Congratulations — you've made it through most of the summer. And while it may not feel like it outside, what with temperatures still hovering in the triple-digit range, the finish line is most definitely in sight.
With the impending transition from the summertime hell realm into what (more or less) constitutes the fall here in the Valley comes a spate of outdoor concerts and gigs as locals rediscover that there's more to life than keeping within close proximity to the nearest A/C event. And that includes the blockbuster (and aptly named) Summer Ends Music Festival later this month that will take over Tempe Beach Park for four straight days and offer one of the year's biggest and best lineups of talent.
There are plenty of other can't-miss shows during September that you might want to check out (as evidenced by our expansive online concert calendar) including gigantic gigs by the Foo Fighters and others, festivals like the annual Mad Decent Block Party, and performances a slew of indie tastemakers at such spots as Valley Bar and The Rebel Lounge.
The Blunt Club - Thursday, September 10 - Valley Bar
There's typically plenty of swagger to be found at your average edition of The Blunt Club, probably because the renowned local hip-hop night boasts more than few claims to fame under its belt. Not only does it feature some of the best turntablists around these parts (as well as a host of rap legends), it also has the distinction of being the longest running club event in the Valley, hip-hop or otherwise. Plus, there's the fact its also gone down at some particularly notable venues, ranging from dearly departed joints like the Pricesless Inn and Hollywood Alley to tastemaking spots like Crescent Ballroom and The Rebel Lounge. And after roaming the local club scene since the beginning of the year, including holding editions at Last Exit Live and elsewhere, the Blunt Club has found a permanent home at Valley Bar, where it will transpire monthly at the underground venue. Resident record jock Pickster One will be joined by special guests like turntablism king Fact135 and Power 98.3 mixmaster Chris Villa. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Los Lonely Boys - Friday, September 11 - Mesa Arts Center
Many fans thought Los Lonely Boys were a lucky band right out of the gate, and they were right. Henry, JoJo and Ringo, the Garza brothers from San Angelo, grew up playing music with their father and had a massive hit their first time out of the gate with "Heaven," a soulful ballad crystallizing their "Texican rock and roll" sound that cracked the Billboard Top 20 in 2004. It charted even higher in more specialized formats.
Although the Garzas never quite reached such lofty chart heights on their subsequent releases, their power-trio structure recalled past greats like Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and of course Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, so they quickly won a loyal following among guitar geeks with a taste for Texas blues, a sizable fan base they retain to this day (especially in the Southwest). At the same time, playing up their Latin roots placed them as natural heirs to the Santana/Los Lobos tradition, a style that truly blossomed on 2011 album Rockpango! CHRIS GRAY
Hollywood Undead - Friday, September 11 - Marquee Theatre
The internet is a fetid womb from which perverse and offensive offspring are born into popular culture. Bizarre sexual fetishes that make most normal folk squirm with disgust found a home and a highway through the networks of the web, while countless musicians found fans in similarly derelict corners of cyberspace. L.A.-based Hollywood Undead is one such group. The band rose from the web to relative fame as an abrupt, unfiltered mash of underground grit and Internet savvy.
Hollywood Undead is the wild middle child between Linkin Park and Insane Clown Posse. The masked rap-rock, genre-blending six-some screams debauchery and depression without committing to either. Its party anthems highlight hedonism with what must be an intentional sense of humor or else a humorous lack of sensitivity. Hollywood Undead's more emotive tracks deal with loss, loneliness, and ethical ambiguity. Matured over a decade, the group’s noise is like a strong artisanal cheese, selective yet complex, putrid and somehow popular. DYLLAN FURNESS
Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers – Friday, September 11 - Valley Bar
With four albums under her belt and a crew of Bay Area musicians, San Fran-based vocalist Nicki Bluhm has built her career off a vintage blend of country, r&b, and blues-stained rock 'n' roll. Where Adult Contemporary babes like Grace Potter, Joan Osborne, and Sheryl Crow have drifted into the middle of the road, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers are still riding the chill wave with their refreshing West Coast approach to roots music. Instead of a twang you get a breeze and an all-ages fanbase, and combined with opener Joe Pug's taste of Nashville, the result will be sunny, unadulterated Americana. ERIN MANNING
Zedd - Saturday, September 12 - Comerica Theatre
As the old saying goes, have folks happen to have all the luck. For instance, the 50 fortuitous dance music fanatics from around the Valley who got the chance to hang out and rub elbows with electro-house superstar Zedd aboard a houseboat back in April during an private midnight cruise on Lake Pleasant. It was part of a surprise listening party promoting the DJ/producer's new album, True Colors, that was open to select number attendees not only scored a pair of Beats By Dre headphones but also got to hear a specific track from the disc (in this case, the uptempo electro banger, “Bumble Bee”). Local Zedd fans who weren't fortunate to find their way into the exclusive affair, which involved digging up clues to its location on Twitter, will be pleased to know that his upcoming gig at Comerica Theatre is open to anyone and everyone. And you'll likely hear most of the tracks from True Colors woven into his high-energy and rage-inducing mix that will fill the air at the concert venue. Alex Metric and Madeon will kick things off. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
The Get Up Kids - Saturday, September 12 - Crescent Ballroom
Though often cited as being instrumental in forging the mid-'90s, post-hardcore aesthetic that was the second wave of emo, many of the Get Up Kids' latter-day critics forget that the band wrote pop songs worth imitating. And it just so happens that the airwaves of the last decade have been glutted with the not-often-inspired spawn of that sound and songwriting style. But the Kids never intended to be the godfathers of a movement any more than the Beatles set out to be a big influence on Charles Manson. What they did, however, was take their core of intensely energetic punk-rock-based pop and evolve its sound with each album. Not strictly kids anymore, the Get Up Kids still perform with their hearts on their sleeves. TOM MURPHY
Dave Matthews Band - Sunday, September 13 - Ak-Chin Pavilion
It’s definitely bro time whenever Dave Matthews Band rolls through the Valley, but it’s the group’s first trip through Phoenix in quite some time. Dave and his adult contemporary compadres are going to be closing out their double-set national summer tour at Ak-Chin Pavilion and playing all the hits in their mega catalog, which features six straight records that debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. It’s hard to believe 20 million people have spent their hard-earned greenbacks on seeing DMB. But, by gum, they have, and they have done it by normalizing jam band music, making jam music for people who don’t like jam bands. But Dave generally brings out the button-down-and-loafer crowd, the sort of people who consider dancing something that happens from the neck up. But no doubt, the band’s adoring fans will give a hero’s welcome into the arid Arizona desert. JEFF MOSES
Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters - Tuesday, September 15 - Livewire
A sad part of being a major celebrity and starting a rock band on the side is that inherently people will show up out of nowhere to see your band and ignore your music because they just want to see "you." Sometimes the music somehow ends up overshadowing the celebrity and the band becomes noteworthy in their own right. The Boxmasters, actor Billy Bob Thornton's off-and-on musical project, reach that early stage of notoriety years ago, but that still shouldn't diminish the fact that his Boxmasters are making ace country-fried rockabilly.
Imagine if Conway Twitty and the Kinks at their most mod got stoned one night in the '60s and decided to record four albums out in Bakersfield. It's definitely not like the stuff that BBT was doing in the aughts, because this stuff has a more closely defined sound and aim. What gets the Boxmasters over that hump of starfucking hysteria is that they actually don't do a bad job at what they do. This doesn't seem like some sort of 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts or Wicked Wisdom jazz, where actors try to live out some rock fantasy in between filming movies or getting into fights with hotel managers. In fact, it's the Boxmasters' prodigious recording nature that proves that this isn't a flash in the pan vanity project but a true musical enterprise. CRAIG HLAVATY
Gardens and Villa - Tuesday, September 15 - Crescent Ballroom
How many indie bands can you name who use an Indian bansuri flute? Maybe it’s common, IDK, but it works wonders for dream pop quintet Gardens& Villa. The flirty pulse on “Domino” evokes Beach House or Bogan Via, while “Bullet Train” is the kind of melodic hum that makes of Montreal fans squirm. But Gardens & Villa don’t focus on gimmicky, East Asian relish — they seem to take their sound seriously, judging by how they like to embed themselves in isolated studios for weeks at a time. They recorded their debut album in the shower-less, kitchen-less Oregon studio owned by producer Richard Swift, known for his work with the Shins and Foxygen. And when they recorded their sophomore album, Dunes, G&V hunkered down with acclaimed DFA Records producer Tim Goldsworthy in Benton Harbor, Michigan for a month, they only left five times during the recording process. TROY FARAH
Chris Brown - Tuesday, September 15 - US Airways Center
Have we, the public, forgiven Chris Brown? Will we ever? Should we? There’s no clear answer to any of those questions, especially the third one. Pre-2009, Chris Brown was slated to be the next Usher — the tremendously talented teen star destined to be a hit-making heartthrob for decades to come. Then came the news of his arrest for domestic violence against fellow superstar and at-times girlfriend Rihanna, and the horrifyingly graphic picture illustrating just how brutal the attack was. Critics don’t seem to have forgiven him nearly a decade after the fact. His recent albums, despite massive popularity, have received mixed reviews, at best. But judging by his sheer popularity, there are plenty of people who have moved on. Brown continues to be one of the biggest stars in the country. His 2014 album X has been on the Billboard charts for almost a year as of press time, and he also currently has three songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Hell, everyone on the tour is currently hot: Omarion (one song, featuring Brown), Fetty Wap (four songs), and Kid Ink (two songs), and French Montana (none currently, but he’s no stranger to the charts) round out the lineup, which just might be the most star-studded bill to come to Phoenix this summer, domestic violence or not. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Wavves - Wednesday, September 16 - Crescent Ballroom
Don't let the catchy melodies fool you — Wavves is anything but happy. Well, the California band is happier now than it has been since it began juicing — kind of. "I mean a little bit — I have a blender," says Wavves bassist Stephen Pope about his NutriBullet. "I get some chia seeds for some fiber and healthy fats."
Before adopting a healthier lifestyle, Wavves' previous studio album, Afraid of Heights, was darker than its previous full-lengths. “Maybe we were just worn down, but I feel like we were both in darker places than where we are now," he says. "That entire time, we were drinking too much and not being productive." Afraid of Heights took more than a year of studio time to complete. “We weren't necessarily in bad moods, but we weren't hyper and excited. We were just kind of doing it," Pope says. "I think maybe you can hear that on the songs. I'm proud of Afraid of Heights, but I think you can tell it's a much more depressing album than the one that's coming out now.” AMANDA SAVAGE
Turquoise Jeep - Thursday, September 17 - Valley Bar
Naughty farmers, contagious dance routines, hyper real costumed comedy, and lots of stretchy pants all come to mind when thinking of part-time viral sensation and full-time musical group Turquoise Jeep. And at any of their tour stops, both the group and fans tend to express why they would forever keep the jeep riding in favor of just having fun.
If by chance you've somehow managed to keep yourself out of Turquoise Jeep's YouTube lane over the past few years, it's important to know a few things. They're an independent ensemble of musical artists, led by Pretty Raheem and Flynt Flossy (also known as Your Favorite Rapper), they're the perfect example of the internet's influence on fan-to-artist interactions and they aren't afraid to put pride aside to put a smile on someone's face. SHAWN GADLEY
Mad Decent Block Party - Friday, September 18 - Rawhide
The Mad Decent folks — who got their start almost a decade ago putting on actual block parties in Philadelphia — have been rolling out the lineups for the different installments of their tour, which has expanded to cities all over the country (including Phoenix last year). The lineups are full of festival-level rap and EDM artists. In recent years they've brought acts like Diplo and Big Gigantic to town, while other cities for this year have gotten the likes of Cut Copy, Die Antwoord and T-Pain. Theoretically, any one of those could've been added to the Phoenix date. So, depending on how vociferous your feelings are on Major Lazer, this is either great news or a what-might-have-been moment. On the bright side, we didn't get RiFF RaFF, who we've seen enough of for a while (and/or vice versa). JEFF GAGE
Blackalicious - Friday, September 18 - Crescent Ballroom
“We gotta have faith. It’s one of the most powerful forces. You create your life through what you believe,” Gift of Gab declared while introducing the new song “Blacka” at a Blackalicious concert last summer in Atlanta. “Belief and faith can work for you or it can work against you. So, be positive, think positive, do positive things.” Gab and his musical partner, DJ/producer Chief Xcel, have long employed “the positive tip” in their rapid-fire tracks, instead of glorifying thuggery and materialism as do so many other rappers. But it has been difficult for longtime fans to remain positive after waiting almost a decade for the Sacramento duo to release something new since 2005’s spellbinding word-fest, The Craft. With its shout-along chorus, “Blacka” is an intriguing tease from Blackalicious’ long-awaited album, Imani Vol. 1, and has been on the set lists of their current tour, which hits Crescent Ballroom in mid-September. FALLING JAMES
My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult - Saturday, September 19 - Pub Rock Live
My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult began as a film idea that Frankie Nardiello and Marsten Daley had that never fully came to fruition. The two met while touring with Ministry, and in 1987, inspired in part by disco, exploitation films, the industrial scene happening around them in Chicago and a mutual love for campy horror movies, the pair formed a creative partnership that produced something better than any movie they could have made. With Nardiello taking on the stage name of Groovie Mann and Daley performing as Buzz McCoy, the two larger-than-life characters have been making larger-than-life music and putting on incredibly entertaining and gloriously colorful (in every sense) shows ever since.
TKK, as the act is sometimes known, had a breakthrough hit with the irreverent "Kooler Than Jesus," and its 1991 album, Sexplosion!, made the band an underground sensation. In 1994, TKK appeared in the iconic film The Crow and did music for that accidental classic of sleaze Showgirls, which helped solidify the band's reputation even more as a noteworthy act, as the excellent soundtrack fared better in reviews than the film itself. Since then, Thrill Kill Kult has been on numerous tours and released five albums, including its latest, 2009's Death Threat. Early Satanic imagery and lyrical themes included in the humorously lurid aesthetic of the band, TKK has not been a group that has taken itself as seriously as it has the execution of its music and putting on a compelling live show. TOM MURPHY
Jenny Hval - Saturday, September 19 - Valley Bar
Norwegian avant-garde singer/songwriter Jenny Hval stretches the frame of experimental pop music with her third album Apocalypse, girl by the way it challenges ears to participate its well-articulated doom. She’s based in electronic instrumentation but confinement is not a trait she wears well. Sometimes Hval is spacey and eerie (“White Underground”) while other times she flexes her astute spoken word ability (“Kingsize”) to provoke imagery of the modern world gone mad. Apocalypse, girl was released on the local label Sacred Bones and their union is a success in boundary-daring music. SILAS VALENTINO
Laetita Sadier - Monday, September 21 - Crescent Ballroom
Laetitia Sadier was the charismatic singer of the influential and experimental Stereolab, a band she started with guitarist Tim Gane after a short stint in the political post-punk band McCarthy in the late '80s. Combining krautrock drones and hypnotic rhythms with a lounge-jazz sensibility and a willingness to make the most out of simple elements brought together to create a rich, cinematic sound, Stereolab was impossible to pin down, and it was a challenge to pinpoint its more obvious influences.
Stereolab went on hiatus in 2009, and the following year, Sadier released her first solo album, the critically acclaimed The Trip. While very different from Stereolab in fundamental ways, Sadier's solo work nonetheless benefits from the cool soulfulness of her voice and her ability to speak to specific personal experiences with a poetic depth and capture the human condition in a larger sense. Sadier's lyrics have always been sharply political, but in the same sense as Gang of Four or Fugazi, they look at the essence of the issues that plague us not only with a critical eye, but with compassion. TOM MURPHY
Summer Ends Music Festival feat. Brandon Flowers - Thursday, September 24 – Tempe Beach Park
When was the last time you stopped and really listened to the old Killers track “All These Things That I’ve Done”? It’s incredible, right? Did you realize it was completely written, music and lyrics and all, by singer Brandon Flowers? Yeah, he’s kind of a musical genius, and that song was on the Killers’ debut album. Since those days, the Las Vegas-born musician has helped pen three successful follow-up records and embarked on a critically acclaimed solo career. He’s now touring the United States in support of his latest LP, The Desired Effect, and will perform at the first day of the Summer Ends Music Festival on Thursday, September 24, along with Hozier and Cold War Kids. Flowers creates some of the highest-quality ’80s-inspired synth pop in the industry with timeless song-craft combining with heartfelt lyrical stories and beats both touching and utterly danceable. You’re pretty much guaranteed a good time — if you’re into that sort of thing. KAT BEIN
Chelsea Wolfe - Thursday, September 24 - Valley Bar
Queen of the industrial underworld, Chelsea Wolfe crafts nightmares with her gothic electronica while lamenting despair in a lyrical prose fit for folk. For her fifth LP Abyss, she enlisted producer John Congleton – whose varied hands have appeared on St. Vincent, Marilyn Manson, and Earl Sweatshirt records – and their union summated a batch of intense songs that work like Halloween: equally frightening as they are joyous. Abyss hits a peak during the hauntingly acoustic ballad “Crazy Love” where violin strings descend like bombs around Wolfe’s stirring lead. Sit back and admire how Wolfe transforms the underground venue Valley Bar into a cathedral of misery. SILAS VALENTINO
Summer Ends Music Festival feat. Cold War Kids - Thursday, September 24 - Tempe Beach Park
It's been nearly ten years since Southern California-born act Cold War Kids took the indie-rock world by storm with their debut LP, Robbers & Cowards, but their fans have not forgotten it. With its soulful sensibility and soaring singalongs, that album felt like a breath of fresh air back in 2006, and vaulted the Kids on to the playlists of even the most casual indie-types. What a lot of those casual fans might not know, however, is that the band that recorded Robbers & Cowards is more or less gone. The group that's currently touring in support of their upcoming album, Hold My Home, is essentially brand new, with front man Nathan Willett and bassist Matt Maust the only holdovers from the band's early success. As perhaps even their most ardent supporters might admit in 2015, consistency has never quite been the Cold War Kids' strong suit.
And although the majority of the musicians making up CWK's lineup are new to the band, a couple of important elements in its sound have remained intact over the years. Maust's bass lines still wiggle and throb in the air, breathing potent life into the group's simple grooves, and Willet's dynamic voice still rings out ecstatically, injecting a life-saving dose of soul into the music. The new guys, for their part, fit in well, delivering seamless and energetic performances of songs old and new. NATHAN SMITH
Foo Fighters - Friday, September 25 - Ak-Chin Pavilion
The "make lemons out of lemonade" adage has received a very rock 'n' roll update courtesy of Dave Grohl over the summer, as he's taken the incredible inconvenience of a serious injury and turned it into a running joke fueling the Foo Fighters' current tour.
Some musicians fall off a stage, break their leg, cancel the rest of their upcoming concerts, and hole up in a hospital somewhere. Others opt to get the cast on, grab a pad of paper before the plaster is dry, and design a ridiculous, carnival-ride-on-steroids apparatus that'll serve as a chair to sit on and elevate the injured limb as they perform, all with the intent to keep the show going and cancel as few gigs as possible while splintered bones heal.
Obviously, Grohl is of the latter persuasion, and the Foo Throne — the gaudy, flashy, light-bulb-popping seat that looks like it was stolen from the Sizzler at your local state fair — is one tall drink of lemonade. To Grohl's credit, he's had a sense of humor about the whole thing during performances. Beyond being awkward and ostentatious, the throne has presented challenges for the Foos in concert. For starters, the inconvenience of having to work around a giant piece of furniture that slides on pulleys up and down the catwalk into the audience. Grohl has overcompensated by screaming and otherwise delivering full-throttle vocals and guitar licks from the waist up, a distinct change for the typically frenetic frontman. He's orated. He's preached. And Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, and Pat Smear have all stuck to their various corners of stages — Mendel planted before his thundering bass cab, Hawkins flailing, assaulting the skins of his kit, Smear pacing and smoking a cigarette — while making their contributions to the Foo hit machine live and in the flesh. HILARY HUGHES
Summer Ends Music Festival feat. J Cole - Saturday, September 26 - Tempe Beach Park
Since debuting with a cameo on Jay Z’s The Blueprint 3 in 2009 — and becoming the first artist to sign with Hova’s Roc Nation imprint - J. Cole has grown into the leading everyman rapper of his generation, or at least the anti-Drake. In July, the New York Times noted that the 30-year-old North Carolina native had 2014’s top-selling rap album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, with a style that in years past might have limited his role to underground sensation — but that in today’s upside-down hip-hop climate has made him a superstar. “Mr. Cole is, at best, fretful about what fame has done to him, and his allergy to glitz — one of his biggest hits is about his crooked teeth — makes him something of an easy punching bag for the chattering classes,” wrote Times lead pop critic Jon Caramanica. On Saturday, September 26, Cole will headline the third day of this year’s Summer Ends Music Festival and cap off a packed afternoon and evening of music that will also include performances by Big Sean, G-Eazy, Slightly Stoopid, Rebelution, Pepper, Kari Faux, Iration ,Jez Dior, and The Green. CHRIS GRAY
Giant Sand - Sunday, September 27 - Valley Bar
Giant Sand is one of those acts that's completely worth the price of admission and then some. Like the musical equivalent of an Ed Mell landscape, the legendary Tucson band fronted by the enigmatic Howe Gelb is making its debut at Valley Bar, and that's all you need to know. For the uninitiated, Giant Sand is one of the finest purveyors of the "desert sound" there has ever been. Imagine Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen had a love child and left him in Tucson with nothing but Bob Dylan and Neil Young's noisier records to listen to, but that doesn't even really do Gelb justice. Gelb and Giant Sand have been all over the music map and back over the years and their upcoming performance in downtown Phoenix will, no doubt, prove to be an instant classic. TOM REARDON
Summer Ends Music Festival feat. Kanye West - Sunday, September 27 - Tempe Beach Park
Hip-hop icon Kanye West will cap off this year's Summer Ends Music Festival, as the rapper is scheduled to play Tempe Beach Park on the headliner on Sunday, September 27, during the final day of the blockbuster festival. Yeezy will share that day's lineup with Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott, Vic Mensa, and Kaytranada. As it stands, the Summer Ends lineup as a whole is looking pretty sweet. Sunday night alone looks like it will have some incredible hip-hop talent, with an established superstar in Kanye and rising talents in the rest. DAVID ACCOMAZZO