There are times I am just excited the moment I hear a show announcement to the time it occurs. Sometimes it is an artist I love, like a Less than Jake, and sometimes it is one I have yet to see but fell in love with their music. This time around there was a band I discovered in 2020 when I had nothing better to do than watch concert streams and dig into algorithm suggestions. That band was Cheekface. Right after that short exposure, I sought out their Bandcamp, purchased an appropriately named album for the time, Therapy Island, and played it on loop for extended stretches. Then only a couple months after discovering them, I was looking at Twitter near midnight one January 2021 evening to see a surprise tweet that their sophomore album, Emphatically No, just released. In excitement, I once again I did the exact same thing with as the first album with it on loop for extended stretches.
So, when shows started coming back, I kept an eye for the day they may hit Phoenix with anticipation. Which brings me to a stormy Saturday night at the Valley Bar, where Cheekface made its first stop here since I discovered them. They brought along an excellent band called Guppy to make for doubly the awesome night.
The first half of the show began with Guppy. I often do not dig into bands I do not know for a show I am planning to attend. Rather, I will go for the experience and potential for surprise of watching a musician or band for the first time. Guppy was a band that brought that delightful surprise to me. They gave me the same vibes as when I first discovered the band Retirement Party. It is upbeat, punk and garage rock band full of a charismatic cast.
There is personality just flying everywhere on that stage during Guppy’s performance. Though specifically their bassist, Marc, was the high bar of that with him dancing and playing with such flair and enthusiasm. Also, that went for their other guitarist opposite stage him showing as much expression and excitement on the other side of Julia, lead vocals and guitar. Later in the set Julia brought forward their plushy sheep friend named Bongo to perform a song dedicated to them. I had a blast watching Guppy and, crazy enough, they were only our opener for this night.
That headliner would be that of Cheekface. The indie rock band that was my favorite music discovery of the quarantine. Their performance is as full of personality as the songs they write. Greg, lead vocals, was all expression and animated through the night. He joked about the severe thunderstorm warning and meaning chances are we will be stuck in there until eleven, but we risked it anyways to see them. Additional engaging with the crowd included trying get people to dance and shared his own assortment of moves. His song cowriter, backing vocalist and bassist, Mandy, and drummer, Mark, looked as if this is their happy place on that stage. There was additionally a percussionist on this tour who was just dancing everywhere when he was and wasn’t tied to keys and the extra rhythm.
The other fantastic part of this show was that a good size crowd showed up to support, sing along and dance. I remember distinctly as the crowd sang back loudly to the chorus of “Listen To Your Heart. No.” It was an amazing atmosphere for them. Their songs played hit across both their albums, including “Dry Heat” to “Best Life” while touching on new songs coming on their third album just announced, Too Much To Ask. It was a set that lived up to my high expectations going in. Meeting them at their merch booth just reinforced what awesome people they are and hope my interactions weren’t too obviously nervous. I can’t wait to hear the next Cheekface album, and this night made sure I cannot wait to watch them live once again.