Some of the biggest and most notable music fests of the springtime are officially in the rearview, both here in the Valley and elsewhere. Pot of Gold, for instance, wrapped up its second year down at Rawhide in Chandler over the weekend with memorable performances by headliners Futuristic and Big Sean. Meanwhile, this year’s South by Southwest festival over in Austin, Texas, finished up last night after nine straight days of showcasing tastemaking and groundbreaking artists in abundance.
And if you weren’t able to make it out to SXSW this year, it’s no biggie, since the festival is coming to you in a sense. Some of the same acts that charmed crowds and music scribes alike at the event will be heading our way for gigs in the Valley in the days ahead. As such, our list of the best concerts to catch this week includes many indie faves and artists who made waves in Austin, including Guantanamo Baywatch, Milk & Bone, Yuck, Poliça, and Young Thug. (As always, be sure to check out our extensive online concert calendar for even more live music options this week and beyond.)
Yuck - Monday, March 21 - Crescent Ballroom
Somewhere between Yo La Tengo and Dinosaur Jr., adjacent to shoegaze and Elliot Smith, sit Yuck. With aesthetics plucked straight from the '90s and melodies 10 feet deep, Yuck strike a hook-heavy balance between indie noise and the daze of surf rock. This is the kind of grungy pop that makes every ex-college radio DJ salivate; the sort of quirky tunes inevitably destined to soundtrack a thousand coming-of-age moments. Oscillating between crunchy chords and woozy fluidity, Yuck's sound is all strung out with enough infectious slacker charm to sidestep the nostalgia trap. Hell, it wouldn't matter much anyway because Yuck aren't making music that aims for the clouds. Their cuts hit you square in the gut and reverberate below the belt. JONATHAN PATRICK
Coheed and Cambria - Monday, March 21 - Marquee Theatre
For music fans who are also inclined to delve into comics books from time to time, Coheed and Cambria are the perfect band. The name of the band itself comes from the writings of the New York based band's guitar playing lead singer, Claudio Sanchez, and his Evil Ink Comics series, The Amory Wars, which began in the late-’90s. The genre-bending band is actually named after two of the main characters in the series, which is based in science fiction and has also been released as a novel, as well.
Sanchez is joined by longtime collaborator and childhood friend, Travis Stever, on guitar and vocals, Josh Eppard on drums, and Zach Cooper on bass. Stever is ready to get out of the east coast winter and do some touring, which will bring the band to the Marquee Theater on March 21. “I’m excited to be in that warmth in Phoenix. I remember Arizona was one of the furthest places we had reached when we first started. We were very new…touring with the Movie Life and Thursday. All we had was a sampler with one of our songs. When we got to Arizona, it felt like ‘holy shit, we’re really touring now.’” TOM REARDON
Guantanamo Baywatch - Tuesday, March 22 - Rhythm Room
Portland, Oregon's Guantanamo Baywatch formed in early 2009 and mulched the aesthetics of early surf rock with punk and the early psychobilly of artists like Hasil Adkins and The Cramps in threading together its core sound. The result is music that sounds like it could be from the '60s but is just ineffably weirder than most of that stuff. Stylistically, this group's music has more in common with modern outfits like Shannon & The Clams and Hunx & His Punx than with something from fifty years ago. Australian “shit-pop” band The Gooch Palms and local acts The Apaches and Nanami Ozone open. TOM MURPHY
The 2010s are turning out to be the best decade for synth-pop since the 1980s, with similar yet hardly identical bands like Future Islands, Bleachers, Chvrches and Purity Ring stepping forward to become some of the most sought-after and admired indie acts of the social-media age. Minneapolis' Poliça definitely deserves a spot in that conversation, emerging from the fertile Twin Cities collective known as Gayngs — specifically co-founder Ryan Olson and compelling singer Channy Leanagh — and breaking through nationally in late 2013 with the haunting, R&B-dusted Shulamith. CHRIS GRAY
Finish Ticket - Tuesday, March 22 - Valley Bar
Finish Ticket is an act that blurs the line between the dated ideas of "indie" vs "pop." Brendan Hoye's striking singing sounds reminiscent of Sam Smith or Ed Sheeran, but the bouncy synthesizer-driven instrumentation sounds eerily similar to Two Door Cinema Club. And while there's been long-standing unspoken requirement for indie pop/rock to include vocalists with strange affectations, Hoye's more traditional delivery is refreshing and never lacking in power. But don't worry, they've performed with the Black Keys, which restores any "indie cred" they might've lost otherwise. MATT WOOD
Judging from their lackluster internet presence, Milk & Bone seem pretty unknown. But that isn’t going to last long. The Montreal duo’s infectious, low-tempo pop is the kind of lush, sensitive melody that skyrocketed Phantogram and FKA twigs to fame. Makes sense M&B’s Little Mourning EP was long-listed for the coveted 2015 Polaris Music Prize, plus they were recently nominated for Breakthrough Group of the Year at the upcoming 2016 Juno Awards.
The album is a lovely, airy eight songs, evoking the softness of CocoRosie with less freak folk influence (that shit is too scary for “normal” audiences). The silky “Coconut Water” is a sorrowful soundtrack for stalking your ex on Instagram. Talk about unrequited love for the digital age. It’s only matched by the recent single, “Poison,” a crystalline echo featuring Toronto producer Deebs, oozing with the trip hop futurism of Hot Sugar. So whatever Laurence Lafond-Beaulne and Camille Poliquin will find themselves up to this year, it’s sure to be retweeted ad nauseam. TROY FARAH
Young Thug - Thursday, March 24 - Livewire
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The best way to get your older cousin to stop hating on Young Thug is to take him or her to a Young Thug show. At a live performance, divorced from his Internet image as provocateur and meme, the rapper/phenomenon will seduce your passé kinfolk with his ambient-trap sound, a style he’s been digging into deeper with his most recent release, “I’m Up.” Maybe he’ll play his recently released love song “Worth It,” or maybe he’ll play the payday anthem “Check.” But whatever he decides to do, you can be sure that by the end of the night, your dismissive relative is sure to be screaming “Where’s Slime Season 3!” on forums across the Internet, just like the rest of us. SAM RIBAKOFF
If there's one things American audiences have proven about our tastes for opera (or, more accurately, opera lite), is that we love it when it comes in a poppier package. Ask a random person on the street to name acts from this genre, and they'll probably rattle off Andrea Bocelli, the Three Tenors, or maybe Il Divo. (Never mind the fact that these artists often perform standards and general ballads over proper opera). What these artists and their ilk have offered is, to their credit, accessible in a way that allows fans to focus on the beauty of a particular song or voice. It doesn't take a lot of intellectual unpacking or much knowledge of a dramatic plot to enjoy Bocelli's voice taking flight. Of course, the good looks and press-savviness don't hurt, either.
Now, a new group of this sort surprises because it's aiming for an even younger set of fans. The three members of Il Volo (which translates as "the flight") were born between 1993 and 1995, and straddle several intergenerational, aesthetic lines. Musically, the trio of Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto, and Gianluca Ginoble often favor old standards and sentimental fare. Sartorially, meanwhile, they come across as true '90s babies, with chubby-cheeked boyish good looks and a vaguely rock-influenced fashion sense akin to that of the latest Disney stars. ARIELLE CASTILLO