The Fourth of July is for buying Chinese fireworks and being a proud American. Maya Day and Nightclub is betting that you might also enjoy some music by a certain very famous British DJ.
The War of 1812 is still felt acutely 'round these parts, thank you very much. Regardless: Here's five shows worth seeing in Phoenix this holiday-shortened week.
Superhumanoids - Crescent Ballroom - July 1
Wow . . . Talk about a time trip. As someone who lived through the '80s and now accepts the inevitable hangover of artists such as Peter Murphy, The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, and Morrissey still in touring mode, I have a question for young artists today: Why? Why the fascination with these '80s retreads?
Perhaps what made the music palatable then still works on the current musical generation, also tired of standard guitar rock with over-exemplified solos. The ethereal focus and feel of the aforementioned musicians -- and others, including Cocteau Twins and Joy Division -- transcend time and give meaning to modern acts such as last-name-lacking Los Angeles trio of Max, Sarah and Cameron, better known as Superhumanoids.
Dreamy, spacey, atmospheric, and hazy are but a few adjectives befitting the band's upcoming (August 6) debut, Exhibitionists. Working off a minimalist platform of synthesizers, electronic drums and effects, scattered guitar interludes, and digitally reshaped male and female vocals, the band's breathy pop aesthetic places the music squarely in the now even as the influences harkens to a bygone era. The crossover appeal is broad as well; those looking to revisit the past or drift into the future will find a solid connection with Superhumanoids. -- Glenn BurnSilver
Brantley Gilbert - Salt River Fields, Scottsdale - July 3
Rock-tinged country star Brantley Gilbert's breakthrough single, back in 2011, was "Country Must Be Country Wide." It's about -- well, either about spreading the country aesthetic everywhere or realizing that it alreadyis
everywhere, or at least in Ohio as well as "south of the Mason Dixon."
I'm from Illinois, the land of Lincoln and incredibly well-attended country shows at the State Fair, so I can sympathize. But Arizona is both far from Nashville and far from cowboy-averse -- we spoke to Jessi Colter about Waylon Jennings last month -- which makes it an odd place to spread the country gospel.
But it is true that there's "a station playing Cash, Hank, Willie, and Waylon / in foreign cars and four wheel drives" here, which means (Georgia native) Brantley Gilbert remains, if nothing else, completely accurate.
Fatboy Slim - Maya Day & Nightclub, Scottsdale - July 4
How British is Fatboy Slim? He's so British he had a number of enormously successful dance singles in the '90s. He's so British he has "a star on the city of Brighton's Walk of Fame, next to that of Winston Churchill." He's so British that he's the minority owner of a second-division soccer team.
He is extremely British. He is, nevertheless, coming to Maya Day & Nightclub to celebrate the 4th of July with the winning side of the Revolutionary War, for reasons that are neither immediately clear nor, probably, very important. He's Fatboy Slim; he's managed to make himself famous in the states as a DJ, which was very difficult up to, say, five years ago. He probably likes Roman Candles as much as we do.
Burning of Rome - Crescent Ballroom - July 4
I don't get horror, and I definitely don't get campy horror, which leaves me somewhat outside the target audience of a band with a song called "Why Can't I Stop Killing My Friends" that is about killing your friends.
In spite of that, The Burning of Rome's album, With Us, works for me. It probably doesn't hurt that the reverb-y, shouted-in-from-the-other-room vocals make the lyrics hard to pick out, but the real key to the album is its loopy sense of space. I can't quite tell what most of the instruments on this album are, and I can't tell where they're coming from, either, but they come together for a sound that's more melodic than unnerving.
Local support for the show is Zero Zero and Fairy Bones, which makes this show an easy pick, even if you're as on the fence about killing all your friends as I am.
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Todd Rundgren - Crescent Ballroom - July 5
Todd Rundgren's breakthrough album, Something/Anything?, was a winding double-LP on which he wrote, produced, and performed nearly everything himself. That says a lot about 1972, but it says even more about Rundgren, who's been seen as something of a pop-rock prodigy ever since. If it seems like he's never been quite as famous or iconic as he should have been, to a broader audience, you might be looking at his career the wrong way. The better question: How was he ever famous at all?
The moment his career took off he began indulging his prog-rockier tendencies, and aside from the fluky "Bang the Drum All Day," which came out on an album he actually called The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, he never did much allowing for those fans who came for the hooks. That basically is the ever-popular tortured artist effect: When you're the only one banging on the drums and producing the albums and designing and coding the website, nobody's left to say, "Hey, I don't think Casey Kasem is going to play this." It didn't make for a ton of hits, but Todd Rundgren's need for control has produced a fascinating career.