Top Five Must-See Phoenix Shows This Weekend

Typically we just give you a chance, in these weekly previews, to see shows. But something-something-Web-2.0, and now user interaction is important. So go see shows, if you want to be Web 1.0 about it . . . or you can go to Zia and try out to be a Heavy Metal Television VJ.

Your call. (Or you could just do both--view our complete concert calendar here.)

Action Bronson - Celebrity Theatre - Friday, August 9

In late June, rapper Action Bronson stopped by

Sway in the Morning

, a radio show run by longtime MTV News VJ/correspondent Sway. For whatever reason, the host spent his Bronson time on awkward conversation and fat jokes. At one especially cringey point, Sway asked the man born Arian Asllani whether he saw his own penis often. "Very often," Bronson fired back. "I have halal beef."

That throwaway quip somehow managed to encompass nearly key trait of the Action Bronson aesthetic. First, "halal beef" is a reference to food -- a practice the Queens native specializes in, what with past mentions of abalone, apple cider, barbecued lobster, green M&Ms, garlic-dipped crabs, and other scrumptious eats in verses. Second, the Sway conversation is one about Bronson's weight. The MC has already explored the topic in "Ronnie Coleman," a hilarious/sad reflection on drooling over junk food, shaming oneself into weight loss, and "getting twisted eating chicken with a prostitute." Lastly, the comment is a sexualized one, and Bronson loves discussing his dalliances with the ladies (particularly, hookers).

Throw allusions to weed, crime, and pre-1998 pro wrestling into his "Sway in the Morning" comment, and you have the entirety of Bronson's glorious shtick right there. -- Reyan Ali

Ed. Note: We previewed two more Friday shows earlier this week.

Tim McGraw - Salt River Fields, Scottsdale - Saturday, August 10

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Last year, Tim McGraw left Curb Records after 20 years to join Big Machine Records. Contract disputes and lawsuits ensued upon the shift, but it seems to have been the right step for one of country's most consistent stars. Coming just two weeks after his first collaborative album, Tim McGraw & Friends, February's Two Lanes of Freedom is his most complete, soulful record to date.

Strong harmonies and vivid lyrics carry it from start to finish, hitting levels McGraw hasn't captured since 2004's Live Like You Were Dying. An impressive four singles have earned airplay, demonstrating his range -- "Truck Yeah" and "Southern Girl" are country-rock party anthems, while "One of Those Nights" and "Highway Don't Care" paint a slower, more detailed picture, capturing a moment in the uncanny way his best songs manage. (Taylor Swift, on leave from her teen-pop tone, offers a hypnotic chorus on the latter track.)

After a successful co-headlining tour with Kenny Chesney in 2012, McGraw is headlining his own summer excursion this year, the aptly named Two Lanes of Freedom Tour. -- Caleb Haley

The Black Moods - Last Exit Live - Saturday, August 10

For two months, Tempe-based rockers The Black Moods have been crossing the Midwest and the West Coast on their first extensive tour, promoting their self-titled debut. All the work has paid off -- each show bringing a more receptive audience -- and by the end of the tour, they'd been named Indie Band of the Week by RockRevolt Magazine. Back home, the trio -- guitarist and vocalist Joshua Kennedy, bassist Ryan Prier, and drummer Danny "Chico" Diaz -- has been a welcome addition to the Phoenix music scene.

The Black Moods encompass rock 'n' roll as it once was -- with influences ranging from Led Zeppelin to the Valley's own Gin Blossoms -- on tracks like "Give It to Me" and "Like a Wave," while simultaneously reaching for the future of rock music on the songs "Don't Let Them Get You Down" and "Torn Up Dress." The Black Moods already have begun work on their follow-up album, with four new songs written for the record.

But with a stage show that successfully and powerfully translates their album into a visual performance, The Black Moods have adopted carrying a creed that every great Arizona band has embraced, translating the smoldering desert heat into an even hotter musical vista for the world to experience. -- Caleb Haley

Heavy Metal Television VJ Tryouts - Zia Record Exchange (Camelback) - Saturday, August 10

This isn't a show, at least not in the traditional sense. But

as we explained in this week's print feature

, Saturday night is your chance to fulfill any and all '80s MTV fantasies you may have had by becoming the next VJ at Mesa-based web TV station Heavy Metal Television.

The VJ competition is the first of a number of events the network has planned ahead of its one-year anniversary in November. In conjunction with Zia Record Exchange, Metal Blade Records, and Troop Fuel Energy Drink, the American Idol-style open VJ auditions are scheduled to take place on Saturday, August 10.

Applicants just have to head to Zia's flagship store at 19th Avenue and Camelback Road between 5 and 6 p.m. to sign up, and there's no pre-registration necessary. The winner will receive a prize package courtesy of Metal Blade Records, and two runners-up will snag a prize of, well, considerably lesser value. But the first 50 participants have the chance to score a ton of free stuff, too.

Anyone can try out to be a VJ, because in the end, it's about getting someone who is exciting or amusing to watch. And everyone who tries out will be filmed, so they may find themselves on a Heavy Metal Television special in the end.

Modern Baseball - Nile Theater, Mesa - Sunday, August 11

Naming an album


isn't quite like naming an album

Born to Run

, but the deeply uncool Huey Lewis fan in me must admit to a little umbrage at Modern Baseball's hubris, and also their apparent reluctance to cover "I Want a New Drug."

In any case, these Philadelphians won me over the hard way: Without any Huey Lewis covers. Against a pop-punk background reminiscent of Chicago's more thoughtfully angrysad bands, Modern Baseball talk-sings its way through weird stories of angrysad youth with an appealing looseness. If the lyrics sometimes get a little on the nose, there's a distance in songs like "Tears Over Beers" that suggests they've got interesting places still to go.

They're joined by Tiny Moving Parts and locals Dain Griffin, The Thin Bloods, and Sundressed.

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