The 30 Best Concerts in Phoenix in March 2017

Sleigh Bells is scheduled to perform on Monday, March 27, at Crescent Ballroom.
Sleigh Bells is scheduled to perform on Monday, March 27, at Crescent Ballroom. Press Here Talent
Don’t look now, but March madness is in full swing. No, we aren’t referring to the annual basketball tournament (although that’s getting going sometime soon), but rather to the fact that this month is practically wall-to-wall with big shows and can’t miss concerts.

And believe us, the next few weeks are going to be busy when it comes to live music.

There’s probably no greater example of that said fact than the annual Viva PHX extravaganza, which will bring 70-plus bands to downtown Phoenix on Saturday, March 11. They won’t be the only ones headed our way for a show, however, since the Arizona will be visited by all manner of musicians who will be going to and coming from South by Southwest and other spring festivals around the country. (Check out our extensive online music listings for info on all these shows.)

There will also be a slew of big-name bands and artists appearing at March’s other high-profile concert event in the Valley, the annual Pot of Gold music festival at Rawhide, which will include performances by Flogging Molly, NOFX, G-Eazy, Death Cab for Cutie, Action Bronson, and many more.

Here’s a rundown of which concerts we’re looking forward to seeing in March.

Gin Blossoms – Friday, March 10 – Chandler Ostrich Festival
To the band that made the following lines famous — "Anywhere you go, I'll follow you down. I'll follow you down, but not that far!" — we have a message for you: We, your loving audience, will keep following you, because you're great. For the countless adults caught in that awkward place between Gen X and Y who remember when MTV played music, there are a handful of names that impart that deliciously distinct '90s-lost-innocence nostalgia, from Blues Traveler to Bush to Counting Crows, but it might just be Gin Blossoms who take the cake. With the salty-sweet voice of vocalist Jesse Valenzuela and hits like "Hey Jealousy," "Follow You Down," and "Til I Hear It From You," Gin Blossoms had a virtual monopoly on the soundtracks to school dances and car make-outs of the '90s. Formed in 1987 in Tempe, Arizona, Gin Blossoms broke out with "Hey Jealousy," a song that became the center of a tragedy after its writer, Blossoms cofounder Doug Hopkins, was fired and later committed suicide after a battle with drinking. The rest of the band's members continued on to success before eventually breaking up in 1997. In 2002, the band reunited and subsequently released 2006's Major Lodge Victory and 2010's No Chocolate Cake. Gin Blossoms have survived a shuffling in and out of members over the years, but at least for now, they're stable and touring. JACON UITTI

Jerry Riopelle – Friday, March 10 – Talking Stick Resort
Just because it’s been several years since Jerry Riopelle performed one of his trademark New Year's Eve gigs at the Celebrity Theatre, don't fret. It doesn't mean that he's ditched the Valley by any means. Nope, Riopelle still calls Scottsdale home, at least part of the year, one of many stops he's made along in his journey in the rock and pop world. During his 50-year-plus career, Riopelle has worked behind the scenes writing and producing songs for Capitol and A&M Records, as well as for the infamous Phil Spector, and seeing his songs covered by folks like Meatloaf, Kenny Loggins, and Herb Alpert. He later released his own material in the '70s and '80s, which got tons of airplay on KDKB and built up Riopelle's local popularity eons before he decided to move to Arizona in 2003. You can witness the extent of his popularity during his gig on March 10 at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, which is likely to be packed with fans. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN

This Saxaphone Kills Fascists – Friday, March 10 – Trunk Space
“They say don’t feed the trolls, don’t respond to them, don’t address it,” Arrington de Dionyso tells us on the phone while talking about This Saxophone Kills Fascists, his latest project. “But I’m an artist; I’m a musician with a higher profile. That tactic isn’t going to work for me.” The “it” the Olympia, Washington, multi-instrumentalist is referring to is the infamous #Pizzagate. The idea that leading Democratic officials would orchestrate something as monstrous and preposterous as a child sex-trafficking operation out of a pizzeria was bizarre enough; the fact that underground artist de Dionyso became a part of the controversy made it even more surreal. De Dionyso was already a well-known and respected figure before #Pizzagate shined a spotlight on him. As a musician, his groups Old Time Relijun and Malaikat dan Singa mixed together psych-rock, jazz, and Indonesian trance music to create a beguiling curry of mind-expanding sounds. His artwork, replete with ecstatic and primitive figures that recall the wild and childlike styles of Henri Rousseau and Henry Darger, has adorned concert posters, gallery walls, and even Yves Saint Laurent backpacks. His art also decorated the walls of Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria, ground zero for the #Pizzagate hysteria, making him a target for deranged right-wing conspiracy theorists. It’s why de Dionyso is putting his latest rock album aside to tour as the explosive free-jazz experience This Saxophone Kills Fascists. Playing with a different group of local musicians in each city, de Dionyso brings saxophone, bass clarinet, Indonesian wind instruments, and other percussive instruments together to make a different kind of protest music. ASHLEY NAFTULE

Viva PHX 2017 – Saturday, March 11 – Downtown Phoenix
One of the main forces that drove Stateside Presents' head honcho, Charlie Levy, to create Viva PHX in 2014 was the fact that he simply doesn't like traditional music festivals very much. Who can blame him? Giant crowds of people in exposed, enormous fields, listening to bands amplified from 500 feet away? Yuck. So Levy created Viva PHX, a festival based on the urban model of South by Southwest. (Disclosure: New Times is a sponsor.) Instead of one or two giant stages, Viva PHX takes over dozens of stages throughout downtown Phoenix. For one magical night, giant crowds of music lovers fill spaces of downtown usually devoid of people, even on a Saturday night. And just like during its first three editions, this year’s lineup is loaded up with noteworthy bands, including Wyclef Jean, Girl Talk, American Football, Mystikal, The Drums, Warren G, Kaiydo, Temples, Sharam, Reverend Horton Heat, Uffie, Youngr, Joyce Manor, X, The Mowgli’s, Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Fucked Up, YACHT, Blackalicious, The Menzingers, Tone Loc, Peanut Butter Wolf, Health, and dozens of others. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

Steel Panther – Saturday, March 11 – Livewire
What if, in a perfect world, the music genre you love the most was the only one in existence and lived on forever? Steel Panther imagines this to be true, and tonight the glammish four-piece brings a full-on heavy-metal throwback show to Livewire in Scottsdale. The best part? Steel Panther isn't just a tribute — it is also an equal mockery of the sometimes androgynous, hair-dominating days when Poison and Motley Crue owned MTV. The band gets it right by aiming right at the crotch of the genre, zeroing in on the humor of the oversexed days of Sunset Strip hair metal while balancing it with original and true-to-form hook-heavy songs. Just imagine: Ten years from now, some dudes born in the '90s will be wearing greasy mops and smoking fake cigarettes on stage, attempting to pull off a semi-accurate Strokes tribute, and it won't be nearly as funny. BREE DAVIES

Los Lobos
Drew Reynolds
Los Lobos – Sunday, March 12 – Chandler Ostrich Festival
The Los Lobos origin story is a familiar one: High-school friends bond over favorite records, form a band, play house parties and make a few albums before hitting the mainstream. But this California group had a style all its own, going beyond the typical garage sound and paying homage to the folk music of the members’ childhoods, bringing cumbia, zydeco and Tejano influences onto the radio. The Chicano-country rockers from East L.A. started kicking out the jams in the early ’70s, but it wasn’t until they covered the Ritchie Valens classic “La Bamba” in the 1987 film of the same name that the world took notice. Touring relentlessly as both headliners and support for acts like U2 and Bob Dylan, Los Lobos have continued to blaze trails, winning several Grammys over the decades and releasing their 24th record, Gates of Gold, in 2015. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Niyaz – Monday, March 13 – Musical Instrument Museum
Outside the scope of rock and pop, "supergroups" are less heralded. Besides the acclaimed Masters of Persian Music, Arabic folk mergers remain sparse. Niyaz (NEE-az) easily slips into that category, drawing from a thousand years of Iranian and Indian influence and rebooting it with digital charges. Comprising former Vas vocalist Azam Ali, Axiom of Choice founder Loga Ramin Torkian, and producer Carmen Rizzo, the goal was to traverse a narrow bridge between classical cool and futuristic foray without compromising the integrity of either. And they’ve accomplished this mission on all five of the albums in the group’s discography, as Ali's brilliant Urdu/Farsi poetry is laid bare with warm bass lines and reinvented dholak and tabla loops. Drawing from a catalogue of ancient scribes, Ali carefully crafts melodies from the works of Rumi, Sauda, Shad Azimabadi, and others. Torkian then punctuates them with lightweight rabab, saz and guitar viol lines, resulting in stunning and emotive music that transcends boundaries. DEREK BERES

DakhaBrakha – Tuesday, March 14 – Musical Instrument Museum
Hailing from Ukraine, Kiev's DakhaBrakha offers a high level of musical and visual stimulation, turning a world-based palette of regional folk music into hypnotic, trance-inducing mystic revelations. The percussion-heavy quartet formed in 2004 at the Kyiv Center of Contemporary Art (DAKH) through avant-garde theater director Vladyslav Troitskiy, leading to ornate costumes featuring tall hats, long braids, and bangles extending to the colorfully patterned drums and instruments. Intoxicating, yes, but it's the music — the triple harmonies and cross-cut vocals of Iryna Kovalenko (djembe, bass drums, accordion, percussion, bugay, zgaleyka, piano), Olena Tsibulska (bass drums, percussion, garmoshka) and Nina Garenetska (cello, bass drum), bolstered by Marko Halanevych's impassioned singing with darbuka, tabla, didjeridoo, accordion, and trombone accompaniment — that truly captivates. DakhaBrakha means "give/take" in the old Ukrainian language, which also provides the act's lyrical base. A fitting name, as the music starts on a platform of traditional Ukrainian melodies before incorporating African, Asian, Eastern European and Middle Eastern aspects into the mix. Add creative usage of effects pedals, and the resulting juxtaposition of styles and textures proves that what was once old can thrive as something new, fresh, and moving. GLENN BURNSILVER

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn – Tuesday, March 14 – Scottsdale Center for the Arts
Winner of a staggering 15 Grammy awards, Bela Fleck is widely considered to be one of the greatest instrumentalists alive. On banjo, even Steve Martin would probably concede Fleck has no peer, particularly among musicians who have chosen to venture far beyond the territory of traditional bluegrass. However, the 58-year-old Fleck has no trouble whatsoever going the traditional route, as seen lately in his musical partnership with wife and fellow banjoist Abigail Washburn. Although their eponymous 2014 album won the Grammy for Traditional Folk Album, even that one features a Bartok medley and a reworking of his old fusion-minded old group the Flecktones’ “New South Africa” among scattered original compositions and traditional songs like “Pretty Polly” and “Railroad.” CHRIS GRAY

The Cadillac Three – Wednesday, March 15 – Marquee Theatre
Rising country band The Cadillac Three is best known for bringing an element of redneck Southern rock to mainstream country. Authentically unapologetic, the trio isn’t into acts: What you see is what you get, and the ripped jeans, long hair, and thick drawls are real. The Cadillac Three, comprised of Jaren Johnston on lead guitar/vocals, Kelby Ray on lap steel, and Neil Mason on percussion, are all Nashville natives, first meeting in high school. They went on to play with a variety of bands, coming together a decade ago. They first toured under the name the Cadillac Black before switching to The Cadillac Three and forging their characteristic sound about five years ago. “The history shows on stage,” says Kelby Ray. “We have chemistry. No tracks, just us having a fun time. It’s the real deal. No faking it.” Johnston’s combination of attitude-filled gritty vocals and all-out shredding leads the trio. The lap steel of Ray, playing through a bass amp, fills in the low side, while sneaking in attention-grabbing riffs that compliment Johnston. Mason rounds out the sound with a commanding presence on drums. AMBER ERICKSON GABBEY

Xenia Rubinos – Wednesday, March 15 – Valley Bar
Xenia Rubinos speaks with mesmeric confidence, dances like La Lupe, has the swagger of Erykah Badu, and sings like an indie Mariah Carey. Her music has indisputable undercurrents of soul and R&B, flecked with punk-rock guitar riffs and hip-hop verbiage. She discusses her newest album, Black Terry Cat, with unrestrained pride and excitement while maintaining a level of self-awareness that’s not often found in the music business. She doesn’t want to add to the “noise,” as she calls it, so while she talks swiftly about the creation of her second album, she also maintains the ability to shrug her shoulders and admit to not having all the answers. “I learned a lot about problem-solving under pressure,” she says. “On stage during performances, things are gonna go wrong — it’s inevitable. I had to learn that it’s a living, breathing thing, and it’s not about not having problems; it’s just about how you deal with them in the moment. I used to freak out a lot when things would go wrong: I had a keyboard that broke down on me several times throughout tour, and I used to kinda panic when that would happen. That’s not to say that I never panic anymore; I just have a new view of what it means when things go wrong.” MARIAH TAYLOR

click to enlarge
Flogging Molly
Courtesy of Luckyman Concerts
Pot of Gold Music Festival 2017 – Friday, March 17 & Saturday, March 18 – Rawhide
Good news for local Flogging Molly fans: after a three-year absence, they’re resuming their tradition of performing in the Valley in honor of the Irish drinking holiday. The famed Celtic rock band is scheduled to appear during the second night of the Pot of Gold Music Festival, the massive two-day outdoor concert event at Rawhide over Saint Patrick’s Day weekend that will star a huge assortment of rock, punk, indie, and hip-hop acts. The first night of the festival on Saturday, March 17, will feature rappers G-Eazy, Desiigner, Action Bronson, Rae Sremmurd, and Smokepurpp on one stage, all while Sublime With Rome, 311, Matisyahu, Mystic Roots Band, and Katchafire hold it down on a second stage. Flogging Molly will co-headline an equally loaded lineup on Saturday, March 18, along with Death Cab for Cutie, NOFX, Fitz and the Tantrums, Less Than Jake, X Ambassadors and several other notable bands. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN

Nick Hakim – Sunday, March 19 – Valley Bar
The first time you hear Nick Hakim's voice, you're transported. Mixing soulful tones with Brooklyn-style electronic beats, Hakim creates a sound that you can sink into with enough complexity to merit listen after listen. His debut double EP, Where Will We Go, was wise beyond its years, and the single "Bet She Looks Like You," from his upcoming album Green Twins, is an intriguing harbinger of the artist's music to come. Hakim is sure to deliver a show both intimate and heartfelt, with lots of subtle embellishments. Go, relax and enjoy the magic. KATIE SULLIVAN

Modern English – Tuesday, March 21 – Valley Bar
Back in the day, Modern English scored critical laurels from heavyweights like John Peel for taking synth-driven postpunk and pushing it to pop audiences. Of course, the biggest of these hits is the immortal "I Melt With You," a staple of retro dance parties worldwide. But other singles, like the earlier "Smiles and Laughter" and the later "Chapter 12," were equally melodic takes on keyboard-boosted dance-punk. These days, Modern English is touring again with an old-school lineup and is gratefully playing all the hits with some upcoming material for a new album sprinkled in. ARIELLE CASTILLO
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