The 30 Best Concerts in Phoenix in November 2016
Gogol Bordello is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, November 15, at Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
Courtesy of Red Light Management
There are a few reasons why we really dig November, not the least of which are that the weather’s better and the holiday’s are just around the corner.There are a few reasons why we really dig November. Not only does the weather’s actually get particularly cooler sometime this month (no, really) but we’re on the cusp of the holiday season and the chance to reunite with our nearest and dearest.
You know who’s also coming to town soon? Tons of great bands.
Much like September and October, this month happens to be wall-to-wall with big shows by big artists, a few festivals, and long-awaited visits from legendary musicians. You don’t take our word for it, however, and can check out our online concert calendar or the following list and decide for yourself.
Here’s a look at 30 concerts happening in November that we’re eager to see.
Max Frost – Friday, November 4 – Valley Bar
First and foremost, Max Frost is an accomplished beatmaker. While melodies come easily, it’s with drums and synthesized beats that Frost first builds the infrastructure of a song. Through later combining everyday ephemera and chords, he relays an easy sense of intimacy. Something almost thematic in Frost’s work is his accessibility. Signed to Atlantic records in 2013, the 22-year-old has released two EPs: Low High Low and Intoxication. While work continues to pour into what will be his debut LP, the singer remains eager to tour as much as possible. When asked if the sincerity he achieves lyrically is intuitive, he confesses that it’s the hardest part: “I dunno, for me I feel like lyrics are my biggest struggle with writing songs. It’s the easiest thing to overthink, the easiest thing to ruin a song or make it feel insincere or forced…but at the same time it can also be the thing that’s perfectly ambiguous and meaningful enough to make something work.” STEPHANIE GREY
Singer/songwriter James McMurtry.
James McMurtry – Friday, November 4 – Crescent Ballroom
Decades from now, when social anthropologists look back on which musicians most accurately and articulately captured the plight of the dwindling American middle class in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, they'll surely home in on the brilliant Austin songwriter James McMurtry. Rivaled only by Jason Isbell in his ability to construct compelling tales of small-town pathos without sounding patronizing, McMurtry doesn't exploit his characters or paint them in overly dour strokes; even his meth-heads have a good time here and there. But off-the-grid life isn't an excuse for McMurtry to sing about lakefront bonfires and Daisy Dukes. Such backwoods blowouts are the stuff of Music Row fiction, filled with trucks, cans (both containing beer and affixed to chests) and one-night stands. Yet for as flawed as the protagonists in his songs can be, you'd still much rather spend time with them than the buff bros and babes by the beach. MIKE SEELY
Less Than Jake performs during the Vans Warped Tour in August.
Rebel Riot Fest feat. Less Than Jake – Saturday, November 5 – Yucca Tap
In a musical world that’s frequently cast as "adapt or die" and one that’s ruled by youth culture and Next Big Things, Gainesville ska-punks Less Than Jake have proven that persistence pays. The band has never veered far from its ska-punk roots, and its core lineup — drummer and lyricist Vinnie Fiorello, vocalist-guitarist Chris DeMakes, vocalist-bassist Roger Lima, and trombonist Buddy Schaub — has held strong for more than two decades. Though the outfit formed in 1992, it truly established itself during ska’s third-wave moment in the sun, the late-'90s explosion in the genre’s popularity that coincided with (or perhaps brought about) the rise of acts like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, No Doubt, Goldfinger, and Save Ferris. All of those acts have fizzled away (or, in No Doubt’s case, evolved into something far bigger than a niche genre act). Less Than Jake somehow carries on, continuing to issue predictably solid horn-inflected punk albums (eight and counting, with 2013’s See the Light the most recent, along with a number of EPs and live albums) as though the movement never ended. JESSE RICHMAN
Tim Reynolds TR3 – Sunday, November 6 – Rhythm Room
Tim Reynolds might be best-known as the one who offered Dave Matthews his first words of musical encouragement. Matthews, born in South Africa, and Reynolds, born in Germany, would have their confluence in Virginia. The two are separated by a decade in age, with Tim the elder, and though it was the student who'd go on to more mainstream appeal, the student has not surpassed the master. It is Reynolds who has quietly forged along, becoming a powerhouse in the instrumental-rock genre. The Tim Reynolds Trio, or TR3, has been his controlled experiment on musical improvisation since 1984. A multi-instrumentalist (guitars, piano, banjo, violin, harp, and numerous types of percussive elements), he is known and praised for performances that are improvisational ventures and for the fact that Reynolds allows the audience to bootleg his gigs and engage in a tape-trading akin to the Grateful Dead's Deadhead network. The current incarnation of the TR3 is rounded out by the rhythm section of drummer Dan Martier and bassist Mick Vaughn. The group prides itself on genre-bending, and any of its gigs can run the gamut of styles from funk, blues, prog, and psych to jazz fusion, with nuances and touches of classic rock and metal. Aside from an arsenal developed in a catalog of six or seven official releases, they're also admired for spicing up covers of songs by artists like Bob Marley, Marilyn Manson, and Led Zeppelin. ABEL FOLGAR
Puddles Pity Party
Em Butler Photography
Puddles Pity Party – Monday, November 7 – Crescent Ballroom
For the third time in the last three years, Puddles Pity Party will take ownership of the stage at downtown’s Crescent Ballroom. Though the name implies a group, it’s a one-man show with a giant clown at the helm. Yep, Puddles, who towers at seven feet tall, is a sad and mischievous clown with an operatic voice. Puddles’ initial success came from the YouTube video he released of his cover of Lorde’s hit song, “Royals.” As interesting as it was to see a gigantic clown belting out anything, it was even better with his powerful, undeniable vocal skills. He tackles all styles, too, from Sinatra to Bob Marley to Metallica, and he rises to the challenge each time, taking it to the next level — clown level. It’s nothing short of majestic every fucking time. The Puddles live show is an interactive affair. Throughout each night, he randomly pulls people from the audience and engages them in different types of shenanigans. At his early shows, this was an obviously unexpected component of the night. Audience members looked shocked and a little nervous as he plucked people to include in his act. Now, it’s become something the audience looks forward to; people are dressing clown-style or adorning Puddles-related garb in the hopes of getting noticed by the clown. Hands raise and wave all night now, flailing in “pick me” desperation to score some close-up time with this unique showman. AMY YOUNG
MC Ride (left) and Zach Hill of Death Grips.
Courtesy of Third Worlds Records
Death Grips – Tuesday, November 8 – Marquee Theatre in Tempe
Think of the most pretentious bands you can: the ones that take their music almost too seriously, the ones who constantly break up and get back together just in time for a world tour, the ones who cancel such tours to record, then leak their own albums onto mysterious Twitter/YouTube/Myspace/Deep Web accounts. What artists come to mind? Tool? LCD Soundsystem? The late Prince? What about Death Grips? Even if there is a lot of smoke and mirrors surrounding Death Grips’ various stunts — such as posting “interview” videos with no sound — it’s clear the band is pushing what it even means to be a band. The Sacramento trio is rapper-vocalist MC Ride (known by his mother as Stefan Burnett), drummer and producer Zach Hill, and keyboardist/programmer Andy Morin. Together, they have crushed industrial instrumentals with experimental hip-hop and noise rock — no easy task — and have influenced everyone from Iggy Pop to Eric André to the late David Bowie. Yes, really. Death Grips have collaborated heavily with Björk, Nick Reinhart of Tera Melos, and even worked with Twilight’s Robert Pattinson on their song “Birds.” Whether they’re a real band or just performing artists making some sort of “statement,” it’s clear people are listening. TROY FARAH
Psychic Twin – Wednesday, November 9 – Crescent Ballroom
In 2012, Psychic Twin, led by singer-songwriter Erin Fein, released several rapt, evocative singles. These starry-eyed exercises in the shoegaze genre, filled with wistful counter-melodies and dark rhythms, were meant to be solitary affairs, a way to capture the feeling of recording with her imaginary twin. The singles showed promise, but little has been heard from Fein since. Until now. Strange Diary, Psychic Twin’s long-awaited full-length album, is a breakup record that tells Fein’s story since the release of those auspicious songs four years ago. It also carves out a new direction for the music of moving on. The album is not the standard collection of acoustic torch songs detailing the personal peccadilloes of a failed marriage, but rather a melodic, synth-heavy package of tunes that redefines confessional music. It is both a sonic chronicle of Fein’s divorce and a documentary of how cold and isolating it can be to start over in a new place, as she packed up her life in central Illinois and relocated to Brooklyn. The result is a raw, intimate diary of thoughts you would share with your closest friend — or imaginary twin. JASON KEIL
SALES – Wednesday, November 9 – Valley Bar
SALES are an indie pop duo from Orlando featuring the musical talents of Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih, with Morgan handling vocal duties. The two-piece craft an elegant and lovely lo-fi sound that blends acoustic guitars and electronic production. Impossibly charming, they’re a must hear and see for fans of chamber pop bands such as Belle and Sebastian or Stars. This Thursday, the second stop of their North American tour finds them popping into Bardot, an infamously intimate venue and thus, the perfect setting for SALES. The group's independently released self-titled LP drops the day before, an album they recently previewed during a live stream on Twitch. The first two singles off the record, “Ivy” and “Jamz,” are sparkling downtempo grooves that feel like a mashup between Best Coast and Chet Faker. On April 21, set time aside from homework or adulthood for this breezy group and what should be a charming evening of twinkling, electro-pop. SALES are as far from punk rock as possible, but pack no less a punch, albeit more of an emotional one. ANGEL MELENDEZ
The members of Diarrhea Planet.
Diarrhea Planet – Wednesday, November 9 – Valley Bar
Everyone likes a good poop joke now and then — but Nashville's Diarrhea Planet are quick to point out they are "not a joke band with a joke name. We are a very serious band with a joke name." The weird moniker was chosen as a "fuck you" to the commercial music types at Belmont University, where the six-piece band formed. Plus, as guitarist (one of four) Jason Smith explained when we called him up, it's better than choosing a serious-sounding name, like Vampire Weekend, then waking up one day and realize it's stupid and means nothing. "With a silly band name where it's out of the way and you don't have to think about it," Smith says. In spite of whatever gag-worthy images their name puts in your head, Diarrhea Planet actually takes their craft quite seriously. Indie pop charms funneled through heavy metal puts them somewhere between Wavves and Fidlar with plenty of nods to Black Sabbath, AC/DC and The Ramones. "Ugliest Son" gets sludgy, peppered with themes of sickness and ultimate evil, while "Kids" gets more emotive, exploring the realization that nobody, no matter what age, really has it all figured out. TROY FARAH
Rufus Wainwright – Thursday, November 10 – Mesa Arts Center
Rufus Wainwright's music is hard to categorize. It's not really pop music because too often it lacks the kind of simple catchy hooks that make for great radio fodder. He composed an opera and has set Shakespearian sonnets to music, but you can't really define him as a classical composer. Across all his diverse projects, it is his innate talent for singing and songwriting that defines him as a musician and is apparent across his genre-hopping career. When you're the son of two folk singers (Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III), singing and songwriting are ingrained in you. Wainwright has made a life in music, something his heritage seems to have destined him for, but he has also done so in an extremely distinctive, individualistic way. His music, like him, seems to exist in the grey areas and in-betweens. If he's a little outside the norm, it's probably because that is where he is most comfortable. KATE WOMACK
Car Seat Headrest
Car Seat Headrest — Thursday, November 10 — Crescent Ballroom
Car Seat Headrest was the DIY dorm-room project of Will Toledo until his music was discovered by Matador Records last year; now, he and his songs are included on many year-end best-of lists. Toledo, who started recording at age seventeen, has eleven albums to his name, all of which are personal, complex and full of a certain stripped-down charm. He also tends to experiment with genres, mixing punk, psychedelia and pop with excellence, which is most likely why he’s gotten as far as he has in such a short time. Car Seat Headrest may not be what you expect, but it is worthy of all the buzz — and a trip to the Crescent later this mont. ISA JONES
HEALTH – Thursday, November 10 – The Rebel Lounge
It's hard not to think HEALTH is more mechanized than Kraftwerk ever could have dreamed. The Los Angeles quartet teethed itself on the abrasive thrash of New York noise rock bands but committed to harmonic balance with trademark melodic synth licks and singer Jake Duzsik's distant, unaffected voice. With a "no ride cymbal" policy, and by corking their mics through guitar pedals, HEALTH displays some of the most interesting percussion this side of Zach Hill. The band's warped approach earns it labels like "industrial disco," almost as if synthpop group Pet Shop Boys met doom metal legends Earth — but HEALTH's unique mixture of light and dark tones is not so simple. Death Magic, the band's recent third album and first in six years, expands the dance-floor grooves without sacrificing any of the relentless, asymmetrical rhythm inherent in 2009's Get Color. The group often is on the road, and the members have met a lot of interesting friends along the way. When Crystal Castles remixed HEALTH's single "Crimewave," it brought the group mainstream notoriety, and Famiglietti says they are good friends with Purity Ring, whose "Begin Again" was remixed by HEALTH. For Death Magic, HEALTH tapped Kanye West producer Andrew Dawson, noted for his work on Yeezus and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Famiglietti also says they chose a hip-hop producer instead of a rock or metal producer because of the specific tones HEALTH was trying to find. TROY FARAH
Chance the Rapper – Friday, November 11 – Mesa Amphitheatre
Chance the Rapper's 2016 release, Coloring Book, might not be the cutting, intense political statement many of his contemporaries opted to release this year, but it is a brilliantly produced, smooth slice of gospel-laced hip-hop that promotes CtR's infectious positive mental attitude. It's really no surprise the Chicago-based rapper is feeling ttblessed right now With the laundry list of hip-hop's hottest that worked on his record — Kanye, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Lil Yachty, Kaytranada, T-Pain, Ty Dolla $ign, and Anderson .Paak, to name just a few — the 23-year-old seemed poised to succeed no matter what. Make no mistake, though: Chance the Rapper's chops aren't solely built on the shoulders of others. After all, he did co-write a handful of tracks on Life of Pablo while working on his own critically acclaimed album. Unfortunately, though, if you didn't already snag tickets or are up for hitting the secondary market, you'll have to sit this one out because the Valley stop on the tour (which was rescheduled to November 11) is sold out. HEATHER HOCH
Lauryn Hill – Sunday, November 13 – Comerica Theatre
Ms. Lauryn Hill has graced the Billboard charts with hits like "Doo Wop (That Thing)” and "Ex Factor" since her start with the Fugees in the early ‘90s. It's her ability to elevate a typical song into a classic with her beautiful, soothing voice that has given her a special place among R&B and hip-hop worlds. While Hill hasn't officially released an album for two years, she contributed her talent to several songs on a soundtrack compilation for a documentary about Nina Simone. Although she was only supposed to record two songs for the soundtrack, she ended up recording six, much to the delight of critics who've called the release Hill's best work since her 1998 solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Over the years, she's also shown her support for various issues dealing with racial equality, such as her recent Diaspora Calling! show series to promote black artists from around the world. Both Hill’s music and her activism game is strong as she embarks on another world tour. PABLO ARAUZ
PWR BTTM — Saturday, November 12 — The Rebel Lounge
Aesthetically glam, sonically grungy and socially radical, PWR BTTM pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a punk in 2016. Carrying on the tradition of duos that thrash just as hard as full rock bands, drummer Liv Bruce and guitarist Ben Hopkins share vocal duties to create a whirlwind of emotion wrapped in noise and sometimes a little sarcasm. Self-professed genderqueers, Bruce and Hopkins write songs that tackle and challenge traditional ideas around relationships, personal pronouns and social norms. The East Coasters were recently picked up by indie mainstay label Polyvinyl, exposing their wild style to an even wider audience. The future is here and queer, and PWR BTTM’s candy-coated politics are leading the charge. BREE DAVIES
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