Van Halen - Monday, September 28 - Van Halen
A small handful of players in rock history have dramatically changed people's expectations of what was possible to do with an electric guitar. That doesn't necessarily mean that I have to like their music, but it would be dishonest to say that they didn't drastically change things, and in more notable ways than many other players. Jimi Hendrix is one of those guys: no one sounded like him when he came onto the music scene, and he rewrote the book on what great rock playing was, coaxing sounds out of a Stratocaster that no one else had been capable of until that point.
Like Hendrix and a few others, Eddie Van Halen blew people's minds when he exploded onto the national scene with his band's debut album in 1978. Many people identify him as creating "tapping," as if that's his biggest contribution to guitar playing, but there were players like Jeff Beck and a few others who had used finger-tapping to some degree or another, going back decades. But none of them had ever used it the way EVH did, and it stood out in a way that people admired more than they had with anyone previously. Regardless, nothing that preceded it sounded like the guitar work on Van Halen, and lots of earlier rock gods were left making excuses or begrudgingly giving the young player credit. CHRIS LANE
Royal Blood - Monday, September 28 - Marquee Theatre
Royal Blood, to a degree, follows in the footsteps of two-piece acts White Stripes and The Black Keys. On the surface, listeners may hear similarities — Royal Blood also begins with a hard blues base. From there, the focus shifts as the duo channel a primal energy into songs that incorporate aspects of 1960s psychedelia, 1970s hard rock, the earliest days of heavy metal, and 1990s post-grunge stoner rock, sprinkled with an undercurrent of hip-hop and soul beats. GLENN BURNSILVER
Matt Hollywood and the Bad Feelings - Monday, September 28 - Rhythm Room
One of the original members of the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Matt Hollywood was an influential element of the San Francisco neo-psychedelic rock band from 1990 to 1998, responsible for favorites like "Oh Lord," "Maybe Tomorrow," and "Got My Eye on You," among others.
Prolific, psyched-out, practically unknown — to say that the Brian Jonestown Massacre were the Velvet Underground of the '90s is no exaggeration, and the similarities don't stop at heroin, either. Both bands were fronted by eccentric characters, saw many lineups and evolutions throughout their careers, and, oh, created some of the best music in history. At least for BJM, the story isn't over yet.
These days, Brian Jonestown Massacre is a genre unto itself, partially responsible for reinvigorating a mainstream appreciation for early garage rock and psychedelia. In other words, thank (or blame) BJM for bands like Tame Impala or Foxygen getting heard on the radio.
For Hollywood, 2015 has brought a number of unexpected changes. The singer and guitarist started a new band, Matt Hollywood and the Bad Feelings, and for an unexplained reason, Hollywood was not invited on the Brian Jonestown Massacre's 25th anniversary tour in New Zealand and Australia. Hollywood says he was fired but was never told why. TROY FARAH
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Sam Smith - Wednesday, September 29 - Gila River Arena
There’s not even that much debate over whether Sam Smith is the most gifted soul singer to come along in a generation; a voice like his is so pure it almost defies the laws of nature. The 23-year-old London native’s trajectory from obscurity to superstardom has come at a 21st-century pace, touched off by his appearance on UK EDM duo Disclosure’s single “Latch” in late 2012, but the lovelorn modern hymns of his 2014 debut LP In the Lonely Hour — particularly megahit “Stay With Me” — are spring-loaded with staying power. CHRIS GRAY
The New Mastersounds - Wednesday, September 30 - Crescent Ballroom
For the uninitiated, the Northern Soul movement has flourished in the UK since the 1960s. Generally speaking, this sound comprises deep, soulful melodies, subtle funk licks and sultry-to-chugging rhythmic grooves. In the late-1990s, guitarist Eddie Roberts was a Leeds, England DJ spinning Northern Soul 45s to enthusiastic audiences at “The Cooker” when the opportunity to replace the singles with a live band—The New Mastersounds—presented itself. While it would have been easy to replicate the tracks he’d been spinning, Roberts co-mingled a diverse spectrum of musical idioms. There’s the blistering organ-guitar interplay of soul jazz icons such as Melvin Sparks, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Big John Patton. There’s the subtle rolling bump of New Orleans funksters The Meters and the funk blasts from James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic. The deep soul syncopation of Booker T. and the MGs round out the mix. Now, nine albums (Therapy is the latest, while a tenth, Made for Pleasure, drops October 2) and numerous world tours later, Roberts’ original goal has been accomplished: with a heavy set of booty-shakin’ instrumentals (mostly) The New Mastersounds appropriately pack the dance floor all night long. GLENN BURNSILVER