Only a handful of days remain until 2015 turns into 2016 and there happens to be great concerts and live music events to check out almost every night. That’s especially true of Thursday, December 31, as tons of local bands and DJs will be out celebrating the occasion. Check out our concert picks for the waning days of 2015. (And while you’re at it, be sure to peruse our rundown of New Year’s Eve parties around the Valley, as well as our constantly updated online concert calendar.)
Orkesta Mendoza - Tuesday, December 29 - Crescent Ballroom
I do not claim to be a good dancer. At my best — and usually only with the aid of a good number of Tecates — I claim only to kind of knowing how to dance. I shudder to think what these arrhythmic sways look like to other people. Excuse my meandering: What I mean to say is I always dance at Orkesta Mendoza shows. I do so because you have to. Led by bandleader Sergio Mendoza (also of Calexico — hear his excellent turns on that band’s latest and greatest, Edge of the Sun) with vocalist Salvador Duran, Orkesta Mendoza was called “punk mariachi” by Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo early this year after he witnessed one of the band’s stellar live shows. The punkness of the big band’s ebullient mambo excursions isn’t stylistic; it’s more a statement about the combo’s intensity. Duran dances zapateados while crooning, locked in rhythm with the pounding timbales of Jack Sterbis and the swinging drums of Larry Lopez. Meanwhile, Mendoza punctuates the joyful jams with keyboard accents woven into tight interplay with lap steel guitarist Joe Novelli. It’s undeniable stuff from the best live band in Arizona, maybe the entire Southwest — the kind of music that makes bad dancers shuffle off their doubts and surrender to the rhythm. JASON P. WOODBURY
Kepi Ghoulie - Tuesday, December 29 - Trunk Space
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California-based musician Kepi Ghoulie, who primarily handles vocal and bass duties in his projects, is a man on a mission. He tours nonstop playing his signature garage-y, catchy, pop-punk songs, is continuously making new music, and creates original art that he sells at shows. He was in Chixdiggit, and spent over two decades in the poppy horror-punk band the Groovie Ghoulies, and since the latter's split in 2007, his dance card, as they say, has been full. He says it all stems back to those first artists to whom he was exposed as a kid. "Musically, the first seven-inch record I got was 'Monster Mash,' and then after that, I got Johnny Cash at San Quentin," he says. "That was in third grade, so you can see that not a lot has changed."
Ghoulie is someone who is continuously exploring the artistic freedom that comes from being an independent artist. For example, he recently made a record of music for kids. He has a few more styles he is planning on adding to the mix."I have toured a lot with Vic Ruggiero from the Slackers, Jesse Wagner from the Aggrolites, and Dan Potthast from MU330, so everybody is expecting a reggae/ska record someday," he says. Part of what is infectious about Ghoulie is his attitude. In addition to being a great songwriter and a stellar showman, the persistent positivity he exudes and the way he treats those he interacts with, from fans to fellow musicians to venue owners, is commendable. Trunk Space is a spot Ghoulie often plays when he visits Phoenix. AMY YOUNG
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
AZ Metalfest feat. Orgy - Tuesday, December 29 - Club Red
What a way to ring in the New Year, with some classic metal energy. First is Orgy, who helped drive the goth industrial scene back in 1998 with ol’ “Blue Monday,” and after a seven-year hiatus, started up again in 2011. It was the constant demand for new music that brought Orgy back, and legendary vocalist Jay Gordon has promised new music for 2016. Then we have Bobaflex. I first saw these guys at Rock on the Range about four years ago, and for some reason they made an impression on me. It wasn’t just the high energy and relentless touring; it’s their backstory: Brothers Shawn and Marty McCoy founded the band in ’98 and are known for their ancestral ties to one of the most legendary feuds in American history — the Hatfields and McCoys.
The Love Me Nots - Thursday, December 31 - Yucca Tap Room
Nothing like a punk rock dive when you are ushering in (or out) a year. Do you need to booze away the stains of another trip around the sun that didn’t go so well or was 2015 the “make it” year for you and you just want to rock? Either way, the Yucca is a place you can go to find what you need, especially if you’re looking for the Love Me Nots, who seem to have an affinity for the Tempe dive on the most interesting night to drive around town of the year. It was a good year for Phoenix’s Love Me Nots, which put out a fantastic record, Sucker, with its original lineup in place as they welcomed back bass player Christina Nunez to the fold after a multi-year hiatus. Recorded in Mesa at local neato-rock impresario Bob Hoag’s Flying Blanket Studios, Sucker delivers the type of goods fans of The Love Me Nots’ brand of Farfisa-laden guitar riffage have grown accustomed to over their years of steady domination of all things black and white. A true combination of sass and rocket sauce, this show undoubtedly will rule, so get your dancin’ (or drinkin’) shoes on and countdown the year that was and dream of what 2016 will be. TOM REARDON
Decadence NYE 2015 - Wednesday, December 30, and Thursday, December 31 - Rawhide
Practically every popular genre of modern-day electronic dance music is represented in the massive lineup of DJs and artists that will perform at this two-night New Year's extravaganza. That includes 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) will headline the event — which takes place on Wednesday, December 30, and Thursday, December 31 — and artists like Pegboard Nerds, Grandtheft, No Mana, and REZZ are also scheduled to appear. Both nights of the event kick off at 6 p.m. and run until 3 a.m. General admission is $79-$89, VIP access is $129-$139, and a two-night pass is $229. See arizona.decadencenye.com. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers - Thursday, December 31 - Marquee Theatre
There’s likely no place that Roger Clyne is quite so loved as he is in Phoenix, with Puerto Peñasco being the only possible exception, and his festival staple status is reflected in bookings throughout Arizona. The Tempe native did his time in The Refreshments as a founding member of one of the most storied rock acts in the state, and his Mexican Moonshine is as prevalent in cantina-themed restaurants here as are his songs. He’s like our own Sammy Hagar, just sans the red motif and piss-poor Van Halen tenure. While Clyne may be one of the more worldly musical offerings in Arizona right now, with his mariachi influence stemming from his ASU days studying “abroad” in Mexico, he’s also one of those guys that knows his wheelhouse well. There’s nothing offensive about Clyne, coming off like the distilled version of all of Kenny Chesney’s beach musings in one “groovy, dude” package, with good songwriting and a tight band. He doesn’t need to have a political edge or a hard rock song, nor does he embody some genre-pushing sentiment — he’s just a solid choice for a New Year’s Eve show, the modern-day Jerry Riopelle, with a dedicated local fan base that will come out in droves. Besides, who else but Arizonans would trade in their champagne flutes for a lime and a shot of tequila? K.C. LIBMAN
Flannel Ball 2015 - Thursday, December 31 - Lawn Gnome
This arty and action-packed New Year’s Eve tradition make a return for another round and will dominate the entirety of Lawn Gnome and adjacent spot The Growhouse with a variety of vendors, live music, games, eats from Mamacita's Food Truck, a beer garden, the works of local artists on display, a champagne toast hosted by comedian Kevin Patterson and a piñata drop at midnight, and (of course) plenty of flannel apparel for sale. Local musicians and bands scheduled to perform include Dustin Youso, Andy Warpigs, Psywave, and The Deep Down. The event starts at 9 p.m. Early bird tickets is $11.54 and general admission is $16.82, while access on the day of the event will be $27.37. Visit www.flannelball.com for more information. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
The Limit Club - Thursday, December 31 - The Rebel Lounge
You’re a hep cat on the prowl, looking for some New Year’s Eve fun and you’ve been itching to grease up the pompadour and throw on your favorite mechanic’s shirt for ages, but what are you going to do in Phoenix on the big (dumb) night? You’re going to the Rebel Lounge, that’s what, and you’re gonna see The Limit Club, one of the better local bands banging out a real rockabilly sound these days. The Limit Club has been throwing down their brand of cool, Stray Cats-inspired retro rock for the past decade and the time has been well spent as these gents have continued to hone their craft and take their place as one of the better bands in town. Joining The Limit Club for the festivities will be three other local acts: The Rebel Set, Shovel, and the Moonlight Howlers. Fans of ’60s garage punk laden with some groovy organ sounds will dig The Rebel Set and their 2015 take on the Fuzztones. Shovel, who are probably my favorite local duo since Less Pain Forever, fucking rock! Happy New Year! TOM REARDON
New Year’s Eve Block Party - Thursday, December 31 - Crescent Ballroom
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The New Year's Eve festivities at the Crescent will be nothing if not massive. Partying will take place at several locations in and around the venue, including inside its lounge and concert hall, along Second Avenue, and out back behind the place in an enormous tent. Famed art car/party bus Kalliope will serve as one of outdoor stage and various food trucks will also be on hand. The music menu will include live jazz inside and dance music offered pretty much everywhere else. The lineup includes such DJs as Sean Watson, Jared Alan, Dirty Doses, Dan H., Tristan, Klu, and others. The party kicks off at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Carnaval De Bar Vallee - Thursday, December 31 - Valley Bar
A splendorous array of delights both thrilling and sublime await on New Year's Eve at Valley Bar during the popular below ground bar and music venue's first-ever New Year's Eve celebration. A carnival-like atmosphere will mix with an old timey cabaret at the illustrious affair, which will include performances by burlesque artist Lola Torch and magician Rob Zabrecky, the tarot readings of Marcella the Mystic, music from the Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra and the Rue Monroe Jazz Quartette, and spins by DJ Shane Kennedy and Djentrification. The cavalcade begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $21 for general admission or $130 for four tickets and a reserved table. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN