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.
Yngwie MalmsteenWednesday, 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
SlayerThursday, May 2
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
Grupo FantasmaThursday, 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
Beach FossilsFriday, May 3
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 WRLDSaturday, May 4
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
Thank You ScientistSunday, 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
Hayes CarllSunday, May 5
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.
Violent Femmes and XTuesday, 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 TempleWednesday, 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
Carrie UnderwoodThursday, 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
FORM Arcosanti 2019Friday, 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
The Bash FestivalSaturday, 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
Colbie CaillatSaturday, May 11
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
Lord HuronSunday, 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
Wild BelleTuesday, May 14
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
SantigoldTuesday, May 14
The Van Buren
Not all album tours are created equal. Some artists choose to tour a particular milestone of career success in their discography. Others tour longtime fan favorites in hopes of creating a new experience in the narrower focus. But this month, as Santi White, better known as Santigold, embarks on the 10 Years Gold Tour, she’s celebrating much more than success or fandom alone. She’s celebrating a indie rock movement that started with her debut LP, Santogold, and hasn’t let up since.
Santigold made her solo debut to the world with “Creator”, a ferocious dance track that sounds infinitely more at home in the present day than it did in early 2008. Here, White threw hip-hop, dub, electronica, and indie pop into a blender and made a track that would inspire years of head-scratching emulation. While her peers leaned comfortably into '80s dance influences, here was an artist going beyond the trend and into entirely new territory.
Beginning to end, Santogold is a stylistic tour de force that somehow feels continuous despite White and her team throwing so much into the pot. There are Pixies and Blondie moments alongside futuristic dance music that felt entirely new, independent of any nod or tribute. “I’ve been lucky all through my entire career to find these people to work with who are just versed as I am to walk from Siouxsie to Bone Thugs,” White says, “any style of music we can jump around to ... to just play off this wide array of sounds so fluidly.” Gerrit Feenstra
Ariana GrandeTuesday, May 14
Talking Stick Resort Arena
Out of all of pop music's biggest stars of the past 20 years, Ariana Grande has made the most convincing and seamless transition from ingenue to independent female artist. Unlike such former Disney princesses as Christina Aguilera or Miley Cyrus, Grande got her start at Nickelodeon, where she starred in sitcoms such as Victorious and Sam & Cat. In the eight years since she first appeared on TV screens, Grande has graduated to presenting her own music and image on her own terms — following a path unlike any of her colleagues'.
Stars who play by the pop-star handbook often play up their sexual presentation in a physical way: Out come the fishnets, skin-tight bodysuits, and risqué music videos. These attempts to take control of their own sexual exploitation often do little more than fuel it. But compared to Britney's schoolgirl getup or Christina's chaps, Grande's wardrobe is tame. She saves the celebration of the joys of liberated exploration for her lyrics, claiming her power by singing, rather than showing, her desires. "Do as I say / If you wanna get the job, you better know who's the boss," she sings in the Nicki Minaj song "Get on Your Knees." When it comes to owning and defining herself, Grande is most certainly the boss.
She’s largely traversed into mainstream-pop adulthood relatively unscathed — avoiding the head-shaving incidents or ill-advised marriages her counterparts have suffered. That's due, in part, to her ownership of her own weirdo approach to life. Though Grande wears cat-ear headbands and PVC outfits onstage, she's not interested in playing the role of a sex kitten. In her world, a pop star coming into her own maturation and awareness owes little explanation to her audience. Celia Almeida
Hollywood VampiresFriday, May 17
The Pool at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale
Formed at L.A.’s legendary Rainbow Bar & Grill in early '70s, the original Hollywood Vampires – a drinking club, not a band – held court in the upstairs bar at the famed location. Many of the biggest names in rock were part of the unofficial club, including John Lennon, Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon, Mickey Dolenz, Ringo Starr, and Vampires president Alice Cooper. Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, previous Cooper drinking buddies, were posthumous "honorary" members.
Though many of the original Vampires died years ago, Cooper and his pal Johnny Depp floated around the idea for years of recording an album that paid tribute to Cooper's old drinking pals. In 2015, the Hollywood Vampires rose from the dead and became a rock supergroup.
A few months later, the ensemble, which now includes Cooper, Depp, and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry as members, released their self-titled album, which features covers of songs made famous by their fallen Vampire brethren. They’re back on the road again and are scheduled to perform at Talking Stick Resort in mid-May. Daniel Kohn
Tedeschi Trucks BandSaturday, May 18
Before TTB’s 2010 founding, guitarist Susan Tedeschi had success as a solo artist. Her husband and co-bandleader, Derek Trucks, led a group, was a permanent member of the Allman Brothers Band, and was a touring axeman for Eric Clapton. Doyle Bramhall II, a fellow guitarist on that tour, has become a close friend and writing partner for Tedeschi and Trucks. While the band lineup has changed slightly over the course of three studio LPs and two live records, Tedeschi enjoys the somewhat controlled chaos of the circus. “This band is really unique, and there are so many great players and the personalities are just wonderful,” she says. “I’m very lucky to be in this circus, too." Bob Ruggiero
Willie Nelson & FamilyMonday, May 20
Outlaw country legend and cool stoner dad Willie Nelson is an American hero. We love Willie in the morning, evening, or night. We love him in his home state of Texas, in the country music capital of Nashville, and even when he plays the Valley. When he performs here on May 20, he'll surely be wearing his signature look: a bandanna, braids, jeans, and red, white, and blue macrame sash — 100 percent cool gear. He'll be backed by his band, Family, with his actual sister, pianist Bobbie. Nelson might not have the same chops he had in the '70s, but he has just as much heart and style. He's one of a kind and forever at the top of his cool game. Liz Tracy
Bright Light Social HourWednesday, May 22
Bright Light Social Hour debuted in late 2010 in Austin, Texas, with an eponymous LP that was all over the place in the best possible way, a sometimes confounding mashup of styles that nonetheless felt comfortable in its own skin and instantly marked them as a band worth paying attention to. Six years later, the Austin five-piece is no less ambitious or accomplished, still at it with a bespoke brand of rock that delights in blurring the boundaries between art-rock adventure and outright jams. They’re currently touring in support of their latest full-length album, Jude Vol. I, which dropped in February. Expect to hear a track or two from the album at the band’s gig at Valley Bar. Chris Gray
New Kids on the BlockWednesday, May 22
Talking Stick Resort Arena
New Kids on the Block, the ’90s boy-band that stole millions of hearts and sold millions of records back in the day, are hitting the road again for another summertime tour steeped in nostalgia. And they’re bringing fellow throwback artists and acts Salt N Pepa, Naughty By Nature, Tiffany, and Debbie Gibson along for the ride. To celebrate the occasion, NKOTB recorded a throwback song, "’80s Baby," with said artists and acts and even created a lyric video filled with 16-bit graphics. Expect plenty of other nods to their heyday when the tour hits Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix on May 22. Kyle Harris
Wisin y YandelThursday, May 23
For the last several years, there have been people asking: “Is reggaeton dead? Or is it just hiding out in the hills of Puerto Rico, waiting for the world's pop music clocks to rewind all the way back to 2006?” Sure, this line of questioning might be totally bogus, as it was with rock 'n' roll and punk and rap. But if there were anyone on Planet Earth with the authority to speak on the health and whereabouts of this formerly insurgent Latin phenomenon, it should be Wisin y Yandel.
Yet even these one-time poster boys for the Latin urban music movement have gone on to the next thing. Neither Wisin (a.k.a. Juan Luis Morera Luna), nor Yandel (a.k.a. Llandel Veguilla Malavé Salazar) bother to identify with the reggaeton tag these days, preferring to simply call it “pop.” And really, why should Luna and Salazar wait for reggaeton to make its comeback when they never went away? S. Pajot
I Love the '90s TourFriday, May 24,
Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler
If you feel like the '90s were just a little too recent to be looking back on with generational fondness, you’re wrong. When The I Love the '90s tour, which features a variety of throwback artists and acts, rolls into Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler in May, an age-and-reference specific dance party will ensue, in which everyone, and I mean almost everyone, will dance and party to the likes of Vanilla Ice, Rob Base, Coolio, and Tone Loc. Admittedly, the experience might feel slightly voyeuristic, watching those who came of age in the era of slap-bracelets and Yo! MTV Raps diving wholeheartedly into the soundtracks of their childhoods. K.C. Libman
Odd Squad FamilySaturday, May 25
Club Red in Mesa
"Fighting for the odd, and inspiring the rest," is the credo of local hip-hop group Odd Squad Family. Consisting of members N.U.B.S., Snowman, and A-Factor, the trio strives to spread positivity through their music. A rare genetic condition has left N.U.B.S. without any limbs, and Snowman has albinism, features which have created unique struggles for the rappers, who turn those into bars. In July 2016, Odd Squad Family was rocked by tragedy as Frosty, the youngest founding member of the group and Snowman's brother, died. The outpouring of love that the group received from fans was immeasurable, and Odd Squad Family continue to carry the soul and spirit of the late member within their musical efforts. With music that's honest, relatable, and inspiring, it's hard not to love Odd Squad Family. Nicole Latino
The Millennium TourSaturday, May 25
Gila River Arena in Glendale
It's true: You have a chance to see B2K, Mario, Pretty Ricky, Lloyd, Ying Yang Twins, Chingy, and Bobby V this month, which should give you more than enough R&B to keep you satisfied until the next parade of stars comes to town. Honestly, we wish more rock acts would rip off this format because when it comes to bang for your buck, shows like this are hard to beat. Go scream for your favorite when the tour hits Gila River Arena in Glendale on May 25 and make sure you've got someone to slow dance with when the time comes. Cory Garcia
Steve AokiSunday, May 26
The Pool at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale
We know him, we love him, and he's heading to the Valley during Memorial Day weekend to delight a horde of electronic dance music fans via another massive, boundary-pushing set at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. Over the past decade, the 41-year-old rock-star DJ, label head, pizza entrepreneur, and now fitness-app guru Steve Aoki helped define EDM while launching the careers of some of the genre's biggest artists and becoming one of the highest-paid DJs in the world. He’ll headline the Release pool party at the resort on May 26, and his performance is likely to include plenty of crowd-surfing and cake-throwing antics. Falyn Freyman
The LemonheadsSunday, May 26
Marquee Theatre in Tempe
Once upon a time, Evan Dando was the fresh-faced savior of indie-rock. And boy, oh, boy did the girls find the Lemonheads front man dreamy. That whole idea would've been utterly sickening — no boy bands in indie rock, please — had the fellas not embraced his act's tunes, too, nodding along at the songs as the girls they brought to Lemonheads shows swooned to daydreams of Dando.
Some 20 years later, though, Dando is back on the touring circuit, certainly hoping to have the nostalgic embrace the chance to relive the '90s. Except this ain't no standard reunion show fare — something the Lemonheads threw together to make a quick buck. No, the Lemonheads are still producing — and, better yet, still producing quite well. Their 2006 self-titled release was actually good and not just another record to be had in your complete Lemonheads collection and 2009’s cover album Varshons (and its recently released follow-up, Varshons 2) both earned praise from critics. Tough to say how the show will go — Dando's got a reputation for being hit-and-miss live — but you have to respect a band that keeps on trucking because it can, and not just because its members want to. Pete Freedman
The Dead MilkmenThursday, May 30
Marquee Theatre in Tempe
While it can be difficult to watch certain punk outfits age (and settle into the awkward complacency that has plagued so many legendary bands in recent years), the brand of punk peddled by Philadelphia's Dead Milkmen — rendered with snarky, subtle intellect, rather than brute force — still sounds great after 36 years.
The Milkmen returned from hiatus in 2008 with as close to an original lineup as possible following the tragic loss of bassist Dave "Blood" Schulthise, and have since released new material and even occasionally played live shows. Right now, the band are in the midst of their latest tour and, later this month, the Valley will be fortunate enough to experience its first Dead Milkmen show in decades. They’ll bring out the punk rock girls and boys for a night of singing and slamming to the classics, as well as some unexpected new jams. David Von Bader
Slow CavesFriday, May 31
The Trunk Space
Listening to Slow Caves’ lush, intelligent music, it’s easy to forget that the band’s members are all in their early 20s. Inexperience might hamper some groups, but Slow Caves is an exception. Although their songwriting reflects suburban ideals and millennial angst, the Colorado-born band — made up of singer/guitarist Jakob Mueller, drummer Jackson Lamperes, singer/guitarist Oliver Mueller and bassist David Dugan — shun many of the musical clichés used by younger artists in favor of intelligent compositions and complicated time signatures generally seen in post-punk acts that rose to prominence in the mid-’90s, when these guys were just kids. Andy Thomas
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