On the evening of Aug. 23, I temporarily broke from my life as an inexperienced ASU student to encounter a world I had never known: the Valley’s music scene. Led by the guiding hand of a booming local record label, I was swept into a supernova of mosh pits, glitter headbands, spacesuits and cassette tapes — a most unorthodox combination.
To celebrate the release of both The Thin Bloods’s and Playboy Manbaby’s newest releases, Rubber Brother Records co-founders Gage Olesen and Robbie Pfeffer, organized a maximum capacity record release show at the Crescent Ballroom, complete with two up-and-coming openers known as Snake! Snake! Snakes! and Boss Frog. Not only did this event successfully spread the word, the show was an absolute thrill.
Although the first opener, Snake! Snake! Snakes!, did not “terminate the place,” as drummer David Cooper joked the band would, it certainly had the talent and energy necessary to get the crowd to form a few mosh pits as the band simultaneously crashed into one another while dancing around the stage.
The progressively increasing energy of the band served as an excellent warm-up for the hours to come, which seamlessly guided the audience into the night’s following opener, Boss Frog.
There are few ways to accurately describe this group’s ambiguous genre. The best I could think of was “jazz punk with a healthy dose of LSD and ‘Rocky Horror.’” That is, however, only until the sound suddenly evolved to a Marvin Gaye-inspired version of the Backstreet Boys. In other words, it doesn’t make much sense.
This fusion, however, does not make the band’s performance any less enjoyable. Certainly the most unique set of the night, Boss Frog owned the stage with personality before they even started playing.
Guitarist Isaac Parker played in the adorably short-strap fashion of The Beatles to complement the ‘60s-inspired dance moves of lead singer Jack Bennett, who began the show wearing a glitter headband and eyeliner which, as the show progressed, fell off and smeared, respectively.
Although following a band with such overwhelming energy may seem impossible, rock ‘n’ roll band The Thin Bloods matched Boss Frogs’s stage presence through its incredibly advanced instrumentals. If there is any band that “shredded” during the lineup, it was this one.
There’s no singularly exceptional aspect of The Thin Bloods’s sound; rather, the band works as a whole to create an impressive show — a show so impressive that the guitarist seamlessly fell into the crowd in the middle of the set and didn’t miss a note while the lead singer magnified their self-proclaimed “sexy beat” to appropriately switch into a falsetto, which was clearly appreciated by the crowd as members of the audience began to comfortably slow dance to the melody.
Many points of the newest release by The Thin Bloods, entitled “Twin Tumors Vol. 2,” seem to include a hefty Tom Petty influence while others mimic the lo-fi garage sound recently popularized by such surf rock bands as Wavves. This exchange, however, is normal for the Tempe-based band, said lead singer Colson Miller.
“Each of our albums are a bit different,” Miller said. “This time, the songs are a bit more intricate and melodic, making the entirety of it more of a ride.”
The most climactic and unconventional hour of the night, however, was spent with Tempe’s genre-less Playboy Manbaby.
The set began with a galactical movie introduction complete with a narration of “the dawn of man” as well as an excerpt of the famed “Star Wars” score followed by a haunting silence. The band then entered the room with obviously homemade space suits complete with papier-måché helmets and disposable smocks paired with NASA logo stickers.
But don’t fret, this excessive display of DIY punk was not without a backstory: The band claims to have been chosen by the U.S. government to go to space with “sketchy equipment.”
“So we’re more than likely going to die,” Pfeffer, also the leader singer of Manbaby, said before beginning the set.
Although the band had supposedly written the entirety of their new album, “The Playboy Manbaby Experience: Electric Babyman,” during the week prior to the show, the set list still encompassed the typical Manbaby mix of “Dead Kennedys sound meets pizza.”
This odd blend matched with the raw energy of the band members was so intoxicating that crowd members who had seemed immobile throughout the night suddenly began what turned into the X Games of crowd surfing.
Manbaby eventually paused the show because it was “(getting) too hot in here” and proceeded to take off all their clothes. (By clothes, however, I only mean makeshift spacesuits. The bands’ actual clothes remained — otherwise, I doubt the coordinators of Crescent Ballroom could have gotten away with listing the show as appropriate for ages 16 and older.)
A teen then seized this moment to climb onto the stage, steal one of the five discarded helmets and stage dive back into the audience.
Pfeffer was unphased by this impulsive act. “It’s really cool when girls stage dive into the crowd because it’s good that you all can feel comfortable enough to go into the pit,” he said. “I grew up in a punk scene which was full of people punching you, and that s–t sucked.”
It seems that this is Pfeffer’s entire philosophy now that he has simultaneously developed his own band along with the Rubber Brother Records record label. “(The Phoenix music scene) is incredible,” Pfeffer said. “It’s growing very quickly, and I love the music, the people and the city with all my heart.
By the end of the night, both David Cooper and Jonathan Messenger of Snake! Snake! Snakes! had made it onto the stage with tambourines while the room erupted with energy as every member of the audience took their turn diving into the crowd.
This moment captured not only the talent of the band members who had played throughout the night, but also the immediate sense of community condensed within the packed walls of the Crescent Ballroom.
Whether you are an out-of-state student or a regular local venue attender, if you want to feel a little more at home, try rocking out at a Rubber Brother Records show.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @aimeenplante
Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article misspelled Gage Olesen’s last name and Jack Bennett’s first name.