It's officially spring, which means an overabundance of festivals, pool parties, and live music showcases are taking place across the Valley.
That's what you'll find in our rundown of the best concerts in the Phoenix area this weekend.
The first-ever Innings Festival will fill Tempe Beach Park with three days of performances from 36 different indie and alternative bands, as well as thousands of both music and baseball fans.
Meanwhile, Scottsdale music venue Pho Cao will celebrate its sixth anniversary, and this year's International Pop Overthrow will take place at Cactus Jack's. Each will offer sets from scores of local acts.
And a few of the Valley's biggest musical exports and expats are returning to their old stomping grounds, including Z-Trip, Futuristic, and Markus Schulz.
Details about each of these gigs can be found below in our rundown of the best concerts in the Valley this weekend. And for even more music happening around town, check out Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.
Friday, March 23
BLK Live in Scottsdale
With seemingly every alternative rock band of note reunited to dolefully tour the classics, Los Angeles band Fishbone remains a vital exception to the "play the hits" rule. For more than three decades, the group has experimented and evolved, incorporating influences including ska, punk, hardcore, psychedelic rock, soul, funk, reggae, and jazz into a varied and uncompromisingly diverse discography.
The band hasn't released solely flawless records, but it's never failed to issue interesting ones. "That's part of the legacy of the band," bassist and founding member John Norwood Fisher explains. "The minute we stagnate and become a band that just goes over where we've been ... maybe that's okay at some point, but I'm just not there yet. I'm trying to figure out: What haven't we done? What can keep the vibe fresh?"
Fishbone's most recent album, 2014's Intrinsically Intertwined EP, opens with "Unstuck," a song that ranks among the group's best. Under soulful vocals by Angelo "Dr. Madd Vibe" Moore, the band churns a progressive, knotty reggae groove with touches of jazz fusion, funky time changes, and double-bass drum work. Moore sings of the "phone that rings within," employing beautifully anachronistic gospel idiom. "Unstuck" represents the best of Fishbone; more than three decades in, they're still exploring new sounds. Jason P. Woodbury
Friday, March 23
Maya Day & Nightclub
The Valley’s nightlife scene has produced its fair share of superstar DJs over the years. Besides old-school cats like Z-Trip and Eddie Amador, both of whom were staples of local clubs back in the ’90s, there are more recent success stories like Mija, Bijou, and Ghastly.
Markus Schulz, however, tops ‘em all. Long before the trance mixmaster became one of the highest-paid DJs in the world and a regular at high-profile festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival and Ultra, he was honing his craft at raves and club gigs around town (including a residency at the old Scottsdale nightspot The Works).
On Friday, March 23, Schulz returns to the Valley for a gig at Maya Day & Nightclub in support of his latest album, Dakota: The Nine Skies. Doors open at 10 p.m. and local DJs Danny Stephen and Munition will open. Admission is $10. Benjamin Leatherman
Friday, March 23
Nile Theater in Mesa
To quote Lennie James’ character Morgan from The Walking Dead, everything gets a return. Crazy fashions come back into vogue, beloved movies get remade, and even once-maligned musical subgenres get a chance at redemption. Case in point: the emo revival.
In the last couple of years, some of the strongest rock albums have come from emo revivalists like Modern Baseball, Sorority Noise, and The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. The “nu emo” scene may be the only sector of indie rock left where guitar-wielding bands play songs that aren’t begging to be sampled or cosigned by Drake. It’s impassioned, energetic rock music that also manages to avoid the toxic masculinity and misogyny that plagued emo version 1.0 of the early aughts.
Sorority Noise have positioned themselves at the front of this new and improved class with their bold and devastating album, You’re Not As ___ As You Think. Inspired by the deaths of several close friends, it’s a moving collection of songs about grief, loss, religion, and depression. It also rocks hard enough to wake the dead. The quartet will fill in the blank when they play the Nile in Mesa this weekend. Fair warning: Bring some tissues and a pair of earplugs. Sorority Noise’s music will make your eyes water and your ears bleed. Ashley Naftule
Durand Jones and the Indications
Friday, March 23
If you like your soul music served straight-up with no chaser, then Durand Jones and the Indications is the band for you. The group gives us a fresh take on an old-school style, but they don't reinvent the R&B wheel. Instead, they perfect the genre's essential elements, creating songs that are deep but still get you dancing up on your feet.
The voice of lead singer Durand Jones is sultry and inviting like a Louisiana summer, and the brassy Indications earn their billing as "the baddest soul band in all the land." This weekend, they'll be at Valley Bar in support of their recently released self-titled debut. Jazz/funk band Spooky Cool will open. Katie Sullivan
[image-14] Pale Waves
Friday, March 23
The Rebel Lounge
If Robert Smith had a love affair with a Spice Girl, their daughter might be something like Heather Baron-Gracie, the lead singer and guitarist of Pale Waves. Baron-Gracie and her bandmates blend the black lipstick and depressive lyrics of ’80s goth music with the sparkling sounds and catchy beats of pop to make heartbreaking synth jams.
The U.K.-based Pale band seemed to burst out of nowhere in April 2017 with the single “There’s a Honey,” and they quickly gained a following, leading to them opening for The 1975 at a sold-out Madison Square Garden show. Despite the fact that the band has a relatively small catalog — just six songs released slowly over several months — they’ve already graced magazine covers and garnered hundreds of thousands of listeners.
The last time Pale Waves came to Phoenix, in December 2017, they sold out Valley Bar, so don’t miss a chance to see this act well on their way to morose pop stardom. Meagan Mastriani
Innings Festival 2018
Friday, March 23, to Sunday, March 25
Tempe Beach Park
Scheduled to take place March 23 through 25 at Tempe Beach Park, the inaugural Innings Festival coincides with the annual Cactus League spring training games in the Valley (hence its name). The weekend-long event will feature three stages and 36 bands over the three days.
Country wunderkind Chris Stapleton, the foot stompin' Avett Brothers, and Palm Springs rockers Queens of the Stone Age round out the top billing. QOTSA is one of two Josh Homme projects on the list, which also includes his band Eagles of Death Metal.
The rest of the lineup is a who's who of (mostly) alternative darlings, including Young the Giant, The Head and the Heart, Dispatch, Counting Crows, The Decemberists, and Cold War Kids. There's even a local music presence, with Tempe legends Gin Blossoms on the bill.
Other artists scheduled to perform include Sylvan Esso, Phosphorescent, Craig Finn and the Uptown Controller, Luke Combs, Citizen Cope, Bishop Briggs, J. Roddy Walston and the Business, The White Buffalo, Lord Huron, and Local Natives. (For a complete rundown of what's happening at the festival, check out our extensive guide to the event). Ashley Harris