Final Four weekend is finally upon us, and (as you’ve probably heard by now) there’s a lot going on. Other than the games themselves, the biggest thing is undoubtedly the March Madness Music Festival featuring Aerosmith, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, The Chainsmokers, and other high-profile acts.
However, it's not the only game in town this weekend, at least when it comes to concerts.
There's a big foam party, the launch of Talking Stick's summer pool party series, and performances by plenty of renowned bands and artists.
Here's a rundown of the highlights.
March Madness Music Festival – Friday, March 31, to Sunday, April 2 – Hance Park
Three straight days and night of live music staring big-name acts will be on tap at Hance Park during Final Four weekend. The AT&T Block Party headlined by country recording artist Keith Urban tips things off on Friday, March 30, and will run from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. The following evening on Saturday, April 1, the Coca-Cola Music event will take over the park from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and feature sets by The Chainsmokers, Grouplove, Capital Cities, and Leon Bridges. The weekend wraps up on Sunday, April 2, with the Capital One JamFest from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. with performances by Aerosmith, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Blink 182, and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. Admission is free each day, but get there early as its expected to reach capacity each day. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Michale Graves – Friday, March 31 – Club Red
The second incarnation of genre-defining horror-punk band the Misfits was (and probably always will be) a polarizing thing for punk-rock fans, but one thing that was never really in question was whether the band's second singer, Michale Graves, was anything but a true talent. An athletic vocalist and electrifying frontman, Graves never quite got due credit amid the in-fighting and drama that has plagued the Misfits organization since the band originally split in the '80s. While a version of Misfits endures as an embarrassing shell of that band's former glory, Graves has kept extremely busy since his tenure with the group ended in the '90s, and he's back again with a couple of new records, last year’s When World's Collide and Bedlam, as well as his current tour, all of which will speak to any fan about what made the Misfits so essential. DAVID VON BADER
The Music of the Rolling Stones – Friday, March 31 – Symphony Hall
This weekend, the Phoenix Symphony will be looking for a little “Satisfaction.” As part of its springtime concert schedule, the orchestra will bring to life the Music of the Rolling Stones, conducted and arranged by Brent Havens and sung by powerhouse vocalist Brody Dolyniuk, who has previously performed similar concerts for the music of The Who, U2 and Journey. Not a lifelong Stones fan, Dolyniuk admits he’s come to hear their music entirely differently after practicing it. “It took me awhile to appreciate the beautiful simplicity of their music,” he says. “The Stones are just the masters of that timeless three-chord riff, and Keith Richards is the riff master.” When put on the spot, the vocalist says he does have favorites from the Jagger-Richards juggernaut. “There’s also a beauty in a lot of those ballads like ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Ruby Tuesday.’ And those songs especially shine with the orchestra behind them. They’re so well-written and constructed and just lend themselves to strings and horns.” Call it symphony for the devil, if you will. VIC SHUTTEE
Maxo Kream – Friday, March 31 – The Pressroom
Maxo Kream absolutely loves playing to the worst of people’s imaginations. He preys on fear and instills confidence in the worst of your vices. Most of his 2015 mixtape, #Maxo187, is built on gory violence and gangland expressions that bleed cold and blue. “Thirteen” trolls around dusty synths and autobiographical tales of growing up in Houston, venturing down the wrong path. Wolf de Michls is #Maxo187’s signature behind-the-boards auteur, offering plenty of room on “Cell Boomin” for Maxo and Atlanta’ Father to spit drug tales while suctioned to the middle of an A$AP party. If anyone were pissed about A$AP Rocky’s interpretation of screw and in a larger part, Screw culture — then they’ve got Maxo waving the flag for appreciators of the wave. It’s a “I’ll do this far better than you” motif, if nothing else. He’ll be joined by fellow hip-hop artists Unotheactivist and Warhol.ss during his show at The Pressroom on Friday night. BRANDON CALDWELL
Brent Cowles – Saturday, April 1 – The Rebel Lounge
Last year was big for Brent Cowles. The singer-songwriter and former frontman of Denver’s You Me & Apollo signed to the Greater Than Collective label. He has a new EP in the works. And he traveled across the globe to Uganda as part of the Seattle Awake Music Exchange. It hasn’t always been so positive for Cowles, however. In 2014, You Me & Apollo broke up, and he felt lost for months, unsure if he would ever play music again. “It was one of the hardest things I went through,” he says. “I didn’t even know if I wanted to play music. It was like, ‘Holy shit, maybe I’m supposed to do other stuff.’” Before You Me & Apollo was a band, Cowles performed as a solo artist using that name. He eventually connected with other musicians and formed the group, playing a hybrid of roots rock and blues. Yet just months after releasing their second LP, Sweet Honey, and embarking on a national tour, You Me & Apollo suddenly decided to call it quits. At the time of that announcement, the party line was that it just wasn’t working anymore, a sentiment that Cowles corroborates. “We’re on good terms; nobody is mad at each other,” he says. “It didn’t make sense to keep going the way we were going for everybody. Everybody has their reasons, and I know I had mine.” After three months of exploring, Cowles returned to music and his solo-artist roots, realizing he would be doing himself “a disservice not to play music,” and is now just weeks from sharing his craft with people a continent and ocean away. ISA JONES
Stinkweeds 30th Anniversary Party – Saturday, April 1 – Stinkweeds Records
Stinkweeds is celebrating three decades of slinging music to Valley residents this year, owing to the fact the renowned local record emporium’s first location opened in Mesa way back in 1987. And its such a momentous occasion that owner Kimber Lanning’s getting a head start on the festivities. To wit: while the store’s actual 30th anniversary doesn’t take place until May, the party honoring the occasion happens this weekend. Local bands scheduled to perform include Sleepwalker, Wonderful Wednesday, Bear State and Mariachi De Grande Avenue. DJ Bruce Heimbuck will also spin between sets. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Dillon Francis – Saturday, April 1 – The Pool at Talking Stick Resort
It’s fitting that Dillon Francis’ latest visit to the Valley comes on April Fool’s Day, considering his status as the electronic dance music world’s class clown. For proof, you can look no further than any of his social-media outlets, all of which are filled with hilarious (and oftentimes bizarre) images and videos that illustrate the DJ and producer’s absurd and irreverent sense of humor. Over on his constantly updated Instagram and Twitter feeds, there are clips of Francis’ misadventures with his pet piñata, Gerald, or other offbeat randomness. Meanwhile, his YouTube account features episodes of DJ World, the parody series he created with fellow producer Getter and Vine superstar Nick Coletti that skewers both EDM culture and the vapidity of reality television, and other comical misadventures. Among all these gags and amusing examples of Francis’ off-kilter sense of humor, you’ll also encounter his latest tracks and music videos, which are heavily influenced by moombahton and have proven to be phenomenally popular. You’re likely to hear them during his performance this weekend at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, when Francis will headline the kickoff of the resort’s annual Release pool party series. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Bubble Bobble 9 – Saturday, April 1 – Club Red
Attention, kandi kids of the Valley: One of the bigger foam parties of the year makes its return this weekend — and you’ll want to wear your swimsuit to attend. Bubble Bobble, the infamous rave-like foam party that’s taken place annually since 2009, will fill an entire dance floor at Club Red in Mesa with a massive sea of bubbles on Saturday, April 1. And promoters of the party are promising that it will be a bit bigger than in years past. In addition to all of its usual thrills, like the chance to dance in a flood of foam while DJs drop hard-hitting sounds, Bubble Bobble 9 will also feature a bikini contest and performance by the cake-smashing models of Messy Hot. This year’s DJ lineup will include Jimni Cricket, Saiyan, Doughboy, Mighty Mike Saga, and Ian K. spinning hardcore, drum ’n’ bass, gabber, psytrance, and other genres. The 18-and-over party runs from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Jarabe De Palo – Saturday, April 1 – The Pressroom
"¡Te voy a dar jarabe de palo!" That is a common phrase used by Spanish parents to chastise their children when they act up. (It translates along the lines of “I’m gonna hit you across the head with a stick.”) The saying also inspired the name of Spanish rockeros, Jarabe de Palo. “It's something mothers say to make their kids react,” Jarabe's lead singer Pau Donés explains. “And just as hearing those words coming out of your mother’s mouth force you into doing something, we have songs with messages that motivate people to think, and that’s the secret of the group.” Another of the group's secrets: hard work. After years and years of playing in Europe and Central and South America, the group's most recent conquest has been the United States, and its current tour of America proof of its increasing popularity here. LAURIE CHARLES
Zeke – Sunday, April 2 – Yucca Tap Room
Blind Marky Felchtone grew up in the Ozarks, where Grandpa owned a still and raised a field of corn. But for Felchtone, a rowdy guitar slinger who now calls Seattle home, backwoods Arkansas summons other golden memories: the Benton County Speedway, Schmidt value packs and a small house on cinder blocks where a greasy hillbilly named Zeke specialized in homemade ball stub acid. Ah, the simple life. With an equally simple formula for white-trash punk rock, Zeke the band continues in its eleventh year of distilling grime, muck and sweat into a highly potent, batch of biker-approved embalming fluid. Scaled down to a power trio (with drummer Donny Paycheck and bassist Diamond Jeff Matz rounding out its full-throttle sound), Zeke remains custom-built for speed. Able to clock fifteen songs in under thirty minutes, the outfit pays deafening tribute to sex, drugs and intake manifolds with equal measure — conjuring the gear-headed rumble of Gang Green, Motrhead and Alabama Thunder Pussy. And speaking of thunderous bands featuring profance references to lady parts, southern metal/psychobilly act Nashville Pussy is opening up for Zeke on its current tour. JOHN LA BRIOLA
Dick Dale – Sunday, April 2 – Musical Instrument Museum
Dick Dale is a rock & roll colossus. Inarguably one of the most significant and influential electric guitarists of the 20th century, Dale is a force whose broad-shouldered shadow falls across rock & roll as far and wide as Charlie Christian’s silhouette dominates jazz. The 78-year-old lefty innovator’s upside-down guitar had more presence and personality than anyone had ever managed to unleash, and his recordings of “Let’s Go Trippin’” and “Miserlou” provided a radical redefinition of the instrument profound in its reach and implications. Dale’s big-toned, destructo ax arrived at an evolutionary point when rock & roll guitar was still wedded to a watered-down blend of wannabe primitive blues and honky-tonk soloing (e.g. Link Wray, Duane Eddy). His style completely exploded the genre’s prevailing standards and practices. It was electric guitar run amok, a hammering, savage amalgam of personal atavism (his manifest desire to aurally recreate the physical sensation of surfing), his fixation on the percussive rapture of Gene Krupa’s drumming, and the impact of an exotic mutt musical background bestowed by his Lebanese father and Polish mother. All of these combined like nitroglycerin, and while the British Invasion quickly drove Dale into commercial stalemate, nothing could diminish his influence. He’s rocketed through American pop culture in a wildly colorful orbit. JONNY WHITESIDE
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Rituals of Mine – Sunday, April 2 – Crescent Ballroom
Two years ago, singer and artist Terra Lopez endured the most devastating time of her life. The Sacramento, California-based artist’s father committed suicide. Only months later, she lost her best friend to a tragic accident. With the album she and collaborator Dani Fernandez recorded already complete, the duo changed their name from Sister Crayon to Rituals of Mine. The result is Devoted, a minimal, morbid album that feels emotionally rich and technically expressive. It is a shadowy, arresting statement on taking comfort in what we choose to dedicate our lives to. Lopez does not limit her expression to music. In February, the artist shared her project “This Is What It Feels Like.” The audio art piece, which was highlighted in a recent article in Huffington Post, comes with an advisory warning, just like Devoted. It is filled with the sounds of harassing catcalls encountered by the more than 100 women Lopez interviewed for the exhibit. All genders are encouraged to participate, but Lopez created the project for a male audience to educate them on the unwanted objectification women are forced to experience. Many leave the installation in tears. It inspires a newfound empathy for what women endure daily. JASON KEIL
Why? – Sunday, April 2 – Crescent Ballroom
“A new love blooms on the long notes of old horns,” Yoni Wolf nasally sings at the end of “George Washington,” one of the many stellar cuts off of the latest album from Why?. That new love he’s singing about could be about the band itself. After going through a bit of a slump on their last few albums, Wolf started to sound tired on his own songs. The band’s last effort, the crowd-sourced Golden Tickets EP (where Wolf wrote songs about his most hardcore fans), sounded like the musical equivalent of a shoulder-shrug. “Fuck it, here’s some new stuff, whatever,” the EP seemed to say with every single note. Moh Lhean, their new record, isn’t just a return to form: It’s the sound of a band falling back in love with itself. Wolf sounds rejuvenated as a singer, lyricist, and composer. Reconnecting to the textured, post-rock sounds the band first tapped into on Eskimo Snow, Why? has crafted a record that packs more sonic invention and musical change-ups in its 10 tracks than most bands can put together in an entire career. It’s an album that’s so intricate and complex it’ll be a thrill to see how they pull it off live. ASHLEY NAFTULE