06/29/18 – Simple Malfunction LP Release Show w/ Brian Cooper’s Ghost, The Linecutters, and Not Confined
*Photos from this show can be found through this link
On June 29th, 2018, my friend Taylor and I once again converged to the Trunk Space in Phoenix for a slew of local acts supporting the release of green-tied Phoenix punk outfit Simple Malfunction’s brand new album. With the promising, youthful Not Confined who opened the night, the more caustic Linecutters and gruff Brian Cooper’s Ghost faced no problems settling into a crowd who knew exactly what they came for, before Simple Malfunction slid into their headlining spot.
While I did catch Not Confined originally at the Playboy Manbaby / TOSO / Not Confined Triple Album Release Show in April and subsequently reviewed their “Television Man” EP, their obvious charisma and budding talent for such young performers continued to warm the cage anatomically termed as “my heart.” Since the release of their aforementioned EP, it’s no surprise most of their set (outside of “Small Town”) derived from the same. Vocalist Bailey was noticeably more confident throughout the set as she did not hesitate to jump on equipment and demand the band’s attention from the get-go. “FUK82” proved to be just as aggressive in a live setting as it hit me on their new album, with tracks like “Out Of Control,” “Object Of Society,” and “Dead Reputation” becoming setlist mainstays. As an individual who viewed them from the eyes of a second performance, it was impossible to ignore the staunch consistency they have held and showed their motivation to be more than another flash in the Phoenix punk pan. Their tight sound, charismatic chutzpah, and naturally electric live performances prove they will age like fine wine, just as long as the tribulations of young-adulthood don’t get in the way of the impressive progress they’ve already made.
Out Of Control
Object of Society
As Not Confined closed out the opening set with unshakeable vigor, a local Phoenix act I was originally unfamiliar with – Brian Cooper’s Ghost – took the stage in gritty, bearded punk glory. The threesome consisting of Shauna Monique on bass, T.J. on drums, and John on lead guitar wanted to make it clear early on that they don’t give a fuck about anything except the music they play. While many acts within the punk scene dress in a way and write lyrics that force you to pay attention to how much they don’t care, the casual dress and laid back attitudes held by each individual within BCG reeked of the apathy I expected when I first began paying attention to the genre. As someone who has a hard time fitting in with any subculture outside of casual dress, it lit up my soul to see individuals entirely dedicated to the punk sound and attitude so much that they naturally rejected the caveats many fans and performers involved in a genre can fall into. Brian Cooper’s Ghost began their set at the height of my marijuana intoxication, and quickly quelled all bits of inner-paranoia with tracks like “Lita Lee McKegan” and “Barfly.” While all the instrumentals proved to be punk, their attitude resembled more of a stoner jam-band ready to party. In a strange turn of events, the BCG crew even felt ballsy enough to give Amy Winehouse her due by covering her most famous hit, “Rehab.” As a self-proclaimed pop-culture nerd, I was floored to hear them play every single note and verse from the original, excluding none of the original for the sake of. It was clear from multiple audience observations that Brian Cooper’s Ghost wasn’t anything that the valley asked for; in a culture of patches, jackets and misplaced angst blossomed a band who took not giving a fuck to the next level by not participating in sub-culture mainstays yet still respecting the genre. Let me reiterate: Brian Cooper’s Ghost wasn’t anything that the valley asked for, but the positive reception let us know they are the band we needed.
Smoking Makes You Cool (Cover)
John the Barber
Sitting On the Dock of the Bay
Give Em Hell
Tie the Ropes
Lita Lee McKegan
What could I say about The Linecutters? While this was my first time reviewing them professionally, there’s few in the valley who aren’t familiar with the genre bending antics of Marceliano Festa, Jett Smith, and Kaz McClain. Over the past few releases, member changes, and continuous local tours, The Linecutters evolved their original sound of “ska-punk” into something much bigger than themselves. Like the diversity of Brian Cooper’s Ghost, The Linecutters exist on this weird fence musically straddling punk sensibilities and Ska party vibes which only encourage the crowd to create pits in the small venues lining the Phoenix valley. During their set preceding Simple Malfunction, it was obvious all three members were not only out for their fans, but also out for the blood and guts. Whatever awkward local show energy remained at the time of their set was wiped clean with powerful mantras from “Longhaul” and “Anxiety,” and even with mic issues, you could clearly hear Jett and Marce’s voice as they fought for their lives above the sound of the mix and crowd. Aside from the tight percussion, another highlight took the form of how far the band has came in relation to capabilities: it was an impressive moment when Jett transferred from punk vocals into a metal-esque scream which surely established punctuation near the end of the set. As my brain somehow sobered up by the end of their set, I felt the odd rush of natural dopamine I hadn’t been accustomed to.
When Linecutter antics were brought to an end, Simple Malfunction who donned smart black dress outfits and lime green ties took their rightful place as headliners of their album release show. As they blurred the lines between early 00s catchy radio-rock riffs and good ole-fashioned punk, most of their heady-and-ready set packed in faster jams and sorta-ballads that encouraged the party atmosphere during the last phase of the show. Tracks performed like “Unlucky” and “Too Dumb To Quit” employ a lyrical “tongue-in-cheek” less abrasive than the blunt abstract of today’s punk, but still packed a punch among the fun-yet-pertinent riffs. Certain moments of intensity in “Time Bomb” and “Drowning” always gave way to some solid and danceable percussion by Danny Mistler that not only highlighted certain emotional beats in their songs, but kept the vibes exciting for the crowd. With the short individual length of their songs, vocalist and guitar Clay Mistler found every opportunity to bring a ice-cool intensity to his vocal delivery over the demanding thirteen song-set. Richard Varela, their live bassist, backed the ensemble with his signature bowler hat, with regality reminiscent of Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala, if Ms. Portman was instead cast as a male in a green tie and bowler hat. If Simple Malfunction were searching for a way to represent their album and sound, the Punk-meets-early-B-52s energy found at this release show ticked the “all of the above” answer on the standardized test.
In conclusion to a classic entree of local Arizona punk finery, the other acts along with Simple Malfunction brought a crystal-clear representation of what desert punk meant to the locals and acts themselves and delivered a fiery end to June of 2018.
Psychotic Malfunction (Count Five)
I Hate Myself
Shut Your Mouth
Too Dumb To Quit