Yeah, yeah, yeah...we get it. Mondays suck (we've read Garfield). But it means the start of a new week, which means a bunch of killer shows in and around Phoenix.
And here are a few of the coolest -- our top five must-see shows this week.
Waka Flocka Flame has said he writes his lyrics as a way to express the emotions he's feeling at a given time and that they're usually tapped out on the fly on his BlackBerry, rather than in a meticulously curated notebook, as is the case with many rappers. Well, express emotions he sure does. Waka -- a 25-year-old Atlantan named Juaquin Malphurs -- uses his voice less as a means of delivering poetry and more as an instrument of incitement. (To party, to violence, to just let loose, etc.)
His 2009 mixtapes Salute Me or Shoot Me and LeBron Flocka James set the stage for a rapid ascent in hip-hop and a debut studio album, Flockaveli, later that year. Waka's greatest achievement, however, may be in returning hyped-up crowds to mainstream hip-hop concerts. In a genre too often speedbumped by dudes demanding their DJs skip to the next track and killing momentum, Waka's shows come with all the head-banging, moshing intensity of a music video's vision of a rock concert. Maybe that's because the dude's halfway between six and seven feet tall, sports serious dreads, and has an infectious smile.
Want to know what "Waka Flocka Flame" really means? Charisma, most likely.
Waka's Southern brand of tear-the-club-up rap owes a big debt to the minimalist crunk of the late '90s, but it's more fleshed-out, layered, and aggro. Producer South Side is the secret ingredient to the success of Waka's latest album: Triple F Life: Friends, Fans and Family, which boasts guests Nicki Minaj; Chris Brown; Rick Ross; Diddy; Tyler, the Creator; Drake; and Waka mentor Gucci Mane. And while Waka's flow is more natural and nuanced than it was just a few years ago, he's never going to win Best Rapper or Best Lyricist. But then, he wouldn't be the first performer to get by primarily on personal magnetism and solid backing music. Suck it up, naysayers, he's not gonna be the last, either. Do they give out awards for Best Party Starter? Andrew W.K., watch your back.--Chris Hassiotis
Other Lives don't write songs so much as soundtracks. That's not to disparage frontman Jesse Tabish's breathy, languid croon. It's more to note the epic sweep and orchestral mien of their widescreen compositions. Their soundfield suggests a dry river bed extending to the horizon line, ringed by mountains with twilight projecting violet and umber across the puffy clouds that roll like credits overhead (yes, someone get the band a Criterion Collection edition already).
In the past 18 months, they've opened for Bon Iver and Radiohead, which should tell you something. They recall the moody, muted majesty of the latter, and the former's dreamy, pastoral drift. The members are skilled multi-instrumentalists, allowing them to incorporate strings and horns in subtle cinematic shadings to give the music high-def crackle. The Stillwater, Oklahoma, quintet released an album as the instrumental outfit Kunek in 2006 before changing their name to Other Lives and making their eponymous debut in 2009.
Last year brought the more exquisitely crafted Tamer Animals. The tempos have slowed and the tone suggests a microphone placed far away from Tabish, as the music dwarfs his voice with the scope of nature's quiet grandeur. The result's a striking recording, though Tabish's vocals do get lost in the pretty, stately arrangements.--Chris ParkerTuesday, November 6: Blitzen Trapper @ Rhythm Room
There's a rollicking charm to Blitzen Trapper's blend of folk and classic rock that suggests a summer day. Perhaps it's the bright, sunny '60s melodies or the way guitars alternate between the crackle of country-fried distortion and jangling acoustics, vacillating between Neil Young and Jerry Garcia like a picnic featuring football and Frisbee. Or maybe it's just how frontman Eric Earley's thoughtful songs sound perfect tooling down the highway with the windows down, his meditations teased out over the rolling asphalt.
That's what makes American Goldwing an ideal title for Blitzen Trapper's sixth album, a nostalgic release that captures that same feeling of moving forward while sitting still. Like the titular road motorcycle, it's about what happens while you're covering that wide-open expanse.-- Chris Parker
The rising EDM boom in America is one vulnerable to trends: even has-been nü-metal troglodytes Korn have added bass drops to their ham-fisted, distorted chords. UK DJ Nick Warren, a specialist in house and progressive techno, has been spinning and mixing for over 20 years, and though his career has not been impervious to the shifts in dance music's scenery, his longevity stems from deftly navigating the waves of progressive trance and house.
Warren actually started out spinning reggae and indie in Bristol in the late '80s, eventually getting swept up in the massive tide of English house and taken out on the road by trip-hop legends Massive Attack as their touring DJ, something certainly not lost on the cool-kid mobs likely to attend his upcoming night at Bar Smith's Giant Wednesdays. By the turn of the millennium, Warren's name was included among internationally renowned DJs like Sasha and Paul Oakenfold.
These days, he is known best for his eclectic and respected Global Underground mixes, his Way Out West remix project with producer Jody Wisternoff, and his work for breaks label Hope Recordings. He's currently at work on a mix of left-field as well as dance-floor tracks for the Renaissance Master's Series, evidence of a career built on varied sounds that are made to last.--Chase KampThursday, November 8: Musiq Soulchild@ Celebrity Theatre
Taalib Johnson, better known as Musiq Soulchild, or sometimes just Musiq, released his debut album, Aijuswanaseing in 2000, at the apex of the "neo soul" movement. The term, coined by then-Motown President Kedar Massenburg described a particular streak of black American music. Like any name given to a diverse and varied genre, the musicians associated with the label felt stifled and constrained by it- but the tag lives on, associated with the various records produced by The Roots' Questlove and his Soulquarians collective: D'Angelo's Voodoo, Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun, Common's Like Water for Chocolate, all records released the same year as Aijuswanaesing. But Soulchild's work has always stood just to the right of the divisive genre tag's confines, never as experimental as those works, never as political, but always confident and focused on the singer's soaring voice.
The traditional soul elements of his songcraft have always been present, but with last year's Musiqinthemagic, Musiq connected '70s-influenced songwriting with modern production. Whereas other tremendous vocalists (R.Kelly comes to mind) swing back and forth between club fare and retro-soul gorgeousness, Musiq blends the two effortlessly on tracks like "dowehaveto" and "anything" (which is only marred by a sloppy verse from Swizz Beatz).
The "neo" part of "neo soul" might still found awkward, but artists like Musiq prove that the combination of traditional soul and modern R&B doesn't have to sound hopelessly nostalgic, just like the classic Soulquarian records of the early decade do too.--Jason P. Woodbury
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