It's one helluva big week in the Valley of the Sun. The Final Four bounces into town later this week, bringing with it a number of big events, including an enormous concert series featuring Aerosmith, Macklemore, and The Chainsmokers.
There are other things happening this week, of course, like a bunch of long-awaited shows by such popular bands as Sleigh Bells, Panic! At the Disco, The Dollyrots, and Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears. There's also the conclusion to our ongoing Phoenix Music Madness battle of the bands.
All of these acts are due in town over the next several days, and all are included in our list of the best concerts to see in Phoenix this week. (As always, our extensive live music calendar has the 411 on a ton of other shows worth checking out.)
Sleigh Bells – Monday, March 27 – Crescent Ballroom
Last year, Brooklyn-based noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells gained listeners’ attention again with the release of Jessica Rabbit. Alexis Krauss and Derek Taylor had been on a several-years hiatus after the hype and whirlwind of their 2010 debut proved too much for them to handle. That break apparently provided just the creative spark Sleigh Bells needed. Many of the new songs, particularly the sharp-edged single "It's Just Us Now," slot nicely into the band's canon of frenetic, riff-heavy tracks. Elsewhere on the album, Krauss and Taylor take the time to experiment with some unfamiliar wrinkles: slowing down tempos, expanding musical interludes, and incorporating fresh instrumentation. This willingness to take a fresh approach suggests Sleigh Bells are in it for the long haul. JEFF STROWE
Jeremy Enigk – Monday, March 27 – Last Exit Live
The chance of a conversation about emo not including an in-depth analysis of Sunny Day Real Estate's impact on the genre is slim indeed, because Jeremy Enigk and his SDRE co-conspirators completely revamped the way indie kids listened to music. That band's distinctive sound helped create a moment in musical history that inspired bands like Mineral and Rainer Maria, but Enigk's own musical timeline has evolved time and time again since then. From SDRE through the short-lived Fire Theft and several solo releases, Enigk has fully explored emo and indie-rock, gotten in touch with his spiritual side, and eventually gravitated toward more pop-inspired melodies. Two decades after his well-received Sub Pop solo debut, Return of the Frog Queen, Enigk's efforts continue to display the understated sophistication of his weathered, passionate voice. BRIGITTE B. ZABAK
The Dollyrots – Tuesday, March 28 – The Rebel Lounge
Ever wonder what happened to your eighth-grade comrades? For most people, those folks become distant memories, or possibly fodder for some “back when” stories. Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas of pop-punk band the Dollyrots don’t have to ponder how each other’s lives evolved. The pair met during that middle-school year and ended up a longtime couple who added a kid to the mix a few years back. The Dollyrots formed in 2000, after their previous band, No Chef, went through a member reformation. Ogden handles lead vocals and bass duties, while Cabezas rips on guitar. The band has had a healthy rotation of drummers in the mix. Stacey Jones from Letters to Cleo and Miley Cyrus both contributed drum tracks on the band’s 2013 release, Barefoot and Pregnant, recorded while Ogden was both of those things. For almost two decades, the band has toured consistently to perform their anthemic, bubblegum-pop-punk that maintains a sassy, stompy sensibility. They’ve played with everyone you can think of, from the Go-Go’s to the Buzzcocks, and their catchy song “Because I’m Awesome” has been used for several different TV spots, not their only tune to be selected for that medium. Currently, the band is touring in support of Whiplash Splash, their new 13-song release that is loaded with a blend of fast-and-furious punk rock numbers and power pop gems that lock you in their hooky grooves. AMY YOUNG
Joey Purp – Tuesday, March 28 – Club Red
Stereotypically speaking, being a rapper from Chicago can carry a certain stigma. Gangsta rap is the assumption, supported by the fact that Chicago is one of the most violent cities in America. However, collectives like the Save Money Crew, formed by Joey Purp, Chance The Rapper, and Vic Mensa, aren’t necessarily trying to destroy the image of a violent Chicago but rather showcase a different side of the story for the Windy City. With Joey Purp’s latest release, iiiDrops, the young emcee is hoping that his autobiographical perspective can help provide a little insight on what it is really like to live in the massive city. Joey’s album iiiDrops provides an autobiographical soundscape of the emcee. Songs like “Cornerstone” and “When I’m Gone” give us an introspective and reflective view over soulful and often unusual production. Essentially, Joey is telling tales of a young man coming up in the streets of Chicago while dodging violence and reaching for the dream. However, unlike young Chicago rappers like Chief Keef, Joey isn't the one holding the gun. JARON IKNER
Electric Six – Tuesday, March 28 – Valley Bar
Most of America got to know Electric Six in the video for the 2003 single “Gay Bar,” which featured the sextet’s members gyrating and cavorting while dressed as hot-pants-clad Abraham Lincoln impersonators. That song, from the band’s debut, Fire, represents the height of its commercial success, but not its creativity. In the 12 years since, Electric Six has released 11 albums, from the hyperactive, funk-filled I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being the Master to the guitar-driven Mustang. But its members, who perform under stage names like Dick Valentine and Smorgasbord, have never lost their playfulness. ADAM ROY
Eric Church – Tuesday, March 28 – Talking Stick Resort Arena
Once all but blacklisted by radio programmers for a hell-raising attitude that sometimes spilled over into his lifestyle, Eric Church now sits at the very top of Nashville's A list thanks to The Outsiders. One of only two country albums released in 2014 to go platinum — and the furthest thing from some focus-grouped album-by-committee stitched together in some big-label boardroom — The Outsiders is instantly recognizable as the work of an artist with an axe to grind who is firing on all cylinders, from No. 1 single "Talladega" and eight-minute stream-of-consciousness rant "Devil, Devil (Princess of Darkness)" on down. CHRIS GRAY
Chelsea Grin – Tuesday, March 28 – Joe's Grotto
Chelsea Grin is a deathcore act from Salt Lake City, beefed up with three guitarists who draw from a groundwork of hardcore and add in death metal precision and grindcore speed to contrast with soft vocals and headbanging melody. Though largely deathcore, the band has dabbled with some elements of doom, black and symphonic metal, while featuring its technical and melodic instrumentation. Ice Nine Kills, Gideon, and Enterprise Earth are also on this bill. ADAM STEININGER
Panic! At The Disco – Wednesday, March 29 – Talking Stick Resort Arena
It’s hard not to talk about the Killers when you’re talking about Panic! At The Disco. It’s like both bands are distorted funhouse mirror versions of the other. Both bands come from Las Vegas, both of them are fronted by singers who grew up Mormon (switch two vowels around and they’d have the same name, too), and both bands are unabashedly retro arena rockers. The key difference between them lately, though, is that Panic! is still putting out chart-topping music. While the band has changed a lot over the years (frontman Brendon Urie is the only original member still in the lineup), they’ve been able to cement a steady position on the Billboard charts — no mean feat, considering rock radio’s diminishing footprint on the cultural landscape. They also went on a co-headlining tour with Weezer last year, holding their own against the KISS-loving juggernauts. They even recorded a cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the Suicide Squad soundtrack that’s ... well, let’s just say it’s a good thing Freddie Mercury can’t die again. Questionable classic rock tributes aside, the band still packs a bouncy emo-pop punch live. And considering how they used circus acts and aesthetics to make their last few tours a Barnum-worthy spectacle, odds are good they’ll be doing something special for their upcoming show at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Bring some peanuts for the elephants, boys and girls: The Panic! At The Disco circus is coming to town! ASHLEY NAFTULE
Phoenix Music Madness Phinal Phour Concert – Wednesday, March 29 – The Rebel Lounge
And it all comes down to this. After two rounds of voting in our inaugural Phoenix Music Madness contest over the past few weeks, which pitted some of the Valley’s best bands against one another, the competition has been whittled down to the “phinal phour” acts: Bear Ghost, The Stakes, Coobee Coo, and Jerusafunk. It was a hard-fought battle (made even harder by the 200-plus fake ballots we weeded out at the last minute in the quarterfinal round), and thanks to all the bands who threw their balls on the court. What's next? The celebration, of course. All four bands will perform on Wednesday, March 29, at The Rebel Lounge, which is where we will reveal the winner of Phoenix Music Madness. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
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Leftover Salmon – Thursday, March 30 – Marquee Theatre
Formed in 1989, renowned jam band Leftover Salmon has always mixed humor with a stylistic blend of Cajun, bluegrass, funk, soul, rock, and blues music. "We play the kind of music we want to play. We've never been pigeonholed. If we want to play a certain style, we do. I think it's interesting for people coming to the shows," says guitarist/mandolinist Drew Emmitt. "The main thing is all about the energy and getting people up and dancing. That's always been the focus of this band. The different styles we play are to get people going and to create a party." Leftover Salmon averaged more than 200 concerts annually for 15 years, but when tragedy struck the band via the cancer death of founding banjo player Mark Vann, the party ended abruptly in 2004 with an indefinite hiatus. "We've always had a good time, and in the early days it was really exciting. What really happened was that we toured too much," Emmitt says. "I think we got a little burned out." Returning in 2007, the "Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass" sound remained integral to the band's identity, though the lineup continued to change. Rather than be a drain, however, these changes have filled Leftover Salmon with the vibrancy of the band's earliest days. GLENN BURNSILVER
Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears – Thursday, March 30 – Crescent Ballroom
Black Joe Lewis already has plenty of reasons to puff out his chest nowadays, including the fact his latest album, the recently released Backlash, has gotten some critical love. So if he seems a little extra excited during his upcoming Phoenix gig, it could be that, too — although considering the boiler-room-intensity levels of his gigs with the Honeybears, it might be tough to tell the difference. The dynamic singer and guitarist is one of Texas’s most explosive front men, bootstrapping his gutbucket R&B in Austin’s finest punk dives before capturing his raw angst and off-the-charts energy on the albums Tell 'Em What Your Name Is! and Scandalous. Considering it’s going on four years since Lewis’s last record, 2013’s Electric Slave, there must be a whole bunch of new pent-up frustrations just screaming to surface. Certainly there are if Backlash’s first single, “PTP,” is any evidence. CHRIS GRAY