There's simply no shortage of things to see and do in October. Discounting all of the hullabaloo of Halloween at the end of the month, there are fall festivals to attend, tankards of German ales to quaff at Oktoberfest gatherings, pleasant weather to enjoy (no...really), and all the thrills and chills of the Arizona State Fair to experience.
Of course, you could also go to a concert any time in the next 30 days — and there are plenty of good ones to choose from. Frankly, October is pretty much wall-to-wall with “can't miss” gigs happening in Phoenix as the various cultural venues (ranging from the Scottsdale Center for the Arts to the Mesa Arts Center) awaken from their summertime slumber to host some rather esteemed acts and performers, critical darlings and renowned tastemakers pass through the Valley, blockbuster bands and music legends head our way, and outdoor music festivals take place.
To wit: country megastar Garth Brooks is making a return to Phoenix after a 19-year absence for six (!!) shows, Madonna will bring her Rebel Heart Tour our way, venerated singer-songwriters like Sufjan Stevens and José González have dates scheduled, the aforementioned State Fair will also be putting on its typically great array of concerts, and the annual Apache Lake Music Festival will offer a lineup featuring the best of the local scene.
There's so much to choose from, in fact, that it proved a bit of a challenge to put together our monthly rundown of 25 concerts to see in Phoenix. As such, we've bumped the list up to 30 entries this month, each of which is worthy of your time and money. (And even more worthy choices during October can be found amid our extensive online concert listings.)
Civil Twilight - Friday, October 2 - The Rebel Lounge
The moody, seductive sound of Civil Twilight is led by Steven McKellar's willowy tenor, which dips and flutters against moody backdrops, recalling Thom Yorke. But despite the band's penchant for graceful, slow-moving balladry, it plays with more finesse than Radiohead knockoffs like Snow Patrol or Travis. Civil Twilight builds tension by remaining keenly aware of its momentum: Guitars billow forth like geysers, but the trio also shows restraint, allowing quieter mid-tempo textures to linger and build. The bandmembers moved to Los Angeles from their Cape Town, South Africa, home in 2004, eventually settling in Nashville. From that new base, they put out 2012's Holy Weather – the followup to their hit eponymous album – boasting the hit track, “Letters From the Sky,” which has been featured on everything from episodes of The Mentalist to WWE pay-per-views and made Civil Twilight an even bigger success story. CHRIS PARKER
Rascal Flatts - Friday, October 2 - Ak-Chin Pavilion
It’s all too easy to take a shot at Rascal Flatts in 2015. What’s easily remembered is the frosted tips, v-necked T-shirts, dismal awards show performances and saccharine, phoned-in singles of the mid-’00s, but what’s rarely mentioned is the Ohio-based group’s prototypical status in country pop, paving the way for the spit-and-polished that dominates radio today. There’s a reason why their first seven records all went platinum, and it has nothing to do with a certain Mickey Mouse and his affiliates — the trio of Gary LeVox, Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney has been a Music Row powerhouse since their inception in 1999, right when Shania Twain’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” was dominating airwaves and collecting Grammys. Pop country went from the flavor of the week to the desired medium for Nashville-based songwriter circles, and Rascal Flatts was right there at the forefront.
Maybe that’s why they’ve become the go-to punching bag for both country fans and nonbelievers alike, some ever going wielding the ultimate weapon and labeling the trio as “the Nickelback of country.” While no one deserves that black mark on their name, Rascal Flatts’ contribution to the current country landscape gets lost from time to time. Before the Sam Hunts and Jason Aldeans of the world, Rascal Flatts wrote sugary hooks that were deemed too saccharine for the honky-tonk crowd, yet it looks like they had the last laugh — so it goes when you’re the forerunner of a whole new wave of music. K.C. LIBMAN
Danzig - Saturday, October 3 - Marquee Theatre
For a certain metal-loving crowd, Glenn Danzig is as good as it gets, metal-wise. For a period of time in the late-’80s, early-’90s, Daznig represented everything rad about metal: babes, martial arts, darkness, buried feelings, and, of course, some pretty badass riffs and songs. Danzig, the man responsible for the horror-punk legends the Misfits, started releasing solo albums in 1988, and he has at least four classic albums under his belt as a solo artist. Songs like “Mother,” “Am I Demon,” “She Rides,” and more hold a special place in the hearts and heads of many metal heads.
But of course, Evil Elvis can’t get a break, despite his undeniable musical legacy. People these days tend to remember him for the image-shattering photo of the singer that surfaced in 2010, which showed him wearing a Danzig t-shirt and buying kitty litter. Between that and the video of Phoenix resident Danny Marianino knocking Danzig out backstage at a show in Arizona, poor ol’ Danzig just can’t get any respect these days. It’s a shame, because the there are few figures in metal that actually deserve it more. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Calexico - Sunday, October 4 - Crescent Ballroom
They’re subtle — and sometimes sung in Spanish — but the questions that are scattered across Calexico’s Edge of the Sun carry the thrust of the album’s themes. Where? What? Why? The questions are prominent on an album about progressing, searching, and moving. And they’re at the core of interactions, of meeting new people, of seeing the world from the perspective of another. “It’s all about the soul’s evolution, us as individuals and us as a community, whether it’s a band or a city or a continent or a country or a planet. It’s all about that movement, that evolution. We need each other,” says singer-guitarist Joey Burns. “It’s important to ask questions. And more than any other record, there are questions asked all over this.” To prepare for the band’s eighth studio album, Burns, drummer John Convertino, and keyboardist Sergio Mendoza took a retreat in Mexico City, exploring and soaking in the city, looking for inspiration and writing, finding the first flashes of sound or ideas that could take shape back in the studio.
For musicians whose catalog and history over almost 20 years is so interwoven with their Southwestern home of Tucson, working in new location inevitably helped shape the music. But, Burns says, Calexico’s time in Mexico City had unexpected results. The bright mood, the encounters with friendly locals — musicians, artists, and cooks — sometimes brought out a poppier side of Burns’ songwriting. “It was great to get to the chance to go down there, and it proved to be really successful. Not only did we come up with lots of ideas, but there were some beautiful surprises,” he says. “Songs like ‘Falling from the Sky’ I wouldn’t expect from hanging out in Mexico City, but it was part of the that experience that led to all of these songs.” ERIC SWEDLUND
Turnpike Troubadours - Monday, October 5 - Marquee Theatre
The world is rapidly waking up to Oklahoma's Turnpike Troubadours, whose new self-titled LP recently reached the Top 5 of iTunes' country albums chart in the pre-order stage. At this point the Troubadours are a well-known commodity in Texas, reportedly selling more than 200,000 copies of their two previous albums. And sure, close-to-home delights abound on the new album – Cajun frolics “The Bird Hunters” and “Bossier City,” honky-tonk romp “7 Oaks,” or Tulsa two-step “Easton & Main” – but radio-ready country-rockers “Ringing In the Year” and “Long Drive Home” suggest the Troubadours' days as a regional phenomenon could be more numbered than ever. Even their galloping Old 97's cover, “Doreen,” sounds like a hit. CHRIS GRAY
Aterciopelados - Tuesday, October 6 - Crescent Ballroom
The name Aterciopelados, which translates to ‘velvety ones,’ comes from a line — “aterciopelada flor de la pasión” (velvety flower of passion) — from French author Simone de Beauvoir. Described by Time as ‘Colombia’s hottest rock band,” Aterciopelados, made of the duo of bassist and producer Héctor Buitrago singer and guitarist Andrea Echeverri, do pay homage to their roots with a blend of Latin and Caribbean styles, including flamenco, bolero, and reggae. But every lick from Andean pan flutes is balanced by a backbone of punk and contemporary rock, even adding elements of electronica. They identify with tradition and their homeland with fervent warmth but are just as comfortable with textures all over the place. Perhaps more importantly, Aterciopelados’ music, especially Echeverri’s sharp lyrics, have drawn focus to topics like feminism, environmentalism, and violence in Colombia. TROY FARAH
Sham 69 - Wednesday, October 7 - The Rebel Lounge
Hailing from the town of Hersham, England, Sham 69 espoused an overt class-populist politic that stood in stark contrast to the 1977's art-school-fused English punk scene. This contrast pops up in everything from the name of the band (taken from soccer graffiti "Hersham 69!"), their use of sport-style chants ("Oi!") to their lyrics: "Conservatives, communists/They're all the bleeding same." Leaning neither left nor right, Sham 69's lyrics attacked elitism on all sides. But in their effort to unite the kids, they ended up struggling with the same problems that undermine the working-class street-punk movement of today — including the politically disparate and just-plain-violent skinhead movement. ALEKS PRECHTL
Redd Kross - Friday, October 9 - Crescent Ballroom
Although Redd Kross’ 2012 album was titled Researching the Blues, the record sounds more like guitarist Jeff McDonald and his bassist brother, Steven, have been studying the anthemic hooks of groups such as Big Star and Cheap Trick instead of the dusty riffs of Howlin’ Wolf. “Winter Blues” is actually a jangling fusion of The Dickies’ sardonic wit with The Byrds’ guileless harmonies, and the Hawthorne quartet puts the power into power pop on such melodic rockers as “Stay Away From Downtown” and “Meet Frankenstein.” While the McDonald brothers only occasionally evoke the flat-out sonic anarchy of their teen-punk beginnings, drummer Roy McDonald punches up even sweetly crooned pop idylls such as “Dracula’s Daughter” with controlled precision. FALLING JAMES
Burning Palms - Sunday, October 10 - The Rebel Lounge
That Burning Palms is headlining their own gig shouldn't be a surprise to fans of the Tucson-born group's self-described "Egyptian lo-fi" style, which incorporates the tribal, droning sensibilities of various religious music designed to provoke an ecstatic state — imagine The Velvet Underground & Nico with an additional Nico singing and you'll get the idea. After all, this is a band that gained tremendous momentum after signing with Burger Records' sister imprint, Lolipop, less than four months after its debut performance. Despite their Tucson origin, Burning Palms are no strangers to Phoenix. "We've played many shows in Phoenix over the last year: several times at the Lost Leaf — a place we adore — and quite a few house parties," lead vocalist/guitarist Simone Stopford says. JOSHUA LEVINE
Florence and the Machine - Tuesday, October 13 - Ak-Chin Pavilion
Florence and the Machine is maybe the only band that can accept "soundtrackcore" as a compliment without a hint of backhand to go with it. Think of "Dog Days Are Over" or "You've Got the Love" and a handful of pivotal, empowering sequences from popular movies, commercials, or television montages pop up — even if the songs didn't actually serve as the backing track for them. If it's a euphoric moment, one that requires a dance break in public or a driving-with-the-windows-down kind of scene, it's easy to assume the striking, strong voice of its namesake singer Florence Welch, tight vibrato and indestructible belt and all, will go with it.
The flame-haired siren has been all over the airwaves as of late, thanks to the success of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (and its first single, “Ship to Wreck), her first album since 2011's Ceremonials. Armed with feel-good anthems for the peddling and her usual dynamic stage presence, Welch has been touring constantly since the album's release and her current batch of material is proof that a little time off spent in the studio didn't lead to a dramatic shift, but a deeper dive into the stockpile of positive vibes that's shaped her way to success. "Ship to Wreck" in the manner to which we're accustomed: soaring high notes that steer clear of strident territory; driving, danceable rhythm; a chorus that warms you from the inside out when you sing along with it; etc. HILARY HUGHES
Jose Gonzalez - Wednesday, October 14 - Mesa Arts Center
If you're the kind of person who believes in reincarnation, it would be reasonable to assume that when Nick Drake left this mortal plane in 1974, his soul — or at least his soulful voice — landed in Sweden in 1978 to a newborn of Argentine heritage named José González. Like a teacher who lowers his voice so a class pays attention, González's low-volume singing and acoustic guitar stylings command your eardrums in a manner rarely displayed since the days of Pink Moon. While González's whispered singing is always a treat in his original compositions, it is his covering of seemingly already perfect songs, like Massive Attack's "Teardrop" or Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," that makes him stand out from any of his quiet peers. DAVID ROLLAND
Alt-J - Wednesday, October 14 - Comerica Theatre
Alt-J's uncertainty and disparities has always been intriguing, and the longer we've, the tipsier we've felt. By the end of An Awesome Wave, the band's debut album, we knew we'd discovered something good, something special to be shared with a select few others who'd appreciate the elixir. This fantasy would soon shatter. With An Awesome Wave as its engine and its melodic meanderings as fuel, Alt-J's path to stardom was almost perfectly vertical. One week, our music-blogging buddy played us "Breezeblocks"; the next week, some sorority girl was skipping down the street, singing along as Alt-J poured from her earbuds. Within months, Alt-J felt used, stolen by people who usually preferred Drake or David Guetta. It was the same old story of lost novelty that made many fans think the band had sold out.
But through the hype, Alt-J didn't change much. It released This Is All Yours one year ago to positive reviews from old fans (begrudgingly) and new. Though not a rehash of An Awesome Wave, the sophomore album kept the narrative flairs and slow-build instrumentals that caused us to first fall for the band. It even maintained the coded sexual angle of some of its songs. What did change was the band's intimacy with fans, which Alt-J (or its label) seems to yearn for. Earlier this month, 500 cinemas around the United States played Artists Den Presents Alt-J — an 80-minute film of the band's live concert for the relatively small crowd of 600. Today, the band tends to find itself on festival stages and in big arenas. But keyboardist Gus Unger-Hamilton has a soft spot for intimate gigs: "Often in a small place, you can see the crowd better, and you're closer to them, and you can focus on one person. In an arena, it's useless to identify any particular individual. So you almost end up playing as if there's nobody there." DYLLAN FURNESS
Run the Jewels - Thursday, October 15 - Marquee Theatre
From the moment El-P collaborated with Killer Mike on the latter’s 2012 album, R.A.P. Music, the duo immediately felt it had found in their musical soul mates. After the critical success of that record, they joined forces to form one of hip-hop’s most exciting outfits in Run the Jewels. The iconoclastic rappers gave fans a surprise when they dropped their second album, RTJ2, as a free download last month. But an even bigger surprise may be in store: What started as a joke, a remixed version of RTJ2 featuring sampled cat sounds called Meow the Jewels, became a reality recently, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Jokes aside, the explosive nature and raw intensity of their live shows is what makes Run the Jewels a must-see group. DANIEL KOHN
Voodoo Glow Skulls - Thursday, October 15 - Yucca Tap Room
They say that family is the strongest bond and, when it comes to 27-year-old ska-punk veterans Voodoo Glow Skulls, a band which contains three brothers, the proof is in the pudding. "The plus side is that family can communicate like no one else can usually; the downside is that there is less of a filter with family communication," says guitarist Eddie Casillas. His claim to their survival "is that the three brothers are just that, brothers, and [they] still like playing live. [They] can easily get away from each other for several weeks then regroup."
What started as a mostly family band with the Casillas brothers — Frank, Eddie and Jorge — exploded onto the ska and punk scenes in the '90s with the addition of a horn section. If their influences are any giveaway (Fishbone and The Red Hot Chili Peppers), you'll be tearing it up on the dance floor. With these factors came a popularity that few independent bands see, plus with songs like "El Coo Cooi," they display their bilingual roots. Their roots are also as independent artists. "[An indie label] makes you feel like you're free to create and do as you please artistically," Casillas says. "Because of this spirit, "the first time we heard 'Fat Randy' on KROQ, we were blown away. We never pictured our sound on the major airwaves. It was exciting to be heard by so many in an instant." As far as how they feel about ska-punk now, Eddie believes that "the sound of ska punk is nostalgia mostly. You can only do so much out of the box; then it turns into something else." GARYN KLASEK
Garth Brooks - Friday, October 16; Saturday, October 17; Friday, October 23; and Saturday, October 24 - Talking Stick Resort Arena
For a variety of reasons, Garth Brooks is a pretty polarizing figure in country music. Plenty of devoted fans blame Brooks for the dominance of pop-country in the 1990s, and some would continue to blame him for the current state of the genre. Others aren't too happy that he ditched his longtime wife for Trisha Yearwood, and many are still pretty pissed about that whole Chris Gaines alter-ego thing. Despite these nitpicks, however, Brooks is nothing if not successful. To wit: the country megastar sold more than 60,000 tickets to a pair of upcoming shows at Talking Stick Resort Arena (formerly US Airways Center) in the span of 75 minutes, eclipsing a single-day sales record he set back in 1996. As a result, four more concerts at the venue were added, meaning that Brooks will perform a jaw-dropping six times for Valley country fans over the span of two weekends.
After years off the road and no new recordings since 2007, Brooks launched his comeback in 2014 with the release of Man Against Machine. While the album earned mixed reviews from critics, Brooks smashed yet another record and surpassed Elvis Presley to become the best-selling solo artist of all time, selling more than 123 million albums in his now 30-plus year career. And there’s a reason for that. Say what you will about the quality of Brooks’ new record — or any of the work he’s done after the Gaines fiasco that effectively ended his reign on the country charts — the man has an uncanny ability to attract an audience. That has everything to do with Brooks’ almost obsessively fan-driven perspective on the music business. AMY MCCARTHY
ZZ Ward – 10/17 - Saturday, October 17 - Marquee Theatre
ZZ Ward's intonations are instantly recognizable from her foot-stomping saloon song "Put the Gun Down," which has accompanied plenty of movie soundtracks already. Zsuzsanna Ward (whose name is worth about 99 points in Scrabble), with her bluesy, note-bending voice, appeals to modern pop sensibilities while adding just enough flair to make her stand out from the crowd. Even if you can't put a face to a name, you can recognize Ward just by hearing "whoo-hoo-hoo" from a mile away. MATT WOOD
Gang of Four - Monday, October 19 - Crescent Ballroom
Among the handful of late-'70s bands seduced by punk's no-frills musical ethos but disgusted by its "Pretty Vacant" intellectual bankruptcy - see also Public Image Ltd., Wire, the Fall, Mission of Burma, etc. — Gang of Four applied the same intensity to their lyrics, which were often hypercritical of capitalism and various other social maladies, as to their bristling guitars and rhythms that were funky almost in spite of themselves. In so doing they helped establish a sonic template that would soon be adopted in various quantities by alt-rock heavyweights like R.E.M., U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana.
Gang of Four's half-life was a long enough to outlast a lineup that began to splinter after 1979 debut Entertainment!, but the band itself wasn't easily stamped out, either. Various members have come and gone since 2005 "reunion" album Return the Gift, and in 2015 founding guitarist Andy Gill is the one carrying on the brand; last month's What Happens Next features Allison Mossheart of the Kills, among other guests. CHRIS GRAY
Janet Jackson - Monday, October 19 - Comerica Theatre
Her wardrobe may malfunction from time to time, but Janet Jackson is an unbreakable act. Her 1989 album, Rhythm Nation 1814, helped popularize socially conscious music while her sexual provocation sparked controversy with conservatives. Despite her brother’s towering status, the youngest Jackson child was never overshadowed by her family name. She established herself as a music icon and sex symbol in her own right, one of Madonna's only legitimate contenders for the title "Queen of Pop."
It’s been four years since Janet hit the stage and seven since she released her last album, Discipline. But this May, she announced: "I promised you'd hear it from my lips. And now you will. This year, new music, new world tour, a new movement. I’ve been listening. Let's keep the conversation going.” The Unbreakable World Tour brings Janet back the Valley on Monday, October 19. But this significance is beyond song and dance. Her upcoming album will be released through BMG and her new label Rhythm Nation — a worldwide partnership that makes Janet the first female African-American recording artist to form her own record label. DYLLAN FURNESS
Eagles of Death Metal - Tuesday, October 20 - Crescent Ballroom
Dave Grohl may seem like the clear choice as the contemporary Rock God, but Josh Homme is the poor man’s candidate. Not only does he rule with a mighty strum in Queens of the Stone Age (as well as previously fronting the influential stoner rock group Kyuss), but his sideband the Eagles of Death Metal is another outlet that brandishes his rock ‘n’ roll mettle.
Formed in the late Nineties alongside Jesse Hughes, Eagles of Death Metal have kept a low profile since 2008’s Heart On, but fans were recently treated to a new single (“Complexity” marked by its fuzzy bass lead) and the just released album, Zipper Down. Homme is on a hot streak — lit by his 2013 Queens of the Stone Age triumph …Like Clockwork — so approach this show acknowledging that a face-melting performance will likely be delivered. SILAS VALENTINO
Rick Springfield - Wednesday, October 21 - Arizona State Fair
Rick Springfield's life has been an interesting ride from the peaks through the valleys of major stardom. The man is a Grammy-winning songwriter, a former soap star who hunked it up on General Hospital, and the face plastered on the inside of your mom's locker. He's been through the ringer of Behind the Music cliches — including a major initial musical success marred by alleged scandal, a decade battling depression, and a miraculous ride to the top in both the acting and musical arenas in 1981. But the Rick Springfield of 2015 is still as inspired as ever.
And he's also as dreamy as ever, boasting energy and verve to spare, as evidenced by his critically lauded turn in Ricki and the Flash alongside Meryl Streep in the Movie as well as the performances contained within Stripped Down, the 13-track live from earlier this year featuring live and raw versions of many of Springfield's biggest songs. He's likely to bring the same level of energy — and a set list bristling with many of the same hits — to Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday, October 21, during the Arizona State Fair, which ironically is where your mom probably heard “Jessie's Girl” being blasted back in the '80s. DAVID VON BADER
Red Fang - Thursday, October 22 - The Rebel Lounge
In 2008, a video surfaced of four Portland residents, clad in chain mail and medieval armor made solely of beer cans, going head-to-head with live-action role players. In 2011, the same four Portlanders appeared again, blowing a record label advance check on a beatup station wagon and a plethora of items that look all too good in slow motion when driven through at 50 miles a hour. In 2013, Fred Armisen briefly joined the group, now battling beer-swilling zombies on the streets of their beloved Oregon city, running for their lives and their suds with 30-pack in hand. All three videos — actually just a handful of their offerings — are set to brutal, down-tuned and metal-tinged soundtracks courtesy of the same foursome, Red Fang.
There's a tongue-in-cheek element to Red Fang that counters an aesthetic that includes beards, brews, and bruises. Though hard to pigeonhole from any external angle, Red Fang is always drenched in fuzz pedals, hammering drums, gigantic vocals, and, of course, Pabst Blue Ribbon. "I guess we're maybe not skilled enough musicians to pull off a genre-specific thing," says vocalist/bassist Aaron Beam. "It's just whatever comes out when you're sitting on the couch with a guitar, that's just what ends up being a song. There's a unifying theme that it's just the four of us playing and all bringing our individual styles, so it's always going to sound like Red Fang because of the way the four of us play." K.C. LIBMAN
Madonna - Thursday, October 22 - Gila River Arena
She's been blessed with a Rebel Heart. From "Like a Virgin" to Sex to asking Ultra Music Festival ravers to pinpoint the whereabouts of Molly, Madonna Louise Ciccone has always defied her detractors, her censors, her critics. And she's never apologized. Ever. And at the age of 57, she's has a new album out, the aforementioned Rebel Heart. She's dressing like her Blonde Ambition-era self again. She's calling out the ageists who insist she should quit. And naturally, she's in the midst of another world tour. Months after she made a surprise appearance at this year's Coachella (where she briefly — and regrettably — snogged with Drake) and dropped by Ellen and The Tonight Show, Madonna has been busy with 35-date tour that's already hit Brooklyn, Boston, Chicago, and parts of Canada, offering a mix of old favorites ("True Blue," "Like A Virgin," "Who's That Girl") with her new hotness ("Bitch I'm Madonna," "Devil Pray," “Unapologetic Bitch”). And for as long as she's able, we're certain that the Material Girl with the rebelious heart will keep going, no matter the haters have to say. S. PAJOT
Toro Y Moi - Friday, October 23 - Crescent Ballroom
You'd expect a guy who's been an essential player on the chillwave scene during the past three years to be a bit, well, chill. Luckily for us Toro Y Moi, whose mother first knew him as Chadwick Bundick, is not chill at all. He's become a one man electro-psych dance machine, dropping studio albums, compilation albums, EPs and singles with quickness. But even firing out his tunes at rapid speed, he's kept the integrity of his chillwave roots intact while expanding the Toro y Moi sound to incorporate elements of house and funk. ANGELICA LEICHT
Apache Lake Music Festival - Friday, October 23, and Saturday, October 24 - Apache Lake Marina
When it comes to an outdoor setting for a concert, you really couldn't ask for a more picturesque and spectacular locale to catch a show than the sun-drenched rocks and flora-heavy desert landscape of Apache Lake. And when it comes to a sampler of the best in local music, you'd really couldn't ask for a better lineup than this year's Apache Lake Music Festival. As with ALMF's previous editions dating back its inception in 2010, the weekend-long event on the shores of its titular body of water will include performances both indoors and out from a "who's who" of Arizona bands, including returnees like Jared and the Mill, Captain Squeegee, Banana Gun, decker., Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, and Japhy's Descent.
This year's edition, however, will feature a huge crop of first-timers that will make the trip up to the lake (located approximately 60 miles northeast of the Valley) to perform, such as Harrison Fjord, Wyves, Drunken Immortals, Jerusafunk, Some Magical Animal, Mouse Powell, The Stakes, and Tucson's Chicha Dust. Single-day tickets for the festival are $25 each while a weekend pass will run you $40. Grand views of the high-desert terrain, especially at sunset, are included. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Chucho Valdés - Friday, October 23 - Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
The New York Times once referred to Cuban-born musician/bandleader Chucho Valdés as "one of the world's great virtuosic pianists"; Jazziz magazine dubbed him "the most complete pianist in the world." The four Grammy Awards sitting on his mantle seem to indicate the praise is well-deserved. The son of Bebo Valdés, the stylish pianist and bandleader from the golden era of music on the island, Valdés burst on the international scene when he stepped away from his father's elegant style and founded the legendary Latin jazz group Irakere in 1972. Since then, he's built a reputation as a gifted musician well able to mix his native Afro-Cuban rhythms with classical European influences and American jazz traditions. Now, at 73 years old, he's taken over the elder statesman status his father once held. Friday's set list is sure to include several numbers from Chucho's Steps, the release that won Valdés the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album. On Friday, October 23, he'll commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts with a special performance at the esteemed venue. OLIVIA FLORES ALVAREZ
Royal Southern Brotherhood - Saturday, October 24 - Rhythm Room
For many, certain musical concepts can quickly become redundant. Supergroups? They're so '70s. Southern rock? So very '60s. Blues? Been there, done that. Naturally, then, any band that offers up all three could be considered something of an anachronism. Or not. Enter Royal Southern Brotherhood, a band whose very name touts the conceits that make them so special. Charter members include famous names like Neville and Allman — Cyril and Devon, respectively — the former being an original member of New Orleans' own Meters and Neville Brothers, the latter an offspring of Greg Allman and also the nephew of the late, great Duane Allman. Others filling out the roster include veteran bluesman Mike Zito, ace bassist Charlie Wooten, and respected drummer and groove merchant Yonrico Scott.
"Southern rock has never really gone away, and I think what makes this band different is the mixing of the New Orleans funky dance rhythms with the Southern-rock blues guitars," Zito says. "I don't think we're setting the world on fire, but we are doing something special. New Orleans music is more popular than ever now, so I think it's just a good combination, and it comes along at the right time." Despite the big names, this band's self-titled debut album demonstrates that the band genuinely delivers thanks to a stirring blend of Southern sass and near-anthemic aptitude. Little wonder, then, that song titles like "Left My Heart in Memphis," "Moonlight Over the Mississippi," and, um, "Sweet Jelly Donut" actually affirm that strong soulful sensibility. LEE ZIMMERMAN
School D’AZ Music Festival featuring Best Coast - Saturday, October 24 - Mesa Amphitheatre
Before forming Best Coast, Bethany Cosentino was one half of Pocahaunted, an experimental-noise duo associated with the scene around seminal L.A. DIY venue the Smell. But after a few years, Cosentino left the drone-heavy project and its MySpace-era music behind, later forming pop group Best Coast with friend and producer Bobb Bruno. Since 2010, the pair has crafted a handful of neo-soft-rock records, built on Bruno’s arrangements and Cosentino’s open-diary-style songwriting, which often hinges on relationship resurrections and her love for her home state of California. Like the Joan Didion of a generation that grew up living by the code of Clueless and Ten Things I Hate About You, Cosentino — and Best Coast — provides the perfect soundtrack to life. The duo will headline Alt AZ 93.3's first-ever School D’AZ festival at Mesa Amphitheatre, which will also feature local pop-punk/pop rock favorites The Maine, as well as indietronica band Atlas Genius, Danish dance-rock trio New Politics, dream pop/dark wave duo MS MR, indie rock act Saint Motel, and punk rockers Bully. BREE DAVIES
Sufjan Stevens - Sunday, October 25 - Orpheum Theatre
It doesn’t feel like much of a stretch to say Sufjan Stevens could be the Cat Stevens of his generation; his gentle acoustic-based songs have an effortless intimacy and a tendency to linger long after the music fades out. They may lack the kind of overwhelming hooks that made
"Cat's in the Cradle" “Father and son" or “Wild World” massive pop hits — maybe Paul Simon is a better match, come to think of it — but in a decade and a half, Stevens has nurtured one of the most passionate fan bases in indie music, scads of devotees who scrutinize his lyrics the way others do fan fiction for sci-fi TV shows. That doesn’t totally account for the 39-year-old Brooklynite’s occasional diversions into avant-garde electronic music (2009’s BQE), but he’s back to examining the familiar topics of family and faith on latest album Carrie & Lowell, which Pitchfork has already declared Stevens’s best work to date. CHRIS GRAY
Jane's Addiction - Thursday, October 29 - Arizona State Fair
In contemporary cultural terms, Jane's Addiction is one of the the biggest and best groups to emerge from the early 1990s alternative scene and garner mainstream commercial success. And, it was in the midst of dealing with drug struggles. A typical story, right? Except that it doesn't have the usual ending. The group didn't burn out, and even with Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro high as kites, their music thrived and their bond survived. It was the blueprint for the band's monster 1988 major label debut, Nothing's Shocking, which may have been slicker, but it didn't sell out Jane's eccentric edge or heaviness. The follow-up, 1990's Ritual de lo Habitual, managed to maintain their cred and expand their fan base tenfold. The group succeeded the old-fashioned way: by writing potent and provocative tunes, playing their guts out, and building an obsessive, organic following.
Though their early tenure coincided with the heyday of glam metal, it was the darker, artier underground where Jane's Addiction came of age and ultimately terminated their wimpy hair metal peers. Sure, Nirvana and the grunge movement may get the credit for killing the genre, but Jane's had long been chipping away, their multicolored dreadlocks flying around in the process, a few years before Nevermind. When drugs and drama threatened the group, they got clean, and took a break. But they always came back to music, both individually (Farrell's Porno For Pyros and Navarro's stint with the Chili Peppers, are stand outs) and together. LINA LECARO
Monster Mash Music Festival - Friday, October 30, to Sunday, November 1 - Tempe Beach Park
Frontman Maynard James Keenan is showing Arizona some major love this year. Not only will Puscifer play the inaugural Monster Mash music festival at Tempe Beach on November 1, but Keenan's other band, Tool, is playing its only announced concert in 2015 at the same festival the night before — on Halloween, no less. (Keenan also showed some love for our fair state over the summer when Puscifer released a spectacular music video for the band's song "Grand Canyon," the first single its soon-to-be-released album, Money Shot.)
Tool and Puscifer add some extra oomph to the rock-oriented Monster Mash lineup, which already looks pretty amazing to begin with. The first day of the festival on Friday, October 30, features hosts Carlos Santana, John Fogerty, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Meanwhile, the second day on Saturday, October 31, also includes performances by Primus, Coheed and Cambria, Aeges, and With Our Arms to the Sun. The final day of the festival on Sunday, November 1, will also feature Linkin Park, Rob Zombie, Deftones, Halestrom, and Ghost. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Flo Rida - Friday, October 30 - Arizona State Fair
It ain't easy being Flo Rida, but it's gotta be a "Good Feeling." (See what we did there?) For the past eight years, this self-described "international hustler" has kept his grind cranked to "Club Can't Handle Me" levels, endlessly zigzagging between the studio, the gym, and arena-size stages. Since releasing his debut album, Mail on Sunday, and its breakout lead single, "Low," in 2007, the notoriously ripped hit machine's waking hours have become entirely consumed by ever-exploding obligations. Stuff like repeat trips to the American Music Awards winner's circle, appearances on WWE pay-per-views and television shows, halftime gigs at the NBA All-Star Game, soccer stadium concerts in Europe, über-exclusive VIP fashion parties on South Beach, and impromptu Japanese Jacuzzi parties with 30 female fans from Okinawa.
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The cause of all this hard work and even harder play: a four-song string of Billboard number one house-hop hits — 2012's "Whistle," 2011's "Good Feeling," 2009's "Right Round," and the aforementioned "Low" — that's proven the 36-year-old rapper to be one of Planet Earth's most bankable pop stars. True to form, Flo Rida's latest release, the bombastic seven-track EP My House, scorched the Billboard hip-hop and rap charts after dropping back in April. S. PAJOT
The King Khan and BBQ Show - Saturday, October 31 - Valley Bar
King Khan (a.k.a. Arish Ahmad Khan) can whip up one hell of a frenzy with his garage-soul act the Shrines, it's a slightly different kind of insanity when he teams up with BBQ Show (aka Mark Sultan). While King Khan and the Shrines is a nine-piece act with a horn section and a keyboard player, the King Khan and BBQ Show is a duo, with Khan handling vocals and lead-guitar duties and Sultan singing and playing guitar and drums. Even though it's just the two of them, they deliver some vigorous and hilarious sets of doo-wop and garage rock. The pair has a brand-new album in tow, Bad News Boys, their first since 2009's Invisible Girl, so expect new some new music in the set as well. TOM MURPHY