The 30 Best Concerts in Phoenix in May 2017

John Legend is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 24, at Comerica Theatre.
John Legend is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 24, at Comerica Theatre. Eliot Lee Hazel
The countdown is on, y’all. We're weeks, if not days, away from what pretty much everyone in the Valley loathes with a passion: the onslaught of excessive amounts of heat. And, we’re sorry to say, there’s little you can do about it, except for buying a metric ton of Otter Pops and getting your A/C unit checked out for the long and sweaty slog ahead.

Something else we also recommend doing is enjoying the fleeting moments of the spring and getting out of the house while it’s still bearable, possibly to see a concert. There are certainly many a lot of great ones happening throughout the month of May.

John Legend’s got a gig here in the coming days, as do The Weeknd, Robin Trower, Chris Stapleton, Wale, Brian Wilson, Modest Mouse, and several other notable acts and artists.

May’s concert calendar will also see the long-awaited return of many beloved bands to Valley music venues after an extended absence, include post-hardcore icons At the Drive-In, punk progenitors The Damned, influental metal group Living Colour, and pop-punk favorites Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and Shonen Knife.

Check out our guide to the best concerts happening in Phoenix in May for all the details on these shows. And while you’re at it, be sure to peruse our extensive online music listings for even more concerts happening during the month.

click to enlarge The musicians of Sorority Noise. - KYLE THRASH
The musicians of Sorority Noise.
Kyle Thrash
Sorority Noise
Monday, May 1
The Rebel Lounge

To quote Lennie James’ character Morgan from The Walking Dead, everything gets a return. Crazy fashions come back into vogue, beloved movies get remade, and even once-maligned musical subgenres get a chance at redemption. Case in point: the emo revival. In the last couple of years, some of the strongest rock albums have come from emo revivalists like Modern Baseball, Sorority Noise, and The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. The “nu emo” scene may be the only sector of indie rock left where guitar-wielding bands play songs that aren’t begging to be sampled or cosigned by Drake. It’s impassioned, energetic rock music that also manages to avoid the toxic masculinity and misogyny that plagued emo version 1.0 of the early aughts. Sorority Noise have positioned themselves at the front of this new and improved class with their bold and devastating new album, You’re Not As ___ As You Think. Inspired by the deaths of several close friends, it’s a moving collection of songs about grief, loss, religion, and depression. It also rocks hard enough to wake the dead. The quartet will fill in the blank when they play The Rebel Lounge with Diners, The Obsessives, and Walter Etc. Fair warning: Bring some tissues and a pair of earplugs. Sorority Noise’s music will make your eyes water and your ears bleed. Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge Spend a weeknight with The Weeknd. - COURTESY OF REPUBLIC RECORDS
Spend a weeknight with The Weeknd.
Courtesy of Republic Records
The Weeknd
Tuesday, May 2
Talking Stick Resort Arena

Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. The Weeknd, is riding high off of his latest album, Starboy, which is expected to go platinum; his latest girlfriend, Selena Gomez; and his latest drug of choice. The singer has become a controversial icon with his unapologetic and uncensored views on women and drug use. On his biggest single, “Starboy,” Tesfaye sings “Cut that ivory into skinny pieces/Then she clean up with her face, man/I love my baby.” His tranquilizing voice almost makes you forget that he’s romanticizing a woman snorting cocaine. But just because those lyrics make some people uncomfortable doesn’t mean Tesfaye is going to stop writing them or start apologizing for them. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Tesfaye says, “I don’t think I’d ever apologize for music I make, no. But there are regrets in my life, of course. And you write about it.” Regardless, the naysayers don’t seem to be slowing The Weeknd down — or killing his buzz. In the words of the Starboy himself, “You talking ’bout me I don’t see the shade/ Switch up my style I take any lane/ I switch up my cup I kill any pain.” Emily Roberts

Andrew McMahon has been through his share of personal drama. - BRENDAN WALTER
Andrew McMahon has been through his share of personal drama.
Brendan Walter
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Tuesday, May 2
Livewire in Scottsdale

Though he calls his current project "Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness," Andrew McMahon is a man who knows exactly where he is, where he's been, and where he's going. Born in 1982 to what he describes as a "piano-playing mom and a dad who was a product of the '60s protest movement," music was an ever-present part of life for McMahon and his four older siblings. At the age of 9, he began playing piano and writing songs. It was his EP Ready Break with his band Something Corporate that first found the then-17-year-old a record deal. A couple of years later, when he was fronting the band Jack's Mannequin, calamity struck. He was diagnosed with leukemia. After more than 10 years in remission, McMahon says he still carries psychic scars from fighting cancer. His newest record, Zombies on Broadway, has the celebratory vibe of a man who has bested disease. "It has a dance electronic bent that I got from a lot of time playing at festivals. I saw FKA Twigs and M83, and I found myself in these rooms dancing with all these people. I wanted to create that kind of energy." The place where he recorded the album also had an influence. "The idea of traveling to New York City to make the album was huge. A lot of my records had that California aesthetic. This record was exploring another city and its architecture and people." David Rolland

click to enlarge The members of Bleached won't be defined by their gender. - NICOLE ANNE ROBBINS
The members of Bleached won't be defined by their gender.
Nicole Anne Robbins
Wednesday, May 3
Valley Bar

Jennifer Clavin should be celebrating Bleached’s growing popularity, but she finds herself dogged by the limitations of being labeled as a member of a “girl band.” “Pretty little child, tell me your tale/How you got the courage to rebel yell,” she coos on the title track of the new EP, Can You Deal?, masking her sarcasm with a sugary melody bracketed by her sister Jessie’s fuzzy lead-guitar rejoinders. “Breaking news, I do what I do … not willing to feel defeated,” Jennifer insists. Amen, sister. Falling James

click to enlarge Dengue Fever - MARC WALKER
Dengue Fever
Marc Walker
Dengue Fever
Thursday, May 4
Crescent Ballroom

Dengue Fever has an interesting sound: Asian rock steeped in Farfisa organ, with vocals sung in Khmer (the official language of Cambodia), that could have been recorded in the mid-'60s. But while the band's original material and covers of '60s Cambodian rock songs sound decades old, the Los Angeles-based sextet was actually formed in 2001 by brothers Ethan and Zac Holtzman after a visit to Cambodia, where they found Chhom Nimol singing karaoke in Long Beach. Dengue Fever knows its way around garage, surf and psych rock, but the band expands its scope on its most recent album, The Deepest Lake, by tossing in some Khmer rap and Latin grooves. Jon Soloman

Indie 500
Saturday, May 6
The Trunk Space

By our calculations, this year's version of the Trunk Space's Indie 500 will encompass around 35 straight hours of live music over the course of two days and nights. It’s the first time that the marathon concert will be staged at the DIY venue’s new home at Grace Lutheran Church but promises to be just as epic and lively as it’s first three editions. Almost 100 different acts and musicians, including a mix of both locals and special guests, will each perform five songs apiece starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 6, right up until things wrap up sometime the following evening after a total of 500 songs are performed. The lineup will feature many Trunk Space die-hards and favorites, including Treasure Mammal, Drunk and Horny, Andy Warpigs, Dadadoh, Liam and the Ladies, Rum Drinker, Harrison Huffman, Sugar Skull Explosion, and The Blank Waves. Special guests include famed folk punk singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson and former Valley resident (and Trunk Space alumnus) Stephen Steinbrink, both of whom will be in town for the event. Benjamin Leatherman

Black Uhuru
Saturday, May 6
Cactus Jack’s Bar

When was the last time you got right with Jah? A day? A week? A month? A year? An entire bloody decade? Whatever the case, it's never too early to work some of those kinks out of your soul and contemplate the everliving. And you can do so at the upcoming mystical music sesh with legendary reggae band Black Uhuru. Originally formed in 1972 under a slightly different name (simply Uhuru, meaning “freedom” in Swahili), this Kingston, Jamaica crew has reached many peaks atop Mount Irie, jamming out with Keith Richards, touring with the Clash, and winning the first Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 1985. But the band has also endured a lifetime of upheaval, burning through a dozen members in three decades while cofounder Derrick "Duckie" Simpson remained the only constant. None of that's gonna matter, though, once "Shine Eye Gal" or "What Is Life?" hits your ears and shakes your soul. It's just gonna be an itesquake of good vibes. Local reggaes Maple St. and the 602 Band open the evening. S. Pajot

click to enlarge At the Drive-in, your favorite post-hardcore band, is back. - COURTESY OF NASTY LITTLE MAN
At the Drive-in, your favorite post-hardcore band, is back.
Courtesy of Nasty Little Man
At the Drive-In
Monday, May 8
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

At the Drive-In couldn’t have reunited to record an album at a more perfect time. Years after the El Paso band's messy breakup and soul-searching with various legacy bands — De Facto, the Mars Volta, poor Sparta — post-hardcore’s favorite sons buried the hatchet (for a second time) and regrouped to face a world fed on their caustic stew of heady ideas and showmanship, with news of North American and European tours and plans to release new music. But now, unlike their first go-round, the rest of the world is ready for them — and maybe the band members themselves are more ready, too. The quintet cultivated a reputation for galvanizing audiences with their extended versions of smoldering shout-outs (check out the 13-minute version of “Quarantined” on YouTube and see if sniffing for feels on Tumblr does it for you anymore). Between singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s witch doctor sauntering and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's methed-out dog-chasing-his-tail routine onstage and offstage, At the Drive-In’s live performances were hallowed. They’re currently touring in support of the upcoming LP In•ter a•li•a, their first album since reuniting, and will return to the Valley in May for a gig at the Marquee. Eric Grubbs

click to enlarge Singer-songwriter Tift Merritt. - COURTESY OF YEP ROC RECORDS
Singer-songwriter Tift Merritt.
Courtesy of Yep Roc Records
Tift Merritt
Monday, May 8
Musical Instrument Museum

Tift Merritt’s music falls somewhere between folk and Americana, maybe even alternative country, but the real enduring trait of her nearly 20-year music career is poignant storytelling that speaks to everything from her days growing up in North Carolina to her times living in Paris, and more recently her experiences of motherhood. She’s often compared to other singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris, and she’s worked with Elvis Costello and Sam Beam of Iron and Wine, who produced her latest album Stitch of the World. Her delicate voice and smooth guitar strumming will be a match for the intimate setting of the MIM's musical theatre. Mikel Galicia

The wiseacres of pop-punk supergroup Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies. - COURTESY OF EPITAPH RECORDS
The wiseacres of pop-punk supergroup Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies.
Courtesy of Epitaph Records
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Wednesday, May 10
Pub Rock in Scottsdale

For those not in the know, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes a pop-punk supergroup made up of members of Foo Fighters, Lagwagon, NOFX and Swingin’ Utters. They’re a sort of living karaoke machine, performing punk covers of everything from Broadway standards to R&B hits. There are two types of punk rock fans in the world: those who love the Gimmes and those who can’t stand them. Count me among the former. First and foremost, the band is made up of five guys who are really good at what they do. Spike Slawson, who fronts Swingin’ Utters and other bands when he’s not crooning for the Gimmes, has a soulful approach to singing punk. Rather than coming straight from the face and nose, it’s all in the chest and throat. He’s able to plow through Stevie Wonder and Seal so smoothly that one can’t help but wonder what he could do if he dedicated himself to R&B full-time. The rest of the band (Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters, Joey Cape and Dave Raun from Lagwagon and the singular Fat Mike from NOFX) are clearly capable players on at least two levels. First, adapting swirling pop tracks like “End of the Road” for a five-piece band is a task I doubt few would be up to. It’s hard to boil tracks like that down to their essential elements without losing something in the translation. Nicholas Pell

click to enlarge Marcia Ball, the piano-playing specialist in Gulf Coast blues, R&B, and zydeco. - MARY KEATING BRUTON
Marcia Ball, the piano-playing specialist in Gulf Coast blues, R&B, and zydeco.
Mary Keating Bruton
Marcia Ball
Wednesday, May 10
Musical Instrument Museum

The Valley is about to get a little taste of the swamplands. Veteran blues crooner and musician Marcia Ball is bringing her rollicking, New Orleans-style piano jams to the MIM. Since her first solo LP, Circuit Queen, in 1978, Ball has released about 15 albums and has performed at many festivals. Her latest album, The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man has her on the road again. It aptly came to fruition with a simple mental picture. "The image just popped into my mind, which is the beginning of it," Ball says, "and then the idea of the story and then the idea of how funny it would be visually to be able to actually follow that thread through and make the record all bright and tattoo-y, and everything just fell into place." And the album is bright indeed. Starting out with the boogie-woogie-influenced title track, The Tattooed Lady features Ball's traditional swamp rock and zydeco-flavored, very danceable songs and is peppered with sweet, slow blues tunes in between. "The [title track] itself is kind of a love song about people who don't look ordinary, which is a very universal theme," Ball says. Olivia Feldman

Hot Buttered Rum
Thursday, May 11
Crescent Ballroom

Having formed during a backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail, San Francisco's Hot Buttered Rum is, on the surface, pretty much the embodiment of what many find so distasteful about the jam-band scene: Rum has worked with former members of the Dead, tours around the country in biodiesel-fueled vehicles and indulges in extended improvisational jams. But who wouldn't want to play music with their personal heroes and not just talk the talk, but live according to their high-minded ideals and have fun with their art? Musically, this band weaves together bluegrass, jazz and folk with a dash of rock for what is essentially upbeat music that is clever in its social critique without ever seeming preachy. If the members of Hot Buttered Rum can be saddled with the term "hippies," at least they aren't phonies. Tom Murphy

click to enlarge Wale will make his way to Livewire in Scottsdale in mid-May. - DANTE MARSHALL
Wale will make his way to Livewire in Scottsdale in mid-May.
Dante Marshall
Thursday, May 11
Livewire in Scottsdale

Wale has come a long way from the enthusiastic bounce-rap style that introduced him to the masses. A determined signee of Atlantic Records, the Washington, D.C., native sharpened his vernacular and defined his appeal with the release of his widely respected 2011 album, Ambition. He struck gold with the single "Lotus Flower Bomb," with R&B crooner-of-the-moment Miguel, and has inspired a new class of rap to rise from the underground. Wale's lyrics, combined with a keen ear for proper beats, set him apart from everyone else in the game. Ambitious, indeed. Ru Johnson

click to enlarge Guitar virtuoso Robin Trower. - NEIL CALANDRA
Guitar virtuoso Robin Trower.
Neil Calandra
Robin Trower
Friday, May 12
Talking Stick Resort

Robin Trower, who came into prominence with British psych/progressive and symphonic-rock outfit Procol Harum and recorded on the first five rather exquisite albums of their catalog was not the same guitarist who actually recorded their biggest and best-known single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” That distinction went to original guitarist Ray Royer, who stinted with the band in 1967. Trower would lend his licks and vocals from '67 through '71, when he would depart to pursue a solo career. Trower, who came into prominence with that British psych/progressive and symphonic-rock outfit and recorded on the first five rather exquisite albums of their catalog was not the same guitarist who actually recorded their biggest and best-known single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” That distinction went to original guitarist Ray Royer, who stinted with the band in 1967. Trower would lend his licks and vocals from '67 through '71, when he would depart to pursue a solo career. Now 71 years old, Trower has not completely severed ties with his former mates, recording the 1991 album, The Prodigal Stranger, and appearing on the orchestrated compilation album, The Long Goodbye, in '95. On his own, he's maintained a steady recording profile, reverting to blues rock with the power and wit of his prog days. Abel Folgar

Chris Brown: Love him or hate him. - FRANCESCO CARROZZINI
Chris Brown: Love him or hate him.
Francesco Carrozzini
Chris Brown
Monday, May 15
Talking Stick Resort Arena

Chris Brown's record of notoriously nasty Instagram backlash and less-than-flattering relationship choices has not stopped him from producing hit albums. His seventh studio release, Royalty, debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard charts but received mixed reviews to match the mixed feelings we still have for the controversial talent. Remember the domestic-violence situation, that time he threw a fan's phone, or his jail stint for violating his probation? Yeah, Breezy, we may not have forgiven you just yet. More recently, however, Brown has managed to keep himself mostly out of trouble by taking responsibility for his infant daughter, Royalty, whom he honors on his most recent album. For now at least, it seems juggling a full-time music career, raising a child, and flaunting his massive art and car collection on the internet keeps him busy enough to deter any new reasons for changing the radio station when his song comes on. Yet. He'll be in town on May 15 along with 50 Cent, O.T. Genasis, Kap G., and Fabolous. Cristina Jerome

Read on for even more great concerts happening in May.

All Them Witches
Tuesday, May 16
The Rebel Lounge

All Them Witches are the very definition of baleful. The Nashville quartet constructs a heavy, doom-laden hard rock sound that’s full of dark portents and foreboding. They’re too restless to be called metal, and their sudden mood swings turn acoustic interludes into full-blown psychedelic noise. ATW’s 2016 album, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, ranges from trudging blues wallows (“Call Me Star”) and grungy hypnosis (“El Centro”) to surging rock anthems (“Dirt Preachers”). Their most recent EP, A Sweet Release, is even heavier, with two tracks that clock in at more than 11 minutes and another epic that’s nearly 25 minutes in length. Falling James

Los Lonely Boys
Wednesday, May 17
Mesa Arts Center

Los Lonely Boys is famed for making the adult contemporary Billboard charts for “Heaven,” which they produced with Texas singer-songwriter/legend Willie Nelson in 2003. Adult contemporary is a pretty spot-on description for this Chicano power-rock trio from San Angelo. And with their latest album Revelation, the band revisits their roots. The Garza brothers combine their classic mix of Tejano, a brush of the blues, a tinge of country and a healthy dose of rock ‘n’ roll guitar solos in songs like “Blame It on Love” and “Don’t Walk Away.” Singer Jojo Garza shines in particular with his rugged, yet calm vocal styling, as brothers Henry and Ringo lay down the smooth rock foundation for Jojo’s guitar solos. They also have elements of conjunto and reggae in some of their songs, like “Give It a Little More,” demonstrating that the group isn’t just sticking to their old formula. Of course, their lyrical content is filled with the emotional heartbreak of life, just perfect for that solitary uncle. Pablo Arauz

L.A. Witch is hitting the road. - MONI HAWORTH
L.A. Witch is hitting the road.
Moni Haworth
L.A. Witch
Thursday, May 18
Valley Bar

All-female rock trio L.A. Witch is at the forefront of the current femme-punk movement, though its music doesn’t boast an overtly feminist message. The band — Sade Sanchez on vocals and guitar, Irita Pai on bass and Ellie English on drums — is currently on tour and its main goal seems to be making absolutely killer garage-punk songs. With singles like “Kill My Baby Tonight” and 2016’s “Drive Your Car,” L.A. Witch declares its noisy independence from any expectations other than stirring up raucous rock and roll. Tom Murphy

Chris Stapleton
Friday, May 19
Ak-Chin Pavilion

Established Nashville songwriter Chris Stapleton — the pen behind such massive country-pop hits as Kenny Chesney’s “Never Wanted Nothing More,” Josh Turner’s “Your Man” and Luke Bryan’s “Drink a Beer” — has stepped into the spotlight himself. In 2015, Stapleton’s solo debut, Traveller, won the Country Music Association Award for Album of the Year and the Grammy for Best Country Album. The long-haired, heavy-bearded singer-songwriter has now become known for soulful yet understated performances of classically constructed country songs — but his powers aren’t limited to the country genre: Recently, the Kentucky native has been paying tribute to fallen heroes at his live shows, and his rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” in Berkeley went viral. Katie Moulton

The Damned's Captain Sensible (left) and Dave Vanian. - DOD MORRISON
The Damned's Captain Sensible (left) and Dave Vanian.
Dod Morrison
The Damned
Sunday, May 21
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

There might be no band in all of music that’s harder to peg than The Damned. Though they came out of, and in many ways ignited, the punk movement in the U.K., they were nothing like their peers. They weren’t angry or ugly or driven by rebellion. Rather, they aimed to take listeners on a riotous journey, a heady sound trip that delved into psychedelia and macabre rock, ominous aesthetics and aggressive, hook-driven sounds. Then they constantly changed things up with each subsequent release and live show, defining and then defying what punk rock has stood for over the last 40 years and counting. For the next year and a bit beyond, the band’s two iconic remaining original members, singer Dave Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible, will be celebrating The Damned’s prolific career on the road. Sensible says that like The Stones, The Damned have battled ageism over their long career, and that particularly when it comes to punk, no one expects their kind of longevity. But they’re obviously still full of vim and vigor right now, having survived dramatic breakups and makeups plus hard partying over the years. In many ways, Sensible still seems like the life of the party, while his bandmate Vanian remains a more mysterious contrast. Their yin-and-yang thing still makes for appealing chemistry onstage and diverse textures on record. “I’m the light, happy pop guy,” Sensible says. “Whereas the other guy [Vanian] is the prince of darkness. We’re opposites. That’s the dynamic of the band.” Lina Lecaro

Flynt Flossy and Turquoise Jeep
Sunday, May 21
Valley Bar

Fast fashion Youtube video rap crew Turquoise Jeep exist in the same universe as Pee Wee's Playhouse, Paper Rad, and Yo Gabba Gabba; like the aforementioned productions, they're colorful, control freaked, and hands-on. Lead MC, Flynt Flossy has a refreshingly light-hearted persona along the lines of Shock G, Sir Mix A Lot, and DJ Lance Rock, lyrically rife with double-entendres and goosey figures of speech. Compared to the great big world of hip-hop and it's endless procession of yachts, slabs, and brand-name everything, a turquoise jeep provides an apt description of their hands-on, arts-and-crafts forever aesthetic. Tex Kerschen

Brian Wilson
Monday, May 22
Celebrity Theatre

No one can deny the influence that the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds has held over pop music during the last half-century. It was a giant leap forward sonically and lyrically for a band primarily known for songs about girls and surfing. The concept album has appeared on numerous lists that name it one of the greatest albums of all time. In short, it broke both the rules of pop music and the mind of Brian Wilson, the man who conceived it. His bout with mental illness after the recording of Pet Sounds is captured in the 2015 film Love and Mercy. Most critics consider Pet Sounds a Beach Boys record in name only, so it's fitting Wilson is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the album with a solo tour. He is playing Pet Sounds in its entirety (along with some Beach Boys hits) with a group of 10 musicians, including founding Beach Boys member Al Jardine, hoping to capture the psychedelic pop sounds originally created by an army of studio players. Jason Keil

The men of Catfish and the Bottlemen. - COURTESY OF CAPITOL MUSIC GROUP
The men of Catfish and the Bottlemen.
Courtesy of Capitol Music Group
Catfish and the Bottlemen
Monday, May 22
The Pressroom

OK, let's get that name out of the way first. Even within the realm of rock and roll, it's so unusual that Catfish and the Bottlemen have posted an adorable animated YouTube video about it. Long story short, front man Van McCann spent the early part of his life in Australia, and one day he spied a street musician playing a drum kit and an assortment of bottles; this unusual fellow called his act Catfish and the Bottlemen. The name stuck, as these things often do. The Bottlemen's songs also tend to stick – as buoyant, kinetic bites of guitar rock that to date all have one-word titles. (That policy does not apply to their covers, which have included Kanye West's “Black Skinhead” in the past.) Their music scratches a familiar itch in a slightly different way, so it's possible to detect hints of the past generation or two of significant indie bands in their DNA; though the Strokes certainly loom large, it's also not terribly far removed from Arctic Monkeys or The 1975, UK countrymen who have also recently found welcoming audiences on this side of the Atlantic. But then, that's only fitting for a group that professes to never stop thinking about music. Chris Gray

click to enlarge British-born pop songstress Bishop Briggs. - CHAD KAMENSHINE
British-born pop songstress Bishop Briggs.
Chad Kamenshine
Bishop Briggs
Tuesday, May 23
Crescent Ballroom

Radio pop has swung into darker territories lately, with vocalists like Tove Lo, Elle King, Lykke Li and even Hozier inflecting electro-pop with soul-influenced brooding. Bishop Briggs, aka Sarah Grace McLaughlin, joins the moody parade with singles “Wild Horses” and “River,” which feature her impressive, throaty vocals over swaggering, relatively minimalistic beats. The 24-year-old British musician is now based in Los Angeles, but she was raised in Japan and Hong Kong, on her Scottish parents’ affection for Motown and karaoke culture. While pop today draws from a range of genres, including electronica, hip-hop and acoustic, it will be interesting to see whether Briggs can turn her unique background into a clear point of view rather than another mash-up of influences. Katie Moulton

click to enlarge The Meatbodies are rock 'n' roll with a side of psychadelic. - KELSEY RECKLING
The Meatbodies are rock 'n' roll with a side of psychadelic.
Kelsey Reckling
Tuesday, May 23
Valley Bar

Chad Ubovich used to back Mikal Cronin and plays bass in Ty Segall’s Fuzz, but he gets much wilder in his own group, Meatbodies. The band’s self-titled, 2014 full-length on In the Red Records is filled with intense bursts of pure punk rock, but the album also is leavened with unexpected psychedelic digressions. Much of Meatbodies’ sound is encompassed in the song “Mountain,” which is wrapped up in elaborate hard-rock riffs and rumbling tempos until it downshifts into a grungy ending that’s crowned by celestial harmonies and spiked with proggy shards of intricate guitar. Throughout all the changes, Ubovich intones with a spaced-out, reverb-heavy delivery like a garage-punk Syd Barrett. Falling James

click to enlarge R&B/pop hitmaker John Legend. - ELIOT LEE HAZEL
R&B/pop hitmaker John Legend.
Eliot Lee Hazel
John Legend
Wednesday, May 24
Comerica Theatre

John Stephens is the R&B/pop singer-songwriter and pianist who, in a relatively short amount of years, has earned the right to personify his stage name: Legend. With a genuine smile, handsome but not overbearing good looks, and a litany of hits, John Legend is as true and real (trill) as anyone can be in today's modern music business. Who else plays his instrument with such intensity and mastery? Who else writes his own songs and produces his own arrangements? If we were to make a list, it would be surprisingly short. His talent is unmistakable, and his appeal unmatched. And when performing in venues that hold a few thousand people, Legend makes the show feel more like a family get-together than a concert, almost as though he were playing a baby grand in our living room, just friends gathered around for some fun. And he’ll pay a visit to his nearest and dearest here in the Valley on May 24 at Comerica Theatre during his current tour, which is in support of Darkness and Light, his latest album. Marco Torres

Lisa Fischer
Thursday, May 25
Musical Instrument Museum

According to her bio, Lisa Fischer clapped so hard upon hearing that Patti LaBelle had won the 1992 Female R&B Performance Grammy for “Burnin’,” a song Fischer had sung backup on, that she almost didn’t notice her name had also been called for “How Can I Ease the Pain.” (It was a rare Grammy tie.) One of the stars of the Oscar-winning 2013 documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom, Fischer has also sung with Luther Vandross, Tina Turner and Sting, but her main gig since 1989 has been one of the Rolling Stones’ touring backup vocalists; she brings the arena or stadium to a standstill during “Gimme Shelter” every time. Chris Gray

click to enlarge Shonen Knife make a long-awaited return to the Valley in May. - COURTESY OF REYBEE
Shonen Knife make a long-awaited return to the Valley in May.
Courtesy of Reybee
Shonen Knife
Wednesday, May 24
Yucca Tap Room

Unlike other dinosaur musicians rising from the grave to play a routine reunion tour or the now-ubiquitous live-album-in-full payday, Shonen Knife has never had to step into such territory. The Japanese power-punk trio has rolled on uninterrupted for close to four decades, a workhorse of an outfit spitting out more than a dozen records while touring the world with a smile. That smile is a crucial component of the Shonen Knife formula: The band’s nineteenth release, 2016’s Adventure, is full of bubblegum raucousness, with singer, guitarist and founding member Naoko Yamano leading the band’s happy charge. Ever keeping up with its youthful contemporaries, the group sings about emojis and has made its full digital discography available on Bandcamp. For an outfit that began in 1981, toured with Nirvana and perfected the Carpenters’ “Top of the World” at the height of the ’90s’ celebration of the ’70s, Shonen Knife is a model for staying punk and staying relevant. Bree Davies

Living Colour: Still relevant after all these years. - KARSTEN STAIGER PHOTOGRAPHY
Living Colour: Still relevant after all these years.
Karsten Staiger Photography
Living Colour
Friday, May 26
BLK Live in Scottsdale

Living Colour bucked the trend of hard rock in the 1980s by infusing funk and avant-garde guitar work into the nearly all-white genre, picking up devoted fans and two Grammy Awards, going on tour with Guns N' Roses and the Rolling Stones, and creating an environment and message to other minority musicians that music is for everyone, no matter the genre. Formed in 1984 by English-born guitarist Vernon Reid, Living Colour went through a few iterations before finally settling on the quartet of Reid, Muzz Skillings on bass (who has since left the group and was replaced by Doug Wimbish), Will Calhoun on drums, and lead vocalist Corey Glover. In 1988, Living Colour released its debut album, Vivid, which includes the lead single "Cult of Personality." On the strength of the song's lyrics, frenetic guitar solos, and memorable riff, "Cult" became a radio hit. But even with a hit, things didn't come easily. "We dealt with a lot of overt and subliminal racism when it came to a band like ours," Glover says. "Beyond the skin color, it was the way we dressed, and people thought, 'What are you, a reggae band?' We were a band without a country. We weren't metal enough to be a metal band, not punk enough to be a punk band, and not R&B enough to be an R&B group." Nearly 30 years later, the band's signature song seems more topical than ever. "It's not just [Donald] Trump. There is a cult of [Barack] Obama; there is a cult of Bernie Sanders," Glover says. "People like Trump have been constructed by us to fit what we want to hear and what we want. The same thing with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders." Matthew Stewart

Modest Mouse
Wednesday, May 31
Crescent Ballroom

The guys in Modest Mouse have followed their own stubbornly idiosyncratic path since 1992, when singer Isaac Brock put the band together in Issaquah, Washington. Unlike other groups from the Pacific Northwest, Modest Mouse have always seemed unaffected by grunge, garage rock, and other regional trends. Instead, Brock and his ever-evolving lineups — which in the past have included the Smiths’ Johnny Marr and the Helio Sequence’s Benjamin Weikel — have never settled long in one sonic space. On their latest album, Strangers to Ourselves, the band sweeps back and forth from pointedly quirky, Talking Heads–style New-Wave funk (“The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box”) to celestial dream-pop (“Of Course We Know”) and hip-hop-flavored psychedelia (“Shit in Your Cut”). Perhaps Brock is just being, ahem, modest when he claims, “Pack up again/Head to the next place, where we’ll make the same mistakes.” Falling James
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.