That Heightens Different Senses, or MTHDS, mixing up a boiling pot of jazz, hip hop, rock and ultimately a blend of music that puts the crowd into a frenzy. Sporting a trifecta of vocalists, Johnny Schleper, who also plays guitar, L Kerr and Dillz Dillen jumped from soulful rock verses to smooth flow of rap kingpins and Irish pub ballads. Still at one point, “The Methods” pulled off an ultramodern, untarnished replication of Elton John’s “Rocket Man”. Needless to say, it was a clean cover of a classic that everyone knows. It was a proper moment to take advantage of the receptive audience. Between playing the notes of a hall of fame musician and belting out their ballad titled “Life”, the crowd was embracing the montage of sounds. It was also the bounce of the fans responding to Neil Yukimura on the congas, acoustic guitar, synthesizer, and even bringing out the ukulele coupled with Chris Holdridge on Drums. It was a tough mission to keep the body still at all.
With a quick stage change as MTHDS made way for Fortunate Youth, the musical blend was about to be shifted, but the concept was still eternal. The crowd’s hands still flew in the air as their bodies bounced with the beat. Appropriately, the Hermosa Beach natives opened up their set with “Skankin”, to set the roots reggae soundwaves in motion. The proximate quarters on stage didn’t restrain the infectious nature of the six-man band or their interaction with the crowd. Even as the band members passed around their instruments and switched from guitar to bass to percussions and over to the keyboard rack, the sound inside the venue was crisp from the first note. Perhaps even good enough to be given a spin or two on the radio. Rightfully so, their track “Reggae Radio” was in line.
Feeling the love from the crowd and still marching on uninterrupted by the cheers and applause, Fortunate Youth rolled into “Jah Music” and “Burn One” before they shortly let the beat drop to catch their breath for “Sweet Love”. From each member’s instrument onstage, their own characteristics are extended throughout the venue, from, wall to wall and rhythm to melody, but it’s difficult to match the soulful and vibrant nature of lead singer Dan Kelly. The Roxy Lounge fans were pretty loud during the chorus of the band’s finale, but Kelly’s voice was on another level. The same could have been said about the energy level within the club. The crowd never went silent even as the cymbals faded into the distance and Through The Roots jumped onstage.
Bringing together some of the best of reggae, dub, roots, hip hop and electronic infused sounds, Through The Roots returned to Arizona for the third time in less than ten months. Willing to display their gracious reception, a nearly never ending opening instrumental for their set led into their song “Best Friend”.
One thing that was established early on in the evening was a high-octane level of fuel for the entire show, from opener to headliner. The level of expectation for the remainder of the show was on a constant climb with each passing song. Maybe it was just the title of the next song, but the simple introduction of “Weekend” took hold of the crowd, as lead singer and guitarist Evan Hawkins posed the question, “Are you guys ready to start your weekend with us and The Expendables tonight”!? Between the fans instant response, the wide ranging guitar riffs of Chris Cruz, dance club synthesizers of keyboardist Brady O’Rear and a stellar rhythm section, the night was in full swing.
However, the time for waiting was over. It was about that time for The Expendables to take over the stage in a hard-hitting fashion. With the temperatures still in the 70s, it was officially time to get down and dirty with this long time touring staple, as they unleashed “Down Down Down” on the overflow crowd. Veterans of the road since their formation in 1997, the growth and evolution as musicians has increased exponentially over the years. Not only have the venues been modified, but their in-performance tactics have changed as well.
In the past, guitarist Raul Bianchi and fellow six-string specialist and lead singer Geoff Weers would exchange guitar solos reminiscent of 1980s metal legends. Now, Bianchi is fully equipped with his larger than life distortion pedal board by his feet along with a bright red keyboard to add another element to The Expendables ever-evolving sound.
With a healthy mixture of new and old, fan favorites were too many to identify. Ranging from the intense and fast paced “Alone”, to “Head In My Hands”, the slowed down track of “Wide Awake”, all the while still reminding everyone who showed up it is Friday night and it’s time to “Let Loose”!
Somehow, a keg found its way into the crowd and up to the stage, which most likely brought back memories of long lost college performances on northern California campuses. However, for this particular tour, an unexpected intricacy of their live performance is an abridged acoustic set. One imperative aspect of successful touring bands is crowd interaction. There are plenty of bands within the community that can win over a crow in varying degrees. Once again, it was an easy task for The Expendables. Holding only a few acoustic guitars and a lone tambourine made it look and sound simple.
During “Paper Chains” Geoff Weers and the crowd were on the same page, almost like everyone was reading the lyrics he wrote together. Just another impressive performance from The Expendables and that was before they plugged their instruments back in and decided to closeout the show with the nearly ten minute long ballad known simply as “Sacrifice”.
With only one state in the rearview mirror for the 2012 Winter Blackout Tour, each and every show will be an unbelievable night. After closing the book on Arizona and moving on to Colorado, the temperature will certainly dip, but the warm setting of the indoor venues and easy listening from all four bands featured with different styles will set fans up for a remarkable night of reggae rock fusion.
– Article By: Kris Siuta
– Photos By: IrieAZPhoto
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