Music fans of Phoenix, get ready for an invasion.
Over the next couple of weeks, an influx of attention-grabbing and tastemaking acts that are scheduled to perform at Coachella this year will also be hitting music venues around the Valley as they make their way to and from the high-profile festival. And ultimately, we're the ones who get to reap the benefit.
It begins on Wednesday when M83 returns to the Valley for the first time in a few years for a show at Comerica Theatre. Elsewhere in downtown that same night, the indie rockers of Joywave will be performing over at Valley Bar. The following evening is even busier as Beach House, James Bay, Savages, and Chris Stapleton all have concerts around Metro Phoenix on Thursday.
There's similarly noteworthy concerts happening locally that don't involve Coachella-bound artists this week, of course, including gigs by blues legend Jimmy Thackery, Dan Boeckner’s latest project, post-hardcore band The Used, and everything else that's listed in our comprehensive online concert calendar.
Operators — Monday, April 11 — Valley Bar
Dan Boeckner’s musical résumé, which includes Wolf Parade and Handsome Furs, reads like the indie rock equivalent of a Major League Baseball journeyman player. The Canadian singer-songwriter performs well with any team he plays for, but the guitarist doesn’t always get the recognition that his teammates do. His recent collaboration, Divine Fits, was billed as the side project of Spoon’s Britt Daniel. Boeckner is a man who lets his work, not his ego, do the talking.
The musician’s latest venture, the new wave synth-pop trio Operators (whose lineup includes Divine Fits drummer Sam Brown and synth player Devojka), would punch his ticket to the metaphorical All-Star Game if the project wasn’t in danger of being overshadowed by the news of Wolf Parade’s return to touring. The debut single off Operators’ first full-length album, Blue Wave, titled “Cold Light,” starts out with jangly percussion and then goes dark fast. A hooky bass riff and synths engulf you in gloom as Boeckner cries “you can’t go home.” The album makes you appreciate what he really brought to the table during his time with Divine Fits. Here’s hoping Operators finally gives Boeckner an opportunity to shine. JASON KEIL
The Used — Tuesday, April 12, and Wednesday, April 13 — Marquee Theatre
For the last 15 years, Bert McCracken and The Used have been the poster boys for the 2000s post-hardcore/emo/screamo scene alongside bands like Taking Back Sunday and Brand New. Unlike many of those other bands — some of which are now reuniting after taking the better part of a decade off — The Used never had a big falling out or stopped making music. "The end goal for The Used is for us to all feel free and to think about our lives in a way that feels like we're not a slave to necessity in the world of music," McCracken says.
This year, The Used will be enjoying that freedom as it takes its 15th anniversary tour across the country. Each will consist of two consecutive dates — the first to play its self-titled debut album in its entirety, and the second for its sophomore effort, In Love and Death. McCracken still remembers what it felt like to write those albums ("Being a teenager is impossibly hard"), but the now-34-year-old also sees how much the world has changed since he penned the lyrics to tracks like "Buried Myself Alive" and "The Taste of Ink” way back when. "It's definitely going to feel different in the world we live in now," McCracken says. "It's a world where apathy is no longer cool. It's no longer cool to not give a shit about things. It's amazing to watch the transition of meaning in these songs. When you're younger, they're about you and about finding your place in the world. As we grow older, we develop a less-selfish idea of how the world works." JOSH CHESLER
Jimmy Thackery — Wednesday, April 13 — Rhythm Room
After a 15-year stint with the Washington, D.C.-based blues act the Nighthawks, Jimmy Thackery set out on his own in 1987. Since then, the guitarist, who’s shared the stage with the great Muddy Waters, has toured relentlessly and has also been remarkably prolific, releasing nearly two dozen albums since his 1992 debut, Empty Arms Motel. Among those recordings are the excellent 2002 studio disc, Whiskey Store, and Whiskey Store Live, released four years later, both featuring fellow bluesman Tab Benoit. All of that touring and recording has clearly sunk into Thackery’s fiery playing: He can play the hell out of the blues, whether running through an up-tempo burner or injecting a ballad with his fierce fretwork.
M83 — Wednesday, April 13 — Comerica Theatre
If you’re attending the upcoming M83 show at Comerica Theatre, pay close attention to the lovely singer with the multi-colored hair. As reported by our sister paper Dallas Observer, North Texas musician Kaela Sinclair won an open call to join the French electronic band on tour. Instead of preparing for the release of her second solo album, the former music teacher is putting her own ambitions on hold to see the world. She will perform with the group whose saxophones and synthesizers permeated the public conscious on the 2011 track “Midnight City” from their breakthrough double album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. Sinclair is joining the tour in support of the release of the highly anticipated record Junk. Judging from the sound of the first two singles “Solitude” and “Do It, Try It,” the new album is a response to the glossy, ambitious sound that was seemingly a part of every video game, commercial, and indie film of the last half-decade. Sinclair’s expectation for a life-changing tour comes at a time when the M83 audience doesn’t know quite what to expect. JASON KEIL
Joywave — Wednesday, April 13 — Valley Bar
Joywave wasn't popular in 2010, 2011, 2012, or 2013. But when its song "Tongues" hit the Billboard charts in 2014, it was like the flick of a light switch. "We did everything ourselves for the last four years," said the band's vocalist, Dan Armbruster. "Literally everything." The release of "Tongues" and its growing popularity on blogs and alternative playlists got the band a record deal as well as some fans — and haters.
Now, with the Joywave's debut LP — How Do You Feel Now? — a follow-up to its 2014 EP How Do You Feel? — he feels the band is ready to show off its sound and push listeners to their limits. "I don't know if you've ever played the game in middle school where someone was putting their hand on your leg and then they say, 'Are you uncomfortable?'" Armbruster says. "You say, 'No,' so they'd slide up their hand up your leg repeatedly until you're extremely uncomfortable. That's the idea." The band consists of five members — vocals (Armbruster), guitar (Morinelli), bass (Sean Donnelly), keyboards (Benjamin Bailey), and drums (Paul Brenner) — each bringing their own tastes to the group's sound. Brenner likes rock, Donnelly likes electronic music, Bailey likes classical, and none of the members like country. "I know it's the cliche," justified Armbruster. "But I think that is true for our band." EMILY BLOCH
Beach House — Thursday, April 14 — Marquee Theatre
The grandiose sweep of M83’s orchestrations should still be ringing inside the ears of local indie pop fans when Beach House shows up the following night with its mellower brand of dream pop. Over the years, the Baltimore duo have blown their intimate sound out to an ever grander scale, without sacrificing the evocative stream-of-consciousness flair that defined their earliest bedroom recordings. Their most recent records, Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars, sound every bit as throwback as their first, with Victoria Legand and Alex Scully’s haunting vocal interplay managing to evoke the illusion of a third voice floating in their rich instrumentals. Beachgoers may consider having a pillow on deck, as the pair have been known to host “slumber parties” in an attempt to keep things intimate and mimic their earlier cozy, at-home vibes — no mean feat in Tempe’s 2,500-capacity Marquee Theatre. MATT PAYNE
Savages — Thursday, April 14 — Crescent Ballroom
If you’re tired of hearing about dark, moody, and noisy bands being thrown into the “post-punk” pool, please raise your hand. It’s easy to simply genre-fy any band that sounds something akin to Joy Division, Sonic Youth, Public Image Ltd, or even Sugar as post-punk, and while Savages often find themselves falling victim to such simplicity, beyond the driving basslines, staccato guitar attacks, triple-time drums, and broody wail of lead singer Jehnny Beth (real name: Camille Berthomier), is a much more refined sense of purpose.
Formed in London in late 2011, Savages picked up the noisiest pieces of the 1980s, the 1990s’ dark edge, and 2000s’ anthemic hard rock, and channeled it into something dark, primal, and oddly compelling. The music isn’t for the disaffected in the way Nine Inch Nails’ sonic gloom and doom “spoke” to so many, as it is for those seeking unbridled, energetic release with no holds attached. It’s also for those not seeking love songs, but rather curious about the connections between music and art and the fine line binding the two mediums. Savages has found a way to piece it all together without sacrificing intent, integrity, and, best of all, intensity. GLENN BURNSILVER
James Bay — Thursday, April 14 — Livewire
Listening to James Bay, you can't tell if he's nervous or confident. He'll shift between a warbling, timid voice and a booming, rich tone within the same verse. By manipulating the dynamics of his voice, he leaves you hanging on the whispers only to blow you back with the chorus. He's the kind of vocalist who could go a cappella and bring you to tears in an instant, and you wouldn't even be sure if they were happy or sad tears. MATT WOOD
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Chris Stapleton - Thursday, April 14 - Mesa Amphitheatre
A number of industry insiders consider Kentucky-born singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton to be one of the most talented people in Nashville. The 37-year-old musician has written a handful of No. 1 mainstream country hits including Kenny Chesney's "Never Wanted Nothing More," has placed 170 songs on the charts, and has had his work covered by everyone from Luke Bryan to Adele. He recently released his first solo album, Traveller, and plays Mesa Amphitheatre on April 14.
By most of today’s standards in country music, the 14 songs on Traveller play a bit long at 49 minutes. It contains a dozen strong tunes, mostly co-writes with other Nashville writers, but also includes two covers, including a searing interpretation of George Jones' hit “Tennessee Whiskey.” Tunes like "I Might As Well Get Stoned" and "Outlaw State of Mind" are exactly the dose of outlaw that country music is missing these days, but will more likely find a bigger reception on Arizona radio than on iHeart Radio. Stapleton says the label didn’t blink or counter his suggestion that those 14 tracks made up the album he wanted to release, and everyone's judgment seemed to be validated when Traveller debuted at No. 2 on Billboard's Top Country Albums chart. It also reached the top 15 on the magazine's Top 200 chart. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH