Protomartyr makes bleak and brilliant music for the masses.
Protomartyr makes bleak and brilliant music for the masses.
Daniel Topete

The 12 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Week

This week's concert calendar offers shows by both old-school and new-school artists. That is to say, it’s a mix of O.G. music legends, indie and alt-rock icons, and up-and-coming bands and musicians who are making waves and turning heads.

In the former category, you’ve got renowned ska progenitors The Skatalites, infamously offensive punkers Dayglo Abortions, alternative kings Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore.

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s noise rock/post-punk band Protomartyr, synthy emo balladeer Cuco, and local multidimensional jazz act House of Stairs.

Previews for each these artists and details about their upcoming gigs can be found in the following list of the best concerts in Phoenix this week. (For even more shows happening around town, hit up our online live music listings.)

The Black Angels: conjurers of trippy, psychedelic montages of sound.EXPAND
The Black Angels: conjurers of trippy, psychedelic montages of sound.
Sandy Carson

The Black Angels
Monday, October 16
Crescent Ballroom

Austin, Texas, is a musical hotbed. Though many bands coming out of the hill country dig locally for a blues, country, or roots-rock sound (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, Los Lonely Boys), The Black Angels time-trip east for inspiration, namely late 1960s New York City and The Velvet Underground.

Hell, the band’s name is even a Velvets song derivative, while the band’s latest album title, Death Song, completes VU’s original song title. Dark, moody, brooding, loud, fuzzy, flighty, haunting, and gritty, The Black Angels conjure up a trippy, psychedelic montage of sound and nuance that stabs and claws at the senses, all the while soaking into one’s pores like acid.

Deftly slipping latent pop hooks into the swirling undercurrent awash with floating, breathy, and sometimes political lyrics (check out the greed-chasing “Currency”), the ride gets a little heady. In these dark days, who wouldn’t benefit from a little head trip? Glenn Burnsilver

Thurston MooreEXPAND
Thurston Moore
Vera Marmelo

The Thurston Moore Group
Monday, October 16
Valley Bar

The Thurston Moore Group has hit the road in support of Moore’s fifth solo release, Rock n Roll Consciousness, which dropped in April. The record only contains five songs but runs nearly an hour, with a couple of tracks, “Turn On” and “Exalted,” passing the 10-minute mark. Its overall sound is classic Moore: noisy, intricate, and a little spacey. It’s permeated by a dreamy sonic haze.

A member of New York’s seminal noise rock band Sonic Youth, Moore has remained busy since that band’s demise in 2011, both with solo records, collaborations, and his project Chelsea Light Moving, inspired by the legendary writer William S. Burroughs, who penned provocative fiction works Junkie and Naked Lunch.

In addition to Moore on guitar and vocal duties, The Thurston Moore Group is currently a mix of outstanding musicians who all have lengthy rosters of achievements. There’s Steve Shelley, who drummed with Moore in Sonic Youth and is the current recording drummer for indie band Sun Kil Moon. Deb Googe from My Bloody Valentine and Primal Scream is on bass, and James Sedwards from bands Nought and Chrome Hoof plays guitar. Amy Young

The current lineup of famed ska act The Skatalites.EXPAND
The current lineup of famed ska act The Skatalites.
Courtesy of the band

The Skatalites
Tuesday, October 17
Last Exit Live

If anything is going to take you back to your high-school ska phase, it's going to be this show at Last Exit Live starring famed Jamaica outfit The Skatalites.

Originally founded back in 1964, the band was instrumental in forming the rude-boy sound by collaborating with iconic artists including Prince Buster. Unlike many of their contemporaries from ska’s first and second waves, The Skatalites are still around to this day, having survived and endured through multiple breakups and hiatuses. Much of the band's original lineup – they feature have a four-piece brass section – still rocks steady on signature tracks and hits as such as "Guns of Navarone" and "Garden of Love."

Local ska act 2Tone Lizard Kings will open the evening, and the duo of DJ Beat Betty and DJ FullStop (a.k.a. the Phoenix City Sound System) will spin dancehall, rocksteady, and skank-worthy music between sets. Chandler Levack

House of Stairs
Tuesday, October 17
The Lost Leaf

Phoenix’s jazzy House of Stairs cite Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher — known for a mathematical style of design — as an influence. But they aren’t trying to emulate Escher’s visual aesthetic through asymmetrical haircuts or black-and-white outfits. Instead, they use his calculated style as an inspiration for their songs (and their name).

That approach helps House of Stairs deliver a unique twist on soulful jazz. By playing with the vocals and strategically layering them, they inject their music with a futuristic vibe. It’s hard not to be immediately sold when you hear Holly Pyle’s powerful voice. It has so much age and wisdom in it, you might guess she was bred in a jazz lab.

But beyond the frontwoman is a band that thoughtfully creates a sonic landscape full of unexpected edges and corners that flow so smoothly they feel soft and winding.

This show at The Lost Leaf is a chance to enjoy them in an intimate setting, soaking up the sounds and enjoying the way they play with space, time, and rhythms. Amy Young

Omar Banos, who goes by the alias Cuco.
Omar Banos, who goes by the alias Cuco.
Paul Luna

Tuesday, October 17
Crescent Ballroom

Aww, Cuco! This shy teenage romantic and former bedroom musician (born Omar Banos) only started performing (backyard shows!) last fall, but his dreamy vaporwave beats and sensitive, bilingual lyrics about love and longing already have his growing legion of young Latina fans in a tizzy.

The 19-year-old L.A. native reps his Chicano roots hard by pulling from two great traditions of tenderness – Mexican balladas and American emo – creating a nuevo sonido all his own.

Despite his relatively brief career, he’s already headlined some festivals and event in his hometown (including Viva! Pomona) and nabbed hundreds of thousands of views with his songs on YouTube. He’s also packing ‘em in at venues, both in his hometown (he sold out famed L.A. spot The Smell earlier) and in other cities. In fact, Cuco’s show this week in the Valley, originally scheduled for Valley Bar, got moved to much bigger digs at the Crescent Ballroom. Sarah Bennett

French-born metal band Gojira.EXPAND
French-born metal band Gojira.
Travis Shinn

Tuesday, October 17
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

France is hardly synonymous with heavy metal, but Gojira’s heroic mastery of the genre’s elusive, unholy trilogy — simultaneous power, groove, and (relative) melody — really could make them a Gallic Metallica for whom the Wiltern will one day be an “intimate performance.”

However menacing and militaristic the riffs and rhythms get on their sixth studio album, Magma, released in June, the quartet doesn’t shy away from atmospheric, almost incanted vocals, exotic instrumental excursions, and washes of (seriously) Cure-y guitars. Torche and Code Orange open. Paul Rogers

Protomartyr makes bleak and brilliant music for the masses.EXPAND
Protomartyr makes bleak and brilliant music for the masses.
Daniel Topete

Tuesday, October 17
The Rebel Lounge

“Call me Heraclitus The Obscure,” Joe Casey sings on “A Private Understanding,” the opening track on Protomartyr’s bleak and brilliant 2017 album Relatives in Descent. “Constantly weeping because the river doesn’t move,” Casey continues, twisting the famous Heraclitus saying that “no man ever steps in the same river twice.”

There’s another saying that aptly sums up the sound and fury generated by Casey and his bandmates in Protomartyr. Talking about the nature of the world, Heraclitus said “it always was and will be: an ever-living fire, with measures of it kindling, and measures going out.” It’s a viewpoint he shares with the Detroit quartet, whose guitars hiss and crackle like fire. In the world of Protomartyr, people are just kindling waiting to be burned up by the brutal indifference of modern civilization.

Casey’s lyrics touch again and again on the idea of being constrained and out of options. Trapped by your country, trapped by gentrification making every neighborhood exactly the same, trapped by family and time and mortality. There are moments of transcendence, like when Casey sings of Elvis spotting the face of Joseph Stalin materializing over Flagstaff and having it turn into the face of Jesus. But transcendence is short-lived. “He passed away on the bathroom floor,” Casey sings about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. At the end of the day, ecstatic visions can’t save you.

The darkness of Casey’s themes as a singer are leavened by his biggest saving grace as a songwriter: his sense of humor. No matter how dark the songs get, there’s a sense of wit and self-awareness. Whether it’s imagining Satan as a gawky, awkward teenager in “The Devil in His Youth” or imagining his kids as being “vaped in the brain” on “My Children,” Casey casts his doom-ridden lyrics with enough goofiness to make them go down easily. “I don’t want to hear those vile trumpets anymore,” Casey insists on “A Private Understanding.” Perhaps that’s why Protomartyr rage and vent and worry as hard as they do. They’re trying to kick up enough noise to drown out the sound of the world going up in flames. Ashley Naftule

Dayglo Abortions
Tuesday, October 17
Pub Rock Live in Scottsdale

GG Allin gets most of the cred for being the most offensive punk-rocker of all time. But the scum-rock crown could probably now be claimed, at least lyrically, by British Columbia hardcore crossover act Dayglo Abortions.

In trouble with the law for the lyrical content of their songs as well as their stage antics, these guys had the gloriously bad taste to call an album Feed Us a Fetus, a conceptual pun in itself, with Ronald and Nancy Reagan being served a baked fetus on the cover. Who else would call a song "Hide the Hamster"? Or have the stones to title an album Deux Chiens Fourrent? (Google it.)

If you go to their upcoming Valley show – which also includes sets by Starving Wolves, Dephinger, and Enemy – that's the kind of band you're in for. You've been warned. Tom Murphy

Alt-rock favorites Red Hot Chili Peppers.EXPAND
Alt-rock favorites Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Steve Keros

Red Hot Chili Peppers
Wednesday, October 18
Gila River Arena in Glendale

The Red Hot Chili Peppers occupy a unique place in the history of alternative rock – a fact that too many people ignore, easily dismissing them as a party-rock band. But there’s so much more going on here.

Influenced early on by no-wave funksters The Contortions, punk, and improvisational jazz, the Chili Peppers broke into the mainstream with their 1991 breakthrough album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, injecting a celebratory energy in alternative rock that contrasted with the anger and melancholy that underlined much of the best of early-’90s music.

Still, they didn’t deny the complexity of life and its dark side; after all, these are the same guys who wrote both the hedonistic anthem “Good Time Boys” and the uncommonly thoughtful and nuanced “The Power of Equality.” Tom Murphy

Lucia Cifarelli (left) and Sascha Konietzko of KMFDM.EXPAND
Lucia Cifarelli (left) and Sascha Konietzko of KMFDM.
Franz Schepers

Wednesday, October 18
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

KMFDM (originally Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid) started as a performance-art one-off in 1984 that evolved into an ongoing endeavor. Founding member Sascha Konietzko was joined by drummer and vocalist En Esch, who formed the core of the band until its temporary split in 1999.

With various collaborators, KMFDM developed their signature melding of electronic industrial music and hard rock, which has often been imitated but seldom equaled. The peak of the band's commercial popularity came following the release of Nihil in 1995, which spawned the soundtrack-friendly hit single "Juke Joint Jezebel."

What has kept the group interesting is their visceral live shows and their songs, which feature tongue-in-cheek, genuinely clever lyrics that take aim at sociopolitical ills in the world – that and KMFDM's willingness to poke fun at itself. Tom Murphy

The 12 Best Concerts in Phoenix This WeekEXPAND
Courtesy of Stoney Creek Records

Randy Houser
Thursday, October 19
Arizona State Fair

The music video for Randy Houser’s 2015 song “We Went” follows a pair of Bonnie and Clyde-like lovers as they steal from the less deserving and hand out cash to a church and later a struggling single mother. The film and the song combine the two worlds that Houser occupies, the sometimes-sensitive, always manly arena-rock country and the Jamey Johnson, Merle Haggard-led outlaw country.

Having written for the likes of Trace Adkins, Houser didn’t see his own work top the charts until 2013, when he was in his mid-30s, with “How Country Feels.” This late-blooming honky-tonk crooner has enjoyed a series of number-ones, continuing his ascent with last year’s Fired Up, which produced such hit singles as "Song Number 7," "Chasing Down a Good Time," and the aforementioned “We Went.”

Houser will be at the Arizona State Fair this week for a show at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. General admission is free for fairgoers and reserved seating is $40-$60. Angel Melendez

Thursday, October 19
Valley Bar

XIXA came to exist almost by accident. The Tucson sextet – formerly known as Chicha Dust – formed and began playing the Peruvian style of psychedelic cumbia as a way to get more gigs without overbooking the solo projects of its two co-founders, Brian Lopez and Gabriel Sullivan. With almost zero self-promotion, Chicha Dust found themselves in far more demand than expected.??

Having both played as sidemen in Giant Sand, Lopez and Sullivan put their own solo projects on the backburner as Chicha Dust began growing more popular in Tucson and Phoenix, their blend of Latin rhythms and psychedelic guitar rock finding an instant connection with audiences no matter if the lyrics were in Spanish or English.??

Along the way, Lopez and Sullivan picked up the bandmates who fill out the XIXA roster: Jason Urman on keyboards, Geoffrey Hidalgo on bass, Efren Cruz Chavez on timbales and percussion, and Winston Watson on drums. Much of the sound of XIXA exists in the band’s contrasts. As lead vocalists, Lopez has drawn comparisons to Jeff Buckley, while Sullivan’s rough voice lands more on the Tom Waits end of the spectrum. Similarly, Cruz came to the band only knowing Latin music, while Watson is a well-known rock drummer, having toured with Alice Cooper and Bob Dylan.

??Finding more of a unique identity led the band to shed the Chicha Dust name, selecting XIXA for its striking visual geometry, without a particular regard for pronunciation (though they’ve since settled on "seeksa"). The band has dropped the traditional songs they adopted at the start, writing and performing original songs. XIXA’s choice of cover songs has also changed, with a wicked version of the Meat Puppets' "Plateau" on the band’s Shift and Shadow EP released in late 2015. Eric Swedlund

Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version.

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