25 Must-See Phoenix Concerts in April
Lorde is scheduled to perform on Thursday, April 17, at Comerica Theatre.
Universal Music Group
The month of April is packed wall-to-wall with concerts. Check that, it's packed wall-to-wall with great concerts. Some of the bigger hitmakers and tastemakers in pop and indie rock -- Lorde, Bastille, Lana Del Ray, Grouplove, Phantogram, Chvrches ... just to name a few -- will all perform around the Valley either before, between, or after their sets at this year's Coachella.
And it's not just Indio-bound bands and musicians who will be stepping onto local stages, as this month's concert offerings also includes many legendary and groundbreaking artists, such as George Clinton, Dick Dale, and Loretta Lynn.
Get the info on their upcoming shows, which can also be found via our online concert calendar, by perusing out list of the 25 best shows to see between now and April 30.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Thursday, April 10 - Crescent Ballroom
It has been a few months shy of a year since the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion brought its fiery stage show to town, getting the crowd, packed with many longtime fans, all worked up with a lively set of raucous garage-punk blues rock. Don't expect this upcoming visit, however, to be a repeat of last summer's performance. Spencer, the band's frontman, puts any notions of that to bed. "The Blues Explosion has been hard at work on a big batch of new songs," he says. "We entered Brooklyn's famous Daptone recording studio upon our return to New York City, so we plan on playing a lot of these new tunes while in your town."
The band has been together since 1991, and while playing together for so long obviously has served to further enhance the previously honed skills of members Jon Spencer, Judah Bauer, and Russell Simins, that technical polish hasn't taken away any of the group's dirty soul and swagger, which makes the whole package infectious and loaded with heat. The band's 2012 full-length, Meat and Bone, was its first in eight years and as ferocious as ever, proving they are still up to get down, no end in sight. -- Amy Young
Dick Dale - Friday, April 11 - Rhythm Room
Dale was raised in Quincy, Massachusetts, by a father of Lebanese descent and a mother of Polish heritage. He points out proudly that his surname, Monsour, is aristocratic, meaning "brave ones." His family would gather frequently for mahrajan, parties that included belly dancing and music. His uncles would perform the folk song "Misirlou" using a metal-topped drum called a darbuka and a mandolin-like instrument called an oud. "The word Misirlou means 'the Egyptian.'It's an Arabic love song," he explains. "Sweetheart, where are you, my sweetheart?" The darbuka beat in that tune is the beat he played much faster on guitar. He sped it up to please the young folks who wanted to "be-bop." And the classic surf sound was born. -- Liz Tracy
Baths - Friday, April 11 - Crescent Ballroom
Will Wiesenfeld, the 24-year-old lap-pop programmer and dedicated pianist who performs as Baths, has made numerous mentions of his disdain for the "glitch" tag that is sometimes glued to his palpitating, cathartic compositions. Can't blame him: It brings to mind inscrutably syncopated drum 'n' bass, or the decreasingly cited anymore refuge of IDM ("intelligent dance music," cerebral '90s scatter-shot techno like Squarepusher that is impossible to actually dance to). His presence on the Anticon label, an outpost for emotionally vulnerable indie rap, doesn't help. It has merely opened the door for the mark of "glitch-hop," which in addition to being wack sounds like a perilous dance move.
No, the synth crackle of Baths is less a rhythmic seizure or digital logjam and more a warped wave, a deep breath that clears a headspace, or a spine tingle resulting from unexpected news. Obsidian not only illustrates this distinction in clearer terms but moves further into the emotionally and sexually undaunted territory that sets him apart from the flood of indie-crossover electronic producers. -- Chase Kamp
Bombino - Saturday, April 12 - MIM Music Theatre
There are few better ways to spend a Saturday night in Phoenix than watching Nigerian blues-rock musician Bombino perform his whirling, beguiling guitar epics. He plays rhythms and blues that sound equally familiar and foreign, and it's that special sort of duality that caught the ear of the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, who decided to produce Bombino's latest album, Nomad. But what makes a Bombino concert great, aside from his expert guitar playing, is how his and his bandmates' Tuareg robes sway with the music. -- Kory Grow
Lana Del Rey - Tuesday, April 15 - Comerica Theatre
Don't hate Lana Del Rey because she's beautiful. The American singer formerly known as Lizzy Grant may seem to have it all -- she has drop-dead good looks, appeared on Saturday Night Live, is a heartthrob for indie boys everywhere, and released a lavishly lush breakthrough major-label album, Born to Die -- but it's as if the fates want to punish her for all of her recent fortune.
The album's title reveals that there's a lot more going on with Del Rey than simple, escapist mainstream pop, and a river of sadness runs inexorably through tragic-romantic tunes like "Video Games" and "Blue Jeans." The Lake Placid, New York, native exudes plenty of natural star power, but haters like Juliette Lewis (of all people) have dissed Del Rey for not commanding the stage with enough authority in her live appearances. We suspect they'll be eating their words, and eating from her hands, long before her career is over. -- Falling James
Foster the People - Tuesday, April 15 - Marquee Theatre
More than just a band whose vinyl is sold en masse at Urban Outfitters, Foster the People should have stayed on the collective radar for having released one of the best pop records of the past 10 years. Torches, the L.A.-based band's 2011 release, did ride high on the commercial success of "Pumped Up Kicks," a song title that still causes people to either whistle that earworm of a hook or cringe in remembrance of its overplaying, but the record rode on so much more than just that single.
Torches, the singles it generated included, proved to be a nuanced work and a massive vehicle for Mark Foster's hooks. His past as a jingle writer shows in spades as virtually every song on the record has a hummable element to it, built around layered pop structures. As a whole, it was critically acclaimed, landing Grammy nominations and legendary endorsements like Elton John. -- KC Libman
Neutral Milk Hotel - Tuesday, April 15 - Crescent Ballroom
Though they existed more than 20 years apart, the Modern Lovers share a similar career trajectory with Neutral Milk Hotel, which visits Crescent for two sold-out shows (a portion of the proceeds will benefit the charity Children of the Blue Sky). NMH's tour set lists contain selections from the band's legendary 1998 album, In an Aeroplane Over the Sea. Much like the Modern Lovers' 1976 self-titled debut album, Aeroplane was met with neither acclaim nor large sales. Neutral Milk Hotel's hectic 1998 touring schedule to promote the album, a lo-fi psychedelic take on the story of Anne Frank, took its toll on the band's leader, Jeff Mangum, and it went on indefinite hiatus.
In the ensuing two decades, Mangum would show up infrequently to play with other musicians, including Elf Power (which is joining NMH on its reunion tour). Aeroplane's popularity (the 2008 reissue was the top-selling vinyl album that year) grew as musicians cited it as an influence. The Decemberists, with their unique cover art and dream-like tales of butchers and crane wives, are an obvious example. Franz Ferdinand's Bob Hardy once said, "When I first started driving, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea was the only cassette I had in my Ford Fiesta for two years. It is amazing. Friendships can be gauged on the mutual love of Neutral Milk Hotel." -- Jason Keil
Cameron Carpenter - Wednesday, April 16 - Mesa Arts Center
As the only organist ever nominated for a solo album Grammy, Cameron Carpenter is the poster child for smashing-preconceived-notions-to-bits. Often referred to as the "rockstar of the organ" (sounds saucy!), Carpenter takes an ancient behemoth of an instrument and transforms it into a wild, rollicking, contemporary musical device. He plays everything from Bach to Patsy Cline--the 32-year-old takes music and blasts it, completely revamped, from his one-of-a-kind William J. Gillespie Concert Organ (built over three years from maple, poplar, oak, steel, tin and lead). This is organ music like you've never heard, and never even dreamed existed. If you think classical music doesn't have any new tricks left, come to the Mesa Arts Center on April 16 and be blown away. -- Erin DeWitt
Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls - Wednesday, April 16 - The Pressroom
The folk-punk alchemist Frank Turner is another U.K. act who claims huge stardom in his homeland but is relatively anonymous stateside. In England, he performed at the London Olympics' opening ceremony last year and headlined a sold-out Wembley arena with support from his backing band, the Sleeping Souls. A fiery vocalist and passionate power-strummer, Turner ever-so-slightly dials back the aggression and brightens the mood on his fifth album, the recently released Tape Deck Heart. The slight tonal shift might be just the tweak needed to break Turner big in the U.S. at long last. -- Rob Van Alstyne
Huun-Huur-Tu - Wednesday, April 16 - MIM Music Theatre
What exactly does throat singing sound like? Think of a swarming mass of Africanized bees buzzing inside a long narrow pipe, a deep baritone rumble ebbing and flowing in relation to the opening. That's kinda close. The singing -- technically the sound's created by the singer singing both the note (drone) and the drone's overtone(s), producing up to several notes at once -- also can sound like a flute, bird, horse, or whistle, though the bee-like hum is most famously recognizable. Hailing from Tuva, a tiny Russian Federation republic on the Mongolian border, Huun-Huur-Tu formed in 1992, though the tradition of throat singing dates back hundreds of years, initially developed by nomadic herders who sang to accompany themselves in the beautiful and mysterious landscape of the Tuvan steppe.
And it is from that inspiring phenomenon of vertical light rays shining down from the late-day or early-morning clouds across an endless horizon -- stunning, like this hauntingly exquisite music -- that Huun-Huur-Tu takes its name. Indigenous instruments such as the cello-like igil, khomus (Tuvan jaw harp), dünggür (shaman drum), three-stringed doshpuluur, and others, eventually were added as musical accents to what initially was a vocal-only affair for herders. More recently Western instruments -- even electronics -- have found a place within this traditional folk music. -- Glenn BurnSilver
Lorde - Thursday, April 17 - Comerica Theatre
Lorde knew exactly what she was doing when she named her debut album Pure Heroine, the sort of pun that conflates Katniss Everdeen (the movie version) at her most plucky with Kate Moss at her most chic and maybe Courtney Love at her most shameless. The precocious Kiwi chanteuse has cultivated her image to simultaneously exhibit the three stages of White Girl Disaffection: warm-hearted rebellion, open-eyed ennui, and cloying attention seeking. That she backs this up with excellent lyrics, vocals, and productions that owe more to trap music than they do to teen-pop, alternative, or Celebrity Skin glam is a rousing example that postmodernity, despite its supposed rejection of Grand Narratives for fragmented cultural cliffhangers, still has some really amazing stories to tell. Lorde is definitely savvier than her years. -- Winston Groman
Classixx - Thursday, April 17 - Monarch Theatre
If you Google "Oak Park Music," the first result is "the Wedding Music DJs." The Southern California bedroom suburb of 14,000 is wedged between Malibu and Agoura. There are no large clubs or live music venues. It's the least likely place to have incubated Classixx, L.A.'s best dance-music duo. During the early '00s, when Michael David and Tyler Blake attended Oak Park High, the reigning sound was post-Sublime or Incubus-ish -- the result of the latter band forming in nearby Calabasas.
"Every Oak Park band wanted to be Incubus. What we're doing now is probably just a reaction to that," says David, sporting a light brown beard, backward snapback, dapper dress shirt and two left earrings. We're speaking in his blue and white Venice bungalow. Ironically, Brandon Boyd, lead singer of Incubus, is a neighbor. Classixx's music is contoured by disco, house and boogie funk, genres that cropped up in partial response to the stoner prog-rock of groups like Pink Floyd. Yet the duo's first full-length, this month's Hanging Gardens, bears no purist streak or hipster irony -- just slavish adherence to the groove. -- Jeff Weiss
Phantogram - Friday, April 18 - Marquee Theatre
New York duo Phantogram are a revelation, mixing in ecstatic hip hop beats with soft synthesizer and hypnotizing psychedelic pop guitar riffs. Sara Barthel and Josh Carter both provide vocals on their tracks, which anchor all the sounds together with romantic, yet melancholy lyrics.
Their first full length album Eyelid Movies best exemplifies this, putting on full display the depth of Phantogram's eclectic range of musical influences. Their follow up Nightlife continues in the same ecstasy-laden vein, with reflections of shoegaze. Fall in a trance tonight with Phantogram at the Marquee Theatre. -- Aimee Murillo
Chromeo - Saturday, April 19 - Marquee Theatre
Electrofunk duo Chromeo's Business Casual album of last year sent our little minds to some nasty, sexy nirvana, but then they threw in all these real sincere ballads and shit, too, and it didn't sound like a load of tripe.
Montreal jokers P-Thugg on talk-box vocals and Dave 1 on squinky synth sounds are two smart guys whose mountain of vintage electronic gear and keenly old-school-savvy mindsets bring an irony-rich but righteous electro-R&B mish-mash whose slick, superficial sounds shine with concise construction and healthy doses of catchy melodies and happy harmonies. Their intelligent retro-vibe recalls the very best strands of electro-disco-funk-soul cheese from back in the day, when it was about having fun and just kinda messing around. -- John Payne
Bastille - Sunday, April 20 - Marquee Theatre
Bastille, like fun., is a band that banks on the enthusiasm of a crowd to propel them through the high point of their performance. Their most lauded singles are sugary, uplifting anthems with nary a minor chord between them that consist of more vowel-heavy utterances than actual words of significance, and these hits--fun.'s "Some Nights;" Bastille's "Pompeii"--require audience participation in a live setting just as badly as they need Autotune in the studio. The hand claps and "AYYYY AY OH AY OH"-es drown out the mistakes and rev up the band, especially if frontman Dan Smith runs out of breath in the middle of a line. When Smith lifts a singular drumstick before pounding the tom to his left, he conducts the euphoric hysteria of the crowd before him, and the drumstick doesn't look totally ridiculous and out of place when thousands of people fall all over themselves in anticipation of him beating something with it. -- Hilary Hughes
Future Islands - Sunday, April 20 - Crescent Ballroom
Heartbroken synth-pop heroes Future Islands' fourth album, Singles, is a document worthy of their high-drama live presence. Single "Seasons (Waiting on You)" shall lead the emotionally raw and unflinching collection into the hearts of America this year. Frontman Samuel T. Herring's outsized stage personality has been keeping audiences rapt in tiny clubs for the past five years with unhinged vocals surging atop minimalist mechanical drum machines, rubbery bass lines, and delightfully sprightly keyboard textures. Now signed to indie-label heavyweight 4AD and with a David Letterman endorsement, they have the goods to make the inevitable leap to headlining larger clubs in the very near future. -- Rob van Alstyne
Chvrches - Monday, April 21 - Marquee Theatre
Chvrches' ascent to theater-headlining status on distant continents has been giddying. The Scottish trio released its debut single but a year back and only in September did an album, The Bones of What You Believe, appear. The mystery of this career curve is actually pretty straightforward: Chvrches create contemplative, melodic synth-pop topped with Lauren Mayberry's finely grained, rather detached timbre.
Ostensibly, it's de rigueur, '80s-inspired stuff channeling New Order, A-ha and Kate Bush, but Chvrches' pleasure is in the details. Hooks emerge not just from Mayberry's lips but also in the way her utterances are studio-effected, as well as from the masterfully well-chosen keys, loops and the throbbing electro-pulses that surround them. Chvrches' current it-band cred will cool, but sheer excellence of execution ensures they'll long outlive "it." -- Paul Rogers
Off!- Tuesday, April 22 - Crescent Ballroom
Punk icon Keith Morris might have been content to live off his legend, the Circle Jerks' sporadic reunion tours and the sometimes menial jobs (including deejaying weddings) he has taken over the years to make ends meet. At one point he was an alcoholic and cocaine addict: "You could have lifted me up by my legs and I would've vacuumed your carpets with my nose," he says. He got sober in 1988 and was diagnosed with diabetes a decade later. In recent years he'd gotten lazy, he says.
But in 2009 a curious turn of events reinvigorated Morris' signature fury, spawning the hardcore punk supergroup Off! According to Morris, it happened like this: Circle Jerks were writing songs for a long-awaited seventh studio album, set to be produced by ex-Burning Brides singer-guitarist Dimitri Coats. Coats felt that Morris' bandmates' new songs weren't up to par, preferring the tunes he and Morris had been simultaneously penning. When the other three Jerks -- guitarist Greg Hetson, bassist Zander Schloss and drummer Kevin Fitzgerald -- announced they wanted to fire Coats, Morris opted to jump ship and form a new band with the prospective producer. It was the rock & roll equivalent of running off with your marriage counselor. -- Paul Rogers
Grouplove - Wednesday, April 23 - Marquee Theatre
Gliding across a musical spectrum, from the infectiously groove-laden "Itchin' on a Photograph" to the dance pop of "Tongue Tied," from the indie quirkiness of "Naked Kids" to the bubblegum pop of "Sunny Day," Grouplove clearly has a group love of all forms musical on its debut album, Never Trust a Happy Song. It's not surprising, given the geographical diversity of this quintet -- two hail from the Lower East Side of New York, two from Los Angeles, and one from London -- that formed on the Greek island of Crete during an artist retreat. From that point, the story becomes typical: Jamming ensued, songwriting commenced, and then everyone parted ways.
But the bonds of friendship and collaboration pulled the group together again in L.A., where, in short order, Grouplove became the latest buzz band. Maybe it's by design -- or not -- but the band's influences are found all across the indie landscape, including flashes of Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie, Bright Eyes, and the jangly goodness of early R.E.M. in the mix. Yet it's how the band manages to convert those influences into crawl-into-the-ear-and-stay-there songs that allows Grouplove's dance-ready sound to take hold. -- Glenn BurnSilver
Tinariwen - Monday, April 21 - MIM Music Theater
There's so much great music coming out of Mali these days, but it's the nomadic Saharan collective Tinariwen who conjure the most inexorably compelling spells. The music of these Tuareg warriors (literally, as several of them fought as rebel soldiers) came to wide attention with their 2009 album Imidiwan: Companions and an accompanying documentary with the same title, which explained how the members transitioned from making war to making music.
Their 2011 album, Tassili, is just as engrossing, as soulful chanting blends with the group's trademark weave of guitars. The acoustic guitars on "Ya Messinagh" may seem as earthy and fundamental as traditional blues licks, but the riffs start to twist and spin and undulate exotically on the soul-music mélange "Tenere Taqqim Tossam," sounding like nothing you've ever heard before. -- Falling James
CunninLynguists -- Thursday, April 24 -- Pub Rock
These Southern independents have long occupied a rare space between the brainy backpack hip-hop of Hieroglyphics and the pop-rap experimentalism of Goodie Mob. The trio's 2011 album was named after the study of dreams (Oneirology), which is fitting, considering producer Kno's lush and hazy backing tracks -- thick synths, choral vocals, sharp chimes and twinkling keys -- as well as the heady rhymes of rappers Natti and Deacon the Villain, a perfect mix of emotional, intellectual and adept. CunningLynguists are rappers' rappers, and seasoned performers who know how to work a crowd. -- Chris Martins
Loretta Lynn - Thursday, April 24 - Wild Horse Pass
Country pioneer Loretta Lynn, the "Blue Kentucky Girl," still packs a room, and her following is still as fervent as it was decades ago, now encompassing tattooed lasses as well as their grandmothers. Lynn has slowed down at her age, and performs most of her sets from a golden chair, but that can't contain the power of hits like "Fist City," "The Pill" and "You Ain't Woman Enough (To Take My Man)." -- Craig Hlavaty
Trampled By Turtles - Friday, April 25 - Marquee Theatre
Punk rockers don't die, they just go acoustic. While that's not exactly a great T-shirt slogan (and certainly would elicit some scowls from old-school punkers still plying their trade), it is something of a recent trend within the bluegrass realm, with bands like Split Lip Rayfield, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Trampled by Turtles leaving their punk and rock roots behind for successful forays into the world of twangy acoustic music.
Trampled by Turtles, though 10 years old, is the latest band to stand in the spotlight with its 2012 album, Stars and Satellites, landing on top of the bluegrass charts. But it wasn't always this way for the band from Duluth, Minnesota. When the five-piece first unplugged and got together, it was just to do something different. "There were no real expectations except that we wanted to get together when we had time and play our acoustic instruments in the living room," banjo player Dave Carroll says by phone. "Once we started doing that a few times, we realized we had something more we wanted to work on." -- Glenn BurnSilver
Wet Electric - Saturday, April 26 - Big Surf
Most swim soirées around town take place around a single pool. This combination EDM massive, pool party, and bikini bash will do you one better, however, as it will encompass the entirety of Big Surf.
The waterslides will be running during Wet Electric, while thousands will wade into the wave pool to splash and dance to the electronic sounds produced by more than a dozen DJs -- including Morgan Page, Dash Berlin, Thomas Gold, Manufactured Superstars, Crizzly, The Chainsmokers, and others -- on a nearby stage. Multiple bars will sling adult beverages and VIP cabanas are available. Gates open at noon. Admission is $25-$75. And if you aren't burnt out from the sun and fun, an official after-party is scheduled for Sunday, April 27, at Talking Stick Resort. -- Benjamin Leatherman
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic - Wednesday, April 30 - Marquee Theatre
When it comes to George Clinton and Funkadelic, or Parliament or Parliament Funkadelic or the P-Funk All-Stars -- or whatever his backing ensemble might be called -- you're either all in or you're in for a long evening. Given Clinton's propensity for playing three- to four-hour concerts, this brand of hard-hitting funk can be draining, taxing the mind as well as the body. But for fans of lowdown greasy funk filled with searing guitar riffs, over-the-top horn fills, and that continually popping bass, this is a good thing.
And Clinton, 72, deserves credit for playing such a long show when most artists call it a night at the 90-minute mark. He just goes on and on. Now sporting multi-colored hair, Clinton worked in a salon straightening hair when he formed doo-wop group The Parliaments in the late 1950s. After a brief stint as a Motown songwriter, Clinton forged elements as diverse as James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, The Meters, and Frankie Lymon into a fiery amalgamation that pumps listeners with deep grooves and routinely leaves dance floors slippery with sweat. Bring a towel; you'll need it. A 5-hour Energy couldn't hurt, either -- the Atomic Dog could play that long. -- Glenn BurnSilver
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.
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