The 11 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

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Bass fiends of the Valley, turn down that dubstep track for a sec and listen up. Two big electronic dance music events – the rave-like Burial Grounds and the first-ever Bass City Block Party – will take place this weekend. And each will feature high-profile DJs blasting out insane amounts of low-end thunder of the wub-wub variety.

And while the bass-loving crowd is getting its faces melted off, the rest of y'all can check out performances by the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra, Declan McKenna, Yonder Mountain String Band, and George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.

Other highlights of this weekend's concert calendar include a homecoming gig from Injury Reserve, Daniel Hart's project Dark Rooms, and the latest edition of Tempe Art A Gogh-Gogh.

Details about each of these gigs can be found below in our rundown of the best concerts in the Valley this weekend. And for even more music happening around town, check out Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

Dweezil Zappa is keeping his daddy's legacy alive.EXPAND
Dweezil Zappa is keeping his daddy's legacy alive.
Björn Söderqvist/CC BY-SA 2.0/via Flickr

Dweezil Zappa
Friday, March 30
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

The music of Frank Zappa, whose gonzo brand of rock kept it weird when that phrase really meant something, was so far ahead of its time it’s still an acquired taste. No matter the electric free-jazz mania of Hot Rats or dead-on ‘80s satire of “Valley Girl,” his spiritual influence far outpaced his commercial impact. And one of the cats keeping Frank’s laser-brained legacy alive is the one man who knows his dad’s music better than anyone (except perhaps one person), his eldest son, Dweezil.

Despite an ongoing feud with brother Ahmet over who owns the trademark to the copyrighted terms “Zappa” and “Frank Zappa” — prompting the name of Dweezil’s group to revert from Zappa Plays Zappa to his own name — Dweezil is forging ahead with his tours celebrating his dad’s music. The newest is entitled “Choice Cuts!” and features a variety of hits from Frank’s legendary discography. Chris Gray

Daniel Hart (center left) and the other members of Dark Rooms.
Daniel Hart (center left) and the other members of Dark Rooms.

Dark Rooms
Friday, March 30
Valley Bar

Classical violinist Daniel Hart is best known for his film scores, but his triumphant centerpiece for A Ghost Story put his indie-rock band, Dark Rooms, on the map. The sprawling, epic “I Get Overwhelmed” builds in a way that recalls Queen’s “Under Pressure,” but with more symphonic drama.

Hart got his big break when he composed the score for David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints in 2013. Since, he’s teamed up on all of Lowery’s projects — from his big-budget Disney adaptation of Pete’s Dragon to the aforementioned micro-budget A Ghost Story.

Versatility is Hart’s modus operandi. He has provided violin tracks to many influential acts across genres, as St. Vincent, Broken Social Scene, and Swans have recruited him to play.

Hart is touring in celebration of his latest Dark Rooms album, Distraction Sickness. During such live shows, Hart steers away from his film score work. But you might catch him cover one of his contemporaries or inspirations, like Broken Social Scene and Radiohead.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with Dark Rooms, Hart, or his film collaborator Lowery, experiencing the cathartic, existentialism of“I Get Overwhelmed” is worth the ticket price alone. Tanner Stechnij

Local indie band Pro Teens.EXPAND
Local indie band Pro Teens.
Ben Backhaus

Tempe Art A Gogh-Gogh
Friday, March 30
Yucca Tap Room in Tempe

Phoenix’s cultural offerings are showcased every First and Third Friday of the month. And the creative talents of Tempe, the college town to the east, are highlighted on the final Friday of every other month during Tempe Art A Gogh-Gogh. It’s presented by Media Tempe and takes place at the southwest corner of Mill and Southern avenues.

March’s edition will feature performances by minimal art-rockers Pro Teens, post-punk quartet Instructions, and the aggressive indie pop group Acne Superstar. JJ Horner will create live art, while Erika Jaynes, Sierra Joy, and Orlando Allison will have a pop-up group show nearby at The Space. If you’re in the mood to groove, stop inside the Yucca Tap Room lounge for a dance party hosted by DJ KNS Bigandbad. Octoroctogon and Dapper Dan will have cans on hand for some spray art. Jason Keil

The Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra will liven up the TCA this weekend.
The Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra will liven up the TCA this weekend.
Courtesy of Tempe Center for the Arts

Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra
Friday, March 30
Tempe Center for the Arts

One of the tenets of remix culture is taking things that were fantastic to begin with and rearranging, repurposing, and reworking them to create something even better. In the case of the 11-piece Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra, which performs salsa dura and Latin-influenced arrangements of popular indie rock songs, it means taking the already danceable hits of Santigold, LCD Soundsystem, Yeasayer, and Arcade Fire and making 'em intoxicating and torrid numbers filled with horns, strings, Afro-Cuban grooves, and plenty of verve.

Led by bandleader and arranger Gianni Mano, who founded the project in 2009, the orchestra adds style to the songs they cover, like when the group transforms the scuzzy fuzz of Japanther's "Challenge" into an uptempo ditty or singer Solange Prat makes the nonsensical lyrics of Ricked Up's "Black Albino Bones” seem magical.

If nothing else, hearing salsa versions of their favorite songs might induce indie rock fans to actually dance, instead of just staring at their feet or bobbing their heads. Benjamin Leatherman

Sugar Skull Explosion Album Release Show
Saturday, March 31
The Trunk Space

Family bands have a long and rich history in rock music. Whether it’s TV groups like The Partridge Family, sibling songbirds like The Carpenters, battling brothers like Oasis and The Kinks, or the gloriously tuneless living room jams of The Shaggs, the family that shreds together stays together.

Your typical family band is devoted to AM radio sounds or Beatles melodic rock, not punking out and raging together. Phoenix’s Sugar Skull Explosion are the exception.

The horror punk heroes are a father-daughter duo, with J-Skull on bass and organ and E-Skull on drums and glockenspiel. Both sing, but E-Skull’s excited, unrestrained vocals define the band’s sound. She’s in elementary school, but sings with a ferocity of spirit that would make most grown-up hardcore howlers envious.

The band’s roots stretch back to when J-Skull ran the house venue Funny World in Eastlake Park. With living room shows featuring the Slow Poisoner, the Doyenne, Dinosaur Love, and Space-Alien Donald, Funny World was a go-to destination for weird DIY sounds. Founding a band with his kid didn’t come as a surprise. It would be weirder if the two weren’t bashing out raucous garage tunes together.

Sugar Skull Explosion dropped two releases in 2016: the full-length Zombie Party and the covers EP Kathleen & Courtney. On the latter, a feral-sounding E-Skull takes songs by Bikini Kill and Hole and tears them into shreds. And Zombie Party makes great use of J-Skull’s more sardonic delivery. On songs like “Doll Brain,” he’s channeling The B-52’s with gusto. Few groups sound like they’re having half as much fun as the Sugar Skulls do on every track.

The band will follow up that one-two punch with 2018’s The Wolves of Space Awaken. Featuring a Bjork cover, more varied instrumentation, and Sugar Skull Explosion’s trademark noisy elan, it’s a record that’s sure to gnaw on your eardrums. Songs like “Child Model” see the band stretching out into near-metal territory with buzzsaw riffing, thudding drums, and E-Skull’s voice yowling “I pose like a princess.” Indeed, she’s the kind who sits on a throne of skulls and plays games of fetch with a Dire Wolf. Ashley Natfule

MineSweepa brings the bass to Tempe on Saturday.
MineSweepa brings the bass to Tempe on Saturday.
Courtesy of MineSweepa

Bass City Block Party
Saturday, March 31
Blasted Barley Brewing Co.

Brews won't be the only thing being pounded at Mill Avenue drinkery Blasted Barley this weekend. Subwoofers will be quaking quite furiously when the DJs and EDM artists of the inaugural Bass City Block Party drop a variety of dubstep, drum 'n' bass, and other booming electronic dance music genres during the afternoon-long event.

The lineup will include sets from such bass-happy heavy hitters as Lumberjvck, Dack Janiels, Oolacile, MineSweepa, Jewelz, and Dark Mark, all of whom will unleash their tracks on an outdoor stage. Meanwhile, the dirty house stage located inside Blasted Barley will feature performances by locals like Briggs, Glowver, LuJan, OBIS, and Soulece. The party runs from 2 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 and VIP tables with bottle service are $300. Benjamin Leatherman
Injury Reserve
Saturday, March 31
Crescent Ballroom

Stepa J. Groggs, Ritchie With a T, and Parker Corey are coming back to the Valley. The Tempe-formed rap trio Injury Reserve are wrapping up their first North American headlining tour, which kicked off in Toronto back in February and concludes with a hometown show at Crescent Ballroom on Saturday.

Injury Reserve has been touring in support of their latest EP, Drive It Like It's Stolen, which was released last fall and features singles "North Pole," "See You Sweat," and "Boom x3." Like the other stops on the tour, their Crescent Ballroom show will be "a traveling party/art installation," according to the poster shared on the group's Twitter.

It's their first major appearance in Phoenix since Goldrush Music Festival last November (not counting their headlining performance at the Secretfest in January, of course.)

Tony Velour and Lil Qwerty will open. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16 in advance, $19 at the door. Tanner Stechnij

Alt-bluegrass act Yonder Mountain String Band.
Alt-bluegrass act Yonder Mountain String Band.
Jay Blakesberg

Yonder Mountain String Band
Saturday, March 31
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

Yonder Mountain String Band have one of the most respected names in bluegrass, and alt-bluegrass in particular, a genre that includes artists such as Split Lip Rayfield and Trampled by Turtles. The act got its start playing small bars in Boulder, Colorado, and the nearby mountain communities to small but enthusiastic audiences who found something more than bluegrass within this bluegrass band.

Audiences discovered a sound that draws on musical influences as diverse as hard rock, punk, metal, and jazz in shaping a sound, though bluegrass-based, that is progressive in direction and scope and not bound by staunch traditional formulas.

The band is just as likely to draw off Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, or Ozzy Osbourne as they are Bill Monroe or David Grisman. Such genre-blending lures fans of the jam-band scene – people looking for inspiration in improvisation and unexplored musical avenues, as well as highly danceable music. Glenn BurnSilver

Max Pote, better known to the EDM world as Protohype.EXPAND
Max Pote, better known to the EDM world as Protohype.
Courtesy of Circle Talent Agency

Burial Grounds feat. Protohype
Saturday, March 31
The Pressroom

With a gaggle of features on cuts from some of the biggest names in dubstep and trap, Protohype knows how to send a club into a frenzy of slow-churning swag. It's hard to play a set of just trap and expect EDM fans to take it all in, which is why Protohype typically offers up a platter of drum 'n' bass, trap, and dubstep. And this weekend, he'll be serving it up while headlining Burial Grounds on Saturday night at The Pressroom.

Similarly bass-heavy sets will be offered by the rest of the DJs scheduled to perform at the event, including Yakz, Decadon, D3V, Kevin Flum, Sam King, Gladez, GoodTimeMiller, and Subpreme. Doors open at 8 p.m. General admission is $25, VIP tickets are $40 to $500. Britt Chester

Singer-songwriter wunderkind Declan McKenna.EXPAND
Singer-songwriter wunderkind Declan McKenna.
Courtesy of Chuffmedia

Declan McKenna
Saturday, March 31
The Rebel Lounge

When he was just 16, Declan McKenna made a name for himself in 2015 with “Brazil,” a single he self-released on his YouTube channel. It’s a catchy tune that criticizes FIFA for hosting the World Cup in a poverty-ridden country. McKenna then hopped on the festival circuit and won the Glastonbury Festival's Emerging Talent Competition that year, catching the attention of major record labels before eventually inking a record deal with Columbia.

Heady lyrics characterize this teen performer’s song catalog, and over time, hits such as “Brazil," “Paracetamol,” “Isombard," and “The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home” each have racked up millions of views on YouTube.

Last year was just as big for McKenna. He released his first record, What Do You Think About The Car?, and received BBC Music’s Introducing Artist of the Year, an honor previously bestowed on Florence and the Machine and Ed Sheeran. And 2018 is already looking pretty busy for him, too. In January, he released the music video for “Make Me Your Queen” and then embarked on a worldwide tour, which hits The Rebel Lounge this weekend. Alaena Hostetter

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
Sunday, April 1
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

In a recent Rolling Stone interview, master of funk George Clinton described an alien encounter he experienced with former Parliament-Funkadelic band member Bootsy Collins. A light hit the car the duo were driving in, he said. Then? A substance that resembled the liquid metal form of the T-1000 robot in Terminator 2: Judgement Day allegedly rolled up to the vehicle. Pre-emptively answering the obvious question, Clinton said that he and Collins weren't high when the incident occurred.

Since the Phoenix area has had its fair share of UFO sightings, it might be wise to look to the skies when the living legend Clinton visits the Marquee Theatre.

The venue might prove the safest place in The Valley should aliens actually arrive. If the groove doesn’t get 'em, then the dancers, rappers, and contortionist whom the 76-year-old tours with could save us all. Local favorites Jerusafunk, who mix klezmer music with rhythm and blues, will be one of the openers. Tickets are $37 and up. Jason Keil

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