The 11 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

Congratulations, y’all. Its officially no longer summer. Granted, its still plenty hot and will be for at least another month or so, but the fact of the matter is we’ve crossed the boundary into a new season.

Need another sign that its now fall? How about the legion of “can’t miss” concerts happening in the Valley this weekend. Artists and acts like Macy Gray, Lauryn Hill, Shonen Knife, Wolfmother, and Kali Uchis are all scheduled to perform at venues around the metro Phoenix area over the next few nights.

Elsewhere, the inaugural Firebird Music Festival will take place, offering smooth jazz and R&B fans a day filled with music.

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

Wolfmother
Friday, September 21
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

Andrew Stockdale bleeds every version of ’70s rock. Ever since the formation of Wolfmother, the lead singer and songwriter has been relentlessly pumping out jams with the fury that only an Australian could possess. Heavy, chugging riffs gallop through their songs alongside Stockdale’s borderline-falsetto vocals, howling for battle. It’s the kind of music that’ll have you pulling 100 mph on the highway, shirtless, with no idea how you got there.

When Wolfmother leans toward the psychedelic side, those Brian May guitar tones will leave you hopelessly nostalgic for a time when fringe and flowers were just alright, man. But what’ll really catch you off guard is when Stockdale hits you with the slower songs. Whether it’s “Pretty Peggy” off new album Victorious or the always classic “Vagabond,” Stockdale proves himself to be more than just some fuzz rock titan. His wistful, almost sleepy singing is hypnotizing and sincere, and it’s amplified by the contrast to Wolfmother’s other songs. If you listen closely, Stockdale just might tell you everything about living free. Matt Wood

Members of the Hi-Dreams DJ Collection.
Members of the Hi-Dreams DJ Collection.
Erin Peters

Roller Disco Dance Party
Friday, September 21
The Van Buren

It’s a good thing that the floor of the main room at The Van Buren is quite sturdy and durable, considering all 20,000 square feet of it will be put to the test this weekend. A flock of roller skaters will glide about while doing The Hustle, The Bump, and maybe even the whole YMCA routine on Friday, September 21, during the first-ever Roller Disco Dance Party at the venue.

The interior of The Van Buren will be transformed into a circa-1970s roller rink, complete with glow-in-the-dark digs and retro arcade games, as attendees wheel about while dressed in period fashion and costumes. Meanwhile, the members of the Hi-Dreams DJ Collective will spin classic disco tunes and boogie tracks to help folks shake their groove thangs.

Dancing will also take place on The Van Buren’s stage for those who don’t want to strap on skates. A midnight happy hour in The Van Buren’s lobby featuring drink specials and additional DJs is also planned. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the disco inferno starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. If you’re down to skate, there will be an additional $3 fee (which includes a mandatory skate rental). Benjamin Leatherman

Klara and Johanna Söderberg of First Aid Kit.
Klara and Johanna Söderberg of First Aid Kit.
Paradigm Agency

First Aid Kit
Saturday, September 22
The Pressroom

From the band's inception, First Aid Kit has worn the love for their musical influences on their sleeves. Sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg first captured the hearts of music lovers when they uploaded their cover of the Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” to YouTube. The Swedish duo really came into their own on their 2012 hit “Emmylou," where they used their mystical harmonies to become the inspiration for Gram Parsons and Johnny Cash.

The band is still obsessed with alt-country on their latest effort Ruins, but they're struggling to quit the habit of leaning too hard on their role models. The duo assembled an amazing group of musicians for their fourth full-length record, including R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Wilco’s Glen Kotche. While the players give the album some authenticity, a number of the songs sound like two young outsiders searching for the sound of America. It's the emotional rawness of “The Hem Of Her Dress,” which details Klara's recent breakup with her boyfriend, that gives this record the depth audiences have been clamoring for. Jason Keil

Colombian-American singer and songwriter Kali Uchis.EXPAND
Colombian-American singer and songwriter Kali Uchis.
Felipe Q. Noguier

Kali Uchis
Saturday, September 22
The Van Buren

Once, a lifetime ago, after a childhood spent between the U.S. and Colombia, Kali Uchis was sleeping in her car, writing music on a laptop and MIDI keyboard. Now, thanks to years of grinding, she’s the go-to vocalist for Tyler, the Creator and made “See You Again” an indie hit; she’s seen as a sugar-coated American answer to Amy Winehouse thanks to soulful collabs with bands like the Dap-Kings; and she’s headlining a solo tour behind her album Isolation. Her command of retro aesthetics in her music videos and the tinge of sadness in her lyrics have earned her a fast following, so feel free to dress up as if you’re going to a sockhop. Douglas Markowitz

Lauryn Hill returns to Comerica Theatre in September.
Lauryn Hill returns to Comerica Theatre in September.
Zee Peralta

Lauryn Hill
Saturday, September 22
Comerica Theatre

For the last 20 years, Ms. Lauryn Hill has strummed our pain with her fingers and sung our lives with her words. And now, she’s bringing Miseducation to Phoenix. The Fugees star is currently on tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of her debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. And it's coming to Phoenix this month.

The album, first released in 1998, was a critical and commercial success right out of the gate. It topped the Billboard charts, went platinum eight times in the U.S., garnered 10 Grammy nominations, and took home five Grammy Awards.

Recorded mostly in Kingston, Jamaica, the album’s mix of hip-hop and neo-soul was inspired by Hill’s pregnancy at the time. On songs like “Ex-Factor,” “Everything Is Everything,” and “Doo Wop (That Thing),” Hill sang about daily struggles with warmth and grace. And it hasn’t aged a day since its release. Ashley Naftule

The reggae-rockers of Tomorrows Bad Seeds.EXPAND
The reggae-rockers of Tomorrows Bad Seeds.
Regime 72

Tomorrows Bad Seeds
Saturday, September 22
Last Exit Live

Formed in 2003, Tomorrows Bad Seeds took LA by storm with their punk-rock, pop, and reggae-influenced style. The band’s ability to connect with their fan base quickly brought them to the top of the budding California reggae scene in 2004 and beyond. Tomorrows Bad Seeds toured heavily for nearly eight years, selling out venues across the country before deciding to take a break to focus on other artistic projects, spend time with family and, ultimately, get re-inspired. ("I just had a son and named him Kaden," says vocalist Moises Juarez, "and he is my new inspiration in life.")

The band’s third full-length album and most recent work, The Great Escape, was released in June 2012 and received mixed reviews from fans that didn't understand their increasingly pop-influenced sound. Soon after, Juarez and TBS guitarists/backup vocalists Matt McEwan and Sean Chapman formed a side project called LIFE in order to further develop their evolving style apart from the reputation of Tomorrows Bad Seeds’ heavier sound. The trio released an EP in 2014, but soon realized that it was time to give their diehard fans something they had been longing for — new music from Tomorrows Bad Seeds. A year later, they did just that, reuniting and releasing a number of new songs, including "War Letter" and "Throwback." David Garcia

Eleanor Friedberger's latest album isn't a throwback.
Eleanor Friedberger's latest album isn't a throwback.
Chris Eckert

Eleanor Friedberger
Saturday, September 22
The Rebel Lounge

It’s refreshing to hear indie singer-songwriter Eleanor Friedberger’s take on songwriting. Rebound, her fourth album, is filled with dreamy synthesizers and lush vocals. It is reminiscent of something that vocalist Julee Cruise would croon at the fictional Bang Bang Bar on Twin Peaks. The record, which came out in May, is not some meaningless genre exercise. The songwriter discusses themes that are both intimate and universal.

After the election in November 2016, Friedberger, who was one-half of The Fiery Furnaces, packed her bags and headed to Athens. She had been going to visit family there for two decades, but the artist, who is half-Greek, wanted to have time to herself in the Mediterranean capital. “Because I moved to New York in 2000 during the Giuliani days when everything was all cleaned up already, there’s part of me that feels nostalgic for that time in New York I never got to experience,” Friedberger says. “You go to a place like Athens, where it still kind of feels like you imagine New York might have felt. There is something exciting about that.”

Rebound shares its name with the dance club Friedberger visited on her trip. She documented her experiences and encounters among the stunning architecture and smoke-filled clubs on the album’s 10 tracks. Songs like “The Letter” hearken back to the thoughtful lyrics and shadowy soundscapes of Roxy Music’s Avalon. “In Between Stars” has bright, beautiful, electric rhythms that resemble a dance song Giorgio Moroder might have produced in his early '80s heyday.

While Rebound does have a retro sound, Friedberger, who is 42,  grew up listening to classic rock instead of the music that inspired the record. There came a moment for her when something clicked, and she embraced the contemporary, but she often looks toward music’s past in her search for something new. Jason Keil

Macy Gray
Macy Gray
Giuliano Bekor

Macy Gray
Sunday, September 23
Chandler Center for the Arts

When it comes to Macy Gray, the fabulously idiosyncratic R&B wild woman who completely redefined the sound and look of the American soul diva, one must expect the unexpected. As talented as she is eccentric, Gray’s legacy of weirdness is as rich and infamous as her multiplatinum successes. Gray remains an artist of both formidable capability and unpredictability, and whether she’s operating as her funky alter ego Nemesis Jaxon (of “Slap a Bitch” renown) or back in the saddle as Macy Gray, it’s an always fascinating proposition. Johnny Whiteside

Risa Kawano, Atsuko Yamano, and Naoko Yamano of Shonen Knife.EXPAND
Risa Kawano, Atsuko Yamano, and Naoko Yamano of Shonen Knife.
Reybee

Shonen Knife
Sunday, September 23
Yucca Tap Room in Tempe

Unlike other dinosaur musicians rising from the grave to play a routine reunion tour or the now-ubiquitous live-album-in-full payday, Shonen Knife has never had to step into such territory. The Japanese power-punk trio has rolled on uninterrupted for close to four decades, a workhorse of an outfit spitting out more than a dozen records while touring the world with a smile. That smile is a crucial component of the Shonen Knife formula.

The band’s 19th release, 2016’s Adventure, is full of bubblegum raucousness, with singer, guitarist and founding member Naoko Yamano leading the band’s happy charge. Ever keeping up with its youthful contemporaries, the group sings about emojis and has made its full digital discography available on Bandcamp. For an outfit that began in 1981, toured with Nirvana and perfected the Carpenters’ “Top of the World” at the height of the ’90s’ celebration of the ’70s, Shonen Knife is a model for staying punk and staying relevant. Bree Davies

Earl Klugh will be there.EXPAND
Earl Klugh will be there.
Courtesy of Concord Music Group

Firebird Music Festival
Sunday, September 23
WestWorld of Scottsdale

The Valley's fall music festival season is getting an infusion of jazz and R&B, courtesy of the newly launched Firebird Music Festival. The outdoor concert event focusing on smooth jazz and R&B takes place on September 23 and features eight hours of performances from a number of Grammy Award-winning musicians.

Jeffrey Osborne, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Rick Braun, and Earl Klugh are among those scheduled to take the stage for at the event, which goes down at WestWorld of Scottsdale. The festival will be hosted by Randy Jackson. (Yes, that Randy Jackson) and will also include sets by Bob James — who will play with Earl Klugh — as well as Jazz Funk Soul, which features Jeff Lorber, Paul Jackson Jr., and Everette Harp. Amy Young

Indie rock/dream pop band Nothing.EXPAND
Indie rock/dream pop band Nothing.
Ben Rayner

Nothing
Sunday, September 23
The Rebel Lounge

Shoegaze is a subgenre of rock that prides itself on softness. Consider the words critics use to describe shoegaze’s pedal-driven sound: ethereal, shimmering, gossamer, dreamy. Even when groups like Swervedriver, Ride, and My Bloody Valentine played their guitars at decibel levels that could crack glass, their music still felt like it could phase out of existence at any moment. It’s music that’s both heavy and weightless, a sound that crushes while it aims for the atmosphere.

Philadelphia’s Nothing is a different kind of shoegaze band: You can hear the gravel crunching underneath their pedalboards. Past albums like Guilty of Everything tap into the tremolo-abusing power of their idols while adding an aggressive edge (they are signed to metal label Relapse Records, after all). On their latest release, Dance on The Blacktop, their sound has become even more melodic and layered. They even venture into slowcore territory with songs like "The Carpenter's Son." While so many other shoegaze revivalists are content to spend all their energy in trying to recreate Loveless and Souvlaki, Nothing are finding a new way to push shoegaze forward: By bringing their heavenly guitar sounds back down to earth. Ashley Naftule

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