The 20 Best Things to Do in Metro Phoenix This Week

This documentary follows frontman Brandon Decker’s journey from Sedona’s red rocks to the Big Apple.EXPAND
This documentary follows frontman Brandon Decker’s journey from Sedona’s red rocks to the Big Apple.
Andrew Pielage
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This week, Phoenix takes a walk on the wild side. Which means boozing it up while bird watching, a dance troupe exploring man's relationship to beasts, and cheering on the Arizona Rattlers as they take on the Screaming Eagles. Here's your guide to all the best Phoenix has to offer. For more things to do, see our curated calendar of events

Snake River Blues

Last September, the psychedelic folk band decker. took up a monthlong residency at New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall to celebrate Snake River Blues, their latest release. Local filmmaker Matty Steinkamp captured frontman Brandon Decker’s journey from Sedona’s red rocks to the Big Apple in a documentary short that shares the record’s name. Embedded with the group for a year as Decker recorded and toured with his latest opus, Steinkamp captured a determined creative who hustles hard to make his dream come true. The film not only serves as a document of Decker’s exemplary songwriting but also as an inspiration to creators of all stripes to take that next step.

Snake River Blues premieres on Thursday, May 18, at 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. at Film Bar, 815 North Second Street. Admission is $6, which includes a meet-and-greet after each showing. For more information, visit the Film Bar website. Jason Kiel

R. Hamilton Wright and Noah Racey get things strait in Arizona Theatre Company’s Holmes and Watson.EXPAND
R. Hamilton Wright and Noah Racey get things strait in Arizona Theatre Company’s Holmes and Watson.
Tim Fuller

Holmes and Watson
You can enjoy some version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Holmes and Watson oeuvre just about anywhere you look, anytime in the past century. Personally, we like to watch Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law gradually age in Guy Ritchie’s films. (However, Iron Man has aged enough.)

Scads of dejected fans pointed out to Doyle that Sherlock Holmes ought not to have died when he plunged over Reichenbach Falls with Professor Moriarty, and the author eventually caved and wrote more adventures. Jeffrey Hatcher’s play Holmes and Watson, in a production by Arizona Theatre Company through Sunday, May 28, picks up the timeline at an imagined point in that gap when three unidentified patients at a typically creepy asylum on a Scottish island all claim to be Holmes. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe Street. Tickets are $25 to $64 at the Arizona Theatre website or 602-256-6995. Julie Peterson

Get down with your bird self.
Get down with your bird self.
Bill Timmerman

Birds n’ Beer
It’s not always easy to tell whether there’ll be beer at an event, so it makes things easier when organizers call it something like Birds n’ Beer.

The Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, 3131 South Central Avenue, and Audubon Arizona host their signature happy hour event each month (except in July). From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, the topic is “Top 10 Urban Birding Tips.” Birding enthusiasts and activist Kathe Anderson will teach May’s Birds n’ Beer audience how to spot and identify the most common birds in the Phoenix area — including hummingbirds and burrow owls.

Admission is free, and beer will be served by Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. Call 602-468-6470 or see the Rio Salado Audubon webisite and the Facebook page. Lauren Cusimano

Sporting body paint costumes at Mad Monster Arizona 2016.EXPAND
Sporting body paint costumes at Mad Monster Arizona 2016.
Benjamin Leatherman

Mad Monster Arizona
Under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t recommend getting within slashing distance of any horror film villain, let alone one as insidiously evil as Pinhead from the Hellraiser series. At this year’s Mad Monster Arizona, however, folks who’ve got the gumption (as well as $260 for a group of up to four) can meet the actual character IRL. That’s because Doug Bradley, the actor who played the Cenobite leader in the first two Hellraisers, will become the character and interact with fans in a creepy setting straight from the films. A slew of other actors and actresses from horror will also appear at the convention, albeit not in character, which takes place from Friday, May 19, to Sunday, May 21, at the We-Ko-Pa Resort, 10438 North Fort McDowell Road in Scottsdale. The lineup includes Zach Galligan from Gremlins, Exorcist star Linda Blair, and Judith O’Dea from Night of the Living Dead. Daily admission is $25 to $35 in advance, $30 to $40 at the door.  A weekend pass is $60. Event hours vary. See the Mad Monster website for more details. Benjamin Leatherman

Come see the dark side of Taliesin WestEXPAND
Come see the dark side of Taliesin West
Andrew Pielage

Taliesin West Night Lights Tour
You know what happens when the lights go down, but do you know what happens at Taliesin West after dark? Per those in charge of the Frank Lloyd Wright property in Scottsdale, the Night Lights Tour is the “perfect date night activity” and also “not intended for children under the age of 13.” Come explore the Midcentury Modern masterpiece at 12621 North Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard in the night glow and see what happens under the cover of darkness. On Friday, May 19, tours leave at 6:30, 7, and 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $40. For reservations, call 888-516-0811 or visit the Taliesin West website. Lindsay Roberts

The baby-faced, suit-wearing silliness advocate and comedian Michael Ian BlackEXPAND
The baby-faced, suit-wearing silliness advocate and comedian Michael Ian Black
Courtesy of Crescent Ballroom

Michael Ian Black
Do you ever spend hours watching the same old Stella shorts and searching for favorite sketches from The State? Were you all over Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp when it premiered on Netflix and more obsessed with Michael & Michael Have Issues than most? Well heads-up: One of your faves is coming to town.

The baby-faced, suit-wearing silliness advocate and comedian Michael Ian Black will perform at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue, during his Shut Up & Comedy tour. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8 on Friday, May 19.

Tickets for this 21-and-over event range from $22 for general admission to $28 for reserved sections. Call 602-716-2222 or see the Crescent Ballroom website for more information. Lauren Cusimano

Tripping the light fantastic inside Squidsoup’s installation at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.EXPAND
Tripping the light fantastic inside Squidsoup’s installation at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
Lynn Trimble

Ocean of Light: Submergence
You’d need thousands of night lights to create anything even approximating the newest light-based art installation at SMoCA, 7374 East Second Street. Called Ocean of Light: Submergence, it’s an interactive, digital media piece that fills an entire gallery. It’s the work of Squidsoup, an artist collective based in the United Kingdom.

Explore Submergence from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, May 19, as Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art presents its Summer Opening Celebration. The piece is one of three exhibitions on view that evening.

While you’re there, check out Electro-Symbio Phonics, an iconic mixed-media sculpture by Nam June Paik, which grounds an exhibition titled “I’m Sorry But It’s Hard to Imagine.” Finally, there’s “[dis]functional: Products of Conceptual Design,” a show that considers notions of what makes good design. Artists and curators will be on hand to talk art and design with visitors that night.  Visit the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts website. Lynn Trimble

Experience Polynesia
It’s not the same as staring into clear blue waters while letting your feet sink into the sand, but a trip to north Phoenix for Experience Polynesia does get you immersed in island-oriented fun.

This annual celebration of Pacific island culture features performances of dance and music, including guitar and ukulele playing by Patrick Ki. Take a ukulele lesson and learn how to play traditional sounds. Get crafty and decorate your own slit drum to take home. The museum’s café offers Polynesian fare. It’s all a pretty good way of pretending you’re not in the desert from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, at the Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 East Mayo Boulevard. Admission is $10 to $20 for adults, and free for kids 3 and younger. Call 480-478-6000 or visit the Musical Instrument Musuem website. Amy Young

See "Facing West" by Faith Christiansen Smeets at Megaphone PHX.EXPAND
See "Facing West" by Faith Christiansen Smeets at Megaphone PHX.
Faith Christiansen Smeets

“Facing West: The Feminine Perspective of the Frontier”
There’s no shortage of artworks by men exploring Wild West themes. But how often have you seen women tackle similar subject matter? That’s just what Phoenix artist Faith Christiansen Smeets does, but through the eyes of pioneer women rather than men. See her works inspired by diaries of frontier women, plus academic texts, during an exhibition titled “Facing West: The Feminine Perspective of the Frontier.”
The free opening reception for “Facing West” happens from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, at Megaphone PHX. It’s a studio and gallery space operated by artist Andy Brown, which is located at 4700 North Central Avenue. Smeets will be showing abstract works inspired by the “hope, tragedy, and triumph” of women who traveled westward during the mid-19th century. Visit the Faith Christiansen Smeets website. Lynn Trimble

The young lovers of unexpected, before it hits the fan
The young lovers of unexpected, before it hits the fan
Shelby Maticic

John Perovich’s unexpected
So many literary traditions have given us the star-crossed lovers — a couple whose love is as epic as it will later become fucked up. Greek mythology is no different, and all you can hope for is that after you’ve angered the gods, and your innocence, hubris, or inept bad luck has separated you from bae, you’ll become constellations in the sky.

Brelby Theatre Company throws Cupid, Psyche, Pyramus, Thisbe, Orpheus, and Eurydice into a fresh plot in John Perovich’s unexpected. Three of the characters are now sisters whose mom would rather they stay at home unwounded than step into the world of love. Then a ship lands, as they do.

The play’s directed by venerable theater artist Gerald Thomson and continues through Saturday, June 10. Showtime Saturday, May 20, is 7:30 p.m. at 7154 North 58th Drive in Glendale. Tickets are $17 to $25 at the Brelby website or 623-282-2781. Julie Peterson

Arizona Rattlers vs. Salt Lake Screaming Eagles
When the Arizona Rattlers made the leap from the Arena Football League last offseason, they knew well what they were leaving behind — a floundering league that they had dominated for years. This season, however, they’re discovering what they’ve gotten themselves in to. Not only is the competition stiffer, there’s also twice as many teams to contend with in the Indoor Football League. Still the Rattlers have fared well in their inaugural run, winning six of their first 10 games. And with conference punching bags the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles visiting Talking Stick Resort Arena, 201 East Jefferson Street, at 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, the Rattlers face a golden opportunity to pad the win column as they battle for their first IFL playoff berth. Tickets are $8 and up. Visit the Arizona Rattlers webiste or call 602-379-7800 for details. Rob Kroehler

Read on for more of the best things to do in the Valley — including a Scorpius Dance show, a geeky lit gathering, and Book of Mormon.

Scorpius Dance Theatre’s show Animal highlights the movements of animals through dance.EXPAND
Scorpius Dance Theatre’s show Animal highlights the movements of animals through dance.
Rose Torres

Scorpius Dance Theatre’s newest show, ANIMAL, explores the interactions between beasts and humans — and the behavior and physicality of domestic and wild animals through nine dance pieces. The show also explores the connection between pets and their owners through a series of funny interludes and a short film. Inspired by artistic director Lisa Starry’s love of animals, the show is upbeat in tone but also delves into the experiences of caged animals through a multidisciplinary piece combining dance and film at Phoenix Theatre. A visual art display in the lobby will feature animal-inspired artwork by Metropolitan Arts Institute students, and a portion of the proceeds from the show will go to the Lost Our Home Pet Rescue. Showtime is 8 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, at 100 East McDowell Road. Tickets are $25 and up. For more information, call 602-254-2151 or see the Scorpuis Dance Website. Laura Latzko

treat yo’ self.
treat yo’ self.
The R2 Studio

Bubbles and Beats Yoga Brunch
You don’t have to be a Parks and Rec fan to treat yo’ self in 2017. That’s because downtown’s art-filled Found:RE hotel has teamed up with Sutra Studios to provide a day of mimosas and exploratory meditation set to chill jams from a DJ. Bubbles and Beats Yoga Brunch kicks off at 9 a.m. with flow yoga and then a meditation session. Then it’s time to sit down for brunch and cocktails at Match Cuisine & Cocktails. Find your center and a mimosa or two at 1100 North Central Avenue, on Sunday, May 21. Tickets ($20) and more information are available at the Sutra Studios website. Lindsay Roberts

Learn more about the Trunk Murderess
Learn more about the Trunk Murderess
Arizona Historical Society/Winnie Ruth Judd Collection

History Underground: Obscure Anecdotes
If you love finding lesser-known details from Arizona’s history, but haven’t heard the true-crime story of Winnie Ruth Judd, then it’s time to get schooled.

Judd became known as the Trunk Murderess and the Blonde Butcher after she was caught hauling two dead bodies (one dismembered) in her luggage on a train to Los Angeles. She was arrested, tried, and convicted, but her story didn’t end there. Phoenix history buff Marshall Shore will share the scoop on the so-called murderess during History Underground: Obscure Anecdotes. Hear all the dark and crazy details at 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 21, at Valley Bar, 130 North Central Avenue. Admission is $5 for the 21-and-over event. Visit the Valley Bar website. Amy Young

Consider whether the apple falls far from the tree at Practical Art.EXPAND
Consider whether the apple falls far from the tree at Practical Art.
Painting by Mark and Rosemary Christopher/Photo by Lynn Trimble

“The Apple & The Tree”
It appears the next generation of Phoenix artists is already showing work alongside some pretty well-known creatives. It’s happening at Practical Art, 5070 North Central Avenue. That’s where “The Apple & The Tree,” an exhibition featuring art by parent/child pairings, is on view from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, May 22.

Featured professional artists include Kristin Bauer, Emmett Potter, Lara Plecas, Carrie Marill, Linda Pullinsi, Lori Fenn, Shannon Youso, Denise Yaghmourian, and Gennaro Garcia. Some created work with their children. Others are showing separate parent and child artwork side by side.

The show includes works in several media — such as encaustic, drawing, video, painting, photography, and fiber art. Visit the Practical Art website. Lynn Trimble

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Chicago White Sox
Okay, no one really expected the Arizona Diamondbacks to run away with their division, but with the way they opened the season — going 16-11 in April — they certainly put their divisional foes on notice. A grueling road trip to open the month of May cooled the team off some, but unlike 2016, when the snakes were frighteningly nonvenomous at Chase Field, they’ve been downright formidable at 401 East Jefferson Street this season. Look for the home team to strike first when they host the Chicago White Sox on Monday, May 22, at 6:40 p.m. Tickets are $16 and up. Visit the Diamondbacks website or call 602-514-8400 for details. Rob Kroehler

See cactus in a new light as Ballet Arizona performs Topia at Desert Botanical Garden.
See cactus in a new light as Ballet Arizona performs Topia at Desert Botanical Garden.
Rosalie O’Connor

Cactus imagery is ubiquitous around these parts, where every other T-shirt, button, or necklace seems to have one. We get it. Saguaros have a strange appeal. But they lose something in the translation from nature to knick-knack.

Try seeing cactus in a new light as Ballet Arizona takes the stage at Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 North Galvin Parkway. That’s where cactus and desert plants bathed in colorful lights become vast sets imbued with intriguing variations of texture and line for the troupe’s Topia, a site-specific ballet choreographed by artistic director Ib Andersen.

It’s being performed on an 80-foot stage at the garden at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, and through June 10. Tickets start at $36, but you can pay more for table seating, which gets you closer to the stage and makes it easier to enjoy food and drink offerings available for purchase. Visit the Ballet Arizona website. Lynn Trimble

Craig ‘Skibs’ Barker, Driving By The Moon, 2017, Oil and mixed media on canvas with custom lightbox assemblage, 20 x 32 inches.
Craig ‘Skibs’ Barker, Driving By The Moon, 2017, Oil and mixed media on canvas with custom lightbox assemblage, 20 x 32 inches.
Courtesy of Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum

“Flourish: A Survey of the New Contemporary Movement”
Muralism, pop surrealism, installation and street art, graffiti, hyperrealism, illustration, and portraiture — all of this and more is on display across three galleries at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, One East Main Street, for “Flourish: A Survey of the New Contemporary Movement.”

Curated by Thinkspace Gallery based out of Los Angeles, the "Flourish" exhibition displays works from new and relevant artists from a wide range of styles in the Main Gallery, Project Room, and South Gallery. There’s a Felipe Pantone installation in the Project Room, murals from Esao Andrews and Nosego, and more on display till August 6.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for Tuesday, May 23. Admission is free. For more information, call 480-644-6560 or see the Mesa Arts Center website. Lauren Cusimano

Cultures meet cute in The Book of Mormon.EXPAND
Cultures meet cute in The Book of Mormon.
© Joan Marcus 2016

The Book of Mormon
Like your initial happy hour drink, The Book of Mormon tour was met with pure joy when it first visited ASU Gammage in November 2015. Sales set a venue record, then broke it in week two. Tickets for the return engagement through Sunday, May 28, went on sale a year and a half ago. At press time, a small handful remain at $50 to $105. Verified resale tickets top out at more than $500 each.

What ignited this popularity is a deeply funny, charming, relatable musical about some missionaries and some Ugandans. It smacked Broadway with a haymaker from which it has yet to recover.
Showtime on Wednesday, May 24, is 7:30 p.m. at 1200 South Forest Avenue in Tempe. Call 480-965-3434 or visit the ASU Gammage website. Julie Peterson

The Poisoned Pen will host over 20 sci-fi authors before Phoenix Comicon during Elevengeddon.EXPAND
The Poisoned Pen will host over 20 sci-fi authors before Phoenix Comicon during Elevengeddon.
Courtesy of The Poisoned Pen

Phoenix Comicon’s author track is one of the hidden gems of the Con, lost amidst the movie stars and cosplayers. But hustling between panels doesn’t leave much time to track down autographs.

The Poisoned Pen has your solution with Elevengeddon at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24, at the Hilton Doubletree Resort, 5401 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale.

Conceived by Iron Druid author Kevin Hearne and hosted by Sam Sykes, the third annual pre-con celebration features bestselling con attendees Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jim Butcher, Robin Hobb, and Scott Lynch, along with another 20 authors.

Admission is free, and there is no purchase required to attend. Books by all authors will be available as well. Call 480-947-2974 or visit the Poisoned Pen website for more information. Michael Senft

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