Important concert-going note: Until Friday, at the earliest, it is still at least a little weird to go to a show--whether it's on this list or not--in a Halloween costume.
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Animal Collective - The Marquee Theatre, Tempe - Tuesday, October 22
Animal Collective is all about weirdness; that's part of the appeal. The band's Coachella set was full of crazy lights that made the songs somewhat unsettling. I'm curious to see how this would translate to an indoor venue--it would probably be cool at Marquee.
A festival performance doesn't necessarily let you gauge whether a band is good live. The intimate setting of Marquee is promising: you may actually be able to see Geologist's headlamp without squinting at a video feed. Animal Collective does, in fact, sound good live, but my experience at Coachella still has me hesitating about buying a ticket. I know I'd still hold out for songs like "My Girls" and "Fireworks" that may never come, but if you're a big fan of Centipede Hz and hearing new Animal Collective cuts before anyone else, by all means get one.
As for me, I'll be keeping an eye on Setlist.fm to get a sense of what the band is playing on this tour. For all I know, I'll finally be able to hear my beloved "My Girls" live. -- Melissa Fossum
Restorations - Pub Rock Live, Scottsdale - Tuesday, October 22
Born out of the breakup of long-running Philadelphia hardcore band Jena Berlin, Restorations reach for more of a balance between energy and melody.
Fed up with the Fed up with the hassles of touring, record labels and decided the band had reached the limits of what he could do with hardcore, singer-songwriter-guitarist Jon Loudon dissolved Jena Berlin, hoping to focus on just playing music.
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The new band name would fit the mood Loudon wanted. Joining with guitarists Dave Klyman and Ben Pierce, his bandmates from Jena Berlin, and drummer Carlin Brown and bassist Dan Zimmerman, Loudon set out in a new direction.
"We were interested in not doing the typical bar band thing, but focusing on writing records and the musical end of things, not the touring end of things," says singer-songwriter-guitarist Jon Loudon. "We wanted something more laid back, more melody. We're trying the stuff we couldn't get away with playing the heavier music."
Restorations follow in the footsteps of Fugazi, Constantines and Torche, "bands along that line that are a little bit subdued but still have more of a kick," Loudon says. --Eric Swedlund
Phantogram - Crescent Ballroom - Wednesday, October 23
Pop music has long enjoyed--and idolized--partying, but over the last half-decade, songs about partying have grown increasingly hollow and obligated. Bangers like Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" and Ke$ha's "Take It Off" are hymns of unadulterated debauchery, placing life-validating faith in boozing, screwing, dancing, drunken spending and other acts of hedonism and/or stupidity. But these songs celebrate for celebration's sake--rather than any occasion--because their culture somehow agrees that partying's, like, the best thing ever. Affectation, trendiness and meaninglessness hover over these tunes like existential rain clouds.
That perspective on contemporary music could have inspired Phantogram's "Celebrating Nothing." The track--which appears on the Saratoga Springs, NY duo's new self-titled EP--uses all the typical Phantogram ingredients to top-shelf effect. It's built on a cunningly crisp trip-hop-born beat, Sarah Barthel's levitating and cobweb-textured vocals, and surreal, sullen lyrics from Josh Carter (who pens the majority of the band's words). "I tell myself I'm fine in celebrating nothing/And all the time I waste on celebrating nothing," Barthel sings, lamenting as if trapped in a corner of some dim club where she's understood the true depth of party-fixated pop. -- Reyan Ali
Earl Sweatshirt - Club Red, Tempe - Thursday, October 24
"It's money" opens Doris, the way-way-way-too-much-anticipated album from Odd Future standout and internal rhyme genius Earl Sweatshirt. "It's money," the intro repeats, "It's money." If you bought a physical copy, you're hearing that opening while thumbing through the artwork: an intoxicated-looking (though he kind of always is) Earl standing next to a crucifix, homeless people with grocery carts, graffiti, lots and lots and lots of pigeons. It's hard not to see a contrast.
Compare it with the also-grayscale-but-totally-different artwork of Jay Z's newest, Magna Carta Holy Grail, and you get a sense of what different spaces these two occupy right now. Hov's driving to the Met in a Bugatti; Sweatshirt's telling you how much everything sucks, scrawling it across the walls. It's money, I guess, but if you hear a clinking sound here, it's a can of spray-paint, not stacks of coins.
If you're tired of hearing about every rap record as it might relate to Jay, I hope you'll forgive the comparison, or even accept that Sweatshirt asked for it when he dissed Magna Carta on Twitter.
Read more about the Earl Sweatshirt-Jay Z diss.
Gin Blossoms - Harold's Corral, Cave Creek - Friday, October 25
Plenty of the Gin Blossoms' contemporaries are still touring in 2013--after long breaks in the late '90s it seems like most of them got back together, joined package tours, and began putting their kids through college--but far fewer of them actually took that opportunity to sit down and write new music. That's where Tempe's most infamous alums are different; after their mid-aughts comeback, they wrote and recorded 2006'sMajor Lodge Victory
, their first sinceCongratulations I'm Sorry
more than a decade earlier. 2010'sNo Chocolate Cake
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And hey--they're not New Miserable Experience, but they're pretty good. It's not that you should go to a Gin Blossoms show because you really want to hear "Miss Disarray" or the other comeback singles, exactly; you're there for "Hey Jealousy," and they probably know it as well as you do. But there's something refreshing about a band with enough hits to play '90s nostalgia cruises until the last Desert Storm veteran dies of old age going into the studio and recording 10 more jangly, melodic pop songs.