By Tom Reardon; photos by Maria Vassett
To put it plainly: 2020 has been a motherfucker.
When it comes to music and 2020, it’s been that and then some, as we’ve been consuming our tunes this year differently than usual.
For music fans in the 21st century, we can experience the sounds, sights, and smells of our favorite artists and bands in a variety of different ways. Still, this year there was one significant way of consuming music that has all been taken away from us, and that is the live experience.
As I look back at the music that I loved and loathed this year, I can’t help but feel like a huge piece of that is missing. When I get excited about a band or a song, I want to see and hear it live. I want to get close enough to the band to get a little sweat and spittle on me.
Here in the metro Phoenix area, we’ve had a renaissance for the past decade of really becoming an incredibly underrated live music town. We have a great crop of local bands and venues that offer the possibility of seeing and hearing something great almost every night of the week.
If you weren’t partaking in live music in the Valley for the last ten years or so, shame on you. With venues as diverse as Trunk Space to places like the Crescent Ballroom, Marquee Theater, or the MIM (Musical Instrument Museum), there is a little something for everyone out there. Dive bars like Rip’s and Chopper John’s and not so dive-y, but cool places like Last Exit Live and Yucca (and yes, Yucca has not been a “dive” for a while now, and that’s not a bad thing) have fervently supported the local acts. As mentioned above, the Crescent, Valley Bar, The Pressroom, Rebel Lounge, and Nile Theater, among others, have brought the national bands and acts to town in a way that probably restored much of the world’s faith in our ability to support something other than shitty politicians.
Now, we have to be worried about these stages, my friends, and which of them might not be back in the post-Covid community. My heart goes out to the thousands of people who have lost a major part, if not all, of their livelihood due to the live music shutting down in our state. 2020 has indeed been a motherfucker - we’ve suffered so many losses that have nothing to do with life and death.
How many up and coming bands have lost out on a year of honing their live show? Many bands, including my own, have ceased practicing due to the risk of infecting each other or lack of motivation to keep pressing when there is no hope of safely returning to the stage any time soon. In good conscience, I couldn’t ask any of you to come to see my band play right now, even if it was 50% safer than it is at the moment. As much as I love to rock, I love to breathe even more, and I value your breath, too.
This brings me to the sad news of the month: Lawrence Zubia, the voice of The Pistoleros and Chimeras and part of the Zubia family of fine, fine musicians, died on Friday, December 19, 2020. He was my friend and someone I looked up to and always wanted to get just a bit more time with when I saw him. I’m not alone, though, feeling the weight of this loss to the musical community. He was as kind as he was talented and will be missed forever.
Let’s all hope that 2021 brings something new and improved to our music world. It’s been my privilege to talk music with you all this year. I look forward to doing more of it in 2021.
As a parting gift, here is my list of the top 10 things I loved and did not love this year from music. They are not in any type of order, either, so no one gets to truly be number one on either list.
Loved: Basic Elements “Hide” single, JJCNV’s Stays Up Late LP, Tricot – 10, Ace of Cups – Sing Your Dreams LP, Mishka Shubaly – I’ll Be Gone Ep, Coriky – self-titled, Viagara Boys – Common Sense Ep, The Chats – High Risk Behaviour LP, Haim – “3 AM” from Women In Music Pt III LP, Napalm Death - Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.
Did not love: Idles – Ultra Mono LP, Deep Purple – Whoosh, Mt. Joy “Bug Eyes,” Pixies – “Mar del Mar,” Morrissey – “Love Is On Its Way Out,” Justin Bieber – “Yummy,” Danzig – Danzig sings Elvis LP, Metallica with the San Francisco Symphony – S&M 2, Tricky – Fall To Pieces, Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets To My Downfall.