Going to Phoenix

On September 21st, I got out of class and hopped in the car to go to Phoenix. Driving from campus, I made pretty good time and got there in about twenty minutes. All the girls I talked to before my trip said Phoenix was extremely hot. I’m not sure if I agree, but then again, you’re asking the wrong guy. Phoenix is bigger than I expected too. There were people everywhere and most of them seemed to be having trouble walking in a straight line, which was strange. After a while, Phoenix began to grow on me. Maybe I’ll become a fan on Facebook.

Now for the M. Night Shyamalan mind-twist: I’ve never been to Arizona.

If you’re confused, let me enlighten you. Phoenix is an alt-rock group responsible for hits such as “1901” and “Everything is Everything”. Hailing from Paris, France, the group has been kicking ass and taking names since their formation in 1999. If you’re like me and are just getting onboard with their sound, well, you missed a pretty good concert.

Finishing up the US leg of their most recent tour, Phoenix appeared at San Diego State University’s Open-Air Theatre on September 21st. A full house waited patiently for the French rockers to take the stage and their patience was rewarded from the moment Phoenix took the stage. As previously stated, I am no authority on Phoenix. If you, dear reader, are a die-hard fan of the group and have been for the past 11 years, I offer my apologies. I assure you, I am as scandalized as you are that I have not been listening to Phoenix before now.

Their distinct sound comes from a combination of catchy melodies, creative rhythms and funky bass-tracks. A quick listen to some of their tracks reveals a versatility not found in many groups. Their alternative sound holds strong throughout but at any time, a hip 80’s groove may peek its head out for a few bars before retreating back into the shadows. Phoenix manages to work in an unmistakable synth sound without sounding corny, a feat not easily achieved.

Phoenix’s live performance features all sorts of production. In dramatic fashion, a huge white curtain falls across the entire stage, obscuring the band until rear-lighting comes on to project larger-than-life silhouettes of the members doing their thing behind the sheet. At another point in the show, a strobe and fog machine combo transform the stage into a temporary discotheque. Throughout the concert, lights flash, cycle, scroll and scan but for all the invention, Phoenix’s clever sound remains the show’s focus. Testament to this came when the band disappeared completely from the stage, popping up moments later in the middle of the cheap-seats. There, they executed a quick acoustic set that had fans scrambling to get closer and in that moment, Phoenix’s allure was made clear: European alt-rock, by the people, for the people, amongst the people.

– Tom “Wonderboy” Roth