25 Best Concerts in December in Phoenix
Andrew Jackson Jihad is scheduled to perform on December 30 at Crescent Ballroom.
If you can somehow find time in your busy schedule, as well as money in the budget that isn't set aside for the holidays and such, you might consider checking out a show. There are certainly enough great one happening between now and the end of the month, including the following 25 suggestions.
And if you need even more suggestions, be sure to peruse both our daily music picks and New Times' extensive online concert calendar.
Horse Feathers - Sunday, December 7 - Last Exit Live
Horse Feathers are currently supporting their fifth album, this year's So It Is With Us. The relatively energetic LP is the Oregon folk rockers' first to feature drums and bass. Frontman Justin Ringle has said that he wanted the album to help listeners "have a good weekend," rather than, say, help them through a divorce. The self-described "living, breathing stereotypes just like the ones portrayed in Portlandia" recorded parts of So It Is With Us in a rural Oregon barn and cite influences as disparate as Talk Talk and John Wesley Harding-era Bob Dylan, so that comparison can't be too far off. -- Alex Rice
Phillip Phillips - Sunday, December 7 - Celebrity Theatre
When one thinks of skills necessary to win American Idol, guitar playing is not one of them. That was until the 2012 season when Georgia native Phillip Phillips took first prize in part with his renditions of Dave Matthews and Bob Seger songs. Phillips' coronation song, "Home," which you would quickly recognize, became the biggest selling tune of any American Idol alumnus.
Judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler drooled over him, and during the finals, Phillips and his opponent drew a record number of votes. A younger Phillips would have been psyched about the adulation. "You wanted to be a rock star as a teenager. I wasn't the coolest kid around, so you want people to notice you. You want girls to notice you. But by American Idol, I had a great girlfriend, which I still have today."
Phillips went through great pains to stress how he prefers now to be low key with his favorite downtime activities being "hanging out on the river, going 4x4ing, going to the movies and eating popcorn." But his success post Idol prevented him from living an anonymous existence. His first album, The World from the Side of the Moon went platinum and his follow up, this year's Behind the Light debuted at number seven on the Billboard charts. "It was inspired by life experiences and imagination." He said about the newest record. "I wanted it to have a live feel. Then even if people don't know the songs, they can appreciate the energy." -- David Rolland
Ryan Adams - Wednesday, December 10 - Gammage Auditorium
After starting Whiskeytown, a band that unapologetically tried to mimic American Music Club sans gay frontman sporting a unibrow, singer-songwriter Ryan Adams has been trying to beat the sun, recording at a furious pace and living life as variously as possible. Since 2007, Adams married the poor man's Britney Spears (which is surely better than marrying Britney Spears), released two books of poetry and short stories, been diagnosed with Meniere's Disease (he'll lose his shit if you go overboard with camera flashes), dropped one band (The Cardinals) and added another (The Shining), released a mountain of recordings via his own Pax Americana Recording Company, produced albums for a diverse array of artists and developed an affinity for pinball (he is currently touring with a Metallica pinball machine). You can expect a career-spanning set of songs both released and unreleased; Adams may even perform an improvised song if you ask nice enough. -- Jeremy Hallock
Fleetwood Mac - Wednesday, December 10 - Talking Stick Resort Arena
You know, Fleetwood Mac's Tusk was a really good album. There was also an album called Rumors that did quite well and on the whole, Fleetwood Mac has had a wonderful career. They have had some ups and downs, like any band, and the tensions between the key players, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsay Buckingham and Paradise Valley's Stevie Nicks have, at very least, created some of the most popular American music in the past 40 years. Not too shabby for a band that started across the pond in the 1960's and has had more members than Baskin Robbins has flavors. Truth be told, it is easy to overlook the prodigious output of really good songs when you consider all the public tantrums, rumors (no pun intended), and basically bad behavior. A penchant for shawls really isn't that terrible, is it? Or finger picking an electric guitar? Tall drummers look awkward, sure, but that's okay too when the singers sing so well. In the long run, it will all make for a poorly produced Lifetime movie and we'll all collectively yawn and think, "What a shame those poor millionaires couldn't get along for longer periods of time." -- Tom Reardon
Opeth - Wednesday, December 10 - Marquee Theatre
Sweden's Opeth started out as a fairly straightahead death-metal band, but in 1992, after drastic lineup changes, the band, led by singer and guitarist Mikael Åkerfeldt, slowly developed the sound it would bring to its 1995 debut, Orchid. Sonically, Opeth recalls '70s art-rock bands like Jethro Tull mixed with late-'80s progressive metal like that of Fates Warning, with the occasional death-metal growl employed for emphasis between Åkerfeldt's resonantly melodic vocals. There's a disarmingly quiet grace to Opeth's best material; with a blend of acoustic rock and heavier sensibilities, it sounds like what you might get if neo-folk were to come out of Judas Priest and Slayer. -- Tom Murphy
My Body Sings Electric - Thursday, December 11 - The Underground
The first hints that My Body Sings Electric was pissing people off came long before the brutal reviews. Shortly after getting together in 2007, the band's members went out of their way to be as self-indulgent and strident as possible. They specialized in making "musicians' music" -- songs with experimental structures, extended solos and bizarre instrumentation. Their attitude came through in the title of their first EP in 2008: They Don't Want Music.
"We were pretentious," admits bassist Jason Bower. "We were like, 'These people don't want music,'" referring to the scant crowds that would show up at venues like the Marquis and offer tepid responses. "We were writing complex stuff in weird time signatures." But the intricate music wasn't the only mark of the band's brash attitude. When My Body landed a coveted spot playing on one stop of the Warped Tour in 2009, lead singer and guitarist Brandon Whalen alienated audience members and fellow artists alike before the group even played a single note. "The first thing I said was, 'We're My Body Sings Electric, from Denver, and we're fucking awesome,'" Whalen recalls between chuckles. "Jon [Shockness] from Air Dubai once told me that when they first met us on that tour, they hated us. He was like, 'Who are these guys?' And that was our whole attitude at the time."
Less than five years later, the quintet has absorbed a sorely needed dose of humility. The shift was spurred by reviews that blasted They Don't Want Music and its arrogant approach. The poor notices made the guys take stock and make a conscious effort to change. In an attempt to strip their music of its pretension and inaccessibility, they returned to basic lessons about songwriting and looked to a new set of influences in the realm of indie pop and punk. -- A.H. Goldstein
Freshtivus - Friday, December 12 - Club Red
You know what usually happens when you mix hip-hop and Seinfeld, you get Chris Rock. But when downtown Phoenix based hip-hop apparel shop Coolin Out does it they wound up with Freshtivus, the best hip-hop show of the holiday season, and possibly the entire year. Legendary alt hip-hop icons Brand Nubian and Kool Keith will be heading up a lineup that features Freestyle Fellowship, Ras Kass, Artifacts, A.G. Zoolay, and way more at the new Club Red. This show marks the third month in a row that Phoenix has been able to offer up a quality hip-hop show featuring national level acts with both commercial and critical appeal, which for Phoenix, a city so often accused of being devoid of culture, is damn near a revelation.
Lord Jamar, Sadat X, and Grand Puba of Brand Nubian were instrumental in the growth of militant hip-hop and were some of the first to use hip-hop to speak on greater social issues and black empowerment. Kool Keith, the self proclaimed creator of horrorcore and pornocore, is an all-around pioneer in the industry, blazing an odd trail for rappers like Tyler The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, D12, Tech N9ne, and many others. On the local side of the show, Phoenix hip-hop heavyweights The Insects and Realistic among others will be representing the Valley. Besides making it easy for every Phoenix hip-hop head to make holiday plans this, show is also going to pay homage to all four pillars of hip-hop. Some of the best M.C.'s on earth will be getting down with a collection of Phoenix's best DJ's, there will be a three-on-three b-boy battle, and live graffiti art by the incomparable Dumperfoo and other Valley based artists. -- Jeff Moses
Yung Lean and Sad Boys - Friday, December 12 - Crescent Ballroom
Your kid drops out of high school to start an Internet-driven music career, rapping about video games, hard drugs, sadness, and Arizona Iced Tea. As a parent, you may raise an eyebrow. Lucky for Yung Lean, he doesn't have any parents. That's obviously not true, but the 18-year-old Swedish stream-of-conscious MC likes to keep his cards close to his chest. He and his producer friends Yung Sherman and Yung Gud bring their talents together as the Sadboys. They got the Internet going nuts with 2013's Lavender EP and Unknown Death mixtape.
This year's full-length Unknown Memory benefits from more money and better production, but it still has the same dreamy style. Depending who you ask, Sadboys are either the future of music and fashion, or everything that's wrong with the world. Prepping for his Basel Castle 2014 gig, we here at Crossfade chatted with Lean about the Swedish hip-hop scene, speaking three languages, being "a '90s child," predicting the future, and making "music just for myself." -- Kat Bein
Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding - Saturday, December 13 - Comerica Theatre
Few people can flip through their rock 'n' roll rolodex and put together a show quite as well as Valley legend Alice Cooper. After all, Cooper is the king of shock rock, and he paved the way for a legion of acts trying to get a rise out of mothers around the world.
This year Alice has recruited hard rock acts Thousand Foot Krutch, POD, Night Ranger for his 14th annual Christmas Pudding concert at Comerica Theatre, which benefits his Solid Rock Foundation. Legendary sideman and Valley resident Nils Lofgren, blues wunderkind Jonny Lang, musician-comedian Gary Mule Deer, and Alice's own daughter Calico Cooper are also scheduled to perform. Coop knows that when school's out the kids need something to do to keep them out of trouble, and this year he might be have served his tastiest pudding to date. -- Jim Louvau
Lydia - Saturday, December 13 - The Pressroom
Vocalist and guitarist Leighton Antelman's musical career started in junior high when he and some friends from Gilbert's Greenfield Junior High got together and formed a band called Rolo 15. That group went through some changes, and ultimately it was Antelman and guitarist Steve McGraw who stayed together to create music, eventually going on to form the indie rock band Lydia with drummer Loren Briton and bassist Dustin Forsgren. The band's driving, melodic songs are heavily layered -- at times minimal, at times monumental -- and helped Lydia gain a loyal following.
The group has spread those tunes around through extensive touring and appearances at large-scale events like the Warped Tour and the Bamboozle Festival. Though persevering personnel changes for year, the band went on a pronounced break in 2010, announcing it was calling it quits and that Antelman and McGraw had run their course of working together. That the hiatus didn't last long, as Antelman and crew reunited in 2011, and there have been a couple of new releases and active touring since. -- Amy Young
Art Alexakis - Sunday, December 14 - Musical Instrument Museum
Though the name Art Alexakis may be unfamiliar to some, there was a time when multiple songs written by him and his band Everclear were simultaneously in heavy rotation on radio stations nationwide. Though his personal narrative tends to be eclipsed by years of drug abuse, he managed to get sober as an adult and pen some of the more memorable tunes of the 1990s era of post-grunge pop. Alexakis will likely speak about such experiences, as well as his troubled childhood, fatherless upbringing, and stormy adolescence during "an evening of songs and stories" on December 14 at the MIM's Music Theater. -- Brandon Ferguson
Spoon - Monday, December 15 - Marquee Theatre
Four years might seem like a blip to those of us shuffling toward middle age, but it's enough time to get a college degree or for several musical styles to jockey for a brief moment of prominence atop the indie-rock slush pile. So Spoon's four-year hiatus from the New Release section passed without much clamor (Britt Daniel kept busy with the Divine Fits, among other excursions) but with enough time to make us miss a band that defined smart, well-tailored rock & roll. This fall's They Want My Soul delivered on the promise of its best (but not necessarily most recent) records -- tart-tongued kiss-offs matched with inventive, shape-shifting riffs that are as catchy as they are biting. EMA, the acronym-de-rock of Erika M. Anderson, will open the show and presumably draw from her most recent techno-phobic LP, the Future's Void. -- Christian Schaeffer
Cosmonauts - Monday, December 15 - Trunk Space
Three chords good, two chords better, one chord best -- Spacemen 3's psychonaut Sonic Boom said it, and SoCal's Cosmonauts live it. They'll take the simplest things you can build a band out of -- amps ratcheted up high enough the vacuum tubes start to sizzle, tangled-up melodies that could go on forever -- and ride them to the horizon line, chasing the purity of sound and intent that fans of 13th Floor Elevators liner notes know well. No gimmicks, no tricks, not even any shortcut pedals. "I hate when bands use pedals or other types of equipment as a fallback," says guitarist/vocalist Alex Ahmadi. "So many bands just hit a delay pedal, and boom! It becomes some psych bullshit."
So Cosmonauts eradicate the bullshit. Ahmadi started the band two years ago with fellow guitarist/vocalist Derek Cowart, pursuing a rumor that Cowart liked the Brian Jonestown Massacre. With their only shared musical experience together totaling out to the time Ahmadi saw Cowart play acoustic guitar at a house party, they decided to make a band -- and a pretty loud one at that. Their first show was on Halloween, and they showed up with incomplete costumes. "I was supposed to be a bandito, but I didn't have a sombrero," says Ahmadi. "Derek was a Beatle. Our costumes sucked." Happily, the actual band didn't suck at all. Their 2010 tape on Burger Records (with the elephant on it!) reverberates at the slightest touch, but beneath all the exhilarating clatter is the same sense for a catchy hook the Reid brothers in the Jesus and Mary Chain used so well. That tape's vinyl rerelease on esteemed semi-local label Permanent underscored the point: Cosmonauts are a pop band at heart, but a psychedelic band by sound. -- Chris Ziegler
Brian Setzer Orchestra - Monday, December 15 - Celebrity Theatre
Brian Setzer doesn't strut his musical stuff with the Stray Cats much anymore, but the Minneapolis-based Grammy-winning musician has expanded his rockabilly repertoire to include feisty solo songs and reworked holiday classics. Setzer brings his 18-piece orchestra to the Celebrity Theatre as part of his annual Christmas Rocks! Tour, with a wide array of material spanning his swing-based early days to instantly recognizable seasonal anthems given added zest. Los Angeles blues-rock trio the Record Company opens. -- Erik Thompson
Corrections House - Tuesday, December 16 - Club Red
In the Internet age, it is pretty much impossible for anyone with a computer to be surprised by a band. However, Corrections House -- a veritable supergroup of notable metal and experimental musicians -- has managed to keep info about what they do vague at best. Yet despite this secrecy, the web buzz has been rampant with the sludge/stoner metal community, whose shared anticipation of performances and releases is based on the names of individuals involved alone.
The quartet features Bruce Lamont of Yakuza, Sanford Parker of Nachtmystium, Mike IX Williams of Eyehategod, and Scott Kelly of Neurosis. Now, a band featuring any one of these names would be worth seeing a hundred times. But with all four of these individuals on stage at once, how could the performance be anything less than a bacchanalian night of ripping post-Sabbath riffs and hulking hits? -- David Von Bader
HIM - Wednesday, December 17 - Marquee Theatre
Finnish rock band HIM is known for causing a lot of weird controversy. First, a lot of people get angsty when it comes time to define their sound -- the band has been categorized as everything from slow alt-rock to melodic metal to gothic metal. But they've been around since 1991, and they're the only Finnish rock band to achieve a gold record in the United States. The band's members -- including frontman Ville Valo, bass player Mikko Paananen, and guitarist Mikko Lindstrom -- have an interesting array of influences, including The Stooges, KISS, Black Sabbath and Neil Young.
The band's eight studio albums span fast and heavy to mournful and rainy-day-friendly; the fifth album, 2005's Dark Light, was the band's breakthrough album in the U.S, partially because Bam Margera from the show "Jackass" loved the band so much you couldn't go one episode of his show without seeing HIM's signature heartagram symbol painted on his wall. HIM's most recent album, Tears on Tape, was released in April 2013. For the album, Valo mined inspiration from doo-wop of the '50s and '60s, examining personal relationships and the history of his favorite musicians. Or, as he puts it, "It's a love letter to the musicians I love." -- Lauren Wise
Nekromantix - Friday, December 19 - Yucca Tap Room
No one does psychobilly quite like Nekromantix -- and few other bands have managed to make a standup bass, or any other instrument, nearly as famous as the group themselves. And though Kim Nekroman remains the only steadfast member in this, his namesake band, this year saw another change in the lineup. Lux, the group's first female member and one hell of a crazy drummer, announced her departure after five years. Taking her place is Adam Guerrero of LA-based psychobilly band Rezurex. Check out the new and improved lineup when the Nekromantix roll through the Yucca on December 19 for "Not-So-Silent Night," a two-stage extravaganza that will also include The Adolescents, Ten Foot Pole, Masked Intruder, Left Alone, Broloaf, and a half-dozen other punk acts.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Friday, December 19 - Marquee Theatre
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones perform a lively set filled with a fun energy -- impressive for a band that's gotten up in years, if 50-year-old frontman Dicky Barrett is to be used as an age barometer. As such, the group doesn't miss a step or pull a punch in its performances. The Bosstones always seemed to come out on the better side of the punk-ska wave of the late '90s, owing to songs that seem less generally silly than a good portion of their counterparts from that era. Its members' deep roots in Boston hardcore and traditional ska -- two very reputable, honest genres of music -- probably lend to that as well. -- Jimmy Eberle
French Montana - Friday, December 19 - The Pressroom
Nah, French Montana ain't worried 'bout nothin', but that doesn't mean you should keep the New York-based rapper waiting. He's taking the country by storm with hit after hit, and now he's gonna give all the party animals that gather at The Pressroom on December 19 a taste of his second studio album, Mac & Cheese 4. -- Kat Bein
Fitz and the Tantrums - Saturday, December 20 - Wild Horse Pass
Formed in 2008 around music already written by bandleader Michael Fitzpatrick, Fitz & the Tantrums came together within a week, just in time to play their first show. The chemistry was perfect, and the group's brand of rhythm and blues with a shiny modern radio style was cemented. While there's an undeniable revivalist spirit in its soul-on-wax sound, the Los Angeles sextet incorporates a personal take on what Motown made famous: Fitzpatrick's voice stands out with an almost '80s-pop twist, but it's pulled back to its roots by a pristine rhythm section, plus horns, organs and the complementary backing of Noelle Scaggs's vocals. Having shared the stage with the likes of Maroon 5, Hepcat and Flogging Molly, Fitz & the Tantrums are a band with mass appeal, one that will no doubt follow the path of soul's rebirth set by contemporaries Raphael Saadiq, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Adele. -- Bree Davies
Mary X Mas - Thursday, December 25 - Location TBA
It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but your Christmas probably has a few constants: watching bratty nieces and nephews throw fits over not getting the presents they wanted, that one weird uncle getting a little too drunk and friendly, and mom overcooking, uh, just about everything. Fortunately, most Christmas traditions take place during the day, leaving an evening open to other opportunities. The 15th annual Mary X mas is a haven for EDM fans looking to have some fun. The rave, which will take place at an undisclosed location, Christmas décor, girls in red and green go-go ostumes, a snow ball fight with real snow, bonfires, and dozens of spin sessions by local and special guest DJs.
One More Time - Friday, December 26 & Saturday, December 27 - Crescent Ballroom
One More Time does a spot-on imitation of Daft Punk in concert and does it well. Phenomenally well, even, from the identical version of the iconic helmets and jumpsuits of the Grammy-winning and quasi-robotic French electronica duo (including neon versions inspired by Tron: Legacy) to the pyramid-like staging that's straight outta the act's landmark Alive 1997 tour. One More Time has Daft Punk down so well that it even mimics its flair for anonymity, asking that New Times keep the duo's real names on the down-low.
In recent years, the Phoenix-based tribute act went from performing at local hip club nights in 2010 to wowing crowds in L.A. and San Diego with its hour-long set of mixing, editing, and playing Daft Punk tracks. "That's when we realized we were onto something that could potentially be big, bigger than a bunch of guys in helmets playing hipster parties," they told us. They ain't lying, as they've been going harder, faster, stronger while touring venues across the United States in the wake of Daft Punk's success with Random Access Memories and multiple Grammy wins. So there's at least one way One More Time differs from its source material, since Daft Punk still hasn't announced when it's gonna tour again.
Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers - Friday, December 26, and Saturday, December 27 - Talking Stick Resort
Say what you will about Roger Clyne's talents (which are substantial), when it comes to instigating a party, the native Arizonan is skilled. The stories surrounding the raucous Refreshments shows he was a part of back during the Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy days have been trumped by the kind of off-the-hook wingdings he hosts as frontman for the Peacemakers. The tequila-soaked "Circus Mexicus" beach blast held in Puerto Peñasco draws thousands of Peaceheads every year, for instance, and this weekend, the band arrives at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale for a two-night, post-Christmas stint. No opening acts are scheduled, so the band will likely devote the entire evening to such greatest hits as "Mekong," "Banditos," "Nada," the King of the Hill theme song, as well as tales of outlaws and Mexican moonshine. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Andrew Jackson Jihad - Tuesday, December 30 - Crescent Ballroom
Andrew Jackson Jihad might be the best band Phoenix has produced. And unlike certain local punk bands from the '80s, they remain relevant. Unlike most musicians who move elsewhere to "make it," totally neglecting their hometown later, Sean Bonnette and Ben Gallaty have made every effort to stay involved in the Valley, even when they're stomping around Europe with Frank Turner or taking time off in other cities. That's why when AJJ returns home, it always feels like a reunion of sorts. -- Jeff Moses
Flosstradamus - Wednesday, December 31 - Rawhide
In the 2013 mini-documentary chronicling the rise of the Mad Decent Block Party, über-producer and festival founder Diplo has a bit of advice for anyone who performs at the event: "If you're an act, don't play after Flosstradamus," he says. "That's really hard." It's a simple edict that illustrates not only the Chicago-based duo's prominence in the realms of both dance music and trap, but also their abilities as party instigators and performers. How come? Flosstradamus members J2K and Autobot excel at producing sounds that effortlessly blend the party-rocking energy of electro-house with the sound, fury, and verve of trap music, one of the gutsier offshoots of hip-hop. Flosstradamus and their music toes the line between ghetto-fab attitude and flat-out rowdiness, often with many booty-shaking grooves and guttural bass warbles.
And when J2K and Autobot get on a stage, they're in a mood to get wild, get turned up, and get everyone in the audience to hop aboard for a one-way ticket to Rageville. Or as our colleagues at sister publication, the Westword, stated: "It was only a matter of time before someone brought Dirty South beats into the world of EDM, and Flosstradamus has certainly set the precedent for what a good trap show is supposed to be like." You can see the energy and attitude of a typical performance in Flosstradamus IRL, their YouTube documentary from earlier this year that focuses on their fervent fans, or when the duo hits Rawhide on New Year's Eve for the debaucherous Decadance party. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.
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