Top Five (Well, Six, Kind Of) Must-See Shows This Weekend

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Curious about what's going on around town this weekend? Need some suggestions where to rock, dance, or krump in the Valley of the Sun?

Don't fret: These are our Five Shows to See This Weekend.

Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22: Within These Walls Festival @ Nile Theater

Within These Walls, the second annual two-day festival at Nile Theater in Mesa, organized by the resident promoters there, Mantooth Group, is a monument to the hardcore lifestyle. The weekend finds 31 hardcore bands hitting the stages at the venue, with a lineup that speaks to the enduring nature of the sound, including lifers like Youth of Today, H20, Sick of It All, Indecision, Drop Dead, Kyds vs Columbus, The Straight Edge Band, and more.

"There's a lot of hardcore festivals that go on throughout the year, and Arizona kids always travel to them," Michelle Donovan of Mantooth/Nile says. "We figured we could do something where they have their own fest. It's kind of like a big thank-you card for the kids that support the rest of our shows during the year. It's a celebration of what we do."

According to Donovan, though the bands have varying sounds, a DIY ethic ties them together.

"It's definitely the common thread," Donovan says. "It ties everyone together. We have a little bit of everything [on display]. Hardcore changes and the definition is so broad anymore. There's new sub-genres of it, and everybody has a place within it, but it's all the same kids listening to variations of the music. We'll have Sick of It All [which formed in New York City in 1986] on there, which is one of the bands that paved the way for a lot of hardcore bands, and you have bands like Vinnie Caruana of I Am the Avalanche and The Movielife, who's someone who grew up listening to Sick of It All. It's lighter, it's poppier, but everybody [shares the] mentality and eagerness to see those shows."

There's a decidedly non-trendy bent to the festival's lineup. Though bands like Fucked Up and Ceremony have broken to more indie-centric audiences (thanks to a prominent label, Matador, which has roots in the DIY/hardcore scene), hardcore remains an underground force.

"We could do a metalcore festival and have 800 kids show up without us having to break a sweat, because that's what's popular, but there's also a huge community who loves this music, and even though it's harder to sell the tickets, there should still be something for them to go to. Parkway Drive and Dance Gavin Dance come through three times a year, and there's a place for those kids, there's great shows, but you don't really see, at least here in Arizona, a place where Sick of It All is headlining." -- Jason P. Woodbury

(Read more about Within These Walls @ Nile Theater.)

Friday, September 21: Lymbyc Systym @ Yucca Tap Room

Ethereal and otherworldly, Lymbyc Systym has a knack for activating its purposely misspelled namesake, the little corner of your brain known for controlling emotions. Their instrumental waveforms also evoke Explosions in the Sky, Four Tet, or The Appleseed Cast, gaining them the attention of touring mates like The Album Leaf, The Books, Crystal Castles, and This Will Destroy You.

Like a lot of post-rock culture, these acquaintances have led to multiple remixes being passed back and forth. Unlike a lot of post-rock contemporaries, Systym's need for the bombastic isn't countered by overbearing negativity. The music is optimistic, but not overwrought. Formed in 2001 in Tempe, a town brothers and bandmates Jared and Michael Bell once called home, the band's spent time all over the globe, in places like Brooklyn, Austin, and Japan, since splitting. The duo used the Net to bridge the geographic gap, and the resulting new tunes sound seamless.

While Jared is still in New York, Michael has been back in the Valley since January, playing with local acts like Knesset, but Lymbyc Systym hasn't played a show in Phoenix in nearly three years. The show will also highlight the band's third album, Symbolyst, which was released Tuesday, September 18. -- Troy Farah

Saturday, September 22: Local H @ Sail Inn

There's nothing like a dose of yesterday's flavors to put today's in perspective. Roughly representative of hard rock from a time when "grunge" didn't require quotation marks, Local H's Scott Lucas is not only from the mid-'90s, but of the mid-'90s, ahead of his time only in the minimal guitar-and-drums setup he's shared with a succession of drummers.

Consider, however, the New Wave monkey-boys currently flopping around in those loose-fitting rock-star shoes: Blasting guitars are more liberating than preening retro-tones; crackly wailing at least doesn't require a fake English accent; and failure and spite are actual themes, whereas the new boys generally say more with their clothes than with their lyrics. Local H has range, too -- from Sabbathy jams to pop inspired by the Midwestern punk of the '80s.

And Lucas writes a mean kiss-off, as on "California Songs": "Please, no more California songs," he shouts, "and fuck New York, too." Now that's timeless. -- Andrew Marcus

Saturday, September 22: Amanda Palmer @ Crescent Ballroom

"I don't know if it's necessary, but I do know what feels right at the moment, and sometimes the song just calls for a bloodcurdling scream," Amanda Palmer says by phone from Red Hook, New York, in reference to several sonic outbursts on her new album, Theatre Is Evil. "It feels necessary."

Necessary or not, the screams are indicative of an artist trying to get at the heart of that emotional plane where music and feelings meet.

Yet, as Palmer weaves her way through songs of alienation, loss, fantasy, and tragedy, on stage, those voice-killing cries have to be sadly absent.

"This album has three or four songs, actually, that I can't sing [on stage]. When I write songs that I can't sing, then I'm doing my job," says says. "It means I'm taking direct translation from the ideas in my head and not thinking about what's going to be easy, or what's going to be effective, or what's going to work. Some [songs] were voice-killers. Some I would do a single vocal take, and I'd be through for the day. My voice was wrecked."

Palmer made a name for herself as half of the Dresden Dolls, which began in 2002 by mixing abstract music with absurd theater and vintage cabaret. Though the music was highly evocative and conceptual, it was the stage show that often drew notice.

Palmer's solo career follows a similar path, though the music -- screams included -- is all her, drawing on influences as diverse as the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack her mom incessantly played in the car and the church music she heard as a little girl to showtunes and 1980s German synth bands. It's this wild mix of styles that makes every track on Theatre Is Evil stand on its own.

"The Killing Type" sounds like a collision of Berlin and 'Til Tuesday, while "Do It with a Rock Star" could fit into the Siouxsie and the Banshees catalog. It's this way throughout the album, with the synthetic drone of Depeche Mode or the playfulness of Thompson Twins, the minimalism of PJ Harvey or dark edge of Nick Cave, driving songs to surprisingly modern conclusions. It's like a time trip that lands in multiple genres at once.

"It's a giant collage of influences, and I don't think any one of them is less important than the other," she says, defending her passion for '80s music. "My teenage years were soaked in synthesizer, and it never occurred to me music could be any other way, because it was the music I grew up on."

Palmer's stage show is equally tantalizing, and her songs take on a visual manifestation of the subconscious thought that created them. Palmer is known to perform in little more than a corset -- if that's what's needed to bring the song alive -- or she may opt for the grandeur and opulence of vintage cabaret costumes.

Early reviews are touting the brilliance of Theatre Is Evil, but Palmer doesn't expect her star to rise too far -- nor does she want it to. It's nice, she explains, to retain some level of anonymity.

"I worry about that sometimes because I'm pretty happy," she claims, despite her music's darker angles. "All I know is that I want to stay happy. I don't want my life to be any more complicated or difficult that it is now. I'd very happily play larger venues and have bigger budgets so I can do more theatrical stuff on stage, but I'm not really intrigued with being a famous pop star. It sounds like an agonizing burden."

Just enough to keep those screams coming. -- Glenn BurnSilver

Sunday, September 23: 2 Chainz @ Celebrity Theatre

Sometimes, old dogs learn new tricks. Consider Tauheed Epps, the Atlanta MC who has taken two stage names -- Tity Boi for a decade and 2 Chainz for a more successful three years. Epps got his start in the rap game when Ludacris, then a fellow underground Atlanta rapper and DJ, signed Epps' duo, Playaz Circle, and released their first album in 1999.

A few prison terms and additional cliché rap-game footnotes later, Playaz Circle released Supply & Demand, which included the Southern anthem "Duffle Bag Boy," featuring Lil' Wayne. The track seemingly set up the duo for big-boy moves, but in 2009, Playaz Circle's Flight 360: The Takeoff flopped. The album was focused and mature -- everything you could ask of a veteran Atlanta rapper. But to Epps' Def Jam label bosses and consumers, the album was stale.

Epps was caught between the old school and new media. He took notice. Following Flight 360, he released seven solo mix tapes until singles like "Look What I Got" catapulted him into what seemed like more guest appearances than Lil' B had original tracks in the past two years. To casual listeners, he suddenly appeared in their blog feeds and iTunes libraries -- just another sensation gulping up their pitiful attention spans. Actually, Epps had traded in hard work and focus for hard work and unchecked proliferation -- the new school's alchemy.

In August, 2 Chainz' first solo album, Based on a T.R.U. Story, debuted at number one on Billboard. Perhaps no other rapper has enjoyed such ubiquity after such oblivion. Both fans and Epps can enjoy that. -- Chris Piel

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