Of all the things Merle Haggard and Sigur Rós have in common, this is perhaps the most important: They're both playing in Arizona on Friday. But that doesn't guarantee they'll end up in today's Top Five Must-See Shows in Phoenix This Weekend.
Of course, if you're at Country Thunder this weekend, you have a much different list to choose from.
Merle Haggard @ Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler
They don't make 'em like Merle Haggard anymore, but what the hell would they do with 'em if they did? Everything about Haggard is rough: his Bakersfield voice, a scratchy, gnarled thing even in his youth; his trademark accompaniment, the twangy, stinging barbs of Telecaster snaking out of tweed-covered amplifiers; even his nickname, "Hag," which lingers long and ugly in the mouth. These are seeds that wouldn't find purchase in the fertile soil of Top 40 country, populated by "Blakes," "Traces," and "Jasons." They don't make them like Hag anymore, but that's okay. The man's influence is still there.
Here's what makes the Hag special. He's not just the voice of a specific agitator; he's the voice of all of them. He's a poet for the contrarian, the guy looking to flip anyone in charge a mighty bird. Hag's always sung about what he hates, but at the same time, he's always sung about what he loves, too, and it's something both sides of the aisle can get behind: personal freedom. -- Jason P. Woodbury
It's never been more fashionable to covet "old school" objects: records, hi-fi equipment, cassettes. In the case of Josh Gooday and David Owens, the duo comprising synth-pop band Vial of Sound, what started as a hobby in law school bloomed into a full-blown obsession: The two create and perform their music with vintage analog synthesizers. Unlike so much retro stuff, synths aren't the sort of thing you can pick up at the mall or Urban Outfitters.
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The band's sound -- tight, powerful songs colored by the unique instrumental approach -- quickly turned heads. In a little under a year, the Tempe band has taken its synth tinkerings from the garage to the studio to the main stage, opening shows for Zero Zero and Gospel Claws, hosting a Daft Punk cover show at Crescent Ballroom, and performing with noted influences like Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem and Missing Persons.
VOS' analog-only policy have given the band some issues, as it doesn't fit in well with Phoenix's guitar-rock indie scene or the "push play" MacBook Pro crowd in Scottsdale clubs.
Gooday recalls, "Some drummer was [asking] me, 'Electronic music -- isn't that more like 'tracks' instead of 'songs'?' Yeah, whatever you say, bro." -- Troy Farah
Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock had been churning out demented indie rock since 1993 when he accidentally broke into the mainstream in 2004 with "Float On." Brock wasn't new to the major-label game, but he didn't change up his idiosyncratic approach with the sidewise anthem. It's as compelling and strange as anything from his early work, but it touched a nerve, and before anyone knew it, Modest Mouse was everywhere: on the radio, all over MTV2, and performing on Saturday Night Live. The song's success didn't give Brock pause to reconsider how he steered the Modest Mouse ship, however.
Brock has taken his sweet time in crafting a follow-up, working with Big Boi and creating the soundtrack to the surreal, Arizona-based comedy Queens of Country (he recently joked on his site that he didn't name his label Glacial Pace without reason). Fans hoping to hear new ModMouse tunes will get a chance, when the band plays a rare intimate performance at Crescent Ballroom. -- Jason P. Woodbury
Third Eye Blind @ WestWorld in Scottsdale
If you want to see Third Eye Blind at Cyclefest in Scottsdale on Saturday, you already know by now. Seeing their name made you think about "Semi-Charmed Life," and then "Never Let You Go," and maybe even "Jumper," and then probably about how scandalized you were when you put the CD into your Discman and first heard that astoundingly dirty verse in the song with all the doo-doo-doos.
That is, you want something else -- something other than Buzzfeed listicles and rewatching Friends -- to get you through this 2010s kind of life. Baby. Baby -- that's why you want to see Third Eye Blind on Saturday.
So go do it. I would understa-ee-a-ee-and. -- Dan Moore
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Justin Vernon, the reclusive mind behind Bon Iver, said Poliça is the best band he's ever heard. If that doesn't get your indie sensibilities all hot and bothered, nothing will. he Beardy One isn't the only one eager to see Poliça explode -- NPR and Consequence of Sound also went ga-ga, and Huffington Post predicts "this band is going to be huge."
Fans of vintage trip-hoppers Portishead will find plenty to love, while more modern-minded fans of electronic music might draw comparisons to Purity Ring. Like those bands, Poliça combines electronica and R&B with angelic layered and distorted vocalizations. The band's virtuoso singer, Channy Leaneagh, uses several effects pedals to warp her trebly voice as if it were an electric instrument, but whereas many outfits aim to bury the vocals, à la My Bloody Valentine, Poliça lets Leaneagh's cut through the mix clear as a bell.