This weekend is certainly a good one to be outdoors. Not only will there be plenty of sunshine and pleasant temperatures around the Valley to encourage folks to leave their respective domiciles for some fresh air, but also a number of local festivals happening this weekend. And many of these events will either be music-oriented (like the inaugural Mesa Music Festival, the annual Yardstock celebration, and the Arizona Hip-Hop Festival) or will feature a variety of performances (such as the Certified Local Fall Festival or the Grand Avenue Festival) taking place.
If you’re the sort who’d rather check out a concert indoors, there will also be any number of gigs at venues like The Rebel Lounge, Pub Rock, or elsewhere. (As always, our online concert calendar also has plenty of live music options.)
Here’s a rundown of our picks for the best concerts to see this weekend in Metro Phoenix.
Psychedelic Furs - Friday, November 13 - Livewire
Certain records seem to appear, somehow, at virtually every yard sale: Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, Foreigner 4, Carole King's Tapestry, and . . . Psychedelic Furs' Talk Talk Talk. The first three make sense, given how ubiquitous they were, but the latter is harder to explain. Released in 1981, Talk Talk Talk, the Psychedelic Furs' second release, generally is considered the British band's best album — so well-regarded that a 2011 tour merited performing the album in its entirety.
So why the sales bin? Listeners must have grown tired of the band's post-punk/New Wave sound, which oscillated between poppy and edgy without ever taking hold of either. Later versions of the band dabbled mistakenly in harder rock, as well as overtly commercial forays — including a schmaltzy remake of "Pretty in Pink" for the John Hughes movie of the same name — which could have alienated early fans. The band itself seemed to have had enough by 1991, calling it quits as founding Butler brothers Richard (vocals) and Tim (bass) formed Love Spit Love. But just shy of a decade later, the Furs reformed, recorded a new song, and toured on a nostalgia for the '80s that must not extend to record collections. GLENN BURNSILVER
Combichrist and The Birthday Massacre - Friday, November 13 - Nile Theater
About a decade ago, Combichrist unleashed a massive industrial club hit with “This Shit Will Fuck You Up.” In the years that have followed, that statement has become more of a mantra than a song title. The sound has grown downright brutal on Combichrist’s 2014 release We Love You. In a venue like Nile Theater, there’s a chance that the whole floor will turn into a mosh pit. Co-headliner The Birthday Massacre are heavy on the edges with a strong pop sensibility that has been charming fans for more than 15 years. The Canadian band nails the art of combining sublime and tender moments with bold guitars and dramatic synths on its latest album, Superstition. Show up early to check out openers MXMS, featuring Jeremy Dawson (Shiny Toy Guns) and vocalist Ariel Levitan. LIZ OHANESIAN
Melissa Etheridge - Friday, November 13 - Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino
Even after all Melissa Etheridge has accomplished as a legendary rock singer-songwriter, there still are music critics who claim her trademark raspy vocals can go from passionate to histrionic when she really gets going. Truth is that when you have that much passion and belief in who you are, what you want, what you will sacrifice to get there as an artist, it simply doesn’t much matter what others think. The Leavenworth, Kansas, native has crafted her musical success out of her unquenchable thirst for confessional and anthemic rock songs. She has persevered through much and still is as relevant today as when she began close to 30 years ago. From her groundbreaking early releases, the eponymous debut effort in 1988 (featuring her first single, “Bring Me Water”), Brave and Crazy in 1989, Never Enough in 1992, and the six-time platinum Yes I Am, Etheridge became an immediate star.
Six Grammy nominations would come in her first seven years, from which came two wins. Her 2007 song “I Need to Wake Up,” featured in the Al Gore global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth, garnered her an Academy Award for Best Song. In 2004, nearly eight months after the release of her eighth album Lucky, which was dedicated to 9/11 victims, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lost her recognizable locks during chemotherapy, and the medical marijuana she had used through her rehabilitation became a regular part of her life. Etheridge took reinvented herself in late 2014 with her 12th studio album, This Is M.E. She decided to venture out on her own as an independent artist after having recorded for Island Records since her 1988 debut. With the help of management company Primary Waves Records, she took the reins of both the music and business sides of her career. MARK C. HORN
Youth Lagoon - Friday, November 13 - Crescent Ballroom
With the release of Savage Hills Ballroom, the third LP from Boise-based dream-pop purveyor Youth Lagoon, the enigmatic singer-songwriter Trevor Powers seeks to reinvent himself and succeeds at every turn. The formerly floppy-haired and bespectacled kid first gained attention with anthemic, reverb-drenched ruminations on fireworks and fear of dying with The Year of Hibernation in 2011, following that up with more gauzy meditations on the metaphysical on 2013's Wondrous Bughouse.
Like the fictional venue for which his newest is named, Ballroom is an ornate structure in that tumultuous landscape. Trading distorted vocals and hazy organ for a slicker sound and more precise production, Ballroom is more pop-forward, with some forays into dubstep, sampled sound effects, and horn arrangements here and there. In promotional photos for the tour, which hits the Crescent on November 13, Powers's lips and eyes are lined with gold makeup, as if he's gotten a makeover from Prince. Similarly, his fierce lyrics now shine, as does his unique falsetto, front and center for the first time since he started making music in his bedroom. LINDSEY RHOADES
Mesa Music Festival - Friday, November 13, to Sunday, November 15 - Downtown Mesa
Yup, it’s happening. More than 200 bands will descend upon Mesa this weekend, converting the nation’s most conservative city into a mecca for the arts. The inaugural Mesa Music Festival offers possibly the biggest lineup of any music festival to hit Phoenix all year, with small bands from all over the Southwest converging on Mesa’s downtown. The first day of the festival is a full day of conferences aimed at helping local musicians grow their audience, featuring former Virgin Records VP Geordie Gillespie and a Q&A with Alan Niven, who used to manage Guns N’ Roses and now runs an Arizona metal label. The keynote address will be presented by former MTV personality Matt Pinfield of 120 Minutes fame and Mesa's Authority Zero will headline on Saturday. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
The Struts - Friday, November 13 - Pub Rock
The last band with pure exuberance and panache to hit the scene and remind everyone what rock ’n’ roll was about in the first place — raw edge and rebellion with a don’t-give-a-shit attitude — was The Strokes. Now, The Struts invade the U.S., blending hard rock’s stomp, glam’s over-the-top attitude, and power pop’s infectious hooks. Add some black leather, makeup, disheveled hair, piss-off looks, and anthemic songs that put Oasis to shame, and The Struts effectively kick all the hard melodic rock bullshit in the balls. Luke Spiller, who fronts The Struts with the swagger of Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury, and Marc Bolan, agrees: “I think the public and music folk as well are feeling slightly bored with what’s happening at the moment,” he says. “We are definitely coming along at the right time.” Already making a huge splash back home, this UK import is showing the states what’s been missing — even if we didn’t know it. “We never gave our music to the U.S. until now,” he says. “The moment we stepped out here, it’s been pretty crazy . . .We want the world and here’s a great place to start.” GLENN BURNSILVER
Arizona Hip-Hop Festival - Saturday, November 14 - Comerica Theatre
Valley hip-hop artist, impresario, and provocateur JustUs Samuel's vision for the Arizona Hip-Hop Festival, a massive daylong showcase that debuted last year at the Comerica Theatre and featured almost 100 performers from around the state of Arizona, was, in a word, ambitious. And this year’s edition of the event, which goes down on Saturday, November 14, is even more ambitious.
Samuel is planning to increase the scope of the event for 2015. We count more than 125 artists alone on the lineup, which means there are somehow even more performers lined up for this year's event than before. There will be four stages, upgraded sound, a map of all the performances, and a producer showcase, focusing on the people making the beats behind the music. There will be pop-up shops and more than 100 vendors, as well as dancers and DJs. Can the sequel top the original? We’ll see come November 14. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Beach Slang - Sunday, November 15 - The Rebel Lounge
Philadelphia's Beach Slang has spent the past few years writing songs that are so emotionally charged, raw, sincere and thoughtful that they transcend mere rock and roll. The name of the group's latest record, The Things We Do to Find the People Who Feel Like Us, may be long — but the sentiment speaks directly to where the band is coming from. Listen to Beach Slang's music and you'll hear plenty of heavy influence from the likes of the Replacements, Hüsker Dü and Jawbreaker. It may even remind you a little bit of Exploding Hearts. But Beach Slang isn't about imitating a sound of years past; it's about real human connection. “I'm not trying to make fans, I'm trying to make friends,” offers singer/guitarist James Snyder.
Snyder and the other members of Beach Slang came up through the DIY scene in Philadelphia, and still feel the need to have a foot in that world. After its first four shows, including one at well-known Philadelphia DIY space Golden Tea House, Beach Slang found itself being asked to tour with the likes of Modern Baseball, Cheap Girls and Cursive. But all along the way, Beach Slang would play a DIY venue or a dive bar earlier in the day to keep connected with its roots. “Everybody on our little team and our booking people knows that we're going to go off-script and play house shows and do that stuff on tour,” comments Snyder. “They applaud that, and they knew they were getting that when they came in to work with us.” TOM MURPHY
Talia - Sunday, November 15 - Crescent Ballroom
Save for a single track last year, it has been almost a decade since 24-year-old singer-songwriter Talia released recordings of her original music, even though the pianist has been studying music since she was 4 years old and is the rare young Valley musician who makes music her full-time career. Talia says she has been cultivating valuable life experiences and growing her artistic repertoire to prepare her for the release of a self-produced five-song EP, Come Here, which contains radio-friendly, pop-tinged tracks touching on romantic relationships.
Talia wrote all the music and lyrics on the EP, which she recorded in Scottsdale, as well as arranged all the songs. The video for lead single “Royal Palms” was filmed in Los Angeles and features dreamy sequences of the singer and the male object of her affection in glamorous locales. “Any time you love someone or are loved by someone, you turn into royalty,” says Talia, who plays older originals and some newer songs (which she plans on recording and singing on tour around the country next year) at a weekend residency at The Phoenician. She’ll play “Royal Palms,” as well as the full EP, with a full band at her Crescent Ballroom show, and she says listeners can expect to hear elevated vocal dynamics at her live performances. NICKI ESCUDERO
Circa Survive - Sunday, November 15 - Marquee Theatre
Thanks to a back catalog packed full of sweeping, vaguely ethereal tracks that land somewhere between prog and emo, the Circa Survive live experience can be a transformative one. Frontman Anthony Greene sings like Geddy Lee on sedatives (this is a good thing) and we've never seen this Philadelphia quintet put on a show that was anything less than musically flawless. The band is on the Juturna 10-Year Anniversary Tour with RX Bandits and will visit the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on November 15. RAE ALEXANDRA
The Accidentals - Sunday, November 15 - Last Exit Live
Indie-folk duo the Accidentals puts out a big sound for an acoustic outfit. Formed in Traverse City, Michigan, in 2012 by high schoolers Savannah Buist (violin and guitar) and Katie Larson (cello), who met as part of an orchestra class project, the pair honed their back-porch chops, churning out a mix of neo-folk, progressive bluegrass, Southern noir, Americana, pre-jazz, and rock-infused classical. Performing countless shows every year, the duo still maintained a 3.9 G.P.A. through school while building a huge local following.
Eventually, this busy schedule and diverse output attracted the attention of Marshall Crenshaw, who further shaped their sound and is set to produce the next four albums for the group — which now includes Michael Dause as full-time percussionist and drummer. What’s so identifying, besides the luscious harmonies (though Buist handles most of the lead vocals), is the depth and range of Larson’s cello playing. In the right hands, the cello can seemingly morph into several instruments at once, and here it provides a rich backdrop to songs about love, adventure, biking around TC at night, and miso soup. Tasty, indeed. GLENN BURNSILVER
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