We've officially reached the zenith of the spring festival season in Arizona. For proof, look no further than this weekend's busy concert calendar.
No less than five music festivals will be happening in and around the Valley over the next few days, each catering to specific genres and audiences. Electronic dance music fans, for instance, will be heading to The Park at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler for Phoenix Lights. And cowboys and cowgirls will vamoose down to Florence for this year's Country Thunder.
Meanwhile, there's also the two-day Unity Spring Fest at Yucca Tap Room in Tempe, the Lakeside Music Festival in Goodyear, and the International Jazz Day Festival at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
Other concerts taking place this weekend include the latest Vanishing Show, as well as gigs by Lee Rocker, Dick Dale, EDM sister act Nervo, and singer-songwriter Moses Sumney.
Details about many of the aforementioned music events can be found below in our rundown of the best concerts in Phoenix this weekend. And for even more live music happening around town, hit up Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.
Friday, April 6
Loma’s “Relay Runner” appears on the March 2018 Workout Playlist of the fitness blog Fit Bottomed Girls. The song is taut and foreboding, but has the constant pulsing rhythms that make it the perfect track to set the pace for tackling some miles on cardio day.
“ … I wanted to express unbridled joy — for being alive, for moving my body, for being able to build myself a human dog agility course from supplies I bought at the Home Depot,” singer Emily Cross says in press materials.
Featuring Cross and her erstwhile spouse, Dan Duszynski, along with Jonathan Meiburg of the eclectic indie rock band Shearwater, the single appears on the trio’s self-titled debut. During the recording of the album, Cross and Duszynski decided to dissolve their marriage but press on with the project. With deeply personal and tender songs like “I Don’t Want Children,” the listener becomes a fly on the wall, privy to the end of a beautiful love story — and the freedom one can feel when allowed to move on. Jason Keil
Friday, April 6
Dick Dale is a rock 'n' roll colossus. Inarguably one of the most significant and influential electric guitarists of the 20th century, Dale is a force whose broad-shouldered shadow falls across rock and roll as far and wide as Charlie Christian’s silhouette dominates jazz. The 80-year-old lefty innovator’s upside-down guitar had more presence and personality than anyone had ever managed to unleash, and his recordings of “Let’s Go Trippin’” and “Miserlou” provided a radical redefinition of the instrument profound in its reach and implications.
Dale’s big-toned, destructo ax arrived at an evolutionary point when rock and roll guitar was still wedded to a watered-down blend of wannabe primitive blues and honky-tonk soloing (e.g. Link Wray, Duane Eddy). His style completely exploded the genre’s prevailing standards and practices. It was electric guitar run amok, a hammering, savage amalgam of personal atavism (his manifest desire to aurally re-create the physical sensation of surfing), his fixation on the percussive rapture of Gene Krupa’s drumming, and the impact of an exotic mutt musical background bestowed by his Lebanese father and Polish mother.
All of these combined like nitroglycerin, and while the British Invasion quickly drove Dale into commercial stalemate, nothing could diminish his influence. He’s rocketed through American pop culture in a wildly colorful orbit. Jonny Whiteside
Country Thunder 2018
Friday, April 6, to Sunday, April 8
Canyon Moon Ranch in Florence
Pack up your boots and blue jeans, y'all. It's time to hit the dusty trail and head down to Florence for the biggest country music event of the spring. The annual Country Thunder music festival will feature four days filled with pickin' and grinnin' by dozens of country music superstars — and plenty of partying.
More than 100,000 people are expected to flock to Canyon Moon Ranch for the event, which runs from Thursday, April 5, through Sunday, April 8. This year's lineup includes mainstage sets by Jason Aldean, Tracy Lawrence, Big and Rich, Cody Johnson, Toby Keith, Luke Bryan, Lauren Alaina, Lindsay Ell, and Brett Young. Homegrown country artists like Harry Luge, Laura Walsh, and Sasha McVeigh will also get a chance to shine as well, thanks to the locally focused side stage.
In addition to all the music, Country Thunder will also include plenty of partying taking place in its campground area (which is almost a festival in and of itself) and in the Electric Thunder tent, which will offer everything from swing-dancing battles to DJs spinning up EDM and country remixes. (For more info on this year's festival, check out our extensive guide.) Benjamin Leatherman
When in AZ: Vol. 2 Compilation Launch Party
Saturday, April 7
Back in 2009, Nick Kizer launched When in AZ. The music compilation assembled tracks from 55 Arizona-based bands who had to follow just one directive: Cover a song by another act from the Grand Canyon State. This year, Kizer’s back, and his project is bigger than ever.
When in AZ: Vol. 2 features covers from 100 locals. And the sprawling compilation will have a release party at Valley Bar on April 7. The lineup features Treasure Mammal, Lana Del Rabies, and Amethyst Seer. Admission to the 21-and-over event is free with a donation to the nonprofit Ryan House. You can name your price at the door, which opens at 6:30 p.m. More details can be found here. Becky Bartkowski
Saturday, April 7
Chandler Center for the Arts
Though best known as the bassist for the Stray Cats – whose pompadours and time-warp MTV videos often overshadowed their real musical talent and ability – Lee Rocker has continued to be a roots-rock standard-bearer after going solo. He's released more than a dozen albums since the mid-'90s, the most recent being 2012's Night Train to Memphis.
Sprinkled with doses of mellower country, Rocker's style has produced high-energy tunes such as "Race Track Blues" and "Rockin' Harder," which work a bit better than forays into balladry and Rev. Horton Heat-style psychobilly ("The Girl from Hell"). His vocals – while not as versatile as top Cat Brian Setzer – work within the context of the material, sounding almost Rodney Crowell-like on some points. Rocker's versatility and his stand-up (and often stood-on) slap bass won't be pigeonholed into one particular genre.
And when Rocker comes to the Chandler Center for the Arts this weekend for a Saturday night show, expect to hear both original songs and a variety of Stray Cats covers, including “Runaway Boys,” “Built For Speed,” “Fishnet Stockings,” and (or course) “Rock This Town.” Bob Ruggiero
Vanishing Show IV
Saturday, April 7
Maple-Ash-Farmer-Wilson Neighborhood in Tempe
When you head out to see a night of bands, you’re hoping for a shindig that will keep you moving. Right? That’s the exact premise of Vanishing Show IV. It’s a mobile party that guarantees to set you in motion — and not just from the music. DJ and community event planner A Claire Slattery hosts the annual event via her umbrella organization, Butthurt Tempe. This year’s night of “bands, bikes, and beers” will maintain the same formula as the previous three.
Here’s how it works: On April 7, the day of the event, the location of the first show will be announced. Things will start around 7 p.m., and everything will take place around the greater Maple-Ash-Farmer-Wilson neighborhood in Tempe.
“When that first band is nearing the end of their set,” Slattery says, “we’ll release the information about the next location, and word will spread through the crowd and people can then share it through social media, texts … Then they can walk, bike — or whatever transportation they prefer — to the next spot.”
Keeping with the frenetic nature of the event, each of the four bands’ sets is relatively short, between 20 to 30 minutes. Although these four shows are not super lengthy, there’s still plenty of time for you to get a good dose of their music, down a few of whatever you’re drinking, and mix it up with fellow partygoers. (Visit the show's Facebook page that day to find out the location of the first event.) Amy Young
Saturday, April 7
Musical Instrument Museum
Moses Sumney has racked up a lot of sweet support gigs over the years. He's toured with Sufjan Stevens, opened for Erykah Badu and St. Vincent, and shared stages with Thundercat. If you want to check out the Baroque pop/indie folksinger-songwriter as headliner, though, you can do so later in early April during his solo show at the MIM.
Sumney’s tender vocals weave through layers of acoustic guitar and atmospheric elements to create a melancholy and slightly psychedelic feel that has won over fans across genres, such as DJ/producer Damian Lazarus, who brought in the singer for his album Damian Lazarus and the Ancient Moons. More famously, the folks at Moogfest tapped Sumney for a cover-song EP, Translational Drifts. His rendition of Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” is nothing short of gorgeous.
After putting out a few EPs of his own, including 2014's Mid-City Island and 2016's Lamentations, Sumney released his debut full-length, Aromanticism, last year to widespread acclaim. Critics everywhere praised the 11-song effort and it appeared on numerous "Best of 2017" lists, including those published by Pitchfork, NPR, and the New York Times. Liz Ohanesian
Phoenix Fetish Formal 2018
Saturday, April 7
Given its name, one might expect that the annual Fetish Formal is a black-tie only affair that’s strictly limited to gowns and tuxes only. That ain’t the case, however, as the dress code at the kink-friendly soiree taking place on Saturday, April 7, at the Monarch Theatre will be quite permissive, much like the atmosphere. Attendees are encouraged to “dress to express” and sexy and stylish outfits are encouraged, particularly those featuring leather and lace.
In addition to flocks of freaky folks dressed to the nines, the event will also feature performances by burlesque artists, aerialists, and sideshow acts. Local DJs like Plastic Disease, Xam Renn of 1984!, Bella Lune, and Nekrotek's Tristan/Iseult will spin up darker dance sounds throughout the evening and industrial band SØLVE will perform. The fetish fun starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 at the door. Benjamin Leatherman
Phoenix Lights 2018
Saturday, April 7, and Sunday, April 8
The Park at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler
The Phoenix Lights are returning for another close encounter with the Valley. No, not that unexplained UFO formation that buzzed our city two decades ago and became a part of local lore. We’re talking about the extraterrestrial-themed electronic dance music festival that takes place each spring and will so again in early April. And this time, it will be touching down in a new location.
The two-day EDM extravaganza will take place at The Park at Wild Horse Pass, a brand new outdoor venue that spans 29 acres and will be located next to Rawhide Event Center, which has played host to numerous Relentless Beats events and outdoor concerts over the last few years.
As for the festival's lineup, it will include a slew of EDM superstars, including such names as Mad Decent/Major Lazer co-founder Diplo, big room house producer Martin Garrix, British-born house music guru Chris Lake, melodic dubstep artist Seven Lions, and electronica/trip hop producer Gramatik. Rappers and Travis Scott and Gucci Mane are also scheduled to perform. Benjamin Leatherman
Unity Spring Fest
Saturday, April 7, and Sunday, April 8
Yucca Tap Room in Tempe
When talking about Tempe as an arts and culture hub, you’ll often find yourself speaking in past tense. Mill Avenue’s long been a stretch dedicated to clubs and restaurants instead of venues where musicians can pour their hearts out.
But the collective Unity Through Community wants to prove that artistic expression isn’t dormant in the college town. To jump-start their mission of providing the tools creatives need to connect, they’ve been organizing various two-day Unity festivals to showcase of Tempe talent. The first event took place last October and featured a large lineup of local bands and hundreds of people in attendance.
The latest Unity fest happens this weekend at the Yucca Tap Room and will offer two days of performances and art both inside the venue and out in it's parking lot.
Day one on Saturday starts at 4 p.m. will feature sets by Wyves, Scorpion vs. Tarantula, The Darts, The Two Tens, Grave Danger, Banana Gun, Fred Green, Ali A and the Agency, Ghetto Cowgirl, and others. Sunday's lineup of bands begin at 1 p.m. and will include Dr. Delicious, Sara Robinson Band, The Woodworks, Japhy's Descent, Clint Stevens, Sunset Voodoo, Darwathustra, Page the Village Idiot, and others. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Jason Keil
Sunday, April 8
Maya Day & Nightclub in Scottsdale
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We’re willing to be there’s little, if any, sibling rivalry going on between sisters Miriam and Olivia Nervo. Why’s that? Probably because the Australian-born twin sisters rose to stardom in the music world together and have experienced mutual success in whatever they’ve done, whether its singing, songwriting, producing, or DJing.
It all started when they were 16, when both Liv and Mir inked a songwriting deal with Sony before going on to pen hit songs for themselves and such artists as Kesha, Ashley Tisdale, and UK pop star Rachel Stevens. In 2009, the pair helped the Grammy-winning David Guetta/Kelly Rowland hit "When Love Takes Over" before diving into the dance music world as producers.
Since then, the Nervo sisters have collaborated with Afrojack, Steve Aoki, R3hab, and others, as well as dropped multiple hit tracks themselves, including 2013’s blockbuster smash “Hold On.” They also DJ, too, and have done so at clubs and festivals around the world. And by the way, they haven’t even hit their 30s yet. You can catch this sister act in action at Maya Day & Nightclub on Sunday, April 8, when Nervo headlines the latest Soundwave Pool Party at the Scottsdale swim spot. Benjamin Leatherman
Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version.