Look, we get it. You’re probably going to be really short on money and time this month, what with the holidays exhausting your supply of both. But if you can somehow pry yourself away from the yuletide hullabaloo and set aside a few bucks for yourself, any of the following concerts happening during December would be worth attending.
There’s also a wealth of other great shows happening from now until the end of 2015, which are all contained within our exhaustive online concert calendar.
The Bad Plus Joshua Redman - Thursday, December 3 - Musical Instrument Museum
The best jazz cover of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” appears on the 2004 album Give by The Bad Plus. The Minneapolis trio’s arrangement of the tune is crazily creative, and in pounding out the iconic Iommi riff, pianist Ethan Iverson proves how aurally heavy an acoustic instrument can be. Although this band doesn’t trade exclusively in metal covers, they bring the same unconventional approach to all of their work, tackling material ranging from Igor Stravinsky to the Pixies, from Ornette Coleman to original compositions. At their performance at the Musical Instrument Museum on December 3, they’re joined by superstar saxophonist Joshua Redman, the new fourth member of the band. LINDA LESEMAN
The Garden - Thursday, December 3 - Pub Rock
Twins Wyatt and Fletcher Shears (bass and drums, respectively) have four instruments onstage. That is, if you count their bodies, which they often use as instruments of destruction, whether they're diving into crowds or growling and convulsing like a band possessed. And as the Garden's haunting, garage-punk playing improves, the fun-spirited fury they conjure up with songs such as "Energy Yelp," "Grass" and "Vada Vada" will only intensify.
When they're onstage, there's no time to bask in the glow of being the next big act out of Orange County. Even the fact the beanpole twosome are both part-time models contracted for campaigns with fashion giant Yves Saint Laurent (seriously!) doesn't seem to go to their heads. None of the outside attention from the world stage matters as much as the one they're on at the moment — the one they're intent on destroying. At a Garden show, you never know what's going to happen. All we know is they want to grab you by the collar and drag you into the moment (and the mosh pit) right along with them.
Japhy’s Descent - Friday, December 4 - The Rebel Lounge
Japhy’s Descent’s last two albums have really been collaborative efforts between the band's four members and what seems like all of their friends in the Phoenix music scene. Between the the three discs that encompass their last two records — double album Moon/Noon and their Winnie the Pooh-themed 2014 release Christopher Robin — Martin Sugg, Travis Ryder, James Sharp, and Brian Neil really brought out as many of the Valley’s indie artists as they could. So for their new record Senseless they decided to cut out the outsiders and make it all about the four members and their collective chemistry. The new record has five songs representing the five senses.
Though there is a clear “theme” running throughout the album, guitarist Sugg says the band is not considering Senseless to be a concept record like their past two releases. Written in just two days, it was recorded half at STEM Recording and half at bass player Brian Niel’s home studio (Oak Street Studios), and with the more stripped-down recording process, emerges a far more stripped-down sound. All of the tracks on the record were recorded live with minimal overdubs on solos and backing vocals. Japhy’s Descent will be dropping Senseless on December 4 with a release party at Rebel Lounge featuring performances by synth punks Fairy Bones, rockers Captive Crooks, and Wyves. JEFF MOSES
Snoop Dogg - Friday, December 4 - Livewire
Snoop Dogg is one of the very few performers in hip-hop who can say he's watched the genre grow old with grace. From his tumultuous times at Death Row Records to a questionable signing with the No Limit label, Snoop has soldiered on through the years to become one of the game's greatest legends. His lyrics, his California swag and his consistent ear for head-banging rap beats continually put Snoop ahead of the class. His coolness is immeasurable, and he envelops his audiences with it at his shows. Well, that and marijuana smoke. Through it all, Snoop has built the Doggfather legacy and amassed a cult following that grows with every performance and carries his hip-hop message to the world. RU JOHNSON
Muse - Saturday, September 5 - Gila River Arena
Chris Wolstenholme, the bassist of Muse, has stated on the record that contributing to three of the soundtracks for the Twilight film series was like “selling your soul.” For the modern progressive pop-rock trio, the devil comes in the form of sparkly teenage vampires with good hair. Yet the band credits the films, inspired by the popular work of Glendale author Stephanie Meyer, for their popularity in America. With more than 17 million albums sold in an age when streaming reigns supreme, there is also the possibility that talent might have something to do with their success.
Muse draws liberally from influences like Queen, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead, proving themselves fully capable of taking the musical reins. Wolstenholme, drummer Dominic Howard and guitarist, vocalist extraordinaire, and eccentric tabloid mainstay Matt Bellamy are bringing their latest tour to Meyer’s hometown in support of their most recent opus Drones. If creating singles for melodramatic, teen-targeted films allows Muse to write a heady politically-charged concept album, then making a deal with the same corporate demons that are the targets of Bellamy’s stadium anthems is worth the trouble. The music will manifest itself onstage with an audio-visual “in the round” experience. JASON KEIL
Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy - Saturday, December 5 - Talking Stick Resort
In the prog rock world, the formation of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in 1970 was like creating a sci-fi movie with Alien, Predator, and Godzilla. Basically, something all kinds of awesome that was like clickbait for music nerds. Keyboardist Keith Emerson was in The Nice and played a show in San Francisco with prog rock heavyweights King Crimson, where he met bassist Greg Lake. King Crimson was undergoing one of many lineup changes it would endure throughout the ensuing decades, and the two eventually added Atomic Rooster drummer Carl Palmer to the mix.
The result was a supergroup with staying power, sticking together the next 25 years. These days, Lake and Emerson aren’t on the best terms with Palmer, as Palmer put the kibosh on any reunion hopes in 2010. But Palmer is dramatically re-working the band’s catalog and touring relentlessly. The ELP Legacy show will be very different from an Emerson, Lake & Palmer show in the ’70s. But maybe seeing Emerson, Lake & Palmer songs performed on a guitar is not sacrilege, but evolution. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult - Saturday, November 5 - Pub Rock Live
My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult began as a film idea that Frankie Nardiello and Marsten Daley had that never fully came to fruition. The two met while touring with Ministry, and in 1987, inspired in part by disco, exploitation films, the industrial scene happening around them in Chicago and a mutual love for campy horror movies, the pair formed a creative partnership that produced something better than any movie they could have made. With Nardiello taking on the stage name of Groovie Mann and Daley performing as Buzz McCoy, the two larger-than-life characters have been making larger-than-life music and putting on incredibly entertaining and gloriously colorful (in every sense) shows ever since.
TKK, as the act is sometimes known, had a breakthrough hit with the irreverent "Kooler Than Jesus," and its 1991 album, Sexplosion!, made the band an underground sensation. In 1994, TKK appeared in the iconic film The Crow and did music for that accidental classic of sleaze Showgirls, which helped solidify the band's reputation even more as a noteworthy act, as the excellent soundtrack fared better in reviews than the film itself. Since then, Thrill Kill Kult has been on numerous tours and released five albums, including its latest, 2009's Death Threat. Early Satanic imagery and lyrical themes included in the humorously lurid aesthetic of the band, TKK has not been a group that has taken itself as seriously as it has the execution of its music and putting on a compelling live show. TOM MURPHY
Tanlines - Saturday, December 5 - Valley Bar
The Brooklyn-based dance-pop duo Tanlines know exactly what you are saying about them on Twitter. They’re often answering tweeted fan questions. Fans, take solace in the knowledge that when you tweet that their catchy New Wave and hip-hop influenced hipster music makes your workday go by that much faster, guitarist Eric Emm and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Cohen are reading intently. They may even respond humorously to your critique. While Tanlines isn’t lashing out against their opinionated followers on social media, they’re savvy to how their audience consumes media on the Internet.
Their website resembles the recommendations page on Netflix. It comes complete with fake movie posters highlighting singles from their new album Highlights. Real movie posters represent where the next stop on their tour is, with the classic Coen Brothers’ comedy Raising Arizona standing in for their second performance at Valley Bar this year. Tanlines’ music shouldn’t be tied to your screen time anyway. Their rhythmic music is better suited for your morning run than putting together that TPS Report. And who knows? They might retweet that photo you took of them at their show. JASON KEIL
!!! (Chk Chk Chk) - Monday, December 7 - Crescent Ballroom
For nearly two decades now, !!! (sometimes known as Chk-Chk-Chk, or as any three monosyllabic exclamations) have been expertly getting crowds moving with their unstoppable dance-punk anthems. Their sixth full-length As If came out in October and sees the consummate live band referencing “Pardon My Freedom,” from classic 2004 LP Louden Up Now, with the funk-rock stomp of “Freedom ’15,” featuring a full gospel choir backing frontman Nic Offer’s characteristic falsetto. Lindsey Rhoades
The Milk Carton Kids - Monday, December 7 - Mesa Arts Center
When L.A. natives Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan weave their voices together, the effect can silence the most restive crowd. Then one of them will crack a joke and leave that same crowd in stitches. With their vintage guitars and microphones, Milk Carton Kids often are labeled folk revivalists, especially since many audiences discover them through NPR's roots-leaning Mountain Stage or the HBO documentary Another Day/Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis. While their approach can seem antiquated, the results often feel thrillingly original, and quickly put to rest any easy Simon and Garfunkel or Welch and Rawlings comparisons. ANDY HERMANN
Nik Turner's Hawkwind - Tuesday, December 8 - The Rebel Lounge
Musician Nik Turner once spent the night in the Great Pyramid of Egypt. True story. In fact, he feels it gave him great insight into an ancient civilization that existed prior to Egypt, evidence of which exists in the mythological accounts of other civilizations. “When I studied Egyptology, I couldn't figure out how you suddenly had this instantaneous, fully formed civilization without any predecessor,” says Turner. “I didn't find out how the civilization developed without any guesses. So I made up my own mythology, in which Quetzalcoatl came from Atlantis — and when Atlantis sank, he and other people went to the social centers of the world like Egypt, Sumeria and, I guess, India, and took all his knowledge of astronomy, astrology, mathematics, science, civility and agriculture with him.”
As he explored these theories, Turner enjoyed quite a diverse and artistically respectable career. His numerous collaborations include other figures in experimental music like Genesis P-Orridge, Jello Biafra and Chrome guitarist Helios Creed. For Turner's 2015 album, Space Fusion Odyssey, his collaborators stretched to embrace jazz-fusion legend Billy Cobham, Steve Hillage and Gillie Smyth of Gong; former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland; John Weinzierl of Amon Düül II and Nicky Garrett of Hedersleben and UK Subs. The result sounds like what might happen if especially talented players were able to make an unusual and fascinating hybrid of free jazz and fluid psychedelic rock. TOM MURPHY
Papa - Thursday, December 10 - Crescent Ballroom
This duo's rise to popularity is one part former Girls member (singer-drummer Darren Weiss), two parts boyhood friendship and all parts rock. Papa is the kind of soulful band that will cover a Patti Smith song and then turn the crowd into a swoonfest with Weiss' demands to "make you [his] woman." Given the friendly demeanor of Weiss and bassist Daniel Peasant, it's no surprise that they get away with songs like "Let's Make You Pregnant." Vocals have an exuberance like Springsteen's and charms like Dean Martin's, all laid on top of exhilarating beats and elegant piano. While balancing gentle crooning with captivating melodies, Papa remain robust. Fingers crossed for new songs at this show. BRITT WITT
Casey Veggies - Saturday, December 12 - The Pressroom
Casey Veggies is not a new name. The 22-year-old rapper popped up on radars as a member of the Odd Future crew in 2007. According to math, he was 14 when he began releasing mixtapes, and he stayed heavy buzzing through 2013, releasing seven hot tapes. In 2014, he made inroads on national radio. His single "Backflip," featuring fellow Californians YG and Iamsu!, exposed him to a broader mainstream audience. His follow-up with Dej Loaf, "Tied Up," saw him take new territory on the U.S. R&B charts.
Now he celebrates his greatest accomplishment to date: the release of his first official album, Live & Grow. It builds on Casey's near-decade of experience, with 13 tracks that capture a range of feelings and styles. In between is a myriad of smart clips, funky flows, and booty beats, he raps about the importance of following one's dreams, and he bemoans the fake and fickle world of fame. One minute, he's starting the party with a track about strippers; the next, he's waxing poetic about lives lost through police brutality. "I think I'm a well-balanced person," he says. "I just got different elements to me as a person, so I just want that to come across in the music. I think as a rapper, as an artist, you should be able to give the listener every element, every emotion. That's what I wanted to do on this album, just express myself, and every song is expressing something different." KAT BEIN
Chicano Batman - Saturday, December 12 - The Rebel Lounge
Chicano Batman resemble freaky-deaky prom kings as they play their psychedelic cumbias and Farfisa-driven ballads and prog-pop gems. The East Los Angeles quartet's latest album, Cycles of Existential Rhyme, is warm and deeply funky. Even an eightysomething mom can give it up for singer Bardo Martinez, a crooner with plenty of Brazil in his voice. And there's more than a little trippy tropicália in the cool crusaders' cozy yet structurally akimbo jams, which reassemble Mexican balladry filtered through early Pink Floyd. RICHARD GEHR
Mogwai and Lights - Saturday, December 12 - Marquee Theatre
Scottish post-rock heroes Mogwai is the band most instrumental rock groups that have started in the past decade want to be when they grow up. Beginning with 1997's epic Young Team and continuing with the release of the group's eighth studio LP, last January's Rave Tapes, Stuart Braithwaite, John Cummings, Dominic Aitchison, Martin Bulloch and Barry Burns have found inventive ways to avoid the sonic monotony that many guitar-driven instrumental rock acts eventually suffer from. Loud, quiet, loud and back again is great, but Mogwai pushes the formula with each record, whether it is a proper studio album or a film score.
While lyrics in Mogwai numbers are really rare, the band still finds ways to convey a rather sharp, sometimes perplexing, sense of humor. The song titles are often employed as vehicles to simply give the band a giggle, and nothing more, though so many titles are thought provoking, especially the many songs bearing titles with seemingly religious connotations, such as "You Don't Know Jesus," "Devil Rides," and "Mogwai Fear Satan.” KELLY DEARMORE
Alt AZ’s Ugly Sweater Holiday Party 2015 - Sunday, December 13, and Monday, December 14 - Mesa Amphitheatre
While we can’t guarantee that everyone in attendance at either day of Valley radio station Alt AZ’s annual Christmastime concert will actually be sporting an unsightly holiday-related pullover or sweater, we’re fairly certain they’ll be kept in rapt attention by all of the indie rock and pop acts scheduled to perform during the two-night event at Mesa Amp. The lineup, which leans pretty heavy on international acts, will include British-born indie poppers Bastille, Scottish electronica band Chvrches, and London-based alternative rockers Wolf Alice on Sunday, December 13; followed the next night by Iceland’s Of Monster and Men, singer-songwriter George Ezra, and X Ambassadors (the alt-rockers that helped sell millions of Jeep Renegades). BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Agnostic Front - Monday, December 14 - The Rebel Lounge
Alongside Cro-Mags and Murphy's Law, Agnostic Front personified an indigenous folk music of early-1980s New York City: hardcore. Angrier and less artsy than its stateside punk predecessors, NYHC told tales of Reagan-era urban marginalization and resulting street-level brawling and bonding through battered beats, primitive guitars and "singing" that sounded more like the barked orders of a takeover bandit. During multiple lineup changes (and a jail term for frontman Roger Miret), Agnostic Front went kinda metal, lost fans, then returned to their sometimes overly sentimental "oi" roots and connected with a whole new generation of pissed-off pit-heads. With pessimism becoming America's pastime, Agnostic Front make perfect sense again. PAUL ROGERS
The 1975 - Monday, December 14 - Marquee Theatre
The 1975 sounds exactly like a band that cut their teeth on as many Brian Eno as Michael Jackson and Rolling Stones songs. Unlikely as it sounds, that's exactly how the Manchester four-piece got their start more than a decade ago, and reached fruition on 2013’s eponymous debut LP. The album is heavy on the dreamlike atmospherics of UK contemporaries like Glasvegas, with several songs obviously descended from the Cocteau Twins, but others are just one or two degrees removed from being screamed out by thousands of tweens at One Direction concerts. And the 1975 may get there yet. CHRIS GRAY
The English Beat - Tuesday, December 15 - Musical Instrument Museum
Inspired by the first wave of punk in the U.K., the Beat combined the social critique of punk with the broader emotional and sonic palette of reggae. Formed in 1978, the English Beat (so named when the band made its way across the Atlantic) released three classic albums before Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger moved on to form General Public, where they realized great commercial success. The two eventually parted ways to front their own versions of their original band. These days, there are two versions of the English Beat: one in this country, led by Dave Wakeling, and another in the U.K., featuring Ranking Roger, the band's classic toaster.
Nashville Pussy - Friday, December 18 - Yucca Tap Room
Minting unapologetically debaucherous 180-proof hard rock for nigh on two decades now, Nashville Pussy revels in everything that’s bad for you. The Atlanta-based group led by front man Blaine Cartwright and Ruyter Suys has been celebrating sin and sizzling ‘70s licks in copious amounts since 1998 debut Let Them Eat Pussy, giving Motorhead’s hell-bent-for-leather ethos a healthy dose of good old Southern attitude. Their seventh album, last year’s Up the Dosage, certainly delivers the goods, but 2009 predecessor From Hell to Texas is also worth mentioning: recorded at the Willie Nelson-owned Pedernales Recording Studio in the Lone Star State, it lays on the dirty boogie so thick it’s probably the best unofficial ZZ Top tribute albums ever released. CHRIS GRAY
Mötley Crüe - Saturday, December 19 - Talking Stick Resort Arena
Mötley Crüe aren't at the top of the hair-metal heap because they play dirty, sleazy rock 'n' roll. They're there because they live dirty, sleazy rock 'n' roll. Although their days of snorting elephant tranquilizers are (hopefully) behind them, the Crüe continue to produce material that focuses on themes of excess, bombast and, of course, girls, girls, girls.
Despite repeated breakups, the Crüe remain one of rock's great cockroaches, coming back again and again with their cacophonous stage show in tow. And then there's the music: Lest we forget, they released one of the best albums of the '80s with Too Fast for Love. Although they're getting a bit old and crusty, there's still nothing else quite like watching "Live Wire" performed live. Mötley Crüe are currently on what’s being billed as its “final tour” and will play its last-ever visit to Phoenix on December 19. Local shock rock legend Alice Cooper is also on the bill. LAURA MANN
Night of 1,000 Reunions - Saturday, December 19 - The Rebel Lounge
Reuniting with old friends is as much a staple of the holidays as the egg nog and fancifully wrapped gifts. So this showcase of old-school Phoenix music scene favorites from the aughts reuniting for one night only feels very much in the spirit of the season. The lineup of the night, which is being put on by Onus Records and Heritage Hump, will feature reunions by the catchy pop purveyors of Trunk Federation, guitar-and-drum duo Less Pain Forever, and glam-tinged rock ‘n’ rollers The Beat Angels. Fittingly, its being held at The Rebel Lounge, the onetime site of iconic rock bar The Mason Jar, which all three acts performed at way back when. Jim Andreas, the ultra-talented guitarist and vocalist Trunk Federation, will be pulling double duty during the evening, as he’ll also perform with his latest band, No Volcano. (Full disclosure: longtime New Times contributor Serene Dominic organized the event and will also perform). BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Tijuana Panthers - Tuesday, December 29 - Valley Bar
Tijuana Panthers’ latest album, Poster, is an unexpected rejuvenation for a band that was already pretty healthily juvenated. Whether through timing, circumstance, calculation or just happy accident, Tijuana Panthers used Poster to take the basics of what made their band great and make them even better. They’ve got their same instinct for pop and affection for unabashed noisemaking, but there’s new focus and, somehow, a new capability for fearless human revelation, too. (Maybe they deeply reconnected with their Modern Lovers records?) The result is an answering echo to bands like The Verlaines and The Feelies, beaming out of a car stereo somewhere in Phoenix. CHRIS ZIEGLER
Decadence - Wednesday, December 30, and Thursday, December 31 - Rawhide
Not to disparage your tastes in electronic dance music, but if you can’t find something to like in this two-night New Year’s Eve event’s massive lineup, then its safe to say you’re probably not a fan of modern-day EDM. Practically every popular genre of dance music is represented in Decadence’s slate of performers, from dubstep (Borgore, Adventure Club), crunkstep (Crizzly), and drum ‘n’ bass (Dieselboy) to trance (Above & Beyond, Cosmic Gate), future house (Tchami), UK garage (Gorgon City), indietronica (ODESZA), good ol’ electro (Tommy Trash, Manufactured Superstars), and even “jungle terror” (Wiwek). The trap-happy team of EDM grandmasters Skrillex and Diplo (a.k.a. Jack Ü) are ostensibly the headliners and artists like Pegboard Nerds, Grandtheft, No Mana, and REZZ are also scheduled to appear. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN