The Six Best Concerts in Metro Phoenix This Weekend
DJ Craze is scheduled to perform on Friday, May 21, at Shady Park in Tempe.
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There’s going to be a celebratory atmosphere at a few of the Valley’s best concerts and music events this weekend. To wit: Central Phoenix hip-hop shop Trill will be celebrating its second anniversary at its current home with a two-day blowout featuring a slew of underground rappers while rock heroes The Black Moods will stage their first big local show since the pandemic began.
Elsewhere, singer-songwriter and Valley ex-pat Stephen Ashbrook makes a long-awaited return, influential turntablist DJ Craze performs a special drum ‘n’ bass session, and the Musical Instrument Museum hosts its first touring act in more than a year. Details about each of these gigs can be found below.
DJ Craze Friday, May 21
Shady Park, 26 East University Drive, Tempe, 480-474-4222
At the tender age of 20, DJ Craze had already won the DMC World Championships — which he went on to win twice more as a solo artist and again as part of the Allies crew, with A-Trak and Infamous. Actually, we could fill this entire space just listing the numerous awards Craze has won for his scratching skills, so let's just say he's amazing and leave it at that.
He captivates audiences with his unmatchable sets, which typically encompass dance-heavy breakbeats sampling tracks from all over the music universe, from hard, dirty drum ‘n’ bass to smooth, hip-shaking hip-hop. He bounces from one sound to the next, never hesitating or pausing, blending it all together with the dexterity on the turntables that have earned him world acclaim. This weekend, Crazearoni will light up the sound system at Tempe’s Shady Park with a d’n’b set. Openers include Crimes, DJ Wednesday featuring MC Dyer, and a b2b set by Repose and Beev$ta. Start time is 9 p.m. and tickets are $22.50. Amber Taufen
The Black Moods Friday, May 21
Marquee Theatre, 730 North Mill Avenue, Tempe, 480-829-0707
The Black Moods bring their A game to any performance, but even the band admits that there's going to be something special about their May 21 show at Marquee Theatre in Tempe, the first big show they've played locally since the pandemic began. "We’ve been rehearsing all week," says drummer Chico Diaz. "We put a little more thought into the setlist on this one instead of shooting from the hip. This one, we’re going through songs and working on transitions and bringing in production, too, so we’ll have lighting and background stuff. So for the first show back at Marquee, we’re definitely putting a lot more work into this one."
What's on the setlist? Certainly the Billboard-charting tracks from 2020's Sunshine, like "Bella Donna" and "Throwing Shade." And their cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "I Need to Know," for which they made a riotous music video last fall. But ticketholders will get an additional treat: The band also plans to play new music from its upcoming album that will be released this fall. The show starts at 7:15 p.m. and locals rock acts Sliced Limes, The Real Fakes, and Wyves will open. Tickets are $20 for the main floor and $30 for access to the balcony. Jennifer Goldberg
Stephen Ashbrook Friday, May 21
Last Exit Live, 717 South Central Avenue, 602-271-7000
Stephen Ashbrook’s roots in the Valley’s music scene run deep. Although he currently resides in Oregon, the singer-songwriter spent the formative years of his career in Arizona, performing with local band Satellite during the ‘90s heyday of jangle-pop alongside the legends and usual suspects of the era. In 1998, Ashbrook transitioned into a solo act and widened his horizons into a more rootsy territory, releasing the critically lauded album Navigator on now-defunct Tempe label Epiphany Records. Follow-up releases like American B-Sides and greater fame followed in the early 2000s as he left Phoenix behind for the Pacific northwest.
Ashbrook returns for a solo acoustic show, his first since the pandemic began, on Friday evening at Last Exit Live in downtown Phoenix at 7 p.m. Admission is limited to 150 people to allow for social distancing. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door. Benjamin Leatherman
Claude VonStroke Saturday, May 22
Sunbar, 24 West Fifth Street, Tempe, 480-687-8409
Experimental house-music label Dirtybird Records has become a force to be reckoned with over the past decade, taking over entire stages at festivals and consistently showcasing what's coming up next in the realm of house – even, some might argue, setting those trends before they become trendy. And that's all due to the vision and hard work of label founder Claude VonStroke.
VonStroke has a saucy take on house music; he flirts with genres from all over the spectrum, nodding to hip-hop, garage, and soul while infecting the dance floor with his playful, upbeat style. He's long been a presence on the festival circuit, but – unlike many festival staples – VonStroke and his protégés don't play the latest tunes. They're too busy scoping out the sound of the future and sculpting it into their own creations, envisioning and defining the cutting edge of what's hot in the house world. Hear for yourself on Saturday night when VonStroke plays Sunbar in Tempe. Doors are at 9 p.m. and tickets are available through Relentless Beats. Amber Taufen
Vocalist/pianist Davina Sowers.
Garrett Born Photography
Davina and the Vagabonds Saturday, May 22, and Sunday, May 23
Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 East Mayo Boulevard, 480-478-6000
Davina and the Vagabonds are a whirlwind of bluesy, jazzy, and rootsy fun in the vein of Squirrel Nut Zippers, Asylum Street Spankers, or similar acts mining the broad pantheon of Americana. Centered on the magnetic presence and intoxicating vocals of songstress/pianist Davina Sowers and backed by brass musicians and a Hammond B3 organ, the five-member ensemble create a potent concoction of neo-soul, jazz, and swing bubbling over with energy and verve. Catch them in concert at the MIM during their two-night stint this weekend. Performances start at 7 p.m. and tickets are $44.50. Benjamin Leatherman
Trill’s Two-Year Anniversary Saturday, May 22, and Sunday, May 23
Trill, 1817 East Indian School Road, 602-595-4510
To paraphrase LL Cool J, local hip-hop shop Trill has been doing it and doing it and doing it well for the last two years at its current location on Indian School Road and 18th Street. Repping all four aspects of hip-hop culture – i.e. DJing, graf, MCing, and b-boy/b-girl dancing – the independently-owned business has stocked and sold art supplies, streetwear, records, collectibles, and gear to heads from across the Valley.
This weekend, Trill celebrates its second anniversary with a two-day event with live art and performances by indie and underground rappers. The lineup on Saturday will include sets by freestyle legend Supernatural, El Da Sensei of the Artifacts, Ras Kass, and Aceyalone, while Sunday will feature Lord Finesse of D.I.T.C., Breakbeat Lou, and Supreme La Rock. Local DJs like Fact135, Reflekshin, and Akshen. It's free to attend and VIP packages (which include guaranteed entry and commemorative merch) are $75 per person. Hours are from 1 to 7 p.m. on both days. Benjamin Leatherman
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