In a quiet Phoenix suburb cast in the shadow of Camelback Mountain, the low murmur of a bass thrummed from inside a seemingly ordinary house. Behind the wooden front door, however, a living room had transformed into a concert venue.
On an October evening, The Underground Foundation at Arizona State University (TUF) hosted a gig featuring four local bands. As a student group dedicated to promoting an independent and local art scene, gigs and similar events are organized all around the Valley on a near weekly basis.
Thanks to a mutual friend and connection in TUF, this particular concert offered newly formed band “Freak Scene" a special opportunity.
It was their public debut.
“Check, check, check, check,” came the rapid cluck of a microphone test, as the band’s front man, Garrison Murphy, adjusted it to match his tall height.
The makeshift stage in front of a fireplace and Hammond organ—a small, electric organ popular in jazz—consisted of large Marshall amplifiers, microphones and a drum set.
A small strip of LED lights on the tile floor bathed the room in magenta and blue hues, as cigarette smoke billowed inside whenever attendees drifted in from the patio. Nearly 40 people lounged on mismatched sofas and chairs around the circumference of the living room, socializing as the band finished setting up.
Murphy strummed a blaring chord on a red, Hamer Echotone electric guitar. As the sound radiated around the room, he introduced his bandmates—drummer, Hayden Prescott Corwin, and bass guitarist, Anthony Airdo.
“This is Mongoose,” Murphy quipped to the crowd, referencing an inside joke while pointing to Airdo.
The bassist beamed in response, a warm contrast to his neon green mohawk and the “anarchy A”—a symbol of the punk rock movement in the late 1970s—freshly buzzed into his hair.
The rap-tap-tap of Corwin’s drumsticks cued Freak Scene into the first song of its 30-minute set. And within seconds, the crowd was on its feet, pressing forward and moving to the alternative music.
Both Murphy and Corwin agreed that while Freak Scene—named after a song by American rock band, Dinosaur Jr.—is still actively discovering their sound, there are clear inspirations.
“We’re definitely influenced tempo-wise by punk music,” Corwin said. “Not necessarily that the sound is always punk, but we like to throw some in. And a lot of ‘90s music, ‘power-pop’ from the 90s…and a little bit of grunge, but not a lot.”
Playing in different bands over the past few years alleviated most performance nerves, but Freak Scene had conscientiously steeled themselves to engage the audience.
“When we went into this band, we didn’t want to be up on stage and be sticks in the mud,” Corwin said. “We wanted to give the crowd more entertainment value rather than us playing these songs no one knows anyways.”
The set consisted of work mostly written by Murphy, but as Corwin explained, often the lyrics exist in their memory rather than on paper. Everything is intentionally silly and meant to be fun.
“It’s kind of repetitive,” Murphy said during the show, enjoying his first experience directly interacting with an audience. “So, feel free to sing along. It goes ‘white sheet black chair.’ Ready? White sheet…”
“Black chair,” crowed the willing spectators.
All three young men have the ability to play more than one instrument. Rehearsals in Corwin’s garage, which has countless different guitars lining its walls in addition to keyboards and a full drum-set, made rotating roles during the show seamless.
As “Mongoose” took center stage, the band hurled itself into a relatively screaming chant of “I-am-never-having-sex.” Members of the audience lurched left and right, barreling into one another like torpedoes of spinning limbs.
“Thanks guys for moving around, that was sick,” Murphy said as he reclaimed the microphone for the final song. Jokingly he added, “Clearly, Mongoose is not a very sexual person.”
The 30 minutes ended on an instrumental piece, an arching melody driven by Murphy’s guitar in a vein similar to Stephen Malkmus from the indie rock band, Pavement. Sweat glistened from each musician’s brow as the three put everything into jamming the final riff.
“One thing I noticed is that a lot of people were smiling like they were thinking, ‘Oh this is cool, this is different’,” Murphy said after the show. “As a musician, that’s all you can really ask for is that people are happy and enjoying your music.”