The 30 Best Concerts in Phoenix in October 2016
Bob Dylan is scheduled to perform on Sunday, October 16, at Comerica Theatre.
David Gahr/Sony BMG
We sincerely hope y’all have some disposable income saved up from the summer. Because if you like great music and really like seeing it live, you’re going to be buying plenty of concert tickets over the next few weeks.
That’s because October’s concert calendar is pretty much all treats and no tricks. It’s also arguably one of the busiest months of the entire year for concerts, to say the least.
Every major music venue in Metro Phoenix has a slew of great shows lined up, as do each of the many arts centers dotting the Valley. Add in the Arizona State Fair’s annual slate of shows, performances by such esteemed legends as Bob Dylan and Stevie Nicks, and all the fall tours coming through town, and you’ve got a stacked concert calendar.
Here’s a rundown of the 30 best concerts happening in Phoenix in October.
Dweezil Zappa – Saturday, October 1 – Talking Stick Resort
Although he had a nonconformist father in Frank Zappa, guitarist Dweezil Zappa has proved to be a traditionally loving and devoted son, keeping his father’s work alive through extensive tours with the group Zappa Plays Zappa. But paying so much homage kept Dweezil from making his own music, and there was a gap of nearly a decade between the release of his 2006 album, Go With What You Know, and last year’s Via Zammata’. The recent record shifts from exotically serpentine guitar tangles and orchestral, instrumental passages to funky jazz pomp, metallic psychedelia and Queen-like prog. There are even down-to-earth indie-pop songs layered with Beach Boy-style harmonies. Where his father might have made these juxtapositions more jagged for shock value, Dweezil differs by weaving it all together seamlessly in an openly heartfelt manner. FALLING JAMES
Tour De Fat 2016 feat. Dr. Dog – Saturday, October 1 – Tempe Beach Park
Starting with 2005’s Easy Beat, Philly six-piece Dr. Dog could be counted on to deliver one reliably Beatlesque album — melodic, eclectic, and charismatic — every two years or so, a pattern that held through 2013’s B-Room. Now, their “new” album happens to be their very first recording, Psychedelic Swamp (Anti-). Starting in the late ’90s, founders Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken worked piecemeal over a number of years and self-released the album (with close to three dozen songs) in 2001. By streamlining the track list and re-recording the more salient tunes, Dr. Dog has done something similar to a comic-book “origin story”: reintroducing a familiar character with added context and perspective, which can’t help but cast them in a slightly different light. Here, Dr. Dog have modernized themselves without losing touch with that initial spark of inspiration that has made them one of indie-rock’s most consistently enjoyable 21st-century bands. CHRIS GRAY
MC Chris – Sunday, October 2 – Pub Rock
Nerdcore, my ass — if you want to hear someone rap about comic books or science fiction or anime, you can pick up an album by MF DOOM or Del the Funky Homosapien instead of glomming onto some kid who's too caught up in geek culture to learn how to flow. mc chris (remember, all lowercase when you spell the man's name) is a notable exception: Despite being a pioneer of the nerdcore scene, he's expressed numerous reservations about being lumped in with the more one-movement in his wake. And while his uber-nasal high-pitched voice (as heard on classic episodes of [adult swim] series Sealab 2020 and Aqua Teen Hunger Force) and enthusiasm for all things dork have made him a star among the Internet People set, all his Star Wars and D&D references are spit with a lyrical agility and a sharp-tongued sense of humor that set him miles above his peers. NATE PATRIN
The Crescent Ballroom.
Crescent Ballroom’s Five-Year Anniversary – Monday, October 3
Maybe its just us, but it seems like the Crescent Ballroom has been around forever. Turns out, it's only been a mere five years, but it somehow seems longer, which probably speaks to how important the music venue has become to us in that time. And it’s certainly been a busy half-decade for the Crescent, which has hosted thousands of shows and events, served countless drinks and libations, and functioned as a major destination spot and cultural hub for downtown Phoenix since its opening in October 2011. Suffice it to say, there will be plenty to celebrate during the Crescent Ballroom’s Five-Year Anniversary on Monday, October 3. The event, which takes place in the lounge, will feature spin sessions by both DJ Dirtyverbs and Musa Mind, as well as a performance by the Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Yes, that's definitely Sia underneath that hat.
Courtesy of RCA Records
Sia – Tuesday, October 4 – Talking Stick Resort Arena
Did you know that in the ’90s, Sia was in an acid jazz band? Apparently, the Adelaide acid jazz scene charmed a young Sia Furler so much that she joined Crisp, a combo that combined funk rhythms with rapping and the vocals of the future “Chandelier” singer. It sounds like a jazzier Digable Planets. Crisp’s music, available on Youtube, is a fascinating chapter in the singer’s musical journey that led to her aforementioned breakout single in 2014. These days, Sia is so ubiquitous, she has her own Snapchat filter based on her trademark black-and-white wig. “Elastic Heart,” released on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack, was her first song to catch the ear of the mainstream listening public and set up the eventual success of “Chandelier.” She’s now touring on This Is Acting, and she’s bringing the magnetic star of her music videos, 13-year-old Maddie Ziegler, on tour with her. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Courtesy of Big Hassle Media
The Lumineers – Tuesday, October 4 – Comerica Theatre
The Lumineers' “Ho-Hey’d” itself into pop-culture stardom a few years ago on the heels of the folk-pop boom, instigated by fellow suspender-lovers Mumford and Sons. With tweed vests, kick-drums, and precious lyrics in hand, the trio went from obscurity to ubiquity relatively quickly. Grammy nods, national commercials, and packed festival dates kept the stomping “Hey, Ho” shouts ringing in our heads for longer than most of us wanted it to. With the Denver-based trio’s latest record, Cleopatra, the indie-folk pedal remains politely pressed to the metal, and, wouldn’t ya know it, it really sounds fantastic. It might qualify as a guilty pleasure, but only if we felt any acutal guilt about digging the rustic strums and perfectly neat melodies. Overall, the record isn’t as poppy as the last one, but it's every bit as engaging. After a couple of tracks, it’s damn near impossible to keep from air popping your fake suspenders while playing air-banjo and air-kick drum. The Lumineers are fun, and there’s no reason not to enjoy yourself when indulging your inner folk-popster. KELLY DEARMORE
The members of Mumford & Sons, minus their mandolins.
Courtesy of Glass Note Music
Mumford & Sons – Wednesday, October 5 – Ak-Chin Pavilion
After ditching the banjos and scrub boards for humbuckers and synthesizers, British folk figureheads Mumford & Sons are out to capitalize on the momentum gained from their 2015 album, Wilder Minds. This kind of dramatic shift in sound has worked well for bands looking to break out of their sophomore slump, so maybe this new direction will lead to EDM remixes of hits like “Little Lion Man.” Or maybe these Gentlemen of the Road are just tired of the barn burners and beards. Either way, they’ll be making their way to Phoenix in early October, and we can only hope they have enough room in the van to bring the acoustic sound that made tracks like “I Will Wait” stand out in the first place. NICHOLAS BOSTICK
City and Colour – Wednesday, October 5 – Orpheum Theatre
What do you do at the peak of your hardcore screamo career? Start your country folk side project, of course. Dallas Green, guitarist and vocalist for Alexisonfire, took on the moniker City and Colour to release acoustic songs he’d been writing since he was 14. Listening to his honest, vulnerable lyrics accompanied by a strong familiarity with blues and folk, you’d never guess that Green was moonlighting in a screamo band. Maybe all the yelling mellowed him out for this tranquil side project. In early October, Green pays a visit to the Valley for a performance at the esteemed Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix. MATT WOOD
Courtesy of the Windish Agency
Chvrches – Thursday, October 6 – Marquee Theatre
“Light is all over us,” Lauren Mayberry marvels on “Clearest Blue,” from Chvrches’ latest album, Every Open Eye. Martin Doherty and Iain Cook surround Mayberry’s wide-eyed observations with a fusillade of insistent synthesizers. The contrast between Mayberry’s poppy vocals and the mechanized instrumentation is a key part of the Scottish trio’s sound. At times, the glossy arrangements and songwriting on tracks such as “Make Them Gold” and “Never Ending Circles” strive too hard for commercial formula; Chvrches sound more inviting on relatively low-key, introspective songs such as “Down Side of Me,” which gives Mayberry a chance to fill the emptier spaces with a soulful delivery. The album-closing ballad “Afterglow” is an even more intimately affecting idyll, as she delicately traces “all of the contours … laid before me now.” FALLING JAMES
Ex-Cult – Thursday, October 6 – The Rebel Lounge
Back when they were still called Sex Cult (a cease-and-desist from the New York label of the same name nixed the religious orgy reference), Ex-Cult's set at SXSW so impressed Ty Segall that he eagerly produced the band's self-titled debut. Naturally, the group's sound is heavily guitar-driven (courtesy of Alec McIntyre and JB Horrell), smushed with the slobbering style of hardcore punk acts like Ceremony or Pissed Jeans. But it's the scorched tinges of '60s psychedelia that have earned the Memphis quintet comparisons to Destruction Unit and Thee Oh Sees. Indeed, Ex-Cult's 2015 EP, Cigarette Machine, was co-released on Lollipop and Castle Face Records, the latter co-founded by Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer. It would appear that Ex-Cult is set to be the next indie guitar-humping darlings, on par with Parquet Courts. TROY FARAH
Cyndi Lauper – Friday, October 7 – Talking Stick Resort
In terms of animal comparisons, Cyndi Lauper would best be categorized as a chameleon, considering the way she’s adapted and changed her sound over the last few years. However, as far as personality goes, she’s a leopard — a leopard who doesn’t change her spots or give a damn what people think. Case in point: her latest record, Detour. It’s an apt title, since it’s a country album. Yes, you read correctly: country. It isn’t the first time the 62-year-old New Wave songstress has changed course musically. In 2008, she released Bring Ya to the Brink, a full-blown EDM record, and in 2010 she had the number-one bestselling blues album, Memphis Blues. It might seem odd to those who haven’t followed her career since the '80s, when the pink-haired Queens native was writing catchy and earnest pop songs. That being said, she’s excelled in every new direction she’s taken and her upcoming Phoenix performance should be a testament to that. For starters, Lauper still has the pipes to nail every note. There are 20-something-year-old singers out there who aren’t half as talented. Her sometimes raspy, smoky voice lends itself well to the country-Western she’s embraced, as evidenced by the number of classic covers she’s performed on her current tour, such as Wanda Jackson’s “Funnel of Love” and “Walking After Midnight” by Patsy Cline, one of Lauper’s personal heroines. ANGEL MELENDEZ
Tears for Fears – Friday, October 7 – Comerica Theatre
While Tears for Fears wasn't the most credible name to drop during the Brit band's 1980s heyday, their tunes have time-traveled well. What they lacked in cartoonish image and overt star power, TFF more than compensated for with sheer singability and mainman Roland Orzabal's fastidious production. Early singles like "Mad World" and breakthrough "Shout" are as era-evocative as a Rubik's Cube, yet their sheer ambition and melodrama have proved enduringly endearing ("Mad World" was supersuccessfully covered by Gary Jules 20 years later). 1989's "Sowing the Seeds of Love," perhaps the pinnacle of Orzabal's grandiose designs, likewise stands up as an ultramelodic masterstroke Oasis would die for. Tears for Fears return to remind us that the best New Wave bands were, after all, triumphs of content over form. PAUL ROGERS
Valley Queen – Friday, October 7 – Last Exit Live
“How come every hour feels like Sunday?” singer-guitarist Natalie Carol wonders in a languid daze on “Make You Feel,” the B-side of Valley Queen’s 2014 debut single, produced by Lewis Pesacov (Fool’s Gold, Best Coast). The Arkansas transplant instills a lulling romantic mood, her clear voice arcing slowly like a comet over her band’s gentle ’70s country-rock backing. The LA quartet pumps up the soul on their 2015 follow-up, “Who Ever Said,” a retro ballad distinguished by Carol’s persuasively hopeful entreaties. Bassist Neil Wogensen and drummer Gerry Doot lock into low-key classic-rock grooves that are lit up by guitarist Shawn Morones’ lap-steel glow. They’re just as affecting when they strip down acoustically for the folk-blues lamentation “Pulled by the Weather.” FALLING JAMES
Failure – Saturday, October 8 – Livewire
In 1990, when glam metal was the biggest thing going in Los Angeles, Failure formed, influenced by post-punk and experimental music of the previous decade. By the time of its debut album, 1992’s Comfort, Failure had become part of the early-’90s alternative-rock explosion. But the group wasn’t satisfied with merely riding a trend, and its records became increasingly ambitious and adventurous. Fantastic Planet, the band’s final recording before its 1997 split, was a brilliantly realized concept album in an era when pedestrian themes dominated the alt-rock world. Failure reconvened in 2013, and was a featured artist at Riot Fest in 2014. To the group’s credit, it also started writing new music that further pushed boundaries, and 2015’s The Heart Is a Monster is as vital an effort as any in Failure’s impressive back catalog. TOM MURPHY
ZZ Top – Sunday, October 9 – Talking Stick Resort
Known as much for an abundance of facial hair as for the music, Houston's ultimate blues-rock masters' astounding career hasn't slowed down much over 45 years. ZZ Top has never lost the ability to combine a hip-shaking groove and some of the most tonally unique and technically awing blues riffs around. Recently, Gibbons was exposed to a new generation of music lovers after being featured in the HBO series Sonic Highways, which was directed by Dave Grohl. KRISTIN LOCKHART
Echo and the Bunnymen – Monday, October 10 – Marquee Theatre
The music industry and how music is disseminated these days is quite different than when Echo and the Bunnymen released significant albums like Porcupine and Ocean Rain in the 1980s. Guitarist Will Sergeant says that everything’s changed; the whole ballgame has changed. That’s why the band, which released its 12th full-length (Meteorites) in 2014, is considering next releasing an EP or a series of EPs and holding off on an album for now. Sergeant says he and frontman Ian McCulloch are in the middle of deciding what to do with the new material. “We’re just writing stuff and seeing where it takes us and seeing how it goes,” he says. When they do eventually release the new material, they’ll be putting it out to a music world that’s, as Sergeant says, more interested in a single than in buying the full album. “Attention span — it’s gone out the window, because everything’s instant,” Sergeant says. “They’ll play like 10 seconds of a song and go on to something else. It’s like, slow down a bit. Give it a minute.” TOM MURPHY
Schoolboy Q – Tuesday, October 11 – Mesa Amphitheatre
Surveying the ranks of Top Dawg Entertainment, people lauded Kendrick Lamar because he felt like the second coming; ran to Ab-Soul because he was the outlier who seemed far headier than anyone else in the crew; and soldiered on with perpetual underdog Jay Rock. Exactly who ranks where will always depend on your mood, but one thing is certain: Kendrick is No. 1, the critical darling du jour; and Q is right behind him, a rough yet breathable and even likable rapper who has had far more radio wins than even K-Dot has. He’s upgraded plenty of his own story since 2014’s OxyMoron, a major-label debut that became TDE’s first No. 1 record. Q has also formulated his raps and sounds to have little to no involvement from anyone else on TDE for his recent EP, Blank Face. Live, Q may be more of a rager than anyone else on the TDE roster: high-energy, high-powered, and tons of weed in the air. It’s his turn to run the TDE flag for 2016. BRANDON CALDWELL
Courtesy of Windish Agency
The 1975 – Thursday, October 13 – Comerica Theatre
The town of Wilmslow in Cheshire, England, is perhaps the least rock 'n' roll place on the planet, yet somehow it spawned electro-rock act the 1975, a troupe of genre-bending dudes intent on infecting minds with catchy melodies buried under a mass of cool synths. Frontman Matthew Healy is a star in the making, the perfect blend of Marc Bolan glam androgyny and contemporary indie masculinity. Similarly, the band dips into the past just enough to add retro value to songs that sound very now. “Chocolate,” for example, is reminiscent of new-wave and post-punk favorites from the 1980s, from bands like Then Jericho and even Simple Minds, albeit with a modern twist. It’s a balancing act, but one that the 1975 accomplishes with deft precision. Wolf Alice and the Japanese House also play. BRETT CALLWOOD
Sigur Ros – Friday, October 14 – Orpheum Theater
It speaks to the primal power of Sigur Rós' sound that the Icelandic band has never needed to abandon its native Icelandic tongue (except occasionally for the invented gibberish variant, Hopelandic), much less yield to pop song constructs, to find success. For nearly two decades now, the group has channeled an original sonic aesthetic often associated with post rock, a genre pioneered by mostly instrumental indie outfits like Tortoise and Mogwai. But even that tag does not come close to doing justice to the deep emotional complexity of Sigur Rós' music, which often drifts toward elegiac, soaring heights of majesty. Horns, both mournful and brilliant, accentuate the songs, as do soul-stirring strings and heartbreaking piano hooks. The band employs electric guitars at all levels, from screeching feedback to rumbling ambiance. And frontman Jon Thor Birgisson, a.k.a. Jónsi, often breaks out a bow to drag across his guitar, creating Sigur Rós' signature, sweet rumble. Then there is Jónsi's voice, which hardly an American can understand. And yet, his crooning has been known to bring people to tears at concerts. HANS MORGENSTERN
The members of Ra Ra Riot.
Courtesy of Windish Agency
Ra Ra Riot – Friday, October 14 – Crescent Ballroom
Like many bands before them, Ra Ra Riot began as a way of pass the time, an avenue by which a group of college friends could explore their artistic side, have some fun, and maybe make a few bucks in the process. Unlike most of their predecessors, however, the band has made a career out of that pursuit of fun more than a decade later. “In the beginning, I never thought I’d still be talking about the band right now,” Ra Ra Riot frontman Wes Miles recently revealed in an interview with New Times sister paper the Houston Press. “After the first year or so, we realized that this was something we all wanted to do and wanted to take a little further and keep going. Early on, it was mostly just something to pass the time, but it was just too much fun to leave behind.” A decade in, Ra Ra Riot has more than proven itself as one of the nation’s preeminent indie bands and is touring in support of its latest, Need Your Light, which was released in February. They began as a group of friends pursuing music, and the band is still very close to this day. However, Miles admits, the key to maintaining sanity – particularly on the road – is not spending all of one’s time with one's bandmates. CLINT HALE
BOO! Arizona – Saturday, October 15 – Rawhide
As it turns out, ghouls and ghosts won’t be the only thing going bump in the night this time of year. Case in point: bass-heavy beats, cacophonous grinds, and other ominously intense electronic sounds will fill the air this weekend over at Rawhide Event Center, 5700 West North Loop Road in Chandler, during the first-ever edition of BOO! Arizona on Saturday, October 15. It’s a Halloween-themed dance music festival that will feature tons of costumed characters and EDM treats aplenty, especially for anyone who digs dubstep, trap music, or electro. Appropriately enough, the lineup will include performances by DJs and producer that are aptly named for such a macabre affair – such as Knife Party, Excision, NGHTMRE and Ghastly – and have a habit of blasting brutal sounds. As you might’ve guessed, costumes are encouraged. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Bob Dylan – Sunday, October 16 – Comerica Theatre
Bob Dylan continues to mystify, putting out another record of pop standards in May, Fallen Angels, a year after his first full-length foray into the genre, Shadows in the Night. While it may seem foolhardy to take on traditional favorites that were largely popularized by a young, callously assured belter like Frank Sinatra, Dylan makes it work, turning the lights down and shifting the mood inward with his craggy, post-midnight growl and his group’s artfully restrained backing. FALLING JAMES
De Anastacia Photography
Apache Lake Music Festival 2016 – Friday, October 21, and Saturday, October 22
This annual two-day showcase of Arizona musicians and bands that’s been around since 2009 takes place this month in the midst of a particularly picturesque stretch of high desert terrain east of Phoenix. As the name of the festival portends, the event happens right next to Apache Lake, with dozens of local acts performing each year at what’s considered one of Arizona’s more unique music festivals. And this year’s lineup includes plenty of ALMF regulars (Haymarket Squares, Japhy’s Descent, Decker., and Captain Squeegee) and newbies alike. According to co-organizer Brannon Kleinlein, the acts that will be playing the festival for the first time include Black Bottom Lighters, Blacktop Chalk, Brothers Gow, Luna Aura, Dreams and Doorways, Ebinezer, Taylor Upsahl, and Dr. Delicious. Two bands will also stage their first-ever performances at this year’s ALMF: Gate and Wilderness (a duo consisting of Mergence’s Adam Bruce and James Mulhern of defunct rock act What Laura Says) and Dirty Dre's Random Raunchy Revue, a newly formed group launched by Andria Bunnell of Hot Birds & The Chili Sauce. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Of Montreal – Tuesday, October 25 – Crescent Ballroom
Masterminded by Kevin Barnes, who writes and performs almost all of the instrumentation and vocals of their recorded work, Of Montreal's live experience over the past two decades has evolved into something unique — part gender-bending performance art, part religious revival, all body-working disco dance party. Those shopping for a ticket to a straight-ahead rock show should look elsewhere. If you're intrigued by the idea of stilt-walkers and gas-mask-wearing aliens dancing to songs about Oslo in the summertime, that's another story. DAVID ROLLAND
Garbage – Thursday, October 27 – Arizona State Fair
Shirley Manson, Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, and Steve Marker made Garbage a '90s alt-rock radio staple. While trippy production loops and sampling beats made the music stand apart from some of their grunge and alternative comrades, it's always been Manson's sultry and mysterious vocals that stand out. A bit sexy, a bit defiant and a bit matter-of-fact, Manson is a versatile frontwoman, as capable of lovingly belting out torch anthems as she is delivering tales of woe and bad news with a menacing snarl. While they've never matched the chart success of their self-titled debut — "Only Happy When It Rains" and "Stupid Girl" are still ubiquitous earworms — Garbage has consistently been recording new music and touring with great frequency. Manson's vocals still pack a punch, and with Vig onstage, it's safe to assume a great deal of sonic wizardry will keep the show fresh and fulfilling. If they've been off your radar for a while, their show at this year's Arizona State Fair would be a good time to get reacquainted. JEFF STROWE
Bret McKenzie (left) and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords.
Flight of the Conchords – Friday, October 28 – Comerica Theatre
They came, they saw, they Conchord — kind of. After gaining a cult following thanks to their Emmy-nominated HBO series of the same name, the expertly coiffed comedy folk duo Flight of the Conchords (Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie) laid a little low, enjoying the kind of success that still spawns an array of GIFs and Tumblr posts. Now, everyone’s favorite New Zealanders have returned to the stage with the Flight of the Conchords Sing Flight of the Conchords tour. Fans can expect to hear favorites “The Most Beautiful Girl (in the Room),” “Carol Brown,” and “Business Time,” along with new material, including a song about being gym sex buddies, “Fuck You On The Ceiling,” and the twosome’s signature clever banter. Irish comedian and musician David O’Doherty will open. JANESSA HILLIARD
The members of Yeasayer.
Courtesy of Windish Agency
Yeasayer – Sunday, October 30 – Crescent Ballroom
This Brooklyn art-rock trio’s fourth album, Amen & Goodbye, manages to be both their weirdest and their most accessible work to date. There’s a pop hook or unexpected new texture around every corner on such densely packed songs as “I Am Chemistry,” which turns chemical compounds into poetry (“C4H10FO2P” — the formula for sarin — “puts you on your knees”) over Afrobeat-tinged psychedelia. The satisfyingly straightforward electro-pop of “Silly Me” segues into the fittingly trippy, dreamlike “Half Asleep,” which in turn transitions seamlessly into the funky, horn-laced “Dead Sea Scrolls.” Credit producer-drummer Joey Waronker (Beck, Atoms for Peace) for wrangling Yeasayer’s intriguing but sometimes clashing influences into the most cohesive album of their career. ANDY HERMANN
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.