A R I Z O N A: Where They’ve Been and Where They’re Going
Here at Us For Once, we strongly believe in paying attention to opening bands, being respectful during their sets, and remembering their names. At some point, every concert-goer watches an opening act and silently wishes their set would be over quickly so they could get to the reason they really came to the show. In the moment, it might be quite hard to fathom that an opening band would ever become a headliner or move onto venues bigger than a one-room bar. Luckily, that mindset has mostly been left behind in the music scene. Now, most concert-goers realize how important it is to pay attention to these small bands. In fact, we find that the first act usually adds to the overall concert experience. Plus, when the band or artist start getting more and more popular, it's those that saw them as openers that get to feel like they've known them since the beginning. Beyond that, it’s quite a profound thing to relish in how far a band has come. It makes us realize that those nights they spent playing basement shows for free and bar shows for $2 really was worth it for them. Everyone has to start somewhere. This just makes things feel real.
Recently, this subject became extremely relevant for us when Panic! At The Disco announced their 2018 tour. The openers were set to be Hayley Kiyoko and Arizona (stylized as A R I Z O N A). That last name really rang a bell. Let’s go back to their origins. Arizona settled down as a band in 2016, writing and making a mixture of electronic dance pop, indie, and alternative music in their home state of New Jersey. The band is made up of Zach Hannah (vocals), Nate Esquite (guitar), and David Labuguen (keys). They met while attending college in Boston at their respective schools. When they were discovered on Reddit and signed to Atlantic Records in 2016, things starting truly picking up for the band. But let’s go back even further. The three actually started playing shows in 2015. They went on tour with their friends, the Settle Down Kids (or SDK), a former YouTube collab group. For Arizona's sound, it was a strange setting. Additionally, this was not the most traditional way for an indie band to be introduced into touring life and the music industry. The venues ranged from bars and lounges to convention floors in hotels. The majority of attendees were tweens and teenage girls just there to see their favorite YouTube personalities make them laugh on stage. But with a sign at the entrance reading “A R I Z O N A” with a link to the band’s official Spotify page, they were in for a treat. Though they were much more serious and laid back then the group the fans had come to see, this was an introduction into a whole new world of music. Arizona opened up their set with an intense song featuring a significant use of keys and guitar. From there, it became a bit more mellow. Having announced they were friends of SDK beforehand, the crowd may not have realized at first how professional Arizona would truly come across. After the set, however, there is no doubt that the room of young girls deeply respected the band, no matter what city they were playing in. The group was selling their demo CD at the merch table, so it was clear they must have been serious about
making a career out of music. After this little tour, the world awaited Arizona. There’s no way of telling if anyone saw what was coming next. In 2016, the band saw success in their Spotify streams. One song, “I Was Wrong,” collected 78 million streams. Along with “Cross My Mind” and “Oceans Away,” it ended up in spotlight playlists such as ‘Today’s Top Hits’ and ‘New Music Fridays.’ Before they knew it, Arizona was averaging 9 million unique Spotify listeners per month, setting them as the 142nd most-streamed artist in the world. In 2017, they played many popular festivals such as Lollapalooza, Firefly, Governor’s Ball, and more. They opened for artists such as Kevin Garrett and COIN on their respective tours. Their single “Oceans Away” saw an influx of Spotify streams, reaching 35.8 million. To capitalize on this, their debut studio album, “GALLERY,” reached 143 on the Billboard 200 chart, an impressive feat for a band so new. The debut album can be described in many different ways. There are strong vocals, beautiful melodies, funky pop notes, and touches of tribal percussion. For Arizona, it was never about being eccentric nor conforming. It was about creating whatever came to mind, as long as it contained emotion. They are firm believers in art inspiring other art. The image or label comes last. If fans listen to their music, feel good, and are inspired enough to make their own art, then Arizona has done what they set out to do. From YouTube tours in small bars to Spotify success, Arizona is only getting started. After another quick festival run this summer, they will embark on a tour with Panic! At The Disco. This is only the next door to open on their journey, leading them to a whole new platform for their music. On the grand scale of an arena tour, thousands upon thousands of new listeners will be exposed to their art-inspiring music. This opportunity being so big for the band, they were met with many congratulatory tweets and messages including the phrase “I knew you’d get here.”
Whether discovering Arizona as a group of friends just trying to have fun or as an on-the-rise band opening for Panic! At The Disco, there’s no denying that this band simply has what it takes to make it in the industry. Keep your eyes on them and where they might go next. We’re sure glad we did.