Here are our concert picks for the week. As always, check out our comprehensive concert calendar for Metro Phoenix for more options.
Justin Townes Earle - Monday, September 21 - Musical Instrument Museum
Justin Townes Earle can tell stories. It's what the Nashville-raised singer-songwriter has done for six years, writing albums that have placed him at the forefront of rusty, soulful Americana. His records drip with imagery — muddy rivers, ghosts, "Memphis in the Rain" — and he speaks just as vividly as he writes. It's a constant reminder that he's first and foremost a songwriter — something he's acutely aware of. "Writers, we were born a certain way," Earle says. "I find that there's a certain amount of sensitivity that's common amongst great songwriters. They're usually the smartest people in the room." Earle's inspirations stem from a Tennessee upbringing that left him imbued with soul and blues music just as much as country. His 2012 release, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, sorts through those influences.
"I thought Al Green was cool — seeing a light blue Cadillac, top down, gold wheels, a guy in the front seat with a straw hat bumpin' 'I'm So Tired of Being Alone,'" he says, laughing as he recalls the scenery of his Southern upbringing. Earle devoted five years to living in New York as he fostered his musical career (his 2010 album, Harlem River Blues, speaks to that time) but lately Earle's found himself in Nashville. "New York was just an adult dose of people you saw, different cultures you encountered. It was amazing," he says. "I've found that I'm having trouble writing now that I've come back to Tennessee." It's surprising coming from Earle, whose ability to write emotive music has given him a filter that makes him a worthy critic himself and a figure who seems musically infallible. He's aware that popular music isn't where he seems to fit, and it seems that he doesn't want to be included in that canon, anyway. "There's so much bad stuff written these days that you're inundated with," Earle says. "Most popular music is just terribly, terribly written. I think it's starting to turn back around to where people are paying attention." K.C. LIBMAN
Destroyer - Monday, September 21 - Crescent Ballroom
For 20 years, Destroyer, led by Vancouver native Dan Bejar, quietly released seductive, critically acclaimed music. Bejar also is known as a founding member of elite Canadian indie band the New Pornographers. Destroyer albums such as 2006’s Rubies include songs that are inside jokes for music nerds. They’re filled with whimsical choruses, melancholic melodies, and lyrics referencing other pop songs, complete with punchlines. Destroyer’s singles were meant to be pored over and studied in college textbooks as opposed to broadcast to the masses on an alternative music station. It all changed with the release of 2011’s Kaputt. Bejar retained the idiosyncrasies that made his songwriting beloved by critics but kept the sound in a realm similar to early ’80s Roxy Music and New Order. The album took off, and suddenly Destroyer was headlining festivals, making videos, and appearing on late-night talk shows. Inspired by the sound of his touring band on Kaputt, Bejar went to work constructing Destroyer’s latest release, Poison Season. Unlike Kaputt, which operates within a strict musical domain, this new album alternates between mournful orchestral ballads and rousing rock music. JASON KEIL
The Shrine - Tuesday, September 23 - Pub Rock
L.A. fuzz punk band The Shrine firmly embraces the DIY aesthetic, as the trio melds psychedelia with long-haired thrash and booze-soaked punk in a power trio format. A close relationship with Black Flag's Greg Ginn and Chuck Dukowski feeds into their sound, with Dukowski even offering the band unused Black Flag lyrics from the early '80s for The Shrine's latest record, Bless Off. Such associations come from mutual respect for like-minded boundary breaking. "I don't know what expectations to have, we don't sound like anything," says The Shrine's Josh Landau, laughing. "We don't sound like Black Sabbath, we don't sound like Black Flag. We don't sound like anybody else, really, for better or for worse." Landau's constant hard work is the hallmark of his ethos, and the national attention from both the skateboarding community and the music industry seemed to follow suit. Whether it's homemade graphic design, printing T-shirts or piling into a van, humble beginnings are paying off for The Shrine.
"It was really more out of necessity, just knowing that you don't need to wait for somebody to take you on tours or press your record," he says. "Until we got on these rad tours that we're doing now, we toured on our own, sometimes playing to nobody." Bless Off, meaning "freedom and 'fuck you' and whatever you want," according to Landau, will be the next set of anthems for The Shrine's pool skating and ripped-denim shenanigans, coinciding with the release of a collaborative T-shirt with Baker Skateboards and following the release of a limited-pressed 7-inch featuring Black Flag and Black Sabbath covers. While The Shrine's constant breakneck pace seems exhausting to most, Landau couldn't be more content with going crazy. "It's the only way I see from going insane in the world," he says. "It's all I want to do." K.C. LIBMAN
Doyle Bramhall II - Tuesday, September 22 - Musical Instrument Museum
If you're ever in doubt of an artist's credibility, take a close look at the company he keeps or, more importantly, the company that keeps him. While guitarist and producer Doyle Bramhall II's credibility has never exactly been on trial, we do believe it's time for the dude to really get the fanfare and credit he deserves as a contemporary guitar hero, which has surely been a long time coming. The unfortunate reality is that Bramhall has spent the lion's share of his career operating as a foil for some of the most revered guitar heroes and rock stars of all time — most notably Eric Clapton — and it's tough to stand out amid the hero worship his bosses generally command.
Though most Clapton cognoscenti are well aware of Bramhall's exploits and abilities, he absolutely deserves far more attention than he receives. As a guitarist, Bramhall is one of the most gifted bluesmen of his generation and, in our opinion, the true heir to the Texas blues throne that formerly belonged to Stevie Ray Vaughan (whom Bramhall's father frequently collaborated with). Bramhall has also played the role of Roger Water's lead guitarist (read: a worthy replacement for David Gilmour) and has been selected to perform on the high-profile Experience Hendrix tour alongside some of the most important guitarists alive to pay tribute to the legend of Jimi Hendrix. Bramhall is currently working on a highly anticipated new solo album but will be taking a break to do some touring with his solo group this month, including a stop at the Musical Instrument Museum this week. If you're not willing to take our word for it, you should at least consider the word of Bramhall's famous bosses. DAVID VON BADER
Titus Andronicus - Wednesday, September 23 - The Rebel Lounge
On their first three albums, Titus Andronicus earned a reputation as one of America’s hardest-working and most exciting indie-rock bands of the new millennium, developing a curious Civil War fascination even as their sound followed the arena-chasing example of fellow Jersey natives Bruce Springsteen and Gaslight Anthem. However, they lacked that Big Statement that could grab people’s attention outside their own tight-knit fan base, but now they have it in The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge). Presented as a rock opera in five acts, their fourth album takes almost 30 songs and more than 90 minutes to unspool its convoluted plot about a hero and his evil twin. Clearly, both their ambitions and the grandiose music of TMLT place Titus Andronicus among rock’s other great Angry Young Men of past generations — The Who, The Clash, Elvis Costello — who grew up quickly enough but had a much harder time mellowing out. With Spider Bags and Baked. CHRIS GRAY
Chelsea Wolfe - Thursday, September 24 - Valley Bar
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Queen of the industrial underworld, Chelsea Wolfe crafts nightmares with her gothic electronica while lamenting despair in a lyrical prose fit for folk. For her fifth LP Abyss, she enlisted producer John Congleton – whose varied hands have appeared on St. Vincent, Marilyn Manson, and Earl Sweatshirt records – and their union summated a batch of intense songs that work like Halloween: equally frightening as they are joyous. Abyss hits a peak during the hauntingly acoustic ballad “Crazy Love” where violin strings descend like bombs around Wolfe’s stirring lead. Sit back and admire how Wolfe transforms the underground venue Valley Bar into a cathedral of misery. SILAS VALENTINO
Summer Ends Music Festival - Thursday, September 24, to Sunday, September 27 - Tempe Beach Park
Considering the diversity of talent and star power contained within this year's Summer Ends Music Festival lineup, its fairly safe to say that if you can't find something to geek out about during its four-day run at Tempe Beach Park, you probably don't like music. A slew of genres and artists make up the Summer Ends' slate this year, ranging from indie rock, synthpop, and blue-eyed soul to hip-hop, funk, reggae, and good ol' alternative.
The four-day outdoor concert festival, one of the biggest of its kind in the Valley, kicks off on Thursday, September 24, with performances from Cold War Kids, Brandon Flowers, and Hozier. Meanwhile, day two of the event on Friday, September 25, will include Brand New, Jimmy Eat World, Spoon, Thrice, Manchester Orchestra, and Kevin Devine. The weekend portion of the fest ups the ante even further with music from J. Cole, Big Sean, Slightly Stoopid, G-Eazy, Rebelution, Pepper, Iration, The Green, and Kari Faux on Saturday, September 26; as well as the final day on Sunday, September 27, featuring Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, Travis Scott, Vic Mensa, and Kaytranada.