Wednesday was a night circled on my calendar. A night I was looking forward to as Grumpster returned to Phoenix. They were the top of the top of favorite music discoveries in 2020. Last time they visited Phoenix, I was in Vegas for Punk Rock Bowling so missed what I can assume a wonderful local show. Luckily, I did get to see them play a set on a rad bill of a club show on the roof of the Downtown Grand Hotel. However, I subscribe to the best time seeing a band is when they come through for their own tour. This time being Grumpster’s own headlining tour that they assembled an excellent pair of locals to play with them at the Underground, TV Messages and Ring Finger No Pinky.
The first one, TV Messages, I hadn’t heard entering the show. They boast an alternative rock sound like that of Fidlar, with a blend of faster and slower tempo songs. This band alternates vocalist between Kaili and their other guitarist nearly equally across the set.
The hand off always seemed to include handing the guitar to who was taking leads while the other took on the bass. There is a joyous energy across the band as they perform songs, including glancing back to Jason, on drums, with smiles of enjoyment. TV Messages were a cool band to see that I look forward to catching more.
Middle of the bill was a band I had on my radar and the stars finally aligned with Ring Finger No Pinky. This three-piece band play lyric belting, fast paced, hardcore punk rock and garage rock. I wasn’t prepared for the awesomeness that was brought despite knowing their name from a few flyers the past year.
Griffin, lead vocals, is everywhere. When I say everywhere, I mean left, back, right of the stage and out on that floor getting that pit moving while hanging onto his guitar. There is red smudging on that guitar that could be blood from how hard he goes or just the sweat smudging the design below the strings of the guitar. No matter, the passion and energy that Ring Finger No Pinky has is fantastic. I will make a bigger effort to try to catch them from here.
Last came our headliners, Grumpster. Riding their sophomore release of Fever Dream, the set was a mix of new tracks and familiar from their prior releases. This including the title track, “Picture,” and others that I already have listened to countless times. That album is produced by Anti-Flag’s Chris #2 if you need anymore selling on listening to one of my favorite albums this year. Donnie, lead vocals and guitar, was playful and having a blast every moment of that set. You could find him doing flourishes with his arms to playing on his back the bass on the Nile Underground stage. That joy is shared across the stage watching the faces of Lalo, on guitar, to drummer Noel, with huge smiles.
Their music lending perfectly to getting bodies moving with mostly high energy punk and indie rock alongside a few slowed down tracks like “Roots” off their first album. There was a point where Donnie asked everyone to find a dance partner that turned into an inclusive ten plus circle of hands held, running around to their left and right. The crowd of forty or so were having as much a blast as Grumpster was on stage. It was an evening that I felt fortunate to make, after testing negative from my latest Covid case, and to be cautious wore an N95 mask regardless. It was such a wonderful and intimate time watching Grumpster and the full bill that I won’t forget for a while.