First, some good news: As of today, the summertime season is officially over with and done. Now, the bad news: that only applies to the rest of the country and unfortunately not us Arizonans. Sucks, don’t it?
Like it or not, we’ve still got another couple of weeks of heat ahead of us. Frankly, the only thing y’all can do is bite the bullet and suffer through until Mother Nature decides to ease up. If you need something to distract you, consider checking out one of the great concerts happening around the Valley this week.
There are certainly a lot of 'em going on.
Drake’s due in town this week, as is fellow hip-hop artist The Game, blues kings Tab Benoit and Cedric Burnside, rocker/actress Juliette Lewis, the pop princesses of Fifth Harmony, and post-rock instrumental artist The Album Leaf, all of whom are included in the following list of “can’t miss” concerts. (For even more options, hit up our extensively updated online music listings.)
Russian Circles – Monday, September 5 – Crescent Ballroom
This Chicago trio's sound is brontosaurus-heavy rock guaranteed to bum you out in the most righteous ways. Misery — our ugly times seem to call for it, and there's nothing fancy about the brutal way Russian Circles dole out their dark, unforgiving sonic punishment. Their two most recent albums, 2014’s Memorial and this year’s Guidance are like the "well, you asked for it" show, and even if you're not sure that you did, you must submit and admit that it's cathartic as hell. On the other hand, the albums are almost perversely rife with gorgeously orchestrated, super-hooky melodies to pair with all the bone-splintering metallic mayhem. The upshot is that this is very heavy rock music veering dangerously close to the overdramatized, but pulled off without a collapse into total corndoggery. JOHN PAYNE
Drake – Tuesday, September 6 – Talking Stick Resort Arena
You can take Drake two ways, each yielding wildly different receptions of the Toronto superstar’s work. There’s Drake as a rapper who’s become the target of much censure based on the fact that the dude does not write his own bars. Meek Mill most notably (and publicly) led that charge, though there is also some speculation that the legendary Andre 3000 himself threw some shade in Drake’s direction on Frank Ocean’s new album, Blonde, when he raps, “After 20 years in, I’m so naïve. I was under the impression that everyone wrote they own verses.” On the flip side, there’s Drake the pop star, who performs likable earworms with undeniable dance-ability. He’s the stuff meme dreams are made of, and seems to have the wherewithal to go right along with it. It’s that Drake that is most easy with which to reconcile fandom, because we all know we all know the words to “Hotline Bling.” It’s fine. Besides, Drake is joined on this tour with trap rapper Future, which should lend a little bit of cred for those concerned with that sort of thing. HEATHER HOCH
The Game – Tuesday, September 6 – The Pressroom
Back in 2009, rapper The Game was insisting that his 2008 album, L.A.X., was his final one. This wasn’t because of creative differences or a new career, as he told journalist Ben Westhoff. “’Cause, see, you guys don’t need me anymore. You got all these other wack rappers that you love so much.” Well, wack rappers haven’t gone anywhere, and neither has The Game, who has continued making music since his faux-retirement. Last year he released The Documentary 2 and its companion, The Documentary 2.5, both major, star-studded affairs featuring a who’s who of everyone hot in hip-hop — guys like Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Future, Kanye West, and more, including older-school guys like Diddy, Snoop Dogg, and Ice Cube. Pitchfork cynically described the strategy as this: “Hitch the Game to the greatest possible number of bandwagons and hope it moves.” Well, it seems to have worked. The album received positive reviews across the board, and kept The Game in the hip-hop conversation more than a decade after his debut album. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Purple – Tuesday, September 6 – Valley Bar
If you listen to Beaumont, Texas, trio Purple’s debut album, 409, released last year, you’ll find that Purple’s sound hits you like a bolt of lightning shot out of a Jim Beam bottle with a thunderclap punk-rock chaser. The unlikely bedfellows of garage rock, grunge, country, reggae, and hip-hop genres are not just labels used to impress a wide audience of fans and prick up the ears of critics. Hanna Brewer, fellow founding member guitarist/vocalist Taylor Busby, and bass player Joe “Prankster” Cannariato harness a party-rock sound that cannot be conveniently classified. And more specifically for Brewer, it is a sound borne out of vengeance aimed at the religious zealotry, racial bigotry, and small-town mentality that pervaded the Jefferson County seat in which she was raised — Vidor, Texas. The band just released its sophomore album, Bodacious. MARK C. HORN
Floating Points – Tuesday, September 6 – Crescent Ballroom
Sam Shepherd, also known as Floating Points, is an electronic musician and neuroscientist. Yeah. He does both of those things. Hailing from Manchester, England, he made his debut in 2009 when the dubstep scene was just beginning to flourish. The thing is, Floating Points doesn't really fit that mold. Although, if you listen to one, you'll likely enjoy the other. His music is slower, and he brings together a variety of different instruments to create a unique sound. His latest album, Elaenia, was released late last year with tracks like "Nespole" and "Thin Air" earning critical acclaim. DIAMOND VICTORIA
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Juliette Lewis – Wednesday, September 7 – Livewire
The world needs more wild children. You know the type, right? Free spirits who actually do things. Powerful women and men who, when pushed, push back, and tend to keep pushing the boundaries placed in front of them. Juliette Lewis is such a person. A pusher, for sure, of all things good and crazy and feisty and rockin’. Recently, Lewis has taken to wearing stage garb based on the famous jumpsuit of the 1970s' most notorious stunt man, and her reasoning behind it is typical Lewis: brash and unapologetic. “I strive to be a blend of a superhero, David Lee Roth, wrestler, a dancer … and then, yes, people like Evel Knievel who defy, no, go against the odds. Whatever gets you in the room, no matter what, you will never be bored at one of my shows,” says Lewis with no small amount of bravado in her voice. As a vocalist, Lewis is much more than just Mallory Knox from Natural Born Killers with a mic in her hand. There are shreds of Janis Joplin in her voice, along with some Courtney Love attitude, and hints of Jim Morrison’s poetic lyrics. TOM REARDON
The Album Leaf – Wednesday, September 7 – Crescent Ballroom
The Album Leaf isn't so much post-rock as it is post-soft. Sigur Rós protégé and auteur Jimmy LaValle's five largely instrumental albums could be called road music, because what they evoke is too many undulating miles of asphalt. Unlike The Odyssey, LaValle's music isn't epic. Odysseus went somewhere, while The Album Leaf is a treadmill of tinkling synth, gentle guitar, and muted percussion with the occasional bristling breakbeat or glitchy electronic texture acting as a mile marker. The subtle differences between the middle-of-the-road meanderings on each album aren't enough to justify names instead of volume numbers. The pretty, genial, yet wholly indistinct soundscapes suggest a series of watercolors that blur together quicker than highway rest stops. They're enlivened by intermittent bursts of musical melodrama — swelling strings, ponderous piano — that feel as gratuitous and unearned as most Wall Street bonus checks. CHRIS PARKER
Tab Benoit – Tuesday, September 6 – Rhythm Room
Everything from New Orleans is humid and damp, from the cobblestones of the French Quarter to the sweat coming off the dancers at any of the city’s famed clubs. The blues music that has come out of the city sounds slick, smooth, and played loose by sweaty fingers in fervid, crowded rooms. Guitarist Tab Benoit grew up in Baton Rouge and graduated from high school in New Orleans, and his style of delta-blues-meets-roots is as authentic to the city’s character as his thick Cajun patois. He’s the type of guitar player that can start a party by himself, with a flashy, bluesy, percussive style of playing that practically demands audience members get out of their seats and start moving. As a result, through almost 20 albums spanning nearly two decades, he’s one of the city’s most important music exports of note. The Rhythm Room is the perfect place to get down to Benoit’s offerings — a small and powerful room that will allow the crowd to get up close and personal with the guitarist. Just like home. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Fifth Harmony – Thursday, September 8 – Ak-Chin Pavilion
After the end of many great girl groups like the Spice Girls, TLC, and Destiny’s Child, there hasn’t been a group of girls that has stolen hearts and put girl groups back at the forefront of pop music. That was true until 2012, anyways, when contemporary R&B girl group Fifth Harmony was formed by – who else? – Simon Cowell on the second season of Fox’s X-Factor. The girls entered the competition separately, but once they were placed together they were an undeniable force. Although the group didn’t win the competition, they were winners in the long run, as they signed to both Epic Records and the U.K.’s Syco Records. They subsequently released two EPs in 2013, which tided their fans over until their debut studio album, Reflections, dropped in 2014. The album debuted at No. 5 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, reached gold certification and enabled them to headline their first world tour. Not bad for a first album. This year they’re continuing their girl power reign with another tour for their new sophomore album 7/27, so named for the date the group was created. ARIA BELL
Cedric Burnside – Thursday, September 8 – Rhythm Room
The blues has always been about regionalism. While feeling, intent, and themes consistently overlap the form, there's no denying the particular impact of an artist's surroundings. Forceful Chicago blues will never be mistaken for gritty Texas blues, for example. Then there's the Mississippi hill country blues. "It's a very rare music," says Cedric Burnside, whose grandfather, R.L. Burnside, brought widespread attention to the dark, rumbling, and hypnotic musical form of chugging rhythms, stinging guitar licks, and singing that shifts from mumbling whispers to howling shouts.
"The sound is a little unorthodox," Burnside adds. "It ain't no 12-bar blues or no 16-bar blues. I like to call it 'feel' music. [It has] different changes and different rhythms." As the Burnside name now carries significant weight, the guitarist and drummer aims to carry on the musical traditions of those who came before him. "It's very hard to walk in my big daddy's shoes. They're big shoes to fill," he says of R.L. "I got it from him and have to keep his music alive, but he also instilled in me to write my own music as well. Everything I write is based on hill country. It might sound a little modern, because I'm a little modern, but as far as keeping the hill country blues alive, I'm going to keep that tradition alive. I'm going to do that until the day I die." GLENN BURNSILVER