Arizona Music, a History (Not Really)

Do you know what Stevie Nicks, the Gin Blossoms, Jimmy Eat World, Dierks Bentley, Nate Ruess, The Maine, and KONGOS have in common? If you guessed Arizona, I would congratulate you on reading the title of this post.

Music is one of my passions (as someone who listens rather than performs), as a dear coworker discovered in April when we turned our office into the Virgin America ticket counter and sang a two-part harmony to Hakuna Matata. Alicia and I serenaded a grumpier coworker, who wasn’t really sure what to do with 2 twenty-something girls acting like the conference room was an off-Broadway theatre.

Three years ago, my then-boyfriend and his best friend took me to a Neon Trees concert at Marquee Theatre (my second-favorite AZ concert venue; Crescent Ballroom is first). Both opening bands were AZ locals, starting with Peachcake (Stefan wore his panda hat, furry aviators, and jumped off and on the stage with more energy than a wild tiger). We couldn’t understand a single word, but we knew that we were really excited.

Next up was IAMWE, who became my favorite band (basically of all time). They, too, had a fantastic energy, but it was different from Peachcake’s. IAMWE had more of a dark, subtle power, while Peachcake was more frenetic.

After that, Justin, Greg, and I followed IAMWE and (to a lesser extent) Peachcake as if they were the greatest bands to grace the face of the earth. This led to discovering other bands, like Banana Gun (Kyle is hands-down the sexiest saxophone player in Arizona) and KONGOS.

If you HAVEN’T heard of KONGOS by now, you’re living under a rock. They are the latest Arizonan (slash South African) band to make it into mainstream alternative music. Having roots in South Africa, England, and the US has given them that perfect unique sound everyone didn’t realize they needed until they heard it. Come With Me Now is their debut and current hit single; however, if you click the link in the very first sentence on this post, you’ll see that they do have other music and it is just as fantastic.

I had the pleasure of first hearing them by somewhat accidentally attending their 21 and over album release show at Crescent Ballroom. IAMWE was one of their opening bands, and as I had turned 21 exactly one day earlier, there was no way in hell I was missing this show. Justin and I liked KONGOS so much (read: we were BLOWN AWAY), we bought two copies of the album: one to download to iTunes, the other to leave in its shrink wrap for when the band was inevitably signed and thrust to the mainstage. (Sidenote: they were signed by Epic Records in February 2014; that shrink-wrapped self-released copy of “Lunatic” from 2012 is going to be worth some dough someday.)

Through the next 5 weeks, I’m planning (“planning” is the key word here) to attend 5 local shows (3 of which were conveniently just listed here). Most notably, on November 15 Crescent Ballroom is hosting Los Dias de la Crescent in downtown Phoenix, and showing off TONS of local bands (including the debut of the recently reunited IAMWE and their new lead singer–here’s to hoping he has an energy to rival Tim’s). I will be there for most, if not all, of the 11 hours of fantastic music (I may disappear sometime around the Wooden Indians performance to find food/respite/ear plugs). Many friends have recommended Black Carl to me, and this will be my first opportunity to see them live (and hopefully discover a few new favorites).

What is your favorite local music? Or, if you don’t know any local bands, where are your favorite bands from? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

tl;dr: Arizona’s indie music scene is so epic that Epic Records actually signed one of our bands; there is a music festival on Nov 15 I will most definitely be attending due to the IAMWE factor; you should totally find out what your local music scene is like and then tell me about it.


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