Top Five Must-See Phoenix Shows This Weekend

That Tupac hologram probably gave the whole industry a scare, but for the moment it looks like tribute bands are safely ensconced as the only way you'll be able to see, say, Pantera live.

A night of cover bands at the Marquee, don't-call-it-chillwave at Last Exit Live, the less-wordy parts of Graceland, and more make up this weekend's list of five shows to see in Phoenix. As always, if there's another show you're excited about, let us know in the comments.

Marquee Tribute Night - Marquee Theatre - June 14

People either love or hate cover bands. Some think they are fantastic tributes, while others think they are blatant rip-offs. Since 2011, Phoenix's Cowboys N Hell has displayed their Pantera-worthy talents on stage with some of the band's most beloved hits.

Read our complete interview with Cowboys N Hell, including their pick for best cover bands in town.

The four-piece is comprised of guitarist Josh Draskovic, vocalist Mike Niggl, bassist Steve Helmstadter and drummer Johnny Huggins, each playing their respective parts of that legendary Texas metal sound while adding some of their own Arizona outlaw edge.

Cowboys N Hell will play alongside an array of other tribute bands, including Grindhouse (Rob Zombie), Recipe for Disaster (Guns 'N Roses) and Powerslave (Iron Maiden) on June 14 at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.--Lauren Wise

Sara Robinson and the Midnight Special - Crescent Ballroom - June 14

It's been said that, before you can truly sing the blues, you have to have experienced a lifetime of broken-hearted romance, tragedy and hopelessness.

What usually comes to mind are images of an elderly Junior Kimbrough or Etta James. What doesn't often pop up is a 20-year-old, tattoo-covered girl from Tempe with flowing brown locks. That'll change after you watch that girl--Sara Robinson--perform.

Just a year ago in Tempe, Sara Robinson and the Midnight Special formed to show their take on funk and blues combined with '60s and '70s rock--think Texas Roadhouse blues, instrumental jam sessions a la Led Zeppelin, and smoldering vocals that echo Janis Joplin, and Stevie Nicks.

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  • Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019 / 8:00pm @ Talking Stick Resort Arena 201 East Jefferson Street Phoenix AZ 85004
    201 East Jefferson Street, Phoenix AZ 85004

  • Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019 / 8:00pm @ The Crescent Ballroom - Phoenix 308 N. 2nd Avenue Phoenix AZ 85003
    308 N. 2nd Avenue, Phoenix AZ 85003

  • Monday, Nov. 18, 2019 / 8:00pm @ The Crescent Ballroom - Phoenix 308 N. 2nd Avenue Phoenix AZ 85003
    308 N. 2nd Avenue, Phoenix AZ 85003

Comprised of Sara Robinson, guitarist Brandon Croft, drummer Evan Knisely and bassist Brenden McBride, the band's self-titled debut album dropped in February, and displays an articulate rhythm section, heavy slide guitar, prominent hooks and large choruses. --Lauren Wise

Read More: The best photos of Los Dias de la Crescent 2013

Ladysmith Black Mambazo - MIM Music Theater - June 15

It wasn't until Ladysmith Black Mambazo's seminal work on Paul Simon's Grammy-winning Graceland that the world truly took notice of the South African a capella group, but the ensemble's been on a cross-cultural journey from the moment the members came together in the early 1960s.

In the years since, they've worked with fellow Africans as well as international blues, jazz, hip-hop, soul, rock, and country artists, among others. Founded by Joseph Shabalala, LBM's strength is its ability to transform any song through vocal inflections that range from deep baritone to a soaring tenor, including precisely timed shouts, shuffles, whistles, trills, and animal-like sounds, along with handclaps and foot stomps for added depth and nuance.

The singing style delves from the Zulu traditions of isicathamiya harmonies, something Shabalala took to heart after a series of recurring dreams instructed him to form a musical group. More than 50 albums along, the group's core songs remain based on South African folklore and traditions, mixed with occasional religious and political numbers. --Glenn BurnSilver

Small Black - Last Exit Live - June 15

"Free at Dawn," the opening song of Small Black's second full-length album, is the sound of a band reclaiming itself at the start of a new day.

Gone is much of what characterized the band's eponymous 2008 EP and 2010 debut album New Chain -- the chill synths and preset Casio beats of a band that began as a bedroom project.

While still self-produced, Limits of Desire abandons the occasionally overstuffed sound of home-studio tinkering that guitarist-keyboardist Ryan Heyner and keyboardist-singer Josh Kolenik began with before adding bassist Juan Pieczanski and drummer Jeff Curtin. The full-band approach draws from an expanded palette, making Limits of Desire a surprisingly nimble album, synth-pop that fits itself into unexpected places. -- Eric Swedlund

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - Crescent Ballroom - June 16

It's been something like eight years since the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion gave us a full-length musical offering. More than worth the wait, their new release, Meat and Bone, is as dynamic and explosive as any of the trio's previous recordings. Whether they're ratcheting up the notch on the tension or letting it out in a furious explosion, you can't help but find your ass shaking and your soul shaken.

Read our interview with Jon Spencer: "We cherish the work a whole lot more..."

This new one features 12 songs that deliver their blend of rock and 
roll, blues, punk, sass, sex, and trash, and each one is an infectious little nugget on which to gnash and gnaw. Taking a little time off from touring, as well as recording, the Blues Explosion - Jon Spencer, Judah Bauer and Russell Simins - are ready to hit the road. -- Amy Young

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