Think no one in their right mind wants to come to Arizona this time of year? You’d be wrong, bub.
Despite the fact that we’re hip deep in the most tortuous portion of the summer (and all the frightfully hot temperatures and frightening monsoon storms that go with it), we’re about to get a visit from some rather famous names from the music world. And all of ‘em will be coming here to perform during the month of August.
Like Weezer, for instance, as well as Anderson .Paak, Panic! At the Disco, Duran Duran, Weird Al, the Alabama Shakes, Lord Huron, and the Mystery Lights. And that’s just the first half of the month. Adele’s also headed our way (for a pair of concerts, no less) as is Coldplay, Guided by Voices, Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, Jackson Browne, Cheap Trick, Joan Jett, Culture Club, and Snoop Dogg.
Oh, and lest we forget, Guns N’ Roses will be putting on its first concert in the Valley in forever.
Suffice it to say, August is loaded up with great concerts, all of which are included in our list of the 30 best shows to see over the next 30 days.
Weezer & Panic! At the Disco – Tuesday, August 2 – Ak-Chin Pavilion
The undisputed lords of revenge-of-the-nerds rock for more than two decades, L.A.’s Weezer still never get the girl, and mainman Rivers Cuomo remains perpetually the teenage dork who awoke, blinking, to find himself fronting a band before thousands of adoring fans. But it’s not the quartet’s cartoonish goofing that’s shifted close to 18 million albums but rather a seemingly telepathic grasp of poignant melody, nostalgic harmony, and adroit arrangement that’s equal parts Cheap Trick, The Pixies and the best of OC punk-lite. Weezer’s co-headlining their current tour, which swing through the Valley in early August, along with Panic! At the Disco, themselves a fairly geeky outfit in their own right. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness is also along for the ride and serves as the evening’s opening act. PAUL ROGERS
Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals – Tuesday, August 2 – Livewire
The adjectives used to describe Anderson .Paak’s stage show border on the type of hyperbole reserved for acclaimed films. “Superb” meets “enchanting” meets “memorable”, that sort of thing. For .Paak, it’s something that’s been a long time coming, a L.A.-based artist who through his own mix of soul and hip-hop not only stole the show on Dr. Dre’s Compton album, currently possesses of the year’s best album. At .Paak's Houston debut, he may wiggle around delivering a pitter-patter flow on records like “Come Down” or launch into a spastic tinge of soul with “The Waters," both standout tracks from January's Malibu. It’s a style that even the best have truly found difficult to describe. We just know it’s accessible, it’s sweeping and ultimately, it builds upon grooves and influences from James Brown to Prince and even Kendrick Lamar. It’s free-range expression from a man still coming into his own. BRANDON CALDWELL
Duran Duran – Wednesday, August 3 – Gila River Arena
On paper, Duran Duran shouldn’t have worked. Apparently lifting their entire aesthetic from the already well-established Japan (the band) at the dawn of the 1980s, but with a frontman less pretty and less able than the latter’s David Sylvian, the quintet looked like a tired idea. But, crucially, the double-D had the songs — and still do, to judge by just-released 14th studio album Paper Gods. For all of their visionary grasp of music videos, famously suave fashion sense and swoon-inducing looks, it’s slinky tunes and arresting arrangements that have this band packing the Gila River Arena. The electro-flecked, guest-laden Paper Gods (which features everyone from Janelle Monáe to Lindsay Lohan) is delightfully Duran-y: glamorous, worldly and replete with trademark ecstatic hooks, glossy production, kitschy glitches and Simon Le Bon’s imploring vocals. PAUL ROGERS
Weird Al Yankovic – Wednesday, August 3 – Comerica Theatre
From Michael Jackson and Nirvana on down, Weird Al Yankovic’s signature combo of whimsy and total squareness has sucked the hot air out of plenty of music’s biggest egos, and the list of artists foolish enough to challenge his parodies of their work is a very short one indeed. He created a minor stir when 2014’s Mandatory Fun debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart, causing more than one showbiz watchdog to expend valuable column inches wondering how things had come to this. It’s not that hard to figure out, really, as self-important hits like “Happy,” “Fancy” and “Blurred Lines” were crying out for the Weird Al treatment since the moment they came on the radio. You may come for the satire, but you’ll come back for the polka medleys. CHRIS GRAY
The Mystery Lights – Wednesday, August 3 – The Rebel Lounge
The Mystery Lights clearly own a time machine. Many garage bands have the gear or the chops or the voice or the look, but not many have the whole package wrapped up as tightly or as neatly as the Queens, New York, by way of Salinas, California, 30-somethings, who are touring this summer to support their first full-length LP. Their eponymous debut on WICK Records, which is an offshoot of Daptone Records, came out on June 24, and it is a full-on barnburner of soul-tinged garage rock in the vein of the Yardbirds, or Billy Childish and Thee Headcoats — think the Fuzztones meet vintage Mudhoney with Eric Burdon Jr. on vocals. Singer/guitar player Mike Brandon has been doing some version of the Mystery Lights since high school (2001, to be exact), and is pumped up about the new record and their current tour. “We’re really excited about this record. People seem to be really into it. We’re going to tour for four weeks. Once we’re back, we’re going to start working on another record, but we might also do another tour in September. We’ll be on the road for the next four weeks, though, for sure,” Brandon says. TOM REARDON
Earthless – Friday, August 5 – Crescent Ballroom
The members of San Diego instrumental psych-rock trio Earthless are not concerned with showing you how many notes they can play. They simply want to rock out and rock out for a long time, and for everyone to have a good trip while they’re doing it. While albums such as 2013’s From the Ages are epic studio journeys that take the listener through many psychedelic hills and valleys, the band really shines when they can jam out in a live environment, as heard on 2008’s Live at Roadburn. The trio’s epic stoner jams — which at times can last through an entire 60-minute set with no respite — can hypnotize, and sometimes result in a rock-overload hangover once the power of the riff finally dissipates. JASON ROCHE
The Rhythm, The Rebel feat. Black Milk – Saturday, August 6 – The Rebel Lounge
Tricky T is no stranger to underground hip-hop in the slightest. In fact, the renowned Valley turntablist and selector has been spinning a lot of jams by artists such as Immortal Technique, the Living Legends, Brother Ali, and similar artists over the course of his extensive DJing career. Ditto for his friend and fellow turntablist David “Fact135” Dimmick. So it seems like a good fit for the pair to team up to run an underground hip-hop night, which they do every month during The Rhythm, The Rebel. The off-the-chain affair, which will be hosted by local rapper RoQ'y TyRaiD and feature live art by The Blunt Club’s Dumperfoo, involves Tricky and Dimmick working the ones and twos along with guest DJs inside The Rebel Lounge with a performance by renowned underground hip-hop artists and acts headlining each edition. This month, it’s Detroit-born MC and producer Black Milk. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Alabama Shakes – Sunday, August 7 – Comerica Theatre
If you haven’t heard the distinctive, bluesy tunes of Alabama Shakes, you’re missing out on one of the best indie-rock bands of this generation. Fronted by lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard, an immensely impressive vocalist with a range in both timbre and emotion that is unsurpassed by her contemporaries, Alabama Shakes’ 2015 release Sound & Color is quickly proving to be one of the best records of the year, and might be one of the most impressive sophomore albums of all time. At their upcoming show at Comerica Theatre, expect to be shaken to your bones by Howard’s vocals and the equally excellent band that backs her. Speaking of the band, their playing is tight, their interplay is charismatic and, most important, they don’t overshadow Howard, the true star. Recorded, Alabama Shakes sound plenty great, but live, the experience is totally different in the most awesome way possible. AMY MCCARTHY
Lord Huron – Monday, August 8 – Crescent Ballroom
The LA-based, Michigan-bred folk quartet Lord Huron is the brainchild of its frontman and lead singer, Ben Schneider. Naming the group after the Great Lake where he spent his formative years, Schneider has so far crafted a catalogue of music that’s simultaneously very traditional and yet modern enough to capture our darting attention spans. Lord Huron encompasses the jangling pop of the Head and the Heart; the slower, more reflective moods of Ray LaMontagne; and the rural twang of Trampled by Turtles. The band's latest record, Strange Trails, fully embraces the role of traveling storyteller, of the troubadour, with song titles that read like chapters in a novel, including the record’s singles “Fool for Love,” “The Night We Met,” and the eerie, haunting, '50s rockabilly/surf rock-inspired tune, “The World Ender.” ANGEL MELENDEZ
Matisyahu – Wednesday, August 10 – Marquee Theatre
It's only partially Matisyahu's fault that all his interests conspired to make him the perfect poster to hang next to Bob Marley in your freshman dorm room. That is, lots of teenagers and young adults find meaning and truth in following Phish around and reconnecting with the family traditions and (yes) in listening to a lot of reggae while looking at a poster of Bob Marley. And it's only Matisyahu's fault inasmuch as he was the guy who synthesized all those college-experience touchstones into an incredibly buzzy album, 2006's jam-and-reggae-and-pop Youth.
Since then, he's released some less-buzzed-about albums, cut back on the beatboxing a little, left Hasidism, and shaved his beard. Which would leave his college-kid market a little less perfectly triangulated than it used to be, except that his 2013 album, Spark Seeker, is influenced in part by ideas from Kabbalah. Religiously, it might be more syncretic than usual, but musically, you'll recognize it as a Matisyahu album: poppy, vaguely world music filled with uplift that signifies spiritual enlightenment, whether you wear your hair in sidelocks or not. Whether he wears his hair in sidelocks or not, too. DAN MOORE
Monsieur Periné – Thursday, August 11 – Musical Instrument Museum
How did a Colombian, French-influenced, gypsy jazz band by the name of Monsieur Periné become one of the most exciting emerging artists in Latin music? At one point, even people in Colombia didn't think they were from there. Lead singer Catalina García was born and raised in Cali, Colombia, on the country's Pacific coast. In the 1970s, Cali was known as the cinematic center of the country until the collapse of the Colombian film industry during the drug wars of the '80s. Now it's better known for its salsa music scene.
Monsieur Periné's musicians Nicolás Junca and Santiago Prieto were obsessed with the gypsy guitar sound of Django Reinhardt, which they learned to imitate from watching movies. These types of guitars were not sold in Colombia, so they had to order them online. Meanwhile, Garcia's grandparents enrolled her in a school where she could learn another language. Knowing she would learn English anyway, they sent her to a French school in Cali. All of these elements come together in Monsieur Periné. Colorful costumes and theatrical performances evoke the spirit of Colombia’s old cinema. Gypsy jazz, swing, salsa and cumbia set the rhythms for a dance party. It’s as if Django Reinhardt was Colombian. EDDIE COTA
Rebelution – Thursday, August 11 – Comerica Theatre
Despite the genre's radical roots, there's something about modern reggae that makes it difficult for fans of classic reggae to fully embrace. Perhaps because it's so easy to denigrate modern reggae as passionless music for stoners — smoke weed, tinker with a guitar, and become a rock star. Mix the same, monotonous melody with laid-back vocals and electric guitars that pop with the tempo of the beat and you suddenly have a record praised by every tokin' rocker in the country — something with the feel-good vibe of Bob Marley but none of the activism.
Modern reggae practitioners Rebelution have something else going for them. Like many of their weed-rock predecessors, they formed in college over a love of California beaches, laid-back music and, presumably, marijuana. (Considering their second album is titled Room to Grow, it's hard to doubt these assumptions are off-base.) But rather than smoking their way through school, it seems the Santa Barbara four-piece actually got hip to social issues and progressive politics. When you blend care with crafty, less-cliché melodies and a serious stance on fun, you have a fully realized group gaining some well-deserved steam. Or smoke. They look the same from a distance. CHRISTINA CALDWELL
Slim Cessna's Auto Club – Sunday, August 14 – Crescent Ballroom
For as long as the folk songs of hillbillies and Appalachian wailers have been called "country songs," the genre has been the province of those tip-toeing between grace and damnation — Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, the Louvin Brothers, and others for whom the pursuit of holiness often took a backseat to the pleasures of sin. For more than two decades, Slim Cessna's Auto Club has played country songs but expanded outward as well, incorporating elements of punk, rockabilly, gospel, and rocksteady, all the while evoking Christian dread, employing fire-and-brimstone wit, and singing bloody murder ballads.
In that time, the band has developed a reputation as a tremendous live act, and it's well deserved. Led by two frontmen, band namesake Slim Cessna and the wild-eyed Jay Munly, the group's shows feel like violent, apocalyptic hootenannies or gothic church services where the preachers have dipped into sacramental moonshine. JASON P. WOODBURY