When looking at this year's slate of music festivals there is one that stands out to me, an unfamiliar name that I keep seeing peppered throughout some of my favorite artists' feeds: that festival is the Zona music festival, being held the first weekend of December in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. It feels like a large amount of my personal favorite punk, indie, and alternative bands will be gracing the stage at Margaret T. Hance, here’s who we at AboveTheBridge are most excited to catch.
As someone who has seen the band three times since the release of their critically acclaimed record Jubilee, I am somehow still just as excited to see them at Zona as I was when I first saw them. Their performances are nothing short of an experience to behold. Lead singer Michelle Zauner puts on one hell of a show, from her belting out the high note on “Paprika”, to her ferocious gong hits, iconic outfits, and playfully jumping around the stage. Every time I've seen them perform, I’m left blown away, and thinking to myself that I have witnessed one of the best performances of my life. A Japanese Breakfast show is unlike anything you’ll likely ever see, and definitely not something to be missed.
Saying that Beach House is one of your favorite bands is one of the coldest takes, since the art pop duo began gaining traction in the early 2010s. Everyone is aware of their unique blend of shoegaze, psych rock, and dream pop sounds, their forward momentum is spearheaded by their consistent output of incredible music. Since their 2012 release Bloom they have proven to be masters in their field, and that has never been more obvious than with the release of their most recent record, Once Twice Melody.
I am a massive fan of Bartees Strange. The way that he blends multiple genres together so seamlessly, and is willing to dip his toes into different sonic terrains that one might think wouldn't work given his previous output, is what has made him one of the most engaging artists to follow in recent years. As I listened to his latest release Farm to Table, as every track would end I found myself on my toes curious as to what he would draw from next. He could play a face melting guitar riff, or spit a quick 16 bar verse, or tap into a more gospel inspired sound, or combine it all into one. A perfect example of showing the range Bartees has is the song ‘Cosigns’, in which Bartees raps about a variety of indie rock darlings, who have given him the titular cosign, namely, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, Courtney Barnett, and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. The two times I have seen him perform were months after the release of his album Live Forever, and it was apparent that the crowds at those respective shows were unprepared for his set. But since then he has released Farm to Table, performed on Jimmy Kimmel live, and collected a plethora of other accolades, so here's to hoping the crowd at Zona is prepared for his unique, genre blending, show stopping performance.
One of the mainstays in terms of recent garage and noise punk, The Garden is one of the most consistent acts out when it comes to pure chaos in the pit. I've never experienced a mostpit quite like I have at a Garden show and I doubt I ever will. Hearing the booming renditions of tracks such as “AMPM truck”, “Egg”, and “Vexation”, while being engulfed in a sea of painted faces, was an experience that I am grateful to be able to tell the story of. Their place in modern punk has only been more solidified with the release of their latest record Horseshit on Route 66. I cannot wait to see how cuts like “Chainsaw the Door”, “Orange County Punk Rock Legends”, and “Haunted House on Zillow”, translate to a live setting. Their performance is definitely something that the crowds at Zona are not going to want to miss out on.
Sasami was an act that I was initially unfamiliar with until I saw her opening up for Japanese Breakfast on their 2021 tour. I was instantly taken aback, and became a fan as soon as they finished up their first song. On the drive back home I listened to their latest release Squeeze, and frantically recommended songs like “The Greatest”, “Skin a Rat”, and “Tried to Understand” to anyone who would listen. The sheer aggression, howling vocals, and crashing percussion, is what is constantly bringing me back to this record. Sasami has in recent years produced some of the best music influenced by early 2000s sludge metal. Her sound is wholly unique and something that I am very excited to see live again.
One of the greats of our times when it comes to punk and ska, Jeff Rosenstock should be a familiar name at this point. He has dropped some of my favorite records of the past decade, be it Post, Worry, We Cool, No Dream, or its remix record Ska Dream. His consistency is unparalleled, and from what I gather the same applies to his live show. Seeing him perform at the Ska Dream stop on his No Dream tour at the end of 2021, is one of my most cherished show memories. I've never experienced a show with such ferocity in terms of the music, yet so positive in terms of the crowd experience. Him and the band give everything they have when it comes to performing and you can tell. There’s nothing quite like seeing a band you love, performing some of their best material, and committing 110% to give you an unforgettable show. For that reason Jeff, and his band, might be the performance that I am most excited about at this year's Zona Music Festival.