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Hotline TNT Brings the Bliss of Shoegaze to Phoenix

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An eclectic crowd filled the compact room at The Rebel Lounge on Easter Sunday, gathered to celebrate a different revival than most others. Hotline TNT, the project of Brooklyn-based Will Anderson, is a standout among the growing number of rising alt-rock leaning bands that is bringing shoegaze back into the spotlight. Having embarked on a headlining US tour in support of their highly acclaimed 2023 LP Cartwheel, the ensemble found their way through Phoenix on March 31st, much to the pleasure of the small but mighty crowd that began arriving as soon as the doors to the venue opened.

Hotline TNT brings the bliss of shoegaze to Phoenix in support of their latest full-length record, "Cartwheel."

Most of the audience arrived in waves, predominantly composed of younger groups of guys in their twenties, an aura of excitement clearly surrounding them. The sparkle of anticipation in their eyes was visible even from afar, I’d seen it before in other crowds. It was the telltale sign of an early crowd that was ready to mosh, which surprised me from my own interpretation of Hotline TNT’s music. Being someone who is usually holding a camera, preventing me from moshing, I figured that I had just lost touch with what music is or isn’t mosh-able. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

As the lights dimmed and the opening set began, the vibe quickly made more sense. Atlanta-based hardcore band Symbiote, set to open for Hotline TNT through April 6th, quickly established themselves as true to their genre. The tone was set within seconds of the set starting with the frontman screaming gutturally into his microphone, acting as starting pistol for a crowd full of bodies that could barely contain the urge to move. Throughout the first song of their set, a number of attendees were throwing themselves into one another as a small mosh pit formed. I was only able to catch the first few moments of the performance, as I found myself forced out of the venue in search of earplugs at the nearest pharmacy before returning to brave the devout volume of the set.

Hotline TNT brings the bliss of shoegaze to Phoenix in support of their latest full-length record, "Cartwheel."
Hotline TNT brings the bliss of shoegaze to Phoenix in support of their latest full-length record, "Cartwheel."

After a few more songs worth of moshing, Symbiote’s time came to a close and I eagerly made my way back to the front of the crowd just in time for the start of Hotline TNT’s set. As the band made their way onstage and picked up their instruments, you could almost feel the vibrations from the speakers before their picks had even struck the first string.

The sound produced by the band was explosive and quickly boxed the room in, applying pressure on us from all angles and reeling us in toward the stage.

Widely known for the wall of guitars within their music, Hotline TNT lived up to their reputation of creating sounds that are larger than life, much of it being owed to the layering provided by the three guitarists playing the same chords at many points and backed by the creative arrangement and production designed by Anderson himself. With the added addition of the band’s signature distortion over the instrumentals of each track, their live performance was blaring but yet intentionally softened, delivering a sound that was just light enough to still help listeners move toward the out of body, dissociative listening experience that is often a trademark of shoegaze. It’s an ear-piercing kind of bliss.

Hotline TNT brings the bliss of shoegaze to Phoenix in support of their latest full-length record, "Cartwheel."

During tracks like “Trinity”, I was grateful for my early-show break to buy earplugs. The righteous cacophony is the epitome of their style: rough around the edges in all the best ways. Hotline TNT’s discography is clearly meant to be listened to at full volume, even past that if it were possible, ideally while you erratically dance and play the air guitar in the comfort of your home. As awe-inspiring as it was to hear the song live, my ears wouldn’t have been able to resist being shredded to pieces without my plugs there to soften the blows.

The set was short and sweet, featuring songs off Cartwheel like “Protocol”, “Son In Law”, “ I Thought You’d Change”, and “History Channel”, among other tracks from their 2021 debut LP Nineteen In Love. It was a wonderful showcase of the album’s central themes, which Anderson himself describes as “breaking hearts and being heartbroken”.

Hotline TNT has a packed year ahead that will see them continue touring through the US until mid-April, pausing only momentarily before hitting the road again for an late-spring/early-summer European tour. If you’re in the mood to have your bones rattled in the most cathartic manner possible, catch Hotline TNT on an upcoming tour date here.

Show Date: 03.31.24 // Phoenix, AZ @ The Rebel Lounge // Hotline TNT Brings the Bliss of Shoegaze to Phoenix
Photos & words by Brian Mecinas

Brian Mecinas
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Based in Phoenix, Arizona! Environmentalist by day and concert photographer by night <3
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