The Best Things to Do in Metro Phoenix This Week

Celebrating the Harvest Moon of September.
Celebrating the Harvest Moon of September. Benjamin Leatherman
Need plans? This week show off a little at the Songwriters Showcase, get political at the Rockin' Democracy party, or get cultured with free admission at Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day. For more things to do, visit Phoenix New Times' calendar.

James Frey
It’s been a minute since author James Frey was the subject of numerous articles and talk show chats about his controversial debut novel, A Million Little Pieces. That autobiographical tome about addiction was found to have some discrepancies. More than a decade and several books later, he stops in at Changing Hands Bookstore, 300 West Camelback Road, to read and sign his latest, Katerina. It’s a romantic story, but don’t think Frey’s gotten overly goopy. This guy’s interjected some angst into this story of two young lovers who reconnect in the present day after breaking up 25 years prior. Hear excerpts from this newbie at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 20. Admission is free; copies of the book are $26.99. Call 602-274-0067 or visit the Changing Hands Bookstore website. Amy Young

Full Moon Festival: Harvest Moon
September’s full moon rises on September 24, but can you blame the folks behind Full Moon Festival: Harvest Moon for getting the party started a few days early? Start the Autumn Equinox off right with some yoga, performance art, fire spinning, delicious food and drink, and the best music that the community has to offer. This event is for those over the age of 18; organizers ask that revelers come dressed in attire that reflects “the magic and majesty of the moon.”

This marvelous night for a moondance begins at 8:08 p.m. on Friday, September 21, at The Pressroom, 441 West Madison Street. Tickets are $15-$20. For more information, visit The Pressroom website. Jason Keil

Roller Disco Dance Party
It’s a good thing that the floor of The Van Buren is quite sturdy and durable, considering all 20,000 square feet of it will be put to the test this weekend. A flock of roller skaters will glide about while doing The Hustle, The Bump, and maybe even the whole YMCA routine on Friday, September 21, during the first-ever Roller Disco Dance Party at the venue.

The interior of The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren, will be transformed into a circa-1970s roller rink, complete with glow-in-the-dark digs and retro arcade games, as attendees wheel about while dressed in period fashion and costumes. Meanwhile, the members of the Hi-Dreams DJ Collective will spin classic disco tunes and boogie tracks to help folks shake their groove thangs.

Dancing will also take place on The Van Buren’s stage for those who don’t want to strap on skates. A midnight happy hour in The Van Buren’s lobby featuring drink specials and additional DJs is also planned. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the disco inferno starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. If you’re down to skate, there will be an additional $3 fee (which includes a mandatory skate rental). See The Van Buren website for full details. Benjamin Leatherman

click to enlarge
Trade soccer for music and dance at the Brazilian Day Festival.
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Brazilian Day
Brazil has been in the news lately thanks to its soccer team — even President Trump added his two cents on Twitter after the 2018 World Cup. But there’s more to Brazil than soccer, as evidenced by Brazilian Day offerings in Scottsdale. Head to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 East Second Street, from 2 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, September 22, to enjoy a vibrant mix of Brazilian arts and culture — including dance, music, and other performances. Tickets are $15 for adults or $5 for the 11-and-under set. Check out Brazil-inspired food, crafts, and merch while you’re there. Visit the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts website. Lynn Trimble

A Museum Day ticket can get you two free admissions to Heard Museum.
Craig Smith/Heard Museum
Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day
For museum nerds, the most wonderful day of the year will soon be upon us. It’s Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day, when select museums around the country offer free entry for anyone with a Museum Day ticket. Go online to the Smithsonian Magazine website to reserve your ticket and see the full list of participating museums, which will get you free admission for two at participating museums on Saturday, September 22. Plenty of Phoenix museums and cultural organizations are taking part, including the Desert Botanical Garden, the Heard Museum, the Pueblo Grande Museum, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. Hours vary by museum. Lynn Trimble

Annual Garden Clean-Up Day
No need to confess anything, unless it’s the fact that cherry blossoms always make you feel a bit sentimental. The Japanese Friendship Garden, 1125 North Third Avenue, is looking for volunteers to help out during its Annual Garden Clean-up Day, which runs from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, September 22. It’s a free morning filled with light pruning, raking, sweeping and such. And it’s a chance to get a good look at the garden before it opens for a new season in October, along with fellow volunteers who share an appreciation for its serene, bountiful grounds. All you need is comfy clothes, closed-toe shoes, and garden gloves, plus your sunscreen and water bottle. Garden tools are welcome, but not required. Visit the Japanese Friendship Garden website. Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge
Rush over.
Courtesy of Chris Ayers/PHX Film Collective
Rushmore is the first collaboration between director Wes Anderson and Bill Murray. The actor plays Herman Blume, an industrialist who befriends an unfocused prep school student named Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman). Their relationship turns into a heated rivalry when they vie for the affections of art teacher Rosemary Cross. This screening is presented by the PHX Film Collective, a group of cinephiles devoted to showcasing significant movies to central Phoenix.

The curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 22, at Changing Hands Phoenix, 300 West Camelback Road. Tickets are free with a donation, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting Save Our Schools Arizona. For more information, visit the Phoenix Film Collective website. Jason Keil

Experience West Africa
There’s never a shortage of music at the Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 East Mayo Boulevard. But there’s an added bonus if you show up on Saturday, September 22, for the MIM’s Experience West Africa event, which is included with $20 general museum admission. The festivities run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s a chance to learn more about the region, through music, storytelling, dance, crafts, and other activities. While you’re there, tour the museum’s Africa Gallery, or enjoy a curator talk on the ways drums instill and reflect cultural values. You’ll leave knowing more about the talking drum, balafon, and kora. And you might even master a West African drum beat or dance step or two. Visit the Musical Instrument Museum website. Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge
Earl Klugh will be there.
Courtesy of Concord Music Group
Firebird Jazz Festival
When it comes to music festivals in the Valley this fall, there’s seemingly one for every taste, ranging from dance music and hip-hop to indie rock and world sounds. And thanks to the inaugural Firebird Jazz Festival this weekend, that also includes the chance to enjoy some smooth jazz and R&B jams.

The newly launched outdoor concert event makes its debut on Sunday, September 23, at WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 North Pima Road, and will feature an afternoon and evening filled with sets by such Grammy-winning musicians as Jeffrey Osborne, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Earl Klugh. Onetime American Idol judge Randy Jackson will host the festival, which runs from 2 to 10 p.m. Other artists scheduled to appear include jazz trumpeteer Rick Braun and renowned trio Jazz Funk Soul.

General admission lawn seats are $45, reserved seating is $55-$85, and VIP box seats are $150. Call 480-840-4175 or see the Firebird Jazz Festival website. Benjamin Leatherman

Rockin’ Democracy
Our state has a real chance to change its colors from red to blue this year, but it’s not going to happen without a fight. One of the ways the grassroots organization AZ Blue 2020 is engaging citizens in the politics is through events like Rockin’ Democracy. Featured speakers include Terry Goddard, the chairman of the Outlaw Dirty Money campaign, David Garcia, the Democratic candidate for governor, and author Nancy MacLean, who will discuss her book Democracy in Chains. Grateful Dead tribute band The Harvest will provide the music.

The festivities begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 23, at The Pressroom, 441 West Madison Street. General admission is free with packages for additional perks available from $10 to $50. For more information, visit The Pressroom website. Jason Keil

click to enlarge
Explore some trails on the way to your Desert Botanical Garden workshop.
Lynn Trimble
Vegetable Container Gardening
It’s easier to buy your vegetables at the market. But there’s more satisfaction in growing them yourself, and it doesn’t have to be a big production. Plenty of people with small living spaces grow vegetables, thanks to the wonderful world of container gardening. Even so, it’s best to get a little veggie know-how before you haul off and plop a tomato starter plant into your favorite terracotta tub. Master gardener Liz Lonetti is teaching a Vegetable Container Gardening workshop at Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 North Galvin Parkway, from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, September 23. The class costs $38. Go ahead. Veg out for a change. Visit the Desert Botanical Garden website. Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge
Growing herbs can give you a positive outlook.
Southwest Gardener
Fall Herb Pot Workshop
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Simon and Garfunkel made them famous in song. But now you can give them your own twist, with a Fall Herb Pot workshop led by Gregory Ware, resident grower for Southwest Gardener, 300 West Camelback Road. He’ll teach you how to plant, grow, and harvest these flavorful herbs, during his noon to 3 p.m. class on Sunday, September 23.

All you’ll need is gardening gloves, and you’ll go home with an herb pot filled with herbs for enhancing your culinary creations. It’s a rare opportunity to play in the dirt alongside fellow plant nerds. The class costs $50. Visit the Southwest Gardener website. Lynn Trimble

Ninja Zombie
In 1992, director Mark Bessenger took his Super 8 camera and filmed Ninja Zombie, which revolves around the shirtless hero Jack, who is killed protecting a magical artifact from a sinister karate cult. His best friend turns to a witch doctor to raise the martial artist back from the beyond to fulfill his destiny. This film has sat on the shelf for 26 years patiently awaiting an audience that can appreciate its charms.

The dead will kick out from their graves at 9 p.m. on Monday, September 24, at Alamo Cinema Drafthouse Tempe, 1140 East Baseline Road, with an additional showing at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 26 at Alamo’s Chandler location. Tickets are $5.41. For more information, visit the Alamo Cinema Drafthouse website. Jason Keil

click to enlarge
Get Captured! By Robots.
Raymond Ahner
Captured! By Robots
Hate to break it to you, fellow carbon-based lifeforms, but we’re slowly but surely being replaced by automatons. That creeping sense of existential dread you get watching those videos of AI-powered ’bots awkwardly walking is completely justified, considering it’s a harbinger of our impending obsolesence as machines learn to do our jobs better than we can. Heck, the demonic droids of Captured! By Robots have already proven they can rock harder than any human.

The grindcore act, which features audio automatons GTRBOT666 and DRMBOT0110, creates efficiently terrorizing and viciously unrelenting thrash rock featuring the torturous screams of their human slave/creator JBOT (a.k.a. musician Jay Vance) singing about mankind’s folly.

Witness the robot revolution unfold on Tuesday, September 25, at Yucca Tap Room, 29 West Southern Avenue in Tempe, when C!BR invades the local rock dive. The takeover begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 in advance, $14 at the door. Benjamin Leatherman

Young Frankenstein
It may not rank as Mel Brooks’ best film, but Young Frankenstein is definitely one of the funniest entries in the famed director’s oeuvre. And with good reason, considering all the memorable bits that populate the 1974 black-and-white comedy classic, which lampoons golden-age horror films and stars the late Gene Wilder as Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced “frahnk-en-steen”). There’s the classic dance number between Frankenstein and his monster (played by the late Peter Boyle) set to “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” as well as recurring gags about the doctor’s faithful assistant Igor (prounounced “eye-gor”), the charade game, “Abby Normal,” and Frau Blücher.

This week, you experience these moments once more during a special showing of Young Frankenstein at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 25, at a dozen different Harkins Theatres locations around the Valley, including Harkins Tempe Marketplace 16, 2000 East Rio Salado Parkway. Tickets are $5 per person. See the Harkins website. Benjamin Leatherman

Songwriters Showcase
Local singer-songwriter Shannon Crane lives to entertain — and for the past 30-plus years, she’s done just that. The multi-talented musician and vocalist has performed for most of her life, gracing stages both across the country and around the Valley. These days, she fronts local ensemble Shan Jam Crane and the Wild Banchees and hosts the biweekly Songwriters Showcase every second and fourth Wednesday of the month at Pho Cao, 7436 East McDowell Road in Scottsdale.

This week’s edition of the showcase is a special one for Crane, who will celebrate her 60th birthday during the event, which takes place on Wednesday, September 26. In addition to a headlining set by Crane and company, the night will feature sets by such locals as folk rock group Buzz Babins and As Is Band, inspirational singer Katy Litwiller, and goth rock act Melodie Za and Eternal. Performances start at 7 p.m. and there’s no cover. Call 480-947-2608. Benjamin Leatherman

click to enlarge
It's always a good time at Shady Park.
Benjamin Leatherman
Soul Shanty Shakedown
Hump day just got a little more irie, courtesy of the cats behind the weekly Soul Shanty Shakedown at Shady Park in Tempe. Every Wednesday night, local MC Mycwyse and DJ Supavaiza offer a laidback night of music and dancing on the back patio of venue, which is located at 26 West University Drive in Tempe.

Vinyl selections of the reggae, dancehall, downtempo, and dub variety waft through the night air during the event, including old-school tunes by such legends as Leroy Gibbons, Max Romeo, Scientist, and Peter Tosh while local vendors like Level Up Dispensaries offer their wares, and local painters do live art sessions. Meanwhile, specialty cocktails like Fun Bobby’s Tropical AF, and deals like $3 well drinks and dollar-off drafts are offered, all of which should help you get in the groove.

The shakedown starts at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 26. Admission is free. Call 480-474-4222 or see the Shady Park website. Benjamin Leatherman
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil
Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble
Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young