If you haven't gotten your tickets for Lana Del Rey's Ak-Chin Pavilion gig with Courtney Love a few days hence, better get a move on. Its arguably going to be one of the biggest concerts of the week, let alone the entire spring.
Its not the only "can't miss" show happening over the next few days, as Waka Flocka Flame will be making his first-ever appearance at Livewire in Scottsdale on Monday night, followed by '90s heartthrobs and boy band forefathers New Kids on the Block (or NKOTB, if you must) hangin' tough over in Glendale on Tuesday.
These shows (plus a few others) make up our picks for the best concerts in Phoenix to see this week. In none of 'em are to your liking, however, there's plenty of other live music to be had in the Valley, as evidenced by our online concert calendar.
Back when they were still called Sex Cult (a cease and desist from the New York label of the same name nixed the religious orgy reference), Ex-Cult's set at SXSW so impressed Ty Segall that he eagerly produced the band's self-titled debut. Naturally, the group's sound is heavily guitar-driven (courtesy of Alec McIntyre and JB Horrell), smushed with the slobbering style of hardcore punk acts like Ceremony or Pissed Jeans. But it's the scorched tinges of '60s psychedelia that have earned the Memphis quintet comparisons to Destruction Unit and Thee Oh Sees. Indeed, Ex-Cult's latest EP, Cigarette Machine, was co-released on Lollipop and Castle Face Records, the latter co-founded by Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer. It would appear that Ex-Cult is set to be the next indie guitar-humping darlings, on par with Parquet Courts. TROY FARAH
Waka Flocka Flame is an artist known just as much for his antics on stage as off. The rapper (born Juaquin Malphurs) hit the scene in 2009 with a monster single, "O Let's Do It," which not only spawned a new era of down-south bounce rap, but also ushered a young man with little rap experience under his belt to the forefront of the new-school hip-hop class. While the New York-born, Georgia-bred MC does have a penchant for violent lyrics — his name, "Flocka Flame," bestowed upon him by his mentor Gucci Mane, is an onomatopoeic throw to a "street-sweeping" automatic weapon when it's aimed to fire — there is a cutting eloquence amid the madness.
Long before Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, One Direction, and The Wanted, there was New Kids on the Block. And OMG, did these Hangin' Tough boys start somethin'. For almost a decade, Donnie, Danny, Jordan, Jonathan, and Joey had the world's teenage female population obsessed with their smooth "Step By Step" moves. Dozens of hits later, even after they begged their screaming teen fans to "Please Don't Go Girl," NKOTB Face[d] the Music and called it quits in 1994.
Almost 15 years later, the not-so-New Kids reunited and released their first studio album in 14 years, The Block, embarked on a series of concert cruises, and toured with the Backstreet Boys. And today, they're still doing their boy band thang. Two years back, NKOTB released another album, 10, and, more recently, have been hitting the road with TLC and Nelly on The Main Event Tour.
Casey Veggies has been down many roads to get where he is today. After distancing himself from his initial role in Tyler the Creator's OFWGKTA, Veggies worked with numerous rappers including YG and Mac Miller before recording his first solo projects. Between his 2013 Life Changes and his debut album Live & Grow due later this year, a clear theme is evolving: growth. His independent label Peas 'N' Carrots is home to five Veggies mixtapes, and his flow remains coherent and strong. Now 21, Veggies is focused on self-betterment and "[standing] up to his dreams," an inspiring young artist who's following is deeply loyal and excitingly awaiting his debut. ELEANOR LAMBERT
Transplanted-to-L.A. Michigander Lord Huron (aka Ben Schneider) makes indie pop to fit the line where the horizon hits the sky — big, beautifully endless songs that sunrise and sunset instead of just "starting" and "stopping." His debut album, Lonesome Dreams (on L.A. label Iamsound), is full of what the world calls anthems (which means songs you save for either the perfect end or perfect beginning of your mixtape — and believe that if you're into Lord Huron, you still make mixtapes). These are world-pop guitar melodies that wrap around you like smoke, with an affection for the cinematic that makes this almost more a short film than an album. CHRIS ZIEGLER
The biggest question facing any Lana Del Rey tour is how do studio epics like "West Coast," "Ultraviolence," "Born to Die," and "Shades of Cool" transfer to the stage? These, and most of her glorious, beautifully wrought songs feature enough studio conjuring that it would seem almost impossible to avoid utilizing pre-recorded tracks in a concert setting. Maybe the real question is, Will anyone care? As it was with Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and any number of pop stars before her, it's really about just hearing the songs, not witnessing how they're re-created.
Del Rey can sing, however, and her often surreal, laid-back tracks full of West Coast cool and glistening pop should satisfy even the pickiest fans. Maybe that's why Courtney Love's opening the show? The former Hole leader takes the opposite tack, favoring a raw, abrasive, and aggressive approach to songwriting and performance. Love's edge will allow Del Rey's polish to shine bright, maybe even blind. Still, Love may be the more interesting of the two. In the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, and out of it musically for far too long, Love's stage return may be a shot at redemption. Sure, she's busy acting, but can she still rock? So many questions... GLENN BURNSILVER
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Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.