If you're looking for proof that yesterday's indie sound is today's mainstream sound, you could do worse than examining the record sales of Imagine Dragons and Mumford & Sons, two enormously successful rock acts that spend most of their time blurring what was already a pretty blurry line.
If you're just looking for five shows to see in Phoenix this week--well, we've got a list here. One of them is free!
Imagine Dragons - Comerica Theatre - June 3
Imagine Dragons' debut LP, Night Visions, begins with a guitar intro that might remind you a little of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive." Then it descends into a heavy, current-sounding verse anchored by the stuttery, wub-wubbing bass made famous by dubstep -- or at least movie trailers with dubstep in them.
That might not remind you of Bon Jovi right away, but it should. Like Bon Jovi in the '80s, Imagine Dragons produces slick, widely appealing arena rock that hits every trend in popular music on the way to its anthemic choruses. In 1986, it was glam, metal, and synths. In 2013 it's EDM, indie, and, well, synths, along with tossed-off, specific verses that build into enormous, vague choruses. On songs like "It's Time," which you've heard if you own a TV, they put those pieces together with an unnerving precision.
Also like Bon Jovi: They're not breaking any new ground, and their big hit has maybe worn out the welcome you gave it after the first time you heard it in a film trailer. But once you accept that they're a big, broad arena rock band, you'll probably enjoy yourself.
The Maine - Tempe Marketplace - June 4
Major labels didn't agree with The Maine--literally and figuratively. Warner Bros., who signed them to a seven-album deal with 2010's Black & White, didn't like their follow-up, Pioneer, and The Maine didn't like the experience of feeling "patted... on the head" by a label that suddenly wasn't into them.
Tuesday their fourth album, Forever Halloween, comes out; they're celebrating with a free afternoon performance at Tempe Marketplace. It's not on Warner Bros., and nobody seems to mind.
Mumford & Sons - Desert Sky Pavilion - June 5
The thing people forget about indie art, while they're living it, is that if it's successfully reaching people it'll eventually stop being indie art. That's what it looks like when any kind of movement succeeds: It changes the culture, and eventually it becomes part of the culture. First they ignore folky indie rock, then they ridicule folky indie rock, then they replicate folky indie rock, and then folky indie rock wins, as an especially prescient Gandhi once said.
Mumford & Sons hit at the exact moment when rousing, stompy sincerity, eclectic instrumentation, and earnest sensitivity won. That's a recipe for enormous success and enormous backlash, and they've gotten their share of both since Mumfordmania landed stateside circa 2011. Stompy sincerity and eclectic instrumentation started out as a backlash, too, so that might just be the natural order of things.
Courtney Marie Andrews - Trunk Space - June 6
Courtney Marie Andrews has been a Phoenix institution seemingly forever--she was on our cover three years ago--but she won't turn 23 until November.
Now based in Seattle, she returned to Modified Arts back in April for the release of her new album, On My Page. On Thursday she'll make another homecoming at the Trunk Space.
Read More: - Review: Courtney Marie Andrews - Painter's Hands and a Seventh Son - By the Time I Get to Phoenix: Courtney Marie Andrews Is the Biggest Star in the Valley's Blooming Pop-Folk Scene
Matisyahu - Maya Day and Nightclub, Scottsdale - June 6
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It's only partially Matisyahu's fault that all of his interests conspired to make him the perfect poster to hang next to Bob Marley in your freshman dorm. That is, lots of teenagers and young adults find meaning and truth in following Phish around and reconnecting with the family traditions and (yes) in listening to a lot of reggae while looking at a poster of Bob Marley, and it's only his fault inasmuch as he was the guy who synthesized all those college-experience touchstones into an incredibly buzzy album, 2006's jam-and-reggae-and-pop Youth.
Since then he's released some less buzzed-about albums, cut back on the beatboxing a little, and--more recently--left Hasidism, shaving his beard and posting the resulting (unrecognizable) photo on Twitter. Which would leave his college-kid market a little less perfectly triangulated than it used to be, except that his most recent album, Spark Seeker, is influenced in part by ideas from Kabbalah. Religiously it might be more syncretic than usual, but musically you'll recognize it as a Matisyahu album: Poppy, vaguely world-music, and filled with uplift that signifies spiritual enlightenment whether you wear your hair in sidelocks or not. Whether he wears his hair in sidelocks or not, too.