Show Review and Photos by Brian Mecinas
If there were ever music that could fully embody the feeling of a summer day on the beach surrounded by friends, it would be that of indie rock ensemble Ax and the Hatchetmen. The Chicago based group brought their party to The Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, AZ this past June as part of their Where TF Did We Park The Van Tour with support from Spectre Jones and Phoenix-based A Better Tomorrow.
It was clear from the moment that the seven-piece band started their set that they were having just as much fun as their vibrant crowd, if not more. From small smiles, whispers, and laughs exchanged among members during and in between songs, the sense of self-described “camaraderie and musicality” was nearly tangible. At first, it’s hard to pin down any one specific niche that they fit in genre-wise, given the different influences present in their songs across the layers of instrumentals that include three guitars (Axel Ellis, Kenny Olzewski, Sal Defilippis), bass (Hunter Olshefke), drums (Nick Deputy), saxophone (Phil Pistone), and trumpet (Quinn Dolan). Most prominently, there are consistent uses of surf rock and jazz styles within a number of their songs, all of which create an old soul appeal that can make it easy to forget that the group consists entirely of college students who personify the concepts of youth and letting loose. Th energetic, textured singing of lead vocalists Axel Ellis and Kenny Olzewski keep the full collection of sounds bound together and rooted in place with a near perfect balance, an impressive feat when considering the large size of the band.
Their musical craft is methodical and calculated for maximized entertainment, yet still entirely fluid and seemingly untethered. It’s one of the things that make their energy so contagious: they’re just going with the flow, letting the music take them wherever it needs to. More often than not, this destination is a room full of people who can’t resist dancing along in a cathartic release of adolescent joy.
Kicking off their set with crowd-pleasers like “What’s New”, “Grace”, and “Mako”, the group made their way through most of their existing discography, in addition to a number of unreleased songs. With breaks to tune their guitars and make some entertaining small talk with fans in the crowd, the set progressed more quickly than all of us would have liked. It was well worth the time though, as the band finished out the night with fan-favorites “Peach Trees” and “Goofy”. While I’d only heard a few of their songs prior to this show, I’d become a full convert by the end. Not only was it one of the largest bands I’d ever seen live, it was also one of the most representative of the best parts of our generation. Without a doubt, Ax and the Hatchetmen are a group to watch for years to come. They’re only just getting their party started.
AX AND THE HATCHETMEN
Live at The Rebel Lounge (Phoenix, AZ)
Photos by Brian Mecinas