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Ella Mai, Tennis and the best concerts in Phoenix this week

Ella Mai is scheduled to perform on Thursday, May 4, at Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
Ella Mai is scheduled to perform on Thursday, May 4, at Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Adrienne Raquel
The month of May kicks off with a busy week of shows, including gigs by punk rap/trap metal duo City Morgue, R&B artist Ella Mai, and indie-pop duo Tennis. There are other noteworthy shows happening over the next few weeknights, of course, such as cosmic retro-rockers The Nude Party at Valley Bar, country-reggae act Maoli at Crescent Ballroom and indie band Hippo Campus at The Van Buren.

Read on for more details about these gigs or check out Phoenix New Timesconcert calendar for even more live music around the Valley from Monday, May 1, to Thursday, May 4.

City Morgue

Monday, May 1
The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street
Reports of City Morgue's death have been greatly exaggerated. In 2022, both members of the hardcore hip-hop duo, ZillaKami and SosMula, announced they were planning to pull the plug on the act after one final tour. Almost a year later City Morgue is still alive and kicking out the jams in venues across the U.S. in support of their latest album, This World Is Going to Ruin You. The 12-track release is filled with the sort of fierce-sounding punk rap and trap metal that’s defined the duo since they emerged from NYC’s underground hip-hop scene in 2016. As the scribes at our sister publication Miami New Times state, both ZillaKami and SosMula create fearsome hip-hop tunes where they “scrape their vocal cords and rip apart steely metal samples under hi-hats and 808s.” It's music meant for headbanging, which is what you’re likely to see happening in the crowd when City Morgue invades The Van Buren this week. See them live while you still have the chance. With; 8 p.m., tickets are available on the secondary market. Benjamin Leatherman

The Nude Party

Monday, May 1
Valley Bar, 130 North Central Avenue
Despite the eyebrow-raising nature of their name, the members of The Nude Party aren’t planning to perform at the Valley Bar in the buff. Truthfully, the moniker harks back to the band’s origins at North Carolina's Appalachian State University in 2012 where all six members met during their freshman year, bonded over a mutual love of '60s fuzz rock, and began playing psychedelic tunes completely naked at various house parties. They’ve come a long way since those days, and not just because they decided to ditch their all-nude antics. Since graduating, they’ve added another musician to their lineup and further developed their retro-inspired sound over the ensuing decade, particularly after hooking up with Oakley Munson of The Black Lips. In 2018, Munson produced The Nude Party’s self-titled debut on New West Records, which featured a potent melange of garage rock, blues, psych and Americana (as well as a lot of cosmic vibes) across 11 tracks. Their two follow-up albums, 2020’s Midnight Manor and the recently released Rides On, have both gotten great reviews from critics, including being described by American Songwriter as “more mature but still playful.” 7:30 p.m., $20 via Benjamin Leatherman


Tuesday, May 2
The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street
Many indie bands in the 2000s drank deeply from the well of yacht rock, conjuring up the aesthetics and sounds of ’70s adult contemporary music to impart an extra level of sophistication and irony to their songs. Tennis, the musical project of husband-and-wife duo Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley, is part of that wave of vintage vibes revivalism. For Tennis, it’s the warm and woozy psychedelic-meets-sappy experimentation of Todd Rundgren that’s their north star. They tap into Rundgren’s love of synths and dreamy atmospherics to create their own brand of lush pop rock. The central hook to Tennis’ music is Moore’s soft voice. Her vocals waft over Riley’s bed of guitars, bass, and drum sequencers like a dandelion that’s moments away from dissolving into a thousand tiny pieces of melodic dander. As their name implies, Tennis make brunch pop: sleek, luxurious, and well-appointed with the occasional spike in guitar distortion or rubbery basslines to keep things unpredictable. Their last two albums, 2020’s Swimmer and this year’s Pollen, find them working at the peak of their powers, crafting indie-pop songs that go down as smooth as negronis. With Loving; 8 p.m., $32 via Ashley Naftule

Hippo Campus

Thursday, May 4
The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street
When each member of the band shows up to practice with their own new song, it can be tough to perfect them. On the 2018 album Bambi, Hippo Campus’ experiments of layering more electronic sounds onto their indie pop sensibilities and risk-taking songwriting process show on narrative tracks such as “Doubt” and “Honestly.” While making music is their main occupation, Hippo Campus also hopes to help dismantle sexism and toxic masculinity through their self-critical lyrics and by using their platform. They’re currently touring in support of their most recent album, 2022’s LP3. With Charly Bliss; 8 p.m., $35 via Julian Hernandez


Thursday, May 4
Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue
Reggae is arguably one of the more versatile musical alloys around and can easily be fused with any number of other genres, including rock, hip-hop, jazz, soul, funk, and electronica. Hawaiian-born band Maoli, on the other hand, combined the irie island vibes of reggae with a different sound altogether: country music. On recent albums like 2022’s Little More Tequila and this year’s Maoli Music Overload, they effortlessly blend reggae’s bouncy rhythms and percussion with country’s more homespun musical stylings. On the Maoli Music Overload track “Country Reggae,” Maoli singer, songwriter, and guitarist Glenn Awong sings about his love of both Marley and moonshine while “Whiskey Doesn’t Work” mixes steel guitars and keyboards over traditional reggae elements. The band also does a stellar cover of The Bellamy Brothers 1979 hit "If I Said You Have a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me,” a country music standard if ever there was one that’s made even better by Awong’s vocals and guitar work. With Cas Haley, The Maadking, and Dorian Green; 8 p.m., tickets are available on the secondary market. Benjamin Leatherman

Ella Mai

Thursday, May 4
Marquee Theatre, 730 North Mill Avenue, Tempe
English singer/songwriter Ella Mai was named after the legendary Ella Fitzgerald. That’s a spiritual bar that’s hard to live up to, let alone clear, but Mai is up to the task. Ever since she self-released her first EP on SoundCloud in 2015, the R&B artist has carved out an impressive lane for herself in the pop music landscape. With several Grammy nominations and a few hit songs under her belt (including 2017’s infectious slow jam “Boo’d Up”), she’s come a long way from her early days failing auditions for The X-Factor. Instilled with a love of music from an early age by her jazz-loving parents, the London-born Mai quickly caught the attention of label owner and producer Mustard after her first EP made some waves online. This led to a record deal, guest vocal duties on Ty Dolla $ign tracks, and her own breakout hits. Her latest album, 2022's Heart on My Sleeve, finds Mai digging deeper into her ’90s R&B influences: Lauryn Hill, Maria Carey, and Brandy. She pays homage to the great divas while also making a case for herself to join their ranks. With Thuy; 8 p.m., $60 via Ashley Naftule
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Julian Hernandez
Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.
Ashley Naftule

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