I’m freaking out. I’m worried my part-time ‘bro’ status will be cemented seeing New Jersey-based band A R I Z O N A. I just expected Irving Plaza to be full of straight girls draped on their straight boyfriends, though I wasn’t entirely wrong. With Zachary Charles on lead vocals, Nate Esquite on guitar, and David Labuguen on keys, the trio were college friends each trying to make it in the music business. After 12 years and on the verge of giving up, they made one last-ditch effort, aimlessly named the band after the tea brand, got signed and released three of their best tracks: ‘I Was Wrong,’ ‘Oceans Away,’ and ‘Cross My Mind,’ with the latter featuring Esquite’s Carlos Santana-inspired guitar solo. Love.
I was wrong to infer they’re bro-y. They’re more like a future dad band — cool dads fronted by a man with a walrus stache and wearing a collared polo shirt. Like great dads do, he offers sage advice, introspective life stories and wears his heart on his sleeve. Even their opening act, indie singer-songwriter morgxn, defied the bro while wrapping himself in a gay flag. Even their final warm-up song was Cher’s ‘Believe.’ So there, I was wrong.
They opened with ‘What She Wants,’ beautifully showcasing Zachary’s laudable voice. It’s solid, and he’s become one of my favorite male vocalists of late. ‘Find Someone’ is the song that found me at this show. I’ve heard it before, wasn’t a favorite, but I fell for it tonight. ‘Nostalgic’ is their latest single and lead track from their sophomore album coming out soon. ‘Let Me Touch Your Fire’ marks where it all began. They wrote it for fun, right before they almost quit the business. Zachary implored we leave with this life lesson: ‘If you’re not doing what you love, with the people who love you, you’re wasting your time.’ Here, here. I was also touched by their demo version of ‘Hold the Line,’ featured on Avicii’s posthumous 2019 album, Tim. Visibly emotional after performing the song, Zachary said ‘here’s my message to you: it’s ok not to be ok.‘ The haunting lyrics were written a year before Avicii committed suicide last year. His was the third, following Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, that spurred me to get help.
They closed their set with ‘Freaking Out.’ Personally, I’m not freaking out anymore. I truly enjoyed seeing this band, hearing their music, absorbing their message, and most importantly, nourish our need and worthiness of love and connection. We just need to be brave enough.