Looking for a memorable show to see over the next few nights? Consider any of the following eight options, which comprise our concert picks for this week. If you're looking for even more live music in and around the Valley, be sure to check out our comprehensive Phoenix concert calendar for a wealth of other options.
If one had to guess the birthplace of the Allah-Las simply based on a few musical interludes, somewhere on the sunshine-y California coast makes for an easy choice. It’s accurate too, as this Los Angeles band co-mingles all the salty goodness of a day at the beach with the latent 1960s acid-soaked hippie vibe of Laurel Canyon and the vintage Sunset Strip. It makes sense, given that guitarists Pedrum Siadatian and Miles Michaud, drummer Matt Correia and bassist Spencer Dunham met at the crossroads of LA’s cultural scene where all genres collide: Amoeba Music. How could the quartet not soak up the history of the region?
Yet, for all the trippy influences — the airy, swirly guitars, the gentle atmospherics, the four-part harmonies à la CSNY, the pure-pop surf grooves, and the deep reverb — the Allah-Las add just enough fuzz and grit to fly past the Byrds, Doors, Love, and The Leaves, and offer a modern aesthetic to the music. The dreamy overtones and lush textures found throughout the band’s fittingly titled sophomore release, Worship the Sun, are a pleasure, evoking a timeless sense of a more laid-back (and stoned) musical era. Make it your time, if you can. GLENN BURNSILVER
The queen of doom and gloom returns with her fifth album, a dark travelogue through the soul that’s aptly titled Abyss. Aided by producer John Congleton and co-songwriter Ben Chisholm, Chelsea Wolfe stirs up a masterful blend of unsettling sounds, from the eerie combination of hollowed-out bass and disembodied vocals in “Survive” to the guttural synths of “Color of Blood” and aggressive catharsis of “Carrion Flowers.” Yet it never seems as if the L.A.-based singer is merely trying to shock. Instead, relatively stark songs such as “After the Fall” and “Grey Days” feel personal and vulnerable. Even as Wolfe tries to swim through waves of dread and sleep paralysis, “Iron Moon” segues from nightmarish storminess to a daydream-y gentleness and back again. FALLING JAMES
It may not readily spring to mind, but Michigan has been fertile country-music territory for a long time; go listen to Bobby Bare Sr.'s "Detroit City" if you think Motown, Eminem, and techno are all that's in that partcular book. One of America's finest honky-tonk artists for a number of years now, Flint's Whitey Morgan balances all the proper musical cues from Hank Sr. and Johnny Cash with the kind of outlaw attitude that puts himm more in the Hank Jr./Waylon ballpark. (Good stuff, in other words.) CHRIS GRAY
Sean Tillmann’s Har Mar Superstar alter ego began as something of a goof, as he channeled an R&B sex-god persona into his Everyman frame, working his pudgy physique and receding hairline like his fellow Minnesotan Prince (R.I.P.) doing splits at the climax of "Purple Rain." Sixteen years and six albums later, Har Mar seems less like a gimmick and more like an authentic extension of Tillmann’s personality and talent. He may not look the part, but Tillmann can croon a soulful bedroom jam with the best of them, and his songwriting skills have gotten sharper with each LP. His latest, the just-released Best Summer Ever, coats everything from dreamy, hands-in-the-air balladry (“I Hope”) to bouncy electro-pop workouts (“It Was Only Dancing (Sex),” “Youth Without Love”) in a haze of summery, old-school synths. ANDY HERMANN
Usually, when songwriters are as wickedly intelligent as Thao Nguyen, they tend to write morbidly gloomy and/or overly serious anthems of great meaning and purpose. That's not to say the Virginia native doesn't have her grand and heavy mood swings — sometimes every few seconds in the same track — but she and her San Francisco band usually construct sunny, ebullient indie-pop songs that are cleverly constructed and merrily arranged instead of merely insipid and escapist. On their 2013 album, We the Common, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down start off with simple, rustic folk structures that suddenly burst into funky, horn-laden electropop interludes with strange chord changes and intimately arranged harmonies. Nguyen might claim that she has "Clouds for Brains," but those are some pretty smart cumulus she's accumulating. FALLING JAMES
To the uninitiated, Robert Earl Keen sound like he's a political assassin you forgot about. Instead he's a singer-songwriter, mining that country, folk, and bluegrass you forgot about when you came away from too many Wednesday karaoke nights thinking Lita Ford's "Kiss Me Deadly" was a country song. Along with fellow Texans Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, and Lyle Lovett, Keen paints pictures with every song, and the more details you pile into a song, the better. Take his "Merry Christmas From the Family," where he crams in data about first and second marriages, extension cords, AA, exploding motor homes, and tampons in under five minutes.
While he's released a dozen albums (including the latest Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions) since 1984, he's released half that many live albums — a direct shot for appreciating his craft, and his dry humor. Take the studio version of "Front Porch Song," from his first album No Kinda Dancer. The song talks about his landlord and said porch. But the live version from 2003's The Party Never Ends tells about how on that same porch, he and the song's co-author Lovett used to play bluegrass and gospel in their underwear to give the Presbyterians coming out of the church across the street "something to talk about on their way to Luby's." SERENE DOMINIC
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Dale Watson is about as country music as it gets. Dapper in classic western attire, complete with Stetson, big belt buckle, and boots, his shock-white pompadour and rich, deep tenor lend an air of authenticity. Watson is the archetypical country-music artist. There’s a reason he’s often referred to as the “real deal.” Yet, despite the obvious associations, Watson says he is not a country artist. In fact, he is adamant that country music, at least in the traditional sense, no longer exists — something he prophesized years ago.
“I am a little vindicated in a way,” Watson explains by phone from his dressing room at Austin’s Continental Club. “I was screaming in the forest about the music losing its identity in 1990. And it came true — it’s 100 percent lost its identity. [Country music] became something else. That’s why I don’t call what I do country music anymore. I’m not a country artist by any means.” GLENN BURNSILVER