Review by Josh Montag. Photos by Ray² Productions.
As today’s music continues to expand into areas of EDM, rap, pop, and country, sometimes it’s hard to find that pure rock music so many of us grew up with. Thankfully, there are bands such as Highly Suspect who continue to blend elements of rock n roll with modern sounds, but with their own special flavor and personality sprinkled in, creating a fresh look at alternative rock. In between the two weekends of their Coachella sets, the Brooklyn based trio blessed Phoenix with a visit, and it was a good visit indeed.
I discovered Highly Suspect through local friends Fairy Bones, when they had the pleasure of opening up for HS at Crescent Ballroom back in 2016, which evidently went well because HS invited the Fairy Bones crew to finish out the rest of their tour with them as designated opener. Last night however, Highly Suspect upgraded their stage (so to speak) to the newest venue in town, The Van Buren.
The Van Buren (capacity 1,900) is a “vibey” & hip sorta place with a bangin’ sound system and a very spacious and comfortable outdoor patio, a wonderful alternative to the underwhelming Marquee Theatre that seemed to be the “go-to” venue for touring bands for so many years. In search of a bigger venue than Crescent, Highly Suspect chose wisely with The Van Buren and they sold that bad boy out! Starting off the set with their banger “Bath Salts”, the rock trio got the party started with the stroke of their first downbeat. I’d say for the first 30 minutes or so of the set, they played all older songs off their first full length record Mister Asylum. They then explored newer territory with one of my favorites “Serotonia” and also “Viper Strike”, which was appropriately dedicated to President Donald Trump. (“We’re all equal except for you, cuz you’re an asshole with an ugly point of view”)
One of my favorite parts of the show was when lead singer/guitarist Johnny Stevens politely asked everyone to put down their phones and just enjoy the show. But to nobody’s surprise in this day & age, there were still a handful of people with their snapchats a blazin’ so Johnny took measures into his own hands and walked off stage. Seconds later he came back on stage and said “alright look, I’m gonna strike a couple of poses for everyone so now is your chance to get your pictures, and then we can all put our phones away and have a good time”. The smile on my face could’ve been seen for miles because there is nothing more annoying than the person in front of you at a show taking video of EVERY song.
Another notable moment was the killer drum solo by drummer Ryan Meyer, who brought out the drummer from opening band Monk Tamony as they shared the drum set together, each taking turns at the throne. Coming back for a 4-song encore, the Brooklyn boys saved their goodies for last with the grammy nominated hit “My Name Is Human”, as well as “Little One”, “Wolf” and “Look Alive, Stay Alive”, all from their latest album The Boy Who Died Wolf. The end of their set was spectacular as they brought out drummer of Monk Tamony again to play drums along with the HS guitar tech to play bass. This allowed drummer Ryan Meyer to stand along side the drums making each cymbal and floor tom hit twice as big, while bassist Rich Meyer (twin brother of Ryan) hyped the crowd one last time and even crowd surfed for a fair amount of the final song.
Highly Suspect is an intelligent, creative and entertaining power trio who continues to grow their fanbase, which was evident at a memorable sold-out Van Buren performance. Us fans anxiously await a third studio album, and hopefully many return visits to the desert.