For a season that ushers in change from the turning leaves to the creeping cold, autumn banks on the constants of nostalgia and tradition — at least as far as its musical offerings are concerned. The bulk of 2015 celebrated the Nineties, from a twentieth-anniversary re-pressing of the Clueless soundtrack (on plaid vinyl) to another twentieth-anniversary celebration that transformed Rough Trade NYC into Empire Records. And that’s to say nothing of the many tours that rolled through town: Everclear, Veruca Salt, Bad Religion, various bands orbiting the Britpop galaxy of yesteryear…
But while fall’s upcoming concerts promise the return of at least one Nineties hitmonger (Duncan Sheik, who’s set to release new album Legerdemain on October 9 and will play Carnegie Hall on November 21), this penchant for time-honored sounds extends beyond the decade that gave us Daria and a love affair with the power chord. Two Eighties divas will return to the city that made them: Madonna will roll her Rebel Heart Tour through Madison Square Garden (September 16–17) and the Barclays Center (September 19), and Cyndi Lauper will host a star-studded holiday gathering at the Beacon Theatre December 5. Patti Smith will mark the 40th anniversary of the release of Horses, her incendiary debut, with a hometown performance; Cuban mainstays Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club will let the final strains of “Chan Chan” ring out in New York when they wrap their Adios Tour here in November.
The throwback vibe doesn’t quit there, as plenty of pop and rock’s current poster children are set to rework familiar tropes in ways that feel crisp and very now on the stages of NYC. From the timeless appeal of Alabama Shakes to the youthful exuberance of Chance the Rapper, the stretch between Labor Day and your post-Thanksgiving tryptophan coma affords plenty of opportunities to revisit songs you fell for, or fell back in love with, in 2015. Seasons change, but the power of pop provides the soundtrack this time around.
Electric Zoo: Transformed
September 4–6, Randalls Island
For its seventh year, the electronic music festival is rebranding as Electric Zoo: Transformed, an updated concept that finds host Made Event partnering with ID&T (the creative magicians behind fests like TomorrowWorld) for an even bigger and brighter neon-hued production. As always, Randalls Island plays host to more than 100,000 revelers over Labor Day weekend, and this year’s headliners include the likes of the Chemical Brothers, Above & Beyond, and Alesso. Multiple stages, interactive art installations, and food and drink options add to the overall festive aesthetic. Following the drug-related deaths of two attendees in 2013, increased security and safety was a priority at the 2014 event and will surely be at its 2015 iteration as well.
Death Cab for Cutie
September 12, Madison Square Garden
Oh, what a long way we’ve come from Seth Cohen’s O.C. bedroom. Over nearly two decades, Death Cab for Cutie have graduated from sentimental indie darlings to arena headliners, and this fall brings Ben Gibbard and Co. inside the storied walls of Madison Square Garden. The visit comes in support of Death Cab’s Rich Costey–produced eighth studio album, Kintsugi, which was released in March and marks the band’s first not helmed by longtime band member/producer Chris Walla. (Walla eventually departed the group for good following the album’s completion.) Texas postrockers Explosions in the Sky open.
September 16–17, Madison Square Garden; September 19, Barclays Center
Bitch, she’s Madonna, and that’s a fact younger-skewing pop connoisseurs occasionally need to be reminded of. (There would be no Katy Perry without Madonna. Just sayin’.) At 56, the Queen of Pop has shown no interest in slowing down: This year saw the release of Madge’s thirteenth studio album, Rebel Heart, a matured musical statement following the misguided party-seeking vibe of 2012’s MDNA for the seemingly youth-obsessed singer. Despite a highly publicized hacker snafu preceding the album’s release, Rebel Heart, which features collaborators such as Avicii, Diplo, Nicki Minaj, and Kanye West, still debuted at No. 2. Madonna’s New York stop includes two nights at Madison Square Garden and one at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters
September 18, Hammerstein Ballroom
He the perennial haver of rock-god hair, Robert Plant, and his band the Sensational Space Shifters are embarking on a select number of American dates this fall. The Led Zeppelin frontman assembled the group following stints with bluegrass partner Alison Krauss (with whom he won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2009) and his Band of Joy. He debuted a live album with the Sensational Space Shifters in 2012 and a subsequent studio album, lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar, in 2014. Plant’s New York–area run hits Hammerstein Ballroom and then the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester.
September 22, The Theater at Madison Square Garden
Harlem’s hip-hop globetrotter A$AP Rocky returns home, with pals Tyler, The Creator, Danny Brown, and Vince Staples in tow for a showcase of some of modern rap’s biggest MCs. A$AP Rocky is fresh off the May 26 release of his acclaimed sophomore album AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP that paid respects to A$AP Yams, who passed earlier this year. His deep baritone vocal manipulations make their occasional appearances, as does his syrup-smooth flow, but A$AP Rocky surprises and shows moxie with his neo-psychedelia left turns (such as the single “L$D”), proving that this byproduct of the golden age of New York hip-hop deserves all the cred.
Global Citizen Festival
September 26, Central Park
Behind the big marquee names is a big, important cause. Pearl Jam, Beyoncé, Coldplay, and Ed Sheeran may be the headlining talent at this year’s Global Citizen Festival, which takes place September 26 on the Great Lawn of New York’s Central Park, but they’re there to help raise awareness of global issues including inequality, the planet, and extreme poverty. The free tickets to the Global Citizen Festival are distributed to people who complete charitable “actions” on the festival’s website. By completing the actions , you enter for a chance to win. Stephen Colbert and Hugh Jackman are co-hosting this year’s event.
September 29, SummerStage
To mark their much-anticipated sophomore album, Every Open Eye, Chvrches are headlining Central Park’s SummerStage mere days after the record’s September 25 release. The album follows the Scottish electro band’s breakout 2013 debut, The Bones of What You Believe, which included undeniable pop gems like “The Mother We Share” and landed on many a critic’s year-end Best Of list. Though Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty have been teasing new material on the road this summer, the New York show is sure to give Chvrches fans a fully realized taste of the new tunes.
October 1, Radio City Music Hall
A show at Radio City Music Hall must feel like a triumphant return for Beirut’s Zach Condon, who’s been off the scene for a few years. The group’s first album since 2011’s The Rip Tide, this year’s No No No marks Condon’s first new output with Beirut following touring-related health issues and a divorce. Nevertheless, the new music reflects an uplifted spirit — with Beirut’s signature eclectic and folk-inspired stylings. The horn-inflected title track, for example, is a sure-to-be shining moment ringing through the halls of Radio City.
Tribute to Bill Withers
October 1, Carnegie Hall
One rainy night in the autumn of 1972, Bill Withers performed at Carnegie Hall. The R&B genius was at the height of his popularity, having released the chart-topping Still Bill (“Lean on Me,” “Use Me”) in the spring of that year. If Still Bill is a masterpiece — and it is — Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall is a tour de force of soulful immediacy. A 75-minute double LP, Live delivers Withers’s infectious renditions of his hits, backed by a wickedly talented orchestra and interspersed with the performer’s unsurpassably cool show patter. Four decades after its release, the album stands up to repeated listens. And on the topic of repeated listens, on Thursday, October 1, an illustrious cast of musicians will perform Live at Carnegie Hall in its entirety — live at Carnegie Hall. The roster includes Ed Sheeran, D’Angelo, Sheryl Crow, Amos Lee, Keb’ Mo’, Kathy Mattea, and Dr. John. All profits benefit the Stuttering Association for the Young (fittingly — Withers himself struggled with the disorder), and the guest of honor, a famously private man, has pledged to attend.
October 2, St. Vitus; October 6, Irving Plaza
Having started as a lo-fi, ramshackle solo project for wunderkind (and frequent thrower of tantrums) Nathan Williams, the San Diego — based Wavves has evolved into a more traditional band structure as it has moved from album to album. For the fifth outing, aptly titled V, Williams is splitting writing duties with bandmates Stephen Pope and Alex Gates. The album’s October 2 street date coincides with a release show at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus; a second gig goes down October 6 at Irving Plaza. Chicago rockers Twin Peaks open both shows.
Maddie & Tae
October 7, Highline Ballroom
Country’s newest sweethearts turned heads last summer with “Girl in a Country Song,” a sassy, bold female-empowerment kiss-off to the bros of country music. With Start Here, the girls’ August 28 — released debut, Maddie Marlow, twenty, and Taylor Dye, nineteen, continue where that breakout song left off, with a collection of expertly harmonized, confessional songs that’ll appeal to country fans both old and young. Fresh off opening for Dierks Bentley, Maddie & Tae are kicking off their first-ever headlining tour with a show at the Highline Ballroom on October 7. Expect something similar to early Taylor Swift, but with bona fide down-home roots.
October 8, Madison Square Garden
There’s no denying Ricky Martin’s hip shake. Try as you may, the Latin superstar will cast you under his spell, one that will consume the audience at Madison Square Garden on October 8 as part of Martin’s One World Tour. The North American jaunt comes in support of his tenth studio album, A Quien Quiera Escuchar, which was released in February. In addition to the new material, expect loco-inducing well-known hits like “Livin’ la Vida Loca” and “The Cup of Life.”
October 7–8, Bowery Ballroom; October 9, Music Hall of Williamsburg
The news that the long-dormant Luna were reuniting brought many Nineties nostalgists out to the band’s free show during this year’s Northside Festival. But for those who missed the McCarren Park homecoming, there are still three more opportunities to see the New York — area dream-poppers: two nights at Bowery Ballroom (October 7 and 8) and one at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, October 9. Luna, formed by ex–Galaxie 500 member Dean Wareham, released eight studio albums before disbanding in 2004. The group kicked off its reunion with a short tour in Spain in April.
Catfish & the Bottlemen
October 14, Terminal 5
Catfish & the Bottlemen have spent the past year solidifying their reputation as a live band not to be missed. To wit: In just a few short months, the group graduated from a sold-out Bowery Ballroom show to, now, the vast halls of Terminal 5 for this October 14 gig. Relying on a ragged Strokes-esque garage-rock aesthetic with radio-ready melodies akin to Phoenix, Catfish & the Bottlemen make for an electric live presence, a rock ‘n’ roll refresher that keeps getting stronger. The band’s fall run comes in support of debut album The Balcony, which was released via Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett’s Communion Records.
October 22, The Studio at Webster Hall
After the release of their 2001 debut The Cold Vein, Harlem hip-hop duo Cannibal Ox seemed destined for greatness. Vast Aire and Vordul Mega traded flows that were humorous but with a bite, and the El-P-produced album quickly became an underground classic. The Aughts went on and a follow-up record never appeared, but this year they rattled the scene yet again with the release of Blade of Ronin on March 3, reminding listeners why they’re the rulers of the underground even after fourteen years in the shadows.
October 23, Madison Square Garden
The iconic British band made headlines in 2015 with the announcement of its first new LP in twelve years, The Magic Whip, a Hong Kong — inspired album released in April that marked the return of guitarist Graham Coxon to the original lineup (alongside Damon Albarn, Alex James, and Dave Rowntree). Equally exciting: Blur announcing that one of its two U.S. dates this fall will roll through Madison Square Garden. Though the famed Britpoppers did preview their new material at a free surprise show in May at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, the MSG gig will be Blur’s first proper show in New York since 2003. Acclaimed singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett opens.
Chance the Rapper
October 23 and 25, Terminal 5
Equal parts hip-hop and neo soul, Chance the Rapper secured national attention with his colorful 2013 mixtape Acid Rap and quickly broke out as a Millennial flag-bearer. (The Rugrats references on “Cocoa Butter Kisses” — “Used to like orange cassette tapes with Timmy, Tommy, and Chuckie” — are a prime example of this.) On May 28, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment (the band Chance the Rapper’s in with his Chicagoan pals) surprise-released their debut Surf and his contribution exhibited all the range and talent he has to offer.
October 24, Irving Plaza
For those who never forgot the Teaches of Peaches (really, how could you?), this October is the chance to catch the singer/performance artist Merrill Beth Nisker back in session. Known as Peaches, the provocative, sexually-charged Canadian artist is the visionary behind such boundary-pushing albums as Teaches of Peaches, Fatherfucker, and Impeach My Bush; the lesser-initiated might know her through pop culture usage of her songs in films like Lost in Translation and Mean Girls. While it’s been six years since her last album, the time off yielded a film and a book by Peaches, and this fall she returns with RUB. In support of the album, Peaches makes a stop at Irving Plaza on October 24.
October 24, Apollo Theater
Fitting for her delightful country throwback album, this June’s Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves has embarked on a fall trek entitled the Kacey Musgraves Country & Western Rhinestone Revue. The jaunt brings the country sensation to the historic Apollo Theater, where fans can expect to find Musgraves decked out in all her retro Dolly Parton–esque glory. Her latest album follows the former Nashville Star contestant’s breakout Same Trailer Different Park, which nabbed Musgraves a Grammy and a spot on many critics’ Best Of lists. Countrified hit singles like “Follow Your Arrow” and “Biscuits” will highlight her live set.
October 24, Kings Theatre
To mark their twentieth anniversary, alt-rock heroes Garbage announced a “20 Years Queer” tour, which brings the group to Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre on October 24. For the tour, the Shirley Manson-led outfit will be performing its 1995 self-titled debut in its entirety, including such classic sure-to-be-crowd-roaring hits as “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When It Rains.” The tour coincides with a special remastered edition of the LP, which features unreleased versions of the songs as well as remixes.
October 27, Madison Square Garden
Ready to feel old? (Or young, depending.) To celebrate the Who’s fiftieth (yep, 50!) anniversary, the British rock gods launched the The Who Hits 50! Tour, the second leg of which brings them to Madison Square Garden on October 27. Billed as a career-spanning set, the shows touch on the Who’s entire catalog, including major hits like “Who Are You” and “Baba O’Riley” as well as lesser-known songs and deep cuts. The tour supports the group’s The Who Hits 50! compilation album, which was released last year. Catch them while you can: As Roger Daltrey has noted, it’s the beginning of a “long goodbye.”
October 27, Bowery Ballroom
Tennessee singer-songwriter Ashley Monroe gained a higher profile in country music with her Vince Gill-produced 2013 album Like a Rose as well as her work in the spitfire girl trio Pistol Annies, composed of Monroe, Miranda Lambert, and Angaleena Presley. This summer’s The Blade raised that profile even further on the strength of singles like the breezy, bass-heavy “On to Something Good”; additionally, Monroe was featured on Blake Shelton’s recent hit “Lonely Tonight.” In support of her new album, Monroe headlines Bowery Ballroom on October 27.
October 30, The Best Buy Theatre
Colorado, Oregon, and Washington can all cough up a small thank-you to L.A. rappers Cypress Hill, who made their career spitting rhymes and advocating for recreational marijuana use. Their second album Black Sunday, released in 1993, earned them the status as Gen X’s quintessential stoner hip-hop foursome with massive hits like “Insane In the Brain” and “Hits From the Bong” and they were culturally solidified with their appearance in the classic Simpsons episode that lampooned Lollapalooza. They haven’t slowed down since their Clinton-era heyday, releasing consistent albums, touring regularly, and reminding fans everywhere to stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
November 10, Beacon Theatre
On tour to commemorate the 40th anniversary of her seminal album Horses, Patti Smith’s upcoming New York stop promises to be something special. The November 10 show at the Beacon Theatre brings Smith and her band home to New York, the city that launched the artist’s legendary career in storied punk venues like the now-defunct CBGBs. Original bandmates Lenny Kaye and Jay Dee Daugherty, along with longtime member Tony Shanahan, join Smith for the performance, during which they’ll play the endlessly influential Horses in its entirety. A true New York treasure not to be missed.
November 16–17, Bowery Ballroom
“Don’t try me, I’m not a free sample” warns the Las Vegan hip-hop/house rapper Shamir on his hit “On the Regular,” and you’d be wise to listen up. With his androgynous flow, Shamir, at the tender age of 20, has quickly become one of the most exciting acts coming out of Sin City. His 2015 debut Ratchet shows promise with its wide spectrum of style, from the sparkling dance pop of “Call It Off” to the sad eyes of the minimalistic ballad “Darker,” and his current world tour confirms Shamir’s rising dominance.
My Morning Jacket
November 24–25, 27–28, Beacon Theatre
Never a band to shy away from an extended jam session, My Morning Jacket are spreading their epic live show across four nights this November at the Beacon Theatre, a venue on the uncharacteristically small size compared to the expansive fields and arenas the Louisville rockers are capable of filling. The Jim James–led band is on the road in support of their seventh studio album, the big, trippy ride The Waterfall. Woods, Strand of Oaks, Cass McCombs, and Craig Finn will each open one night of the stint.
December 5, Beacon Theatre
Each holiday season for the past four years, Cyndi Lauper has assembled a crew of A-list talent and friends for her Cyndi Lauper & Friends: Home for the Holidays concert. This year’s event takes place December 5 at the Beacon Theatre, and as usual benefits the True Colors Fund, which fights homelessness among LGBTQ youth. Though the lineup for this year has yet to be announced, past guests have included Pink, Laverne Cox, Sarah McLachlan, Lou Reed, Rosie O’Donnell, Adam Lambert, and more.
December 12, Kings Theatre; December 13, Terminal 5; December 14, Irving Plaza; December 15, Music Hall of Williamsburg; December 16, Market Hotel
This year, Christmas is coming early for still-ecstatic Sleater-Kinney fans. After releasing the band’s first new album in a decade, No Cities to Love, at the beginning of this year, the trio of Corin Tucker, Carrie Brownstein, and Janet Weiss is playing New York for an impressive five-night stay this December. Even better: The stop hits a variety of venues, from Brooklyn’s historic Kings Theatre to small Bushwick space Market Hotel. Expect hipsters, riot grrrls, and rock ‘n’ roll fans of all stripes out in droves for these sure-to-be-memorable shows.