Might sound contrarian, but fall is when things start heating up in metro Phoenix. From art shows and theatrical productions to must-see concerts, you’ll find something to do every single night of the week. It’s a fun problem to have, sure, but it also means an overwhelming number of possibilities. So we’re here to help you make the tough calls, rounding up everything we’re genuinely excited about this fall. Let’s start with live music, shall we? With the newly opened Van Buren downtown and major acts coming through small clubs and massive arenas, music fans are faced with an embarrassment of riches. Here are 35 upcoming concerts worth the price of admission.
Tuesday, September 5, at The Van Buren
Seu Jorge brought the Star Man down to Earth with his acoustic guitar and beautifully flawed Portuguese translations of David Bowie’s music in Wes Anderson’s underrated The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. His tribute tour celebrates the work of an artist who gave hope to the rebels and outcasts of the world. Jason Keil
Tuesday, September 5, at Crescent Ballroom
The Melvins’ Buzz Osbourne and Dale Crover have worked together longer than most marriages last. And they’re still making sweet, eardrum-shattering music together as the state of Washington’s greatest harsh music export. Music heroes from the ’90s are dropping like flies, but Buzz and Dale keep on shredding amps. Ashley Naftule
Friday, September 15, at The Van Buren
If you obsessed over the Grateful Dead doc Long Strange Trip, you probably wish one of two things: that you could’ve seen ’em back in the day, or that you could relive your favorite Jerry and Co. shows. Your chance for redemption comes in the form of L.A.-based tribute band the Grateful Shred. Lauren Cusimano
Cigarettes After Sex
Saturday, September 16, at Crescent Ballroom
The dreamy, androgynous voice of Cigarettes After Sex’s Greg Gonzalez is the perfect addition to the lineup at the Twin Peaks Roadhouse. The band’s cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You,” which makes the ballad feel provocative, brought them the attention they needed to release a debut full-length album. J.K.
Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit
Tuesday, September 19, at The Van Buren
You have a difficult musical choice on this mid-September evening: Enjoy U2 performing The Joshua Tree in a stadium or listen to Jason Isbell’s passionate songs from the former Drive-By Truckers member’s new album, The Nashville Sound. You can’t go wrong. J.K.
Tuesday, September 19, at University of Phoenix Stadium
In 1987, U2 launched a tour in Tempe in support of breakout album The Joshua Tree. When they returned to the Valley at the end of that year, Bono, the Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., and Adam Clayton were the world’s biggest rock band, a title they arguably hold 30 years later as they celebrate the universalist spirit of The Joshua Tree in Phoenix. Jason P. Woodbury
Thursday, September 21, at Talking Stick Resort Arena
People toss around the phrase “living legend” like anyone can be part of a family entertainment empire, win Grammys, Emmys, and Golden Globes, and dance and sing like she invented both. But there’s only one Janet Jackson — and her State of the World Tour comes to Phoenix for one night only. Becky Bartkowski
Toadies with Local H
Friday, September 22, at Crescent Ballroom
For those who loved tuning in to The Edge, rock radio hits from the ’90s still pack a punch. The upcoming Toadies and Local H show will pack a double dose of that sorta sound (and sentiment) into one of the Valley’s more intimate venues. L.C.
Friday, September 22, at Marquee Theatre
Yes, it was that Ben Folds who produced the title track of Kesha’s comeback Rainbow. If you would like pop music’s lovable misfit to play it or another one of his hits, send it to the stage via paper airplane. Folds’ setlist will be determined by this unusual delivery system. J.K.
Danzig and Deafheaven
Monday, September 25, at Marquee Theatre
For metal fans, a Danzig or Deafheaven concert is an occasion to throw up your horns and rejoice. But bringing together the glass-jawed king of devil rock with the poster boys of “doomgaze” on one bill? That’s a headbanging blockbuster worth burning down a church for. A.N.
Wednesday, September 27, at Ak-Chin Pavilion
The monochromatic kingpins of goth makeout jams are coming back to the Valley for an evening of seductive and sly synth rock. While many of their ’80s pop contemporaries are coasting on old hits and nostalgia, Depeche Mode is still putting out new records that sound vital and fresh. A.N.
The Shins and Spoon
Tuesday, October 3, at Comerica Theatre
It’s hard to decide who should be headlining this indie double bill. Sure, The Shins changed your life after you saw Garden State, but Spoon’s track record is hard to beat. Most of the country won’t get to witness this lineup, so stop your arguing and get your ticket already. J.K.
Thursday, October 5, at Comerica Theatre
These spacey, psychedelic-rock freaks put on a hell of a show, whether it’s stripped down and minimal or a multimedia extravaganza. There might be puppets. Hell, there may even be Miley Cyrus. It’s worth the price of admission to find out — and to hear a zillion beautifully unusual, twisted tunes. Amy Young
Saturday, October 7, at Location TBA
There are raves, and then there’s Bloodfest, the under-the-radar and over-the-top affair where attendees are sprayed with gallons of crimson liquid while dancing the night away. Organized by rave scene veteran Matt Dunn, the annual event also features numerous local DJs, wall-to-wall hardstyle and EDM sets, and a surreal vibe unlike any other desert dance party. Benjamin Leatherman
Saturday, October 7, at the Arizona State Fair
Free with fair admission or $40-$60 for reserved seating
If there’s one thing that alternative band Cake does well, it’s weaving disillusionment, discontent, and wistful emotions into catchy tracks that are smart, subversive, and utterly listenable. Said songs populate Cake’s nine-album discography (including “Frank Sinatra,” “Never There,” and “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”) and are big hits during live shows, like their upcoming Arizona State Fair gig. B.L.
Loudon Wainwright III
Sunday, October 8, at Musical Instrument Museum
As part of the lineage of grumpy singer/songwriters including Warren Zevon, Randy Newman, and Father John Misty, Loudon Wainwright III writes songs about the aches and pains of life — both existential and physical. Age hasn’t softened his wit — his songs and new book bristle with biting commentary and hilarious and worn observations. J.P.W.
Tuesday, October 10, at Crescent Ballroom
The man in white, Andrew W.K., sings about how he likes to party hard. His live show is proof. See him crank his energy level to the through-the-roof setting and go full tornado. W.K.’s a moving target onstage, belting out songs and smashing piano keys while his band rocks out. Guaranteed to elevate the shittiest of moods. A.Y.
Friday, October 13, at Ikeda Theatre at Mesa Arts Center
Andrew Bird’s Are You Serious? showed he could get personal instead of waxing poetic about nature. But you don’t see Bird for the feels. He’s a one-man band, as evidenced by his 2010 TED talk, where he used a variety of instruments, loops, and whistling to express himself. J.K.
Saturday, October 14, at The Pressroom
It might be more interesting to see the type of crowd post-punk legends The Church will bring out than it will be to hear the band perform “Reptile” and “Under the Milky Way” — even though we’re pretty sure the songs will be incredible live. Regardless, this dream-pop band’s ready to pack The Pressroom. L.C.
Easy Action and Dinosaur Jr.
Tuesday, October 17, at The Van Buren
Take any chance you get to see frontman John Brannon in action. This time, it’s with brutally noisy rockers Easy Action. The Detroit singer is a one-man wrecking crew. And Dinosaur Jr. are certainly no wallflowers, either. They’ll keep the feedback flowing through their set of catchy, cacophonous indie rock tunes. A.Y.
Friday, October 20, at Valley Bar
Ten years and six albums into Screaming Females’ career as indie shredder punks, the Jersey band’s as loud as ever. A heavy, chugging rhythm section lays the groundwork for vocalist and lead guitarist Marissa Paternoster’s alternately warbly and wailing — but always O.G. metal — singing style. Get ready to bang your head. B.B.
Lost Lake Festival
Friday, October 20, to Sunday, October 23, at Steele Indian School Park
The inaugural Lost Lake Festival comes to the Valley courtesy of Superfly, the folks behind major music events Outside Lands and Bonnaroo. For the company’s first foray into Phoenix, it went all out. The stacked and hip-hop heavy lineup includes Chance the Rapper, The Roots, The Pixies, HAIM, and Run the Jewels. B.B.
Saturday, October 21, at Mesa Amphitheatre
The “always strive and prosper” rap posse will post up in the East Valley to rap about “Hella Hoes” and “Yamborghini High.” With heavyweights like ASAP Ferg and ASAP Rocky leading the crew, it’s a must-see for hip-hop heads. A.N.
Saturday, October 21, at the Arizona State Fair
Free with fair admission or $40-$60 for reserved seating
It’s hard not to love Snoop, whether he’s being a badass rapper or whipping up some brownies with Martha Stewart. At the fair, though, we can expect the former. His laid-back style, inspired by his penchant for weed, makes for a perfect night of hip-hop ’n’ chill. A.Y.
Sunday, October 22, at Valley Bar
We miss Sonic Youth, of course, but Thurston brings with him 40 years of guitar playing that befriends noisy punk, driving rock, and experimental styles. He’s also supporting his latest solo release, Rock and Roll Consciousness, which is both rowdy and warm. He’ll have former Sonic Youth member Steve Shelley along on drums. A.Y.
Wednesday, October 25, at Celebrity Theatre
Of all the anti-folk acts catapulted to fame in early aughts New York, you might not have bet on Moscow-born Regina Spektor to outlast the majority with her poetic piano pop. But her sugary voice and literary lyrics have evolved, prevailed, and provided the theme to Netflix’s critically acclaimed Orange Is the New Black. B.B.
Ted Leo and The Pharmacists
Tuesday, October 31, at Valley Bar
The Hanged Man pending, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists haven’t released an album in years. But records like Shake the Sheets and Hearts of Oak are still infectious. And Valley Bar’s showroom seems like an awesome spot for lots of dancing ska dads — as long as you join in, too. L.C.
Friday, November 3, at Talking Stick Resort Arena
Beyoncé’s husband is the greatest rapper of all time. Phoenix, you have the rare chance to see Jay-Z spit some rhymes from the clever, dramatic, and relevant album 4:44 in concert before he goes back to being a stay-at-home dad with his newborn twins. J.K.
Saturday, November 4, at The Van Buren
$18 to $33
Look and feel unite to make Chicano Batman a must-see band with a cool name and an even cooler sound. These suited-up, stylish rockers from Los Angeles blend rock and soul that swirls with psychedelic and tropical sounds to lock you in a hypnotic sway. A.Y.
Ministry and Death Grips
Tuesday, November 7, at The Van Buren
On paper, Al Jourgenson’s industrial outfit Ministry and electronic-rap purveyors Death Grips seem like an odd couple. But each band is committed to shocking visuals, harsh sounds, and in-your-face attitude. If any show is going to drill a hole in your skull with brutally compelling sounds, it’s this one. A.N.
Hiss Golden Messenger
Friday, November 10, at Valley Bar
On Hiss Golden Messenger’s latest, Hallelujah Anyhow, songwriter M.C. Taylor reflects on weighty subjects — debt, responsibility, our modern tumult — with a characteristically restrained touch. But the band excels in a live setting, leaning into Southern R&B and country rock traditions, bridging soul and folk like Van Morrison or The Band. J.P.W.
Tuesday, November 14, at Crescent Ballroom
A genuine musical weirdo in the best possible ways, Ariel Pink cut his teeth on a love of The Cure and more obscure experimental acts like Can and Throbbing Gristle. Pink has been making songs since he was a preteen, and his passion and influences have resulted in righteously avant-garde pop songs. A.Y.
Wednesday, November 15, at Club Red
Calling all fans of Canadian anti-fascist punk bands formed in the mid-’80s. Propagandhi (along with Bad Cop/Bad Cop, currently of Fat Wreck Chords) will grace the big stage over at Club Red and — fingers crossed — pump out jams from 1993’s How to Clean Everything. L.C.
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Gold Rush Music Festival 2017
Saturday, November 18, and Sunday, November 19, at Rawhide Western Town
The inaugural edition of this concert festival will offer two days of hip-hop and electronic dance music in a unique setting: the kitschy 1880s-style theme park at Rawhide in Chandler. There’s nothing hokey about Gold Rush’s huge lineup, which will include performances by Migos, A-Trak, Marshmello, Lil Uzi Vert, Dillon Francis, Azizi Gibson, Keys N Krates, and dozens more. B.L.
Wednesday, December 13, at The Van Buren
Songwriter Johnny Pierce has always been the core of synth-pop outfit The Drums. But with the recent Abysmal Thoughts, Pierce goes solo, resulting in his most personal songs yet. Flirting with New Wave, indie rock, and post-punk, one-man band compositions like the sublime “Blood Under My Belt,” present Pierce as a spritely auteur. J.P.W.