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The 30 Best Concerts in Phoenix in May 2019

Santigold is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, May 14, at The Van Buren.
Santigold is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, May 14, at The Van Buren. Craig Wetherby
Welcome to May, which is more or less the official beginning of summer in the Valley. For proof, look no further than this month’s concert calendar and all of the usual summertime staples — including a variety of nostalgia package tours and performances by many big names — that will be happening.

Legendary bands and musicians like Willie Nelson, Violent Femmes, The Dead Milkmen, Yngwie Malmsteen, Slayer, and the rock gods of Hollywood Vampires will also swing through town.

There will also be the last gasps of the spring music festival season taking place, including the highly anticipated FORM Arcosanti, before everything dies down until the fall.

Other highlights of May’s concert offerings include folks like Santigold, Lord Huron, Steve Aoki, Odd Squad Family, Juice WRLD, Colbie Caillat, and Thank You Scientist.


Details about each of these shows can be found below. And for even more live music happening around the Valley this month, hit up Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

click to enlarge Guitar god Yngwie Malmsteen. - COURTESY OF YNGWIE MALMSTEEN
Guitar god Yngwie Malmsteen.
Courtesy of Yngwie Malmsteen

Yngwie Malmsteen

Wednesday, May 1
Marquee Theatre in Tempe


Eddie Van Halen may have put the art of shredding on the map with 1978’s “Eruption,” but Yngwie Malmsteen spent the entire 1980s taking the blueprint, adding influences from 18th- and 19th-century classical music, and blowing the concept up into a grandiose display of guitar histrionics. The Swedish musician initially broke through as a teenage prodigy with early-’80s L.A. metal band Alcatrazz. Malmsteen’s guitar-hero status emerged with his Rising Force project in the years that followed. His neoclassical shred-guitar compositions took center stage and influenced a wave of musicians welding metallic loudness to over-the-top technicality, which continues to this day with modern acts such as L.A.’s Exmortus. Malmsteen has at times become shorthand in metal circles for guitar excess, but when it’s as shamelessly bombastic as this, it’s all good. Jason Roche

click to enlarge Slayer's bringing the relentless metal. - ANDREW STUART
Slayer's bringing the relentless metal.
Andrew Stuart

Slayer

Thursday, May 2
Ak-Chin Pavilion


Slayer are at a point in their career where it's not weird for parents to bring their kids to shows. The generation who loved Reign in Blood and Seasons in the Abyss as teenagers still love what this band does, and they're happy to share it with younger generations. That doesn't mean Slayer have softened their edge. The band are down to original members Kerry King and Tom Araya, along with longtime members Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt, but the songs remain crushing and blistering. Tunes from their latest album, Repentless, fit right in with the sound they have cultivated since the '80s, so there won't be any curveballs.

Slayer’s currently on their farewell world tour, which comes to the Valley on Thursday night at Ak-Chin Pavilion. Supporting Slayer on this final journey across the world are fellow metal fiends Lamb of God, Amon Amarth, and Cannibal Corpse. The evening starts at 6 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 to $98.75. Eric Grubbs

click to enlarge Latin funk ensemble Grupo Fantasma. - SARAH BORK HAMILTON
Latin funk ensemble Grupo Fantasma.
Sarah Bork Hamilton

Grupo Fantasma

Thursday, May 2
Last Exit Live


With a large array of influences from funk, soul, cumbia, and many other Latin genres, Grupo Fantasma’s sound is hard to pin down. The Austin, Texas, nine-piece band have been performing their blend of Latin funk since 2000, gathering praise for their experimentation. With a horn section blaring funky melodies over timbales and congas and a bassist that delivers soul into the mix, Grupo Fantasma’s live performances showcase what can be done when a big band sets up on stage. Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra will join them. Julian Hernandez

click to enlarge Indie pop band Beach Fossils. - REBEKAH CAMPBELL
Indie pop band Beach Fossils.
Rebekah Campbell

Beach Fossils

Friday, May 3
Crescent Ballroom


It’s been a couple of years since the Brooklyn indie pop band Beach Fossils released their album Somersault, but that hasn’t kept them off the road. With three tours under their belt in 2018, including a three-week tour across Asia, the band looks set to continue their residency on the road with a stop at Crescent Ballroom. Electronic experimenter George Clanton, also known for his vaporwave project ESPRIT, will open for the band. Fans are likely to love his mood-setting soundscapes, full of samples and melodies that ooze with nostalgia for the early days of the internet. Julian Hernandez

Juice WRLD

Saturday, May 4
Mesa Amphitheatre


Los Angeles rapper Jarad Higgins, better known as Juice WRLD, is starting 2019 on a high. His sophomore studio album, Death Race for Love, debuted at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart in early March and continues to hover near the top. Dropping at a time when sad rap seems to have reached mainstream acceptance, Death Race for Love further blurs the lines between emo, trap, and the rest of hip-hop. Joining him at Mesa Amphitheatre on Saturday for his album tour are fellow hype rappers Ski Mask the Slump God and Blueface. Julian Hernandez

click to enlarge Thank You Scientist have been cooking up something unusual in their lab. - COURTESY OF APA AGENCY
Thank You Scientist have been cooking up something unusual in their lab.
Courtesy of APA Agency

Thank You Scientist

Sunday, May 5
The Rebel Lounge


Thank You Scientists are one of the more unique acts in rock, as they consist of seven musicians playing instruments ranging from a shamisen and sitar to a theremin. Classifying the act into one particular genre wouldn't do them justice. Ostensibly, they’re considered a mix of progressive rock, post-hardcore, and jazz fusion, but listening to their music, you'd probably agree that they sort of transcend those labels.

During their sets, Thank You Scientist are able to groove their way through their catalog of songs while providing a stage presence that demands your attention, purely to hear what would come next. Their frenetic and kinetic sound features off-tempo changes, kinky riffs, and unpredictable sonic twists that makes you want to keep listing.

Make no mistake, the somewhat odd instrumentation that this self-described “seven-headed monster” utilizes doesn't seem as though it would draw much attention from metal fans, but it does. And Thank You Scientist are just as popular with the indie types as well. You might encounter both crowds during the band's show at The Rebel Lounge on May 5. Kindo, In the Presence of Wolves, and Fifth Density will open. Austin Paetow

Country/folk singer Hayes Carll. - DAVID MCCLISTER
Country/folk singer Hayes Carll.
David McClister

Hayes Carll

Sunday, May 5
Crescent Ballroom


What It Is, the latest album from country/folk artist Hayes Carll, contains more of his trademark wry and thoughtful lyrics delivered by his singular sounding vocals. A highlight among many on the album is “Jesus and Elvis,” which marks the return of the Almighty One in Carll’s growing discography. One of his best-known hits is “She Left Me for Jesus.” This one’s got an entirely different tone. It’s a moving, poignant tune. Add “Bible On the Dash,” which he co-wrote with Corb Lund, and Carll notes Jesus “comes up a fair bit” in his work. “No, I’m not a particularly religious guy. I’m trying to be a spiritual guy but with limited success. I’m trying to improve in that area,” he said. “You know, you don’t have to explain who Jesus is and there’s certainly a lot of material there.” Jesse Sendejas Jr.

click to enlarge Alt-rock legends Violent Femmes. - EBRU YILDIZ
Alt-rock legends Violent Femmes.
Ebru Yildiz

Violent Femmes and X

Tuesday, May 7
The Van Buren


The Femmes have had a rocky transition from their heyday in the mid-'90s. Lawyers, in-fighting, differences in musical philosophy and taste — any one of these conflicts could’ve spelled doom for a lesser band. Violent Femmes, even today, are no lesser band. The internal strife seemingly vanished after the band’s surprise 2013 reunion and even more surprisingly, the band released their first album in 16 years soon after. While We Can Do Anything flew under the radar, it demonstrated that the Femmes could still pen a good tune. Tracks such as “Traveling Solves Everything” and “Issues” showcase lead singer Gordon Gano’s distinct rising deadpan as well as the band’s oft-overlooked sense of morbid humor. There’s no instant classic nestled within the 2016 release, but for a band that nearly came apart over a Wendy’s commercial, there were seemingly far worse outcomes to consider than an adequate album debut. Punk pioneers X are co-headlining the Femmes’ current tour and are just as fierce as ever. Nicholas Bostick

Acid Mothers Temple

Wednesday, May 8
Yucca Tap Room in Tempe


Acid Mothers Temple continue waving their freak flag pretty high on their most recent crop of albums, the curiously named Hallelujah Mystic Garden Part Two from earlier this year or 2018’s Either the Fragmented Body or the Reconstituted Soul, Trails to the Cosmic Vibrations, and Reverse of Rebirth in Universe. The Japanese psychedelic rockers have always been led by guitarist Kawabata Makoto through a seemingly endless series of side projects and permutations, from their mid-1990s beginning, when they were influenced by the spacey, minimalist collages of Krautrock, to their more recent opuses, which sound like a dozen Jimi Hendrix albums crushed by a trash compactor. Makoto's unfurling melodies and streaking contrails of guitar are amped up further by his bandmates' surges of synthesizer and trippy noises of unknown origin, culminating in a crescendo of head-spinning, psychedelic madness. Falling James

click to enlarge Country queen Carrie Underwood. - RANDEE ST. NICHOLAS
Country queen Carrie Underwood.
Randee St. Nicholas

Carrie Underwood

Thursday, May 9
Talking Stick Resort Arena


Ugly criers, get it together! Country megastar Carrie Underwood is bringing her Cry Pretty Tour 360, which is hitting 55 cities across North America in support of her latest album, to the Valley on May 9. As the name of the tour portends, the show will be performed in the round. “It’s so much fun for me and the band to play in every direction and creates a much more intimate and immersive experience for the audience, even in a larger arena setting," Underwood says. Maddie & Tae and Runaway June will open. If you need any more motivation to attend the show, other than Underwood’s upbeat country-pop, a dollar from each ticket sold will go to Danita's Children, which takes care of abandoned children in Haiti and offers education and nutrition programs to families. Kyle Harris

click to enlarge Florence + The Machine headline this year's FORM Arcosanti. - VINCENT HAYCOCK
Florence + The Machine headline this year's FORM Arcosanti.
Vincent Haycock

FORM Arcosanti 2019

Friday, May 10, to Sunday, May 12
Arcosanti in Mayer


Festival fanatics, rejoice! FORM Arcosanti is happening from Friday, May 10, to Sunday, May 12, at the experimental desert town of Arcosanti, and it’s shaping up to be just as eclectic and impressive as ever. The biggest “get” for FORM 2019 is headliner Florence + The Machine, whose appearance at FORM will be the first date of a U.S. tour. Joining them are a mix of other big indie bands and FORM regulars, including Anderson .Paak, Kaytranada, DJ Koze, Peggy Gou, Khruangbin, and of course Skrillex.

The first FORM festival was put together in 2014 by the band Hundred Waters. While so many music festivals across the country have trended toward scaling up in audience attendance and attracting marquee names, FORM has stood out by staying small (audiences at FORM are capped at around 2,000 attendees) and putting together relatively diverse musical bills. You’ll be hard-pressed to acts as wide-ranging as Aja Monet, Khruangbin, serpentwithfeet, Snail Mail, George Watsky, and Mary Lattimore, at other Arizona festivals. Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge Suicidal Tendencies will co-headline The Bash Festival. - MELINA DELLAMARGGIO
Suicidal Tendencies will co-headline The Bash Festival.
Melina Dellamarggio

The Bash Festival

Saturday, May 11
Margaret T. Hance Park


A new punk rock paradise is sprouting up in the desert this month and bringing more than 100 beers along with it. The Bash, a brand-new music and craft beer touring festival, is coming to Phoenix on May 11 at Margaret T. Hance Park. Headliner band Rancid will share the stage with other punk rock bands including Suicidal Tendencies, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, L7, and H2O.

The Bash will begin with two stops in Arizona in May — May 11 in Phoenix and May 12 in Tucson — and make its way across the country from New Jersey to California in June. Each stop features a mixture of local and national breweries that will offer craft beer tastings in the afternoon. For the Phoenix festival, breweries include The Shop, Hello Basin Brewing, Modern Times, Helton Brewing, and Ska Brewing, who created a special beer called Brewstomper Golden Ale with Rancid that will be available during the event. Megan Marples

click to enlarge Singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat. - COURTESY OF JENSEN ARTIST MANAGEMENT
Singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat.
Courtesy of Jensen Artist Management

Colbie Caillat

Saturday, May 11
Crescent Ballroom


Colbie Caillat will be the first person to tell you how lucky she is. Just a few years back, the beach bum from California enjoyed writing songs and recording them in-studio as a hobby. But she never dreamed they would grow an online fan base so large that a record label would be calling her up. And yet that's what happened.

At the age of 21, Caillat released her first record, Coco, and subsequently went on tour with The Goo Goo Dolls. It was her first tour ever, taking her from city to city and playing for crowds of anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 attendees. Before that she'd only played about five acoustic shows in her hometown of Malibu, California, so it was quite a change of pace. Several albums – including her most recent release, 2016’s The Malibu Sessions – and a Grammy on the shelf later, she’s out on tour again and will visit Crescent Ballroom on May 11. Tiney Ricciardi

click to enlarge Indie pop act Lord Huron. - IAN HOLLIDAY
Indie pop act Lord Huron.
Ian Holliday

Lord Huron

Sunday, May 12
The Van Buren


Lord Huron has always evoked change, and on their latest release, Vide Noir, they change things up in the most interesting way. The Los Angeles-based band that mixes folk with indie pop lead by Ben Schneider got their start far away from what they are now.

"I was in Michigan for a wedding and I started recording songs, originally just doing things as bedroom recordings, though we're a six-piece now. Getting to play every night with your best friends is cool, so it's nice to have my best buds with me out there," Schneider says.

The band, around since 2010, released their debut album, Lonesome Dreams, in 2012 to much success in terms of sales and chart reach. "It's impossible to predict what will work and what won't," Schneider says. "We just tour the hell outta' what we make and try to make it interesting. We got lucky and we just tried to make it as interesting as we could so people can and will pay for it. It's easy to get worried about the unknown. Today, with sales where they're at for everyone, we just tour nonstop." David Garrick

click to enlarge Elliot and Natalie Bergman of Wild Belle. - COURTESY OF PARADIGM TALENT AGENCY
Elliot and Natalie Bergman of Wild Belle.
Courtesy of Paradigm Talent Agency

Wild Belle

Tuesday, May 14
Valley Bar


Putting "Wild" as the first word in your band's name sounds like a gag from Portlandia, but Wild Belle avoid making themselves a cliche in any other way. Their psychedelic pop settles into funk and almost reggae grooves, staying far away from the straight rhythms of indie rock or the lithium-fueled bouncing of indie pop. Wild Belle's music slides through your inner ear, bending and oscillating around you in unexpected turns. Matt Wood
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Phoenix New Times Music Writers