If nothing else, this week's slate of concerts in and around Metro Phoenix is what you'd call diverse, or, at the very least, eclectic. How else would you describe a five-day span that feature everything from the indie power-pop of The New Pornographers and the Latin-infused trip-hop of French-Chliean emcee Ana Tijoux to the slowcore of David Bazan and the esteemed crooning of country legend Kris Kristopherson.
Oh, and the rowdy-ass members of the Insane Clown Posse are bringing their Faygo-soaked circus to Mesa Amphitheatre our way this week, too. (Consider yourself warned.) Or not, since the show's been canceled.
Yeah, like we said, it's diverse.
All of the aforementioned shows make up the bulk of our concert picks for this week, which also include Weezer's much-anticipated show at the Arizona State Fair.
There's even more shows going on between now and this weekend, of course, so if any of the following seven picks don't suit your tastes, feel free to peruse our massive online concert calendar to your heart's content.
It hardly seems that 14 years have passed since Canada's New Pornographers dropped their debut full-length, Mass Romantic, upon a whole lot of virgin ears. To say that the indie power-pop band's initial offering was well-received is an understatement.
Critics went cuckoo for it, and the recording found its way onto several of that year's "best of" lists. Music lovers were equally smitten, eating up its addictive mix of powerful guitars and drums layered with diverse instruments like synthesizers and pipe organs and delectable vocals from multiple members. Smart, harmonious, and gritty, the recording was the foundation on which a base of devoted fans was built, about which founding member/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist A.C. Newman says, "As a musician, you always hope that someone is going to listen to what you do and like it. And, of course, you hope it becomes popular. So, of course, I hoped for it but didn't expect it." -- Amy Young
Popular conjecture claims that Black Joe Lewis started playing guitar simply to annoy his redneck co-worker at an Austin pawnshop. That's partially true -- he did purchase his first guitar there and played it in his down time -- but Lewis' life had always been filled with music. Despite the steady but low-paying job, he knew music was his true calling. Once he became proficient enough on the instrument, Lewis began performing with blues, punk, rock, funk, and soul musicians -- anyone who'd have him.
Forming his own band -- originally, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears -- he put those influences to good use. More recently, however, shedding the Honeybears, Lewis' sound has grown exponentially. From feedback to deep fuzz, growling vocals to guttural howls, they all shine through in Electric Slave, an album that leaves listeners breathless. Lewis says the progression from high-energy soul/funk act to psychedelic blues-rock warrior was a natural one. In fact, Lewis enjoys his "own original sound" so much that he's willing to forsake the past for what the present brings. "It's exactly what we wanted it [to be]," he says. "It's music on the edge...I think this is the best stuff we've done." -- Glenn BurnSilver
Ana Tijoux has been around for a long minute, but it was her birth year song, "1977," which brought her mainstream recognition as the soundtrack to a tense desert scene on Breaking Bad. Like all her albums, the French-Chilean MC's latest, Vengo, gives a snapshot of her life - in this case, as a new mother. Vengo infuses Tijoux's flavorful Spanish-language flow with her native Andean rhythms and a proliferation of horns.
Tijoux's spitting chants trip over each other on the rapid-fire title track, contrasting with the charangos strumming seductively through "Oro Negro," while her multilingual duet with the throaty Shadia Mansour on the spirited "Somos Sur" is taken directly from a bustling Middle Eastern marketplace. -- Lily Moayeri
By now, Insane Clown Posse has become such prominent pop-culture public enemies that little is said about the good things musicians of all stripes should be taking from the rappers' success. The young and hungry shouldn't be cribbing ICP's taste for grease paint, mystical allusions, X-rated lyrics or ambitious concept albums, but rather how the Posse have managed to build and maintain such a massive enterprise.
The foundation that everything ICP and Psychopathic Records rests on is made of Juggalos and Juggalettes, the band and their label's fleet of ardent supporters. ICP built an audience through touring hard and releasing music with a take-no-prisoners style and -- to a certain degree -- shock value that clicked with a niche. It also didn't hurt that ICP kept Psychopathic's name synonymous with the band's while their albums had major-label distribution in the late 1990s; after ICP returned to releasing records solely on Psychopathic, the brand still had a lot of momentum behind it.
Naming the Juggalo fan base, writing frequent shout-outs and having a logo as iconic as the Hatchetman helped galvanize the fans into a visible, united force. ICP earnestly emphasize they would stick with this relatively underground base rather than ever attempt a move into the mainstream, which has helped to make them appear to be a cause worth aligning with.
When the FBI classified Juggalos as a "loosely organized hybrid gang" in 2011 because of crimes committed by alleged fans, it provided its share of problems. According to Utsler, Spencer's and Hot Topic were among the chains that stopped carrying the group's merchandise because it qualified as gang apparel. Several Juggalos have also complained of alleged harassment from the authorities, and ICP went so far as to file a lawsuit against the FBI in September 2012 to have the gang association formally removed. But on a communal level, this ordeal was great for strengthening the commitment Psychopathic, ICP and Juggalos bring to one another. Being marginalized and mocked just can't hurt these entities because they won't let it happen. -- Reyan Ali
UPDATE: As we said, ICP's show wound up getting canceled on Tuesday afternoon. Refunds are available at the point of purchase.
Kris Kristofferson - Tuesday, October 14 - Celebrity Theatre Rhodes Scholar Kris Kristofferson seemingly has done just about everything. An accomplished student, athlete, helicopter pilot, captain in the U.S. Army, award-winning actor and musician -- apparently, there isn't much the man can't do. Kristofferson has multiple gold records and had albums hit number one on the U.S. country charts in different decades, which is no small feat and a testament to the staying power of his songwriting. His songs have been recorded and performed by some of the most famous names in music: Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Janis Joplin, and Waylon Jennings.
In 1985, Kristofferson joined Willie Nelson, Cash, and Jennings to form The Highwaymen, who were active for about a decade, garnering a platinum record for their efforts on their first album, Highwayman. In recent years, Kristofferson has continued to work in film, but also has been recording albums with acclaimed producer Don Was. His most recent release, Feeling Mortal, is the third such record and will be heavily featured when Kristofferson stops by the Celebrity Theatre for a solo acoustic gig. New and old fans alike should take advantage of this opportunity to see a living legend in an intimate setting. Tom Reardon
David Bazan - Wednesday, October 15 - Crescent Ballroom David Bazan - David Bazan was a pretty cool Christian in 2002. His band, Pedro the Lion (of which Bazan was the sole consistent member) had a string of impressive releases to its name, including 1998's It's Hard to Find a Friend and 2000's Winners Never Quit, plus a couple of singles and EPs. The albums were greeted with enthusiasm by the alternative music press, praising the band's taut "slowcore" indie rock style.
Bazan was lauded as a gifted lyricist, stringing together Biblical morality plays, remarkable human drama, Doubting Thomas confessionals, and haunting devotionals. You didn't have to be a Christian rock fan to like Pedro the Lion; the band recorded for a secular label (Jade Tree) and played with secular bands. But for Christian fans, Bazan was a rare kind of songwriter. He was honest, and he created music that didn't pander. It was resolute, but it wasn't rigid.
But with his 2002 record, Control, Bazan's music got even harder to classify as "Christian rock," if it had ever been before. It wasn't that Bazan's music had previously been "clean" by morality-police standards (his songs included references to both sex and drugs), but Control was something else. It was louder, with Pinkerton-as-played-by Fugazi guitars and booming drums. There were swear words and, cardinally, the record was a scathing indictment of the religious right in the Bush era. Which wasn't exactly Bazan's plan. -- Jason P. Woodbury
To be a hardcore Weezer fan, since about 2005 -- since Make Believe culled the herd -- has been to develop strong opinions about every way an album can fail to be more than the sum of its parts. For hundreds of adults with unofficial Weezer message-board accounts, hearing "Buddy Holly" as a put-upon 14-year-old has led inexorably to multi-page arguments about how important album concepts are, and whether co-writing outside the band is ever acceptable, and whether "Pig" is a really profound song about theodicy or a "Bohemian Rhapsody" knock-off about a rapping farm animal.
I'm one of those adults, and "Pig" is, to be clear, a really profound song about theodicy. But most of these arguments -- the arguments that have sustained Weezer fandom and initiated flame wars for 10 years -- have existed only because Weezer really didn't release an album worth loving (or even really hating) all that time. Weezer has cultivated the perfect fandom environment: An unpredictable genius, a firehose of flawed (but easily remixed) output, a public position that lurches wildly between pleasing the fans (A cruise! A tour on which they play only Pinkerton!) and telling them that they'll get "I'm Your Daddy" and "The Girl Got Hot" and they'll like it. Weezer fandom is like one of those diets where almost starving on a regular basis somehow makes you stronger.
The public position will probably shift again, and the genius will remain unpredictable, and a trickle of long-lost demos will continue to leak from unlikely sources. (There are hundreds of them on tape.) Dr. Luke might even come back, eventually. But with Everything Will Be Alright in the End, Weezer fans finally have gotten the third great album we've wanted all along. And it's hard to know what we're supposed to do about that on a message board. -- Dan Moore
Editor's note: This blog has been updated since its original publication.
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