The 10 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Week

Wiz Khalifa performing at 2016 concert.
Wiz Khalifa performing at 2016 concert.
Jim Louvau
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August brought a ton of memorable concerts to the PHX, including shows by a slew of high-profile artists. Before it wraps up, however, its still got a few more big gigs to offer.

Over the next few nights, you can catch such folks as Wiz Khalifa, Rae Sremmurd, Jack Johnson, and Lindsey Stirling in concert, as well as bands like AWOLNATION or Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.

If you’re into nostalgia, the Lost '80s Live will also swing through the Valley with a collection of Reagan-era acts like A Flock of Seagulls and Animotion.

Details about each of these shows can be found below. And for even more live music happening around the Valley this week, check out Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

Jack Johnson in concert earlier this year.
Jack Johnson in concert earlier this year.
Eric Sauseda

Jack Johnson
Tuesday, August 28
Ak-Chin Pavilion

One night, as I was at dinner with a friend of mine who grew up in Hawaii, the subject of Jack Johnson came up (don't ask me how). He mentioned that while he respected Jack Johnson as a fellow Hawaiian and surfer, he thought his music was “boring as fuck.” It was clear that it was a little painful for him to say — there truly was obvious respect there, but the fact remains that Johnson’s music is very, very safe and mellow. What my friend was trying to express, I think, while it’s great that a fellow surfer and Hawaiian to be so popular and put out so many lovely records, couldn’t he be a tiny bit more rockin’? There is music for everyone out there, taste is subjective, and some people don’t want to be challenged by a riff or clever lyrics. That’s fine. There is nothing challenging about Jack Johnson, and that is okay. I’m fine with it. Really. Tom Reardon

Jason Isbell (center) with his backing band, The 400 Unit.EXPAND
Jason Isbell (center) with his backing band, The 400 Unit.
Danny Clinch

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Tuesday, August 28
Phoenix Symphony Hall

He might be a former member of the Drive-By Truckers and a solo artist for a decade with six highly rated albums under his belt, but the past couple of years have undeniably seen Jason Isbell’s stock rise. The buzz has practically become deafening as people first fell in love with his contemporary take on alt-country and Southern rock and then went back to delve into his previous work. Now, similar-minded musicians such as Samantha Fish are citing Isbell as an influence. Last year’s The Nashville Sound album saw his band, the 400 Unit, get top billing alongside the man himself, and that’s carried over into the tour. It’s significant, too: As the Drive-By Truckers days prove, Isbell produces some of his best work when collaborating. Brett Callwood

Combo Chimbita
Tuesday, August 28
Valley Bar

“Frio Severo” is a song you could, and should, lose your head to. It’s a carnival of eclectic sounds and rhythms that exemplifies why people often call music hypnotic. Its power is tripled when Carolina Oliveros starts singing. Part of Combo Chimbita’s magic is their ability to pull you inside the song. As that aforementioned track continues, you go where it leads. It’s a parade you hope won’t end too soon. This New York band’s sound comes from a fusion African, Latin American, and Caribbean styles. The band refers to their music as “tropical futurism,” and that’s accurate. Diverse rhythms and funky beats are the heartbeat for the sometimes breezy, other times psychedelic and experimental melodies that sweep through their tunes. Amy Young

Guitar virtuoso Ottmar Liebert.EXPAND
Guitar virtuoso Ottmar Liebert.
Matt Callahan

Ottmar Liebert
Wednesday, August 29
Musical Instrument Museum

Born in Germany to a Chinese-German father and a Hungarian mother, Ottmar Liebert began his love affair with the guitar at the tender age of 11. By the time he was 18, he was educated as to the many ethnicities of music, and he began traveling as a musician throughout Europe and Asia before settling in the United States in the 1980s. His tastes always veered toward the erudite and artistic, but it wasn't until forming the funky, folk-jazz ensemble Luna Negra in 1988 that he finally found a venue for his discerning craftsmanship. Liebert is an eternal student, always seeking musical enlightenment through the honing of his skills. His expansive discography includes close to 30 different albums, including this year's The Complete Santa Fe Sessions. His current tour brings him to (where else?) the Musical Instrument Museum on Thursday. Abel Folgar

Amy Lee of Evanescence.EXPAND
Amy Lee of Evanescence.
Brandon Marshall

Lindsey Stirling and Evanescence
Wednesday, August 29
Ak-Chin Pavilion

There is a story about the time when Evanescence got started, sometime around 1995, where the band was sitting around getting blazed and somebody said, “Why don’t we go for a sound somewhere between Portishead and Limp Bizkit?” No one said a word, but the seed was planted. Now, this story may or may not be true, but what really matters is that a spark grew into a flame and a flame grew into a burning fire that illuminated the sky for, at very least, one billionth of a percentage point of human history and Evanescence was relevant.

Fast-forward to 2018, and it is quite possible that some people still care and perhaps are even reading this now thinking, “Fuck this guy, this dumb writer, for mocking the band that changed my life, the band that I listen to when the world takes a big dump on my soul.” Sorry, but Evanescence still sucks. Apologies to Portishead for even including them in this mockery. Local violin phenom Lindsay Stirling will also be on the bill, so there are some redeeming qualities to the show, at least. Tom Reardon

Lost '80s Live
Thursday, August 30
Comerica Theatre

Every decade of pop music produces its fair share of one-hit wonders, but the '80s may have been the all-time best era for one-hitters. It’s not just that that decade's New Wave and synthpop combination was a fertile breeding ground for all kinds of catchy earworms. Thanks to the advent of MTV, even the most disposable of groups left an impression with an iconic haircut or a charmingly goofy music video.

Passing through town at the end of the month, Lost '80s Live packages several of these groups together for a trip down memory lane. Of all the groups playing, A Flock of Seagulls, famous for "I Ran" and a goofy cockatoo haircut, is least deserving of the one-hitter label — their 1982 self-titled debut is solid from front-to-back. Also performing on the tour are Animotion, whose “Obsession” is a perfect boy-girl karaoke number; Missing Persons (best known for “Walking In LA” and singer Dale Bozzio’s glass dome bra); tyrannical egomaniacs Wang Chung (I mean, EVERYBODY Wang Chung tonight?); safety dancers Men Without Hats; and When In Rome (whose “The Promise” is synth-pop perfection). Ashley Naftule

Wiz Khalifa performing at 2016 concert.EXPAND
Wiz Khalifa performing at 2016 concert.
Jim Louvau

Wiz Khalifa and Rae Sremmurd
Thursday, August 30
Ak-Chin Pavilion

So what’s been the biggest hip-hop show of August? There have certainly been plenty of contenders, including this scorcher at Ak-Chin Pavilion on August 30 that will wrap up the month. Rap superstars Wiz Khalifa and Rae Sremmurd have teamed up this summer for a lengthy 27-date tour, which includes a stop at the outdoor concert venue. Wiz's new album, Rolling Papers 2, came out last month, while Rae Sremmurd dropped SR3MM back in March. Joining them on this tour is Lil Skies and O.T. Genesis. Gates open at 6 p.m. and tickets start at $35. Jeff Strowe

Aaron Bruno (left) and the rest of AWOLNATION.EXPAND
Aaron Bruno (left) and the rest of AWOLNATION.
Henry Diltz

Thursday, August 30
The Van Buren

AWOLNATION's success is a slow clap. The electro-pop/indie rock band’s music has been featured in dozens of television and reality shows, commercials, and soundtracks. Macy Gray and metal band DevilDriver have covered the group's six-times platinum single "Sail." The same song has been used to sell phones and sportswear. It even aired on House. There's a dichotomous appeal — it was inescapable a few years ago, but never seemed tired. The sound can be edgy, vulnerable, and delicious enough that the mainstream media is shamelessly smothering it in Sriracha for every marketing cause imaginable. When asked what the weirdest thing AWOLNATION's music has promoted, though, frontman Aaron Bruno says, "Anything. It's still weird to me that anyone wants any of it." Amanda Ventura

Country musician Jason Eady.
Country musician Jason Eady.
Anthony Barlich

Jason Eady
Thursday, August 30
The Rhythm Room

Jason Eady grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, where he learned how to play country music as well as gospel and blues before joining the Air Force and then moving to Texas. In his late 20s, he began playing open mics and even gave a 9-to-5 job a shot at one point. It didn't suit him well. “Turning 30 is what did it,” Eady, now 43. “I quit my job the year I turned 30.” And he became a full-time country crooner and has released six albums since.

Eady’s sound carries a hint of gospel influence that he says he picked up as a kid while playing music in a Pentecostal Assemblies of God church. Add to that the bluegrass festivals he routinely attended with his stepdad, and a Steve Earle concert he went to while stationed in England. “Finding Steve Earle was kind of a big turning point for me,” he says. Through that, Eady was also able to discover Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. However, he says Merle Haggard was probably his greatest influence. Karen Gavis

The Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix.
The Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix.
Benjamin Leatherman

Brunch Collect Beat Social
Tuesday, August 28
Crescent Ballroom

The M.O. of Brunch Collect is quite laudable. According to its Facebook page, the Arizona-based music collective and its members just want to get exposure for their efforts. “We are musicians who know the struggle of creating without having an outlet or having the right connections to be heard,” the page states. “We want to give under-appreciated artists a place to be heard.” And they’ve been doing just that on the regular at events like Beat Social, the collective’s monthly showcase of up-and-coming beat-makers and DJs from the local scene. The latest Beat Social happens on Thursday night at the Crescent Ballroom and will offer sessions by such artists as Chum Chum, Deux Yeux, Korey Wade, and Pvpi Frvnko. The music starts at 8 p.m. and goes until midnight. Admission is free. Benjamin Leatherman

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