Want to get in a show this week? There are plenty of concerts and live gigs over the next five days around Metro Phoenix to choose from, as you can see for yourself by viewing our extensive online concert listings. And we're fairly certain that there's something for everyone, regardless of your particular tastes.
Ditto for our rundown of must-see shows this week, which runs the gamut from industrial and punk to experimental pop and ambient electronica.
On an already long list of distinctions, Skinny Puppy recently added a new one, and not one that makes the pioneering industrial band very proud: The U.S. government has used the band's music as a torture device.
"We heard through a reliable grapevine that our music was being used in Guantanamo Bay prison camps to musically stun or torture people," founder cEvin Key says by phone from his Los Angeles home. "We heard that our music was used on at least four occasions. So we thought it would be a good idea to make an invoice to the U.S. government for musical services, thus the concept of the record title, Weapons."
So how did he feel learning his music was being used in such a manner?
"Not too good," Key says. "We never supported those types of scenarios . . . Because we make unsettling music, we can see it being used in a weird way. But it doesn't sit right with us."
Released in the first quarter of 2103, Weapon is a return to the early days of Skinny Puppy, when songs were frequently conceived, recorded, and mastered in a single night, an approach that Key calls "more on the spot." -- Glenn BurnSilver
In 2011, Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington were on tour in Berlin when, on an off-day, they were too restless to relax. Stationed in a hotel room, Jaar asked Harrington, who was playing guitar in Jaar's touring band, if he wanted to make some music. Harrington said yes. The duo cobbled together a makeshift recording system out of Jaar's laptop, Harrington's guitar, and some small speakers and spent a few hours recording, looping, and warping a track built on a Harrington guitar part. Then, as Harrington recalled to Dummy magazine last year, the speakers went ballistic.
"The room filled with smoke, and there were sparks because we'd been using some kind of shitty travel adapter, because we were stupid." The electrical mishap axed the session, but by then, they already had pieced together the bulk of "A1," the inaugural track they would release as experimental electronic music duo Darkside.
Both members of the New York-based outfit regarded those smoking speakers as a good omen. "If you're open to it, you can't help but believe in the meaning of some things like that," Harrington, 28, says. "For me, [the significance was] the shock and intensity of nearly setting a hotel on fire but also the way we made that song and worked for the two or three hours before then. [It] was so unplanned. I don't even really remember doing it. It was so easy and so fortuitous that the other guys from the band disappeared, and suddenly it was just me and Nico. The way that three or four hours just kind of happened without any planning did feel cosmic in its own way." -- Reyan Ali
If anything, the rise in digital downloads has, for many bands, discouraged the need to "fill" a CD. Blame it on the Red Hot Chili Peppers who packed Blood Sugar Sex Magik to the bitter last second with music. Half as much would have made a fine album. Other bands, seeing the Chili Peppers' success, followed suit, proving more is rarely better. Now that such foolishness has been pushed aside, bands can instead focus on quality over quantity.
Twin Peaks' Sunken, for example, was a 19-minute tour de force. Mutual Benefit's "Love's Crushing Diamond" is longer, clocking at just under 32 minutes of blissful, atmospheric, hallucinogenic wanderings that shift from open, endless fields of flowers to stark forests of wintertime birch to sparkling wave-crested beaches at sunset. With stripped-down instrumentation that includes banjo, violin, acoustic guitars, toy piano and found and synthesized sounds, singer-songwriter-bandleader Jordan Lee has created an orchestral folk album of harrowing beauty reflecting his enlightening years of musical struggle as a road weary troubadour. The lush, yet harrowing beauty is genuinely heartfelt and dreamy as vocals (Lee's and female forms) float among the hazy landscapes. Yes, with Mutual Benefit, a little goes a long, long way. -- Glenn BurnSilver
On the Impossible Past, Philadelphia quartet The Menzingers' third effort, is a wail of an album. Angry, passionate and, best of all, literate, the songs resonate with the kind of pure punk spirit that made bands like Black Flag and The Misfits so important to the American indie scene.
Speaking from a tour stop in Alabama, Mezingers singer/guitarist Tom May spoke with us about the band's sound and the ever-evolving nature of punk rock.
Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion said you guys play pure punk rock. What did he mean by that? I don't know if you can really pigeonhole it. I guess it's just honest.
Then what punk bands do you think are dishonest? Every once in a while, you get a wave of heavy music that seems to have a hugely commercial focus that is void of the true meaning of what it is trying to be. I am not calling any band out by name.
Would Green Day be considered dishonest? No way. They created a whole new kind of thing. It's just theatrical. The entire production is a different game from what it was before. They are not trying to be salt of the earth type of stuff. They are trying to create a giant performance with lights and makeup and all that stuff. The older I get, the more I see that the lines between genres are not well defined, not that straight. People have all kinds of reasons for doing all kinds of things.
The band's style is very anthemic, like a mixture of Springsteen and The Clash. I think that's the greatest compliment anybody ever gave us. We get kind of nostalgic about our music. We hope people can relate to it like we do. -- Darryl Smyers
Fadil El Ghoul -- better known to dance floor princes and princesses as R3hab -- is relatively new to the EDM game, having had his big breakout in 2008, right as the genre began to experience a seismic shift in popularity. A proponent of Dutch house, there's a distinct menace to R3hab's work, specifically his remix of Bruno Mars' Sting and The Police-indebted "Locked Out of Heaven," which shakes and quivers under the weight of R3hab's massive drop and tight, tinny hip-hop drums. It hardly makes Mars' "the sex takes me to paradise" and "make a sinner change his ways" lines sound any less cheesy, but it does add some bark and bite to the song's pop fluff.
It seems to be R3hab's most effective trick. In R3hab's Moroccan hands, even sexy/smarmy singer Enrique Iglesias sounds pretty tough, his vocals pitch-shifted down into a sinister growl before billowing synths and piano surge triumphantly, only to be smashed like an import beer under no-doubt trendy boots when R3hab flips the switches and brings the nasty back. Who's next? The polished Ms. Swift? The chilly Mr. Bolton? Neither, in fact.
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Instead, R3hab collaborated with Dim Mak czar Steve Aoki on a high-energy, electro-heavy, and festival-worthy banger entitled "Flight," which dropped last month and has found its way into either artist's sets as of late. Fittingly, the two EDM kings are scheduled to pull back-to-back sets at Maya in Scottsdale this weekend, with R3hab hitting up the club on Thursday, January 30. -- Jason P. Woodbury