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The 30 Best Concerts in Phoenix in September 2018

Beyoncé and Jay-Z are scheduled to perform on Wednesday, September 19, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.
Beyoncé and Jay-Z are scheduled to perform on Wednesday, September 19, at State Farm Stadium in Glendale. Courtesy of the OTR II Tour
You've waited patiently and now the moment you've waited for is finally here. We’re sliding into September, the month when the end of summer is on the horizon and tons of big shows are on the concert calendar.

As temperatures slowly (and we do mean slowly) begin to cool down, the concert scene in the Valley will ratchet back up as festivals take place, local arts and cultural venues awaken from their slumber, and blockbuster tours hit our city. You’ll find all of these in our rundown of the best concerts happening in Phoenix during September.

The biggest show, without question, will be put on by Jay-Z and Beyoncé when they bring their OTR II tour to State Farm Stadium in Glendale (formerly University of Phoenix Stadium) on September 19. It won’t be the only attention-grabbing gig, however, as artists and acts like Lauryn Hill, Leon Bridges, Nine Inch Nails, Bishop Briggs, Greta Van Fleet, Macy Gray, Kali Uchis, and Slash all have performances scheduled in September.

Game of Thrones Live in Concert will also return to the Valley, the annual Goldrush Music Festival will mix hip-hop with EDM, and the Firebird Music Festival will make its debut.

Details about each of these shows can be found below. And for even more live music happening around the Valley in September, hit up Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

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The members of Bad Bad Hats.
Afternoon Records
Bad Bad Hats
Sunday, September 2
Valley Bar

Bad Bad Hats, who open for the Mynabirds, is a pop trio from Minneapolis that draws inspiration from late-’90s alternative rock: Singer Kerry Alexander cites Letters to Cleo’s Kay Hanley and Alanis Morissette as influences. When Alexander moved to Minneapolis from Tampa, she connected with like-minded musicians Noah Boswell and Chris Hoge and formed Bad Bad Hats.

The band’s 2013 EP, It Hurts, showed a promise that has developed over the past several years. The songwriting and execution on follow-up albums like 2015’s Psychic Reader and this year’s Lightning Round suggest a depth and complexity of emotional expression that somehow doesn’t weigh down the buoyant melodies. The contrast confirms that a well-crafted pop song can efficiently convey the essence of an experience. Tom Murphy

Leon Bridges
Tuesday, September 4
Comerica Theater

Since the release of his 2015 major-label debut, Coming Home, Leon Bridges has been at the vanguard of neo-soul and contemporary R&B, even though his butter-smooth tenor brings to mind luminaries like Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and Otis Redding (especially Redding). Revivalist tendencies aside, however, Bridges remains a product of his time, incorporating the feel of retro classics into slick, modern production. On his sophomore and most recent full-length album, this year’s excellent Good Thing, Bridges takes his place alongside Anderson .Paak when it comes to writing irresistibly sexy funk bangers and Frank Ocean with his slow-burning R&B grooves. Don’t let his throwback fashion or the old-school album-cover designs fool you: This Grammy nominee is an undeniably modern man. Elle Carroll

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The Prince of Partying, Andrew W.K.
Nina Ottolino
Andrew W.K.
Tuesday, September 4
Crescent Ballroom

Andrew W.K. is like a man-sized Ecstasy tablet. Dressed in his customary white clothes and crowned with a shaggy mop of permanently wet hair, the singer is an avatar of positivity and good times. His music takes the over-the-top excess of hair metal and Jim Steinem productions and boosts them to operatic extremes. Not even Diamond Dave could extol the virtues of partying as hard as Andrew W.K. can.

And yet the monochromatic rocker is a walking contradiction. He's a party animal who doesn't drink. Despite making music that sounds incredibly simplistic, he has a background in formal music training and came out of the avant-garde underground. He's utterly sincere, even though his whole bit feels like some kind of put-on. Ashley Naftule

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Scorpions invade the Valley in early September.
Oliver Rath
Wednesday, September 5
Comerica Theatre

After more than four decades of existence, the Scorpions are still one of quintessential hard rock bands. Everything from their over-the-top '80s sound to their Spinal Tap-length roster of current and past members (there have been 19 Scorpions!) is somehow representative of all the ridiculousness of hard rock's heyday. You may remember hits like "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and "No One Like You," what with their big talk, gloats, and dirty promises of phenomenal sex. Of course, they did a few ever-popular power ballads, the most notable being "Wind of Change," marking the German band's experience during the fall of the Berlin Wall. They’ve got a new album in the works and are currently touring alongside Queensrÿche. They’ll hit the Valley in early September for a night of hard rock hits at Comerica Theatre. Sarah Ventre

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Cut Copy: They funk from a land down under.
Courtesy of Cut Copy
Cut Copy
Thursday, September 6
Crescent Ballroom

When critics and historians look back on the state of rock music in the 21st century, they’ll pinpoint two badly needed sea changes that happened to the genre. The first is the demographic change, as women artists and POC performers went from the margins to the forefront of the scene. The other is that rockers finally dropped that bullshit “Disco Sucks!” stance and embraced the glories of dance mind.

While many of the big names in dance-punk have veered off to do more abstract electronic music (Liars), fall off the radar (The Rapture), or find their Perfect Form as Elder Statesmen (LCD Soundsystem), Australia’s Cut Copy have kept their disco ball spinning. Formed in 2001 by frontman DJ Dan Whitford, the group quickly made a name for themselves with their second album. In Ghost Colors is a body-rocking classic: Perhaps one of the finest marriages between indie rock and dance culture since the Happy Mondays’ Pills ’n’ Thrills and Bellyaches.

Cut Copy have continued to release bangers since them, refining their approach to busting a groove on tape. If you’re looking to get your dance on, there are few bands who do it better live. Ashley Naftule

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Def Leppard in concert in 2014.
Jim Louvau
Def Leppard and Journey
Friday, September 7
Talking Stick Resort Arena

Def Leppard and Journey are halfway through a massive North American tour. Co-headlining each night, both acts are leaning heavy on the hits. If you want the most familiar, you'll not come away disappointed. You'll hear "Hysteria," "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and "Rocket" from the Lep while you'll hear "Don't Stop Believin'," "Separate Ways" and "Only the Young" with the Journey guys. It is a good pairing, as both of these bands headlined arenas in the 1980s. You know exactly what you're getting, and given how the songs have remained in the public's favor, it should be a good show. Eric Grubbs

I See Stars
Friday, September 7
Pub Rock Live in Scottsdale

I See Stars is asextet from Warren, Michigan, that mixes the seemingly disparate genres of electonica and screamo metal (hence their rather specific subgenre of electronicore). The band’s debut album, 3D, came out going on a decade ago and is a wildly entertaining set of songs that highlight its deafening dichotomy. Since then, ISS has released an additional three full-length albums, a pair of EPs, and a few remix albums.

Devin Oliver handles the vocal duties on the (relatively) mellow numbers while Chris Moore does the screaming material. Somehow, this mixture works more often than not. You might even say that I See Stars creates music best suited for a mental institution, which, I'm fairly certain, is exactly how the band wants it. Darryl Smyers

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Gin Blossoms in concert earlier this year.
Kelsee Becker
Gin Blossoms
Saturday, September 8
The Van Buren

To the band that made the following lines famous – "Anywhere you go, I'll follow you down. I'll follow you down, but not that far!" – we have a message for you: We, your loving audience, will keep following you. For the countless adults caught in that awkward place between Gen X and Y who remember when MTV played music, there are a handful of names that impart that deliciously distinct '90s-lost-innocence nostalgia, from Blues Traveler to Bush to Counting Crows, but it might just be Gin Blossoms who take the cake. With the salty-sweet voice of vocalist Jesse Valenzuela and hits like "Hey Jealousy," "Follow You Down," and "Til I Hear It From You," Gin Blossoms had a virtual monopoly on the soundtracks to school dances and car make-outs of the '90s.

Formed in 1987 in Tempe, Gin Blossoms broke out with "Hey Jealousy," a song that became the center of a tragedy after its writer, Blossoms co-founder Doug Hopkins, was fired and later committed suicide after a battle with drinking. The rest of the band's members continued on to success before eventually breaking up in 1997. In 2002, the band reunited and subsequently released 2006's Major Lodge Victory and 2010's No Chocolate Cake. Gin Blossoms have survived a shuffling in and out of members over the years, but at least for now, they're stable and touring. Jacob Utti

Tashi Dorji
Saturday, September 8
The Trunk Space

Experimental guitarist Tashi Dorji is prolific. From full-length LPs to singles and live records, he’s got dozens of releases available, and on each, his honed and intimate knowledge of the instrument finds him plucking and twisting the strings in ways that shift and bend the listener’s mind just as much. Sometimes the songs are stark and choppy, like “If I Were You, I’d Leap Into the Torrent,” his track from the Mother of All Saints split 7" with Eyvind Kang. Its mild discordance offers enough warmth for you to stick with it until the end, with plenty of little side trips along the way. “All This World is Like This Valley,” found on Collected Works, is the opposite — it’s melodic and sweet, folky mountain music, the kind you’d expect to hear while lazing on a Carolina hillside.

Dorji was born in Bhutan, but has been stationed in Asheville, North Carolina, since 2000. Dorji is also a constant collaborator, and when he visits Phoenix, he’ll be performing with John Dieterich, who is best known for playing in San Francisco’s Deerhoof. Amy Young

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Bishop Briggs
Jabari Jacobs
Bishop Briggs
Sunday, September 9
The Van Buren

Radio pop has swung into darker territories lately, with vocalists like Tove Lo, Elle King, Lykke Li, and even Hozier inflecting electro-pop with soul-influenced brooding. Bishop Briggs, a.k.a. Sarah Grace McLaughlin, joins the moody parade with singles “Wild Horses” and “River,” which feature her impressive, throaty vocals over swaggering, relatively minimalistic beats. The 26-year-old British musician is now based in Los Angeles, but she was raised in Japan and Hong Kong, on her Scottish parents’ affection for Motown and karaoke culture. While pop today draws from a range of genres, including electronica, hip-hop, and acoustic, it will be interesting to see whether Briggs can turn her unique background into a clear point of view rather than another mash-up of influences. Katie Moulton

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Say farewell to LVL UP when they swing through town on their final tour.
Shawn Brackbill
Monday, September 10
The Rebel Lounge

“I can’t stop the dance / Baby, this is my last chance.” Sure, this quote from U2’s “Two Hearts Beat as One” doesn’t have anything to do with LVL UP ... OR DOES IT? It might, in fact, because coming up soon is your last chance to see this venerable New York indie band. They’ve called it quits, you see. The breakup was mutual and amicable, however, and to show the nation that no really, they’re cool with each other, they’ve set off on a farewell tour.

LVL UP was formed at SUNY Purchase way back in 2011 (feel old?) and released a bunch of records in their particularly chill, lo-fi rock style, which is a bit reminiscent of ’90s bands such as Built to Spill and Yo La Tengo. They eventually made it to Sub Pop in 2016 for their LP Return to Love. They announced their breakup with a final song, “Orchard,” which at a length of 3:38 is one of their longer tracks. There may be some tears at this show. So long, dudes! Douglas Markowitz

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All hail The Mountain Goats, who perform at the Crescent Ballroom on September 11.
Jeremy Lange
The Mountain Goats
Tuesday, September 11
Crescent Ballroom

The Mountain Goats have morphed from John Darnielle’s guy-with-a-guitar lo-fi solo project into a full band that serves as a vehicle for his literary songs chronicling stories of abuse, addiction and survival. Lines like “I am gonna make it / Through this year / If it kills me” detail the struggles people face with a touch of humor and resilience delivered in a sing-along style, signatures of Darnielle’s poetics.

As the decades have passed and The Mountain Goats have had bigger budgets and larger recording studios to work with, their sound has broadened. It’s also grown weirder. The band’s most recent album, Goths, offers a host of songs that defy genre norms and the musical expectations of die-hard fans, proving that Darnielle hasn’t stopped pushing creative boundaries decades into his career — even if it’s disconcerting to those who wish he’d stick to his voice, his guitar, and a buzzing tape recorder. While his musical style has shifted in unexpected directions, the generous spirit that he brings to live performances remains consistent, and his shows are bound to draw out more than a few tears. Kyle Harris

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Composer Ramin Djawadi will return to the Valley.
Courtesy of Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience
Game of Thrones Live in Concert
Wednesday, September 12
Gila River Arena in Glendale

Like all pop culture phenomena, Game of Thrones will not allow itself to be bound to one medium. What began as a series of fantasy books written by George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones was unleashed on the world of the illiterate through a hugely popular HBO show in 2011. But that was not enough for the fans of dragons, battles, and incest. Over the years, there have been Game of Thrones video games, conventions, and now, a live concert experience.

The TV show's composer, Ramin Djawadi, conducts an orchestra and chorus that play selections of the music that accompanied the many deaths, resurrections, and bare-breasted brothel scenes throughout the past seven seasons of Game of Thrones. A massive screen hanging above the players will broadcast images of the Starks and Lannisters battling and embracing (though you will have to subscribe to HBO to see the R-rated material).

The live concert experience provides special effects whose descriptions, like the show on which it is based, will be preceded by spoiler alerts. During explosions, flames shoot up from the stage; at times, to represent wildfire, the flames are appropriately green. When the action takes audiences to the frozen tundra of the North, snowflakes fall from the rafters.

So although Game of Thrones fanatics might have to wait months for the next season to begin, fear not: This show offers a chance to get your fix of Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and all the other magical and brutal figures of their ever-expanding world. David Rolland

Southern rock jam band Gov't Mule.
Anna Webber
Gov't Mule
Wednesday, September 12
The Van Buren

Gov't Mule formed in 1994 as a side project of Warren Haynes and Allen Woody, who were then members of the Allman Brothers Band. While both men continued to play with the Allman Brothers, Gov't Mule became quite a viable entity on its own, rooted in a similar blend of blues, jazz and rock, with a penchant for improvisational elaborations on a theme. The Mule has long had a rotating cast of guest musicians with an exhaustive list that reads like a "who's who" of the improvisational rock, blues and jazz world. Tom Murphy

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Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears
Courtesy of Billions
Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
Thursday, September 13
Valley Bar

Blues, funk, soul, country – why pick one when you could have them all? That’s the ethos behind Austin, Texas, native Black Joe Lewis and his band the Honeybears, who’ve caught so many comparisons to so many different artists, it’s hard to list just a few (but we’ll try: James Brown, Howlin’ Wolf, The Gun Club, Sam Cooke, the Stax Records lineup, and so on). They’re a like a compendium of American music history, smashing every great genre from the 20th century together in a guitar-laden smorgasbord on albums like 2017’s Backlash. You might learn something at this show. Douglas Markowitz

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Atticus Ross (left) and Trent Reznor (right) of Nine Inch Nails.
Corinne Schiavonne
Nine Inch Nails
Thursday, September 13, and Friday, September 14
Comerica Theatre

Fans of Nine Inch Nails, get ready to rejoice. Your favorite hard rock/industrial act not only has a new album out (the six-song LP Bad Witch) but is embarking on a 14-city tour this fall, which kicks off with a two-night stint at Comerica Theatre in mid-September. Better start picking out some pleather pants and combat boots.

The Phoenix shows will be the first one of NIN’s “Cold and Black and Infinite Tour.” They’ll be joined by alt-rock/noise pop band the Jesus and Mary Chain, who will serve as openers. As with any band that's been around as long as Nine Inch Nails, which started in 1989, you can expect them to perform a variety of songs from throughout their lengthy discography, as well as numerous tracks from Bad Witch. (Personally, we're expecting to hear “Head Like A Hole,” “Closer,” “Wish,” and “We're In This Together.”) Benjamin Leatherman
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Phoenix New Times Music Writers