We're officially hip deep into the time of year that's officially know as the dog days of summer, which -- if you're not familiar with the term -- refers to the most sweltering period of the season.
But while the weather might be keeping your ass glued to the couch, it's not stopping chart-topping touring bands and legendary acts from coming to the Valley in August. That's because the weather's quite lovely inside the air-conditioned bliss of Metro Phoenix's arenas, concert halls, and music venues, so if mega-stars like Paul McCartney, Justin Timberlake, John Legend, and Interpol get all sweaty during their upcoming shows this month, its due to their performance theatrics.
All the aforementioned music and acts are scheduled to visit the Valley in the coming weeks and are just a sampling of the 25 best artists we think you should see live and in person this month. (For more shows taking place in August, check out our extensive online concert calendar.)
With its touchy feely subject matter and sometimes-cheesy visual aesthetic, trance music is sometimes mocked. Still, it boasts a devoted worldwide following. DJ Markus Schulz is one of the genre's marquee names. Based in Miami, he's been on the international circuit for more than a decade, performing a harder, more aggressive style of trance, which is often quite fluffy. (His sound has earned him the nickname "the unicorn slayer.") Perhaps most impressive? His extended sets, which can last anywhere from 10 to 12 hours. He doesn't even stop to go to the bathroom. True story. "I don't drink alcohol while I'm playing. I just have some water or some iced tea, and I don't go to the bathroom at all. I sweat it all out," Schulz says. "If you don't drink alcohol it makes it easier to not have to go to the bathroom. It's a physical and mental endurance test." -- Katie Bain
It's amazing how quickly things can change for the better. Consider the relationship between Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala. These are two guys who were musically attached at the hip for something like 17 years who suddenly found themselves not even on speaking terms last year. Yet, here they are a little over a year later with a new band and new songs, looking like they're having the time of their life onstage. Yes, yes, everyone knows about At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta and all the classic music they've put out, but their current gigs aren't about the past or the future. It's about Antemasque and the present. The present is pretty freaking rocking.
If all you know of Omar is the talented but quiet guy off to the side on all those ATDI reunion shows, that dude has been replaced by a beast wearing a guitar. Something about these new songs has lit a fire under him, and watching him shred in person with Antemasque will be a sight to see. Cedric holds up his end of the bargain, sounding pretty solid for a guy who spent the better part of his younger years screaming his lungs out. He still knows how to command an audience, still has those funky dance moves and still knows when to stop and let the crowd sing their hearts out. -- Cory Garcia
Believe it or not, Phoenix has a storied history of experimentalism. For Sir Richard Bishop (co-founder of the legendary Sun City Girls) and W David Oliphant, that history began in 1981, when Bishop saw Oliphant and immediately considered him to be "the leading exponent" of that scene.
Fast-forward nearly 35 years, and Oliphant has brought Bishop back from his travels, if only for a week, in order to rehearse and record their second collaborative album. For just four days, August 5-8, the duo will work in Oliphant's home studio, culminating in a collaborative performance this Saturday, August 9 at one of Phoenix's most formative art spaces, the Icehouse.
Though the two have known each other and collaborated live for multiple decades, it wasn't until late 2011 that the two finally recorded together, resulting in the Chopda Media full-length Beyond All Defects, all recorded and written in one take with no overdubs. Thanks to the two's lifelong musical bonafides, the record received acclaim from Michael Gira of Swans, and Stephen O'Malley of Sunn O))), two experimental heavyweights in their own right. -- Connor Descheemaker
Justin Timberlake doesn't really need that "Suit & Tie." He brought sexy back without the help of either, and he did so before anyone even knew that sexy had left, which makes it totally OK that he keeps reminding us of said sexy saving. But his designer dapper duds don't hurt, and neither does the growth of the soul-searching melodies and baby-making grooves that are now entered in his dynamic discography. Released after a six-year hiatus, JT's two-part re-return, The 20-20 Experience, proves his vision is endlessly charming, if not always quite as far-sighted as its title. Now 32, married and more gelled back than ever, the suave singer is four albums and a billion SNL appearances into a solo career as entertaining as it is definitive proof that you can take the man out of the boy band and take the boy band out of the man. -- Kelsey Whipple
When Mesa's Nile Theater first opened in 1924, it was a decadently decorated silent movie house. These days, what streams out of the theater is anything but quiet. The Nile Theater frequently hosts local and touring hardcore, punk and metal bands. Acts like Against Me!, Circle Takes the Square, and Code Orange Kids and more have graced either venue's spacious main stage or the more cozy Underground, located in the basement. To honor the building's 90th birthday, The Mantooth Group, which manages the theater, is throwing a swing dance gala, with live music provided by Jump, Jive & Wail, dance lessons, a pin-up contest, electro-swing dance, "candy girls" and more. -- David Accomazzo
Xiu Xiu's latest album, Angel Guts: Red Classroom, is even denser and more disturbing than the electronic band's previous release, Always. Leader Jamie Stewart, Xiu Xiu's one original member, growls and mutters cryptic sentiments on "New Life Immigration" and "Stupid in the Dark." Even his synthesizers and banks of electronics appear to mock him in return, sending out waves of mind-blotting noise as Stewart shudders and sounds like he's weeping on "The Silver Platter." Xiu Xiu have occasionally used their arty instincts to show a way out of the darkness through melody, especially on past tracks featuring Angela Seo. But Angel Guts involves a much more tangled and nightmarish fall down the rabbit hole. -- Falling James
Combining the power of an 11-piece band with the agility of a much smaller unit, the Tedeschi Trucks Band in less than three years has established itself as one of the most formidable contemporary live acts. Of course husband-and-wife guitarists Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi had something of a head start with their own bands before joining forces. But the resulting ensemble is definitely greater than the sum of its parts, sporting an outstanding horn section, fiery rhythm section, and two great guitarists, including slide master Trucks. Moreover, TTB operates like a jazz outfit in the way the musicians interact and improvise. Plus, Tedeschi is a superb vocalist, sometimes reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt, who blends blues, gospel, and rock. TTB, meanwhile, stir up an intoxicating brew of all that plus funk, soul, Southern rock, and swampy R&B. -- Rick Mason
At 72, Paul McCartney has had a long, illustrious career -- most of it post-Beatles, though all too many forget that the Beatles lasted a mere 10 years. Still, Sir Paul's history starts with the Quarrymen, which morphed into the Beatles, the most popular rock band, and one of the best selling, of all time.
Innovation was the key to the Beatles success. Sure, they were cute, wore long hair when others didn't, and could harmonize better than most R&B groups. But their music went way beyond the simple melodies and pop trappings the songs offered to a welcoming public. There were also strings, classical instruments, horns, overdubs, backmasking and other wild studio trickery that was pretty unheard of at the time.
It got wilder as the band aged, discovered mind-expanding drugs, and found that advances in musical equipment and recording equipment erased many conceptual roadblocks. McCartney was responsible for many of the innovations even as John Lennon got credit for being the wild one. Both has a major say in Beatles happenings (eventually leading to the group's disbandment), yet it's important to note that Paul was responsible for "Helter Skelter" and "Wild Honey Pie" and even conducted the orchestra for "A Day in the Life." -- Glenn BurnSilver
As heroic elders of the 1980s posicore genre, 7 Seconds replaced hardcore punk's sheer bellicosity with tuneful melodies and a stalwart sense of hope. Beginning as skinheads forming a community in Reno, they soon became stalwarts of a West Coast second-wave insurrection as their tunes evolved from terse straight-edge pleas to increasingly pop-tinged singalongs steering punks toward unity, justice and tolerance, and more. In the late 1980s, as punk often became mired in gang wars and ultraviolence, 7 Seconds sought softer musical traits, but they never fled the scene or became sloths. Re-energized since late-'90s return to form Good to Go, the band continues showing punk's potential to guide spirits, not just sweaty bodies, on new album Leave a Light On. -- David Ensminger
Don't call it a comeback; technically, Rx Bandits only broke up for a year. But about three years ago, it sounded as though the Long Beach ska/punk-turned-prog outfit were calling it quits for good. In 2001, the guys announced they would stop touring after a 36-date summer excursion across North America. With that, it seemed as if the band would be on extended hiatus, even though guitarist Steve Choi did say at the time that it wasn't a break-up, per se. Still, for a lot of medium-level national acts 16 years into their career, that might have been it. A lot of people thought the band might be done, both inside and outside the organization.
"There was a lot of angst and frustration, strife that was expressed through our music," Choi says, adding the break could have been "six months or eight years" or forever -- nobody really knew. It wound up lasting a little more than a year. The band reassembled in spring 2013 to do exactly what it said it was through with doing, embarking on a summer tour in celebration of the 10th anniversary of their most popular album, The Resignation, playing the album front to back across the U.S. and U.K. -- Adam Lovinus
Sure, Black Kids frontman Reggie Youngblood sings like an overly earnest Robert Smith impersonator, and sure, the band sounds like a thick patois of nearly every '80s musical dialect ever put on acetate, but that's exactly what makes them fantastic. It's almost as if they've tumbled out of a wormhole that sidestepped the wonder and the terror of the Reagan era, and yet they can still churn out four-minute pop songs mirroring everything that made the decade great.
Cheesy synth lines played to hooky, hokey perfection, oil-slick production values, and canned yet canny beats forcing you to dance with embarrassing style are all there, and it's all glorious. Pile on the band's indefatigable party vibe, carried in no small measure by the drill-team exuberance of Dawn Watley and Ali Youngblood, to fill out a giant, sweaty-faced, fun-flushed smile of a band. Detractors point to the imitations and hype-machine expectations dashed, but everyone else is wearing the gaudiest, brightest clothing and having a fantastic time with five musicians who know how to make that happen. -- Nicholas L. Hall
If corporate rock of the '70s and '80s has a modern contemporary, it's Rascal Flatts. While, granted, there's far more twang accompanying this Nashville outfit's ballads, the group trades in the kind of earnest, rubber-stamped sentimentality that once propelled bands like Toto and Journey on songs like "Without Your Love" and "Send Her My Love," where every matter of the heart is conveyed via bittersweet melodies and harmonies. Fans, however, love it: When frontman Gary LeVox sings of the voice mail on a cell phone "that he don't dare erase/She ended with 'I love you'/He saves it just in case...it might still be true,' he's singing about their lives, and he's doing so with an air of believability. This isn't matters of the art, but, in fact, matters of the heart. -- Dave Herrera
The electronic music DJ pool is so deep that it's easy for certain artists to sink to the bottom. But Dutch production duo Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano are not those DJs. After Swedish House Mafia member Axwell played a gig with them in Ibiza, the EDM superstar said, "If there were a Dutch version of Swedish House Mafia, it would be Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano." That's about the biggest confidence booster a DJ could ask for. -- Victor Gonzalez
Neo-soul master John Legend just oozes cool. Besides his outstanding solo work, the guy has played with Janet Jackson, Alicia Keys and Kanye West, won nine Grammy Awards and gives more money to charity than he spends on himself. Plus, Legend's music is of such a consistently high quality that it almost restores one's faith in the musical tastes of the masses. Although Legend usually employs a bevy of collaborators and countless session musicians, the guy has the talent to get by alone. And while 2006's Once Again is probably the guy's high-water mark, the recently issued Love in the Future does not disappoint. Grossly over-produced, both albums succeed on the sheer talents of all those involved. If Legend ever does decide to pull things back and just let the songs do the talking, he could well be the next Stevie Wonder. -- Darryl Smyers
Few genres engender the same kind of unabashed humor of third-wave ska. And among the canon of wonderful, brass-wielding weirdos that infiltrated the genre in the mid to late '90s, few continue to bring their "A" game like the Huntington Beach sextet Suburban Legends. While their live show promises plenty of hands-in-the-air energy, stage dives and trombone twirling, one of the best ways to get a true taste of the humor behind these Surf City skankers is to watch their music videos. From their impetus in the late '90s to their latest album, 2012's Day Job, they've released a shit ton of them that tout asian cartoon craziness, poop-licking dog catchers and bull riding antics. -- Priscella Vega
Much like the Roman Empire itself, The Burning of Rome are all over the map, extending their reach far beyond music's usual borders. The San Diego band have a grand, ambitious sound as encompassed in the rolling thunder of "Little Piranhas," a stirring anthem set in a spaghetti Western neverland, and "Ballad of an Onion Sprout," which comes off like T. Rex covering Arcade Fire. The group shift gears yet again on "Cowboys & Cut Cigars," a metallic rocker with hard grunge riffs and such modest lyrical declarations as "I'm bigger than Led Zeppelin." Given The Burning of Rome's aptitude with a dizzying variety of styles, from the eerie goth-cabaret chanson "Norman Bates" to the arty, demented circus waltz "Island," it's not such an idle boast. -- Falling James
Interpol's been through a lot in recent years. First Carlos D. left the band (and still hasn't been permanently replaced) to compose television scores, then the indie rock act went on a three-year hiatus. In that time, lead singer and principal lyricist Paul Banks put out three solo releases, plus the pseudo-mixtape Everybody on My Dick Like They Supposed to Be, while drummer Sam Fog joined Magnetic Morning with Swervedriver's Adam Franklin. With everyone (except Daniel Kessler, apparently?) focused on their own projects, it seemed like Interpol was no more. But hark! Here comes El Pintor, Interpol's fifth album that promises to be their biggest release yet.
Alan Moulder (known for producing with The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Nine Inch Nails) mixed the thing, so that alone is good news, but it also features guest appearances from Rob Moose of Bon Iver, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. (who worked for years in Beck's backing band), and Brandon Curtis of space rock trio Secret Machines. In other words, it looks like that little break they took was just getting warmed up for an even more exciting career. -- Troy Farah
Maybe, taken independently, the elements of Lila Downs' music are nothing you haven't heard before. But her signature arrangements, combining traditional sounds of Mexican music with jazz, blues, African and some Klezmer-style instrumentation, capture a genius all her own. To call her craft wide-ranging would be an understatement. In a voice that switches easily from smoky-sultry to all-out operatic, singing lyrics in English, Spanish and several Native American languages, Downs entrances audiences. Chin out, shoulders back, stomping and smiling, she captivates. If at least one person doesn't shout, mesmerized, "Te amo, Lila!" at some point during Saturday's show, we'll be astonished. -- Erica Phillips
Okalahoma band Broncho -- the name is a term used for a mustang that has yet to be broken -- plays back-to-basics rock and roll with an unvarnished sound that bears no affectation or appropriation of style. Frontman Ryan Lindsey is also the keyboard player and guitarist for experimental indie-pop act the Starlight Mints, but Broncho's sound is closer to the Fall embracing the punk rock that helped spawn it: The dispassionate yet intense vocals and disregard for conventional rhythms and song dynamics (unless they serve to propel the song forward at a near-reckless pace) would make Mark E. Smith proud. The music of Broncho is frayed and frantic in a way that more garage punk should be. -- Tom Murphy
When it comes to one-hit wonders, Biz Markie certainly ranks up there. His horribly off-key, ubiquitous, feel good song "Just a Friend" propelled the hip hop artist into the pop culture stratosphere and helped us all to understand that singing, literally, isn't everything. Needless to say, it was a bad song that made a lot of people feel good and, as the Beatles put it, that can't be bad. The use of "Just a Friend" in a 2011 Heineken commercial advocating taking a cab home after a night of drinking helped breathe new life into Markie's career. The cab scene was probably as familiar to the hipster set as the Wayne's World "Bohemian Rhapsody" scene was to many of us who are, shall we say, slightly older. -- Jeff Balke
Nickel Creek is easily the most popular bluegrass act in America, and when Chris Thile, Sarah Watkins and Sean Watkins announced their hiatus in 2007, fans were devastated. Luckily, seven years later, the group has released their new record The Dotted Line. Expect plenty of old favorites from them sprinkled in with brand new bluegrass gems. -- Caitlin White
If you Google "Oak Park Music," the first result is "the Wedding Music DJs." The Southern California bedroom suburb of 14,000 is wedged between Malibu and Agoura. There are no large clubs or live music venues. It's the least likely place to have incubated Classixx, L.A.'s best dance-music duo. During the early '00s, when Michael David and Tyler Blake attended Oak Park High, the reigning sound was post-Sublime or Incubus-ish -- the result of the latter band forming in nearby Calabasas.
"Every Oak Park band wanted to be Incubus. What we're doing now is probably just a reaction to that," says David, sporting a light brown beard, backward snapback, dapper dress shirt and two left earrings. We're speaking in his blue and white Venice bungalow. Ironically, Brandon Boyd, lead singer of Incubus, is a neighbor. Classixx's music is contoured by disco, house and boogie funk, genres that cropped up in partial response to the stoner prog-rock of groups like Pink Floyd. Yet the duo's first full-length, this month's Hanging Gardens, bears no purist streak or hipster irony -- just slavish adherence to the groove. -- Jeff Weiss
If you spent middle-school carving "EPITAPH4EVA" into desks or arms, this tour -- featuring punk legends The Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise, & Stiff Little Fingers -just might be in your wheelhouse. The Offspring's jacked-up antipathy fueled fluke 1994 smash Smash, and the Orange County quartet never ceased dining out on variations on that theme. Whether you consider Bad Religion the thinking punker's choice or the soundtrack to undergraduate societal discontent, it's impossible to fault the band for encouraging considered dissent, sponsoring an annual college scholarship, or giving "21st Century Digital Boy" to a crumbling world that's emphatically tuned it's three-chord broadsides out (and there have been so, so many) since Day One. Along for the ride because, why not: pre-millennial punk weed carriers-equivalents Pennywise and three-chord throwbacks Stiff Little Fingers. -- Raymond Cummings
Ray Benson's Wheel has been rolling for more than 40 years now, quietly becoming quite a finishing school for many of the Texas' top country and swing musicians. Meanwhile, their impossibly tall front man has developed into the leading ambassador of Lone Star culture around the globe. Earlier this year Benson actually stepped outside the Wheel and released a rare solo album, A Little Piece, a reminder that underneath the raconteur, TV personality, businessman and unofficial mayor of Austin, he's still a musician at heart, and one who's a worthy heir to Bob Wills and Count Basie to boot. Really, really big boots. -- Chris Gray
When he's not touring with pop-country giant Taylor Swift, writing songs for One Direction, or singing with Elton John at the Grammys, Ed Sheeran has been building his name as an earnest and sweet singer-songwriter on his own. Of course, it isn't like all those other things didn't aid him in selling out dates during his current solo tour, where the English-born musician is headlining for the first time in his career, but much credit to Sheeran is due when it comes to the sheer volume of talent he displayed on his debut album + and this year's follow-up x. -- Brittany Spanos
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