The 10 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

DJ Defense.Mekanizm is scheduled to perform on Friday, May 13, at the latest Cupcake! dance party at The Rogue Bar in Scottsdale.
DJ Defense.Mekanizm is scheduled to perform on Friday, May 13, at the latest Cupcake! dance party at The Rogue Bar in Scottsdale.
Jim Louvau

If hip-hop or heavy-duty death metal happens to be your bag, this weekend offers you a few different opportunities to indulge your love of said genres.

Fans of the former, for example, can check out Young Thug’s show on Saturday at the Marquee Theatre, or either Vince Staples’ gig at the Crescent on Friday or Aesop Rock's concert at the same venue on Sunday. Meanwhile, hardcore heshers can head for Mesa for the two-day Arizona Brutal Fest and Mind’s Eye or up to Joe’s Grotto for the Metal Alliance Tour on Sunday.

There’s other big shows this weekend, of course, including the chance to see what might be Motion City Soundtrack’s last-ever concert in the Valley, listen to jazz songstress Cécile McLorin Salvant, or party with the freaks and geeks of Cupcake! at the Rogue Bar. (Our extensive Phoenix concert calendar offers many more options.)

Gifted jazz songstress Cécile McLorin Salvant.EXPAND
Gifted jazz songstress Cécile McLorin Salvant.
Courtesy photo

Cécile McLorin Salvant  Friday, May 13 – The Nash

Jazz is certainly not a headline-grabbing genre these days. Few are the artists that crossover into the mainstream, and that term as it applies to jazz usually just means All Things Considered listeners. Cécile Salvant bucked that norm last year, though, when her album For One to Love attracted loads of attention from the non-jazz press. The 26-year-old is certainly having a moment in the jazz world. The album doesn’t just display her wonderful voice, which can beckon, celebrate, or criticize at any given turn.

It’s also an excavation of the gender politics from the era which jazz is rooted and which sprouted many of the covers present on the album — see “Stepsister’s Lament” from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Cinderella, in which Salvant croons, “Why would a fellow want a girl like her, a frail and fluffy beauty?” But it’s her cover of the Burt Bacharach song “Wives and Lovers” that has attracted the most attention. The song’s outlandishly sexist lyrics instruct women on how to keep their husbands happy (“wives should be lovers, too / run to his arms the moment he comes home to you”). The song manages to be both beautiful and eerie, and it’s impossible to listen to the song without having a hundred thoughts about gender roles skipping through your head. It’s an uncomfortable yet wholly satisfying listen. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

Hip-hop artist Vince Staples visits the Crescent this weekend.
Hip-hop artist Vince Staples visits the Crescent this weekend.
Meredith Truax

Vince Staples  Friday, May 13  Crescent Ballroom

Vince Staples is one of the most exciting rappers in the game today, and all you have to do is listen to his 2015 album, Summertime ’06, to find out why. The album mixes simple, conversational lyrics over murky, opaque beats that recall early RZA while being distinctly modern. For those annoyed with the sudden explosion of trap beats across the hip-hop landscape, Vince Staples is a refreshing alternative. Desiigner wouldn’t get anywhere near a Vince Staples song, although the Summertime ’06 song “Señorita” does sample a Future track. Unfortunately, “Señorita” is one of the least interesting songs on the whole album, but it’s also one of the most popular. Oh, well. For most of the double album, anyway, Summertime ’06 offers a great respite from the trap hurricane sweeping the nation. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

Christian Berishaj, better known as JMSN.EXPAND
Christian Berishaj, better known as JMSN.
Courtesy photo

JMSN – Friday, May 13 – The Rebel Lounge

When Christian Berishaj writes music, he disconnects. The iPhone is turned off, the e-mail and texts and phone calls reach an electronic dead end, and the Los Angeles-via-Detroit artist seeks out space. Berishaj has no time for bullshit, and he will tell you so. Having undergone a series of musical iterations — first as multi-instrumentalist Love Arcade, which signed to Columbia Records, then later under the moniker Christian TV, which signed with Universal Motown — he struck out on his own and formed his own independent record label, White Room Records.

With that independence, Berishaj built his own wheelhouse. As JMSN, Berishaj has been labeled as R&B, featuring atmospheric, aerated vocals and layers of hall reverb that draw immediate comparisons to the likes of The Weeknd and How to Dress Well. Music critics and fans alike simply labeled the first JMSN record, Priscilla, as "dark," created in a drugged-out vein that could be just at home in a truck stop strip club's champagne room as a low-lit bedroom. K.C. LIBMAN

One of the resident freaks and geeks of Cupcake!EXPAND
One of the resident freaks and geeks of Cupcake!
Melissa Fossum

Cupcake! Oblivion! – Friday, May 13 – The Rogue Bar

It’s like clockwork. Whenever the complexities of the Gregorian calendar cause the 13th day of any particular month to fall on a Friday, a slew of strange events and spooky shows tend to occur in honor of the occasion. Such will be the case on Friday, May 13m at Scottsdale dive The Rogue Bar when the fetishistic and masochistic freaks of monthly dance night Cupcake! stage their Oblivion! party. Much like other Cupcake! affairs, it will offer a sinister and sexy mix of costumed characters, go-go girls, eye-catching performances, DJs like Self.Destrukt and Defense.Mekanizm spinning sounds, and even baked goods, albeit with an otherworldly flair as the event will boast a outer space theme. In other words, expect to have some close encounters with many space oddities during the evening. The party starts at 9 p.m. with a $6 cover. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN

AZ Brutal Fest 3 – Friday, May 13, and Saturday, May 15 – Mind’s Eye Rehearsal Studios

To be honest, if you love local metal and haven’t checked out the annual Arizona Brutal Fest yet, you’ve got some explaining to do. Day one (a.k.a. the black metal night) has a jam-packed schedule starting at 5 p.m., including Dead Inception, Winter Monolith, Vomiturium, Zeohn, Blood Vomit Ritual, Azerine, Mutilated Tyrant, Pestilence Death, Imperialist, Sadism, Goatdusias, Goat Possessor, and Summing the Impaler (the headliners). Day two, aka the main day, kicks off at 4 p.m., and includes Meatcleaver Amputation, Anisoptera, Whorror, Sadomasachist, Genocaust, Meathook, Profanacion, Hideus Rebirth, Bloodscribe, Magguts, Stages of Decomposition, Atoll, and Fetal Disgorge. I find it interesting that this will be at a studio, albeit one founded by renowned producer/engineer Larry Elyea, and I also love the fact that they are promoting that there’s no guest list for anyone. Support local music, people! LAUREN WISE

Intelligent improvisation and sampling make this three-piece sound huge.EXPAND
Intelligent improvisation and sampling make this three-piece sound huge.
Ryan Burchfield

Sunsquabi – Saturday, May 14 – Valley Bar

It shouldn’t seem surprising a band with Sunsquabi’s pedigree would come from Boulder, Colorado. Even the band’s name has a kind of stoner mountain vibe to it. Yet, Sunsquabi is not exactly stoner rock, at least not in the sense of bands (Fu Manchu, Kyuss, Eagles of Death Metal, etc.) typically labeled with that moniker. Sunsquabi, however, would be very good music to experience stoned. Why? Because the music is a trippy blend of jazz, funk, cosmic disco, classic rock, and hip-hop fused together with looping technology, live improvisation, and a willingness to take chances.

“We were absolutely encouraged to take chances! That’s a very good way of putting it. There is so much creativity and so many new ideas happening musically out here [in Boulder] that we had to really surrender to all the influences and find our own way,” explains guitarist/keyboardist Kevin Donohue. “We had to completely zone in on what it is that makes us unique to find our sound. And not everybody is going to like it when you experiment, so it’s definitely taking a chance.” GLENN BURNSILVER

Young Thug (a.k.a. Jeffrey Lamar Williams)EXPAND
Young Thug (a.k.a. Jeffrey Lamar Williams)
Garrett Coyte

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Young Thug – Saturday, May 14 – Marquee Theatre

Young Thug has created a career for himself without a single official studio album to his name. He's borrowed Future's rapid-fire album approach by putting out 14 mixtapes in just five years. And although there are a few misses, Thugger has recently been killing it after putting out Slime Season trilogy and Barter 6 last year. Young Thug's nasally, slick vocal delivery is hard to miss, although it sometimes makes the lyrics themselves fairly easy to miss. But that's fine, because you'll be too busy dabbing or whipping or something to notice. MATT WOOD

Aesop Rock: not your ordinary MC.EXPAND
Aesop Rock: not your ordinary MC.
Chrissy Piper

Aesop Rock — Sunday, May 15 — Crescent Ballroom

Aesop Rock is a New York-bred MC who came of age in the '90s, when keeping it real was the highest ethos a rapper could reach for. Throughout his nearly two-decade recording career, he has never dumbed down the expansive vocabulary of his lyrics or felt the need to rely on hooks or superstar producers. At his shows, there are no choreographed dance moves, flashy guest appearances, or elaborate stage shows, just the only thing that matters: the music.

It has been proven by scientific study that Aesop Rock uses a more diverse vocabulary than any rapper in the game. Just as awe-inspiring as it is to witness a Shakespearean actor recite by memory all his arcane text, it is equally impressive to catch Aesop Rock effortlessly spit out so much dense lyricism, especially when you consider his memory bank has to fight the forgetfulness caused by the second-hand marijuana smoke in full effect. But he never misses a beat. DAVID ROLLAND

The members of Dying Fetus.EXPAND
The members of Dying Fetus.
Relapse Records

Metal Alliance Tour – Sunday, May 15 – Joe’s Grotto

Defying their nauseatingly insensitive name, Dying Fetus have survived (albeit through myriad lineups) to celebrate their 25th anniversary, having far outgrown the rudimentary death metal and innards-obsessed imagery of their beginnings. Making a potent case for experience trumping youthful zeal, their seventh and most recent album, 2012’s Reign Supreme, is a caffeinated grindcore cocktail almost comical in its instrumental dexterity, structural irreverence and disguised-voice ransom-call vocals.

But it’s the collection’s sense of groove that makes its countless twists and turns both palatable and collectively coherent, while confirming these malevolent Marylanders as (relatively) tasteful masters of their famously coarse craft. Completing this Metal Alliance bill is a sampler (s)platter of extreme-metal subgenres: metalcore (The Acacia Strain); veteran retro-death (Jungle Rot); prog-death (Black Crown Initiate); and groove-thrash (India’s SystemHouse33). PAUL ROGERS

Motion City Soundtrack is about to peace out.EXPAND
Motion City Soundtrack is about to peace out.
Anthony Saint James

Motion City Soundtrack – Sunday, May 15 – The Pressroom

Like many pop-punk giants of the early 2000s, Motion City Soundtrack has shared in the wealth of the genre's surprising resurgence, most notably with a co-headlining tour with Saves the Day and Say Anything in 2011. But the Minneapolis group wasn't sitting idly waiting for a comeback; over the years, it's released a steady stream of records, hit the road with Blink-182 (the band also worked on several records with Mark Hoppus as producer) and put out a collaborative genre-bending seven-inch with fellow Minnesotans Trampled by Turtles. The band's emo style is rooted in singer, guitarist and principal songwriter Justin Pierre's conversational, storytelling lyrics, which become wildly three-dimensional when the band plays live, or at least, while its still playing live. That’s because after 18 years, six albums, and multiple lineup changes, MCS has announced it’s taking an “indefinite hiatus” after its current run of shows, which has been dubbed the “So Long, Farewell Tour.” Looks like some things can’t stay in motion forever. BREE DAVIES

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