Top Five Must-See Phoenix Shows This Week
Warped Tour 2012
I know a lot of people who are kind of frustrated that the Vans Warped Tour has passed them by -- that they're targeting new teenagers instead of targeting the people who were teenagers when Warped Tour began. To those people, I ask: How many fellow 30-year-olds do you know who want to stand outside all day on a Thursday in June in Arizona?
These questions and more await you for this week's five must-see Phoenix shows. As always, comment to let us know what else you're excited about, and view our complete concert calendar here.
Courtney Marie Andrews - Crescent Ballroom - June 24
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. In the five years since her debut release, Urban Myths, she's toured and recorded with fellow institution Jimmy Eat World, continued to release music at a precocious pace, and moved out from under those Phoenix-institutional expectations entirely.
Now based in Seattle, she returned to Modified Arts back in April for the release of her new album, On My Page. She'll make her second trip back since then on June 24, when she plays a free show at Crescent Ballroom. On My Page is the most explicitly country-sounding album she's released yet, and the pedal steel guitar and warm piano sounds mix naturally with her full voice from its first track, "Woman of Many Colors." Andrews has been around so long that it's easy to look backward at her career already; she's released more albums and played more shows here in the Valley than most artists will manage before 30. But On My Page offers an exciting glimpse into what the future holds, and a reminder of just how much future there is.
No Volcano - Crescent Ballroom - June 25
It's almost like a local indie supergroup! No Volcano features Colorstore guitarist Jeremy Randall; bassist Jake Sevier of Letdownright and Kingfathand; and drummer Chris Kennedy and vocals and lead guitar Jim Andreas of the mid-'90s outfit Trunk Federation. And perhaps you'll recall Trunk Federation's mirrored head that would spin like a disco ball on a record player 13 years ago -- well, it's back as well!
Together, they are No Volcano, a mellow nod toward '70s rock via Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy Pop and all your other favorite bands. No Volcano's extra edge lies in their modern feel, sprinkled with a little southern soul. Even though they formed a little over six months ago, and their one and so far only show was earlier this month, the band says they already have enough material for a full-length release.
Given their momentum and long-term experience in the Phoenix music scene, it probably isn't an exaggeration or too much pressure to say No Volcano will be making a splash in your neighborhood sometime soon. And if you love The Velvet Underground as much as the next guy, you should probably be excited. -- Troy Farah
Kendrick Lamar - Mesa Amphitheatre - June 26
Kendrick Lamar isn't the first young rapper to spend the better part of his breakthrough album asking what it means to be a good person. He's not even the first young rapper to frame said album with a vague concept.
But where Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon: The End of Day struggled to figure out where its protagonist's problems came from, and how to make them sympathetic, good kid, m.A.A.d. city builds a remarkably full picture of Lamar's struggling, confused hero, who stumbles through the twin title tracks before emerging victorious with Dr. Dre in "Compton."
Which brings us to the real Kendrick Lamar: Having survived the story the album tells -- his unnerving, anonymous tour as "Compton's human sacrifice" -- Lamar is now one of the biggest stars in hip hop. So which side of his album's fascinating story arc is the artist who'll be performing it now coming from? The odd (and compelling) thing about a concept album that hews so closely to real life is that every time you see Kendrick Lamar perform good kid, m.A.A.d. city live, you're watching a sequel.
Baths - Crescent Ballroom - June 26
Baths' Obsidian is a life-and-death record--and no, that's not hyperbole. The stellar second full-length from Will Wiesenfeld's alter ego opens with a track whose vocals begin, "Birth was like a fat black tongue/Dripping tar and dung and dye" while the album closes with a plea to "Come kill me/I see so little."
Obsidian finds Wiesenfeld adrift on a fog-fraught emotional journey to some place no good, and along the way, the musician pours out buckets of anxiety and venom. Clouds of glitchy, generally upbeat electronic music somehow manage to buoy heavy, half-arcane lyrics about bed covers laying about in "divisive heaps," Heaven being en route, and the Grim Reaper himself dancing "through the flicker of the wick."
The Los Angeles-based Wiesenfeld, who was creating "weird, shitty Euro-trance stuff" at age 14 as he wandered toward his current persona, has an exceptional hand for evocative language. "[For its title,] I'm looking for hopefully a single word that's the most all-encompassing feel for the album," he said in 2011, one year after the comparatively lighter Cerulean hit and two years before his current record would. Seeing as Obsidian takes its name from a glassy, dark-hued gemstone that's the cooled-off by-product of a volcanic eruption, the guy nailed it. --Reyan Ali
Vans Warped Tour - Quail Run Park, Mesa - June 27
The Vans Warped Tour is 18 years old, which is just old enough for it to have second thoughts about going to the Warped Tour. That's the trouble with long-running festivals: Either the music stays the same and the people in attendance get older, or the music changes with its demographic's tastes, leaving every group of graduating teenagers convinced that their Warped Tour, the one they saw right after they got their driver's license, was the real one.
By this reckoning, my own Warped Tour would have been 2000 or so. Do I find the prospect of that show much more entertaining than the one that'll be coming through Mesa on June 27, with the likes of Allstar Weekend and Hawthorne Heights?
Well, yes. But if my Warped Tour were still touring the country, selling skate shoes, it would be a pretty nostalgia-driven affair. I'd enjoy it, but I wouldn't want it to tour the country every year like a ghost ship filled with copies of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Which is why, eventually, you have to let it go--you have to understand that what defined your experience at the 2003 Warped Tour was as much "2003" as "Warped Tour."
This is somebody else's show, and this generation's vaguely alternative teenagers will probably have a good time there. Buzzy Arizonans The Summer Set will be along, along with a whole mess of bands with very long names and a striking number of surviving third-wave ska bands -- Big D and the Kids Table, Reel Big Fish, and The Aquabats, among other names that will mostly matter to people who weren't thinking about going to the Warped Tour.
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