By Spike Brendle
It was a typical dark, lonely night in downtown Phoenix… the kind of night where you can feel the emptiness surrounding and suffocating you. Sometimes my Truman Show Syndrome (yes its a real thing) kicks in and I wonder if people actually really do work in these buildings or if this is all some kind of movie set. As I turned the corner to enter the alleyway, a bearded man waved me towards an unmarked door with a flickering sign up above reading “VALLEY BAR.” For this story’s sake, let's just pretend this bearded man had a hunchback and a lazy eye. After confirming my credentials and making sure I wasn't followed, he opened the door and asked me to enter.
I walked in right as MRCH was breaking down their equipment. I was quickly disappointed when I realized this band has members from The Prowling Kind, whom I have enjoyed watching a few times before. Either way, MRCH has made it to my “bands to see” list, so kudos to them. (Also would like to grab some MRCH merch). It was a long journey from my previous dinner spot, Crescent Ballroom, and I had developed a thirst, so I headed to the lounge area to enjoy a tasty beverage while the next band was setting up. (Pro tip - happy hour is all day at Valley Bar on Sunday, HOWEVER... not on the venue side).
After sipping on what I can only describe as a “curiously refreshing cinna-whiskey fusion” cocktail, Waterstrider had come out and introduced themselves to the thin crowd of spectators. We were all invited to step a bit closer, but were given the “ok” to just stay where we were. The first song was a little mellow, somewhat atmospheric and led me to believe I was in for forty-five minutes of slow, sad noises with a little bit of reverb. By the second song they were joined by their percussionist at the congas, which brought a fresh, island-like feel to the rest of the show. Waterstrider was having a great time on stage, dancing to the driving, almost tribal beat and island poppy guitars. The lead singers (borderline) screaming falsettos could even give Muse's Matt Belamy a run for his money. Happy band, good tunes, good times; I will listen to this band again.
Trails and Ways came out around ten o'clock, and acknowledged the crowd with sincere gratification. (By this time they had made it all the way up to the stage) There is something about a black Les Paul that makes whoever wields it look like a complete badass; in this case Hannah Van Loon (who also somehow manages to play keys between her guitar parts). The music was very well polished and super tight, and Keith Brower’s soft, convincing voice will have you question your geographical location when singing songs in Portuguese and Spanish. There was very little movement on stage until the band played their “dancier” hit, “Nunca.” It was at this point where the crowd started to get involved, I do seem to remember a barstool flying across the room. (okay it tipped over and hit the ground) As worldly as Trails and Ways sounds on recordings, they were a bit plain until they started moving around on stage. Their final two songs, “Skeletons” and “Mtn Tune” ended the show with a lot more energy than they had started with.
All in all it was a great night filled with happiness and disappointment, trials and tribulations, fame and misfortune (actually none of that last part but it sounded cool). If you haven’t been able to check out Valley Bar yet, you are worse off than someone who has. You see, the cool thing about Valley Bar is everything. There should be many notes taken, and Charlie Levy should be given some sort of award. Nice.