10 Best Things I Heard in Phoenix in 2014

Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys helped make one of the best concerts New Times Music Editor David Accomazzo saw in 2014.
Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys helped make one of the best concerts New Times Music Editor David Accomazzo saw in 2014.
Jim Louvau

What a crazy year 2014 was. Personally, I moved to Phoenix, dove into a vibrant music scene in a brand new city, and overall filled my head with new sounds and experiences. I went to a lot of concerts and listened to a lot of new music this year. Here are the 10 best things I heard.

Primus' front-to-back performance of Primus and the Chocolate Factory with The Frog Ensemble (Monday, November 19, at Orpheum Theatre): Darkness lingers in every corner of Roald Dahl's classic children's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Gene Wilder and company brightened much of that out of the 1971 film adaptation Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (which Dahl disavowed), but remnants remain. What do you expect from a movie based on a book in which a chocolate factory becomes judge, jury, and almost-executioner of four sinful children? So when Primus announced it was going to remake the film's iconic soundtrack and release it as an album, everyone scratched their heads but ultimately came to the same conclusion -- well, that makes sense. If there's any band that could honor both the dark and playful sides of the source material, it's Primus. When the band came to the criminally underused Orpheum Theatre in November, it pulled out all the stops -- performing the album front-to-back in full costume, complete with seven-foot-tall Oompa Loompas and a giant video screen that showed twisted re-edits of the film. The final product was spellbinding -- much like the movie -- and ended up being one of the best concerts of the year.

See also: The 10 Most Influential Punk Records of Arizona

Against Me! singer Laura Jane Grace
Against Me! singer Laura Jane Grace
Melissa Fossum

Against Me! -- "Thrash Unreal" (Wednesday, May 21, at Nile Theater): Phoenix hipsters get a bad rap when it comes to being audience members. For so many Pitchfork bands that come through Crescent Ballroom and other downtown venues, audience members stand rooted to the ground, with only the occasional outliers daring to move to the music. But go to a punk show in the East Valley? You'll see a much more lively scene. Against Me! has been making music for more than a decade, and when the band came to Nile Theater in May, fans went crazy. With no security and no barriers, scene kids leapt on stage and back into the crowd with increasing abandon throughout the night. The band started playing "Thrash Unreal," one of its most popular songs, and the crowd kicked into hyperdrive. One of the stage divers appeared to trip over a cable. Whatever the reason, lead singer Laura Jane Grace's microphone went dead in the middle of the song. She looked bewildered at first, and she gazed out into the crowd in disbelief. But she didn't need the mic after all. Slowly, her face morphed into a gigantic smile. She didn't have to sing, it turns out -- the crowd was doing it for her.

Dr. Dog
Dr. Dog
David Accomazzo

Dr. Dog at the Desert Botanical Garden (Thursday, May 15): I dig Dr. Dog's style. This is a band that could choose to play thousand-person venues, where they could probably sell out. But instead, they play multiple nights at smaller venues, opting for intimate concerts over the less personal experience at larger halls. Earlier this year, the band sold out two sets at Crescent Ballroom (they'll be back in February), and come January, they'll play four consecutive nights at the 575-capacity Bowery Ballroom in New York City. So when the band announced it was playing a Blue Moon-sponsored show at an even smaller venue -- the Desert Botanical Garden -- I leapt at the chance,in order to see Dr. Dog in a beautiful outdoor setting at an even smaller venue than normal. And the concert was better than expected -- euphoric, dreamy rock 'n' roll surrounded by the best natural beauty Arizona has to offer.



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