Top Five Must-See Phoenix Shows This Weekend
It's not easy competing with the fair. For one thing, it has a built-in audience; you can go to a fair concert on a whim, having gone there first to watch a team of expert divers or pig racing or whatever it is people do here in Arizona (I'm extrapolating from my Illinois experience) when the weather's nice and they've resigned themselves to feeling a little ripped off by their parking spot.
For another: Fried food. I mean, what's Martini Ranch's farewell party to do besides making an extremely late pivot to candy bars dipped in corn dog batter? (View our complete concert calendar here.)
The Senators Release Show - The Sail Inn, Tempe - Friday, October 11
The Senators have been distributing their music in novel ways--well, basically since they've been The Senators. Digital-first releases might not be an intuitive fit for the band's self-consciously rootsy sound, but they continue to take advantage of them, which is why the words "album release show" don't quite describe what's going on Friday. The album that's being released is their first one, Harsher than Whiskey/Sweeter than Wine ; it's "re-cut and re-mastered," in their words, in a way that digital albums encourage, and it comes with their new single, "Lights." It's also free--in physical form, too, if you go to their show.
Oh, and they'll be playing music Friday night--along with Sara Robinson & The Midnight Special, Dry River Yacht Club, The Prowling Kind, and other theme-appropriate local artists.
The Final Weekend - Martini Ranch, Scottsdale - Sunday, October 13
It's been a brutal year for local nightlife insitutions, to say the least. First, Axis/Radius' proprietors pulled the plug on the iconic Scottsdale dance club in late June. A month or so later, venerated Mesa music venue Hollywood Alley ceased to exist in early August after its owners were forced to close the place due to financial woes. And after this weekend, Martini Ranch will become the latest long-running after-dark destination to shutter, after more than a decade and a half in operation. The combination concert hall and dance joint, which has gone through a number of ups and downs since opening in 1994, is days away from closing for business and being sold to new owners (who reportedly will renovate and re-concept the place.)
Before that goes down, however, the two-night "Curtain Call" celebration will take place this weekend, featuring DJs of the both the longtime-favorite and special-guest variety in the second-floor Shaker Room. DJ Randy will offer one final spin session in the "club within a club" on Saturday, October 12. And then the final night on Sunday, October 13, will include performances by frequent Martini Ranch guest selector DJ Spryte and Old Town legend DJ Fashen. The last blasts start at 9 p.m. each evening. Admission is $5. Call 480-970-0500. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Kylesa - Yucca Tap Room, Tempe - Saturday, October 12
Affixing labels is often a bane and a blessing for a band. For Savannah, Georgia's Kylesa, the esteemed Southern psych-metal act that helped usher in the first waves of indie's acceptance of sludgy, off-center metal, pigeonholing is hardly an option. There's just too much to process, too many edges being pushed by the band, blending disparate, swirling elements of tripped-out production with utter furiousness -- yet their most recent release, Ultraviolet, finds Kylesa most rooted in the closest thing to a signature the band can get.
The record is an exercise in dynamics, juxtaposing the abrasive and the dreamy with violently jarring sequencing. This is the product of previous frustrations not fully realized. It seems that it's just one more factor to Kylesa that's finally coming together.
"When we were doing Spiral Shadow, we wanted songs to be more dynamic. We didn't quite pull it off the way we wanted, it was kind of a new approach we were taking, it was still different to us," vocalist, guitarist and founding member Phillip Cope says. "[On] Ultraviolet, we kind of took what we wanted from Spiral Shadow, and it was our task to perfect it. It ended up still being a learning process." --K.C. Libman
Wavves - Pub Rock Live, Scottsdale - Sunday, October 13
When people were still buying rock and roll albums we could take a gradual move toward pop accessibility for granted from a band like Wavves, but now it's far from a foregone conclusion. Back then, the difference between a rough-but-inexplicably hooky debut and a slightly smoothed out follow-up was a few million albums, or at least a few hundred thousand; now it's the difference between No. 168, where Wavves' 2010 record King of the Beach debuted, and No. 81, where Afraid of Heights landed earlier this year.
No matter: they did it anyway, and those of us who learned to appreciate pop music at the feet of all the bands whose brief major-label trips were occasioned by Green Day and Weezer's huge crossover albums got a noisy, sad-fun reprisal of those immediate, typically ill-fated debut singles on tracks like "Demon to Lean On."
ZZ Top in 2008: Still bearded.
ZZ Top - Memorial Coliseum - Sunday, October 13
ZZ Top formed in 1969, a rough and tumble blues band forming amongst the gritty backdrop of Houston's oil greed and NASA's continuing space race. But it was the summer of 1974 in the community of Friendswood--a small town then, a thriving Houston suburb now--that my curiosity with ZZ Top began, when a burley biker walked in to a darkened juke joint and announced, loudly, "I must listen to my favorite song."
Bandages covered has right arm, with long scabs sticking out near his wrist. His cane steadied a limp. He offered a half-cocked smile. "Me and my motorcycle got into a fight with the road," he explained to no one and everyone. "And now that I'm out of jail there's only one thing I need, and that's ZZ Top!"
Playing pool on a hot afternoon, thanks to a cool bar owner, this wide-eyed 12-year-old stepped back and noticed the bandages showing through the holes in his jeans, his scuffed motorcycle boots, his long stringy hair. Badass dude, but who was this ZZ Top?
Motorcycle guy walked to the jukebox, dropped in a quarter--good for three plays back then--and punched in the same numbers each time. A rumbling blues boogie slowly built into a powerful roar that gave structure to my imagination of what the open Texas road must feel like on a motorcycle.
The biker's favorite song--"La Grange," ZZ Top's first "hit"--remains my favorite too.
Later I learned that the "La Grange" riff was "borrowed" from John Lee Hooker. Still, it became a staple of ZZ Top's sound, which undoubtedly makes them king of the boogie blues. King, if only because what other blues-based outfit could have such mass appeal? But should ZZ Top still be considered a blues band anymore? -- Glenn BurnSilver
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.