Music fans of Phoenix, your patience is about to be rewarded. After suffering through another summer, you’ve finally made it to the promised land of cooler climes, fantastic festivals, and a wealth of long-anticipated shows.
October is considered one of the bigger months for live music in the Valley and with good reason. Arts centers kick off their respective seasons, outdoor shows are in greater abundance, and the Arizona State Fair launches its concert series
This October also features something especially enormous: the inaugural Lost Lake Festival
, the three-day outdoor music, arts, and cultural spectacle from the folks behind Bonaroo and Outside Lands.
It’s going to be the biggest music event of the month in the Valley without question, maybe even the entire year. It’s the high point of what’s shaping up to be a phenomenally busy month of concerts in Phoenix. (And you can see for yourself by checking out our extensive online live music listings
So busy, in fact, that we had trouble whittling down our list of monthly concert to only 30 picks.
Here’s what we chose.
Robert Earl Keen
Country singer Robert Earl Keen.
Darren Carroll Photography
Monday, October 2
The Van Buren
If Lyle Lovett is the thinking man's Texas songwriter, Robert Earl Keen is the drinking thinking man's Texas songwriter. Since the late '80s, Keen's cockeyed, barstool's-eye view of life's landscape has lured love from the alt-country set and diehard frat partiers in equal measure.
Lumped in early on with the soft soil tilled by the likes of Lovett and iconic Texas crooner Nanci Griffith, Keen would be more at home on a barroom bandstand alongside a honky-tonker like Joe Ely or a (music) border-crosser like Steve Earle.
Thirty years in, songs such as "Corpus Christi Bay" and "The Road Goes On Forever" have taken on an almost anthemic patina, while "For Love" and "The Wild Ones" shine like the big old silver belt buckle on that deep thinker/beer drinker who'll be standing next to you in the audience, whooping louder than an Austin Saturday night. Tom Finkle
The Shins & Spoon
Courtesy of Sub Pop Records
Tuesday, October 3
When The Shins make their triumphant return to Phoenix on October 3, it will be the band's first show in the Valley since the release of their critically acclaimed fifth album, Heartworms
, which arrived on March 10. They played a set that was heavy with those new tracks at McDowell Mountain Music Festival, a week prior to the album's release. If you didn't know the songs then, you have a few days to brush up on their catalog, including fan favorites from Oh, Inverted World
and Chutes Too Narrow
They will be joined by beloved Austinites Spoon, and Phoenix will be one of only four West Coast stops they'll make together. They will also be armed with new songs from their latest album, Hot Thoughts
, which dropped on St. Patrick's Day. If you haven't had the infectious title track stuck in your head since then, take a listen and get ready to have it permanently on a loop for a while.
These two indie powerhouses together are sure to put on a memorable show that most of the country won't get to see. Ashley Harris
Father John Misty
Josh Tillman, better known as Father John Misty.
Wednesday, October 4
Father John Misty is this generation’s Harry Chapin. Or he would be — if you added in a little John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats and a healthy dose of sometimes awkward social consciousness.
Misty, a.k.a. Josh Tillman, is a busy man, but damn if he doesn’t consistently crank out the best (and we mean this with love) mopey music out there right now. There is a gravity to his work that echoes the great and serious songwriters of generations past while remaining firmly rooted in the now.
Tillman has gained something of a reputation for being an explosive live performer. And in his particular genre, this isn’t a bad thing. But the longtime sideman and producer has built a strong enough reputation for his capable talents that his body of work can combat any negative press that pops up related to the occasional outburst.
Most notably, Tillman went on a Trump-related rant last summer at a festival in New Jersey that seemed to both dismay and delight the audience — and further add to the growing mythology around the performer, who may or may not be kidding. See him at the Orpheum and decide for yourself. Tom Reardon
Chelsea Wolfe's heavier than ever.
Wednesday, October 4
"Grow old and let your hair grow,” Chelsea Wolfe sings on “Color of Blood.” Her voice drifts through a throbbing lattice of bass and guitar fuzz that overlays the song, and it sounds like it could be swallowed up by the noise at any moment.
The track encapsulates the thrill of listening to Wolfe’s music: Her voice is like the little bird that flies into the mouths of crocodiles to clean their teeth. You listen, in part, because you’re waiting to see if the fanged jaws are going to clamp shut and swallow her whole.
While the push-pull of beautiful vocals and heavy sounds on her previous full-length, Abyss
, foreshadow the direction the singer has taken on her latest album, Hiss Spun, that line about letting your hair grow out also serves as a bit of foreshadowing.
Throughout most of her career, Wolfe has played with elements of extreme music. She’s the rare singer-songwriter who can weave the atmospherics of black metal or the bottom-heavy pulse of doom into her folk music and have it sound perfectly natural. Ashley Naftule
Flaming Lips & Mac Demarco
The Flaming Lips in concert last year in Phoenix.
Thursday, October 5
This double bill may seem a bit odd upon first glance. Twenty-seven-year-old Demarco is still young and carefree, gleefully strumming his guitar, writing quirky tunes and occasionally flying off the rails during his live shows. The Lips, on the other hand, are seasoned pros who have spent decades touring and building a fan base hooked on their kaleidoscopic concept albums and whacked-out exhibitions of psychedelia.
Look closer, though, and it becomes easier to see the connections. Demarco and Wayne Coyne follow the muse where it takes them. Their frequent over-the-top antics mask heartfelt and emotional tales of grief, alienation and existential doubt. While Demarco funnels these feelings through laconic, ’80s-tinged guitar, Coyne and his longtime collaborators focus on the lyrical content. At heart, Demarco and Coyne are both weird and unpredictable dudes, which makes for good theater.
While it's unclear if they'll team up for a few tunes during their show at Comerica Theatre on October 5, they have a collaborative EP coming out soon, which, given their varying sonic approaches, should make for an interesting listen. Jeff Strowe
Country superstar Gary Allan.
Courtesy of UMG Nashville
Friday, October 6
Arizona State Fair
Country superstar Gary Allan has been a hit-making machine for two decades now. The 49-year-old California native has finely walked the line between stadium filler and perpetual critical favorite with little following.
Due to the tragedy surrounding the 2004 suicide of his third wife, Angela, he became an even more compelling figure. The albums in the aftermath of such heartbreak took on extra meaning whether he wanted them to or not. In light of those circumstances, even the relatively schlocky "Best I Ever Had," a cover of the mom-rock group Vertical Herizon's 2001 hit song, became a powerful statement.
Darkness in some form or another has been something Allan has dealt heavily in before the loss of Angela, though. In his earliest days of recording on a large scale, Allan regularly sang with a sadness that he barely kept hidden. Sometimes the darkness was hit-you-over-the-head obvious, and while at other times much less so. Allan's even used darkness as a tool instead of a thematic feeling or vibe. He'll bring his truckload of hits to the Valley on October 6 to help kick off the Arizona State Fair’s concert lineup. Kelly Dearmore
David Prowse (left) and Brian King of Japandroids.
Friday, October 6
The Van Buren
By the time Japandroids released its 2012 album, Celebration Rock
, the band had graduated to playing small theaters. But following an extensive gauntlet of live dates throughout 2013, Japandroids disappeared for three years.
Guitarist/singer Brian King and drummer/vocalist David Prowse played every show as if they had something to prove to themselves, and that level of intensity took a physical and emotional toll on the two, so they took half a year off.
When King and Prowse came back to the band, they wanted to write a record that wasn’t merely a compelling snapshot of their fiery live show. The result was 2017’s Near to the Wild Heart of Life
. The presence of synths and acoustic guitars for the first time didn’t mellow out the Japandroids sound so much as expand and enliven it beyond the full-throttle punkified rush of earlier efforts. Tom Murphy
Have some Cake to go along with all the fried food at this year's Arizona State Fair.
Saturday, October 7
Arizona State Fair
"Just another one hit wonder," mused music critics when Sacramento, California, alternative pop act Cake first came onto the scene in the mid-'90s, with its pervasive hit "The Distance." Led by singer John McCrea's disaffected speak-sing style, its deep baselines, and heavy funk grooves, the song smothered commercial radio, catching fire as a frat party anthem and an arena rock-ready rally cry.
But Cake weathered such criticism and has persevered past over the past two decades, to say the least. Six LPs, two EPs, and a pretty well-received live album (2014’s Live from the Crystal Palace
) later, they’re still doing their thing, even though Cake’s only original member left at this point is McCrea.
And while it’s going on six years since their last studio release (2011’s Showroom of Compassion
), Cake has more than enough hit singles in their arsenal to keep fans entertained and singing along during show. Alex Rendon
Loudon Wainwright III
Legendary singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III.
Sunday, October 8
Musical Instrument Museum
For 50 very odd years, Loudon Wainwright III's lacerating wit, unflinching candor, and impish glee have combined to skewer everything in sight, from the near and dear to the feared — which, as it now turns out, is the Grim Reaper.
LW3's favorite protagonist has always been himself, and he's made self-deprecation a highly twisted art form. His 2012 album, Older Than My Old Man Now
, is a morbid laugh riot about "death 'n' decay," physical infirmities, geriatric medication, fractured families, regrets, confusion and fleeting time, and was apparently triggered by the 71-year-old III lapping II, who died at 63.
Wainwright is cheerfully sardonic throughout his performances, cleverly peppering the tunes with wry humor. But there's also inevitable poignancy at work, bittersweet and haunting, as he pokes at a lifetime of uncomfortable truths. Rick Mason
Monday, October 9
The Rebel Lounge
Shooter Jennings has never been one to shy away from tossing his fans a curveball.
Debuting as a solo artist in the mid-‘00s after an extended detour in the GN’R-inspired L.A. outfit Stargunn, his albums Put the “O” Back In Country
and The Wolf
may have had a little too much of his dad Waylon’s shaggy country-rock edge for his major label to handle, but he made his point and graduated to a more fulfilling existence as an indie artist and longtime host of Saturday-afternoon free-form funhouse Electric Rodeo
on Sirius/XM’s Outlaw Country.
All that said, and despite fine latter-day outings like 2012’s Family Man
, Jennings’ latest output speaks to how far-ranging his interests remain. Besides last year’s Countach (For Giorgio)
, a tribute to Italian disco auteur Giorgio Moroder, Jennings recently dropped an expanded edition of 2010’s Black Ribbons,
his Illuminati-haunted country-psych album featuring narration by Stephen King. Chris Gray
Tuesday, October 10
The Van Buren
Originally something of a long-distance songwriting partnership, Mutemath eventually based themselves in keyboardist Paul Meany's home town of New Orleans. Artists from that town seem to be able to pull off eclectic without seeming like musical dilettantes, and Mutemath is no exception.
Its popularity with fans of jam bands and improvisational music is somewhat curious, considering that much of Mutemath's material is an amalgamation of electronic pop and atmospheric rock, with threads of R&B running through it. But the musicianship is impeccable, and the songs have a flowing groove underlining their melodies, suggesting some jazz training among the group's members. Tom Murphy
Portugal. The Man
Portugal. The Man is "trying to say something that mattered" with its latest album.
Thursday, October 12
The Van Buren
If you’re a fan of both punctuational nomenclature and indie rock, be sure to come on down when Portugal. The Man descend from on high — otherwise known as their home town of Wasilla, Alaska — to play various hits from the last 15 years as well as songs from their current release, Woodstock
The album came about after the band ditched their long-awaited (and long-delayed) record Gloomin + Doomin
in favor of releasing a record with more of a substantive feel that better reflected the current sociopolitical climate. "We worked with so many rad people on this album, but ended up with just the four of us in a basement at 4 a.m. trying to say something that mattered," said frontman John Gourley in an interview with Billboard
. Hence the spirit of resistance that embues Woodstock
’s lead single, "Feel It Still." David Cotner
Female-fronted metal act Halestorm.
Jake Giles Netter
Thursday, October 12
Arizona State Fair
Officially, Halestorm has been active since 1997, when frontwoman Lzzy Hale was 13 and her drummer brother Arejay was 10. But the renowned metal band really got going when they signed to Atlantic in 2005. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2009, and now there’s no stopping this Halestorm.
A combination of classic heavy metal and radio-friendly hard rock can be cheesy in the wrong hands, but the Pennsylvania group handle it expertly. They've toured with some stinkers, like Disturbed, Stone Sour, Seether and Alterbridge, but has also held their own with Heaven & Hell and Buckcherry.
These days, Halestorm is at the top of their game, so expect a killer set when it invades Veterans Memorial Coliseum during the Arizona State Fair. Brett Callwood
Singer-songwriter and violinist Andrew Bird.
Friday, October 13
Mesa Arts Center
Like with 2012’s Break It Yourself,
Andrew Bird’s latest indie pop album Are You Serious
finds the classically trained violinist and singer-songwriter cruising gentle waves of indie rock while romantically toying with the English language à la Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde
While the A.V. Club
may have called this a “slight” record that takes “no musical risks,” the powerful effect of an absurdly talented and genius musician choosing relatively simple foundations — as Bird does with the bluesy groove of “Capsized” and the brutal passion of “Left Handed Kisses,” his lyric-driven duet with Fiona Apple — is both bold and admirable.
Risky arrangements or not, Bird unleashes flourishes of instrumental virtuosity throughout Are You Serious
, and he will no doubt do the same at Mesa Arts Center. Adam Perry
Macklemore is headed to the Valley for a solo show.
Saturday, October 14
Marquee Theatre in Tempe
Seattle-born rapper Ben Haggerty, better known to most as Macklemore (or Professor Mack Lemore, if you’re way old-school) is a polarizing figure in the hip-hop world, to say the least. And while opinions about his talents and stature may vary from person to person, the fact remains that he’s had a phenomenally successful career thus far.
His biggest success to date, of course, is 2012's smash-hit The Heist
, a collaboration with Ryan Lewis. Maybe you remember the hit song “Thrift Shop” (poppin’ tags, anyone?) or “Same Love.” Four years later, the duo released the follow-up, This Unruly Mess I've Made
Macklemore’s career without Lewis hasn’t been as prolific, however. As a matter of fact, before his latest record, Gemini,
dropped last month, he hadn’t released a solo album in more than six years. Macklemore’s making up for lost time, however, by touring relentlessly in support of Gemini
, including playing the Marquee in Tempe this month. Sara Button