Top Five Must-See Phoenix Shows This Week
Without using a time-turner -- and those things are dangerous -- it's impossible to see every show in Phoenix every week. It's not even possible to see all five shows in this list.
But I really don't think you should resort to time-travel. There'll be five more must-see shows this weekend, after all. (View our complete concert calendar here.)
Amaranthe - Martini Ranch, Scottsdale - Monday, July 29
It takes a lot for a heavy metal band to beat out Lady Gaga on the music charts -- especially in a place like Japan, where people love the pop artist's catchy dance music and outrageous outfits. (You know, since the Japanese need a reason to sport cartoonish, questionable, and/or furry costumes.) But Swedish/Danish metal band Amaranthe accomplished exactly that.
Maybe it's the band's three singers, including a woman whose powerful voice alternates between harsh screams and soaring melodies. Amaranthe's brand of pop-infused melodic death metal immediately appeals to a broad spectrum of fans, geographically and demographically.
The band's influences are vast and surprising, from 30 Seconds to Mars to Soilwork, from Freddie Mercury to Kiss. It's all melded together into metalcore-style breakdowns, synths, and guitar riffs. Amaranthe's sophomore album, March's Nexus, shows more of the band's influences, and its first single, "Burn with Me," hit number one on the iTunes Metal Chart on the day it was released. The six-piece act is known for its voracious, energetic live show, which means its performance at an intimate venue like Martini Ranch isn't to be missed. -- Lauren Wise
Chris Isaak - Celebrity Theatre - Wednesday, July 31
It's been a while since Chris Isaak released an album of all-new music (2009's Mr. Lucky ), but for the rockabilly crooner with the spangled jacket, fat Chet Atkins-style guitar, and perfectly coifed hair, new material isn't really necessary. Isaak made his name with his early albums, most notably San Francisco Days , Heart Shaped World , and his self-titled second album.
The hits were immediate: "Blue Hotel," "Heart Shaped World," "Heart Full of Soul," and, of course, the seductive, vibrato-filled "Wicked Game," which still has women swooning in their seats. The Stockton, California, native spent the '90s all over the radio, filling clubs, and generally on top of the world.
Though his star faded in the next decade, he's continued to ply his trademark sound, most recently releasing 2011's Beyond the Sun, what he calls an "album I always wanted to make." Though Isaak adds a few copycat originals honed to fill out the album, the core work features, appropriately enough, rockabilly and rough-and-tumble early country songs originally recorded at Memphis' famed Sun Studio. Isaak taps Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, among other Sun greats. -- Glenn BurnSIlver
Bruno Mars - US Airways Center - Wednesday, July 31
It's hard to believe Bruno Mars was playing small clubs like Martini Ranch back when his breakout single, "Just the Way You Are," started to gain traction. Now, after a steady takeover of pop airwaves, he's playing US Airways Center. It's hard to avoid hearing the tracks he's touched, whether you're aware of it or not -- he co-wrote "Fuck You," and he's been featured on tracks by B.o.B., Lil Wayne, and Snoop Dogg.
The secret sauce in all of it is his likability and versatility. He's been compared to Michael Jackson and Sting, and that variety leads to shows packed full of musical talent and big, choreographed bands. When he hits Phoenix this time, having outgrown Martini Ranch, be ready for lots of onstage moving and shaking, hysterical ladies, and some of the signature high notes that make him worthy of his more than a dozen Grammy nominations. Bruno Mars' focus on crowd interaction helps make any show feel intimate, so it's no surprise his ascent to the top has been a swift one. -- Nicki Escudero
Deerpeople, Wooden Indian - The Lost Leaf - Thursday, August 1
Deerpeople is a weird, good band from Stillwater, Oklahoma. On Thursday, they'll be playing with Wooden Indian, a weird, good band from Phoenix.
Both of them are simultaneously exactly as weird as your first impression suggests -- Deerpeople's current EP is called Explorgasm, and there are songs named after Jesus Christ and Walter Matthau and Principal Dr. Gay Washington -- and eventually not so weird at all. Each song on Explorgasm seems to cohere, halfway through, into a pop song, its meandering tempos and strange noises coming together so off-handedly that it sounds almost like an accident.
Phoenix Downhome Fest - Pub Rock Live, Scottsdale - Thursday, August 1
As naturally born American citizens go, I'm probably in the 20th percentile for down-hominess (at best). Where I'm from, roots music is the soft rock they played at the mall when you were very young; your musical heritage is the bands that used to come to the state fair 20 or 30 years ago, when it was a bigger deal.
So the acts coming together at Pub Rock on Thursday -- Whiskey Shivers and Wild Child, both from Austin, and the Valley's Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold and Dusty Drennen -- aren't really a part of my cultural inheritance, even though I'm not immune to their charms.
If you're a roots naif, like me, you'd seem to be in luck -- there's a wide range of downhominess on this bill. Whiskey Shivers takes an even-old-timier-than-old-timey tack; Wild Child could pass as more broadly "indie," in the neo-folk sense, if they needed to. The locals shake out the same way, at least to my tin ear; Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold self-identify as "A bastard child of country, blues, Appalachia, bluegrass, and rockabilly that wanted nothing more than to kick your ass," while Dusty Drennen plays something that's easier to recognize as alt-country.
It's a good combination if the only time you saw a banjo, growing up, was on the cover of Phalanx. Which, that's me, at least.
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