The Stories We Tell: A Humdinger Tale


I left Albuquerque at 5:30 AM Arizona time, flying at 80 miles an hour in the brisk high desert plateau air; I had been covering The Gathering of Nations for the last two days with Dark Whisper Productions, and it was a 7 hour drive to Phoenix.  I arrived at the Mesa Amphitheater for Humdinger 3 at 12:15 PM.  Not bad.

The Bellwethers opened up Humdinger 3 with a hella good, head banging, hair flying rockin set!  The Bellwethers  have been a bit MIA lately, while they finished their stand out latest LP, but they are back at it!  Look for them at Chopper John’s!

It becomes about the narratives we weave.  The stories we tell.  As professional artists it is a major part of our story to expand on the contemporaries that helped us, inspired us, motivated us, and maybe even pushed us.  Band after band, writer after writer, expresses deep respect for the fellow artists that helped them along the way.  We become a community in that fashion, which, incidentally, I have also written about.  It is impossible for The Black Moods to tell their story without referencing the Gin Blossoms.  Roger Clyne wrote songs inspired by Dead Hot Workshop.  So did Stephen Ashbrook.  I am writing a sequel to Spirits of Jerome, being released at Last Exit Live on September 27th with a live concert helping me to celebrate.  The book is 100% inspired by local music and called Ghost Songs.  The point is that we all become part of each other’s story, so knowing each other, supporting each other, going to each others shows, and paying attention to each other’s careers is not only cool…. but it is professional.

LUAU took the stage second, and played a solid set in the blazing afternoon sun.  This band sounds a lot like Monocco, the Peter Hook (New Order/ Joy Division) side project that had one album… quite some time ago.  LUAU are poppy, and have that New Order kind of surf edge to their licks.

The Humdinger was a hot one on Saturday.  Temperatures were over 90 degrees (to say nothing of a 7 hour motorcycle ride).  But the bands signed on for the third Danny Zelisko outing were ready to rock.  The Humdinger was designed as a monthly showcase throughout the spring of 2019 that would allow 8 – 10 local independent bands to play a legendary venue, and for fans to see a great set of bands for a very low cost.  It was a fantastic idea, I mean, I have personally covered all three concerts.  So far, honestly, the attendance has been sub par, and as a local music enthusiast I have found it very frustrating.  Many of us in, and around the scene, are doing everything we can to promote these events, but something has to light that fire for folks to want to go on an adventure.  To want to discover something new.

The afternoon heat was on like a broiler oven by mid afternoon, and the aptly named Hot House Orchids took the stage.  One of the things that immediately stood out about this band is their energy.  These guys are a party folks… and even sweatin’ in the blaze… they brought their passion.  Wonderful Set!

My wife and kids got to the Humdinger a bit after I did, and we were sitting in one of the few spots of shade at the top of the amphitheater hill.  It felt almost good in the shade.  Soon, another local enthusiast whom we all know and love, Bubba Whicker, came sauntering by, and after getting a beverage he joined us in the shade.  As we drank out beers he said, “When I was twelve I saved up all my money from my paper route to go see this all female band of 16 year olds called The Runaways.  I was in love with them.  Then, I found out that they were coming to Detroit, warming up for the Canadian band Rush.”

The fourth band to take the stage was Terra Fractal, one of the bands to really catch my wife’s attention.  They have a very chill vibe, with fantastic synth pieces and easy guitar rhythms.  My wife said, “I could listen to these guys all day!”  And even as the heat was really laying it on, Terra Fractal seemed to bask in the glory of it, playing music, meeting new friends.

Bubba continued his story, “My friend’s older brother was into Rush and and Uriah Heep, bands I knew nothing about.  So I bought a ticket.  The tour was a short two week tour for Rush’s new Live LP, All the World’s a Stage.  Rush and the Runaways were both also an the same label, so the tour made sense.  They were playing Cobo Hall, in Detroit.  I loved the Runaways, but Rush blew me away.  About a week later, the Runaways announced a show at the Royal Oak Music Theater.  We waited in line all night in the cold and snow, but I got my first ever front row/ center ticket.  It was 5 bucks.  So there I was, 12, in the front row, to see The Runaways for the second time in about ten days.  The opener was a band I had never heard of before: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.  Petty kept staring at me, he was probably looking right through me, but it freaked me out.  The second band was another one foreign to me:  Cheap Trick.

My friends….. these are the stories we tell.  Meeting new friends… who happen to be singers in awesome rock n roll bands.  Learning that they bought your book, and are a fan of your writing.  Spreading the love of music.

As the afternoon continued to cook, The Edisons took the stage with their trippy blend of searing, charged vocals, wailing guitar chords, and synth undertones.  This band was another one, that seemed to almost rise to the challenge of the heat in terms of their energy and performance.

The huge shows are great.  My wife’s first large scale concert was The Cure 4:13 Dream tour at Comeria / Dodge Theater.  Karla loves live music, and the Arizona bar scene was certainly her vibe, and still is, but she had never been to a huge show.  I spent hundreds to get close enough for her to see Robert’s eyes move.  But it wasn’t cooler really, than Banana Gun closing down The Rogue Bar in Scottsdale last night. It will be just as good of a story…. if you think about it.  And you were there.

The keystone performance, ending the sun, and welcoming a spike of shade spreading across the lawn was a much anticipated performance by Break the RobotThe band, fresh off of releasing their brand new album, Timing is Everything, showed up high energy, smiling as always and ready to rock that battle with the robots of our drudgery.  To me… these guys, and fantastic ladies, win that war each and every time.  (If you have no idea what I am talking about, you should really check out Break the Robot!)

The point is, my friends, in the end the stories we tell are the times we saw Fairy Bones perform at the very first Humdinger Festival before they took over the world signed with Media Horse.  Or when The Black Moods played RockBar before they were selling out the Marquee every time they came to town.  Or when we went to see Wyves debut their second album at the Van Buren.  Or when your daughter and her friend ask you to introduce them to Ali A & the Agency because they blew their minds.  Or when we saw New Chums open for Smashmouth in Goodyear.  Or the bazillion memories we have of the old Long Wong’s on Mill or the Rogue Bar in Scottsdale.  These, are the Stories We Tell.

One band in town that is often out touring, and is currently preparing to make their way to Japan is the incredibly unique Snailmate.  The duo is beats and synth wizardry, combined with a percussionist straight out of Jim Henson.  The lyrics are FAST and crisp, think Eminem, but….. with more chaos.  This band made me incredibly curious to listen to more.

You.  YES….. YOU.  Need to support local music.  You need to get out, and see what crazy wonderful, spectacular things are happening in a world that is far too often completely overcome with Bad News.  There are people in the world trying to do some really cool things, filling your Valley with entertainment and festivities.  But it is nearly impossible, on any level, to continue to do so when you…. the folks who love to rock…. don’t get out.

Ali A & the Agency is very quickly becoming one of my very favorite bands in town.  They are gifted with talented performers, skilled musicians all, and a leading lady that has the charisma to command any stage.  I am going to go ahead and say it, Ali can channel Aretha, and it is phenomenal to behold.  Additionally, on a day when attendance was pretty low, Ali took it with class.  “You could have chosen to be anywhere on your Saturday“, she said, “and you chose to be here with us.  And we appreciate it! And when Ali A & the Agency takes a stage, we are gonna bring it every time.  We are here to party!” And they did, with huge smiles, much love, and even a moment to take the time to meet a new adoring couple of fans.


You can see Ali A & the Agency perform, AND show your awesome support for local independent, quality music by supporting the KWSS PLUS ONE Fundraiser Show At Last Exit Live THIS FRIDAY.  You can also see my friend Jane n the Jungle among others! This will be a great story!!!!


We all love the big shows.  It is exciting when Eric Clapton comes to town.  Or when you find out Garth Brooks is going to open his stadium tour here in Phoenix.  But when you think of the hundreds of dollars people are willing to spend on tickets for these once in a blue moon events, it is quite appalling to imagine the amount they could save by getting out and supporting their local community.  To say nothing of having some really kick ass stories to tell.

Humdinger 3 was closed down by local favorite Japhy’s Descent.  The sun had gone done, the temperature had relaxed, and the local veteran rockers did not disappoint an eager crowd that had braved the heat of the day to get their Humdinger on.


Folks…. get out…. discover something new that makes you giggle, dance and rediscover how cool it is to listen to something groovy for the very first time.  Besides….. think of the stories these girls will tell !  They would never have those tales to spin…. if they had stayed home.  Either will YOU.


Keep the Greasy Side Down, Amigos.

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