The 30 Best Concerts in Phoenix This May

Justin Timberlake is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 2, at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Justin Timberlake is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 2, at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Ryan McGinley
When all is said and done, May 2018 probably won’t be the biggest month ever for the Phoenix concert scene.

It’s definitely going to be a contender, though, considering the sheer number of big concerts happening from now until May 31.

A huge crop of legendary artists and bands have shows scheduled in the Valley over the next four weeks, including Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, “Weird Al” Yankovich, MGMT, Khalid, Justin Timberlake,Franz Ferdinand, James Taylor, Phantogram, Of Montreal, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Melvins.


Add in this year’s FORM Arcosanti just north of the Valley, pool party season kicking into high gear, and a variety of even more choice gigs and you get a month that’s packed with activity.

Details about each of these shows can be found in our rundown of the best concerts in the Valley this month. And for even more music events happening around town, check out Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

click to enlarge Justin Timberlake is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 2, at Talking Stick Resort Arena. - RYAN MCGINLEY
Justin Timberlake is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 2, at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Ryan McGinley
Justin Timberlake
Wednesday, May 2
Talking Stick Resort Arena

Whether he’s bringing sexy back or has his dick in a box — two unrelated events — Justin Timberlake is easy to love. The pop icon built his current success on the foundation of his early career, during which he acted on shows like The All-New Mickey Mouse Club and served as one-fifth of the ’90s boy-band phenomenon NSYNC.

Timberlake’s new tour is in support of his new release, Man of the Woods. It’s yet another effort that has proved that his fans love him. It debuted at No. 1, falling into that top spot just like his last three full-lengths did. On this newbie, the cover features a less flashy J.T. The singer sports a beard and dark suit against a stark and snowy background. But don’t worry; he hasn’t gone full emo. There are plenty of jumpy pop-meets-R&B tunes — like the opening track, “Filthy,” and “Wave,” to name a couple.

Timberlake is getting roots-y, and it’s not just the REI-approved wardrobe. The native Tennesseean sings tunes like “Montana,” “Flannel,” and “Livin’ Off the Land.” In addition to guests like Alicia Keys, Timberlake’s new one features a duet (“Say Something”) with country superstar Chris Stapleton. Bring it on down to Justinville for a weeknight show filled with new tunes and fan favorites. Amy Young

click to enlarge The current lineup of Los Lobos. - DAVID ALAN KOGUT
The current lineup of Los Lobos.
David Alan Kogut
Los Lobos
Wednesday, May 2
Musical Instrument Museum

Is any band in America more revered or respected than East Los Angeles roots vatos Los Lobos? The core members of this American musical treasure — David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Steve Berlin, Louis Perez and Conrad Lozano — have produced 19 albums and played everywhere from an Angeleno quinceañera to Farm Aid to the White House.

Their sound spans virtually all aspects of American music, from blues, zydeco, soul, and kick-you-in-the-head rock and roll to various Latino styles, including cumbia, norteño, and Tex-Mex. Critics turn handstands whenever they drop an album, and their fans follow them like Deadheads.

It's ironic that one of the most important acts of the late 20th century is best known for its cover of "La Bamba." Their first truly significant album, 1984's T Bone Burnett-produced Will The Wolf Survive?, asked the question, and these guys answer in the affirmative every time they step onto a stage. Viva Los Lobos. William Michael Smith

click to enlarge Punk legends The Lawrence Arms. - COURTESY OF EPITAPH RECORDS
Punk legends The Lawrence Arms.
Courtesy of Epitaph Records
The Lawrence Arms
Thursday, May 3
Crescent Ballroom

The Lawrence Arms started in 1999 when former members of the Broadways, Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan, decided to do a more melodic punk band focused on often startlingly detailed and personal but emotionally vibrant music that didn't wax into the melodramatic mode of turn of the century emo.

The band's earliest releases came out on respected indie label Asian Man Records, but it was 2002's Apathy and Exhaustion that propelled the group into a higher echelon of the public consciousness. Famously kicked off the Warped Tour in 2004 for making remarks critical of the festival from the stage, the Lawrence Arms continue to make poignant, melodic punk records informed by a sharp sense of humor even to this day. Tom Murphy

click to enlarge Zach Rogue and Pat Spurgeon of Rogue Wave. - COURTESY OF HIGH ROAD TOURING
Zach Rogue and Pat Spurgeon of Rogue Wave.
Courtesy of High Road Touring
Rogue Wave
Friday, May 4
Crescent Ballroom

California-based Rogue Wave seemed poised to strike it big in the early to mid-aughts. Alongside bands like The Shins, Fruit Bats and Tapes n' Tapes, they made catchy, melodic indie rock that was infectious enough to fill midsize clubs and populate the soundtracks of iPod commercials and dramatic television shows such as The O.C. Alas, like many of the bands from that time, the group never reached the commercial heights gained by some of its contemporaries. However, despite label changes, personnel shuffles and serious health scares, the band has persevered.

With seven albums under the belt, Rogue Wave have never really stopped making music in the decade-plus since their heyday. This spring, they're touring behind the 10th anniversary of its most beloved album, Asleep At Heaven's Gate. On May at Crescent Ballroom, Rogue Wave will perform the album in its entirety and likely include other favorites from the past and present. Come for the nostalgia and catch up on what the band has been up to in the interim, as well. Jeff Strowe

click to enlarge Billie Joe Armstrong is bringing his latest side project to Valley Bar this month. - PUNXIE89/CC BY-SA 2.0/VIA FLICKR
Billie Joe Armstrong is bringing his latest side project to Valley Bar this month.
The Longshot
Saturday, May 5
Valley Bar

Billie Joe Armstrong knows how to put the blitzkrieg in “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The Green Day frontman and pop-punk icon debuted his new band, The Longshot, with a sudden burst of releases and a tour announcement.

After dropping a three-track EP last month, Armstrong and company released a surprise full-length record called Love is for Losers on April 20. That same day, the band announced a string of small-club tour dates, including a show at Valley Bar on Saturday, May 5.

Teaming up with guitarist Kevin Preston, drummer David S. Field, and Green Day touring guitarist Jeff Matika on bass, The Longshot is going on tour to promote the debut album. With 11 tracks clocking in at 32 minutes, it's jammed with radio-ready rock 'n' roll.

Sonically, it’s got more in common with the polished sounds Armstrong and his Green Day bandmates embraced on American Idiot than the group's scrappier early work. Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes. - EBRU YILDIZ
Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes.
Ebru Yildiz
Desert Daze Caravan II
Saturday, May 5
The Van Buren

Shimmery psych-pop singer-songwriter Ariel Pink delivered his 12th album last year, named after and dedicated to Bobby Jameson — an L.A. musician thought dead for 35 years until 2007, when he resurfaced to pen an autobiography. Pink is always thinking outside of the box, and his live shows are a must-see.

That includes his upcoming gig headlining Desert Daze Caravan II at The Van Buren on May 5. He won’t be the only must-see act on the lineup, however, as DIIV, Nanami Ozone, Acid Mothers Temple, and Yoo Doo Right are also scheduled to perform. Diamond Victoria

click to enlarge Alt-rock veterans The Afghan Whigs. - CHRIS CUFFARO
Alt-rock veterans The Afghan Whigs.
Chris Cuffaro
Of Montreal
Sunday, May 6
Crescent Ballroom

Out of all the Elephant 6 bands, who would have thought that Of Montreal would have been the one group to go the distance? Emerging from the same Athens, Georgia, scene that spawned Neutral Milk Hotel, Kevin Barnes’ band shared the Elephant 6’s love for ’60s pop and psychedelia. But they quickly outgrew their Sgt. Pepper fetish and evolved into one of indie rock’s most adventurous groups.

Since the breakthrough of 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, where Barnes fully embraced his inner Bowie and turned into a compelling theatrical performer, the group have become a dynamite live act. From confetti cannons to backup dancers in sumo wrestler suits, Of Montreal shows feels like watching a kids’ show on bad acid. It’s a perfect visual complement to the music, which melds psychedelia with New Wave, glam, and dance music.

For the group’s 15th album, 2018’s White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood, dance music is Barnes’ muse and the engine that powers its six songs. Taking inspiration from the extended dance mixes pop stars dropped in the ’80s, Barnes shows off the out-of-left field songwriting chops that made him a go-to producer for modern pop stars like Solange and Janelle Monàe. Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge “Weird Al” Yankovic invades Mesa in May. - COURTESY OF MESA ARTS CENTER
“Weird Al” Yankovic invades Mesa in May.
Courtesy of Mesa Arts Center
“Weird Al” Yankovic
Tuesday, May 8
Mesa Arts Center

Anyone who has seen “Weird Al” Yankovic (and yes, the quotation marks are part of the official billing) in concert knows what to expect: A string of his insanely catchy parody songs (i.e. “Eat It” “Like a Surgeon” “Smells Like Nirvana,” “Amish Paradise,” “Gump,” “Tacky”), a huge video screen, crazy light show, and costume changes. Lots of costume changes.

But for his current tour, the accordion-wielding pride of Lynwood, California, is trying something completely different: a stripped-down, no-frills production in smaller venues with a show that is made up almost entirely of his original comedy or “in the style of” non-parody songs and deep cuts.

Not surprisingly, those tunes tended to get overlooked, and he’s amassed a quantity of them over his career. Songs like “Velvet Elvis,” “Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White,” “Dare to Be Stupid,” “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota,” “My Baby’s in Love with Eddie Vedder,” and “Don’t Download This Song.”

“If they’re coming just to see the hits … they should stay home!” Yankovic says. “I’ve made no secret of what this tour is. It’s still a comedy show and it’s still enjoyable. It’s not the regular show. But there will still be that one person who yells out ‘Eat It!’” Bob Ruggiero

click to enlarge This is what a Hot Snakes promo photo looks like. - COURTESY OF SUB POP RECORDS
This is what a Hot Snakes promo photo looks like.
Courtesy of Sub Pop Records
The Afghan Whigs
Tuesday, May 8
The Van Buren

Thom Yorke sang about feeling like a creep, but Greg Dulli has made a career out of singing about being a creep. The frontman for alt-rock veterans The Afghan Whigs, Dulli has carved out a place for himself as American rock’s resident scoundrel. He’s the closest thing the U.S. has to a Jarvis Cocker: Both singers pride themselves on being self-aware, louche playboys.

On albums like Gentlemen and Black Love, the Motown-loving Dulli steeped his “rock and corrupted soul” songs in toxic masculinity like bags of tea. He was hoisting toasts to the douchebags long before Kanye got around to it. Dulli’s voice has only gotten stronger and more resonant with age — the cockiness of youth replaced by the salty leer of an old timer who’s seen it all.

While 2014’s Do to the Beast and this year’s In Spades pale in comparison to classic Whigs joints like Gentlemen, they still stand on their own as worthy additions to the Whigs catalog. And besides, it’s a bit of unfair comparison: a lot of bands’ best work can’t measure up to Gentlemen, so who would expect the band that made the record to top it? Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge Chance the Rapper - MELISSA FOSSUM
Chance the Rapper
Melissa Fossum
Taylor Swift
Tuesday, May 8
University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale

Assemble your squads, Arizona. Taylor Swift is coming to town. The singer-songwriter will kick of her 2018 Reputation tour in early May at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Lucky us.

T-Swizz is as popular as ever these days. Her new album, Reputation, sold around 700,000 copies in the U.S. on its day of release last November, putting it on track to be Swift's fifth No. 1 album on Billboard's charts. It's an impressive feat, considering the controversy that's dogged the singer over the last year — from her feud with Kanye West blowing up in her face to the public's mixed reactions to Swift's single “Look What You Made Me Do."

But even with strong album sales, it looks like Taylor Swift still has both feet firmly planted in the pop firmament. And local fans will get a chance to bask in her full Swiftian glory this month. Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge Khalid cruises into town on May 11. - KACIE TOMITA
Khalid cruises into town on May 11.
Kacie Tomita
Hot Snakes
Thursday, May 10
Crescent Ballroom

Making things obvious has just never been Hot Snakes' style. "Hi-Lites," from 2004's Audit in Progress, provides a great example of this MO in action. The song begins with a shivering, impetuous guitar line that sounds like it's desperate to break out of a confined space and go skyward. When those nimble, uneasy notes finally escape, they tear off wildly, and the rest of Hot Snakes' instruments jump in and follow this path.

Don't, however, expect Rick Froberg to try to translate the special quality of this frenetic yet weirdly subtle song into words. "I wouldn't bother," he says, “I wouldn't know how to describe it. I mean, that's the thing about playing music: You're not much with words — [otherwise] you'd be an author or something."

He sells himself short with that perspective. "Hi-Lites" reads like an abbreviated William Carlos Williams poem dedicated to city-based shut-ins who are sick of the overwhelming, garish vibes of metropolitan life. "High treble! Hi-lites!" Froberg shrieks, sounding, in a very good way, like he's a few thousand tools short of a hardware store. Reyan Ali

click to enlarge T-Swizzle will kick off her latest world tour in the Valley. - COURTESY OF BIG MACHINE LABEL GROUP
T-Swizzle will kick off her latest world tour in the Valley.
Courtesy of Big Machine Label Group
Friday, May 11
Rawhide Event Center

At 20 years old, not a lot of folks are thriving in their careers. But R&B singer-songwriter Khalid certainly is. In fact, the Texas native started his at age 17 and has collaborated with Logic and Calvin Harris, among others.

That's something to be proud of. His singles, "Location" and "Young Dumb & Broke,” both off of his 2017 album American Teen, have gotten a combined 649 million views on YouTube and earned him the spots on the Billboard Hot 100. That sure beats trying to figure out the whole paying for college thing. Diamond Victoria

[image-31] Franz Ferdinand
Friday, May 11
The Van Buren

While the veteran Glaswegian post-pop rock act Franz Ferdinand did their bit to reaffirm the glories of British guitar music, their output in recent times has shown an inclination to move beyond all that – and then to come back to it.

Their brand of post-punk revivalism, often dissed for being a tad "chameleonic," has long infused myriad influences, from the Merseyside bands of the '60s and grungy bar-band noise to rap-rock and electronic dance, the latter pulling them a little astray on their electro-tinged 2009 album, Tonight.

Since then, Franz Ferdinand has put out three studio albums, spent a year or so performing with Sparks as a supergroup called FFS, and survivied a lineup change (adding Julian Corrie on keyboards and Dino Bardot on guitar). Franz Ferdinand released their most recent album, Always Ascending, earlier this year, which has earned positive reviews. You’ll hear songs from it, including its title track, when the band visits The Van Buren in mid-May. John Payne

Andrew McMahon has been through his share of personal drama. - BRENDAN WALTER
Andrew McMahon has been through his share of personal drama.
Brendan Walter
TV Girl
Friday, May 11
Valley Bar

If The Jetsons were reality, it’d be easy to picture some space-age teen trying to wow Judy Jetson with a mixtape full of TV Girl songs. A Los Angeles-based trio, TV Girl makes music that sounds simultaneously futuristic and retro. They blend ’60s-style pop melodies with electro-dance vibes and samples, creating a weird kind of introspective indie dance music. Imagine Belle & Sebastian trying to follow in the footsteps of indie dance-rock acts like St. Etienne and Screamadelica-era Primal Scream.

TV Girl’s music sounds so playful and disorienting because of their deft sampling skills. Disembodied voices from yesteryear bob in and out of the mix, creating an anything-goes atmosphere that recalls classic sample-heavy albums like Paul’s Boutique and 3 Feet High and Rising.

On the band’s latest album, Who Really Cares, TV Girl use their blissful sound to subversive effect. They sing songs about safe words, lovers who fake orgasms, and heaven as a bedroom, while backed by music that sounds like it could soundtrack a kids’ TV show. Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge Joel Williams of TV Girl. - COURTESY OF TV GIRL
Joel Williams of TV Girl.
Courtesy of TV Girl
FORM Arcosanti 2018
Friday, May 11, to Sunday, May 13
Arcosanti in Mayer

Curated by Los Angeles band Hundred Waters, FORM Arcosanti is renowned (and sometimes poked fun at) for its experience-centered, immersive approach. Attendance is so limited they call it a "micro-festival." Participants camp — or glamp, depending on how much they're willing to spend. And attendees can partake in yoga classes, attend genre-spanning musical performances, and stumble upon artwork installed throughout the desert grounds.

This year's no exception. The 2018 lineup features Chance the Rapper, Courtney Barnett, Amen Dunes, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, and Blood Orange.

Arts and cultural programming will include talks, workshops, outdoor activities, and art installations. Participating organizations at this year's festival will include the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Phoenix Art Museum, Palabra, and The Whole Story. More programming details will be announced in the coming weeks.

Tickets to this year's festival range from $350 for a single non-camping pass to $2,499 for a two-person patron bundle that's all-inclusive. Complete details are available via Eventbrite. Becky Bartkowski
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.