The 11 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

Jazz vocalist Kandace Springs.
Jazz vocalist Kandace Springs.
Courtesy Blue Note Records

It's one of the busiest concert weekends of the year, y'all. Besides the massive hip-hop and EDM extravaganza known as the Goldrush Music Festival, which happens on Saturday and Sunday at Rawhide Western Town in Chandler, there’s a slew of notable names scheduled to perform the next several nights.

The list includes such acts as Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, Death Cab for Cutie, DeVotchKa, Johnny Marr, Boy George, and hometown hero Dierks Bentley. Plus, reggaeton star J Balvin, jazz songstress Kandace Springs, and guitar virutoso Al Di Meola will be in town and local hip-hop impresario JustUs will be celebrating the release of his debut album.

So, yeah, like we said, it's going to be busy.

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.

Jazz vocalist Kandace Springs.EXPAND
Jazz vocalist Kandace Springs.
Courtesy Blue Note Records

Kandace Springs
Friday, September 28
Musical Instrument Museum

It’s hard to imagine what jazz vocalist Kandace Springs’ debut full-length album, Soul Eyes, would have resembled if Prince hadn’t intervened. The Purple One saw the soulful singer cover Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” and was smitten with her undeniable talent. He invited her to perform at his Minneapolis production complex for the 30th anniversary of Purple Rain.

Springs was already working with some accomplished pop producers, but Prince suggested that she stay true to herself. She took the advice and ran with it.

Turns out, Prince was right. Released in 2016, Springs’ Blue Note debut, Soul Eyes, captures the singer’s genuine talent and passion for her craft. The title track (a cover of the Mal Waldron standard) sends chills down the spine, pairing her rich and intense vocals with the trumpet of Terence Blanchard. Jason Keil

JustUs (Album Release Party)
Friday, September 28
Monarch Theatre

Who’s the hardest working artist in Phoenix’s hip-hop scene? It's admittedly a bit of a rhetorical question, but if you’d like an answer, we’re going with Justus Samuel as our choice. The local community organizer is the impresario behind local hip-hop promotions company and record label Respect the Underground, the weekly Ikonik Fridays session at Monarch Theatre, and the annual Arizona Hip-Hop Festival. He’s also a talented MC, too – known to the local scene as JustUs – although his music career has been placed on the back burner the last several years in favor of his other ventures.

After years away from the spotlight, Samuel has returned to the mic with the release of his self-titled debut album. According to him, the 10-track effort, which came out earlier this month, was created over the course of 10 weeks and includes contributions and appearances by locals like Dann G., Trap House, Dayo G., C Leach, and Piff. Samuels will celebrate the album’s release on Friday night at the Monarch and will be performing every track from the project. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10. Benjamin Leatherman

Death Cab for CutieEXPAND
Death Cab for Cutie
Eliot Lee Hazel

Death Cab for Cutie
Saturday, September 29
The Van Buren

After releasing nine studio albums, most bands settle into a comfortable routine. If you've been in the game for this long, the temptation to stick with what works is strong. But if there's one constant in life, it's that change will happen, and you either evolve with it or die. Faced with the biggest change in their career, Death Cab For Cutie chose to evolve.

When founding member Chris Walla left the band, he didn't just leave a guitar- and keyboards-shaped hole in their sound: He was also the group's producer, whose sonic fingerprints are all over their recordings. The remaining trio of Ben Giddard, Nicholas Harmer, and Jason McGerr rolled with the punches and added two members to their lineup: Dave Depper and Zac Rae. An injection of fresh blood in the group has fired up the indie-rock veterans, who are taking the band's new evolutionary form out on tour in support of their latest album, Thank You For Today. Ashley Naftule

Reggaeton artist J Balvin.EXPAND
Reggaeton artist J Balvin.

J Balvin
Saturday, September 29
Comerica Theatre

Colombian-born reggaeton artist J Balvin made a career of evading neat genre or character judgments. Whereas Luis Fonsi's and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" was the summer darling of critics and the charts, Balvin's "Mi Gente" is round two. Both songs have been aggressively co-opted by mainstream music outlets and non-Latinx journalists who have pretended to have heard or cared about reggaeton before 2017. Last year, "Despacito" and "Mi Gente" became the first two non-English-language tracks in history to concurrently place in Billboard's Hot 100's Top Ten. With "Mi Gente" and its not-slowing-down approach, the circles critics ran around "Despacito" are settling into a pattern of shock and admiration toward Latinx musicians who, duh, continue to produce total bangers with or without American superstars. Stefanie Fernández

Just because it ain't St. Patrick's Day doesn't mean you can't enjoy some Flogging Molly.EXPAND
Just because it ain't St. Patrick's Day doesn't mean you can't enjoy some Flogging Molly.
Richie Smyth

Flogging Molly
Saturday, September 29
Mesa Amphitheatre

One might mistakenly peg Dave King as sentimental. After all, his band, Flogging Molly, has more than 20 years of successful moments on which to wax nostalgic. Lyrics in songs such as “If I Ever Leave This World Alive,” one of the group’s most popular tunes, do convey a romantic view of days gone by. And, he’s Irish, a culture that is steeped in rich, historical traditions.

But make no mistake, Dave King is a man of the times. He and the band he fronts are present and fully aware of the moment, one that is proving to be simultaneously frustrating and hopeful. That theme is strong in Life Is Good, Flogging Molly’s latest album. King and company visit Mesa Amphitheatre on Saturday night in support of the record. Fellow Celtic rock act Dropkick Murphys will open. Jesse Sendejas Jr.

Dierks Bentley returns home this weekend.EXPAND
Dierks Bentley returns home this weekend.
Melissa Fossum

Dierks Bentley
Saturday, September 29
Ak-Chin Pavilion

Dierks Bentley’s career is a stack of relentless touring and music releases, paralleled by awards, nominations, and honors that reflect just how much fans continue to eat up his work. The prolific country singer and songwriter – and Arizona native – won in the Breakthrough Video of the Year category at the 2004 CMT Awards for “What Was I Thinkin’?” And he nabbed that same honor again in 2014, for the song “Drunk on a Plane.” Less bluegrass, the latter song is reflective of the Bentley that most people know. It’s from his certified platinum 2014 album Riser. The track maintains an upbeat tempo while telling the story of a groom-to-be who’s ditched at the altar and takes his honeymoon trip solo, leading him to bonding, via booze, with strangers on the plane. Instead of exploring the benefits of drowning sorrows in cocktails with strangers and turning the bad into a party in the sky, he lets some of the heartbreak come through, and it becomes a welcome component to the song.

But Bentley’s not always so humble. “Somewhere on a Beach,” from 2016’s Black, is slightly spiteful as a man lets his ex-girl know that he is currently somewhere on a beach with someone new who “has got it going on / We drink all day / And party all night.” Adding insult to injury, the new love interest also “has got a body / And she’s naughty / And she got me like you ain’t ever got me.” Bentley’s songs aren’t prone to extremes, and that keeps him a relatable magnet for the masses of country music fans. Bentley’s headed back to the Valley this weekend with his latest tour, and like any of his visits to the area, it’s a homecoming celebration. Amy Young

Vince Staples will perform at Goldrush 2018.
Vince Staples will perform at Goldrush 2018.
Courtesy Def Jam Recordings

Goldrush Music Festival 2018
Saturday, September 29, and Sunday, September 30
Rawhide Western Town in Chandler

When it comes to sequels, the rule of thumb is typically “bigger is better.” The folks at Relentless Beats are certainly following that mantra with this year’s Goldrush Music Festival, as the second edition of the annual electronic dance music and hip-hop event, which launched last year, is larger than its predecessor in many respects.

The lineup of DJs and rapper is bigger as is the amount of activities taking place at the two-day extravaganza, which runs from Saturday, September 29, to Sunday, September 30, at Rawhide Western Town. And in case you’ve missed all the advertisements that have graced electronic billboards across the Valley, its going to feature some big names from the realms of EDM and hip-hop, including Deadmau5, Illenium, Steve Aoki, Deorro, Louis The Child, Kevin Gates, Rich The Kid, Vince Staples, JPEG Mafia, Juice Wrld, and dozens more.

Performances will take place across three enormous stages located at different points throughout the western town. Meanwhile, a variety of Western-themed activities like a shooting gallery and bull-riding will also be offered. The festival runs from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. each day. General admission is $89-$99 per day or $179 for the weekend. VIP tickets (which include a number of perks) are $129-$139 per day and $259 for the weekend. Benjamin Leatherman

Former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.EXPAND
Former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.
Niall Lea

Johnny Marr
Sunday, September 30
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

Of all the bands that spawned amid the chaos and hair product of the '80s, few have gained the sort of following of The Smiths. And their fans are rarely the casual type. While Morrissey's inimitable voice and personality quirks cannot be minimized in any way when discussing the success of the Smiths, Johnny Marr's guitar work and compositional sense were a defining feature that was entirely necessary to the Smiths' sound, making Marr a quintessential guitarist of that era.

While the archetype of the '80s guitarist was defined in the minds of most by Eddie Van Halen — who fought to progress technique and athleticism with mind-boggling licks and tricks that humbled even the most respected of the period's shredders — Marr's understated arrangements and style choices were the reset button many musicians were looking for.

Armed with vintage gear that defied the trends of the time, Marr built a foundation for Morrissey's soaring croons and melodies with the jangle and clang of 12-string Rickenbackers, classic Fender and Gibson guitars, and buxom '60s Fender amps. While those choices might appear quite normal to the layman, most guitarists at the time were knee-deep in the muck of locking whammy bars and pointy headstocks and running amps with as much distortion as possible to match the feeling provided by the cocaine flowing through their veins. David Von Bader

Boy George and Culture Club
Sunday, September 30
Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale

At the tip of the '80s New Wave spear, Culture Club stood loud and proud as poster boys for the genre. Straddling the line between exuberant and melancholic, their unique brand of danceable pop ballads sent shudders down the sidewalks of every block with a dance club. Now, just over 30 years after first breaking up, the band is enjoying a renaissance, spurred on by nostalgia and the impending release of Life, their first new album in almost two decades. Phoenix will get a taste of the soon-to-be-released album, which drops next month, including tracks like the country-and-western inspired “Runaway Train” and the album’s 2014 single “More Than Silence.”

Now 57, frontman “Boy” George O’Dowd, will saunter down memory lane with a pumped-up backing band replete with resounding horns and plenty of costume changes, while George’s voice, once bright and delicate, has matured with age, will give classics like “Karma Chameleon” and “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” a more complex sound than fans have heard before. So dust off your best bowler, weave a feather in your hair, and get ready to party like it’s 1982. Nick Bostick

Al Di Meola
Sunday, September 30
Scottsdale Center of the Performing Arts

Guitar virtuoso Al Di Meola is quite dazzling when it comes to technique. His blazing riffs exploded in the '70s as a member of the groundbreaking jazz-fusion group Return to Forever, with his fretwork often defined by dizzying, slashing turns. Over the years, the New Jersey-born Di Meola has ascended to more than a note-spinning phenom by pushing himself and his music forward. As soon as Di Meola went solo in 1976 with Land of the Midnight Sun, he turned to exploring acoustic-based world music and a variety of intriguing musical hybrids. Perhaps his best early work was captured the following year with Elegant Gypsy, in which an acoustic-guitar instrumental ("Lady of Rome, Sister of Brazil") and gorgeous guitar duet with the great Paco de Lucia ("Mediterranean Sundance") let us peek into the places he was heading.

More nuanced material ensued, roaming from understated, reflective compositions to spicy Latin-, African- and Middle Eastern-influenced passages, the kind you'd expect from such song titles as "Morocco," "Istanbul," and "Valentina." Di Meola focused a lot on Argentinean music during the '90s, beginning with Di Meola Plays Piazzolla, his warm tribute to the late tango master Astor Piazzolla. Di Meola continues to man his creative rudder. John Roos

DeVotchKa is back with a new album.EXPAND
DeVotchKa is back with a new album.
Jen Rosenstein

Sunday, September 30
Crescent Ballroom

DeVotchKa frontman Nick Urata says he has a pseudo-photographic memory for songs that are under construction. He doesn’t have a filing system for song ideas, but he has a thousand demo recordings and a thousand pages of lyrics that he’s constantly working toward getting finished. While he might start a song, sometimes it will lay dormant for a few years, and sometimes he just has to just experience more life before finishing the writing process.

Many of the songs on This Night Falls Forever, DeVotchKa’s latest album, were written that way. And the band, which also includes Jeanie Schroder (acoustic bass, sousaphone), Shawn King (drums, percussion, trumpet) and Tom Hagerman (violin, viola, accordion, piano), hasn’t had a whole lot of time to work on albums. This Night Falls Forever is the act's first studio effort since 2011’s 100 Lovers.

Why the delay? Urata’s been busy in Los Angeles scoring films like Paddington and Focus, and more recently the Netflix series A Series of Unfortunate Events. Hagerman has arranged music for local and national artists to perform with the Colorado Symphony while King has worked with Ozomatli’s Raul Pacheco as Los Dreamers. “We got into this sweet spot where we were getting all kinds of collaborative offers that a band like us couldn’t resist, what we always dreamed about when we were starting off in living rooms and garages," Urata says. "And before we knew it, we were like, ‘We’ve got to finish these songs and get an album out.’”

And they did, as the album dropped last month to rave reviews. You can hear many of the songs from the 10-track effort this weekend when DeVotchka comes to the Crescent Ballroom. Orkesta Mendoza will open. Jon Solomon

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