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Apes of the State Down in the Underground

Three years ago, things had ground to a halt as we worked to slow the spread of a newly discovered virus and waited for science to bring solutions while we tried to mitigate the worse of it. It meant we had a lot more time for finding music, whether it was new to you or just in general newly formed. Between the many livestreams that musicians had turned to and just looking at the “You may also like” sections of music services, it felt like I stumbled onto a treasure trove of new music. Back in 2020, I made a list to share a few of those new discoveries with everyone who may want to check them out. One of those was this amazing Folk Punk band called Apes of the State. It did not matter what album. I could just keep their songs on loop forever. Flash forward to last Thursday, in the basement of the Nile, where we found they just happened to be making their first visit to Phoenix since then with their friends Dana Skully and the Tiger Sharks and local friends A Better Problem.

The opening trio may look familiar with only a different name since last I wrote about them on here, A Better Problem. A little bit punk rock, a little bit folk punk in their songs. One called Bad Times, Mandie, Ethan, and Chandler continue to make up the band that the only things I see have changed are their name and their skill level since 2020. Watching them in the Underground you see a noticeable improvement in their performance and skills.

Mandie continuing to engage with a receptive group of fans they bring out. What has not changed is their fans continue to bring excitement and energy, moving around and singing along to what they know. A Better Problem shows why they are not always an opening act, but when they are, they do the perfect thing to get the party started for any musicians to follow.

The ones that got to follow and ride that energy were Dana Skully and the Tiger Sharks. A band that I intentionally went in blind, as I find the element of discovery adds to the delight of shows. They self-describe as “dream pop punk to make ur brain cry” on their Bandcamp. I had to quote it as I loved reading that description. As far as I can tell, that means punk rock, indie rock, and emo influences rolled into this one. There were points watching that I felt incorporated blues style basslines into the mix too. Meanwhile, Dana’s vocals and general song makeup reminds me a bit of Sincere Engineer if looking for a comparison point.

Showing how much these bands are friends alongside tourmates, the first of the night’s collaboration included Dan, of Apes of the State, jumping in for a song with the Tiger Sharks. The other part that showcased this friendship would be the “Stop Cop City” banner adorning the wall behind them being a joint message of the bands. Dana touched on how they are opposed to the building of the Atlanta police training facility and that the plan included destroying a beautiful Atlanta forest to make space for it. Between the wonderful music and the helping spread of the “Stop Cop City” message more nationally through this tour, the Tiger Sharks made for an awesome new discovery this night.

Last was the band that held the most unfettered excitement for me, Apes of the State. From the first chords played, the room erupted in movement and dancing. April, lead vocals and guitar, lent to contributing the electricity in the room by occasionally jumping into the pit herself throughout the night’s set. She also touched on reminding everyone and elaborating on the “Stop Cop City” message on the banner in similar tone as Dana Skully. The four-piece folk punks include April, Dan, on guitar and mandolin, Mollie on bass, and Sabrena behind their kit.

They played a plethora of songs spanning the albums I had on loop from the moment I stumbled onto them, from This City Isn’t Big Enough to Pipe Dream. Amongst that hearing what has become favorites of mine with “Internet” and the “I Listened.” Returning the exchange of Dan in the prior set, Dana, of the Tiger Sharks, would jump up to vocals with April for a song too.

For their encore, April and Dan joined the audience in which it seemed more like the crowd took over vocals recognizing the track immediately. It was such an amazing atmosphere to be a part of and worth every day of heavy fatigue I’ve experienced from my long Covid since. Apes of the State lived up to everything I hoped and that means I am already excited for the next time they may come around again.

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