There are a dozen gigs worth checking out at Valley music venues this week, ranging from intimate gigs at rock bars to raucous blowouts at enormous concert halls.
It's also a diverse mix that includes living legends (Judas Priest, Front 242), old favorites (Less Than Jake, Smoking Popes) and plenty of new talents (L.A. Witch, Lana Del Rabies).
Details about each of these show can be found in our rundown of the best concerts in the Valley this week. And for even more music events happening around town, check out Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.
Monday, April 23
Indie pop band Alvvays know how to keep it tight, and definitely have a “less is more” approach to music-making and album construction. They dropped their second studio album, Antisocialites, last September. It clocks in at a lean, mean 32 minutes. “In Undertow,” the album’s lead single, was inescapable on indie radio stations in fall and late summer 2017.
That song serves as a small synecdoche for Antisocialites and Alvvays as a whole: a track with sunny, cheery production that reveals a more somber, sadder truth. Lead singer Molly Rankin delivers the hook, “There’s no turning back after what was said.” The opening track speaks of the regretful acceptance at the end of relationship over beachy guitar riffs.
Not all of the sad tracks are disguised; some are downtrodden through and through. The final track, “Forget About Life” opens with the lyrics, “I thought of going in the lake and swallowing / Thought that I had unplugged the phone until it rang.” Interestingly, this song with the darkest lyrics confronts an idea of temporary dissociation as a coping mechanism. In its final minute, Antisocialites completely flips the switch, performing a coming-together song that sounds like a breakup. Tanner Stechnij
Monday, April 23
Yucca Tap Room in Tempe
L.A. Witch conjure a strangely enchanting sound that draws from punk and garage rock, but it’s also infused with tons of reverb-laden atmosphere that imbues the trio’s songs with a ghostly, mysterious, and unsettling sense of dread.
“Baby in Blue Jeans,” from L.A. Witch’s self-titled 2017 debut album, is a seemingly straightforward love song that becomes an almost funereal incantation as singer-guitarist Sade Sanchez coos solemnly over Ellie English’s echoing drums. Bassist Irita Pai propels “Untitled” with a rootsy Gun Club vibe, and “Drive Your Car” is another surging blast of white-line fever. “Kill My Baby Tonight” is slower and more momentous, as Sanchez lulls a sleeping lover with coolly morbid vocals against a rusty framework of Dum Dum Girls/Jesus and Mary Chain-style chords. Falling James
Wednesday, April 25
Two acts come to mind when John Nemeth's music hits the speakers: Slim Harpo and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Nemeth manages to hit that nice sweet spot between Harpo's snaky south Louisiana boogie and the classic Junior Wells big-city Chicago blues, a sweet spot the T-Birds knew so well.
It's no accident, then, that he's garnered nominations for both Male Vocalist and Blues Album of the Year from Blues Blast Music Awards. Nemeth may not be a familiar name to most blues fans, but the man has paid his dues.
He worked with Anson Funderburgh filling in for Sam Myers after Myers was diagnosed with throat cancer, and got called on as a vocalist and harmonica player by Elvin Bishop on last year's Grammy-nominated The Blues Rolls On. It's just this sort of journeyman work that has molded Nemeth into one of the more notable acts on the American blues scene. This one will be hot and sweaty, just like it should be. William Michael Smith
Tuesday, April 24
After nearly a half-century of blasting out heavy metal tunes, some of the lyrics in Judas Priest’s catalog aren’t as accurate as they once were. For instance, in the band’s early ’80s hit “Living After Midnight,” they boasted about “rockin’ to the dawn.” And whether or not anyone in the band is still a “Turbo Lover,” we probably don’t need to examine.
No matter. Even if these days they’re only playing shows that have you home before midnight, this seminal band from England still keeps heads banging and hands waving in the air, fingers dutifully locked in the heavy metal horns sign. Those tracks and other fan favorites like “The Ripper” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” exemplify their thick, aggressive, guitar-driven sound.
Singer Rob Halford won’t have to travel far for this local show, as he’s been a Phoenix resident for many years now. He wasn’t the band’s original vocalist, but he came into the picture in the early ’70s, not long after they formed in 1969. His vocal range, from low and growly to ear-shattering falsetto, has been instrumental in defining the group’s sound. An early pioneer of heavy metal fashion, his studded leathery outfits gave tons of ’80s glam rockers a whole lot of apparel ideas. Amy Young
Tuesday, April 24
Futurebirds haven’t put out a new record in a couple of years, but that’s no reason to miss these guys in 2018. Coming from Georgia, this group does the folk, country, and rock blend that appeals to fans of the softer side of Beck, early My Morning Jacket, and the entire catalog of the Flying Burrito Brothers.
They do have some newer material to play, including songs from their two-part Portico EP series, including the single “Only Here for Your Love.” There is definitely an easy vibe to their songs, but you won’t need to bring a sleeping bag and pajamas to this show. Eric Grubbs
Jukebox the Ghost
Tuesday, April 24
Jukebox the Ghost's breakthrough debut, Let Live and Let Ghosts, led the group on a two-year touring binge, topped by an opening slot for like-minded ivory tickler Ben Folds. Rather than make a tired sophomore record centered around their status as exhausted road warriors, the piano-guitar-drum trio lightened up their oft-dramatic tracks for Everything Under the Sun. The aptly titled collection of optimistic piano jingles plays like secular Sunday-school party jams.
They've put out three more albums since then (including the recently released Off to the Races) and will visit the Valley this week for a gig at Crescent Ballroom. Tom Murphy