SXSW kicks off at The Green Room

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Bands from all over the West Coast rolled through Flagstaff to rock The Green Room on their way to the South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin. In true Flagstaff fashion, the snow fell and the beers flowed as 10 different bands played to the bundled-up crowd.

Flagstaff local band Snake! Snake! Snakes! vocalist Jonathan Messenger, bassist Christopher Sanchez, and guitarist Dan Tripp perform at the SXSW kickoff show and Decker's new album "Slikder" release party, at the Green Room on Mar 9. (photo by Jing Wang)

Flagstaff local band Snake! Snake! Snakes! vocalist Jonathan Messenger, bassist Christopher Sanchez, and guitarist Dan Tripp perform at the SXSW kickoff show and Decker’s new album “Slikder” release party, at the Green Room on Mar 9. (photo by Jing Wang)

The Green Room’s two stages were alive with the ranging sounds of music from the different bands. Folk, reggae, blues and hip hop were all represented and the music went all night. Performances from Snake! Snake! Snakes! and The Wiley One were especially memorable. All the bands laid out their beats as the crowd came to play.

The highlight of the show was definitely the performances by The Dustbowl Revival and decker. Both bands have an authentic American sound to them and each complemented each other’s energy.

The Dustbowl Revival is a mash up of bluegrass, folk and big band swing. The band consists of 15 or 20 passing members and hails from Los Angeles. In their performance at The Green Room, their first time in Arizona, the band played with eight of its members.

The core member and songwriter for the group, Zack Lupetin, was excited about the welcoming energy in Flagstaff.

“People outside of LA are a little more appreciative and little more friendly right off the bat. The great thing about LA is that there’s so many talented people there to make [expletive] happen but the problem is that everyone expects everything to be so great. People outside big cities usually have more of an open mind,” Lupetin said.

The Dustbowl Revival was undoubtedly the most lively and interactive band to play The Green Room that night. Their mixture of bluegrass and big band had the whole room moving in old time swing. Their instruments, look, and sound take the audience back to the ‘30s and ‘40s where music was organic and whole. This band genuinely loves a good crowd and kept the audience involvement going.

“There’s nothing better in life that playing to a great crowd of people who are singing along to your songs,” Lupetin said.

For the band’s last song, Lupetin led the group offstage and into the crowd where he instructed the audience what to say in a call-and-respond session. The crowd went crazy and the band took to the floor to finish off using only the power of their voices and acoustics. The audience was no longer at a concert, but transported to a backyard party where the band is their close friends and the songs their prayers.

Lupetin explained why he loves doing this during his performances.

“It’s one of my favorite things…you get to know the band and hear their sound in the flesh right in front of you. I definitely like participating in a theatrical way with an audience. I’m actually a playwright so I try to have our show be more of a theatrical experience than just going from song a to song b,” Lupetin said.

The show doubled as an album release party for Sedona band, decker.’s fourth album, Slider. It was Brandon Decker, the band’s namesake and singer/songwriter, who invited bands from all over the west to play this show. When decker. took the stage the crowd was winding down from the performance of The Dustbowl Revival. decker. complemented the previous band’s sound with soulful folk songs. Although the tempo was much slower than that of The Dustbowl Revival, decker. brought its new album to life. Their performance breathed air into the lingering tracks of Slider.

Dana Kamp, an international affairs and Mandarin Chinese double major at UA and Flagstaff native, came up just to see decker. play.

“For spring break I was originally going to go to SXSW in Austin because decker. is playing there and that didn’t work out. So my best friend and I both decided to come up to Flagstaff and it just happened to be the decker album release show. It was really cool how it worked out,” Kamp said.

The whole room was moving and while decker. performed and were disappointed when their set was over. After a unanimous chant of “uno mas” the band came back on stage to play one more song for their encore.

Decker. has fans from all over Arizona and they were happy to make the trip to see them.

“I came up here from Scottsdale to see decker. It’s my first time seeing them and they are lyrically incredible and they sound really tight,” said James Peterson.

The Green Room buzzed with a show that fit Flagstaff perfectly. The energy was right and the music was the perfect cure for a cold, snowy night.



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