Phoenix Comicon is in the rearview, as are Memorial Day weekend and cooler temperatures. And so we begin the time of year that pretty much everyone in the Valley dreads: summer.
While the season doesn’t officially begin for another few weeks, anyone who’s lived in Phoenix longer than a minute knows that we’re sort of an exception to that rule.
Here’s another trope about summer in the Valley we’d like to debunk: There’s plenty going on around town, including memorable concerts. During this week alone, you’ve got the chance to catch such fantastic acts and artists as Wavves, Sam Outlaw, Modest Mouse, and Fishboy.
Read on for full details about these shows, as well as a few others we feel are worth your time and money. (And for even more live music options this week, hit up our online concert calendar
The members of metal band Exmortus.
Courtesy of Prosthetic Records
Tuesday, May 30
A love of hard rock and heavy metal has been a common bond for Conan and Mario Moreno since the cousins dressed up as KISS' Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley for Halloween as kids in the late '90s. Now in their 20s, Conan and Mario are the frontman/guitarist and drummer, respectively, for thrash metal upstart Exmortus. The band's sound is a blistering blend of European-influenced, neo-classical thrash metal. Conan's magnificent guitar solo centerpieces tie songs together and evoke memories of '80s shred guitar greats like Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. Altogether, Exmortus' sound is a major leap from the KISS-worshiping days of the Whittier cousins' youth. Exmortus's heavy sound, however, is rooted in family. "We were barely teenagers when we started the band," Mario says. "At that age, it's hard enough to find band members period, let alone band members whose parents were okay with their 16-year-old sons going out to play backyard parties in East L.A." The group's current lineup includes new members David Rivera on second guitar and Jovanni Perez on bass. While these latest additions aren't blood relatives, the four guys went to high school together and at one point all lived within blocks of each other. Jason Roche
Eric Michener of Fishboy.
Tuesday, May 30
Fishboy is the brainchild of Denton, Texas, musician Eric Michener. It started simply enough — i.e. as a rock band — back in 2003, but over the years Michener (a videographer by trade) has gradually blended the band together with his love for visual art. In recent years, that's meant increasingly incorporating elaborate artwork into Fishboy's aesthetic: intricate vinyl inserts, self-published tour diaries, conceptual 7-inch comics. Anything is fair game. "Comics were something I had always wanted to be a part of," Michener explains. "So I used the band's small but dedicated fan base as a testing ground for self-publishing my own stuff. We still sell more records than comics, but hopefully one day my talents will be somewhat equalized and I'll have an audience for both." In the case of Fishboy's 2014 album, An Elephant
— which tells the story of Topsy, an elephant that was publicly electrocuted by Thomas Edison in 1903, and her attempts to "avenge her death and pass into the afterlife" — that means a 13-song LP accompanied by a 160-page comic. (Check out both at an-elephant.com.) "'Wordless graphic novel' is a fancy way for saying a comic book with only pictures," Michener says of the format. The reasons for the lack of text, he says, are twofold: one, Topsy (being an elephant) can't speak, and two, he wanted to honor the silent movies that Edison helped pioneer. All in all, some pretty high-concept stuff. Jeff Gage
Sam Outlaw ain't your typical country star.
Tuesday, May 30
Outside of the trucks and the girls and the beer, country music is, at its core, music for sad people. But then there’s Sam Outlaw, the California cowboy with a rugged name that belies his subdued and subtle West Coast country aesthetic. In April, Outlaw released his sublimely sad sophomore album, Tenderheart
, a meditation on life, love, and the complications of intimacy that covers a broken heart from pretty much all angles. It’s a remarkable effort, one that may catapult Outlaw to the alt-country stardom he deserves. After the release of his debut, Angeleno
, in 2015, many country critics thought that Sam Outlaw was poised to become the next big thing in country music, but perhaps it wasn’t his time just yet. With songs like “Jesus Take The Wheel (And Drive Me To A Bar)” and the album’s beautifully brooding title track, it seemed like Outlaw was really living up to his name and producing country music that was decidedly left of mainstream. But with Tenderheart
, Outlaw dials in that dreamy, Laurel Canyon-inspired sound to produce a devastatingly good extension of what he kicked off with Angeleno. Amy McCarthy
Wednesday, May 31
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 most recent 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
Read on for more "can't miss" concerts this week, including Wavves, Barrows, and The Wailers.