Top Five Must-See Shows This Week
Meshell Ndegeocello is scheduled to perform Thursday, December 6, at the Musical Instrument Museum.
Yeah, yeah, yeah...we get it Mondays suck (we've read Garfield). But it means the start of a new week, which means a bunch of killer shows in and around Phoenix. And here are a few of the coolest, our top five must-see shows this week.
Math the Band is scheduled to perform Monday, December 3, at Trunk Space
Short-circuited spazz pop screamers Math the Band have been grinding out and streaking across the country for nearly a decade, spreading a tapestry of peaked soundboard levels and extreme sincerity.
Guitarist, singer, and composer Kevin Steinhauser teamed up with his girlfriend Justine Mainville in 2007 to solidify the current line-up, and he estimates the band is approaching over 900 live shows played. While acknowledging the grueling physical toll of near-constant touring, Steinhauser says the band is fueled by a positive feedback loop of high-tempo posi-punk songs feeding high-energy audiences who give the good feelings right back.
"Every night we see people who are all probably motivated and energetic people themselves," he says. "It all feeds into itself."
The band spent last summer recording their latest album, Get Real, at the mammoth non-profit art collective AS220 in Providence, Rhode Island, where the two are artists in residence. The album combines the arena-sized bear-hug riffage of party rocker Andrew WK (who brought Math on tour last year), the tweaked synth dorkery of Atom and His Package, and the absurd yet serious motivational verse of traveling YouTube "Internet poet" Steve Roggenbuck. The band proudly notes that not a single track on Get Real dips below 170 beats per minute.-- Chase Kamp
There's still a beating heart left in chamber pop, and you can find it in Kopecky Family Band.
Chances are good that if the Nashville six-piece has caught your attention, it was because you either saw the band live or have a friend who did and couldn't keep it to herself.
Such is the persuasive power of KFB and its penchant for cinematic builds that Paste Magazine named it one of the best 25 live acts of 2011. And if list appearances don't do it for you, give 2010's The Disaster, which the band describes as "a seven-song adventure," a spin. --Kiernan Maletsky
His band, Pedro the Lion (of which Bazan was the sole consistent member) had a string of impressive releases to its name, including 1998's It's Hard to Find a Friend and 2000's Winners Never Quit, plus a couple of singles and EPs. The albums were greeted with enthusiasm by the alternative music press, praising the band's taut "slowcore" indie rock style. Bazan was lauded as a gifted lyricist, stringing together Biblical morality plays, remarkable human drama, Doubting Thomas confessionals, and haunting devotionals. You didn't have to be a Christian rock fan to like Pedro the Lion; the band recorded for a secular label (Jade Tree) and played with secular bands.
But for Christian fans, Bazan was a rare kind of songwriter. He was honest, and he created music that didn't pander. It was resolute, but it wasn't rigid.
But with his 2002 record, Control, Bazan's music got even harder to classify as "Christian rock," if it had ever been before. It wasn't that Bazan's music had previously been "clean" by morality-police standards (his songs included references to both sex and drugs), but Control was something else. It was louder, with Pinkerton-as-played-by Fugazi guitars and booming drums. There were swear words and, cardinally, the record was a scathing indictment of the religious right in the Bush era. Which wasn't exactly Bazan's plan.--Jason Woodbury
Punch Brothers are scheduled to perform Thursday, December 6, at Crescent Ballroom
If Robert Fripp had discovered mandolin and bluegrass instead of guitar and classical symphonies, he might have formed a band like The Punch Brothers instead of King Crimson. The honor of actually founding the Punch Brothers goes to former Nickel Creek mandolin player Chris Thile. The MacArthur Fellow kick-started the progressive bluegrass quintet in 2006, after his old band's dissolution, and immediately put the "prog" to work. In 2007, Thile performed a four-movement, 40-minute suite at Carnegie Hall titled "The Blind Leading the Blind," reportedly inspired by his 2003 divorce. It would comprise the majority of the Punch Brother's self-titled 2008 debut.
Their subsequent 2010 release, Antifogmatic, continued to build on that template pushing the rootsy, new-grass spirit beyond the mountains and Celtic inspirations. The jazzy, dramatic arrangements are characterized by changing dynamics, tempos, and time signatures, but they're delivered with such a seasoned, understated touch that they're little more than tight corners in an invigorating ride. Thile keenly balances his arty impulses with hooks, craftsmanship, and flair. Many of the songs on last year's third LP, Who's Feeling Young Now, move with a woozy rag-tinged amble reminiscent of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. The blend of "hillbilly" music and jazzy NPR sophistication gives lie to old classist genre divisions.--Chris Parker
Thursday, December 6: Meshell Ndegeocello @ MIM
Meshell Ndegeocello's latest album Pour une âme souveraine ("for a sovereign soul") is the perfect compliment to the career of an artist as vast and complex as Nina Simone.
Paying homage to Simone, Ndegeocello, whose career spans more than two decades, shines brilliantly on tracks like "House of the Rising Sun" and "Be My Husband," bouncing between genres like soul, R&B, and funk effortlessly.
Like Simone, Ndegeocello is impossible to put in a box. She's rapped, played bass with Madonna, and is probably one of the biggest influences in the neo-soul revival. She, like the late Simone, is also an activist. Her 2011 album Weather would have been hard to follow. But Ndegeocello does just that, with gusto and spirit. --Richard Noel
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