Saturday August 31, 2013 valley music ascended to Flagstaff, AZ for the first annual Elevation Fest co-sponsored by Sundawg Media, The Wiley One, Strawberry Hedgehog, and The Pier Magazine and The Orpheum Theater. The music festival was an effective way to aggregate several valley bands in one place, on one stage for a spectacular day of music at the historic Orpheum Theater in the pines of Northern Arizona. Here are several highlights:
1. decker.’s new lineup. Wow. I’d say I am as close to Brandon & Kelly as the next person, but I knew nothing of the new lineup until I saw a keyboard being set up on stage. Then Amber Johnson, formerly of The Senators, appeared in her signature A-line dress and killer t-strap heels. I’d heard Bryant was moving, so I expected some change-ups but nothing as drastic as adding a keyboardist to the epitomical desert sound. As the new quartet (with Brett Graham replacing Bryant) opened into their first number, it sure sounded strong–then they keys rolled through the classic decker. sound and suddenly the game changed. When you think decker. can’t get any stronger, Brandon and Kelly make us reevaluate everything we have ever known. This is why Arizona music loves Brandon Decker.
2. Rising Hy food truck. A music fest isn’t complete without a food truck, and this one was parked in the closed off Orpheum parking lot near the acoustic “stage” (read: popup tent, wired area and great wide carpet). With all of my being, I wanted to venture out onto the Flagstaff streets between sets but I also didn’t want to miss capturing the entire festival. When my stomach came calling instead of heading down to Beaver Street Brewery, I sauntered up to Rising Hy food truck. I asked Mike and Mike (yes, both employees were named Mike) what I should order. After a few brief questions, I had a quesadilla with pork, chiles and the most amazing Honey Mustard ever. Mike, the owner, said everything was made locally and their mustard, hot sauces, hot salt, and olive oils can be found in Albertson’s, Sprouts, Basha’s, etc… throughout Arizona with distribution coming soon from Texas to the West Coast. These guys were great, and we ate twice at the truck throughout the day before buying several products toward the end of the night.
3. Katastro. I knew nothing of this band when they were booked for this festival, but, man, did they bring the crowd. They have an obviously large following who jammed through a highly electric set. The best part though was Gonzo Gonzales, Katastro’s manager’s son, the little boy with his KATASTRO t-shirt jamming just off stage left. He had more swag than half the people in the building.
4. Dumper the Painter. One thing I liked about Elevation Fest was the various genres of music combined to celebrated Arizona music. This included the hip hop act The Drunken Immortals that included two rappers and a DJ. While they were excellent, what intrigued me was the artist, Dumper, who painted a large canvas on stage left. He began with a blank canvas when the set began and painted throughout the performance. As they ramped down their hip hop set, Dumper added some stark contrasting lines with a heavy marker over the drying paint to add definition to the finished work.
5. Stranger. I’ll admit, by late evening after having been on my feet all day, I was tired, but I was curious about Stranger from San Diego. Their table was set up in the rear of the theater where they sold shirts and custom lighters. The musicians and fans mingled, supported other bands, and were just darn friendly. At 11:30pm, when they took the stage, the audience rushed forward. David Ornelas took the mic, shook out his dreads that dropped down towards the ground, and jammed into a high, energetic set. The band included a fantastic trombone player who not only bounced around stage but danced with his trombone like it was a lady enjoying his performance.