Top Five Must-See Shows This Week

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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.

Monday, October 15: St. Vitus @ Nile Theater

The wheel's come back around for doom-metal trailblazers Saint Vitus. It took some time, but what's three decades among friends?

"Like anybody, we were kind of surprised this hard-rock return was happening," says Scott "Wino" Weinrich, who sang for Vitus on three albums during their '86-'91 heyday and has fronted their reunion lineup. "We knew that we had to really embrace it. We're older now, and we know what our priorities are. And our priorities are Saint Vitus."

When the Los Angeles quartet formed in 1978, they had trouble finding a home. Guitarist/principal songwriter Dave Chandler was deeply influenced first by Judas Priest and then Black Sabbath, settling on a portentous rhythmic throb with the consistency and viscosity of maple syrup. Chandler's guitar intermittently erupts in bursts of psychedelica with a distinct prog undertone.

Chandler also was informed by '70s L.A. underground bands like Germs and Flipper, developing a dry, grimy guitar tone more in line with punk. They signed to Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn's seminal label, SST Records, but found themselves marginalized. The punkers thought they were too metal, and the metal kids thought they were too punk.

They broke up in relative obscurity after seven albums in '96. But as stoner and doom metal grew over the past 15 years, many of its adherents cited Vitus as an influence. The classic lineup reunited in 2003 for a single show that was recorded and sold on DVD, then they came back for good three years ago to bigger audiences than they'd ever seen.

"We attribute it all to the speed of communication. If you wanted to get into something like Vitus in the old days, you'd have to wait until someone's brother left so you could get into his record collection," says Weinrich, who himself was turned onto Vitus by Minor Threat's Ian MacKaye. "The younger kids have it now because of the Internet, and they're growing up listening and skating to Vitus."

Founding member bassist Mike Adams and drummer Armando Acosta joined in the reunion, but Acosta's faltering health forced him to pull out before the first tour was complete. This misfortune (which was followed a year later by Acosta's death) turned into beneficence when they added Henry Vasquez as his replacement.

"It was also a stroke of luck with Henry because he's so good," says Weinrich. "His playing makes a big difference. He brought a whole new aspect to the band in that he's a hard-hitter. Once Henry got with us, everything took on a new energy and power."

Refreshed with new blood and tight from a couple years of touring, they bring renewed intensity to Lillie: F-65, their first new disc in 17 years. The title refers to a powerful downer available on the street back in the day. It's appropriate to the band's lumbering rhythms while Weinrich's bruising baritone laments dark, dispiriting times in service to dehumanizing institutions. The album sounds like classic Vitus, only in high-def.

"We wanted to keep the Vitus sound -- which I think we did -- but have better production. I was blown away. I think [producer] Tony Reed did an amazing job," he says. "Tony told us straight-up, 'I know what to do to get what I understand to be the Saint Vitus sound, but it's going to be better.'"

Saint Vitus feels tighter and more dedicated than ever, with plans to record again. They're even more secure, having finally found some acceptance among a more open-minded and younger contingent. Yet, in a way, it's business as usual to them.

"We never changed," Weinrich says. "We play our music because it's the music we love, and we want to get a message across that these are pretty tough times. I think that people are more tuned into what's really happening, and they're starting to wake up some. I kind of see Vitus as carrying the torch."

Let their ominous darkness light the way.-- Chris Parker

Monday, October 15: Sean Hayes @ Rhythm Room

NYC songwriter Sean Hayes doesn't bother with the very-much-in-vogue retro-soul affectations of the moment, but make no mistake about it, his new record, Before We Turn to Dust, has got spirit and groove in abundance.

Remember how you'd see names like Carole King in the credits of Donnie Hathaway records? That's what's going on with Hayes' songs like "Miss Her When I'm Gone" and "Drop Down." He builds songs with "good bones," then dresses them up with subtle touches of rocksteady, soul, rockabilly, and modern pop, utlizing affected guitars, pulsing electric piano, and organic percussion.

"Some albums coming out, you get the sense that they're going for a sound or aesthetic instead of writing actual songs," Hayes says, as his new son gurgles near the phone.

"I like to build something with good bones and then sort of dress it up as I see fit."

Hayes focuses on songs, and the lyrical themes -- aging, fatherhood, and death -- expose the mind of a guy unconcerned with fleeting, youthful problems. Which isn't to say that Before We Turn to Dust ever gets too heavy or burdensome: "Lucky Man" has got its heart and, thankfully, funky backbeat in the right place as Hayes sings, "I've been lied to / I've been robbed / Held up in the street / In the dark / I know I'm a lucky man / To have you / In my life."-- Jason P. Woodbury

Tuesday, October 16: Madonna @ US Airways/big>

What does Madonna have that Katy Perry likely won't? Staying power. Will Perry still be performing -- and with such drive and determination -- when she hits her 50s? Unlikely, as that pop bubble can burst quickly (remember Britney Spears once ruled the pop charts and now is a reality show judge).

Yet Madonna has kept the creative juices of reinvention flowing by constantly staying abreast of the latest music trends and beats, designing dynamic dance steps, and moving with more energy than a squad of cheerleaders -- who she occasionally imitates on stage (and looks plenty hot doing it). This is why Madonna -- who also influences fashion movements (for better or worse) -- remains timeless and more popular than ever, having sold more than a staggering 300 million records worldwide.

Okay, a little controversy also helps -- like the conical bras, the book of nude photos, kissing Spears on stage, and perpetuating a running feud with that other pop diva, Lady Gaga. More recently, Madonna called attention to herself by saying President Obama was a Muslim during a Washington concert.

An Obama supporter, she claimed she was being ironic. Perhaps Madonna should just leave politics to the politicians and focus instead on her real audience, the fans that helped raise that pedestal.-- Glenn BurnSilver

Wednesday, October 17: Bassnectar @ Marquee Theatre

Bassnectar is not your father's hippie. His long hair and music are more Metallica than Grateful Dead, but in many ways, Lorin Ashton, the 33-year-old northern Californian DJ and producer, is as much an heir to John Lennon as he is DJ and producer.

Listen to him speak and you'll notice that he's more concerned with empowerment and community than ass-shaking and drugs. At first, it's easy to misconstrue his music's intensity for aggressiveness. A closer listen reveals that his tracks are uplifting in their arrangement and samples. Without getting too wonky, his songs are complicated -- they contrast varying tempos and scales that convey conflict. It's party music about the human condition and music itself, which explains its wide appeal. Emerging from the Burning Man scene in the early 2000s, he has been a dance music beatsmith and selector for three times as long as fellow American bass icon Skrillex.

In many ways, he paved the way for Skrillex's Grammy surge and the evolution of America's heavier, more hip-hoppy version of UK bass that has swept today's youth like the Britpop of yesteryear. The rise of EDM in America was first championed by hippie festivalgoers and urban hipsters -- two camps at odds with each other. One movement was about community while the other was about individuality and exclusivity. Partying was their common ground. Now the lines are blurred as both parties attend the same concerts and festivals, along with hordes of mainstream latecomers.

A Bassnectar show is perhaps the best place to watch the different worlds chafe. While their proximity might irk those in the crowd, it no doubt pleases the man behind the decks. -- Chris Piel

Thursday, October 18: Dan Deacon @ Crescent Ballroom

Dan Deacon's name is synonymous with "experimental," and not just because of his quirky musical soundscapes. The man exudes the air of a guy who lives outside of the box, from his thrift store chic clothing to co-founding Wham City, Baltimore's weirdest art collective, to making viral videos with Jimmy Joe Roche and running his tour bus on vegetable oil.

But Deacon's musical trajectory is definitely the most avant-garde of his endeavors. His 2007 album Spiderman of the Rings was praised by CMJ, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork, among others, and its sideways sound earned Deacon a spot on every festival you could name: SXSW, Lollapalooza, Moogfest, Fuck Yeah Fest. The record brought him to the attention of director Francis Ford Coppola, and he wound up scoring the auteur's latest project, Twixt.

Deacon doesn't blame the work for keeping him from getting around to crafting a followup record, 2012's America. Instead, he explains that he's bad at segmenting his time.

"I tend to put too much on my plate in all situations in my life," Deacon laughs over the phone. "I take on a lot of projects or responsibilities and I like to make things logistically infeasible for some insane, sadistic reason."

The new album is split in half, the first being poppy "singles" like "True Thrush" and "Lots," and the latter segment is a long, instrumental piece divided into four parts. The title, America, comes from Deacon's complex ambivalence with the nation, his endearing love for the country and its people, but a deep distaste for the political climate and Deacon says that he's not optimistic about the United States' future.

"I think people need to grasp a hold of their reality. It's sort of what the record is about, it's me trying to get a grip on my own reality and my status in the world," Deacon explains. "I can't pretend I'm not a part of it ... I think people need to realize the system sucks because we allow it to."

But America is far from a depressing album and Deacon isn't even close to a pessimistic person, peppering his conversations with hearty laughs. He expresses a humble amount of doubt and a sense of blissful existentialism, feeling that nothing needs to be uptight and self-important. Even at his most serious, he's able to laugh at himself in the most refreshing way.

Case in point, his video with Liam Lynch "Drinking Out Of Cups." The clip went viral after being released in 2006, and has been viewed on YouTube more than 17 million times. When asked about the importance of Internet fame and how it can drive people insane, like Jake Russell with his Kony 2012 video, Deacon giggles and says, "I've never really thought about it. I think we exist within a time when everyone's always at the cusp of being something like that. Many people have that desire and some people have that outcome without ever wanting that desire. The internet creates a lot of opportunity for situations like that. For some people, it's exciting and for some people it's a byproduct of what they do."

"But I don't know," Deacon continues. "The word important is a wild word. I really like the song "What What (In the Butt)" by Samwell, but I don't know if it's important."

One thing Deacon does want to stress is his smartphone app that synchronizes with his live show, turning your iPhone into a pulsating light during a portion of the set. Like many people, Deacon expresses his distaste for people that use their phones during concerts, but thoughtfully explains, "To me, it's important that people think of them less as phones and more as just lights. I think a lot of people have a hang-up with phones. I myself have a hard time with the prevalence of technology on our everyday life ... [but] if we reach a critical mass and about 25 percent of the people have the phone, it creates a really unique and I think beautiful spacial environment lighting-wise that wouldn't otherwise be able to exist." -- Troy Farah

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