The 30 Best Concerts in October
Queens of the Stone Age are scheduled to perform on Thursday, October 30, at the Arizona State Fair.
Our inbox was hit with an e-mail blast the other day from the proprietors of a local music venue who declared that October was going to be "insane" because of all the fantastic acts they has booked at the joint over the next few weeks. They ain't the only ones, however, as this month is literally wall-to-wall with big shows around Phoenix.
Don't believe us? Then be sure to check out our massive online concert calendar for proof. Or you can take our word for it: this is the time of you've been waiting for.
The Arizona State Fair kicks off next weekend, for instance, and arguably boasts one of its best concert lineups ever. Meanwhile, the various arts centers and cultural institutions around the Valley are starting their fall season this month and are loaded up with talented musicians and instrumentalists from around the globe. The Desert Botanical Garden and other outdoor venues are once again holding gigs, and all the usual high-profile music spots and concert halls throughout Metro Phoenix have great gigs practically every night.
Admittedly, it made it difficult to narrow down this surfeit of shows down to a selection of the best options for your concertgoing dollars. But narrow it down we did into the following choices for our monthly concert guide for October.
PHX Ska Punk Bowling - Friday, October 3/Saturday, October 4 - Pub Rock/Club Red
Maybe its because both are lowbrow pursuits with a fondness for cheap beer, gaudy apparel, and making a racket, but bowling and punk rock seem to fit together as naturally as your fingers in the holes of a 12-pound Brunswick ball. The two have been pin pals for a couple of decades or more, as evidenced by such bands as Bowling For Soup or the rowdy shows held at rundown alleys like Chicago's famed Fireside Bowl from '94 onward. (Here in the Valley, the bygone Tempe Bowl was infamously the site of many a wild show in that era.) And, of course, there's the renowned Punk Rock Bowling festival that brings thousands to Vegas every summer.
It helped to partly inspire a homegrown takeoff of the event, Phoenix Ska/Punk Bowling, which launched last October at a few bars in and around Tempe and proved popular enough to bring back for a second frame this year. The two-day fest, which was born from a desire to create something in the Valley that rivals Punk Rock Bowling and other big-name punk events nationwide, even mimics the larger event's multi-venue format, sponsorship by Pabst Blue Ribbon, and tons of bands on the schedule. That's where most of the comparisons end, however, since Phoenix Ska/Punk Bowling adds its own bit of English, however, by adding some skank-inducing music of a two-tone and third wave variety into the mix at both Pub Rock in Scottsdale and Club Red in Mesa.
The loaded lineup rolls down the different lanes of punk, ska, and either genre's many subsidiaries, such as hardcore (NYC's Reagan Youth, Boston's OC 45), folk-punk (Black Mountain Moonshine), thrash (Skull Drug), Oi! (Yuma's Working Mutts), hardcore ska (Denver's Rotten Blue Menace), reggae-inspired jams (California's Two Tone Boners) and flat-out punk (The Linecutters, No Gimmick, Screaming At Deaf Kids). Actual bowling will also take place during the weekend during an afternoon tournament on Saturday at AMF Tempe Village Lanes, although you should refrain from slam dancing in the alleys like they did at Tempe Bowl back in the day. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Cymbals Eat Guitars - Saturday, October 4 - Last Exit Live
"Cymbals eat out guitars" is how Lou Reed once described the Velvet Underground's sound. While imagining a Zildjian going down on a Les Paul is only erotic in some Rule 34 sense, dropping the "out" to make Cymbals Eat Guitars evokes the musical equivalent to the "Why was six afraid of seven?" joke. It's abstract, mathematical violence, sorta fitting for the Staten Island indie rock group, as it has its crashing tantrums comparable to Cursive or At the Drive-In. The minced vocals and themes of "not quite grammatically correct" obscure references (see tracks like "Another Tunguska" or "Like Blood Does") only add to the hazy sea. But what really ties Cymbals together are the precarious moments of beauty, influences derived from the likes of Spiritualized and Titus Andronicus. The tangle of mood swings will keep you on your toes and maybe even leave you breathless at moments. -- Troy Farah
Sondre Lerche - Saturday, October 4 - MIM Music Theater
Norway's perennially optimistic Sondre Lerche is not an artist wont to weigh listeners down with gloom, even when the occasion calls for it. Bringing a freshly odd-angled sound to most anything he touches, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter has shown that he's seemingly incapable of missing points of interest in a wide swath of musical genres and emotional states. But the sheer good feeling you get from his excellent new album, Please (a divorce-themed record), has something to do with the forthright way Lerche deals with growing up, moving on, facing the void and all that kind of stuff. These expertly arranged, raw-edged songs reveal a lot about the mind and soul of one very big-hearted guy, and remind us that when the going gets tough, the tough get creative. -- John Payne
New Found Glory - Sunday, October 5 - Marquee Theatre
It's remarkable not only that New Found Glory has been touring with the same line up for over 15 years (with almost the "original" line up, depending on how technical you want to get about Cyrus Bolooki), but also that the band continues to have so much energy. Guitarist Chad Gilbert, the former singer of Shai Hulud, has not lost his hardcore edge in the slightest and does a great job of hyping the crowd. In fact, he sounds just like he did on New Found Glory's 2013 live album, Kill It Live. The band has not slowed down at all. Vocalist Jordan Pundik doesn't stand still for more than a few moments, always being sure to interact with the crowd. -- Melissa Fossum
Anberlin - Monday, October 6 - The Pressroom
Should someone undertake a study of musical groups and the manner in which most dissolve, it is unlikely that many end amicably. Typically, internal friction, ego, death, or addiction causes band breakups. Anberlin has decided to take a different path despite differences making the band's existence somewhat tenuous. "The decision to walk away is what is best for the fans, even though they may not see it," lead vocalist Stephen Christian says. "Our passion for being in the band has been waning for years because we have all started to invest our lives in other opportunities. If you are not performing music with passion, then it is for all the wrong reasons. Being in this band [any longer] . . . risked the chance of [us] being five hollow men on stage disgruntled with life, music, and each other."
Instead of allowing that prospect to develop, Anberlin elected to create one more album and then embark on a farewell tour. Ironically, the process has left the band energized and performing with that once-former passion and vigor. The band's final album, lowborn, spans all aspects of Anberlin's history, touching on everything from early-period heavy melodic pop to the more brooding sounds that dominated later albums, a reflection of the mood in which the band was gradually succumbing. "We have always had multiple personality disorders musically speaking," Christian says. "This album just reconfirms that." -- Glenn BurnSilver
Busdriver - Monday, October 6 - Rhythm Room
Busdriver has always had a way with words, spitting them out at a mile a minute until the multilayered skein of potent phrases unrolls like a densely detailed, never-ending tapestry where the local rapper weighs in on everything from love and war to racism and the music industry. With a mind this restless, Busdriver can't be neatly categorized or lumped in with other rappers. On his 2012 album, Beaus $ Eros, his lyrical concerns range from profound social confrontation ("NoBlacksNoJews NoAsians") to warped and spaced-out goofiness ("Picking Band Names"). Even though the Project Blowed veteran is a supreme wordsmith, he digs into a wider variety of freaky and funky sonic settings. -- Falling James
Chris Webby - Tuesday, October 7 - Pub Rock
Chris Webby has "203" inked across his right side, a gothic "Connecticut" burned into the skin beneath his neck. There are the scattered images of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mario Brothers and Transformers among his tattoos; a search online suggests Simba exists on his leg, but I didn't check. Some tattooist put a coupling of eighth notes a few inches above his hip. He is suburban, aggressively so; the voice of parking lot angst, the face of middle-middle-class rage. When he tosses an unopened water bottle down at the floor, he scowls: "Motherfucker!"
Outside of the traditional hip-hop blogs, far away from radio, his is a bubbling movement, a frathouse contagion. Over more than five years on the way to eight mixtapes, two EPs, and his upcoming full-length debut, Chemically Imbalanced, Chris Webby has racked up some 124,000 followers on Twitter, 230,000 fans on Facebook and gazillions of YouTube plays. -- Jeff Rosenthal
Belle & Sebastian - Wednesday, October 8 - Civic Space Park
Belle and Sebastian guitarist Stevie Jackson hoped to be celebrating Scottish independence. What better way to commemorate 18 years of making music, the re-release your out-of-print vinyl back catalog, and your first-ever Phoenix appearance in a place (Civic Space Park) putting on its major-concert-venue pants for the first time? Alas, despite polls to the contrary, the Scots chose not to break with England. He had a feeling the referendum might fail, yet it still surprised him.
"I'm bitterly disappointed," Jackson, a Glaswegian, says. "It's a great opportunity lost, seems like. But I think something irreversible has happened. There's been a major shift. I'm one of them. I was opposed, but I've been thinking about it over the last year and thought, 'Yes, let's try it.' It's a bit of a step into the unknown."
That's a familiar place for a band that began as a college project. None of the members really knew each other, and the project only really bloomed into a career through some label-related happenstance and the overwhelming American response to Belle & Sebastian's exquisitely literate, exceptionally pretty 2006 album, If You're Feeling Sinister. -- Chris Parker
Pomplamoose - Wednesday, October 8 - Pub Rock
As of the writing of this piece, the YouTube channel of California indie duo Pomplamoose has 435,213 subscribers. Several of its unique videos, including a multi-instrumental take on the Angry Birds theme, a mashup of Pharrell songs (complete with eyeballs projected on vocalist Nataly Dawn's chest), and a cover of James Brown's "I Feel Good," have more than a million views. These videos have to follow two rules, according to Dawn's bandmate and significant other Jack Conte: What you see is what you hear, and if you hear it, at some point you see it. Pomplamoose (which take its name from the English pronunciation of the French word for grapefruit) focuses on touring and distributing their music digitally. It allows them the freedom to share their music with an audience eager to hear their peculiar take on pop hits, such as Michael Jackson's "Beat It" complete with xylophone, and original music, a hodgepodge of indie rock, folk, hip-hop, and electronic influences. Their fun and fresh approach has transcended the Internet and garnered the attention of the advertising world, as the duo played Christmas tunes for a series of Hyundai commercials. -- Jason Keil
Little Dragon - Wednesday, October 8 - Marquee Theatre
If there's one thing the Swedes know how to do, it's create perfect pop songs that American audiences love. From ABBA to Ace of Base and the Knife, their tradition of synth-laden pop that gets people up and dancing has been going strong for decades. One of the longest-running groups who trade in this genre is Little Dragon, a group that formed in 1996 but didn't get noticed in America till sometime around 2006. Since then they've been on remix after remix and guested on albums from Raphael Saadiq to Big Boi. The band's latest album, Nabuma Rubberband, hit No. 2 on the U.S. Dance charts and their singles continue to be favorites of DJs who are trying to get the night going. Expect to dance and get sweaty. -- Jaime-Paul Falcon
Carolina Chocolate Drops - Thursday, October 9 - MIM
Formed in 2005 by Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson, all African Americans, the Carolina Chocolate Drops has gone where only the Mississippi Sheiks, mythical giants of prewar blues, had gone before. Even if its sales never match Mumford & Sons, the group has genuinely popularized the sound of true hillbilly music, with bones, jugs, banjo and fiddle fully intact -- and it has innovated every stomping step of the way. The Drops are a powerhouse of brawny rhythm and bold hooks, as danceable as dubstep and a hundred times funkier and deeper in its history and humanity. -- Roy Kasten
Aeroplane - Friday, October 10 - Crescent Ballroom
Yes, disco follows a formula. But Belgian-Italian producer Aeroplane (AKA Vito De Luca) isn't thinking small when it comes to the genre. He's not even concerned with floor fillers. In fact, he's aiming for nothing short of cosmic disco rapture, taking his cues from the '70s prog rock giants like Pink Floyd just as much as Italo-disco masters like Giorgio Moroder.
The epic musicality of De Luca's productions is apparent in 2010 debut long player We Can't Fly, which garnered rave reviews from both the mainstream music press and underground EDM critics. In other words, he's found that rare balance between pop accessibility and underground cred. But fluff aside, Aeroplane's product is still disco, which means he's here to make you boogie. And that's exactly what he intends to do when he stops by Crescent Ballroom on October 10. -- Sean Levisman
Puddles Pity Party - Sunday, October 12 - Crescent Ballroom
Now's the chance to use that old-fashioned monogrammed hanky that's burning a hole in your dresser drawer or just grab a cheap box of tissues -- whatever suits you best for sopping up tears mixed of both laughter and desolation -- and spend the evening with Puddles Pity Party. Known as the "sad clown with the golden voice," Puddles is the stage name of Big Mike Geier, a multi-talented singer, actor and performance artist whose 6-foot, 8-inch stature, appropriately twisted sense of humor, and majestic baritone voice command a room. The Lynchian sad-sack clown has been steadily collecting fans over the last couple of years.
His operatic version of the popular Lorde song, "Royals" has become a much shared YouTube video, and then there was that time that he punched the lead singer of the Eels right in the kisser. The whole thing turned out to be a gag between Puddles and Eels' front man Mark Everett that included fake blood and manufactured hostility; the event definitely created more intrigue about the giant clown. The intimate, cabaret-style show features Puddles delivering his unique versions of sad pop anthems and probably having a little fun with the audience in ways that only freaky, maudlin clowns know how to do. -- Amy Young
New Pornographers - Monday, October 13 - Crescent Ballroom
The idea that a power pop supergroup comprising mostly Canadians unheard of by many people would be wildly successful and one of the most popular indie acts around probably seems absurd. But after nearly 15 years as a band, it's easy to take The New Pornographers for granted. With four lead singers among Carl Newman, Dan Bejar, Neko Case, and Kathryn Calder, the dynamic would appear impossible to maintain. But by allowing Bejar to write a few songs per album, and Case to come and go as her solo work requires, the formula has worked so far, perhaps to everyone's surprise.
Somewhere along the way, this once apparently temporary collection of musicians (and one filmmaker) became a solid band. Though the most recent New Pornographers albums haven't contained as many wildly joyous moments as Mass Romantic or Electric Version, here's a band that people actually want to see, an exciting group that really is better than the sum of its parts. Opening the show is the first Phoenix appearance for the new-look Menomena, which recently lost founding member Brent Knopf. A weird pop doubleheader, with Coachella to thank. -- Dan Gibson
Kris Kristofferson - Tuesday, October 14 - Celebrity Theatre
Rhodes Scholar Kris Kristofferson has seemingly done just about everything. An accomplished student, athlete, helicopter pilot, captain in the United States Army, award-winning actor and musician -- there doesn't seem to be much the man can't do. Kristofferson has multiple gold records and had albums hit number 1 on the U.S. country charts in different decades, which is no small feat and a testament to the staying power of his songwriting. His songs have been recorded and performed by some of the most famous names in music, such as: Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Janis Joplin, and Waylon Jennings.
In 1985, Kristofferson joined Willie Nelson, Cash, and Jennings to form The Highwaymen, who were active for about a decade, garnering a platinum record for their efforts on their first album, Highwayman. In recent years, Kristofferson has continued to work in film, but has also been recording albums with acclaimed producer Don Was. His most recent release, Feeling Mortal, is the third such record and will be heavily featured when Kristofferson stops by the Celebrity Theatre for a solo acoustic gig. New and old fans alike should take advantage of this opportunity to see a living legend in an intimate setting. -- Tom Reardon
Ana Tijoux - Tuesday, October 14 - Crescent Ballroom
Ana Tijoux has been around for a long minute, but it was her birth year song, "1977," which brought her mainstream recognition as the soundtrack to a tense desert scene on Breaking Bad. Like all her albums, the French-Chilean MC's latest, Vengo, gives a snapshot of her life - in this case, as a new mother. Vengo infuses Tijoux's flavorful Spanish-language flow with her native Andean rhythms and a proliferation of horns. Tijoux's spitting chants trip over each other on the rapid-fire title track, contrasting with the charangos strumming seductively through "Oro Negro," while her multilingual duet with the throaty Shadia Mansour on the spirited "Somos Sur" is taken directly from a bustling Middle Eastern marketplace. -- Lily Moayeri
David Bazan - Wednesday, October 15 - Crescent Ballroom
David Bazan was a pretty cool Christian in 2002. His band, Pedro the Lion (of which Bazan was the sole consistent member) had a string of impressive releases to its name, including 1998's It's Hard to Find a Friend and 2000's Winners Never Quit, plus a couple of singles and EPs. The albums were greeted with enthusiasm by the alternative music press, praising the band's taut "slowcore" indie rock style.
Bazan was lauded as a gifted lyricist, stringing together Biblical morality plays, remarkable human drama, Doubting Thomas confessionals, and haunting devotionals. You didn't have to be a Christian rock fan to like Pedro the Lion; the band recorded for a secular label (Jade Tree) and played with secular bands. But for Christian fans, Bazan was a rare kind of songwriter. He was honest, and he created music that didn't pander. It was resolute, but it wasn't rigid.
But with his 2002 record, Control, Bazan's music got even harder to classify as "Christian rock," if it had ever been before. It wasn't that Bazan's music had previously been "clean" by morality-police standards (his songs included references to both sex and drugs), but Control was something else. It was louder, with Pinkerton-as-played-by Fugazi guitars and booming drums. There were swear words and, cardinally, the record was a scathing indictment of the religious right in the Bush era. Which wasn't exactly Bazan's plan. -- Jason P. Woodbury
Insane Clown Posse - Wednesday, October 15 - Mesa Amphitheatre
By now, Insane Clown Posse has become such prominent pop-culture public enemies that little is said about the good things musicians of all stripes should be taking from the rappers' success. The young and hungry shouldn't be cribbing ICP's taste for grease paint, mystical allusions, X-rated lyrics or ambitious concept albums, but rather how the Posse have managed to build and maintain such a massive enterprise. The foundation that everything ICP and Psychopathic Records rests on is made of Juggalos and Juggalettes, the band and their label's fleet of ardent supporters. ICP built an audience through touring hard and releasing music with a take-no-prisoners style and -- to a certain degree -- shock value that clicked with a niche. It also didn't hurt that ICP kept Psychopathic's name synonymous with the band's while their albums had major-label distribution in the late 1990s; after ICP returned to releasing records solely on Psychopathic, the brand still had a lot of momentum behind it.
Naming the Juggalo fan base, writing frequent shout-outs and having a logo as iconic as the Hatchetman helped galvanize the fans into a visible, united force. ICP earnestly emphasize they would stick with this relatively underground base rather than ever attempt a move into the mainstream, which has helped to make them appear to be a cause worth aligning with. When the FBI classified Juggalos as a "loosely organized hybrid gang" in 2011 because of crimes committed by alleged fans, it provided its share of problems. According to Utsler, Spencer's and Hot Topic were among the chains that stopped carrying the group's merchandise because it qualified as gang apparel. Several Juggalos have also complained of alleged harassment from the authorities, and ICP went so far as to file a lawsuit against the FBI in September 2012 to have the gang association formally removed. But on a communal level, this ordeal was great for strengthening the commitment Psychopathic, ICP and Juggalos bring to one another. Being marginalized and mocked just can't hurt these entities because they won't let it happen. -- Reyan Ali
Weezer - Thursday, October 16 - Arizona State Fair
Every nerdy, indie, glasses-wearing music snob has something to say about Weezer, good and bad. The band's sound hasn't so much changed since its first two releases as much as its fans' tastes have. Drummer Patrick Wilson explains this, one of the great musical mysteries of all time. "I wonder sometimes about it," he says of the phenomenon. "Sometimes if you go online, five people saying something can feel like the entire world. I really don't know what to think about it."
Wilson muses, "Let's say you're a fan of the first couple of records; I think it'd be weird to remain a fan and not like any of the other records, and that's kind of what they've done. They'll find songs on the later records that they like. I think just being around this long, any band is going to have people saying lots of different things about them." And they've definitely been around a long time.
Oddly, for all of the shit talking on the web, Weezer has, if anything, regained and retained steam over the past decade. After the immense success of 1994's Weezer, also known as The Blue Album -- which Wilson says is his favorite -- and the release of Pinkerton soon after, the band fell off for a period. If memory serves (and it may not), we remember reading that frontman Rivers Cuomo hated Pinkerton. "I think he sort of intended it to be looked at a certain way, and then when it didn't do as well as The Blue Album initially, I think he probably felt like it was a failure," Wilson says. "But ironically, our most fervent fans think of that as our best album." -- Liz Tracy
Of Montreal - Friday, October 17 - Crescent Ballroom
More of a ringleader than a frontman, singer Kevin Barness directs the Athens, Ga., psych-pop band in a larger-than-life, psychedelic explosion of fantastical costumes, creepy sideshow characters and bizarre props that feels like Alice in Wonderland on (even more) acid. Expect more costume changes in mere minutes than you thought humanly possible in an entire week for this postmodern theatrical spectacle. Also, half-naked bodies -- including Barness' -- covered in glitter and shimmery paint, and various manifestations of Barness' obsession with human-beast hybrids. -- Lainna Fader
Arizona Hip Hop Festival - Saturday, October 18 - Comerica Theatre
On October 18, more than 80 Arizona MCs, DJs, and performers will get together for what must be the largest local hip-hop show ever thrown, the Arizona Hip Hop Festival. This staggering undertaking is the brainchild of JustUs Samuel, the rapper and founder of Respect the Underground, which hosts hip-hop nights a couple of times a month at Joe's Grotto.
The festival will take place on three different stages. Set times have not yet been finalized, but the music will begin sometime around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. and run through midnight. And, like we said, the lineup is enormous and includes such names as Trap House, Hannibal Leq, J Montoya, G Moe, Young Phee, Freeze TV, ZonaFide Ent., BoogeyMan, Da Beast and Da Deciplez, J-Slugg, Rillo, Deebo Lotti Maserati E.S.C., Judge the Boss, Eazy Music, J Rob, PHXLTS, Kaliq, OG Music, Worst Case Scenario, Rahmun, Yaymee K, Nov The Zoner, Pokafase, New Breedz, Pattiack, and dozens more. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or via any of the artists directly. -- David Accomazzo
John Fogerty - Saturday, October 18 - Arizona State Fair
Though the legend of Creedence Clearwater Revival as one of America's greatest rock bands had been cemented for decades, CCR leader-gone-solo John Fogerty hadn't played classics such as "Up Around the Bend" or "Born on the Bayou" for many years by the time the late '90s rolled around. Thanks to a long-running record label dispute, Fogerty had been performing only tunes from his solo catalog, most notably the summertime anthem "Centerfield."
It took a Robert Johnson-inspired epiphany for him to loosen the self-employed musical shackles and celebrate the legendary body of work he had built, which effectively ushered in a new phase to his storied journey. Indeed, more recently released works have been respectably solid and show the now 69-year-old guitar slinger in fine form. Even more impressive, however, is the conviction with which Fogerty can still belt out the opening notes to "Fortunate Son," perhaps his most epochal anthem in a long line of them. -- Kelly Dearmore
Charli XCX - Monday, October 20 - Crescent Ballroom
Before summer began, there was a good chance you'd never heard of Sam Smith, Iggy Azalea, or Rita Ora. Now, at the start of fall, you can't get enough of these guys. And let's not forget about Charli XCX. She, like her chart-topping colleagues, has been around for years but is just recently getting much-deserved praise. Charlotte Aitchison, as Charli is also known, co-penned 2013's summer smash hit by Icona Pop, "I Love It." The half-Scott, half-Ugandan released her major-studio debut, True Romance, last year and is featured on Azalea's ubiquitous "Fancy" and crafted "Boom Clap," which appears in the film The Fault in Our Stars. With a U.S. tour underway, the 21-year-old Brit will be heading to Crescent Ballroom on October 20. -- Stacey Russell
Erasure - Tuesday, October 21 - Comerica Theatre
Listeners of a certain vintage will already know there was indeed such a thing as dance-based electronica between the eras of disco and EDM. In fact, not only was there exciting music to be heard between those fabled eras, but much of the most thrilling sounds were made by duos. Throughout the '80s and '90s, dominating both airwaves and dance floors, there were the likes of Blancmange, Soft Cell, Eurythmics, and, of course, Erasure.
A product of musician-producer Vince Clarke (co-founder of Depeche Mode) and singer Andy Bell (who'd answered an ad in Melody Maker), Erasure was akin to a candy-coated stroll through the deep, dark nights of one's soulful abandon. Much of Erasure's transcendent and transgressive spirit manifested itself in the outre form of Bell himself, whose onstage ensembles made Liberace look butch. Yes, Bell was unabashedly gay at a time when coming out was still mostly associated with a song by Diana Ross. His talent and outspokenness made him something of a gay icon. And he remains so to this day. - John Hood
Ray LaMontagne - Wednesday, October 22 - Comerica Theatre
Although he's often compared to such heavyweights as Otis Redding and Van Morrison, singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne is much more akin to folks like Stephen Stills and Tim Buckley. Such a distinction is crucial. Where Redding and Morrison made transcendent music that crossed genre lines with amazing ease, Stills and Buckley were talented but flawed artists who stumbled as much as they succeeded. LaMontagne does have an impressive voice and his songs have a sincerity missing from many like-minded tunesmiths. He's really good -- but he's not great. That being said, LaMontagne's show at Comerica Theatre should provide a romantic date night for those couples who don't mind their folk-rock on the raspy side. -- Darryl Smyers
Colbie Caillat - Friday, October 24 - Arizona State Fair
The music of Malibu diva Colbie Caillat is quite frothy, with a pretty voice but not much to say lyrically on poppy early songs such as "Bubbly" and the recent piano ballad "Try." There seems to be a genuine heart at the heart of Demi Lovato's music, especially because the former Disney Channel star has been unafraid to publicly confront her issues of self-abuse and depression. Such vulnerability has started to seep into her lyrics, although the production and arrangement of recent songs like "Skyscraper" add an unfortunate veneer of distancing artifice. -- Falling James
Matisyahu - Monday, October 27 - Marquee Theatre
Matthew Paul Miller, otherwise known as Matisyahu -- translated to "Gift of God" in Hebrew -- has been putting out his blend of traditional Jewish themes, reggae, beatboxing, alternative, and slightly psychedelic rock since 2004. From the beginning, he was known for his signature beard and Hasidic garb, and strong Jewish faith. Four albums later, he's moved to L.A., left his yarmulke by the wayside, and dyed his hair blond. While he still may be religious, he says he felt locked in by the Hasidic life, and felt he needed to expand to discover his own truth. Which, coincidentally, has worked quite well for his musical style. Currently on tour after finishing up his sixth studio album, Akeda, Matisyahu is ready to take his career, and sound, to the next level. - Lauren Wise
Tennis - Wednesday, October 29 - Crescent Ballroom
Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley don't overthink it. The husband-and-wife duo launched its Denver band, Tennis, through a series of deliberate decisions and have made a name for it through soft, simple and sunny melodies, the kind that invoke acts such as Vampire Weekend and Mates of State and things like the beach and lying on it. They fell in love in college, sailed the Eastern Seaboard after graduation and captured the adventure for their nautical-themed debut, Cape Dory.
Originally written for them alone, the album quickly found an audience outside Denver and inspired a follow-up, Young & Old, which was written for the wider world and emboldened via production by The Black Keys' Patrick Carney. Back in Colorado now, the couple and drummer James Barone changed pace, and record labels, in November with the release of Small Sound, a five-song EP that again rocks their retro-inspired boat without really tipping it over. -- Kelsey Whipple
Jimmy Eat World - Thursday, October 30 - Marquee Theatre
If you're a diehard music fan in Arizona, you know that one of our state's crown jewels is Jimmy Eat World. Active for over two decades now, and regarded as a forerunner of the mid-'00s pop-punk movement, Jimmy Eat World invokes as much, if not more, pride as references to The Format or The Bled. Led by born-and-bred Mesa resident Jim Adkins, the band is just around the corner from the 10-year anniversary of their gold-selling record Futures, yet another Jimmy Eat World-related anniversary is also upon us. -- K.C. Libman
Queens of the Stone Age - Thursday, October 30 - Arizona State Fair
At this moment, Queens of the Stone Age is the best rock 'n' roll band on the planet. A bold statement, sure. However, while there exist other artists with similar relevance and artistic integrity, no group so deeply embodies the spirit of the genre's past while fighting to make fresh statements in the present, and none has developed a sound so immediately identifiable and unique as that honed by Josh Homme and his ever-evolving cast of kindred rockers.
Though the band has enjoyed serious fans' undying adoration since forming from the ashes of Homme's previous group, Kyuss, in the late '90s, Queens of the Stone Age's most recent release, 2013's ...Like Clockwork, has catapulted the band to a level of truly universal praise and respect that has eclipsed even the success of the group's mega-selling 2002 album, Songs for the Deaf.
"All I know is that when we make our records, they're really a labor of love. There's not really a process that we lean on," says Troy Van Leeuwen, QOTSA's lead guitarist and Homme's chosen foil. "Every record that I've made with the band has been completely different. It really just starts from within, and usually our records in the past, we've been able to knock them out pretty quickly. This record was a tough one, and we're not used to that. So we did the most questioning of ourselves on this record, and I think that kind of vulnerability came through, and I'm just feeling like a lot of people identity with that." -- David Von Bader
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