The countdown is on, y’all. We're weeks, if not days, away from what pretty much everyone in the Valley loathes with a passion: the onslaught of excessive amounts of heat. And, we’re sorry to say, there’s little you can do about it, except for buying a metric ton of Otter Pops and getting your A/C unit checked out for the long and sweaty slog ahead.
Something else we also recommend doing is enjoying the fleeting moments of the spring and getting out of the house while it’s still bearable, possibly to see a concert. There are certainly many a lot of great ones happening throughout the month of May.
John Legend’s got a gig here in the coming days, as do The Weeknd, Robin Trower, Chris Stapleton, Wale, Brian Wilson, Modest Mouse, and several other notable acts and artists.
May’s concert calendar will also see the long-awaited return of many beloved bands to Valley music venues after an extended absence, include post-hardcore icons At the Drive-In, punk progenitors The Damned, influental metal group Living Colour, and pop-punk favorites Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and Shonen Knife.
Check out our guide to the best concerts happening in Phoenix in May for all the details on these shows. And while you’re at it, be sure to peruse our extensive online music listings for even more concerts happening during the month.
Monday, May 1
The Rebel Lounge
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 new 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 Rebel Lounge with Diners, The Obsessives, and Walter Etc. 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
Tuesday, May 2
Talking Stick Resort Arena
Abel Tesfaye, a.k.a. The Weeknd, is riding high off of his latest album, Starboy, which is expected to go platinum; his latest girlfriend, Selena Gomez; and his latest drug of choice. The singer has become a controversial icon with his unapologetic and uncensored views on women and drug use. On his biggest single, “Starboy,” Tesfaye sings “Cut that ivory into skinny pieces/Then she clean up with her face, man/I love my baby.” His tranquilizing voice almost makes you forget that he’s romanticizing a woman snorting cocaine. But just because those lyrics make some people uncomfortable doesn’t mean Tesfaye is going to stop writing them or start apologizing for them. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Tesfaye says, “I don’t think I’d ever apologize for music I make, no. But there are regrets in my life, of course. And you write about it.” Regardless, the naysayers don’t seem to be slowing The Weeknd down — or killing his buzz. In the words of the Starboy himself, “You talking ’bout me I don’t see the shade/ Switch up my style I take any lane/ I switch up my cup I kill any pain.” Emily Roberts
Tuesday, May 2
Livewire in Scottsdale
Though he calls his current project "Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness," Andrew McMahon is a man who knows exactly where he is, where he's been, and where he's going. Born in 1982 to what he describes as a "piano-playing mom and a dad who was a product of the '60s protest movement," music was an ever-present part of life for McMahon and his four older siblings. At the age of 9, he began playing piano and writing songs. It was his EP Ready Break with his band Something Corporate that first found the then-17-year-old a record deal. A couple of years later, when he was fronting the band Jack's Mannequin, calamity struck. He was diagnosed with leukemia. After more than 10 years in remission, McMahon says he still carries psychic scars from fighting cancer. His newest record, Zombies on Broadway, has the celebratory vibe of a man who has bested disease. "It has a dance electronic bent that I got from a lot of time playing at festivals. I saw FKA Twigs and M83, and I found myself in these rooms dancing with all these people. I wanted to create that kind of energy." The place where he recorded the album also had an influence. "The idea of traveling to New York City to make the album was huge. A lot of my records had that California aesthetic. This record was exploring another city and its architecture and people." David Rolland
Wednesday, May 3
Jennifer Clavin should be celebrating Bleached’s growing popularity, but she finds herself dogged by the limitations of being labeled as a member of a “girl band.” “Pretty little child, tell me your tale/How you got the courage to rebel yell,” she coos on the title track of the new EP, Can You Deal?, masking her sarcasm with a sugary melody bracketed by her sister Jessie’s fuzzy lead-guitar rejoinders. “Breaking news, I do what I do … not willing to feel defeated,” Jennifer insists. Amen, sister. Falling James
Thursday, May 4
Dengue Fever has an interesting sound: Asian rock steeped in Farfisa organ, with vocals sung in Khmer (the official language of Cambodia), that could have been recorded in the mid-'60s. But while the band's original material and covers of '60s Cambodian rock songs sound decades old, the Los Angeles-based sextet was actually formed in 2001 by brothers Ethan and Zac Holtzman after a visit to Cambodia, where they found Chhom Nimol singing karaoke in Long Beach. Dengue Fever knows its way around garage, surf and psych rock, but the band expands its scope on its most recent album, The Deepest Lake, by tossing in some Khmer rap and Latin grooves. Jon Soloman
Saturday, May 6
The Trunk Space
By our calculations, this year's version of the Trunk Space's Indie 500 will encompass around 35 straight hours of live music over the course of two days and nights. It’s the first time that the marathon concert will be staged at the DIY venue’s new home at Grace Lutheran Church but promises to be just as epic and lively as it’s first three editions. Almost 100 different acts and musicians, including a mix of both locals and special guests, will each perform five songs apiece starting at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 6, right up until things wrap up sometime the following evening after a total of 500 songs are performed. The lineup will feature many Trunk Space die-hards and favorites, including Treasure Mammal, Drunk and Horny, Andy Warpigs, Dadadoh, Liam and the Ladies, Rum Drinker, Harrison Huffman, Sugar Skull Explosion, and The Blank Waves. Special guests include famed folk punk singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson and former Valley resident (and Trunk Space alumnus) Stephen Steinbrink, both of whom will be in town for the event. Benjamin Leatherman
Saturday, May 6
Cactus Jack’s Bar
When was the last time you got right with Jah? A day? A week? A month? A year? An entire bloody decade? Whatever the case, it's never too early to work some of those kinks out of your soul and contemplate the everliving. And you can do so at the upcoming mystical music sesh with legendary reggae band Black Uhuru. Originally formed in 1972 under a slightly different name (simply Uhuru, meaning “freedom” in Swahili), this Kingston, Jamaica crew has reached many peaks atop Mount Irie, jamming out with Keith Richards, touring with the Clash, and winning the first Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album in 1985. But the band has also endured a lifetime of upheaval, burning through a dozen members in three decades while cofounder Derrick "Duckie" Simpson remained the only constant. None of that's gonna matter, though, once "Shine Eye Gal" or "What Is Life?" hits your ears and shakes your soul. It's just gonna be an itesquake of good vibes. Local reggaes Maple St. and the 602 Band open the evening. S. Pajot
Monday, May 8
Marquee Theatre in Tempe
At the Drive-In couldn’t have reunited to record an album at a more perfect time. Years after the El Paso band's messy breakup and soul-searching with various legacy bands — De Facto, the Mars Volta, poor Sparta — post-hardcore’s favorite sons buried the hatchet (for a second time) and regrouped to face a world fed on their caustic stew of heady ideas and showmanship, with news of North American and European tours and plans to release new music. But now, unlike their first go-round, the rest of the world is ready for them — and maybe the band members themselves are more ready, too. The quintet cultivated a reputation for galvanizing audiences with their extended versions of smoldering shout-outs (check out the 13-minute version of “Quarantined” on YouTube and see if sniffing for feels on Tumblr does it for you anymore). Between singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s witch doctor sauntering and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's methed-out dog-chasing-his-tail routine onstage and offstage, At the Drive-In’s live performances were hallowed. They’re currently touring in support of the upcoming LP In•ter a•li•a, their first album since reuniting, and will return to the Valley in May for a gig at the Marquee. Eric Grubbs
Monday, May 8
Musical Instrument Museum
Tift Merritt’s music falls somewhere between folk and Americana, maybe even alternative country, but the real enduring trait of her nearly 20-year music career is poignant storytelling that speaks to everything from her days growing up in North Carolina to her times living in Paris, and more recently her experiences of motherhood. She’s often compared to other singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris, and she’s worked with Elvis Costello and Sam Beam of Iron and Wine, who produced her latest album Stitch of the World. Her delicate voice and smooth guitar strumming will be a match for the intimate setting of the MIM's musical theatre. Mikel Galicia
Wednesday, May 10
Pub Rock in Scottsdale
For those not in the know, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes a pop-punk supergroup made up of members of Foo Fighters, Lagwagon, NOFX and Swingin’ Utters. They’re a sort of living karaoke machine, performing punk covers of everything from Broadway standards to R&B hits. There are two types of punk rock fans in the world: those who love the Gimmes and those who can’t stand them. Count me among the former. First and foremost, the band is made up of five guys who are really good at what they do. Spike Slawson, who fronts Swingin’ Utters and other bands when he’s not crooning for the Gimmes, has a soulful approach to singing punk. Rather than coming straight from the face and nose, it’s all in the chest and throat. He’s able to plow through Stevie Wonder and Seal so smoothly that one can’t help but wonder what he could do if he dedicated himself to R&B full-time. The rest of the band (Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters, Joey Cape and Dave Raun from Lagwagon and the singular Fat Mike from NOFX) are clearly capable players on at least two levels. First, adapting swirling pop tracks like “End of the Road” for a five-piece band is a task I doubt few would be up to. It’s hard to boil tracks like that down to their essential elements without losing something in the translation. Nicholas Pell
Wednesday, May 10
Musical Instrument Museum
The Valley is about to get a little taste of the swamplands. Veteran blues crooner and musician Marcia Ball is bringing her rollicking, New Orleans-style piano jams to the MIM. Since her first solo LP, Circuit Queen, in 1978, Ball has released about 15 albums and has performed at many festivals. Her latest album, The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man has her on the road again. It aptly came to fruition with a simple mental picture. "The image just popped into my mind, which is the beginning of it," Ball says, "and then the idea of the story and then the idea of how funny it would be visually to be able to actually follow that thread through and make the record all bright and tattoo-y, and everything just fell into place." And the album is bright indeed. Starting out with the boogie-woogie-influenced title track, The Tattooed Lady features Ball's traditional swamp rock and zydeco-flavored, very danceable songs and is peppered with sweet, slow blues tunes in between. "The [title track] itself is kind of a love song about people who don't look ordinary, which is a very universal theme," Ball says. Olivia Feldman
Hot Buttered Rum
Thursday, May 11
Having formed during a backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail, San Francisco's Hot Buttered Rum is, on the surface, pretty much the embodiment of what many find so distasteful about the jam-band scene: Rum has worked with former members of the Dead, tours around the country in biodiesel-fueled vehicles and indulges in extended improvisational jams. But who wouldn't want to play music with their personal heroes and not just talk the talk, but live according to their high-minded ideals and have fun with their art? Musically, this band weaves together bluegrass, jazz and folk with a dash of rock for what is essentially upbeat music that is clever in its social critique without ever seeming preachy. If the members of Hot Buttered Rum can be saddled with the term "hippies," at least they aren't phonies. Tom Murphy
Thursday, May 11
Livewire in Scottsdale
Wale has come a long way from the enthusiastic bounce-rap style that introduced him to the masses. A determined signee of Atlantic Records, the Washington, D.C., native sharpened his vernacular and defined his appeal with the release of his widely respected 2011 album, Ambition. He struck gold with the single "Lotus Flower Bomb," with R&B crooner-of-the-moment Miguel, and has inspired a new class of rap to rise from the underground. Wale's lyrics, combined with a keen ear for proper beats, set him apart from everyone else in the game. Ambitious, indeed. Ru Johnson
Friday, May 12
Talking Stick Resort
Robin Trower, who came into prominence with British psych/progressive and symphonic-rock outfit Procol Harum and recorded on the first five rather exquisite albums of their catalog was not the same guitarist who actually recorded their biggest and best-known single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” That distinction went to original guitarist Ray Royer, who stinted with the band in 1967. Trower would lend his licks and vocals from '67 through '71, when he would depart to pursue a solo career. Trower, who came into prominence with that British psych/progressive and symphonic-rock outfit and recorded on the first five rather exquisite albums of their catalog was not the same guitarist who actually recorded their biggest and best-known single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” That distinction went to original guitarist Ray Royer, who stinted with the band in 1967. Trower would lend his licks and vocals from '67 through '71, when he would depart to pursue a solo career. Now 71 years old, Trower has not completely severed ties with his former mates, recording the 1991 album, The Prodigal Stranger, and appearing on the orchestrated compilation album, The Long Goodbye, in '95. On his own, he's maintained a steady recording profile, reverting to blues rock with the power and wit of his prog days. Abel Folgar
Monday, May 15
Talking Stick Resort Arena
Chris Brown's record of notoriously nasty Instagram backlash and less-than-flattering relationship choices has not stopped him from producing hit albums. His seventh studio release, Royalty, debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard charts but received mixed reviews to match the mixed feelings we still have for the controversial talent. Remember the domestic-violence situation, that time he threw a fan's phone, or his jail stint for violating his probation? Yeah, Breezy, we may not have forgiven you just yet. More recently, however, Brown has managed to keep himself mostly out of trouble by taking responsibility for his infant daughter, Royalty, whom he honors on his most recent album. For now at least, it seems juggling a full-time music career, raising a child, and flaunting his massive art and car collection on the internet keeps him busy enough to deter any new reasons for changing the radio station when his song comes on. Yet. He'll be in town on May 15 along with 50 Cent, O.T. Genasis, Kap G., and Fabolous. Cristina Jerome
Read on for even more great concerts happening in May.