Got any big plans this week? You really oughta, considering it’s going to be nice out (more or less) and there’s plenty going on around town. That’s especially true when it comes to live music, as there are tons of notable shows happening.
Over the next few days, for instance, Yellowcard will be taking the stage in the Valley for the final time, country music legends Lyle Lovett and Vince Gill will be singing songs and telling stories, nerdcore kings MC Lars and Mega Ran will be geeking out on the mic, and local DJs will be paying tribute to the late Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest.
We’ve got the lowdown on each of these gigs, and several other memorable shows, in the following list of the best concerts happening in Phoenix this week. (And be sure to check out our extensive online music listings for even more events.)
John 5 and the Creatures – Monday, March 20 – Club Red
When John 5 received his first guitar at age 7, it became a lifelong love affair (lucky for us). He had no way of knowing that, within just a few decades, he would be seen as one of music's most acclaimed and sought-after guitar-slingers. All I gotta say is when Slash calls you one of the most mind-blowing guitarists around, you know you're doing something right. Not that John 5 needs endorsement, even from our favorite top hat-wearing shredder. He's played guitar for an array of high-profile artists, including David Lee Roth, k.d. lang, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marilyn Manson, and Rob Halford. Since 2005, he's worked as Rob Zombie's main guitarist and released a string of solo albums, cementing himself as a virtuoso guitar hero and pioneering a style that's part shred guitar, part wild country pickin', part flamenco, part mesmerizing macabre. And he’ll be mesmerizing local fans when his latest project, John 5 and the Creatures, invades Club Red this week. Doll Skin, Sicmonic, Latency, and As Thick As Thieves will provide support. LAUREN WISE
Modern English – Tuesday, March 21 – Valley Bar
If you ever wanna piss off an ’80s New Waver, refer to England’s Modern English as a one-hit wonder. Sure, the band gained a heaping helping of new fans when their song, “I Melt with You” was used in the 1983 movie Valley Girl, starring Nicolas Cage. This signature tune on the teen flick’s soundtrack helped solidify the love between Cage’s punk rock Randy, and his Valley girl, Julie. The song, of course, preceded the movie, but let a whole new crop of folks hear Modern English’s style, which took New Wave sensibilities to the darker side with a brooding nature and an edgy post-punk push. Their ability to exude that haunting element got them signed early on to the 4AD label, home to other big goth acts like Bauhaus and Dead Can Dance. Just a couple years shy of the 40th anniversary of inking that deal, the band is still going strong. They took a few years off in the ’90s, and there have been some lineup changes here and there, but currently it’s the original lineup in action. Taking a cue from current music world practices, the band released a new record, Take Me to the Trees, in 2016 using the crowdfunding site Pledge to make it happen. The first release in three decades from the original lineup really delivers the classic Modern English sound, from sharp and poppy danceable numbers to songs certain to cause some shoegazing. AMY YOUNG
MC Lars – Wednesday, March 22 – Last Exit Live
MC Lars is a rapper with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. His songs, inspired by the parody genre of Weird Al Yankovic, bounce through a catalog of nerdy topics: Shakespeare, '90s ska music, internet relationships, and ancillary early-season Simpsons characters. Even though MC Lars plays his music for laughs, there's wit and craftsmanship in his work, revealing an endeavor the artist clearly takes seriously. Further, his latest release, Donald Trump Has Really Bad Morals, shows that the rapper's wit is evolving to perform real social critiques. Be sure to see this show if you're looking for a quick-witted musical take on pop culture and politics. He'll be joined by the Valley's nerdcore king Mega Ran, who's been touring with MC Lars as of late. KATIE SULLIVAN
Yellowcard – Wednesday, March 22 – Marquee Theatre
Remember “Ocean Avenue,” Yellowcard’s inescapable, breezy 2003 hit, brimming with hazy scenes of Southern California sunsets and nostalgia for young romance? Even for those who don’t quite look at lost love through rose-tinted lenses, the track hits a sweet spot somewhere between solemn and sunny (with a twist of violin). Florida-bred pop-punk heavy hitters Yellowcard have occupied the space between bright and dark and dominated emo playlists for nearly 15 years. If you’ve ever wanted to belt out “Only One” with someone you love, now’s your chance — and it’s among your last, as the band is wrapping up what they’re saying will be their last tour, as in ever, at the end of the month. In other words, it's your final chance to see them play the Valley. No joke. ARTEMIS THOMAS-HANSARD
Terror Pigeon – Wednesday, March 22 – Trunk Space
“It’s a huge adjustment for me and my audiences, but I love it.” Neil Fridd is talking about Terror Pigeon’s newest performance experiment. Fridd is the heart, soul, and brains behind Terror Pigeon (formerly known as the Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt). Formed in 2007, Terror Pigeon is an ever-evolving musical project. The lineup has swelled and contracted over the years, with Fridd holding it down as the group’s fixed center. Regularly touring the nation, Terror Pigeon has built up a reputation as an unpredictable and formidable live act. Playing music that is rhythmic, loud, and offbeat, their shows are sweat-soaked dance parties. Horns blare and synths bleep, conga lines snake around the dance floor, and Fridd and his cohorts convulse on stage like the music is electroshocking them. They even bring their own set decorations, like the time they brought a tall light-up snowman when they played the old Trunk Space with dance-punks Captain Ahab. Considering their penchant for body-rocking, you wouldn’t expect Terror Pigeon to make music that you could lie down to. That’s exactly what Fridd is doing now, though, as he tours the country with Terror Pigeon’s new project, Surround Sound Lay Down. The show is a “hexaphonic sound experience,” with the entire set performed for an audience lying on the ground. “All the speakers, including the subwoofers, are at person level,” Fridd explains. “Their bodies will exist right in the range of the sub.” Terror Pigeon surrounds the audience on all sides with speakers and subwoofers. “Each speaker is totally independent, so I can mic-send whatever I want to them.” While the music has been composed with a sedate, prone audience in mind, it doesn’t mean it will be an evening of sleepytime music. ASHLEY NAFTULE
Beats, Rhymes & Phife – Wednesday, March 22 – Monarch Theatre A Tribe Called Quest might not have had the mania and popularity to be considered the Beatles of the Golden Age of hip-hop, but it was surely the Velvet Underground of rap, the act that became the favorite of everyone who had the good fortune to discover it. You had DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad breaking jazz and R&B beats to the smooth, silky vocals of Q-Tip, and then came the energizer deliveries of Phife Dawg, the late rapper who passed on last year, and his verses were a powder keg. It seemed he could go on forever spitting out bravado, clever metaphors, and comedic one-liners. His lyrics were so dense with pop-culture references from the now, now they require footnotes for younger generations. His lyrics were so dense with pop-culture references that they now require footnotes for younger generations. If you didn't watch MTV in 1992, can you appreciate the silly wit of "Used to have a crush on Dawn from En Vogue/It's not like honey dip would wanna get with me/But just in case, I own more condoms than TLC"? But many of Phife's words, we’d like to think, have a universal, timeless appeal in their playful manipulation of the English language. William Shakespeare has nothing on "I like my beats hard like two-day-old shit." You can reacquaint yourself with the “Five-Footer” and his lyrical skills, as well as A Tribe Called Quest’s legendary tracks during Beats, Rhymes & Phife, a tribute to the rapper and all things ATCQ, at the Monarch. The renowned DJ Green Lantern will be the special guest of the event, which will also feature local turntablists Tricky T and M2 in the mix. DAVID ROLLAND
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The Motet – Thursday, March 23 – Marqee Theatre
Those who have come to know The Motet as an Afro-centric band should be happy with the band's directional shift on its eponymous new album. While the African influences that gave the Boulder, Colorado, group its footing in the 1990s can still be heard, The Motet has morphed into a full-fledged classic-funk outfit. Originally conceived as a collective in which musicians come and go, the shapeshifting The Motet has both incorporated growing trends and settled on classic styles. But at the base has always been Afrobeat, a blend of funk, Jimi Hendrix-style guitar licks, and indigenous rhythms popularized by Fela Kuti. Of course, reggae, dub, and electronica have played major roles in shaping the band's sound. However, funk is at the heart of The Motet's latest lineup. Elements of Parliament Funkadelic (and other George Clinton offshoots), Earth, Wind & Fire, Commodores, James Brown, Roy Ayers, and Prince fill the band's new album. It's vintage boogie music that offers nary a moment's respite. GLENN BURNSILVER
Vince Gill and Lyle Lovett – Thursday, March 23 – Mesa Arts Center
Brace yourself for a night of songs, stories, and plenty of down-home fun as country music legends Vince Gill and Lyle Lovett visit the Valley in the midst of their latest tour. Back in 2015, the Grammy-winning crooners, both of whom have provided considerable influence to the genre, joined together for a musical bromance of sorts as they performed solo sets, spun yarns, and performed several duets. It proved to be a hit with audience, so Gill and Lovett reunited for another “Songs and Stories Tour.” As Gill himself put it, their gigs together are “just two guys sitting on stools, telling stories and singing songs,” Gill says. Sounds great. LAURIE CHARLES