A hot, sunny day was the setting for the annual KFMA Day concert in Tucson, Arizona. Known for playing the hottest new rock throughout the desert southwest, this rogue radio station knew how to pick the best to entertain the thousands who attended. The Cult, The Strokes, AFI, Rise Against, Rock Kills Kid, 2 Cents and FiveSpeed took on a crowd of ten thousand people at an abandoned open air sports park on the fringe of the city.
Decadence In The Desert
Story and photos by Janice French
Jared Woosley - Fivespeed
The Desert Rocks is an oasis of cool green grass amidst hundreds of miles of cactus, hot sand and
arid dust. Lines of cars were still pouring in around the field and the crowd was not too thick yet when a cheer
Fivespeed was doing their sound check. This was the perfect band to open the show. Out of Phoenix they're a choice blend of alternative, metal and hard rock.
Exotic cords and a throbbing beat brought in Jared Woosley's warm voice as the slow intro into
"Morning Over Midnight" began. He soon switched gears and his vox became rich, rough and piercing as the song grew louder and
more fierce. The crowd's engines were revving high and they were having a blast
... jumping, pushing and rocking out full throttle. Thus it began, the celebration of our music.
"The Mess" was a killer, punky song with an outstanding melody and graduated harmonies. Fivespeed further primed the anticipation for the coming day with
"Wait Forever," a metal flavored song that also had a strong alternative bite.
Shane Addington brutally pounded the drums as Jared leaned out towards the audience and put his all into this dynamically powerful piece. The band was possessed by now as the guitarist head banged and Jared worked the crowd who responded with a loud rowdy applause, yeah this is what they had come here for.
The kick ass instrumentals, vocals and harmonies of Fivespeed were so tight it was like they were one cohesive
unit. I bet these guys even finish each other's sentences! The sun beating down on the crowd resulted in shirts coming off, beer flowing down throats and water bottles being emptied on peoples heads as the next band set up.
Adam O'Rourke - 2 Cents
2 Cents commandeered the stage, grabbed hold of the audience and put them in a tight Metal headlock. This
is one of the most exciting metal bands I've come across in a long time. Full of unabashed exuberance, lead singer and drummer Adam
O'Rourke worked the crowd into a frenzy with "Lost At Sea." This song showed off their intense guitar work. Peppered with changes of pace this harsh, hard thrusting piece got the crowd head banging.
David O'Rourke - 2 Cents
Adam talked about getting wasted and having a good time and the crowd was doing just that as 2 Cents launched into
"Fucked In The Afterlife." It started out with a fast and heavy chugging bass then slammed into growling, roaring vocals. These guys were enjoying their set and so were the rest of us.
Moshers were beating each other with empty water bottles, one stumbled out of the pit and fell next to me. A spray of water flew over our heads and rained down on us in the hot sun while we rested on the cool soft grass. The guy opened his eyes then flashed me grin.
"What do you think of the 2 Cent set?" Adam asked.
The crowd replied back with a thundering scream.
"I like that vibe," he continued and introduced the next piece called "A Song For Darrell
Abbott." Heart-rendering, weaving and soaring guitars began this intense and moving piece.
Adam's vox were powerful, quaking and had an undercurrent of deep emotion as
they took on a bluesy metal edge. "I know it's different now/That you are gone/But I would not worry now/No one could tear you
down..." The licks and riffs were exquisite and Adam's vocal chorus ended in angry roars. It was perfect. The
crowd's response was deafening. We were completely blown away.
Greg Rampage of KFMA introduced Rock Kills Kid and a spontaneous cheer erupted. Jeff Tucker,
lead singer and guitarist, is a towering figure, has a quick wit and is known for his song writing ability. His band is alternative with a taste of punk and has its own sound, hallmarked by intricate rhythms, catchy melodies and smooth vocals.
Their song "Don't Want To Stay" had a punky instrumental beat reminiscent of Interpol and
Jeff's vox were plaintive. Keyboardist Reed Calhoun was having a good time smiling as he played. When the song was finished people went nuts, whistling and hollering. Jeff asked the crowd
"How the fuck are you?" and the mob cheered back.
Shawn Dailey, Jeff Tucker, Sean Stopnik - Rock Kills Kid
Between songs security hosed down the crowd. The temperature was rising and people were dancing in the mock rain. Next RKK played
"Midnight," this piece had some killer harmonies. The crowd was starting to thicken up and a press towards the stage began. People in the center of it started jumping to the beat with their hands in the air.
Reed Calhoun - Rock Kills Kid
The next song up was "Hideaway" Jeff leaned into the mic. "Because you say/Don't mean you mean
it..." I hadn't heard some these songs before but they were instantly addicting. This piece had an especially consuming drum line thanks to skill of Ian Hendrickson.
Jeff interrupted the chorus to say "It's fucking hot out here!" Throughout the crowd people laughed. In a place where temperatures get above 120 degrees this was a relatively cool day. Jeff informed us that we should be wearing less clothes and many in the audience obliged him.
Reminded of the heat people started throwing water and water bottles and it got insane for a few minutes as RKK launched into
"Are You Nervous?" the title song from their new album. He sang "And the sky will fall down on
you..." as a stream of water is sprayed across the crowd. How appropriate. By the time they launched into their hit song
"Paralyzed" crowd surfing was fully underway and the mosh pit was churning.
Rise Against hit the stage like a freight train out of control and crashed full force into our senses.
"Black Masks and Gasoline" was first released during the years following 9/11 and exemplifies the bold and aggressive nature of their songs.
Anger and anarchy of the spirit collided in this wicked piece as Tim screamed "A need for
revolution's rising/It comes to the surface/Gasping for air..." I didn't recognize the drummer but his hard driving rhythm launched the rabble into an absolute frenzy.
Lead singer and guitarist Tim McIlrath informed us that their drummer Brandon Barnes had to have an emergency appendectomy and that Sean Sellers from Good Riddance was helping them out. He had saved the day.
"It's a miracle that we are here at all."
Tim McIlrath - Rise Against
"Blood Red, White and Blue" took the level of RA insolence higher as Joe
Principe's insistent baseline and Chris Chasse's intoxicating licks gave framework to
Tim's raw punk vocal delivery.
Tim put out a tainted screaming edge as he roared "Would God bless a murder of innocents?/Would God bless a war based on
pride?..." Joe was throwing his body about to the frantic beat and Brandon's hands were a blur.
The audience thrashed their arms in the air and screamed between songs as RA quickly launched into the next piece
"Paper Wings." This hit song drove the crowd mad as random screams erupted throughout the beginning;
it's marked cascading melodic vocals led into an killer instrumental run.
After the final chorus Tim looked across the roaring rabble and said "Holy shit! Are you guys having a good time? I was having a great time.
Then I saw 2 Cents play and now I'm having a fucking awesome time!"
The hard chugging intro to "State of the Union" began and suddenly Tim's hash screaming thunder ascended upwards and pounded our senses again. Slamming, pushing,
shoving ... the mosh pit was in full swing. Next they played "Anywhere But Here"
it's intricate melody and vocals were beautifully woven together.
An acoustic guitar was picked up and strummed while Tim talked "This song is for our Arizona fans
who've been with us from day one. For those of you guys who've seen us play at
Scrappy's, this song here is called â€˜Swing Life Away.'" The softer side of RA shined in this joyful song and people seemed unable to contain their appreciation, cheers kept breaking out and everyone sang along. I
couldn't stop grinning.
Davey Havoc - AFI
Rise Against played a couple more pieces including the short and fiery "Dead
Ringer" then ended their set with hard pounding, torrid vocals and shouts of warning and sacrifice in
"Give It All."
A Fire Inside ... AFI. Guitarist Jade Puget started the first rolling chords of "Dancing Through
Sunday." Davey Havok stepped out onto the stage and there was a overpowering crowd reaction that can only be called an absolute loss of group sanity and comparable to
that of the Beatles of yesteryear. Women were screaming that they loved him with tears running down their faces.
Shrieking, wailing and a massive din arose that was akin to the squeal of cars slamming on their brakes and crashing into each other. Davey leaned out towards the crowd, sang and faced them head on. I could barely hear the song as the deafening cheers continued during most of it.
Davey said "Good afternoon Arizona we are AFI. Thank you so much for braving the sun this evening, we really appreciate
The crowd calmed down as they listened.
A lone guitar introduced "Ever and a Day." Davey began in a deep, dark, smoky voice
"Lie in comfort of sweet calamity with nothing left to lose..." Then Adam Carson slammed his drums harder and HARDER,
Davey's vocals rose higher. The crescendo was mirrored by screams from the crowd as
they grew louder too.
Davey stepped out onto a large speaker a couple feet from the rail and knelt down as he sang
"Will you be my beloved..." and slowly rose. People lost control, started to climb over the barricade and security held them at bay. Davey jumped back on the stage, swinging his arms and did the
"oh" chorus with the rest of the band then finished the song and said "Thank you.
We've been away for quite sometime now, we really missed you."
Hunter - AFI
Hunter, the bassist played the first notes of "Miss Murder" and bedlam once again took over the people on the field. Jade leapt in the air as he furiously worked his fingers on the strings. If these guys
hadn't been on the stage in a long time it didn't show. Davey sang "He left them
all..." the crowd shouted with him "Behind..." He got on his knees and raised a hand in the air then stood and worked the stage. I was maybe six feet from Davey when he softly sang
"Your ray of light/Will fizzle out without hope...' then growled, turned his voice on a dime and roared
"We're the empty set just floating through..." I was stunned, his control was perfect.
Jade Puget - AFI
The crowd was still cheering and chanting AFI as Jade's guitar brought in a desolate melody and
"Bleed Black" began. Halfway through Davey fell on his back with a thud, seemingly wounded as this dark introspective piece took a hold of him. He stood back up and his face was a map of
Later, as the song slowed, he rushed to the front of the stage, thrust a hand upward and gazed at the sky while he sang
"I know I died that night..." it was a moving and intimate performance before thousands.
A new song "Kill Caustic" aggressively hit the ground running as Davey coarsely screamed and growled
"So fill in the cracks now..." Hunter stood on a speaker and assaulted his guitar, his face contorted and mean while Davey fell to his knees on the other side of the stage and sang. Then he stood, whispered
"Don't speak my name..." and suddenly spun in the air, came down hard and his vox flew into the angry raw vocals that finished this fast and furious piece. A rabid fan somehow managed to jump up on stage,
but security tackled him and pulled him off.
By the last song Davey had the crowd in the palm of him hand. He walked out onto the barricade then onto the shoulders of his fans that carefully held him up while he sang. The massive crowd continued to chant AFI long after they had left. It was a great finish to a fantastic performance.
It was now dark and the audience was drunk on eight hours of heat, music and beer. Security continued to spray water over them as
The Strokes took to the stage. Their performance was hallmarked by brightly colored, swirling lights, smoke and strobes.
Julian Casablancas - The Strokes
A surge forward crushed people against the rail and others climbed up over the fans trying to get to the stage. Complete pandemonium possessed the mob and security had their hands full as people were hosted in the air and thrown forward while the mosh went into a full rampage. In the dizzying lights, I came too close to the melee and I took a blow to my back and head losing all organization of thought. Barely getting my photos taken I have no idea what they sang for most of their set.
Ian Astbury - The Cult
I sat in the grass against the fence to recover and watched the hysterical and shrieking rabble as Julian Casablancas heavy rich vox delivered
"Juicebox." This weighty, sexy and sordid song put a strangle hold on my senses. I watch people faint and fall to the ground while others stumbled away from the out of control mob in a daze. Many were carried off by friends and water was poured on those suffering from heat exhaustion. All the while arms beat in the air to the rhythms and still people danced on.
As The Strokes set progressed the audience settled down and sang the songs with them. Nikolai Frature thrashed about on his bass with his hair flying while Fab Moretti on the drums supplied the relentless beat that drove the insanity onward. Albert Hammond, Jr. and Nick Valensi played their guitars beautifully in the blinding strobe lights as security subdued people trying to reach them.
I must give kudos to the security staff at this venue. To stand between thousands of people and protect the musicians on stage was not easy but they did it with grace, kindness and courtesy. When The Strokes last song was done a storm of screams and applause raged as they left the stage.
The crowd thinned a little while the next band set up. The night air cooled the venue off and a pleasant atmosphere took hold. I nervously awaited my rock Gods. A legend in music,
The Cult's performance was an overwhelming and
soothing one. In my tenth hour my professional persona cracked and I had to check myself and stop my body from rocking out as I photographed this band.
So what the hell happened to The Cult? They were no walk down memory lane, but a journey into the future of perfection.
"Rain" pushed the envelope. I didn't think it was possible, but The Cult had gotten more intense, the instruments fuller and more forceful and it was clear these guys were now the complete masters of rock.
Maybe it was the live setting but they were over-the-top, kicking hard rock ass awesome! It must have had something to do with the new band members John Tempesta on Drums, Chris Wyse on bass and Mike Dimkich on guitar. When added to the amazing Billy
Duffy's seasoned lordship over the lead guitar and Ian Astbury's mature rich, soulful vocals The Cult had seemed to reinvent themselves into their best incarnation yet.
During "Electric Ocean" women stated taking off their shirts and dancing bare breasted as Ian sang
"The spirit is free/Where the wild things roam..." A blood red stage and a stark white spot light on Ian was the setting for the intro to
"Wonderland." Someone threw a glowstick toward the stage and Ian caught it with one hand then threw it back without missing a note. Mike performed some great harmonies during
"Rise" and Chris's hard bass beat in "Libertine" was greeted with jumping and screaming as he arched his back and played at the front of the stage.
Ian yelled "Rock and Roll" then kicked off one of hard rock's best songs "She Sells
Sanctuary." It was the absolute Full-Monty of music as Billy treated us repeatedly to his divine guitar supremacy.
John's drums rolled along and Ian gave the performance of my lifetime as I watched with tears in my eyes and a grin on my face. The crowd was consumed by this epic piece of rock. The screams and cheers when it was over seemed to go on forever.
After a long day it was unbelievable that crowd surfing was still going on;
don't the desert people ever stop? Ian exclaimed "Here is something to Mosh too" then
"The Cult" played "Love Removal Machine." Holy Hell! Billy's final, incredible hot guitar lick left the crowd in a cheering, screaming bedlam and was the quintessential finish to the perfect rock concert.
The Desert Rocks