ALT-AZ’s Ugly Sweater Holiday Party! At Mesa Amphitheatre with Weezer

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Weezer at Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa, AZ on December 11, 2021

Review by Kevin Kuhlman
Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Psyko Steve ( https://psykosteve.com/  )
Venue: Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa, AZ (https://www.mesaamp.com/ )
Date:  Saturday December 11th, 2021

The seventh annual KDKB ALT-AZ Ugly Sweater Holiday Party took place Saturday, December 11th, featuring local artist Upsahl along with pop-punk act The Regrettes and one of the seminal rock bands of the 90s and 2000s, Weezer.  Mesa Amphitheater was a perfect venue for a show of this nature – a stage small enough to remain intimate and a standing-room-only general admission audience that invited a party atmosphere despite the cold (for Arizona, at least) weather.



Weezer

Weezer at Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa, AZ on December 11, 2021

An obvious choice to headline a show like this (especially given one of their biggest songs is literally named “The Sweater Song”), Weezer had a hot streak in 2021 off a Grammy nomination (for “All My Favorite Songs”), a major national tour with Greenday and Fall Out Boy and two of their best received albums in recent years (The masterful orchestral Ok Human and the long-awaited 80s-rock inspired Van Weezer).  The show opened with an edited version of Van Halen’s “Jump” with a programmed light show to accompany the song, a tribute to the late Eddie Van Halen who had a huge influence on lead singer and guitarist Rivers Cuomo. The setlist, similarly, reflected that influence by leaning heavily on Weezer’s catalogue of more guitar-driven songs, particularly at the start of the show.  Weezer fans are notoriously fickle – there is an entire Saturday Night Live sketch about the band’s fans getting into a fight over dinner – but this was a perfect set that blended the classic songs of old and the band’s newer music with a smattering of the mid-00s music that is slightly more controversial among the Weezer loyal.

Weezer at Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa, AZ on December 11, 2021

Their set kicked off with three songs off of Van Weezer – including the Van-Halen-meets-The-Cars which blends two of the band’s biggest influences (Ric Ocasek produced three of Weezer’s albums and was one of Cuomo’s early songwriting mentors)  – along with the song featuring their heaviest riff (“Hash Pipe”) and arguably their biggest hit (“Beverly Hills”). What followed was a mix of their biggest hits (“Perfect Situation,” “Pork and Beans,” “Island in the Sun”), covers of both Metallica and Toto, and a heavy dose of their debut album Weezer (Blue), considered not only their best album but one of the greatest albums of the 90s.  The energy in the crowd when the guitar intros of “My Name is Jonas” or “Surf Wax America” began was immensely palpable, overwhelming even the excitement felt with their “bigger” hits.

Rivers Cuomo of Weezer at Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa, AZ on December 11, 2021

What was surprising was the lack of holiday music in Weezer’s set, particularly given they are a band with plenty of Christmas music in their back catalogue. Any of the traditional songs from Christmas with Weezer or “The Christmas Song” could have worked their way into the setlist to a rapturous reception, but instead the setlist remained relatively unchanged from what was played during the summer tour. This meant there were more songs about vacationing in the sun during summer despite the holiday festivities and the sweater weather outside. “Feels like Summer”? Not quite.

Regardless, the hour-long set ended with the band’s two finest songs. It’s tough to walk away from a show like this nitpicking about the lack of Christmas music when the band just powered their way through a perfect rendition of the perfect pop-rock song “Buddy Holly” and got the entire crowd singing along to “Say It Ain’t So”, Cuomo’s heartfelt anthem about complicated father-son relationships. Despite the show’s early end – local noise ordinances require outdoor concerts to end earlier than your average indoor show – fans walked away ecstatic about Weezer’s performance.

Weezer consists of Rivers Cuomo as lead singer/ and guitarist, fellow guitarist Brian Bell, drummer Patrick  and bass player Scott Shriner.  You can check out Weezer, their albums and future tour dates on their Facebook Page and website:

Website: https://weezer.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/weezer


Photos by Fred Kuhlman, All Rights Reserved


Weezer Setlist:                       (Album)
Hero                                        (Van Weezer)
Hash Pipe                                (Weezer (Green Album))
All The Good Ones                 (Van Weezer)
Beverly Hills                            (Make Believe)
The End of the Game              (Van Weezer)
My Name is Jonas                   (Weezer (Blue Album))
Perfect Situation                     (Make Believe)
Pork and Beans                       (Weezer (Red Album))
Feels Like Summer                 (Pacific Daydream)
Enter Sandman                       (Metallica Cover)
All My Favorite Songs             (OK Human)
Undone – The Sweater Song   (Weezer (Blue Album))
Surf Wax America                   (Weezer (Blue Album))
Island in the Sun                     (Weezer (Green Album))
Africa (Toto Cover)                 (Weezer (Teal Album))
California Snow                      (Weezer (Black Album))
Say It Ain’t So                         (Weezer (Blue Album))
Encore:
Buddy Holly                           (Weezer (Blue Album))



The Regrettes

The Regrettes at Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa, AZ on December 11th, 2021

The second act of the night, The Regrettes, were a huge surprise. I was about as minimally familiar with them as you possibly could be (I believe I had heard half of one song on the radio before this concert) and they just about blew me away. The energy they brought, the involuntary toe-tapping songs, and the power-pop melodies have stuck with me ever since the show. Even without knowing a single song going into the night, they’ve managed to worm their way into my brain for the past few days.

Singer/guitarist Lydia Night, besuited in a red blazer, led the group in a set of pop-punk songs that were brimming with intensity from the first chord. The Go-Go’s-esque call-and-response numbers (with backing vocals from guitarist Genessa Gariano and bassist Brooke Dickson) were immediate sing-alongs. The set was short, but even knowing Weezer was coming up next, it left the crowd (and myself) wanting more.

You can checkout The Regrettes on their website and Facebook page.

Website: https://www.theregrettes.com/
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/regrettes


Photos by Fred Kuhlman, All Rights Reserved


The Regrettes Setlist:             (Album)
California Friends                    (How Do You Love)
Fog                                          (How Do You Love)
Picture Perfect                        (Feel Your Feelings Fool!)
Ladylike/Whatta Bitch            (Feel Your Feelings Fool!)
Pumpkin                                  (How Do You Love)
Dress Up                                 (How Do You Love)
I Dare You                               (How Do You Love)
Monday                                   (New Release Single)
You’re So Fucking Pretty         (New Release Single)
Poor Boy                                 (Poor Boy)
More Than A Month               (How Do You Love)



UPSAHL

UPSAHL at Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa, AZ on December 11th, 2021

Local artist Upsahl, who is one of Alt-AZ’s own “Homegrown with Mo” musicians, opened the show with an alt-pop set and a minimal band, featuring only a guitarist and drummer, along with a heavily overdriven bass backing track to complete her sound (she occasionally donned a bass and guitar herself to join the band). She was an ideal opening act, a local artist with a strong, unique flavor that could stand out despite the heavyweights that would follow. Her music wasn’t quite my tempo, but she clearly commanded the stage with a tremendous presence and thrived on what is almost certainly among the largest crowds of her career.  Check her out on her Facebook Page.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/upsahlmusic


Photos by Fred Kuhlman, All Rights Reserved


UPSAHL Setlist:                    (Album)
MoneyOnMyMind                (Young Life Crisis EP)
People I Don’t Like                (Young Life Crisis EP)
Lady Jesus                             (Lady Jesus)
Douchebag                           (Lady Jesus)
Time of Life                           (Lady Jesus)
Last Supper                           (Lady Jesus)
Arizona                                  (Young Life Crisis EP)
IDFWFEELINGS                      (Lady Jesus)
Thriving                                 (Lady Jesus)
Lunatic                                  (Lady Jesus)
Drugs                                    (Hindsight 20/20)

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