At long last, it’s finally here. That moment when the live music scene in Phoenix finally awakens from its summertime slumber and gets into gear.
For proof, look no further than the fact that many of the Valley’s various arts centers are kicking off their fall performance schedules in the coming days, as is the Phoenix Symphony and other local ensembles. And then there are all the long-awaited and much-anticipated concerts that will finally occur this week. We’d even go as far as calling them some of the biggest shows of the year.
To wit: Daryl Hall and John Oates will bring thousands out to Ak-Chin Pavilion for their performance on Wednesday while Ray LaMontagne does the same over at Comerica Theatre that same night. The following evening, German-born electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk will stage their unforgettable and spectacular 3-D show at the Orpheum Theatre.
This week’s concert calendar also includes gigs by Counting Crows and Rob Thomas, renowned bluesman Watermelon Slim, soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Jessica Dobson’s current project Deep Sea Diver, and one half of the original Monkees lineup. Oh, and the prolific Rob Crow of Pinback fame will transform into Lord Phallus when he brings his stoner rock/doom metal act Goblin Cock to Valley Bar. (And for even more options, check out our online concert calendar.)
Needless to say, its going to be a busy week for concertgoers. Here's a rundown of the 11 best shows to see.
Keith Harkin – Monday, September 12 – Last Exit Live
Keith Harkin's seen a lot in his career. He and his charming Irish twang have toured across continents for almost eight years now, sharing his acoustic folk with thousands of fans. Lyrically, he's always kept a simple and recognizable palette, singing about the ups and downs of love and appreciating the little things in life. Plus, he got those dreamy looks. (Just saying.) The performance at Last Exit Live in downtown Phoenix should be intimate and, dare we say it, fairly exclusive, so don't miss out on the chance to catch Keith Harkin live — golden locks and all. MATT WOOD
Counting Crows & Rob Thomas – Tuesday, September 13 – Ak-Chin Pavilion
Sha-la-la-la-la-la-la. That’s the rallying cry of all drunk-folk guitar-twang music lovers come September 13 when none other than the Counting Crows hit the stage at Ak-Chin Pavilion. They’re in the midst of their current tour with fellow '90s favorite Rob Thomas, and it's going to be something more than awesome when the band digs into big hits like “Mr. Jones,” “Round Here,” “Hangin’ Around,” “Accidentally in Love,” and, of course, its cover of “Big Yellow Taxi.” If you know the band only from the Shrek soundtrack, stop what you’re doing and listen to August and Everything After. If you’re a real product of the ’90s, you already know. When it comes to alt-rock and barstool poetry, this is the pinnacle. KAT BEIN
Deep Sea Diver – Tuesday, September 13 – Valley Bar
Touring with Beck, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the Shins, Jessica Dobson played some of the biggest stages a rock guitarist could hope for, but it came at the expense of her own band. So Dobson put herself front and center, walking away from the Shins to focus full time on Deep Sea Diver, which has grown from a solo project to a four-piece band with two albums out, including this year’s effort, Secrets. Dobson put together Deep Sea Diver's first record, History Speaks, at the same time she toured as lead guitarist for the Shins, and it was the difficulty of keeping active on both projects that forged her decision in late 2013 to make her own band the first and only musical priority.
"Being the right-hand woman for James Mercer was fantastic. I got to focus solely on being a guitar player and supporting a band and that frontperson," she says. "But I realized toward the end of that tour that was an amazing experience, but if I'm to do Deep Sea Diver the way I want to do it, I can't tour with other bands to that extent." Joining Dobson are husband Peter Mansen on drums, Garrett Gue on bass, and Elliot Jackson on guitar and synth. ERIC SWEDLUND
Porches – Tuesday, September 13 – The Rebel Lounge
In name alone, Porches’ 2016 release, Pool, should be something rather alluring to any Phoenician in the dog days of summer. Musically, New York-based Aaron Maine’s synth-pop sophomore release serves up a sensual yet melancholy indie album that isn’t weighted down or overwrought. It dances with minimalism without feeling empty. It’s dreamy and calm like Maine’s past work, but with a confidence and singularity that Porches hadn’t expressed before, making it an early favorite for 2016 releases.
Morose at times, but laced with a dose of longing, Pool offers 12 tracks of emotionally fraught grooves that seem to constantly deconstruct and rebuild themselves. Some of Pool’s tracks go through a more literal transformation, though, with the follow-up remix release of Water in late August 2016. Here, songs like “Shaver” and “Glow” lose their dreamy romanticism almost entirely to become darker, slower, and a little more heart-wrenching. In support of both releases, Porches’ fall ’16 tour will also feature Philly’s intense and genre-jumping Japanese Breakfast and New York’s electro-experimental Rivergazer. HEATHER HOCH
Watermelon Slim – Tuesday, September 13 – Rhythm Room
It's hard to pin down Watermelon Slim, a.k.a. Bill Homans. Sometimes he comes off like the most maniacal backwoods-blues weirdo since Hasil Adkins kicked the Campbell's soup can; other times, he's as straight and studious as the degrees in history hanging on his wall; sometimes he's the best southpaw, slide-resophonic guitarist you've ever heard. Whatever the case, Slim's an American original, someone who learned his politics from a stint in a Vietnam rather than from a book, and who takes his growl and drawl from the North Carolina working class. He gets down to business with a sound that heaves and hollers like a Teamster brawl on a picket line stretching from the Delta to Chicago — and all blues points in between. ROY KASTEN
Hall & Oates – Wednesday, September 14 – Ak-Chin Pavilion
Hall & Oates haven’t been in the upper reaches of the charts since the late ’80s, but thanks to soundtracks, television appearances, and younger superstars in their debt — like Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, and Robin Thicke — the 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees are probably as popular now as they’ve ever been. (“Hall & Oates cure illness,” said Roots drummer ?uestlove in his induction speech.) Certainly few acts in pop history have profited more handsomely from their hometown Philadelphia’s super-stylish brand of soul music, nor seen their influence reflected in such an eclectic range of contemporary entertainers. Anyone can go for that. CHRIS GRAY
Ray LaMontagne – Wednesday, September 14 – Comerica Theatre
Although his recorded work sometimes falls into muddled, hazy messes, LaMontagne’s live shows have a magical quality to them. Phoenix may just witness something truly special Saturday night – if they’ll let him. In the past, LaMontagne has humbly, politely asked audiences to remain as quiet as possible and allow him to do his thing. Back in 2014, he famously walked off stage in the middle of a performance, not returning until a couple that wouldn’t stop talking was removed. Here’s hoping the event won't repeat itself here.
Especially considering how hushed and psychedelic his latest record, Ouroboros, is, the “Supernova” and “Trouble” singer will demand our full attention. If we give it to him, he will paint the room in warm hues with his lovelorn tunes. You can’t ask for anything more from an artist whose body of work only gets richer with each release. And while this world-weary road poet can be cosmically cool — a calm in the eye of the storm — he’s also prone to turbulent swings of emotion; fingers crossed that the Valley doesn’t get the wrath of Hurricane Ray. ANGEL MELENDEZ
Goblin Cock – Wednesday, September 14 – Valley Bar
The video for Goblin Cock's 2006 song "Stumped" features girl softball players, comic books, and bad special-effects robots — three sure signs that, while the band's music wouldn't be out of place on a mix tape with Sabbath's, these guys aren't your ordinary metal band. This is metal for the ironic indie kids, which isn't really all that surprising, considering Goblin Cock is the brainchild of one of indie rock's crown princes, Pinback's Rob Crow.
Crow's known in his San Diego hometown as the man of a thousand bands (including such projects as Thingy, Heavy Vegetable, Sleeping People, Prefuse 73, and Aspects of Physics). Goblin Cock pairs his nerdy penchant for sci-fi and Dungeons & Dragons with a weird phallophilia and a desire to perform in black cloaks. Still, despite the doom-and-gloom chicanery, you can expect more horn-rimmed specs than hair-spray whores when Goblin Cock throws down at Valley Bar. MAYA KROTH
Kraftwerk – Thursday, September 15 – Orpheum Theatre
Kraftwerk's influence on dance music cannot be overstated. And more than 30 years later, tracks such as "It's More Fun to Compute" and "Trans-Europe Express" are still DJ favorites to cut and sample with bass and breakbeat sounds, which stand as a testament to the influence of the German electro pioneers. Saying they were simply involved is an understatement. As it stands, Kraftwerk is like a live encyclopedia of the evolution of electronic music. Through 10 studio albums and one remix compilation, the band has explored sounds and compositions while touching on topics such as technology, alienation, computer privacy, and nuclear weaponry. And Kraftwerk's music is always evolving. Ralf Hütter, the sole remaining original member of Kraftwerk, completed a remastering of all the band's albums in 2009, adding new depth to the robots' sound.
In 2012, Kraftwerk pushed the presentation of its art further and invited fans to a series of shows at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for the exhibition "Kraftwerk — Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8." Over the course of eight nights, the band played every album, from Autobahn to Tour de France, to sold-out crowds. After the museum stint, Kraftwerk held onto the 3-D concept it introduced at MoMA and went on tour. Thanks to extensive touring the last couple of years, the sight of Hütter and band members Fritz Hilpert, Henning Schmitz, and Falk Grieffenhagen standing stoically behind their computers as a stream of 3-D images are projected behind them as they perform has become as iconic as Daft Punk's pyramid or Deadmau5's headgear. "We are complete 3-D. This is a 3-D concert where the audience will have those paper 3-D glasses. All our visuals, the complete show is in 3-D projections, films, and graphic images and our visual music that we produced at [Kraftwerk’s] Kling Klang Studio." JOSE D. DURAN
St. Paul and the Broken Bones – Thursday, September 15 – Crescent Ballroom
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Keith Richards gave the ultimate compliment to St. Paul and the Broken Bones when he called the James Brown-channeling soul singer Paul Janeway and his band "interesting to watch." "He's a cat that can do an Otis Redding," Richards stated, and if you see the Birmingham, Alabama, sextet when they swing through the Crescent Ballroom this week, you might wind up agreeing with the rock legend. Janeway make for a formidable figure onstage, an old-school cat who rocks thick-framed prescription glasses.
During their performances, he typically dons dapper suits and other formalwear, looking somewhat like how a young Roger Ebert might if he were dressing up as a pimp for Halloween. But when Janeway opens his mouth — good God — you could mistake him for Al Green. As Janeway croons, you couldn't help but revel in just how beautifully jarring of a voice the man has when matched up to his computer-programmeresque looks. And with their clean-cut looks and retro-soul sound, you could be forgiven for confusing the Broken Bones Bones with a Southern church band. DAVID ROLLAND
The Monkees – Thursday, September 15 – Mesa Arts Center
Hey, hey they’re the Monkees, and it seems as though they’ve been monkeying around. This American rock band has seen numerous reunion tours and albums since splitting (for the first time) in 1971. Trying to follow in the footsteps of the Beatles, the Monkees formed in Los Angeles in 1965, before their American-aired TV show in began running in 1966 — a year later than their British cohorts. In fact, The Monkees TV show only aired for two years, while the Beatles beat them out with an additional year of programming (and plenty of other measurable achievements, we might add).
The Monkees revived in 1986 for the recording of "That Was Then, This is Now,” a track that was refused vocal contributions from Davy Jones. They got back together in the '90s to record new music and did a U.S. tour in '97 that preceded another hiatus, this one until 2001. They got back together, again, in 2011 for a world tour but not before cancelling 10 last-minute additional shows due to internal band issues. Jones passed away in 2012 and was soon replaced by Michael Nesmith. The (new) Monkees did a 24-date tour in 2013 and are now coming through Phoenix on their newest tour that began in 2015 in celebration of their 50th anniversary. SARA BUTTON