When I entered Friday, I already knew there was a tussle for where I should go watch music. However, when I got the email back that I could take pictures of Skinny Lister and Will Varley, I knew my starting point. These are two bands I fell in love watching when introduced to me through two separate Frank Turner tours. A week prior finding out our local Cockswain had been added as openers and I knew that show was going to deliver. Of course, Valley Bar shows start pretty early compared to other venues. Thankfully this meant I not only got to go watch Fairy Bones celebrate their new album, but catch Doll Skin for my second time. Let me just say this was a killer Friday night for music.
Up first in my evening were the local Celtic Punk Rockers of Cockswain. If you haven’t heard them, they have a sound in common with that of a Real McKenzies and Flogging Molly. This band always comes out with flair and energy across that stage. This is good for it gives them more in common with the headlining Skinny Lister.
We had our animated Neil bouncing around, guitar occasionally over his head. On one song, Amanda fiddled back to back with Neil on his guitar. They played for one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen in front of them. I can only hope that Cockswain’s audience continues to grow, as they are one of my Phoenix favorites.
Then the solo performer I couldn’t wait to see again since LiveWire, and that was Will Varley. When I first caught him with Frank Turner, I had no idea what to expect. Turned out a man with a sense of humor weaved through his tunes and outside of them. This night he may have had the loudest chatter during his set. He made the best of it, turning most of it into jokes. This includes him using the sound of the Valley Bar staff getting ice into a story of someone killing a polar bear. Regardless, got to enjoy him play a few I knew in the time since first caught him such as “King for a King.” Will Varley is an authentic guy on and off stage. I will keep trying to catch him play whenever I can.
Probably the most excited bunch of musicians I caught this night were that of Skinny Lister. This group of excited, jumping around bandmates are the definition of ecstatic. I don’t know if anyone in that band stays stationary except for drums. We had Lorna in and out of the crowd, Sam from stage right to stage left playing next to Max on accordion, to microphones being held in front of singing crowd members.
Skinny Lister is a band I actually would expect a mosh pit to break out in the middle of, but the crowd was more of a dancing stationary. Giving the crowd a little incentive to loosen up, Lorna hands the traditional jug of whiskey out for anyone who wants a swig. Again, this only reinforces how much fun the shows they headline are. Skinny Lister has put forth an amazing performance each and every time I managed to catch them.
With the show at the Valley Bar over before ten, I was free to wonder over to the Crescent where I found I was not only early enough to catch Fairy Bones, but Doll Skin once again. The last time I managed to catch them was a little over a year ago at the Rebel Lounge. I was taken aback by how adult a couple songs were in the issues they tackled then. In that time they have only seemed to get more comfortable on that stage. It feels more refined, but still a mix of smiles and laughing throughout. The crowd feeds on this, clearly winning over new fans this night.
Describing them I would probably put them as a blend of Punk Rock and Paramore. I know this isn’t the sound for every punk fan out there, but it is a superb sound on the ears. Although with a song about punching Nazis, I think everyone including the Punks can get behind the music of Doll Skin. They probably were the next most enthusiastic band I saw this night. They move around that stage fully animated in expressions. Sydney working to engage the audience to sing along to songs they either know or easy to learn. Doll Skin is one of the best up and coming bands out of Phoenix.
Finally we come to the gal and guys of Fairy Bones. The album titled “0% Fun” being released and celebrated this night. I felt their last album was good but jumped around in its sound. Kind of like the band was experimenting with different sounds from song to song. It was hard to get a feel for it as one larger piece. With this one, it feels like that experimentation solidified in more unified, grittier sound. The album’s sound is a blending of components of both garage rock and indie rock. I think it is their best album to date and will be in contention for a favorite of the year.
Fairy Bones’ set itself was a blend of old tracks and new. We got insights into various details about the songs, how they were written or in one case, why one wasn’t called “0% Fun.” That Bob Hoag, one of our awesome local music producers, told them they can’t name a song something that doesn’t get said within the song. Watching this set showed me that not only the music they were producing is maturing, but their stage presence is too. They are only getting better with each show that passes. I look forward to where Fairy Bones’ music goes from here.