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
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.