The Nine Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

As we're sure your aware by now, the legendary Elvis Costello is going to be in town this weekend. If not, consider yourself enlightened. Social Distortion is also scheduled to perform in the Valley this weekend, specifically at the Arizona Bike Week festivities in Scottsdale), as is metalcore act Killing Switch, Nordic death metal gods Amon Amarth, alternative hip-hop artist B. Dolan, and indie folk band Little Green Cars. Plus there's also colossal Country Thunder hootenanny happening down around Florence. 

In short, you've got a surfeit of live music options available this weekend. If none of these shows suit your tastes, however, feel free to hit up our online concert calendar.

Elvis Costello - Friday, April 8 - Mesa Arts Center

Nearly four decades ago, Elvis Costello released his extraordinary debut album, My Aim Is True, which comprised songs that would become rock-and-roll staples, including "Alison," "(The Angels Want to Wear My) Red Shoes" and "Less Than Zero." Since then, Costello has released two dozen studio albums under his own name or with his groups the Attractions and the Imposters, in addition to collaborations like 2013's Wise Up Ghost, a team effort with the Roots. While it's great to see Costello perform fueled-up rock with a full band, seeing the legend solo — as he'll be tonight inside the Ikeda Theater at Mesa Arts Center — should be sublime. Larkin Poe will open the evening. JON SOLOMON

Social Distortion - Friday, April 8 - Arizona Bike Week at WestWorld

Mike Ness and his Social Distortion henchmen have been mixing in Al Capone chic and rockabilly sneer into hardscrabble SoCal punk rock for 33 years, really arriving on the scene with 1983’s wasted-youth landmark Mommy’s Little Monster. However, it was on Social D's self-titled LP from 1990 where Ness found the nobility in ex-cons, future cons, winos and other all-around losers better than anyone this side of his hero Johnny Cash, especially through songs like “Story of My Life,” “Sick Boys” and “Ball and Chain.” Subsequent Social D albums have their fair share of champions, particularly 1992’s arguably better Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, but the self-titled job is where Ness and company perfected the style that has since made them icons. Rockabilly icon Reverend Horton Heat will open during the band's show on Friday at Arizona Bike Week. CHRIS GRAY

Little Green Cars - Friday, April 8 - Valley Bar

It was only a matter of time before Irish band Little Green Cars fully crashes onto American shores. The roots-based group (think Mumford & Sons with much better songwriting) has already played Coachella and is no stranger to Phoenix, either. The Cars’ debut album, Absolute Zero, is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous record full of contemplative songs about love. The just-released Ephemera, the band’s sophomore effort, is quieter but no less impactful. Little Green Cars writes raw, personal songs — perfect for when you can’t sleep at night and your whole life is stuck at the forefront of your mind. ISA JONES

Amon Amarth - Friday, April 8 - The Pressroom

"Fueling flames of violent rage" isn't just one of Amon Amarth's lyrics, it's the Swedish five-piece's mission statement. In two decades the Stockholm band has hacked their way to the top of the melodic-metal pyre, setting it alight with a host of bloodthirsty anthems as rich in Nordic folklore as death-metal devastation. In 2013, for instance, they rewarded superfans with several editions of their album Deceiver of the Gods, one of them a $100 job boasting a 10-bust of their trickster deity of choice, Loki. Plenty of hair-whipping poser bands play at Viking metal, All Music Guide once noted, while Amon Amarth's works "aren't just written about Vikings, they are written by Vikings." CHRIS GRAY

B Dolan - Friday, April 8 - Pub Rock

Part conspiracy theorist, part activist, B. Dolan is a multi-faceted force to be reckoned with. As a rapper, the East Coaster brings his slam poet style to life with post-apocalyptic stories of a desolate earth, utilizing beats from the dubstep to marching band variety to take on his science fiction world and the realities of current political landscapes and social issues. Along with fellow rapper and socially conscious MC, Sage Francis, Dolan created, a site dedicated to sharing information about corporations and promoting consumer activism. Dolan's ability to frame his dark tales of the future with commentary on present-day social injustice makes him a unique voice in a world of often vapid popular music. BREE DAVIES

Country Thunder 2016 - Friday, April 8, to Sunday, April 10 - Canyon Moon Ranch

If you’re a hipster or indie rock fan, especially one with a big bankroll, there’s a good chance you might be traveling westward later this month to Coachella. Conversely, country music fans, especially those with a yen for partying in the great outdoors, are going to be heading in a different direction altogether. More precisely, they make the hour-long trek outside of the Valley for Country Thunder, the four-day concert festival that’s as much about the hootin’ and the hollerin’ as it is the music.

An enormous bacchanal of boots, beer, and buckaroos that encompasses the sprawling Canyon Moon Ranch outside of Florence, the annual Country Thunder features a big lineup of more than three dozen bands and musicians performing various takes on the genre. This year’s lineup includes such names as Florida Georgia Line, Cole Swindell, The Cadillac Three, Bryan White, Jake Owen, Eric Church, Randy Houser, A Thousand Horses, Casey Donahew Band, and many more. 

Killswitch Engage - Saturday, April 9 - Marquee Theatre

Face it: Killswitch Engage is an act that really throws out the rulebook on how to do a "mettttttttt-alllllllll" show. Be prepared to hear guitarist/court jester Adam Dutkiewicz offer up plenty of great one-liners that mock metal machismo. He might even wear something like a cape and short shorts. But aside from that, the band has a great catalog filled with meaty riffs, complex drumming and anthemic, harmonious choruses. Yes, thankfully, there are still bands out there that can pull this off without sounding like emo mush. With Memphis May Fire and 36 Crazyfists. ERIC GRUBBS

Peelander-Z - Saturday, April 9 - Pub Rock

Given the liquid gyrations of their anime styling and the general sexual repression of their Japanese homeland, it just makes sense that a group of Japanese dudes would start a "Japanese action comic punk band" called Peelander-Z. But we hear you say, "Didn't Peelander-Z form in New York City?" Before you get a rope, understand that despite their city of origin, they couldn't be any more Nihon.

Setting aside the fact that dress like super sentai (just as color-coordinated and wacked-out as the most over-the-top Power Rangers outfits) and their tendency to engage in human bowling or chair-throwing wrestling during their sets, take a listen to tracks like "So Many Mike" or "Happee Pee" and all will be clear. Like The Polysics, Maximum the Hormone, and Shonen Knife, Peelander-Z is all about high-intensity punk antics. So don your own single-color superhero duds and fight oversize squid monsters with these pretty punks from Planet Peelander as they beam down to Pub Rock. JONATHAN MCNAMARA

Lil Jon - Sunday, April 10 - Talking Stick Resort

So you’re one of those rowdy cats who hits the club every weekend and considers themselves to be a major party monster, huh? Sorry to be the ones to break it to you, son, but you ain’t got nothing on Lil Jon. The notorious rap superstar and crunk king can go harder than anyone, all while drinking you under the table, pulling off dance moves that put yours to shame, hanging with celebs like Patriots partying fiend Rob Gronkowski, and sporting the dopest grill ever. Lil Jon also gets plenty wild behind the mixers during his DJ sets, including spraying down audiences with countless bottles of champagne, acting as his own hype man on the mic, and dropping such signature hits as “Get Low” and (of course) “Turn Down for What.” He’ll likely bust out with similarly over-the-top on Sunday, April 10, at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale during the launch of its summer-long Release Pool Party series. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.
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