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METROnome: Flume, Locals Rock McDowell Mountain – Downtown Devil

The lineup at Hance Park for the McDowell Mountain Music Festival had some hits and misses, but oh did the hits hit hard.

Day 1:

Upsahl returned to Hance Park for the band’s second M3F performance, this time taking full advantage of the big stage with striking visuals, a fuller sound and a stronger set list.

Then, there was Bear Ghost. Perhaps the greatest local act of the weekend and definitely the most memorable, the band stunned with liveliness, personality and movement. Through diverse originals and a Queen cover, each vocalist nailed every pitch. The full band enhanced each member’s ability to keep the early crowd fully engaged, even running and spinning across the relatively small stage.

After a lackluster performance by Bob Moses, in which vocalist Tom Howie failed to escape his self-assigned box on stage, The Record Company turned the night around.

With the simplest introduction — “We are The Record Company and we play rock and roll” — vocalist Chris Vos went haywire with a harmonica, maintaining impressive vocal control through a multitude of leaps into the air. One of the most electrifying parts of the set came with “Feels So Good,” in which instrumentals consistently boosted the crowd’s excitement from a brilliant guitar riff to an energetic full-band crescendo. Vos further proved his talents by transitioning his pure rock voice into falsettos for “Off The Ground” without failure.

Grouplove delivered an equally energetic set with an absolutely wild performance. Admittedly, their vocals weren’t quite up to par with other acts of the night, but they certainly didn’t hold back any skills. After kicking off the set with the singles “Colours” and “Itchin on a Photograph,” Grouplove displayed a tremendous interplay of vocals with “Good Morning.” The band proved its mastery in innovating songs for live performance, differentiating songs from album versions and performing an impressive cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”

Following a gorgeous performance by Heaps n Heaps, The Shins unfortunately caused the energy of the night to plummet. Despite a great entry, beautiful songs and a pitch-perfect rendition of “Simple Song,” the set never became much more than mediocre. It was an anticlimactic headlining performance that led the crowd to thin, with the minimalistic “Gone For Good” and lively tunes of “Phantom Limb” as highlights. By the time “New Slang” came on in the encore, I was already tuned out and only mildly entertained by the straightforward performance.

Day 2:

I arrived late into Day 2, but with enough time to pinpoint my two favorite sets of the weekend: Chromeo and Flume.

Chromeo opened with “Night By Night,” in which strobe lights, fog and more built into frontman David Macklovitch’s constant appeasing of the crowd. With “Over Your Shoulder,” the duo convinced likely 100 people to sit on their friends’ shoulders for the entirety of the song before Macklovitch ran into the pit to reach the crowd and the band played a guitar duet back to back. The most engaging parts of the set came with the closing “Fancy Footwork,” which was the right amounts of cheesy and energetic in one performance.

Flume was a perfect headliner. His entry was even more dramatic than Chromeo’s entire set, with a black curtain dropping to the ground after a lengthy electric intro. Visuals ranged from slithering snakes to sunray-like lights. Flume transformed songs like Lorde’s “Tennis Court” and his own “Never Be Like You” into experiences. While Porter Robinson brought jaw-dropping graphics last year, Flume proved his superiority by displaying a complete knowledge of every beat of his songs and remixes — dancing in perfect tune and engaging attendees before anyone could stop paying attention.

Day 3:

Whiskey Myers and the valley’s own Wyves and CooBee Coo took home the gold on March 5, while legendary jam band musician Warren Haynes took home a close silver for not only giving a solid performance with his headlining band Gov’t Mule, but being featured in Railroad Earth’s third M3F performance as well.

Pure rock band Whiskey Myers fought to be remembered with some of the strongest vocals and my favorite guitarist of the weekend. John Jeffers delivered solo after solo, which climaxed as he led a crescendo into all four guitarists rocking at the front of the stage together for a memorable set. Whiskey Myers could have been any jam band, but their cohesion allowed every member to be featured and contribute a crucial element to the set.

Wyves was truly outrageous in the best ways, bringing a performance that literally had its vocalist on the ground as he played harmonica and in the crowd as he sang. Closing out the second stage, CooBee Coo brought the grit of rock and soul of experienced musicians to create the fullest sound I heard from any local band. They deserved the same pre-headliner slot, but on the big stage. Next year, I hope they get it.

Citation – Downtown Devil

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McDowell Mountain Music Festival Live Performance Review –

The last of the local acts on Friday’s bill was Bear Ghost on the second stage, and they were just beyond amazing. It’s always refreshing – in part because it’s rare – to see a group of musicians as talented as the members of Bear Ghost applying that musicianship to arrangements as outrageously inventive as the best of their material in a way that’s entertaining for the players and the audience alike. I wrote “This is like watching Queen as arranged by Frank Zappa” in my notebook during “Necromancin’ Dancin’.”

Then they turned around and covered Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Doing a song Freddie Mercury sang is a fool’s errand, really. But Thomas Knight nailed it in a truly awe-inspiring display of vocal talent. They also turned in a crowd-pleasing cover of “I Wanna Be Like You” from Disney’s “Jungle Book,” one of several songs that had guitarist Ryan Abel, whose enthusiasm was beyond contagious, spinning in circles on one leg, and “Island Swing” from Donkey Kong because that’s just the kind of wildly entertaining guys they are. If you haven’t seen them live, it’s time you did yourself a favor.

Bear Ghost at McDowell Mountain Music Festival
Bear Ghost performs on the second stage at the McDowell Mountain Music Festival on March 3, 2017. (Photo: Hannah Gaber/The Republic)
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Bear Ghost Wins Best Genre Bender Award – Yab Yum

The feisty Phoenix four-piece known as Bear Ghost creates a veritable smorgasbord of sound on their 2016 release, Blasterpiece. Delivering a high-energy funk, Bear Ghost offers fluidly fuses elements of various genres for a totally unique and unified sound.

If you spend some time with Blasterpiece, and really delve into the musical permutations from start to finish, you’ll hear elements drawn from varying genres stretching from prog-rock, chiptunes, and ska all the way to indie, chamber pop, carnival music, and beyond. Bear Ghost has a penchant for the theatrical and their powerhouse sound comes through strong on every track.

Blasterpiece, recorded by Jeremy Parker at Premier Studios, was released back in February and can be found through Bandcamp (here or below). And, if you haven’t already, make sure you head out to see Bear Ghost live as soon as opportunity presents itself. The energy you hear on the album carries through to a live setting splendidly.

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Bear Ghost Wins Album Of The Year – Phoenix New Times

Number 1. Bear Ghost — Blasterpiece
No matter how many times I reviewed local albums this year, regardless of what my favorite of the moment was, it always seemed clear that Bear Ghost’s Blasterpiece was the best album of the year. First of all, Bear Ghost is probably the most fun band in town to see live or listen to on record. “Fun” is an element that seems to be lost on a lot of indie bands, and it’s damned refreshing to be excited about going to see a band for the sheer sense of joy they will impart in their performance. Luckily, for Bear Ghost, they were able to translate the fun factor into every moment of Blasterpiece, and it’s a lot like their stage show come to life. I feel like I should always keep a spare copy of this album around for those occasions when someone tells me they’ve never heard of them. Their blend of pop, rock, prog rock, punk and even hip-hop defies the senses. This isn’t solely about how catchy, hook-heavy and how inventive their sound is either; the pacing and construction of the album is inspired, making it a veritable enchanting experience when taken as a whole work. If you have not yet heard Blasterpiece, I would catch up on this year’s best album pick right now.

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The 50 Best Songs by Phoenix Bands in 2016 – Phoenix New Times

8. Bear Ghost— “Funkle Phil”
“Funkle Phil” has been one of my favorite songs in Bear Ghost’s live set for awhile, and the single was one of my first favorite things in 2016. The song really shows off their style of prog-meets-indie-meets-nerd rock. It also shows off their affection for Queen in less-than-subtle ways throughout the track. This makes sense if you’ve ever seen their live show, which usually contains a spot on cover of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Like many of their songs, “Funkle Phil” slams so many movements into one three-minute song it will make your head spin.

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