This year's Arizona State Fair kicks off this weekend, the latest First Friday is happening, and a variety of arts and cultural events will take place throughout the Valley.
Oh yeah, there are also tons of concerts, dance parties, and music events going down as well.
The aforementioned State Fair will have two big concerts (Cake and Gary Allan) inside the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Elsewhere, the Phoenix Symphony will be celebrating the first Harry Potter flick, and local music venues both big and small will have shows going on.
And if you're into raving, Bloodfest (one of the Valley's most infamous underground dance events) will be taking place.
Details about all of these events can be found in our list of the best concerts in Phoenix this weekend. (And for even more options, check out our online concert calendar.)
Friday, October 6
The Van Buren
Has there ever been a more perfectly on-the-nose name for an album than Celebration Rock? The 2012 sophomore album by Brian King and David Prowse, the power duo behind Japandroids, is rock music that fist-pumps so hard it could punch through a ceiling. On that record, the duo’s blend of punky energy, indie rock songcraft, and Bruce Springsteen-esque romanticism percolated into a transcendent record. It’s the kind of album that begs to be played loud in a speeding car.
Japandroids were far from the first band that realized you could like both The Replacements and The Boss, but it’s hard to think of any other band that does it so unabashedly. They don’t hide their classic rock moves behind layers of clever, self-referential songwriting (like The Hold Steady) or in the twists and turns of heavy-duty concept albums (Titus Andronicus, we’re looking at you).
On the band’s latest effort, Near to the Wild Heart of Life, Japandroids have expanded their sound to encompass longer tracks like the seven-minute “Arc of Bar” and dreamier sonic textures on the jangly, shoegaze-flavored “In a Body Like a Grave.” But they haven’t lost their swooning, life-is-a-highway vibe: On songs like “No Known Drink or Drug,” the pair show they still know how to do open-hearted rock better than damn near anyone else. Ashley Naftule
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. While he didn't seek out the extra attention that came from such horrific personal turmoil, 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 this year's Arizona State Fair’s concert lineup. Kelly Dearmore
Friday, October 6
Shady Park in Tempe
DJ, producer, frontman for the Ancient Moons, label boss, and epic party organizer, Damian Lazarus is one of the most revered and respected figures not just in underground house music but in the U.K. dance scene in general. Like a Dylan Thomas poem come to life, Lazarus has built a career out of not going gently into that good night, burning and raving from sunup to sundown.
As leader of Crosstown Rebels, a gathering of like-minded artists that goes well beyond merely being a label, Lazarus has cultivated a party culture that toes the line between celebratory and spiritual. Through his globe-trotting series of pop-up parties – Rebel Rave, Day Zero, and Get Lost – Lazarus is like a mystical, dance music missionary spreading the gospel of BPM.
This weekend, Lazarus will mingle with the masses during a special show at Shady Park in Tempe, which will feature opening sets by Michelle Sparks and DJ duo Turner & Heit. Angel Melendez
Take Me to the River Live
Friday, October 6
Mesa Arts Center
If you’re a documentary film fan with a Netflix account, you’ve likely seen 2014’s Take Me to the River pop up in your recommendations. The award-winning movie chronicles the creation of a compilation album combining the soulful sounds of decades of Memphis musicians. It also offers the viewer a look at the great rhythm and blues music from legendary labels Stax and Hi Records.
You’ll see singers like Bobby Bland celebrating their music with the Memphis hip-hop artists of today. If you dig what you hear in the movie, the producers of the film want to get you out of your pajamas, off your couch, and into the Piper Repertory Theater at the Mesa Arts Center to see a live performance from artists featured in the documentary.
Trailblazing musicians William Bell, who shaped the Stax sound, Charlie Musselwhite, and Grammy-winner Bobby Rush will be accompanied by the Hi Rhythm Session onstage. Joining them will be rappers Frayser Boy and Al Kapone, who has collaborated with everyone from Lil Jon to the North Mississippi Allstars. Jason Keil
Tank and the Bangas
Friday, October 6
Tank and the Bangas were first Liberated Soul Collective and then BlackStar Bangas before settling on their current name. With vocalist Tarriona “Tank” Bell at the fore, the band merges elements of funk, soul, and hip-hop, telling stories with passion and a ferocity that contains both power and wit.
The Bangas are many in number and diverse in style. The current lineup includes Joshua Johnson (drums, musical director), Norman Spence (bass, synth), Jonathan Johnson (bass). Merell Burkett (keys), Joe Johnson (keys), Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph and Kayla Bug Gage (backing vocals), Albert Allenbeck (alto sax), and Etienne Stoffel (tenor sax).
The drummer has been playing since age 3, honing his skills at church and in school bands. Allenback was studying jazz in college when he saw bassist Spence’s flyer looking for musicians. He saw the band play one show at the legendary New Orleans club, Tipitinas, and asked to join the mix. Spence was another longtime player with roots in church performance.
Together, this small army of skillful musicians and background singers create a fusion of soulful sounds that weave through Bell’s vocals, which are all over the map. Amy Young
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in Concert
Friday, October 6, through Sunday, October 8
Calling all wizards, witches, squibs, and muggles: The Phoenix Symphony will perform the music of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone live during a screening of the film, with two evening shows and two matinees scheduled from October 6 through 8 at Symphony Hall.
For those not up to speed with Hogwarts: A History (Hermione would be so disappointed!), this is the first movie in the beloved series, adapted from J.K. Rowling’s books and scored by the legendary composer John Williams. These iconic, whimsical sounds will surround you as you relive Harry, Hermione, and Ron’s first days at Hogwarts.
The Phoenix run of the Harry Potter Film Concert Series is one of many happening all over the world. So far, only the first three films have scheduled dates, but the last five are in the works for future performances. No matter whether you’re a Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin, gather your galleons — er, dollars for the cinematic experience. Ashley Harris
Saturday, October 7
Gammage Auditorium in Tempe
In 2015, Mexican singer-songwriter Natalia Lafourcade's sixth album, Hasta la Raiz, won five Latin Grammys. Unlike some winners who let their trophies collect dust in a dark corner, Lafourcade proudly displays them.
“They are at home in the studio,” she says. “I put them on top of my piano. I gave one to my mother, and I gave one to my father. I wanted to have them in a place where I could see them and remember all the people that were with me when I was working on Hasta la Raiz. It’s something that you did, and it talks about the work and all the energy you put into a project, but it isn’t just you.”
According to Lafourcade, the placement of the little golden gramophones celebrates family, friends, co-writers, and fellow musicians. This theme of collaboration is one she expands upon in her latest record, Musas.
The result is an enchanting album that mixes some very old-school Latin American sounds with Lafourcade’s modern pop sensibilities. The combination of original material seamlessly sitting alongside covers of classic Latin American tunes brings together a collection of odes so pretty it hurts. Standouts such as “Rocío de Todos los Campos,” “Soledad y el Mar,” and “Tú Si Sabes Quererme” are gorgeous compositions that make for a nostalgic, wistful experience. Angel Melendez