Looking for a great concert to check out this week? We've got a few suggestions for your consideration – five of 'em, in fact, every one of which is happening at music venues across the Metro Phoenix area over the next several nights and are worthy of both your time and money. (For even more live music options, check out our extensively updated online concert calendar.)
Sonata Arctica – Monday, December 5 – Club Red
Your boss probably would recommend against staying up late way past your bedtime on a work night to catch this gig by Sonata Arctica. Ditto for your ear doctor, who’d likely recoil in horror at the sheer amount of decibels that your tympanic membranes will absorb during the famed Finnish power metal band’s performance. We say, screw 'em both, since you only live once, there are plenty of other jobs out there, and you can pick up a pair of earplugs on your way to the show. Sonata Arctica’s currently touring in support of their latest album, The Ninth Hour, an 11-song effort that explores how mankind is tenuously teetering on the edge of cataclysm. According to vocalist Tony Kakko, we’re all “currently living in critical, historical times [whereby] our decisions will define the future ... not only ours as a race, but the future of this entire planet.” Feel free to ponder such heady issues as you headbang along to all the Sonata Artica’s thunderous sounds. Fellow metal fiends Leaves Eyes, Omnium Gatherum, Adavant, and Luminatus open the evening. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Asking Alexandria — Tuesday, December 6 — Livewire
Whatever questions you direct at Asking Alexandria, you can be sure the answers will be delivered in some kind of scream. The Alexandrians trade in the breakdown-heavy thrashing known as metalcore, which, true to its name, combines the excesses of both metal and hardcore into one headache-inducing brew. Asking Alexandria likes to spike its metalcore screeching with the occasional melodic moment, and spices the whole thing up with the addition of synthesizers here and there. CORY CASCIATO
Aesop Rock – Tuesday, December 6 – Club Red
He doesn’t give a shit if you confuse him with A$AP Rocky, and by some metrics, he’s got a vocabulary more unique than Shakespeare’s. He formed an anti-folk rap group with singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson and wrote a children’s book (that wasn’t kid-friendly) with bearded illustrator Jeremy Fish. He’s often collaborated with El-P of Run The Jewels and he produced the third album for Murs and Slug’s duo as Felt. He’s Aesop Rock, sometimes known as Ian Bavitz, and he’s one of the most original voices in hip-hop today. The Portland rapper first got heads nodding to his beat in underground hip-hop circles in the ’90s, and became one of the first Def Jukies — a prominent member of Definitive Jux, the label founded by El-P, now on hiatus. Aesop’s first major release on the imprint in 2001, Labor Days, earned critical acclaim and cult status. Twenty years into his rap career, Bavitz says he’s been feeling fairly reflective these days. In fact, he says he’s surprised he’s still doing this rap thing at all. TROY FARAH
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Sara Watkins – Wednesday, December 7 – Crescent Ballroom
Sara Watkins is just 35, but her career has already spanned a quarter-century. She was still losing teeth and watching cartoons when she debuted as the prodigious fiddle player for the hit bluegrass band Nickel Creek, which also featured her brother, Sean, and Chris Thile, the latter of whom just took over Prairie Home Companion hosting duties from Garrison Keillor. Bluegrass, fiddle, Prairie Home — these are rock-ribbed touchstones of heartland America that point to the purest of cultural pedigrees. Since Nickel Creek disbanded in 2007 (notwithstanding a 2014 reunion album), Watkins has put out three superb solo LPs, unified only by their unpredictability. She still peppers her sets and records with bluegrass ditties that show that her chops as a traditional fiddler haven’t diminished a bit. MIKE SEELY
Children of Bodom – Wednesday, December 7 – The Pressroom
Having changed its name from Inearthed to a reference to the infamous Lake Bodom murders of 1960, this Finnish band continues to defy easy categorization in any specific subgenre of metal. The band's precision and furiously fast and melodic riffing are clearly influenced by the new wave of British heavy metal, while the players use enough underlying atmospheric tones and thrashy leads to garner a black-metal comparison, as well. But these Children perform their music with a clear zest for life, even if most of their lyrics focus on the kind of subject matter that inspired their current moniker. Like the thrash legends of the '80s, Children of Bodom has toured like its life depended on it over the course of its career — a work ethic that has yielded a consistently energetic and masterful live show. TOM MURPHY