SZA is scheduled to perform on Monday, May 14, at Ak-Chin Pavilion.
SZA is scheduled to perform on Monday, May 14, at Ak-Chin Pavilion.
Courtesy of RCA Records

The 11 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Week

Kendrick Lamar and SZA fans of the Valley, the week you've been waiting for is here. Both artists will be in town on Monday, May 14, when The Championship Tour, one of this year's most anticipated concerts, hits Ak-Chin Pavilion.

It won't be the only noteworthy show happening that night, as prog rock legend Steve Wilson and indie bands like Born Ruffians, Sofi Tukker, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise all have gigs at Valley venues.

The rest of this week's concert calendar is just as star-studded and includes performances by X Ambassadors, Mushroomhead, The Lighthouse and the Whaler, House of Stairs, and Peter Hook and the Light.

Details about each of these shows can be found below. And for even more music events happening around town this week, check out Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, the artists behind Sofi Tukker.EXPAND
Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, the artists behind Sofi Tukker.
Toma Kostygina

Sofi Tukker
Monday, May 14
Crescent Ballroom

Sofi Tukker's insidiously catchy single "Best Friend" has become a major hit since it was featured in a commercial for the iPhone X. The track reached number one on Billboard's dance chart last month.

The duo behind the song — Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern — often blur the lines between live and recorded sounds during performances. They sing live and play bass and guitar onstage, but the rest of the sounds are programmed, and some sections of their sets are reserved for choreographed dance routines.

"At first, we tried to do everything," Hawley-Weld says, "trying to trigger every beat and play every part. But we realized that's not really the point. There's a performance art and interactive element that also really matters to us: It's bringing the music to life, trying to embody the music through movement, and really focusing on connecting with the people who showed up."

In other words, they care more about shared experiences than wowing with their motor-function skills. Howard Hardee

Admit it: Rainbow Kitten Surprise is the cutest band name ever.EXPAND
Admit it: Rainbow Kitten Surprise is the cutest band name ever.
Emily Quirk

Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Monday, May 14
The Van Buren

Rainbow Kitten Surprise are selling out venues on their current tour, and for a relatively new band, that's a pretty good sign of things to come.

The five-member indie rock band, with likely the cutest name imaginable, come from North Carolina and formed in 2013. By 2015, they went viral on Spotify with the tune "Devil Like Me."

Currently touring in support of their third album, How To: Friend, Love, Freefall, Rainbow Kitten Surprise will swing through The Van Buren. Singer-songwriter Brent Cowles will open the evening, which starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22. Diamond Victoria

The musicians of Born Ruffians.EXPAND
The musicians of Born Ruffians.
Courtesy of Billions

Born Ruffians
Monday, May 14
Valley Bar

In the indie-rock surge of the mid-2000s, Born Ruffians perfectly accented all the possibilities of the genre. Whimsical-yet-curmudgeonly songwriting accompanied yelping vocals to make 2008's Red, Yellow & Blue. The album was an ambitious insight into lead singer Luke Lalonde's fictional utopia, where he still found himself unlucky in love and trapped by neuroses. Their call-and-response choruses have always made for roaring live shows, so don't forget to practice beforehand. Matt Wood

Prog-rock legend and multitalented musician Steven Wilson.EXPAND
Prog-rock legend and multitalented musician Steven Wilson.
Courtesy of Danny Zelisko Presents

Steven Wilson
Monday, May 14
Celebrity Theatre

English-born musician Steven Wilson has been elbowing his rock elders with his sharp, smart, and immaculately conceived solo work throughout his 35-year career.

A self-taught musician, the prog-rock legend's multitude of skills reach into a number of different areas, including producing, audio engineering, and composing. Primarily a guitarist and keyboard player, he's also quite adroit at playing other instruments, including bass guitar, autoharp, hammered dulcimer and flute.

As a solo artist, he has released five albums worth of dynamic and dynamite material, including 2013's The Raven That Refused to Sing (which is based on several Wilson-written short stories in the tradition of Poe) and 2015's Hand. Cannot. Erase.

A terrific band helps make Wilson's brainy art rock sleeker than any of its more obvious influences, which include Yes, Gentle Giant, and King Crimson. While he's primarily known as the founder of Porcupine Tree, Wilson has also been involved with numerous other bands and projects during his epic career, including Altamont, Karma, Bass Communion, Blackfield, Continuum, and Incredible Expanding Mindfuck. Tom Murphy

Kendrick Lamar visits the Valley this week.EXPAND
Kendrick Lamar visits the Valley this week.
Mathew Tucciarone

The Championship Tour
Monday, May 14
Ak Chin Pavilion

The Championship Tour isn’t so much a tour as it is a victory lap for the folks at Top Dawg Entertainment. The L.A. label’s flagship star, Kendrick Lamar, just won a Pulitzer Prize for his multiplatinum 2017 record DAMN.

R&B singer SZA’s Ctrl has made her one of the most talked-about and hyped new artists in her genre, and Lamar’s fellow Black Hippy posse members Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, and Ab-Soul have been dropping fire songs left and right. No wonder TDE is calling a tour putting all these artists together a championship.

Kendrick alone is worth the price of admission. Touring solo last year, his stadium shows used video projections and acrobatic ninja dancers to create a jaw-dropping spectacle. And while Kung-Fu Kenny is definitely the star attraction of this 2018 tour, it’s a testament to how stacked the TDE roster is that rappers like Schoolboy could give him a run for his money.

Considering how often the Top Dawg artists collaborate together on record, it’s a strong possibility that we’ll see them guesting on each other’s songs throughout the night. So if you’ve ever wanted to see Q and Kenny spit on “Collard Greens,” this is your night. Ashley Naftule

Sam Harris, Casey Harris, and Adam Levin of X Ambassadors.EXPAND
Sam Harris, Casey Harris, and Adam Levin of X Ambassadors.
Courtesy of Ticketmaster

X Ambassadors
Tuesday, May 15
The Van Buren

A young band, plagued by small club numbers and a lack of radio play, claws and fights their way to some modicum of success. The reason this sounds cliché is because it's a reality for thousands.

Even after years of working on side projects in addition to their main band, the members of X Ambassadors were still nearly destitute — and that was after signing with Interscope Records, thanks to a chance discovery by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds.

The quartet finally found success with the release of their major label debut LP, VHS, and in particular with the platinum-selling single, "Renegades," which was released in spring 2015 and had a commercial tie-in with the Jeep Renegade. (Yes, the one that was played almost hourly.)

Since then, the four-piece — brothers Sam (vocals) and Casey (keyboards) Harris, guitarist Noah Feldshuh, and drummer Adam Levin — have been busy steadily touring and sharing their brand of indie, which combines the energy of punk, the harmonies of R&B and soul, and the swagger of hip-hop. On Tuesday, May 15, they'll perform for the first time at The Van Buren in downtown Phoenix. Shaed and Jacob Banks will open. Angel Melendez

Mushroomhead in concert in 2013.EXPAND
Mushroomhead in concert in 2013.
Luis Blanco/CC BY 2.0/via Flickr

Mushroomhead
Tuesday, May 15
Club Red in Mesa

Mushroomhead are rarely mentioned in the mainstream music media, and if they are mentioned, it's usually because they're being compared to Slipknot. Not that the comparisons don't make sense: Both bands are similar-sounding seven-piece groups in creepy masks. Except Mushroomhead have been around since 1993 (Slipknot was formed in '95), and their sound is closer to a fusion of Slipknot, Disturbed, and whatever Jeffrey Dahmer probably listened to in his apartment.

Originally a side project for several Cleveland-area musicians, Mushroomhead were playing in front of 2,000 people alongside GWAR by the time they had booked a second show. The band combines industrial metal, hip-hop, goth, and punk. This week, they’ll invade Club Red in Mesa on their current tour. Vyces, Gabriel and the Apocalypse, Ventana, Align the Tide, and Ironkill will open. Lauren Wise

Get lost with House of Stairs.
Get lost with House of Stairs.
Julius Schlosburg

House of Stairs
Tuesday, May 15
The Lost Leaf

Phoenix’s jazzy House of Stairs cite Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher — known for a mathematical style of design — as an influence. But they aren’t trying to emulate Escher’s visual aesthetic through asymmetrical haircuts or black-and-white outfits. Instead, they use his calculated style as an inspiration for their songs (and their name).

That approach helps House of Stairs deliver a unique twist on soulful jazz. By playing with the vocals and strategically layering them, they inject their music with a futuristic vibe. It’s hard not to be immediately sold when you hear Holly Pyle’s powerful voice. It has so much age and wisdom in it, you might guess she was bred in a jazz lab.

But beyond the frontwoman are a band that thoughtfully create a sonic landscape full of unexpected edges and corners that flow so smoothly they feel soft and winding.

This show at The Lost Leaf is a chance to enjoy them in an intimate setting, soaking up the sounds and enjoying the way they play with space, time, and rhythms. Amy Young

Christopher performs with the rest of the Kabarett ensemble at Crescent Ballroom.EXPAND
Christopher performs with the rest of the Kabarett ensemble at Crescent Ballroom.
Melissa Fossum

Kabarett: A Strange Show For Strange Times
Wednesday, May 16
Crescent Ballroom

When you see Kanye West’s mad ramblings about slavery being discussed on CNN, there is no doubt that we are in some very strange times. This day and age we are constantly urged to ask, “Is this real life?”

If only there was a musical and visual show that matched the tone of the world today. Oh wait, there is — Kabarett: A Strange Show For Strange Times. On Wednesday, May 16, Crescent Ballroom will put on a very peculiar evening of sight and sound. All of the music has been selected and arranged by Christopher Norby and will be performed by a group of Phoenix artists, including Rocco Belsito, Henri Benard, Corey Gomez, Megyn Neff, Monique Reina, and Kristilyn Woods

The free show starts at 8 p.m. For more information, visit the Facebook event page. Lindsay Roberts

The Lighthouse and the Whaler will sail into Phoenix this weekend.
The Lighthouse and the Whaler will sail into Phoenix this weekend.
Courtesy of Ticketfly

The Lighthouse and the Whaler
Thursday, May 17
The Rebel Lounge

Driving drums are the motor that keeps indie rock band The Lighthouse and the Whaler pushing relentlessly forward. Indie drummers are either subtle and unnoticeable or borderline show-stealing, and TLTW falls in the second category. Skyscraper synthesizer parts are the backdrop for the beating percussive force, and although the parts are complicated, they never quite overwhelm the rest of the band.

This week, The Lighthouse and the Whaler pay a visit to The Rebel Lounge as a part of their current tour. Vita and the Woolf and Wild Earth will open. The show starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are $12-$15. Matt Wood

Peter Hook pays tribute to Joy Division and New Order with his touring show.
Peter Hook pays tribute to Joy Division and New Order with his touring show.
Steven Baker

Peter Hook and the Light
Thursday, May 17
The Van Buren

Peter Hook, the bass player for Joy Division and New Order, is touring with his band, the Light, to perform albums from both of his previous acts. He's done this sort of tour before; this time he will be playing from the two Substance albums: that of New Order from 1987 and the Joy Division edition released in 1988. Both albums are collections of singles that never quite worked on other albums. Both, in some ways, exemplify and even helped to define '80s music.

Substanceis New Order's best-selling record to date, with three million units sold in the U.S. and more than 10 million worldwide. The project was cooked up by Tony Wilson, the head of Factory Records, who bought a new car in 1987 with a stereo that played CDs; he wanted to listen to all of New Order's singles while driving. The band, which wasn't precious about their back catalog at the time, agreed to release an unconventional greatest-hits record comprising singles the outfit had never included on a full-length.

With the massive success of New Order's Substance and the band's subsequent world tour, Wilson's Factory put out the Joy Division edition of Substance in 1988 with the same concept in mind. Both albums remain genre- and era-defining works in the post-punk canon.

For Hook, performing all of the songs back to back is a challenging exercise in positive nostalgia. Playing the songs with the Light and writing his 2017 book about New Order, also called Substance, has helped Hook heal from some of the rupture that occurred between himself and the other members of New Order and Joy Division. Tom Murphy

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