by: Hannah Alley
With good people surrounding you, The Rhythm Room is a classic venue off the beaten path that is a sentiment to true charm and culture. Here’s what I heard in this swanky treasure chest of fun.
Who: Sun Bones (formally known as Boreas).
The Vibe: They organize themselves in a line, bringing the drummer to the foreground and ignoring conventional stage set-up. They are explosive both on and off-stage, members frequently weaving in and out of the crowd and in their spurts of punk-inspired outbreaks, skanking with tambourines. Maybe it’s a Tucson thing but they were the perfect icebreaker, warming the stage and energizing the crowd as the first act of the night.
Reminds me of: With a classically trained foundation, they curate an indie-rock-punk with a do-whatever-feels-good vibe. Think James Blake meets Animal Collective meets Blink 182 meets Paul Simon. The band pairs comforting syncopation with modern jaunts of pop melodies before plunging into punk tangents. They need a genre all their own. How about this: check out a show and let me know what you come up with.
Who: Caged Animals: Vincent Cacchione, guitar and vocals; Talya Cacchione, bass; Magali Charron, plays keys and sings; Andrew Hoepfner, guitar.
The Vibe: The Brooklyn-based band and solo project of Vincent is anchored by folk roots and guitar strumming but manipulated with indie-electronic percussion, synths and a classic doo-wop. They bring good vibrations through musing affliction and lyrics that are painfully aware of life’s sorrow but slathered with a renewed optimism. Their album, In the Land of Giants is an uncaging of all those paradoxes.
Reminds me of: Caged Animals owns a unique blend of folk, indie electric waves and 50’s doo-wop with a garage band attitude. Think the melancholy of Radiohead but with confetti. Does that suffice?
Who: Darwin Deez.
The Vibe: This quirky character with a proclivity of headbands and inflated hipster aesthetic flavors his language with an existential base and romantic melancholy undertones. His sophomore album, Songs For Imaginative People is a literal translation, as each song is only as rich as your interpretation. It can take any shape you choose for it, much like choosing to follow the “normal rhythm of life” that society has paved or creating your own reality. Thought-provoking, mysterious and upbeat all wrapped into a wacky on-stage performance. This guy… is fantastical. Go to a show and rather than asking for a photo – request a hug. He happily obliges.
Reminds me of: If OK GO’s videos and Ben Gibbard from The Postal Service had a love child, it would be the curly cued slinky philosopher with tantalizing vocals that is Darwin Deez.
The Rhythm Room, Roots & Concert club has been a staple for live music for over 20 years. From a street view, it’s just a dark shadow in a seedy neighborhood buried in the heart of Phoenix. There’s a large semi-vacant paved lot with a windowless building rooted to the right. Patrons gather in the back, their golden ticket hanging from fingertips. Vans stuffed-full with cargo huddle in front near a guarded, “Band Entrance Only” door. It’s quiet except for the frequent swing of teasing sound and vibrant light. The inconspicuousness resembles that of a speakeasy, minus being password protected and hidden in a deep pocket of an alleyway.
A brute figure smiles as I stroll up, ready to press Darwin on his recent Miss America tweets and distaste for fan photos. He brings out Stacy, a familiar face, “Darwin and his band are eating right now and Caged Animals is running late.”
“We’re here,” perks Magali, keyboardist for Caged Animals. She’s drowning in a flannel shirt, barefaced with tousled hair locked beneath a teal hat that pumps the overused phrase, YOLO.
Vincent Cacchione, front man for Caged Animals appears from behind the van door and introduces himself as “Vin.” We make small talk about his trip down from Brooklyn, how his band is like a modern-day partridge family with his wife and sister as band-mates and how him and Darwin Deez were essentially discovered over the controversy surrounding Coldplay and plagiarism.
Don’t know the story? He’s the short-hand version: Darwin Deez played for a band called Creaky Boards with now shared Darwin Deez and Caged Animal guitarist, Andrew, who wrote a song called “The Song I Didn’t Write.” In 2007, they performed live at a venue in which Chris Martin was in attendance. Two years later, The Creaky Boards ironically heard the song they did write. It was Coldplay’s ‘Crusades.” Now, I’m not pointing fingers, but I will say I’ve compared songs and the similarity in melodies is a little too close for comfort. To point, this controversy landed Darwin Deez and his friends, Caged Animals, some recognition and ultimately, a record deal. So “Thanks,” Coldplay.
After chatting with Vin, I found that Darwin Deez wasn’t up to an interview so I decided it was time to make my entrance inside, the line had disappeared and I was thirsty.
On the surface, it’s a dive with a stage but the air was thick with life. The mood was warm, calm and void of that anxious pressure to get front row that saturates so many venues. There’s not a bad seat in the house – maybe because there really aren’t many seats. This place is a diamond that chooses to stay in the rough for reason.
I ordered a PBR from the bartender, “Mona” Lisa Watkins, who I find is the general manager, and heart and soul of The Rhythm Room. We make our introduction and she quickly invites me behind the bar to chat. We sit in her office engaging in talk that’s anything but small. We discuss the evolution of music and technology (the social media craze). She gushes over various “is this real life” moments at The Rhythm Room, we dive into a rant on Ticketmaster (I urge you to buy your music tickets elsewhere), but mostly, we discuss The Rhythm Room in its earlier days. They once had a strict blues-only policy that rendered a loyal crowd and though over the years they’ve opened nights to some great indie-rock, they stay dedicated to their roots of blues and jazz on the weekends. Mona proudly exclaimed that a mere five months prior to Mumford & Sons playing with Bob Dylan at the Grammys, they were on stage at the Rhythm Room. That’s only scratching the surface of the many faces that has graced the stage.
This is where you go to see acts moments before they blow up mainstream and where the casual elbow rub with the likes of Jimmie Vaughan, Tim Reynolds and Polica is just a typical Tuesday night (to show you the collection of genres).
Follow Hannah on Twitter @Hannah_Lynette