This weekend’s slate of concerts happening around the Valley includes a few significant gigs. There’s the final show at Trunk Space’s current home, of course, as well as performances by such esteemed and ground-breaking artists as surf king Dick Dale, rock icon Todd Rundgren, and two legendary avant-garde acts: Negativland and The Residents.
All four of these shows are included in our list of the best concerts to see in Phoenix this weekend, as are performances by Kenny Chesney, Beach Slang, and Ill Niño. (For even more show around town, check out our online concert calendar.)
Negativland, a collection of artists from the Bay Area, first gained notoriety for its legal battle with U2’s label Island Records. In 1991, the band released an EP named after the Irish quartet containing samples of American Top 40 disc jockey Casey Kasem going on an expletive-laced rant while a kazoo-filled version of the song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” played. The label feared that fans would mistake Negativland’s release for an U2 album; the EP was pulled from shelves as a result.
While it’s fun to hear Kasem scream “these guys are from England and who gives a shit,” the EP was meant to be a sonic artistic collage exposing the hidden realities of media, but the message was lost in the litigious aftermath. It’s reassuring to know that 25 years later, Negativland is bringing its “culture jamming,” a term they coined, to Phoenix for the first time. It’s working with Tuscon-based artist Steev Hise to create an audiovisual experience that utilizes devices they call “Boopers”: clock-radio amplifiers rigged to create feedback. They combine the resulting audio with found sounds and visuals to create an original statement. JASON KEIL
For more than 40 years, The Residents have gone to great lengths to hide their identities. They don’t give interviews, and they rarely perform live. And when they do tour, “Randy,” “Chuck,” and “Bob” cover themselves up in elaborately disturbing costumes, such as their iconic tuxedos accessorized with gigantic, eyeball-like headpieces. Not only does the mysterious collective create a uniquely theatrical spectacle onstage, but it also dispenses with the idea of individual rock-star ego and the cult of personality in order to return the focus to the work itself. Somewhat atypically, The Residents are looking backward on their latest live album, Shadowland, a survey of arty anti-hits that fuses together laconic vocals, eerie electronics, rhythmic sound collages, and psychedelic guitar. This weekend’s show at the Crescent Ballroom includes a screening of a new documentary about the band, Theory of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents. FALLING JAMES
Kenny Chesney — Saturday, May 7 — Chase Field
Kenny Chesney is getting up there in years, but his latter-day career has given him a sort of gravitas he didn't have in his youth. In those days, his albums were pretty much standard-issue '90s hat-act country, not that bad, but more than a little callow; now, he's America's favorite singing beach bum not named Jimmy Buffett. That said, Chesney has actually dialed down the surf and sand a bit in favor of small-town Americana on his latest album, The Big Revival, a collection of sentimental character sketches that radiates wistful nostalgia rather than sun-dappled easy times. It's a pretty good look for Chesney, too. CHRIS GRAY
Despite their band’s name, Beach Slang are decidedly not garage, not beach-y, and they’re not from California (Pennsylvania actually, which may be the polar opposite of California). Beach Slang have taken shoegaze-y, layered guitars and sped them up to forge a complex and driving sound. They lure you in with crystalline guitar leads before bringing in slicing chord hits with raspy, yelling vocals. It feels as if each song may rip at the seams at any moment. That’s when they pull it back and the tide pulls in — but only so the next wave will hit you even harder. MATT WOOD
Unless you’re completely removed from the downtown Phoenix art and music scenes – or have been living under a rock the past few months — you’re likely aware that the Trunk Space will leave its original home on Grand Avenue later this month. Before the proprietors of the beloved DIY venue and gallery put the location in the rearview, however, they’re planning one final show featuring a few of its favorites and regulars. There’s Fathers Day (the whackadoodle local punk band that pretty much got its start at Trunk Space), as well as singer/songwriter Jason Anderson, The Dietrichs, and the curiously named F/G/G/T/Failur. Also on the lineup is IHYWYP (aka I Hate You When You’re Pregnant), which is one man dressed in clothing suited for teenage girls howling weird-ass songs along with a drum machine. Needless to say, it's entertaining as all get out, and is the sort of fringe act that fits in well with an outsider art venue like Trunk Space. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Ill Niño is a fitting name for a heavy-metal act that has been whipping through festivals and speakers non-stop since the year 2000. It was in 2003 that the American Latin metal band garnered the attention of the mainstream with their second album, Confession. Over the course of seven studio albums and two EPs, the band has sold more than 1.4 million units worldwide. They’re notorious for playing festivals, from Ozzfest in Europe to Grass Pop in Belgium to Vive Latino in Mexico to Download in the UK.
Now, currently touring to promote their 2014 release, Til Death La Familia, Ill Niño is finally returning to the U.S. to rock fans with their Spanish guitar riffs, Latin rhythms, and shredding vocals. The six-piece act has the ability to intertwine melody and thrash in a reliable yet refreshing way. They’re pioneers of Latin metal, and vocalist Cristian Machado focuses on bilingual lyrics and philosophical song themes, like growing up without a father and trying to find one’s place in society. LAUREN WISE
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Dick Dale is one of the most influential living musicians. If Dale hadn't blown the first 48 guitar amplifiers Leo Fender had brought to him, guitar amps as we now know them may have taken longer to develop. Dale, who invented surf rock, used to pay the Beach Boys $50 to open for him in the early days. Dale's influence on rock 'n' roll since the 1950s is immense, and he has shared the stage with legends while being a legend in his own right. He was a seminal influence on Jimi Hendrix, who immortalized Dale in song. TOM MURPHY
Todd Rundgren — Sunday, May 8 — Celebrity Theatre
When Todd Rundgren dubbed an early album A Wizard, a True Star, it might have seemed somewhat presumptuous at the time, given that his recording career was practically in its infancy. Four decades later, that title has come to sum up one of the most remarkably prolific careers in rock's vast pantheon. In fact, there's little Rundgren hasn't done, whether as a performer, producer, engineer, or video pioneer. LEE ZIMMERMAN