By Blake Mitchem
After arriving later then I'd expected I had just enough time to check in and catch all of Cymbals Eat Guitars' set. The Pressroom is a spacious warehouse type venue. In The spectrum of Phoenix venues it sits nicely between Crescent Ballroom and the Marquee Theatre in terms of size and is only a block or two away from Crescent in downtown Phoenix.
Cymbals Eat Guitars is a pop-punk band in the sense that they use elements of pop and punk to create a sound that's distinguishable. What I mean is that "Pop-punk" is its own genre, and if you are a part of that world, then when I say that certain bands immediately come to mind, such as blink-182 or New Found Glory. Cymbals Eat Guitars is not that. In fact, none of the bands that played were exactly what could be called "pop-punk". They started strong with the traditional punk Count in "1-2-3-4!" And sound exploded off the stage. They kept the energy up with throaty, high-intensity vocals that left space for clever, well-crafted three-part harmonies that stepped up one vocalist at a time. It was a combination of thrashing mosh pit worthy blast beats driving with the snare on the off-beat and clever, pop-sensible melodies and vocal hooks.
Next up was Modern Baseball. This band really impressed me. A three-piece band in the tradition of blink-182, they were more pop-punk then the other bands but again, it isn't what comes to mind when you think pop-punk. This band is driven by emotion, not in the whiny sort of way though. The lyrics are wordy and passionate stories retold every time, as if it's the first time; breaking the music every now and then to speak as if reliving the actual moment that inspired the lyrics. It wasn't just music, it was drama. In the song "Re-Do" the music completely cuts to spoken words "Come on dude // Just take one more shot". The magical moment was when the crowd spoke the words with them. It wasn't "music" in the most traditional sense: no melody, no singing and no music but the crowd was so wrapped up in the story they were telling that it didn't matter. It was, of course, music. It was a part of the song, but it was something new, something different. Even the moments the band was singing were more dramatically spoken words then lyrics sung. I went out after the show and bought the record. I didn't stream it, I bought it. This band was a wonderful, youthful, authentic spectacle. Go listen to them. Just take my word for it. Stop reading this and go do it.
Finally, Say Anything appeared. Brandishing a very scoop-necked shirt and a glorious "dad-bod" singer Max Bemis is worth every penny on his own. Hoping to hear songs from their debut hit record ...Is a Real Boy they opened with newer songs. "That's okay," I thought and validated by chatter around me, "They have to play those songs eventually. Right?". Four songs in they finally played "Woe". Thank God. I didn't know any of the new songs but everyone in the underage section did. They sang every word. Bemis' voice is a pitch-perfect duplicate of what happens on the record with no gimmicks or tricks. What the album does, you will hear. That's a trick that many bands today seem to have lost the ability to perform. About forty-five minutes in "Woe" was the only song off of the ...Is a Real Boy they had performed. I was bummed to say the least. That's by far their biggest record to date. It's the album that put them on the map. You have to play those songs. They ended up playing one more off the record called "Wow I Can Get Sexual Too". Even though I was disappointed about the set list, the performance was near flawless. The show was worth the money, but didn't fill me with nostalgia from high school and that was ultimately what I pay to hear at a show like this.
Hey, why are you still reading this? I told you to go buy modern baseballs music like 2 paragraphs ago. Thank me later.