A sweaty, exhilarated Bryce Avary- also known as The Rocket Summer- stood onstage at The Rebel Lounge this week grinning ear to ear at the packed room singing his lyrics back to him. It’s been years since he’s been able to hit the road and this summer’s Shadowkasters Tour played its penultimate show in Phoenix where the vibes were, as always, immaculate.
The Juliana Theory looks a little different from their colorful haired, all black emo days but the tunes are as timeless as the duo’s road worn boots. Their acoustic set was laidback and allowed the two guitarists to crack jokes with the audience and each other. Singer Brett Detar spent their 40 minutes onstage telling stories between songs and encouraging the room to mosh softly to a chilled out version of their heaviest song (the millennials in the room politely declined to the relief of everyone’s bad backs and knees). It was an excellent warmup for the headliner as fans got to sing softly to their favorite songs and get a moment of rest before the wild energy to come.
Bryce Avary is, by nature, one of the most relaxed people we’ve ever come across but that vibe completely flips when he takes the stage. Against a backdrop of haze and blinding lights, he started strong with “Stuck Inside Your Light” from the new album. Avary’s discography spans more than two decades and he promised early on that the set would incorporate songs from every era of TRS. He delivered all of that and more- “Break It Out” and “So Much Love” came next, pulling the full room into a dance party that never let up.
Avary is joined on the road by his longtime live bandmates and collaborators, but creates most of the guitar, piano and sitar (!!) effects on a plethora of pedals. He gave us the weird and wild of the new album with “Sing at the Top” and “Disco in Circles” while also crafting an instrumental loop from scratch in the middle of the set. He’s got thousands of performances of “Brat Pack” under his belt but rocked that one out with an exuberance that matched the fans’ response. He even brought out a deep cut in the form of “Peace Signs” as we all threw up our own to envelop the room in harmony and light.
TRS shows overflow with pure love and the relationship between Avary and his listeners is more of a friendship, especially as Avary called out fans by name from the stage later in the evening. Rather than having the audience choose which album he’d pick the next song from, Avary good-naturedly caved to peer pressure, adding both “Tell Me Something Good” and “A Song is Not a Business Plan” to the list for the night.
The Rebel Lounge became even more intimate as Avary leapt into the middle of the room for a cellphone-lit performance of “Goodbye Waves and Driveways” while also taking every opportunity to lean into the audience, guitar in hand. The glorious swell of “So, In This Hour” closed the main set before the trio was back and beaming for a request line encore that concluded with the beautifully bouncing “Hills and Valleys”- complete with Arizona shoutout for a state that will welcome TRS back with open arms until the end of time.
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Story and photos by Olivia Khiel