9 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend
Demi Lovato dives into the Valley this weekend.
Yu Tsai/Hollywood Records
Up for seeing a great concert this weekend? If so, we’ve got a few suggestions for y’all.
As a matter of fact, we’ve got nine of ‘em, which include shows from a wide variety of genres, from the gleeful pop stylings of Demi Lovato and the hip-hop of Post Malone to the emotive indie music of Cass McCombs and the down-home sounds of newgrass king Sam Bush. There are also much anticipated gigs by hometown heroes Jared & The Mill, who will have a release party for their new album at Livewire in Scottsdale on Saturday, and the long-awaited gig by the much-ballyhooed supergroup Prophets of Rage, which features three-fourths of Rage Against the Machine plus Chuck D. and B. Real.
If you need event more options, be sure to check out our extensive live music listings. In the meantime, here are the nine best concerts to check out this weekend in Phoenix.
Post Malone – Friday, September 16 – Marquee Theatre
Hip-hop artist and guitarist Post Malone has proven to be eclectic in his tastes. Last year, video that predated his breakthrough hit "White Iverson" surfaced of him playing a straight-ahead cover of Bob Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe." And back in April, he made a surprise appearance at Coachella, where he performed a cover of Nirvana's "Lithium," even playing the guitar himself. "Man, it was the most fun ever," he says, drawling out his syllables. "I actually learned [the song] the day before."
Malone has had several new projects drop this year. Aside from a mixtape that he says is ready to be mixed and mastered, he's also planning on dropping his first full-length towards the end of the year. "It's going to be super, super dope," he says. "People will get a taste of what I'm about." He mentions "cool features and producers," but won't give away any hints about who. "It's got a lot of cool stuff, that's all I can say." One thing is for sure, though: While Malone is eager to branch out and crystallize the "Posty sound," he isn't likely to stray too far from what he's already done — or let the prospect of success change him. "I'm a pretty happy guy. I'm just trying to make music everybody can get happy to and vibe to and turn up to," Malone says. "So long as I keep making good music, everything's going to be okay." JEFF GAGE
Demi Lovato & Nick Jonas – Friday, September 16 – Talking Stick Resort Arena
Formerly a pair of Disney Channel standouts, Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas have evolved into pop stars. (As is tradition.) Lovato’s fifth studio album, Confident, is nearly a year old now, and the lead single from Jonas’s third solo outing – “Close” – is still topping radio charts. Both artists are in the process of distancing themselves from their bubblegum pasts and making the case for relevancy in the music world. So it makes plenty of sense for them to combine forces on the Future Now tour, which comes to Talking Stick Resort Arena on Friday. After all, they have been supporting each other’s music since back in 2008, when Lovato opened for the Jonas Brothers' Burning Up tour. Jonas will perform first and is likely to race through a handful of radio hits and one hilariously endearing track about choosing bacon over a formal relationship. But it will be Lovato’s arrival that will probably stoke the crowd into a frenzy. MATTHEW KEEVER
Swans in concert.
Swans – Friday, September 16 – Crescent Ballroom
Confrontation is at the heart of every element of Swans, the New York-based band known for pummeling its audience with decibel levels just shy of jet airplanes and fan boats. Leader Michael Gira likes it best when his art is somewhere between a punch in the face and a boot to the gut, as long as there is a wall of reverb-laden noise providing the soundtrack. The 62-year-old frontman and guitar punisher started Swans in 1982, and put out several classic albums in the mid-'80s, with Cop (1984) and Greed (1986) being the standout albums from that period. Gira has been the focus of several points of controversy over years, including a February 2016 rape allegation from Young Gods (Gira’s label) recording artist Larkin Grimm. Gira refuted the claim, though he did refer to the incident as an “awkward mistake” in his public response to Grimm’s accusation. The incident did not result in a criminal charge being filed, and quite honestly, if Gira is angry about the negative press, one would never know it, as his public persona rarely wavers from his stoic, man-on-a-mission demeanor.
This year has also seen the release of one of the best, and possibly final Swans albums, The Glowing Man. Gira and his bandmates, including Norman Westberg (longtime Swans lead guitar player), have put together a record that is nothing short of majestic, while maintaining the power of previous Swans releases. If this really is the last Swans record, the band will have gone out on top, and maybe, at the top of their game. Not every band can pull off a 25-minute song, but The Glowing Man’s second track, “Cloud of Unknowing,” is typical Gira-led catharsis. One-riff drone fests are not for everyone, but once Swans reel you in, you’re hooked, and “Cloud of Unknowing” is not even the longest track on the album. The album’s title track is something Swans fans are going to want to witness live, as it encapsulates everything that is (and maybe, was) great about Swans into one track. Gira chants, babbles some gibberish, yells, and pleads with the listener while guiding the band through atmospheric noise and driving riffs meant to flex spiritual muscles. Over the years, Swans have evolved from the loudest, most punishing band on the planet to a complex, yet delicate ecosystem of sound. They are capable of glacier-like movement and, when you least expect it, a cataclysm of magnificent proportion. TOM REARDON
Sam Bush – Friday, September 16 – Musical Instrument Museum
If a bluegrass event happens and mandolin maestro Sam Bush isn't on the bill, did bluegrass really happen there? To be clear, there are plenty of worthy bluegrass acts to round out a solid lineup, but it's tough to imagine a festival feeling and sounding complete without the man many point to as an originator of the "newgrass" style. Since teaming up with Bela Fleck, John Cowan, and others in the progressive New Grass Revival, Bush has resided at the top of any respectable roots marquee.
In March of 2010, Sam Bush was granted the title "Father of Newgrass" by the Kentucky state government. That's kind of a big deal. And how does he define newgrass? “Contemporary music played with traditional bluegrass instruments,” Bush says. “We write our own tunes, which are much different that the ones that were written in the '40s and '50s. There's different subject matter to deal with now, and newgrass is also influenced by rock, country, jazz, and even reggae.” Bush is as revered and accomplished a player as can be found in music where "grass" is in its title. Whether it's traditional bluegrass, newgrass, or the more amped-up mutations of acoustic music, Bush has done just about it all, and he's done it as well as just about anyone. KELLY DEARMORE
Feeling the music at last year's Mad Decent Block Party in Phoenix.
Mad Decent Block Party – Friday, September 16, and Saturday, September 17 – Rawhide
There are many reasons to look forward to this time of year: the weather’s nicer, the days are shorter, and both the nightlife and music scenes tend to get livelier as big-name concert and festival tours roll into the Valley. That includes the annual Mad Decent Block Party, one of more popular and high profile electronic dance music events in the world. This touring spectacle – which showcases tastemaking DJs, artists, and producers associated with the iconic Mad Decent label – lights up more than a dozen cities across the country. And when it’s landed in the Valley the last two years, it's brought thousands of EDM fans to Rawhide in Chandler, for one of the biggest and most colorful ragers of the year with a blockbuster lineup curated by Mad Decent founder Diplo.
Such is likely to be the case when the Block Party returns to Rawhide this weekend, albeit with a few changes; namely, the fact that this year’s event will take place over two nights with twice as many artists in the lineup. The weekend-long experience kicks of on Friday, September 16, with performances by Diplo himself, as well as Brillz, Diplo, FKI IST, Jackal, RL Grime, Snakehips, Tchami, and What So Not. The following evening on Saturday, September 17, will be just as action-packed and will include gigs by Baauer, Dada Life, Flosstradamus, Grandtheft, Justin Martin, Le Youth, and Lil Dicky. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Prophets of Rage
Prophets of Rage – Saturday, September 17 – Ak-Chin Pavilion
Prophets of Rage is a conundrum. The supergroup features the rhythm section of Rage Against The Machine plus Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Cypress Hill’s B-Real. Rage was an enigma back in its heyday, when the band and frontman Zack De La Rocha somehow brought songs about Mumia Abu Jamal and imperialism to frat houses everywhere. Chuck D has made politically radical hip-hop his entire career; among his finest moments was telling the country that Elvis was racist and filming a music video in which he subtly advocated for the assassination of Arizona’s then-governor Evan Mecham. Both bands deserve credit for bringing lefty ideas out of academia and onto the radio, but Prophets of Rage is another matter.
Ostensibly formed to protest Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the idea of the supergroup begs the question — is rap-rock the medium through which to fight the power? The band has only released one and a half original songs, and seems to have an unofficial expiration date of Tuesday, November 8, so further original material seems unlikely. At concerts, the band essentially just plays Rage, Cypress Hill, and Public Enemy covers, the latter two played above signature Tom Morello riffs, Renegades of Funk-style. It’s tempting to dismiss this arena tour the band is on as a phony money-grab. But then you listen to “The Party’s Over,” the one original song in the band’s catalog, and you hear conscious raps followed by lefty mantras screamed to death at the end of the song, and you can’t help but wonder what a full-length album would entail. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Cass McCombs – Saturday, September 17 – Valley Bar
Cass McCombs has long been known for his oddities. Though he released a few albums before it, his breakout album, 2009's Catacombs introduced the shadowy, winding craft that the singer/songwriter would quickly be known for. Unafraid to play with structure and tone, his 2013 record, Big Wheel and Others, is shot through with the musings of a drug-addled 4-year-old who appears in a 1969 documentary about San Francisco's hippie enclave in Haight-Ashbury. But when the track skips back to Cass, he's all freewheeling guitarist questioning the universe, and despite this role's seeming romance, McCombs makes it grim. Expect densely layered songs that dip their toes in jazz, folk, and rock, and expect their author to reserve the right to take poetic license at any moment. CAITLIN WHITE
David Hinds and Selwyn Brown of Steel Pulse.
Courtesy of Livewire
Steel Pulse – Sunday, September 18 – Livewire
One of the longest-running roots reggae bands around, Steel Pulse now boasts a list of former members as twice as long as that of its current lineup. Only two of its current players have appeared on all 11 of the band's studio albums: keyboardist and backing vocalist Selwyn Brown, and lead guitarist and vocalist David Hinds. That's been enough, though, to hold up the band's strong musical and lyrical backbone. At its inception in the mid-'70s, the band of Jamaican expats in Northern England caught wind of the musical current coming from the island: ever-slowing tempos and ever-more direct lyrics about spirituality and social unrest. At the beginning, Steel Pulse was a fairly radical act for the U.K., espousing Rastafarianism, joining the Rock Against Racism movement early on, and touring with punk bands like the Stranglers. But where their peers later descended into tirades of fire and brimstone, Steel Pulse has always kept things musical enough to preach with relative subtlety. ARIELLE CASTILLO
Tom Rush – Sunday, September 18 – Musical Instrument Museum
Tom Rush emerged from the midcentury American folk revival, but he can rock like rock 'n' roll oughta rock, roaring on Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Holly standards. His hallmark blue-noted and growling baritone is also a natural for ballads and, displaying an uncanny ear for songwriters, he was among the first to record early masterpieces by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, and Jackson Browne. His occasional originals have become classics as well (the haunting “No Regrets,” for example). He’s a working road warrior, and his live performance of “The Remember Song,” Steven Walters’ hysterical ode to the challenges of technology on the aging, has racked up 7 million views on YouTube. Rush is one of those cats: a singer’s singer, a guitarist’s guitarist, a songwriter’s dream and, in person and solo this weekend at the Musical Instrument Museum, a superlative delivery man of cathartic fun. MICHAEL SIMMONS
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