On any given weeknight in Phoenix, at least one band covers Eric Clapton's "Crossroads" (probably without giving ASCAP a dime). The song is a blues-rock masterpiece, adaptable to the widest range of skill levels, and well known and catchy enough to please even the most mainstream of tastes.
And they were brilliant. The level of musicianship was astounding. It was a simple combo, just a keyboard, bass, drum set, and guitar. They had a temporary drummer sitting in with them, not like it mattered -- get four highly skilled jazz players together and they'll sound like they've been a group four decades. Every player was listening and tossing ideas off everyone else, having fun and making it look easy. Guitarist Mike Gallaher might be the best all-around picker I've ever seen in Phoenix. He's the type of talent that makes you never want to pick up a guitar again, that or woodshed scales for four hours a day until you can approach the things he makes look easy on guitar. Hell, after watching this video of him demoing a guitar in every musical style imaginable, I'd put him up against any top studio guitarist in the country.
All in all, when the band played "Crossroads" Tuesday night, it catapulted to the front of the pack. Step your game up, Phoenix bands. The bar for covering blues rock standards is now extremely high, and you're going to have to work on your jumping game to even come close.
Here are our concert picks for this week. Be sure to check out our comprehensive concert calendar for more options.
Formed all the way back in 2012, Bad Suns is another stylish, dance-friendly act jockeying for whatever fans haven't yet been gobbled up by Imagine Dragons; perhaps they're just positioning themselves as potential openers for the "Radioactive" pacesetters' upcoming arena tour. Either way, the Southern California quartet folds '80s synth-pop into Phoenix-style alt-rock the way a skilled pastry chef would whip up a tray of delicious petits fours, and quickly found a receptive radio audience with candy-coated singles such as "Salt" and "Cardiac Arrest." With Coasts, Maudlin Strangers. CHRIS GRAY
Think one-man band: cymbals on the elbows, drum on the back, horns under the arms, and tambourines on the knees creating a cacophony of sound designed to annoy passersby. Now, try to envision That 1 Guy, a.k.a. Mike Silverman, as he takes the one-man band concept to a whole new level with the wide-ranging sounds created on his homemade Magic Pipe.
In fact, this 1 Guy sounds like a handful as he drifts through prog-rock overtures, funk dance grooves, avant-classical passages, and mind-melting free jazz expressionism. Though Silverman does have structured songs, his background practically dictates a need for improvisation and "going off on sonic adventures." GLENN BURNSILVER
Clearly, the focus of this festival isn't music-related. But the America Loves Bacon Festival, which is stopping in Chandler Saturday night, features everyone's favorite pork product (which is awesome in itself) but also features some great entertainment, including celebrity chefs, comedy, vendors, contests, and a pretty damn solid lineup of local and touring bands. Performing at the festival will be Jared & The Mill, The Black Moods, Blackkiss, Rhea Markiaris, Rick Elliot and the Secondhand Smoke Band, Adam Esrick, and Carol Pacey and the Honey Shakers. A few comedians will perform, and oh yeah -- a whole boatload of chefs and food trucks will be there, peddling their bacon-flavored wares. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $70 for for VIP tickets, and $2 for a sample ticket. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Acclaimed jazz bassist Charnett Moffett has performed with a who's who of jazz artists while also leading his own cutting-edge ensembles. His latest venture: The Nettwork Trio, any combo of musicians Moffett feels can best explore the divergent aspects of a career that has lasted more than three decades. The current incantation includes guitarist Stanley Jordan and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, past Moffett collaborators "ideally suited" to bring his music alive in a fresh context. On guitar, Jordan remains inspired as much by Jimi Hendrix as Grant Green, offering an unparalleled drive and improvisational approach to performance. His unique style, which approaches the fretboard in an over-the-top fashion, is more reminiscent of playing a piano. It works, and his Grammy-covered mantel proves it. Plenty of good jazz drummers exist; Watts is a stratospheric jazz drummer operating with deft insight and anticipation, a master of the open spaces as well as lightning fills and complex rhythmic structures. Watts, who cut his chops with the Marsalis clan, mixes just the right level of funky grit with finesse. Simply explained, here's a jazz supergroup where anything goes. "There's plenty of room for improvisation," Moffett concurs. "Songs will take on new meaning." GLENN BURNSILVER
It's hard to pin down Watermelon Slim, a.k.a. Bill Homans. Sometimes he comes off like the most maniacal backwoods-blues weirdo since Hasil Adkins kicked the Campbell's soup can; other times he's as straight and studious as the degrees in history hanging on his wall; sometimes he's the best southpaw, slide-resophonic guitarist you've ever heard. Whatever the case, Slim's an American original, someone who learned his politics from a stint in a Vietnam rather than from a book and who takes his growl and drawl from the North Carolina working class. He gets down to business with a sound that heaves and hollers like a Teamster brawl on a picket line stretching from the Delta to Chicago -- and all blues points in between. ROY KASTEN
Eighteen years young, Ali Tomineek has managed to carve out quite the niche in the online world. Starting at the tender age of 14, the aspiring rapper has managed to amass upwards of 88,000 subscribers to his YouTube page with his clever and playful raps. His format of simply setting up a camera and rapping has melted the hearts of many; one of his first videos, "14 Year Old Black Kid Raps Fast!!!," sits on a throne of 3 million views on the video-sharing site. His cover of Eminem's "Rap God" (yes, the rare hip-hop cover) has almost 300,000 views. With the sky as his limit, it looks as if Tomineek seeks to expand his horizons, perhaps moving beyond the digital world and into the real one. He recently released a single, "Speed," featuring a rapid-fire flow over a trap-style beat. The video already has garnered several thousand views in only two weeks, and it seems there are many who are waiting to see what the young man is truly capable of. The concert at the Pressroom is a benefit for Andy Moss and will feature Kyle and LV Sharp. JARON IKNER
The Suffers have one of the best stage shows around because there's so much to look at: cucumber-cool keyboardist and bandleader Pat Kelly; steady-rollin' drummer Nick Zamora; guitarists Kevin Bernier and Alex Zamora; bassist Adam Castaneda; a three-man horn section doing that old JBs side-to-side; "Chapy" Luna going to town on all manner of percussion -- congos, timbales, bongos and more -- and of course Kam Franklin up front, a singer whose voice is as bodacious as her Afro. The band usually has so much going on onstage at any given time, they're as fun to watch as their intoxicating Island-flavored stew of reggae, rocksteady, ska, R&B and a whole lotta Gulf Coast soul. And even still, the Suffers' stage show is not even kind of close to the action they create on the dance floor.
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Jason Kron, the one-man beat virtuoso behind Hug of War, dresses like a mad scientist, and he's as ambitious as a benevolent Dr. Strangelove. "I'm putting all of my creative energy into making music that will unite the world and usher in a new era of enlightenment," Kron says. Hug of War's imminent takeover comes in the form of Emancipate Your Ears! 5000 Years of Global Music Domination Exposed!!, the enterprising name of Kron's upcoming EP through his label Oo-Mox Industries (meaning 'Ferengi ear foreplay' for non-Trekkies). With tongue-in-cheek dance-centric subject matter like "Down With Parents" and "At Least We'll Be in Hell Together," Hug of War falls closest to the goofy-rap genre, but Kron wants to distance himself from labels. "I have a need to tell stories and express my views in a playful but earnest way, and I wanted to combine that with my love of the sound and visual aesthetic of '80s rap," Kron says. Emancipate Your Ears! will be released at the Trunk Space show with Terror Pigeon (Austin-based electro-dance-party music) and Calliope Musicals (Nashville-based fun folk), which puts Hug of War in pretty decent company. TROY FARAH