Looking for a great concert to check out this week? We've got a few suggestions for your consideration – six of 'em, in fact, and every one of 'em is happening at music venues across the Metro Phoenix area over the next few nights. And all are worthy of both your time and money. (For even more live music options, check out our extensively updated online concert calendar.)
Waka Flocka Flame – Monday, December 21 – Livewire
Waka Flocka Flame is an artist known just as much for his antics on stage as off. The rapper (born Juaquin Malphurs) hit the scene in 2009 with a monster single, “O Let’s Do It,” which not only spawned a new era of down-South bounce rap, but also ushered a young man with little rap experience under his belt to the forefront of the new-school hip-hop class. While the New York-born, Georgia-bred MC does have a penchant for violent lyrics — his name, “Flocka Flame,” bestowed upon him by his mentor Gucci Mane, is an onomatopoeic throw to a “street-sweeping” automatic weapon when it’s aimed to fire — there is a cutting eloquence amid the madness. RU JOHNSON
The Barb Wire Dolls – Wednesday, December 21 – Last Exit Live
As you can see in the above photo, notorious LA band the Barb Wire Dolls look like a collage of punk-rock motifs, from their studded leather jackets to schoolgirl skirts with torn stockings. But their aesthetic is no indicator of their sound. The Dolls’ logo and personal style are largely borrowed from the Sex Pistols and the working-class, late-’70 British punk movement called Oi!; their name is a nod to the New York Dolls. But their sound isn’t as codified as their look. Even though they were courted by NOFX’s Fat Mike to join Fat Wreck Chords, the Dolls don’t write catchy pop-punk or emo. Instead, their sound evokes raw power, like the Stooges, blending elements of metal and grunge with European street punk. It’s a combination that gets heavier rather than harder on their latest album, Desperate, which was released by Motörhead Music this past summer. Slit, a much angrier statement engineered by Steve Albini that was released in 2012, includes cover art depicting Isis holding a microphone between her thighs and the track “Your Escape,” their live set’s most vicious three minutes of punk. Plus, they were favorites of the late Lemmy Kilmister, which is the kind of badass rock 'n' roll cred that money can't buy. ART TAVANA
House of Stairs – Tuesday, December 20 – The Lost Leaf
House of Stairs’ grooves are jazzy and soulful, and improvisation is central to their performance, which has earned them a reputation as a “jazz” band. For what it’s worth, their music is often featured on local jazz station KJZZ, but their sound is closer to the ambient textures of Kid A-era Radiohead, while singer Holly Pyle’s vocals most evoke Beth Gibbons of Portishead. The disparity in sound has led to somewhat of an identity crisis. “Basically, jazz listeners don’t think we’re a jazz band,” Pyle says. “And non-jazz listeners think we’re a jazz band.” Whatever category they fit into, or don’t, House of Stairs have unique instrumentation. Not many jazz bands – or few bands in general – add in digital drums or live-mixed vocal loops over low-tempo poly-rhythmic riffs. And like any decent jazz band, they can do a mean cover. Similar to the M.C. Escher lithograph the group takes its name from, House of Stairs often takes two-dimensional pop songs like Beyoncé’s “Déjà Vu” and Thom Yorke’s “Eraser” and stacks them on top of each other to create illusionary new tunes. TROY FARAH
Asleep at the Wheel’s Holiday Show – Wednesday, December 21 – MIM
Freewheeling and eclectic, Asleep at the Wheel have been one of the most important forces of Western swing since the 1970s. More or less picking up the torch left behind by the king himself, Bob Wills, they have played a huge role in keeping the genre alive. They have not only kept these sounds from disappearing in country music, but also updated the art form. Asleep at the Wheel’s live performances have received much critical acclaim, and you can expect to see around 10 musicians on stage, a mere snapshot of a collective that has featured more than 80 members over the years. But there is no mistaking frontman Ray Benson for anyone else. At 6’7” he has been towering over the band for over four decades. Benson grew up listening to a variety of music, particularly jazz, and covers of songs by Louis Jordan and Count Basie have been particularly memorable over the years. On Wednesday, the group will bring its holiday showcase to the Musical Instrument Museum and perform a variety of seasonal songs and hits. JEREMY HALLOCK
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Wax – Wednesday, December 21 – Pub Rock
Los Angeles-based rapper and emcee Wax is anything but ordinary. The multi-instrumentalist, podcaster, and YouTube extraordinaire first rose to fame after fronting the band MacGregor in 2000. Five years later, he left the band and he and his brother, Herbal T, began uploading YouTube videos showcasing the young rapper's talent and humor. Wax then went on to land a spot on the video-sharing channel's Top 100 Musicians list, and has since hit his stride with numerous EPs, mixtapes, collaborations, and albums. Wax's fusion of reggae and indie hip-hop has led to the success of albums such as 2008's Liquid Courage, 2015's Livin' Foul, and most recently, The Cookout Chronicles. DIAMOND VICTORIA
Courtney Marie Andrews – Thursday, December 22 – Crescent Ballroom
Courtney Marie Andrews is always in flux, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. The Phoenix-born and -raised folk artist has spent the better part of her adult life in some state of movement, never lingering in one place for too long. Though Arizona will always be home – “It’s nice to see people that knew you before you were you,” she says – her roving lifestyle lends well to the music she creates. It’s this constant change that has inspired her latest record, the brilliant and multifaceted Honest Life, a body of work that’s equal parts coming-of-age and full-throated, fleshed-out Americana. KRISTIAN C. LIBMAN