Earlier this month, on a Thursday night, a night full of jazzy indie-pop erupted inside a packed Rebel Lounge in Phoenix as a crowd filled with awe and excitement shouted “Ikea!” at the top of their lungs.
Looking onto the stage that night, one could assume the crowd was awaiting a fairytale theater performance to begin as homely green vines spiraled around the stage, an antique red rug laid flat in the center, and fairy lights lit up the back corner.
However, the princess that evening donned a white flowy gown, a bouquet of flowers and a microphone while the knight in shining armor held a guitar.
Instead of reenacting Shapesheaperan verse, the group that took the stage played a repertoire of jazz, indie-pop and R&B inspired tunes that left the audience mesmerized.
That group, known as Viridian, was celebrating the release of their new self-titled debut EP, which came out the day of the show. The EP included two previously released singles by the names “Phillip” and “Ikea.”
Only forming a little over a year ago, Viridian has “hit the ground running” since entering the local scene, according to TV Messages vocalist and guitarist Kaili Orcutt. By hosting house shows, opening for touring bands and playing in Flagstaff, the band has expanded their listener base.
The four-piece band consisting of Ross Morris (guitar/backing vocals), Zack Scraback (bass), Angelita Ponce (drums) and Olivia Holguin (vocals/guitar) said these experiences more importantly have helped Viridian grow into their explosive bubbly on-stage persona and allowed them to connect further with one another as musicians.
Morris is credited as being the mastermind behind the band, as he individually knew all the members and invited them to discuss the project together at IKEA. Luckily for the Arizona music scene, they all immediately clicked and bought a rug to celebrate the start of Viridian, and that same rug laid across the stage last Thursday as a nod to how far they have come.
Once Viridian began practicing and started playing shows, they noticed a worrying trend.
“There’s been so many shows where we’ve been the only females on the set,” said Holguin. “It’s so wild to be in a room full of just dominating male music energy.”
As they worked toward growth, they didn’t have much room to criticize or customize the shows they played, but longed to get to a point where they could pick and choose the lineup of bands they shared the stage with. That opportunity finally came as they drafted up who would open at their release show.
“It came so easily once we did get the lineup because we want to continue to make space for people who deserve it,” Holguin said regarding the choice to create a lineup with mostly female-fronted bands.
This lineup choice also revolved around which bands fit Viridian’s style, who was respectful to them and venues, and bands they were already friends with.
The three opening acts were Dreamboat, Pleasure Cult and TV Messages, who are all dominating and incredible forces in the local scene.
Starting off the night was shoegaze wizards Dreamboat, who immediately caught my attention as I noticed Quinn Ayres, drummer and vocalist from Freud, another local band with a much different sound, behind the drum kit playing with them.
Their unbreakable wall of sound was the perfect start for the evening of exceptional feats of musicianship.
Up on the stage next was Pleasure Cult, one of my local favorites and the first female-fronted band of the evening. With her words so sweet and her flair on stage so natural, you immediately feel connected to their vocalist, Honey Danger, as she effortlessly pours her soul into every word she sings.
Pleasure Cult feels like the band playing at an underground prohibition club. Their stand up bass and vintage feel will leave you dancing uncontrollably at the show and sobbing in the car while you listen again on the ride home.
The third band of the night was TV Messages, a four-piece that technically formed a few years ago off Craigslist. After undergoing some recent lineup changes, they have begun to find their sound again and have released a couple new singles.
TV Messages’s ambient dream-like set had the crowd enchanted as they played with their new bassist, Clay Andrew Bailey. They played some newer songs as well as older crowd favorites and felt exceptionally in sync with one another.
Also a female fronted group, TV Messages lies within the beautiful lull of Orcutt’s voice which can flip from soft spoken to a passionate build of yelling in a heartbeat. The reverberating lead guitar lines completed and accentuated every TV Messages song.
Following TV Messages came the moment the crowd was waiting for as Viridian took the stage. Starting off with a couple new songs, the band immediately captivated the entire crowd, and the whole room was filled with happy faces and dancing feet.
According to Scraback, “Viridian is no one without the crowd,” and that was increasingly clear as the night went on and the band seemingly fed off the energy of the room. As they moved across the stage with immense joy plastered on their faces, you could tell this was a moment they had all been anticipating for a long time.
They started and ended with some newer songs, and tucked in the middle they played the new EP in full.
The process of recording the EP began in February of this year as Morris knew he had a capstone project steadily approaching for his music degree, and he asked the band to help him by recording six songs.
That recording process happened very early into the band's formation and they all said the songs have drastically changed over time since playing more live shows and connecting further with one another, but they are still proud of the project.
“The EP was recorded so long ago, so I'm excited for people to come and experience us live because we are different from that band,” Ponce said a few days before the show.
Viridian added some spice to the live performance of their EP by inviting special guests on stage to play the trumpet and saxophone. They also had a surprise visit from Pablo C., the guitarist of TV Messages, who added an extra layer of weeping guitar to their powerful number “Gosh Darn,” the closing song on the EP.
“We practiced a couple of times, and I love the song,” Pablo said. “It was really great to play with such spectacular musicians.”
As “Gosh Darn” droned on, Holguin ran off stage to grab a bouquet of flowers and began to throw flowers out into the crowd. With eyes full of admiration, the front row began reaching up toward Holguin as she locked eyes and handed flowers out to those near the front.
Another notable piece of their performance was their song “Ikea,” which Holguin said is a “crowd fave.” That was definitely clear as the whole crowd did not hesitate to join in shouting “Ikea!” when Holguin patiently instructed them to. You could tell the audience had been practicing and awaiting their chance to have a connection with Viridian as smiles surrounded the whole venue during the song.
As for what is next for Viridian, Morris said some live recordings and singles of new songs they’ve been working on may be released soon.
Scraback jokingly noted that he is in the same music program as Morris was at Arizona State University and is exactly one year behind him, so his capstone project is coming up and Viridian have luckily agreed to help. New music may be on the horizon for the band as well as Scrabeck’s finishing his degree.