Singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster.
Singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster.
Mary Keating-Bruton

The 13 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

Heads-up, metal fans: This weekend is going to be a virtual hesher heaven with plenty of concerts happening where you can fly hookem horns and headbang to your heart’s content.

It starts on Friday with a free concert by nu-metal stalwarts Drowning Pool at Tempe Marketplace. That same night, famed Latino death metal act Brujeria will be over at Club Red. And a few evenings later, you can check out shows by drone-metal act Bell Witch and infamous extreme metal band Cattle Decapitation, both of which will be at Club Red on Sunday.

It’s also a good weekend for non-metal fans as indie acts like Chad VanGaalen, Beach Slang, Daley, and Walker Lukens will take place over the next few nights.

Elsewhere, Fall Out Boy will bring their latest tour to downtown Phoenix, legendary local bartender/booker Robert “Fun Bobby” Birmingham will celebrate his big 5-0, and the first-ever Goldrush Music Festival will be happening at Rawhide in Chandler.

Full details about each of these gigs can be found below in our list of the 13 best concerts in Phoenix this weekend. (And for even more options, check out our online live music listings.)

Chad VanGaalenEXPAND
Chad VanGaalen
Marc Rimmer

Chad VanGaalen
Friday, November 17
Valley Bar

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When you browse through Chad VanGaalen’s online presence, you’re met with a series of brightly colored animated illustrations. As beautiful as they are irreverent, they feature mostly aliens and sea monsters, or entirely new psychedelic creatures he creates in his world of science fiction.

It’s not what you’d expect from a typical singer-songwriter, but this has become a definitive part of VanGaalen’s artistic ethos. A celebrated animator, his work has been featured on Adult Swim. And he creates music videos for his own songs, as well as others. VanGaalen has been called on to develop videos for acts including Shabazz Palaces and METZ.

VanGaalen tracks are whimsical and spacey, with synths buzzing in abstract glitches that push and pull you over distorted vocals. His lyrics are written in a stream of consciousness, replacing structure with endlessly descriptive stories. It’s almost like the Calgary, Alberta-based artist is drawing the music right in front of you. Ashley Harris

The current lineup of nu-metal act Drowning Pool.EXPAND
The current lineup of nu-metal act Drowning Pool.
Courtesy of Adrenaline PR

Drowning Pool
Friday, November 17
Tempe Marketplace

The first thing you should know about Drowning Pool is that, yes, the nu-metal rock act still belts out its biggest song, “Bodies” in concert. Thing is, you’re probably going to have to wait until the very end of their set to hear the scream-filled hit song, which topped radio charts in the early aughts and sold millions of copies of their 2001 album, Sinner.

And the fact that Drowning Pool is even still around to perform the hit is notable, considering all the tumult the band has endured since it dropped, including the death of original lead singer Dave Williams, a rotating cast of vocalists attempting to fill his shoes, and controversy over having its music used to torture Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

Current front man Jason Moreno, formerly of The Suicide Hook, is just as forceful as Williams ever was, using his stridently growling vocals to drive Drowning Pool’s cannonade of heavy guitar riffs and grinding metal forward. That includes the pulverizing rock tracks contained on their two most recent albums, 2013’s Resilience and 2016’s Hellelujah, the titles of which might be indicative of how Drowning Pool has rolled with the punches over the years and lived on. Benjamin Leatherman

Immaculate Tattoo 19th Anniversary Party feat. Brujeria
Friday, November 17
Club Red in Mesa

This Los Angeles band of bandanna-masked musicians have spent 25 years spinning twisted death-metal tales of drug-fueled chaos and violence, dating back to their early days featuring members of Fear Factory, Faith No More and Napalm Death.

Vocalist/lyricist Juan Brujo and bassist Pat Hoed have remained constant links between Brujeria’s formation and their current incarnation, showcased on their newest record, Pocho Aztlan. The band’s all-Spanish concoctions still rely on a balance of musical heaviness and lyrical irreverence, but the urgency of Brujeria’s insanity has been re-energized by the current political landscape. It probably should be no surprise that members of a Mexican-American death-metal band are not fans of a certain presidential candidate.

It also should be no surprise that new songs centered around that candidate fit snugly alongside the already-sordid material that has fueled their entire catalog. Jason Roche

Fall Out Boy, carefree as ever.
Fall Out Boy, carefree as ever.
Pamela Litky

Fall Out Boy
Saturday, November 18
Talking Stick Resort Arena

There’s something to be said for the third act of Fall Out Boy’s career. The first act witnessed the band exploding onto the pop-punk scene and pretty much ruling the pop-rock roost for a few years. The second act was a blend of the band maturing, fracturing, and eventually falling apart, only to reunite after some much-needed downtime.

Turns out, a little downtime is all Fall Out Boy needed to become the band it always wanted to be. Sure, Pete Wentz and crew may not move the needle the way they once did, but the band’s last two efforts — 2013’s Save Rock and Roll and 2015’s American Beauty/American Psycho — easily rank among their best.

A new album, Mania, is on tap in January, so Fall Out Boy is already back out on the road. Come for nostalgia, but stay for a band that finally seems to have figured it out. Clint Hale

The members of Beach Slang.
The members of Beach Slang.
Charlie Lowe

Beach Slang
Saturday, November 18
The Rebel Lounge

Despite their band’s name, Beach Slang are decidedly not garage, not beach-y and not from California. (They're from Pennsylvania actually, which may be the polar opposite of California.) Beach Slang have taken shoegaze-y layered guitars and sped them up to forge a complex and driving sound.

They lure you in with crystalline guitar leads before bringing in slicing chord hits with raspy, yelling vocals. It feels as if at any moment, the song itself may rip at the seams. But that’s when they pull it back and the tide pulls in. But that’s only so the next wave will hit you even harder. Matt Wood

Daley is headed to the Valley this weekend.
Daley is headed to the Valley this weekend.
Courtesy of Paradigm Agency

Saturday, November 18
Crescent Ballroom

Besides being recognized for his infamous curly red hair and classic shades, UK-born singer-songwriter Gareth Daley brings a breath of fresh air to classic R&B and soul music.

Growing up in Manchester, England, Daley was slow to find a musical niche since there wasn’t much diversity. His soulful music and honest, heartfelt lyrics needed to be nurtured, so he spent a lot of time in London perfecting his craft. He was given a chance to be heard by the mainstream in 2010 when he wrote for and was featured on tracks with other UK artists such as Gorillaz, Emeli Sand and Jessie J. This opened up the door for Daley to release his first mixtape, Those Who Wait.

With hit songs like “Smoking Gun” and “Alone Together,” the project was received well internationally. It was no surprise when he was signed to America’s Universal Republic Records shortly after. Since then, he has released his highly acclaimed EP, Alone Together, his 2015 debut album, Days & Nights, and his latest full-length, The Spectrum, which dropped over the summer. Aria Bell

Robert Birmingham, better known as "Fun Bobby."EXPAND
Robert Birmingham, better known as "Fun Bobby."
Benjamin Leatherman

Fun Bobby’s 50th Birthday
Saturday, November 18
Shady Park in Tempe

Watchu know about Fun Bobby? If you’ve been in the Valley music scene for more than a minute, you’ve probably heard a few tales about Robert Birmingham. The 6-foot-6 stories bartender/booker is renowned for his drink-mixing skills (his Bloody Marys are the stuff of legend), the time he spent helping run legendary bygone venue Hollywood Alley back in the day, or his always friendly demeanor.

Birmingham’s also well known for his longstanding support of the local scene and his rapport with bands and musicians, both of which date back decades. For proof, look no further than the roster for his 50th birthday show at Shady Park in Tempe (a.k.a. his current place of employment). A variety of artists and acts of both an old-school (Grave Danger, Flathead, Zig Zag Black) and modern-day variety (Sara Robinson Band, The Woodworks, Japhy’s Descent) will perform.

Others on the lineup include Fat Gray Cat, Page the Village Idiot, Soul Grind, and Bourbon Witch, a stoner rock supergroup featuring local musicians and Birmingham donning green face paint while performing as lead vocalist. It’s definitely a sight to behold. Benjamin Leatherman

Israel Vibration and the Roots Radics
Saturday, November 18
Cactus Jack's in Ahwatukee

Long-running vocal trio Israel Vibration met in a Kingston medical rehabilitation facility and rose, starting way back in 1970, from a punishing life as polio-stricken ghetto youth to become a crucial link in the evolution of Jamaican vocal groups.

With hard-hitting, hardcore Rastafarian–messaged songs like "Why Worry" and "Bad Intention," Israel Vibration ably spanned the gap between the old-school likes of Mighty Diamonds and such comrades as Culture and Black Uhuru.

This weekend, with accompaniment from the superb, veteran hard-dub studio players Roots Radics, it'll be an evening of defiant, weaponized spirituality and high-impact musical perfection. Jonny Whiteside


Gold Rush Music Festival 2017
Saturday, November 18, and Sunday, November 19
Rawhide Event Center

Local fans of both hip-hop and electronic dance music will want to keep both Saturday, November 18, and Sunday, November 19, free on their schedules. That’s because a new festival aimed at both crowds will be making its debut at Rawhide Western Town in Chandler that particular weekend – and it’s going to feature a big lineup of performers.

The first-ever Gold Rush Music Festival will take over the kitschy Western theme park and offer two straight days of hip-hop artists and DJs.

According to Thomas Turner of Relentless Beats, the local EDM event promoter that’s putting on Gold Rush, the festival will be a combination dance music massive and hip-hop extravaganza catering to fans of those genres. “It's going to be about hip-hop and dance music, but a broad spectrum of both,” Turner says. “It will go from noon to midnight both days with a total of 24 hours of music on three stages. So it’s going to be lot of talent and a lot of music happening.”

He ain’t kidding. Relentless Beats recently finished announcing the complete list of artist and acts that will perform at Gold Rush, and the lineup includes Migos, Marshmello, Lil Uzi Vert, Dillon Francis, Barclay Crenshaw, Keys N Krates, Excision, Claude VonStroke, Snow Tha Product, Drezo, and Hippie Sabotage. Benjamin Leatherman

Extreme metal band Cattle Decapitation.EXPAND
Extreme metal band Cattle Decapitation.
Zach Cordner

Cattle Decapitation
Sunday, November 19
Club Red in Mesa

San Diego’s Cattle Decapitation have forged a career by consistently churning out bludgeoning deathgrind ugliness since their late-’90s formation, though they’ve evolved from a fairly primitive, pummeling grindcore group to a more musically nuanced and layered act.

The band’s more recent efforts, such as 2015’s The Anthropocene Extinction, are relentless assaults of double-bass drumming and guitar work that is equal parts technicality and buzzsaw ugliness, punctuated by vocalist Travis Ryan alternating between some of the most guttural death grunts and heartiest bellows in today’s extreme-metal scene.

The band’s lyrical themes and song titles are gross enough to satisfy the more gore-obsessed portion of the genre’s fan base, but Cattle Decapitation’s pro-environment, pro-animal, anti-mankind agenda gives extra color to their musical attack. Jason Roche

Walker Lukens
Walker Lukens
Lobo Sucio Creative

Walker Lukens
Sunday, November 19
Valley Bar

Look up musician Walker Lukens and you’ll find a mild-mannered, bespectacled gentleman posing like a young Elvis Costello. Lukens has the appearance and irreverent attitude of the man behind “Alison,” along with an eclecticism that shows reverence for his influences, particularly Prince and Bruce Springsteen.

His second album, the moody and experimental Tell It to the Judge, was produced by Spoon drummer Jim Eno after the two met in a bar, which says something about the Austin-based singer-songwriter’s talent and gumption.

Discover Lukens at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 19, at Valley Bar, 130 North Central Avenue. Admission is $10 to $12. For more information, visit the Valley Bar website. Jason Kiel

Singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster.EXPAND
Singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster.
Mary Keating-Bruton

Ruthie Foster
Sunday, November 19
Musical Instrument Museum

It’s hard to imagine how Ruthie Foster’s roof-raising voice will be contained by the relatively intimate Music Theatre at the Musical Instrument Museum. “I want to be ready when joy comes back to me,” the Texas native wails above the strains of R&B and soul on the title track of her latest album, Joy Comes Back. In the past, quoting Maya Angelou, Foster has declared, “I’m not cute or built to suit or fashion-model size,” but her voice is an awesome force of beauty in its own right.

Amid the new album’s blues pleas and gospel exhortations, she surprises with a chilling reinvention of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” which Foster has transformed into a dusty blues opus replete with anguished harmonic cries and her own wickedly slithering slide guitar. Falling James

Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman of Bell Witch.
Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman of Bell Witch.
Courtesy of Infinite Hour

Bell Witch
Sunday, November 19
Club Red in Mesa

Bell Witch's funeral dirges hypnotize and immerse the listener in a powerful, apocalyptic shell of bleakness. Most impressive, though, are the shockingly warm tones achieved by bassist Dylan Desmond on his leads, which lend an IMAX-sized cinematic feel to the proceedings.

This Seattle drums-and-bass duo’s 2015 album, Four Phantoms, is one of the most haunting doom-metal records we’ve encountered in recent memory. A four-song record consisting of two separate two-song suites titled “Suffocation” and “Judgment,” the album captures the dread that comes with each of those experiences.

Bell Witch’s latest album, Mirror Reaper, is even more spartan in terms of its song list, as it consists of one epically long droning track that lasts for 83 minutes. It’s the focus of the performances on their current tour, which comes to Club Red in Mesa on Sunday. We’re guessing it makes the task of writing up the set list relatively easy. Jason Roche

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