The enthusiasm was nearly as tangible as the rain as students crowded into the Hill Auditorium with their umbrellas Saturday night. Despite the Halloween scene and festivities, there was no denying the ardent presence of the concert (soon to be party) goers donning their costumes for the A R I Z O N A concert hosted by Big Ticket Productions. The excitement for the opening acts were as high — T-shirts and posters bearing “Mikky Ekko” and “Electric Guest” were seen throughout the crowd. By the looks of it, the concert was set to be an absolute spectacle for fans who’ve been waiting for the recognition of these up and coming musicians.
I’ll admit it: I couldn’t quite grasp it at first. I came because of a friend’s recommendation, a tabula rasa and a skeptic to the alternative rock genre that prevails oversaturated and derivative across Spotify. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to a single track before the show. Nonetheless, I kept an open mind and curiosity for the acts of the night and the type of energy they’d exude; could it compare to the passions of their fans?
I tentatively sat between my just-as-clueless friend and a girl who screamed ecstatically when the lights dimmed to the entrance of Mikky Ekko. As someone whose experience with opening acts is a general disinterest, I was wonderstruck by the charisma and force Mikky Ekko delivered. His thunderous, synth-heavy vibe was immersive and emotion-packed, albeit a bit chaotic; it felt as though it came in waves of percussions and dense, poetic lyricism. It paired well alongside his spazzed out dancing that carried to the beat like an exorcism. He didn’t just move to the beat, the beat moved him. His voice was calm and melodic, adding a balanced undertone to the performance. Ekko’s closing rendition of “Stay” by Rihanna showcased how multifaceted his vocals are as he shifted to a rawer tone gainst the sparse instrumentals: melancholic and delicate. His moves were just as present and emotive, as he closed his eyes and swayed to the beat.
Following Mikky Ekko was Electric Guest. When the lead singer stormed onto the stage with a plastic mask and animated dance moves, my friend turned to me and said: “How is he not lip-syncing?” His falsetto was perfect, energy contagious and his moves, though not as grand as Ekko’s, were deft and smooth. The lead singer could swing from low to high register with ease and overall proved a stunning performer. Though blithe and laidback, their sound had a light, almost nostalgic energy to it with its sunny instrumentation and varied vocals. The band had a cool, LA-esque element to their music that I’m usually quick to dismiss, but their swagger and charm was contagious. The band’s penultimate song of the night “Oh Devil” now holds a prominent place in my most recent playlist.
It was roughly two hours into the show by the time A R I Z O N A finally made an appearance. Despite their labeling as the headlining act, their performance lasted only the final hour of the show. At that point, the crowd notably whittled down then flourished, as fans of the opening acts departed and those of the main act packed themselves in. Despite A R I Z O N A’s sound having elements from those of the opening acts, their entrance was on a different plane. It was a lot less energetic, more well-paced, upbeat and, dare I say, more conventional — it wasn’t so much that I was unimpressed but that their music felt a lot more traditionally pop. That being said, their performance was far from lackluster as the band could handle songs from all across the board, from dance jams to slower, more poignant serenades. I will say, I really preferred their slow songs and the way they flowed to their dreamy aura.
A R I Z O N A’s aesthetic is everything you’d expect from a contemporary band experimenting with ’80s synth: a bit angsty, a bit minimalistic, but very ambitious. There were snippets of lyricism and emotion that were profound and translated well through the lead singer’s higher vocals. There were points where the synth felt flat and instrumentals underdeveloped, not unlike an incessant metronome — the saving grace of variety for this band was their skillful guitar player and his occasional solos. The singer’s vocals were also versatile for the types of songs the band played: He was a skillful live singer even when dancing. And the band has a certain magic on stage; you can tell they’re comfortable and in the zone, even when they do share a laugh or two or give one member a special, momentary spotlight (even if he didn’t want to speak; major props to the lead singer). Overall, it was a wholesome display of togetherness many more illustrious bands fail to capture in their performances.
Packed between songs were mini motivational speeches based on the band’s tribulations, lasting the length of a song. Though admittedly trite at times, the lead singer spoke to the experience of college students struggling to find their place in the world. This also went on to showcase a willingness to connect with the audience beyond inviting them on stage and reaching out for their hands during performances, as his remarks were based on questions he’d ask the audience to raise their hand to.
Despite having a similar genre and musical elements, the three acts had their own distinct glimmer throughout the show. Big Ticket Productions did a fantastic job of organizing a concert that allowed for each artist to showcase their music and unique presence. I can definitely say that by the end of the night, I would call myself a fan of each performer.