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.
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.
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.
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.
Any band whose mantra is, “Out to groove you, move you, and also to behoove you” is a-ok with us. Phoenix four-piece, Bear Ghost promises just that, and has made a name for themselves in the Valley for their unique blend of hip-hop, punk, rock, and pop sounds. Although new to the industry, this band came in with a bang in 2014 with their debut EP, Your Parents Are Only Marginally Disappointed in Your Musical Taste. With each member holding true to their own charismatic and distinctive personalities, we know this band will bring the heat to whatever stage they play upon next March.