Welcome to the dog days of summer, y'all: the time of year that many of us dread when it’s hot as heck outside, there’s still a couple of months until we get relief, and there’s little you can do about it (other than staying cool).
Here’s some good news: The music scene here in the Valley is still chugging along, and there are plenty of shows worth seeing. And this week, that includes one of the biggest concerts of the year.
More specifically, the kickoff of Kendrick Lamar’s 17-city tour, which just happens to be taking place on Wednesday, July 12, at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
Many other shows are scheduled to take place over the next four nights at local venues both big and small, all of which you can find in our online concert calendar. In the meantime, here are our picks for the nine best shows in Phoenix this week.
Eagle Rock Gospel Singers
Monday, July 10
Musical Instrument Museum
From way down yonder come the Eagle Rock Gospel Singers, a musical combo well-named because that is exactly where they live, what they preach, and most decidedly what they do. The band got its start in 2010 when a bunch of American roots-music enthusiasts began holding hoedowns at their pad in the L.A.’s Eagle Rock neighborhood, at which like-minded roots-heads gathered to hang out and sing songs cut from the cloth of the old-timey gospel and Appalachian folk-country traditions. “We were covering stuff by artists who were doing it in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s,” says drummer-singer Will Wadsworth. “The stuff that resonated with us was coming from people who were singing out of a place of desperation, sometimes heartache, sometimes complete joy.” Experiencing their own genuinely heartfelt connection to the music, a few of the Eagle Rock hoedowners formed a performing and recording band whose current lineup comprises Wadsworth, guitarist Jeremy Horton, Jeff Murray on the bass and vocalists Kim Garcia and Alissa Bird, all of whom supply both solo and harmony singing. The band’s 2015 debut album, Heavenly Fire, is a rip-roaring, soaring batch of rootsy-flavored originals written by the band’s individual members, who took their songwriting cues from the greatest and most venerable of American trad musical genres. Even better, the group sung their songs standing horseshoe-style around the mic — for extra churchy effect. John Payne
Joe King Carrasco
Monday, July 10
Part Doug Sahm, part Jimmy Buffett, part Elvis Costello, Joe “King” Carrasco is a missing link between the Vox-powered classic San Antonio sound of the mid-'60s and the retro-kitsch aesthetic of New Wave bands like the B-52's. The common denominator is Carrasco's gleeful command of the stage, something that has long since earned him the regal honorific “king of Tex-Mex rock and roll” and made him one of MTV's very first on-air stars. Strange, then, that his name seldom seems to come up in the conversation about authentic living legends of Texas music, a number that dwindles more all the time. (Maybe that conversation is difficult to hear down at the beach, what with all the pounding waves and all.) Be that as it may, Carrasco is a long way from finished, releasing 2013's typically eclectic and freewheeling LP Tlaquepaque and 2015's Chiliando as timely reminders that the next party weekend is never very far away. Chris Gray
House of Stairs
Tuesday, July 11
House of Stairs’ grooves are jazzy and soulful, and improvisation is central to their performance, which has earned them a reputation as a “jazz” band. For what it’s worth, their music is often featured on local jazz station KJZZ, but their sound is closer to the ambient textures of Kid A-era Radiohead, while singer Holly Pyle’s vocals most evoke Beth Gibbons of Portishead. The disparity in sound has led to somewhat of an identity crisis. “Basically, jazz listeners don’t think we’re a jazz band,” Pyle says. “And non-jazz listeners think we’re a jazz band.” Whatever category they fit into, or don’t, House of Stairs have unique instrumentation. Not many jazz bands – or few bands in general – add in digital drums or live-mixed vocal loops over low-tempo poly-rhythmic riffs. And like any decent jazz band, they can do a mean cover. Similar to the M.C. Escher lithograph the group takes its name from, House of Stairs often takes two-dimensional pop songs like Beyoncé’s “Déjà Vu” and Thom Yorke’s “Eraser” and stacks them on top of each other to create illusionary new tunes. Troy Farah
Tuesday, July 11
Club Red in Mesa
B.o.B is a rapper from Atlanta. In terms of that city's rap power rankings, he's probably somewhere near Cash Out but nowhere above Young Dro. This, given his career trajectory as early as 2012, is fascinating. He became popular for making songs Lupe Fiasco didn’t want into hits with “Nothing On You” and “Airplanes” in 2010, to a lesser extent with “Strange Clouds” and “So Good” in 2012, and then went with more sensible subject matter on “We Still In This Bitch” and “HeadBand” in 2013. In recent years, B.o.B has overtaken Fiasco as the most woke and hotep of all rap bodies on Twitter. If Prodigy of Mobb Deep was among the first to rap about the Illuminati, then B.o.B has to be the first to involve the world's most noted astrophysicist in a rap beef. Over what, you ask? Whether or not the Earth is flat. Yes, plenty of people still question this – and B.o.B is one of them. He came to his conclusion while on an airplane, presumably high, and then decided to go deeper and deeper into his theory. To further back his claims, B.o.B released a diss record in 2016 aimed at Neil DeGrasse Tyson, just to prove his theory and that all of us people who don’t believe we’re revolving on a plate are stupid. Tyson struck back with a track of his own and even put the rapper on blast with a scorching mic drop on late-night cable TV. The feud’s died down since then, but B.o.B’s performance career certainly hasn’t. This week, he’ll visit at Club Red in Mesa on his current tour. Brandon Caldwell
Wednesday, July 12
Asked what guitarist influenced him most, Duke Robillard doesn't hesitate: "T-Bone Walker." Some of the first licks Robillard learned were from 78s of T-Bone classics like "Stormy Monday." With a fanatical zeal, he began learning Walker tunes and playing his guitar flat and horizontal, T-Bone's most recognizable performance quirk. During his years with Roomful of Blues, the Rhode Island-based band he founded in 1967, Robillard habitually slipped T-Bone tunes like "Viola Lee Blues" into his sets. Finally, Duke decided it was time to take the plunge and go out and get a vintage, hollow-body, Gibson ES-5, the same guitar that T-Bone used. Soon, that guitar also became one of Robillard's more recognizable accouterments. Like most guitar masters, Robillard has bought and sold a lot of guitars. One of his most famous guitars was a cheapo Belltone he bought at swap meet for $7. But he never parted with his ES-5. Over time, it became a valuable part of his two most famous blues-rock projects, the Duke Robillard Band and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Robert Baird
Wednesday, July 12
Gila River Arena in Glendale
Not every superstar bounces back from a platinum success like To Pimp a Butterfly so quickly. Other rappers start counting their bars and getting stingy with their verses; other artists bog down in the quicksand of gravitas. But “Humble,” the first single from Kendrick Lamar’s new album DAMN., is a brag-packed instant classic, a costume jewel in the paper crown of summer, built for car speakers and block parties. The rest of the album continues his whirlwind travelogue through inner and outer consciousness, set against a montage of top-of-the-line arrangements, alternately jazz-crowded and icily minimalist, ready for headphones and festivals alike. In mid-July, Lamar will kick off his 17-city tour in support of DAMN. right here in the Valley with a performance at Gila River Arena in Glendale. Tex Kerschen
Night of Neuralgia #11 feat. Echo Beds
Wednesday, July 12
Take a contact mic and one or more of the following: water bottle, stacked cymbals, detached hood of a car, a sheet of metal, floor tom, chains, bricks, file cabinet — any item that can make a sharp, clattering sound — and process or amplify the sounds these items make together, and you'll get a bit of the confrontational and eruptive sounds that Denver-based industrial/avant-garde act Echo Beds uses in all of its sets. The duo of Keith Curts and Tom Nelson is to noise or the avant-garde now what Suicide was to the New York underground scene in the 1970s. These are not percussive sounds and textures for the sake of a cheap startle; they work in the context of unconventional songs and compositions. With its distinctive approach to rhythm, Echo Beds is effectively creating a new industrial music to reflect the harsh realities of the current era. On Wednesday, July 12, they’ll headline the latest Night of Neuralgia event at the Trunk Space, which will also feature Xiuhcoatl, Skymall, and Depressive. Tom Murphy
Thursday, July 13
Marquee Theatre in Tempe
While the great majority of P.O.D.'s contemporaries in the ill-conceived nu-metal/rap-rock movement of the mid- to late '90s — chagrin-inducing outfits like Limp Bizkit, a skeleton in oh-so-many closets — have become fossilized relics, P.O.D. (shorthand for its full name, Payable on Death) has outlasted them all. And while it hasn't thrived, necessarily, the San Diego-based act has certainly endured. This is largely thanks to the fact that, much like it did for kindred acts Rage Against the Machine and Downset, the fusion of metal and hip-hop always seemed organic rather than contrived for P.O.D. What's more, the quartet wisely eschewed the hedonism that fueled a lot of that era's music; as a result, P.O.D.'s songs have always displayed a depth and earnestness that evaded those other bands, who seemed capable of conveying only anger or lust. This week, they hit the Marquee Theatre in Tempe with Alien Ant Farm, Powerflo, As Thick As Thieves, and Dawn Awaits. Dave Herrera
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Thursday, July 13
The Rebel Lounge
The fact that this band is successful or even exists is a complete fluke. Somewhat of a supergroup, Mutoid Man formed as a side project, officially, with 2013 EP Helium Head, and has been kicking out high-energy, heavy rock tunes ever since. Ben Koller (Killer Be Killed, Converge, All Pigs Must Die) is one of the finest metal drummers in the scene today; frontman Stephen Brodsky (Converge, Kid Kilowatt) somehow balances several bands and solo endeavors the way his guitar work dances between serious technicality and explosive riffage; and bassist Nick Cageao, FOH sound engineer at famed Brooklyn metal club St. Vitus, balances the overall sound (excuse the pun). With lyrics that barely make sense and a voice whose serrated edges betray his sunny onstage disposition, Brodsky might be hustling his audience — there’s a solid, melodic vocalist in there pretending to be an angry metalhead. Kristy Loye