December 2, 2016 Switchfoot & Relient K Excite Marquee Theatre Tempe, AZ 11-20-16
When looking for some of the most colorful and spirit-lifting Alternative Rock bands in America, where does one turn? Quite a long list to scroll through, two acts that should come to mind are none other than Switchfoot and Relient K. Unique to themselves, Southern California’s Switchfoot has built an amazing career over the past two decades, garnering multi-platinum record sales and countless awards. Nestled in a different corner of the country, Ohio’s Relient K have followed a similar path, coming together in 1998, moving forward, releasing one exhilarating album after another. Now in 2016, the good friends team up together to take part in the Looking for America Tour.
Apply titled after the tenth track off Switchfoot’s latest album, Where the Light Shines Through, the tour commenced back on September 19th, running all the way through November 26th. A lengthy time trucking across the country, amidst it all, the co-headliners stopped in cities coast to coast and, on Sunday November 20th, found their way to Tempe, Arizona. The first of two shows in the Grand Canyon State, the second being in Tucson on the 22nd, the stop in Tempe would be met with pure excitement as the bands prepared to rock the Marquee Theatre.
A well-known medium-sized theater located along the 202 corridors and the Mill Avenue area, it is also in close proximity to the Arizona State University. A college area which has always been abuzz with music, it was quite evident judging by the line to get inside Marquee Theatre, stretching down the sidewalk alongside the venue. Talking amongst each other about their excitement for the night ahead, the doors finally opened, allowing the age-diverse crowd to quickly fill the venue. Packed, like a tightly bound can of sardines, there were fans from the pit gates in front of the stage to each side wall, and spilling out into the foyer and bar area ready for Relient K to get started.
Then, breaking the tension, long-time bandmates Matt Thiessen (vocals/guitar) and Matt Hoopes (guitar/vocals), along with their pals Tom Breyfogle (bass) as well as Dave Douglas (drums/vocals), took the stage opening up with “High of 75.” Promoting their new record, Air for Free, they showed fans many new songs including select cuts “Bummin,” “Mountain Top,” and the album title track. Delightful to watch everyone sing along, Thiessen offered his high, Punk-style tenor voice while going from his guitar to playing his piano with ease throughout the performance. Mixing in other songs such as “Who I Am Hates Who I’ve Been,” “Mountaintop,” and “Forget and Not Slow Down,” the band kept the show diverse with favorites from their entire discography.
Sprinkling in “Mrs. Hippopotamuses’” and of course “Crayons Can Melt on Us for All I Care,” Thiessen carried a magnetic energy. His humbleness mixed with a creative air of energy was infectious and it flowed over to the band’s adoring audience. Winding down the 18-song set with the irresistibly catchy “Sadie Hawkins Dance,” everyone was moving about the floor while Hoopes and Thiessen’s guitars provided melodic bliss. Concluding with “Be My Escape” and the well-favored performance of “Deathbed,” Switchfoot’s frontman, Jon Foreman, joined in the finale as the crowd was screaming every word.
Full of life, Relient K owned the venue in an extraordinary way. Those who still have not picked up Air for Free, it is all Relient K, bigger and better than ever. In addition, their late October EP, The Creepier EP…er, is out now.
With a relatively short change over, the second half of the feeling good music experience took place in backlit moments of soft smoke as brothers Jon (vocals/guitar) and Tim Foreman (bass/backing vocals), along with long-time bandmates Chad Butler (drums), Jerome Fontamillas (keyboards/guitar), as well as Drew Shirley (guitar), emerged to the cheers of the full house. Opening with “Holy Water,” off of their latest album, Where the Light Shines Through, in mere moments they went into big hit “Meant To Live” igniting a full blown roar of jubilation. A blast from the past, they kept with the older tracks a bit longer, going into 2006’s “Oh! Gravity” before returning to present day with “Bull in a China Shop” and lyrically fun “Where the Light Shines Through,” where Shirley blistered on guitar.
Pointing toward the audience and bouncing back and forth from the front of the stage backward to feel the feedback resonating from his amplifier, Jon showed immense energy as they moved along with other songs including “I Won’t Let You Go” and the majestic sounding Fading West (2014) favorite “Love Alone Is Worth The Fight.” A positive message everywhere one turned, Jon went on to say they wanted to play a song that meant a great deal to them, the song “Hurricane.” Breaking it down to basics, Jon proved you do not need amplification to be loud as they performed with Butler on one snare drum, Shirley on acoustic guitar, and Fontamillas pushing a vibe on his accordion. Matched with Jon’s voice, it was a tight, five-part harmony fest that had the audience gladly singing along.
Keeping the feeling intimate, Jon went on to explain the horror of the wildfires that burned across California, taking out many people’s homes. He continued to express the feeling of leaving the danger, but having your loved ones with you, and realizing that everything you need is your family. A beautiful realization that while a house is of course important, as long as we have each other, that is what is most important. With that, they went into “If the House Burns Down Tonight” as everyone clapped along. Then, picking it right back up to heavy riff-driven Rock, “The Sound (John M. Perkins’ Blues)”tore the roof off Marquee Theatre. Speaking of human rights and the true American dream, the live rendition was nothing less than a powerful force before they settled down with the introspective “Where I Belong.”
With a brief interlude, and a crowd of anxious fans in waiting, Switchfoot did not waste much time to come back and deliver an encore that opened up with “Float.” Going on to invite Relient K to join them, they united for “Live It Well,” and there was not a person to be found among the wide array of spectators that was not participating. A swelling of rising voices filled the air and it was a testament to what these two have created over the years. Finally, as one last gift, Switchfoot performed “Dare You to Move,” and it was the perfect full circle of joy not only seen on the faces of each band member, but across the waves of arms in the air.
The Looking for America Tour rekindles the whole story behind the music of the album and how it relates to the American people. The show is an interpersonal relationship, and really, that is what music has been to the heart and soul of people since the early days of Rock-n-Roll. What Relient K and Switchfoot bring to the world is more than just music, they both are heavily involved in multiple charity organizations and are constantly working to bring forth efforts for everyone to get involved. That in mind, both bands spoke the Cure International, an organization dedicated to helping heal kids with disabilities worldwide. Important, it is refreshing to see artists using their platform for something life-changing. As for the music, it is safe to say Switchfoot and Relient K found America, and they will continue their journey together come January 21st, so be sure to partake in the voyage.