10 Must-See Bands at Viva PHX

Afrika Bambaataa is one hip-hop's founders.EXPAND
Afrika Bambaataa is one hip-hop's founders.
Mika Väisänen

The third annual Viva PHX festival will take over downtown Phoenix this Saturday, March 12, and it promises to be bigger and better than ever. With 70 bands spread across 17 venues in one night, there will be something for everyone. Whether your tastes are country and cumbia or hip-hop and indie rock, the only difficultly you may have is getting to see everything you want to hear as you race around downtown. I’ve listened to every artist playing the festival and after quite a bit of review, here are ten artists I consider acts that you just can’t miss, either because they are music legends or they soon will be. Check out the full Viva PHX 2016 schedule here.

Afrika Bambaataa (11:30 p.m., Monarch Theatre)
Afrika Bambaataa is one of the progenitors of rap and hip-hop. Upon releasing "Planet Rock" in 1982, he became recognized as one of the great pioneers along with the likes of The Sugarhill Gang paving the way for the rise of hip-hop music and culture. Before even stepping up to lay that mad groove on wax, he was already considered one of hip-hop's preeminent DJs and the founder of The Zulu Nation. Not only is he the Godfather of hip-hop culture, the first time the term hip-hop ever appeared in print was when Steven Hager quoted Bambaataa in the Village Voice. If you've ever heard Rage Against The Machine's "Renegades of Funk," that's a cover of his song. This is one set not to miss for this man's legacy alone.

Eleanor Friedberger (10 p.m., Valley Bar)
You may know Eleanor Friedberger better as one half of The Fiery Furnaces, which she founded with her brother Matthew. Now she is three albums into her solo career, and that's how she'll be playing at Viva PHX. Fresh off the release of her third album, New View, which just dropped at the end of January and has been greeted by critics with favorable reviews all around the board. MOJO raved that "New View furthers Friedberger's quest to declutter, finding great pop and occasional profundity in getting to the point and letting her tunes ring clear." Her current aesthete is bathed in nods to '70s pop maestros like Harry Nilsson and Jackson Browne and are best heard resting your head outside in the sunshine on a lazy afternoon.

Rocket From The Crypt (9:15 p.m., Monroe Street outside stage)
Rocket From The Crypt were on the crushing wave that founded indie rock in the early 1990s. Their early records such as Paint As A Fragrance, Circa: Now, and Scream Dracula Scream are considered classics of the decade and were more than enough to ensure their legacy for the ages. Rising with the likes of Pavement, Sebadoh, Superchunk and others, RFTC took to merging punk rock with a horn section and a lo-fi aesthetic. This was groundbreaking material back in the day and now more than 20 years later, these records still hold up incredibly well. They may not have put out an album in over a decade, but they don't need to as they continue their reunion tour, which has been running strong for nearly four years. This is what sold me on Viva PHX, period.

The Growlers (10:45 p.m., Monroe Street outdoor stage)
California's The Growlers have been putting out their own fantastic brand of garage-laden surf rock since their debut with 2009’s Are You In Or Are You Out? They blend genres from country to indie rock to heavy doses of psychedelia and they are going to be one of the most fun bands to catch at Viva PHX. They call their style "Beach Goth" which may be what happens when you throw so many influences into a blender and give it heavy effects and the reverb treatment. Lead singer Brooks Nielsen has a bit of a Bob Dylan edge to his voice and it accents the swirling musical backdrops they create perfectly and lends the Americana feel to the entire affair. They somehow achieve the impossible, using their classic rock influences to create a great sound without sounding out of place with the modern times. 

Kitten (9 p.m., Masonic Temple)
LA's Kitten is largely the musical conduit for one Chloe Chaidez, and across three EPs and a full-length album, she has been putting some of the most compelling danceable indie rock around. She is on the cusp of releasing her highly anticipated new EP, Heaven or Somewhere In Between, and if the new single "Fall On Me" is any indication, it's going to be a real stunner. When Kitten released their full-length debut album in 2014, Rolling Stone named it number 16 in its list of 20 Best Pop Albums of that year. The band has had an ever changing array of members with the exception of Chaidez, whose signature voice is honestly all that matters here. She can somehow rage with the best of raving post punk influences or careen into new wave and synthpop romanticism.


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