The 30 Best Concerts in March in Phoenix

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Viva PHX 2016 - Saturday, March 12 - Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix is going to be more than a little busy with live music fans on March 12. More specifically, its sidewalks and even an alley or two are going to be crowded with people checking out performances at 20 different venues scattered throughout a two-mile radius when the third annual Viva PHX music festival, which is very much in the spirit of Austin's South by Southwest extravaganza, dominates downtown with a cornucopia of sound, light, and color.

There are a multitude of bands, performers, and musicians that will perform at Viva PHX — including those from such genres as punk, indie rock, pop, electronica, hip-hop, funk, cumbia, and Americana. This year’s lineup includes such must-see bands and artists as Crystal Castles, The Growlers, Neon Indian, Rocket From the Crypt, Chuck Ragan, Biz Markie, Lydia, El Ten Eleven, This Will Destroy You, XYLØ, Kitten, Sam Outlaw, Mystic Braves, Flor, From Indian Lakes, Eleanor Friedberger, Astronauts Etc., and dozens more.

Gungor - Saturday, March 12 - Nile Theater

Based on the layered arena-rock peak of the title track of Gungor's 2013 album, I Am Mountain, you'd think Gungor made radio-friendly pop. And while there certainly are some vibrant melodies to be found, the overall aesthetic is far more cinematic in scope. The Denver-based experimental post-rock band led by musician Michael Gungor offers up arrangements and instrumentation are intelligent and interesting throughout its discography, particularly the pure percussive ear candy of such tracks as "Beat of My Heart," which effectively conjures the spirit of Dead Can Dance, and the Peter Gabriel-esque "Let It Go." As compelling as the music is, the vocals are equally enjoyable, from the subtler passages of tunes like the opener, in which Gungor sings with the measured delicacy of Sufjan Stevens, to the moments when he and his wife, Lisa, twist in harmony. DAVE HERRERA

Ozomatli - Sunday, March 13 - Chandler Ostrich Festival

Like their L.A. hometown, Ozomatli are a rich combination of influences and cultures. The seven-piece group mixes rap, funk and traditional Latin music for a bitchin’ brew that percolates with a lot of lively, percussive energy in concert. Their most recent album, 2014’s Place in the Sun, alternates between perky, buoyant English-language tunes and such densely arranged, dance-oriented Spanish-language songs as “Paleta” and “Tus Ojos.” Ozomatli slip easily into poppy reggae on “Brighter,” which features the album’s producer, Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. Although Stewart’s shiny production mutes much of the group’s onstage attack, he emphasizes the group’s potential for melodic choruses on “Burn It Down,” in which lead singer/trumpeter Asdrubal Sierra croons over Wil-Dog Abers’ slinky bass line and Raúl Pacheco’s curt guitar accents. FALLING JAMES

Electric Six - Tuesday, March 15 - The Rebel Lounge

Most of America got to know Electric Six in the video for the 2003 single “Gay Bar,” which featured the sextet’s members gyrating and cavorting while dressed as hot-pants-clad Abraham Lincoln impersonators. That song, from the band’s debut, Fire, represents the height of its commercial success, but not its creativity. In the twelve years since, Electric Six has released eleven albums, from the hyperactive, funk-filled I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being the Master to the guitar-driven Mustang. But its members, who perform under stage names like Dick Valentine and Smorgasbord, have never lost their playfulness. ADAM ROY

Wheelchair Sports Camp - Tuesday, March 15 - Last Exit Live

Kalyn Heffernan is 24 years old, weighs 53 pounds, and measures three feet, six inches tall. She's light enough to carry, compact enough to hide under a winter coat, and is sometimes mistaken for a child. But Kalyn, who has the brittle-bone disability osteogenesis imperfecta, is hardly innocent, precious, or inconspicuous: The Colorado native dabbles in graffiti, cusses gloriously, and has a septum piercing. She raps, scribbles rhymes, and has been known to cover the viral YouTube video "My Vagina Ain't Handicapped." If you ask—and even if you don't—she'll eagerly lift her shirt to show off the words "CRIP LIFE" inked on her stomach, an homage to Tupac Shakur's THUG LIFE tattoo.

Kalyn is the founding member of Wheelchair Sports Camp, a fledgling jazz-hop trio cheekily named after a week-long youth-disability program she attended growing up and, by her own admission, "corrupted." The Denver-based band consists of Kalyn and two able-bodied friends from college, Abigail "Abi" McGaha Miller, a towering and talented saxophonist/vocalist, and Abi's Marvel Comics-nerd older brother, a mountain of a drummer named Isaac. Although both siblings are far more experienced musicians than Kalyn, they will comfortably concede that this project is "Kalyn's show." CAMILLE DODERO

Pot of Gold Music Festival 2016 - Thursday, March 17, and Saturday, March 19 – Rawhide

Like its inaugural edition in 2015, the second edition of this multi-day outdoor concert festival boasts an array of blockbuster artists and bands from multiple genres, as well as a slew of locals, including talents of the hip-hop, reggae, rock, and alternative. The first day on Thursday, March 17, will feature headliners Future, as well as Slightly Stoopid, Atmosphere, Dirtyheads, Ty Dolla Sign, Fishbone, Fayuca, Clairevoyant Sound, Figureitout, and others. Pot of Gold’s lineup on Saturday, March 19, is just as stacked and will feature gigs from Big Sean, 311, Rebelution, Rae Sremmurd, Earl Sweatshirt, Protoje, Cozz, Katastro, Cozz, Mouse Powell, Black Bottom Lighters, and several more.

Puscifer - Friday, March 18 - Comerica Theater

Maynard James Keenan's ideas manifest themselves in schizoid, kaleidoscopic fashion in Puscifer's wildly imaginative sets, designed and dressed with an eye for the obscene and ornate. Channeling one part Dr. Strangelove and one part Cabaret, Puscifer's stage show is partially improv-driven comedy and wholly inspired by Keenan's obvious affection for fusing World War II-era ambience and sultry, electronica-imbued, operatic rock. Distinguished by more electronic and pop elements than Tool's mammoth metal masterpieces, Puscifer's music sounds like that of a man stretching his id to the breaking point, but with a reasonable sense of humor and humility still firmly in place. HANNA LEVIN

Yuck - Monday, March 21 - Crescent Ballroom

Somewhere between Yo La Tengo and Dinosaur Jr., adjacent to shoegaze and Elliot Smith, sit Yuck. With aesthetics plucked straight from the '90s and melodies 10 feet deep, Yuck strike a hook-heavy balance between indie noise and the daze of surf rock. This is the kind of grungy pop that makes every ex-college radio DJ salivate; the sort of quirky tunes inevitably destined to soundtrack a thousand coming-of-age moments. Oscillating between crunchy chords and woozy fluidity, Yuck's sound is all strung out with enough infectious slacker charm to sidestep the nostalgia trap. Hell, it wouldn't matter much anyway because Yuck aren't making music that aims for the clouds. Their cuts hit you square in the gut and reverberate below the belt. JONATHAN PATRICK

Coheed and Cambria - Monday, March 21 - Marquee Theatre

If you’re one of those kids who made the weird transition from nu-metal to post-hardcore in the early ‘00s, this is something of a dream show. Coheed and Cambria continue to put out stellar releases and deliver amazing performances. Glassjaw are kind of an enigma, having replaced half the band since their last trip to town, but that won’t stop the faithful from screaming along like it’s 2002. CORY GARCIA

Hey Marseilles - Tuesday, March 22 - The Rebel Lounge

For their latest album, Seattle’s Hey Marseilles’ aim for the big leagues, recruiting Grammy-winning producer and engineer Anthony Kilhoffer — best known for his work with heavyweights like Kanye West, John Legend and Rick Ross — to helm their self-titled record, which dropped in February. The new tracks find Hey Marseilles moving away from the middle ground indie/chamber pop realm of their first two albums and toward slickly produced territory. New songs include the snappy piano-backed jaunt "Eyes on You" and the encompassing orchestral ode to their native coast, "West Coast," which builds and soars behind Matt Bishop's memorable chorus (“Meet me on the west coast/with the salt air/breathe slow/Go out to the unknown”). JILL MENZE

Guantanamo Baywatch - Tuesday, March 22 - Rhythm Room

Portland, Oregon's Guantanamo Baywatch formed in early 2009 and mulched the aesthetics of early surf rock with punk and the early psychobilly of artists like Hasil Adkins and The Cramps in threading together its core sound. The result is music that sounds like it could be from the '60s but is just ineffably weirder than most of that stuff. Stylistically, this group's music has more in common with modern outfits like Shannon & The Clams and Hunx & His Punx than with something from fifty years ago. Australian “shit-pop” band The Gooch Palms and local acts The Apaches and Nanami Ozone open. TOM MURPHY

Poliça - Tuesday, March 22 - Crescent Ballroom

Synth pop four-piece Polica just released their third album, United Crushers, and it’s not too different from the one that preceded it, 2013’s Shulamith. All three of Polica’s LPs maintain a balance between sparkling synths and muted or distorted vocals, an ominous fog hanging just over danceable percussion. Their style has earned them frequent comparisons to The xx, but unlike that group, Polica allow their music to spill over into lush, less minimal territory. SOPHIE WEINER

Fat White Family - Wednesday, March 23 - Valley Bar

The sort of perfectly pitched anger artists that only England can produce, FWF compress a generation's worth of indie-rock spleen into a skinny white container guaranteed to go boom. Last year's Champagne Holocaust sounds like the misbegotten spawn of the Mekons, Gun Club, and Oasis's loneliest collective hangover. Their live shows are challenging, saliva-spewing affairs that threaten to ride off the rails at the drop of a trouser. RICHARD GEHR

Santigold - Monday, March 28 - Marquee Theatre

In person, Santigold is just as playfully engaging as she is on stage, where she champions social and musical revolution. She's also remarkably enthusiastic for someone who has seen the seedy inner workings of almost every facet of the music industry. In her twenties, she served as an A&R rep at Epic Records and fronted the punk band Stiffed; she has helped write songs for Christina Aguilera, Lily Allen, and Ashlee Simpson. And thanks to songs like "L.E.S. Artistes" and "Creator" becoming music-blog and commercial staples, she has toured with Björk, Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Kanye West and Jay-Z. The Roc-a-Fella mogul and Nets co-owner even sampled her heady dub chant "Shove It" on his song "Brooklyn We Go Hard." PUJA PATEL

Anders Osborne - Monday, March 28 - Crescent Ballroom

For nearly three decades, singer/guitarist Anders Osborne has called The Big Easy home and the city's musical heritage has had a profound impact on Osborne's music. Funky and inventive, his blues are inspired by both John Lee Hooker and Doctor John, full of impressive solos and carefree spirit that goes well beyond fiery fretwork. And according to Osborne, you have to live the blues in order to play the blues, a distinction that the 49-year-old musician can claim, considering he lived through Hurricane Katrina a decade ago. “There are some whiz kids who can play all the stuff, but they don't understand the power of the blues. I think you have to have lived through a few things. You have to believe what you are singing about. DARRYL SMYERS
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Phoenix New Times Music Writers