The MOGUL Review

April 28th 03, 2023

The Benefit For Larri King I've been grateful before, and quite a bit lately. But I'm not often surprised. The outpouring of support at the benefit for Larri King Friday renewed my faith in Human Nature and the Arizona music scene. It was a spectacular display of Fine art. A potpourri of folk, metal, rock, comedy and roller skating all done very well and all for a humane cause.

The bands, Kelly Rich & Zipp, Jen , my girlfriend of 19 years, Jennifer Wharton and the staff of The Blooze Bar and the hundreds who came, donated or watched, gave a little or a lot to help someone in their community. After 2+ years of not even having a face to face community, I wondered if the drive to help may have eroded. But the vibe all night was so obviously positive it was suspicious, lol. And ecstatic.

Here were the performances in order of appearance.

Gordon Circle -The secret weapon for crossing genre borders. The day crowd dig Southern Rock, yet he had all the attention of both them and the super-diverse event audience. I was honored to play Apache Junction with him.

IZZY EDIBLE this was my first time hearing them and it was EXTREMELY awesome. Like Best-in-Class awesome. You'll hear more from them.

17 Seconds to Fail (with Brian Hadley) This band is a potent combination of expert musicianship and passionate commitment. One of the best Renditions of House of the Rising Sun I've ever heard, ever. And they brought a mob of enthusiastic, generous followers. Great performance by the band and their special guest Brian.

Flying Half Full they were the first to volunteer, drove up from Tucson with the band for the second time in a week, and played like it was a palatial theater. They have a great following here in the Valley, and are super-supportive of Phoenix and upstate bands down there.

Guardians (From the Tohono O'Odham nation). These guys are the real thing! 30 minutes of menacing beast-mode power. Flawless sweeps in all clefs, troll-summoning cadence. They define Metal as I want to hear it. And they're totally cool dudes and heroes to our community. Thank you for caring about Larri, and leading our concert for her.

Keeley Wolf This Canadian Comedienne (see what I did there?) plays weekly on comedy and rock stages, here and in Tucson. It was an exciting and fun addition to the night!

Zipp Wiggins My Friend & Facemelter Alumnus shredder gave an arena-class performance of original songs. Zipp has a signature style and tone, and creates melodic

Championship solos.

Lo$ergang These Tucson metal-rappers are troopers and on the cutting edge of the fastest-growing genre in modern rock. They came early, were the last to leave, and brought friends. And, they support visiting Phoenix bands all the time.

Derezzed From Time - Tucson's flagship rap & metal export closed the night with a triumphant set of wildly-complex grooves that captured everybody's attention.

Lost Dutchman - band was there the whole night supporting the other bands while their drummer recovers from a motorcycle accident injury. We wish him godspeed.

No less of an awesome performance by the sound engineer Adam made this a truly successful event. We wish the best for his band's upcoming tour and the speedy return of his expertise. Thank you John Roland , your heart and skill are both at the top of the scales. Angela Black thank you for the skating pizza exhibition and roller ballet! And thank you Kelley, for watching Larri and getting her the changes necessary for her proper care.

Thanks to those performing at other shows, and the others who stopped by, just to donate. It was great to see James Beauchamp Eddie Wixson ,Adam Spleen Kadrmas Shan Gilbreath , Amen Torso , Alan R Harden and the professor. I could only begin to list the many kind and generous people who came out. I am overjoyed.

Larri appeared on our metal scene over 3 years ago as a "cheerleader for bands", posting live videos, sharing posts, hanging out. In short time, she was able to put a show lineup together better than the entrenched "professional" promo groups, for less money and better, grass roots-powered attendance. If you are a artist in Arizona, certainly in Phoenix in Tucson, this is something you don't see very often. Everyone wants to know what worked, how we can get more of that and have more bands play more places. She treats bands like royalty, and looks to help bands where the precious time she wagers on this passion serves to advance a greater cause. What Larri has so far accomplished is exceptional. The humble effort we hosted is to help out with a few bills, let her know we appreciate what she did, and boost her spirits. May the great things she has done serve as a footnote to all the great things she has yet to do.


The MOGUL Review

March 03, 2023

Desert Fest 2023

Outlaw Entertainment, a subsidiary of Pharoah Entertainment is grateful to all the bands who performed at Desert Fest 2023 . Thank you to VFW Post 10254 and their awesome staff for hosting this gathering. Thanks also to the fans, music enthusiasts and vendors who braved the cold temperatures, wind and rain, to still make the event a remarkable success. And many thanks to The Gauntlet Entertainment Management for their on-site support and planning, a critical element in enabling this consortium of iconic local bands to make their mark.
"I'm sad that the weather kept people in their RV or campers, and tents, instead of in front of the stage, as my goal was to showcase this rich diversity of talent from all over the state to the crowd. The people attending can't be blamed - It was horribly windy with no place to escape to. All of the musicians killed it , and when it got out of control with the wind, my hats off (literally) to Dawn Of The Rising and The Crown Syndicate for their outstanding performances.
in the face of storm winds whose speed exceeded that of a tropical storm. Special thanks to Jennifer Wharton , for her livestream and logistic efforts. Sunday ( Day 2) wouldn't have happened without her assistance."
Tom Rodriguez Sr.
( Director- Outlaw Entertainment)
Desert Fest 2023 was and is more than a local music event. It's an historic tribute to the combined music scenes of Arizona, all of whom worked in cooperation with each other, sharing gigs, gear, and information that will keep the spirit of Desert Fest alive forever. For me, it is the official start of a Unified Arizona Music Community, whose impact and bursting talent can no longer be overlooked by the music industry.
Several hundred attended, and on day two, hundreds still came throughout the day and night, which ended with the mighty Theocide leading a Mosh Pit around a blazing fire as a solid wall of fans screamed and howled. Song after song was delivered like a sledgehammer splitting a boulder. They ARE the future of metal, and the audience proved it with their numbers and enthusiasm. Perhaps the most original and best-attended sets of all were Derezzed From Time and Hannibal Havoc. Both drew a huge crowd that doubled by the time Theocide played.
My deepest thanks to Ankh-Alien (Dan, Phil & George) for coming on short notice to kick off Sunday, and leaving their PA and gear up for all of Sunday's bands. We all were given the chance to cancel honorably, and Sunday wasn't a certainty until the weather broke in the early afternoon.
Curfew brought a new level of energy to the show, and played a powerful set of straight-up Metal and Hard Rock with Laura Sadie Bette's incomparable voice and Alan's searing, melodic shred. When they were done, I took the stage again for an extra long set of my symphonic neo-classical originals. I played until I saw Kalamity's drum set arrive. Then the Arizona Metal Drive just exploded. As the skies cleared and not long after darkened, people came in droves, hugging the makeshift stage set up in the post itself, originally an alternative to keep the bands dry inside.
Another note. The bands could have complained about late starts, inclement weather, emergency PA, etc., but there was none of it. Every member of each band was grateful to play for the sake of playing, showed gratitude and passion for this cooperative effort. And left knowing they made real friends and a network of connections that I already see yielding fruit. My special thanks to Tom, Mike Roe from Gauntlet, George G Harlan & Roxy Harlow and the generously helpful staff and VIPs from the post.
The whole vibe was suspiciously positive, in spite of the heavy hand of nature. And that's probably why it went off so well. To be sure, some bands and vendors, and probably some attendees, were less fortunate due to travel advisory weather conditions, unforseeable illness or just bad luck. My praise extends to them as well, some of whom made it but were unable to perform due to no fault of their own. Everybody involved is a hero to me.
In conclusion, some asked why it wasn't held later in the year. The ability of all these agencies and forces to launch this enterprise in the first place was miraculous. When the option to act or wait is tabled in this business, the latter is rarely successful. This will be repeated soon, as VFW Post 10254 is excited to be a part of our crusade to bring Live Local Music into the national spotlight, and will excitedly host more of these game-changing events. That's from the Commander of the post. And know this, any national or industry driven promoter would have cancelled without regret. But Outlaw Entertainment, Gauntlet and the bands and fans of our unified community had the cojones to make it happen in spite of the adversity. Don't f*** with Arizona Metal!


The MOGUL Review

January 20, 2023



Thank you for coming out in force Friday night at the Rock’n Free - Live Battle Of The Bands at The Blooze Bar . It was the final battle  of a war that spanned dozens of events and months of competition between new Valley bands.. And  even a sensationalist like myself could never have  expected the level of professionalism, the refined quality of the music, or the excitement this epic campaign  and the impact it has on our community. It was a packed house all night, with 1,000 views on the unedited live video feed to Facebook not including replays!


The Exxes won.  And they deserved it. Most unique songs, most musical variety within a set, surgical precision by the members on their instruments. Most experienced, and a seductive songstress  who is expert at reading an audience and winning them over. And they had to make the judges and crowd retain that impact through 2 more bands  to win. Genre was hard-rock/punk . But not one original sounded like someone else's song. And every song within their set nailed it and sounded different. This is the only time I have sworn to that regarding a band.


This does not mean they won for everyone. Nor, does it mean they're a better band. But in the US of A they won for the collective judges, and that settles it. I will be focusing on The Exxes over the next few months and spotlighting their sorcerous influences, so more people who love live music flock to them. And I'm saving a place for them on an upcoming show, and crossing my fingers, hoping they are too big or busy to take it when it comes. Remember this wasn't one show they won. They outlasted dozens of competitors in over a year of events and reigned supreme.


Second place means a lot. Avarist was hard to beat. Actually, two or three points out of 210 separated the top two. This is a band with a vocalist who can command legions to his cause. He has the body and brain of an athlete and professor, and the wisdom of the Led Zeppelin hermit. And unlike most bands, their crowd exhibited Extreme Contact;


Fans and listeners literally climbed on the vocalist when he left the stage. For musicianship, they were in their own class. Flawless, intricate fills from every member were enough to assert their majesty. Air tight stops and bullet-like breaks punctuated their anthem songs. That I expected, I've heard their guitarist Jason before, and one minute in front of the bassist and you knew they had something impossibly perfect.  Judges were not allowed to rate them on cover songs (the jury is advised to disregard that comment sort of thing). But when you hear the Lady Gaga Metal Mayhem Melodic Massacre, and you will, you'll see why I wished I had composed it. “Genius”.

Headhunt AZ came in third place, which really means third out of 70 or how many ever bands have participated in this menagerie. These guys were dark, thrashing  death-metal to some and yet they took the audience by force by sneaking in melody and authoritative shred between the growls. Jake even growled melodically. And his guitar sound was superb. They are kids. Not one of them is old enough to legally make the mistake of starting to drink and one can't drive yet. And they were as tight as the seasoned veterans in their genre. Unequalled precision, in my book what is the most difficult style of music to play well. For you non-head bangers, know this: You don't get the music because it is too advanced. And these ballsy kids can bury most of what I've heard here or in Tucson, and you'll hear about it says the Maestro.


I’m excited they're on the Desert Fest 2023 bill with myself and others. Congratulations to them on seizing an audience who probably wouldn't have come for them alone. Metal is in capable hands with this new generation. Horns up!


A set by Reckless Youth the Band preceded the contest. I've watched as they overcame countless obstacles and have played with them on several bills. Last night was graduation day. A killer set of excellent songs with fantastic (as in both unbelievable and great) vocal and guitar work. A tribute to Marty Maher who has painstakingly directed them into the real world of music, where they've earned their keep. I have a high bar for what they do, and I am not easily persuaded by the presence of gear that costs as much as a car or parents that force feed Charvels down their kid's throats. And I don't know where these guys got their gear, but/ Ankh-Alien  they deserve it. And they use it as well as anyone I know.

Top shelf performance, gentlemen!


As I nudged my way through the shoulder to shoulder crowd I ran into a bunch of souls who helped keep our music scene alive for decades. THE REVEREND Black Jack McBride  (2 IN THE CHEST), Rachel Val Kyrie Ornelas ( Rejected Monsters ), Philip Hernandez  ( Choke Chain / Ankh-Alien), all of 17 Seconds to Fail , and many more got by as my focus stayed with the bands. And many good friends who share my enthusiasm and crusade for live local rock came as well.


Now for the architects of this once-lost cause. Penny Freeman , Travis Kolasinski and Trevor Freeman, and their door person. Nobody would ever go to the lengths they do to make a show work. We have very few promoters here, and none who are seeking unestablished talent and original music. That's what makes them great. And never have I seen the attention to the shows in such detail. Some of it is genius, some is trial and error, but the last word is they've invested crazy amounts of time and at a financial loss to see their dream realized. And you're not going to be able to host the battle of the bands for 2 years or so without pissing people off. And they stood fast and I saw the results of this last night. They have strained out a collection of fanatical lovers of local music and local rock, presented arena-class bands in a city with five venues (exaggerated) for the price of a donut and a coffee. Rock’n Free Live is the standard for excellence in my book. And I have no reason to suck up to them. Thank you from all of us who value the scene over our own success. Literally hundreds of bands have advanced because of their work.


The judges. I've sat on 3 panels and know them personally. Jeremy Kniffin ( TORSO ) and Del Zachary Green  ( Burn'd Bridges ) are representative of all the values I hold  sacred with regard to music. And the best at what they do. Del in particular has been with The Battle since the start, and Jeremy believes in our scene, however new he is to it. Both they and I will tell it like it is,  and even when it may sadden it to say so. I aspire to those character qualities as well, and have played everything from country to death metal professionally.


My last word is there are no better bands and the winner always is, or should be, the fan. I don't really think anyone has a favorite band. They have favorite music, favorite songs and favorite people. And the business is super competitive because there are so little awards to give out to so many people who try and sacrifice. My spirit soars after last night. And you can judge the winner by watching the livestream of the competitors in replay. I'm serious when I say we captured the top artists of our collective music scene last night. And as always, if you disagree with me it's because you are wrong.  Much love to all of you who came, shared, watched or wish you had.