Photos and review by: Jason Robey
MESA, AZ — Arizona is home to a vibrant and eclectic music scene, and well-known promoter Danny Zelisko is out to make sure everyone knows it. This Saturday was the first in a monthly series of festival-style shows featuring area bands, to be held at the Mesa Amphitheatre. The kick-off event showcased 10 of the valley’s favorites, each playing a 25-minute set and sharing a backline to keep the set breaks to a minimum. The entire Festival was also live-streamed by the local Sneaky Big studios on their YouTube channel, with band interviews during breaks.
The day started promptly at 2:00pm, with a set by Americna / outlaw country artist Jim Bachmann, with his backing group, the Day Drinkers. Bachmann’s gravely voice and twangy guitar set a mood perfectly in-sync with the first sunny day the valley has had in more than a week. By the time his set ended with “Reap What You Sow,” the crowd was beginning to fill in and dancing to the music. Following a 15-minute break, veteran alternative rock band The Pistoleros brought a bright and breezy sound to the stage. Opening with “The Hardest Part,” from their 1997 album Hang On to Nothing, it was evident by the fans singing along that this group has made a lasting mark on the Phoenix music scene.
Indie rockers Wyves hit the stage next, rocking through a handful of songs, mostly from their latest album, R U OK?, released late last year. Their set included the 2018 single “Mar-a-Lago” and their signature song, “The Bitch Has Got Problems,” renamed for the family-friendly show to “The Fish Has Got Problems.” Vocalist Cory Gloden became the first of several to take advantage of the low stage, by running out into the crowd to sing a verse or two.
Masters of Phoenix band social marketing Fairy Bones took the stage by storm next, led by their charismatic vocalist, Chelsey Louise, who conducted several of the between band interviews for the live stream. They Played mostly songs from their year-old latest album, 0% Fun, getting the crowd bouncing and singing along to “8 Ball” and “Pink Plastic Cups,” both of which received ample airplay on local radio. The afternoon got more raucous as valley favorites Bear Ghost jumped and spun around the stage to some of their best known songs, like “Funkel Phil” and “Necromancin’ Dancin’,” from their album Blasterpiece. The band is gearing up for a Spring tour with Metal band Okilly Dokilly in April.
Possibly the band that has reached the biggest audience outside the valley in the lineup for the day is Doll Skin. Between their summer on the 2018 Warped Tour and their upcoming tour with New Found Glory and Real Friends, the band tore through “Daughter,” “Family of Strangers,” and a handful of other energetic rockers from their two albums. The young band has built a loyal and enthusiastic following with their captivating stage presence and catchy pop-tinted punk rock songwriting. Doll Skin was quickly followed by the Michael Nitro Band, with their brand of unapologetic, straight forward hard rock. Nitro, who has shared a stage with heavy hitters like Sammy Hagar and Alice Cooper, showed off his penchant for huge guitar riffs as his band took the crowd through several originals.
As the sun was setting, powerhouse vocalist Sara Robinson took the stage with her band, known for their heavy blues-based rock and electrifying live performances. She led the group through a set of fresh tunes from their latest album, Only Home, released last month. From the opening riff of “Hear,” the audience was bouncing along with them. The sun was completely gone by the time the heavy funk group Banana Gun took the stage, with the infectious groove of “Screen Time,” from their latest album, 2017’s Dance Monkey Down in Faux Town. The quintet easily kept the crowd moving with their highly danceable, yet guitar-heavy style.
The Runner Up brought the day to a close with their unique and energetic blend of pop, electronic, and hard rock sounds. Hitting the stage with their single, “I Came to Play,” the group was the perfect way to end the marathon that was Humdinger. Vocalist Rusty Nail led the group on a trip filled with catchy hooks, as he danced from one end of the stage to the other with wild abandon. As they closed their set and the inaugural Humdinger Fest came to an end, the crowd left likely knowing the Phoenix music a little better than when they woke up. The next installment of the festival will be held on March 23, with a lineup to be announced soon.