The holidays might with over with and done, but its gonna take us a little while to fully decompress, sober up, and allow things to get back to normal. Admittedly, we're not the only ones who are readjusting, and there's no better way to illustrate that than the relative absence of touring bands and musicians for first week or so of January as everyone gets back on the road.
That's not to say there aren't great shows to see in the interim, as many notable locals are putting on some big gigs, which you can scope out for yourself via our online concert calendar and daily music picks.
However, once things get going later this month, its really going to get going. And its due largely due to two big sporting events.
In case you've been living under a rock out in the desert wastelands, Super Bowl XLIX is coming to the Valley in less than a month's time and bringing an enormous amount of marquee-level concerts with it. The same weekend, the annual Waste Management Phoenix Open will happen up in Scottsdale and will include the usually raucous Coors Light Birds Nest hosting nameworthy performers.
The net result is a helluva lot of good shows between now and January 31. And here are 25 of 'em which we think you'll dig.
Jimmy Gnecco - Wednesday, January 7 - Wasted Grain
If there's ever a Jimmy Gnecco biopic -- and his 41 years to date would already make for compelling viewing -- he'll surely be portrayed on the streets of his native New Jersey as "Jimmy the Voice," so remarkable is the emotionally elastic sound emanating from his incongruously slight frame. Having fronted perennial big-name opening act Ours for 20 years, Gnecco released his stripped-down solo debut, The Heart, in 2010. That album was followed a year later by a full-band version of the similarly titled The Heart: X Edition. Whatever the instrumental accompaniment, delicately acoustic or bombastically electric, it's the man's Jeff Buckley-esque, compellingly textured murmurs and falsetto-flecked, visceral howl that lend even the most ambiguous of lyrics a lived-in sense of import, which continues to command cult-level reverence. PAUL ROGERS
Chicha Dust - Thursday, January 8 - Crescent Ballroom
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As one of the most prominent exports of our southern sister city, Chicha Dust infuses the often arid, expansive textures of desert rock with a decidedly psychedelic approach to cumbia, the traditional Latin American roots music. What results is a product that sounds a lot closer to the border than many of frontman Brian Lopez's contemporaries -- he stays true to the urgent, hip-swinging rhythm of cumbia, layered with searing solo runs and the wah pedal inflections of guitarist/vocalist Gabriel Sullivan. Those in the know of Tucson's diverse and insular music community will immediately recognize both Lopez and Sullivan, incredibly talented and adept artists in their own right. The interplay between the two is a dynamic best shown than told about; however, as Sullivan's dark, rasping tone foils nicely against Lopez's authentic vocal approach and articulated guitar playing.
Mind you, this is by and far away from your grandparents' mariachi. This is fast, incredibly danceable rock at its very core, with tight musicianship the chosen vehicle of delivery. Chicha Dust are as much a percussive band as anything else, who have figured out how to deftly meld the old world with the new, like Hendrix crashing through the jungle on a Peruvian ayahuasca trip. Often touted as Tucson's brightest young musical exports, Chicha Dust is far more than just the result of Lopez and Sullivan coming together -- it's a bold take on traditional music that sounds like nothing and everything you'd expect it to be. KC LIBMAN
Whitey Morgan and the 78's - Thursday, January 8 - Rhythm Room
Whitey Morgan and the 78's are the greatest country band you've never heard. In the country bar of your wildest dreams, this is what plays on the jukebox while you double-fist Miller High Life and shots of Fireball, including everything from rockers to weepers, honky-tonks to cheaters. NICHOLAS PELL
Jeff Bridges and the Abiders - Friday, January 9 - Livewire
For the past decade or so, Jeff Bridges has been living a boyhood dream. After learning to play guitar from his brother Beau, the actor spent his teenage years jamming with friends in garage sessions in Venice - a joy he hasn't given up. And while winning an Oscar for Best Actor in Crazy Heart was a career highlight, Bridges has spent a fair amount of time out on the road touring with his country folk band, the Abiders. Unlike other wannabe actor-come-singers, Bridges manages to toe the delicate line between a polished pro and grizzled troubadour -- who else could say with a straight face that they made a record with producer extraordinaire T-Bone Burnett? Yet the 64-year-old loves the rigors of the road, which is more than we can say for many musicians half his age. DANIEL KOHN
John Digweed - Saturday, January 10 - Monarch Theatre
John Digweed has been living the dream for decades; at age eleven, all he wanted in life was to be a DJ. Suffice it to say, he reached his goal -- and then some. Alongside famed collaborator Sasha, Digweed was a resident at Twilo in New York City; he appeared in Groove as himself, playing a set at a massive San Francisco party; and he's been voted the number-one DJ in DJ Mag, among other accolades. Throughout his decades-spanning career, Digweed has made sure the music always comes first. "What excites me is new music," he says. "I'm always about throwing forward, not backward." Lovers of progressive trance -- and lovers of electronic music, period -- will be out in force at the Monarch to hear his tunes piped over the club's superb PK Sound system. AMBER TAUFEN
Damon Johnson - Saturday, January 10 - MIM
The name Damon Johnson may not ring a bell automatically, even if you are a hardcore rock 'n' roll fan. But this Alabama-bred guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter has been a part of rock's favorite acts. His band, Brother Cane, released three albums and two number one singles on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, as well as toured with Van Halen, Aerosmith, Robert Plant and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In 2006, he was a part of the country music group Whiskey Falls and then was hired as a guitarist for Alice Cooper for two stints, from 2004 to 2007 and again from 2009 to 2011. He contributed songwriting and guitar duties to Sammy Hagar, Stevie Nicks, Ted Nugent, Carlos Santana, and Faith Hill and has released two solo albums, with one featuring a duet with his daughter and a guest appearance by Cooper on the harmonica and vocals.
But in September 2011, Johnson was given the opportunity of his lifetime. As a longtime Thin Lizzy fan, he was asked to join the band as full-time guitarist. At that point though, the last lineup of the legendary band decided to record new material under a different name, sort of like the "next evolution of Thin Lizzy." So Thin Lizzy alumni Ricky Warwick (guitar, vocals), Johnson (guitar), Marco Mendoza (bass) and the addition of drummer Jimmy Degrasso (Alice Cooper, Megadeth, Suicidal Tendency) decided to found Black Star Riders. The band released its debut album in 2013, and the response from old Thin Lizzy fans and new fans of hard rock was positive and enthusiastic -- to say the least. LAUREN WISE
The English Beat - Saturday, January 10 - Livewire
Every skanking fan of 2 Tone Ska owes a little something to The English Beat. Formed in 1978, the original line up, led by front man Dave Wakeling, spearheaded into mainstream success from 1980-82. Their infamous rude boy anthems like "Mirror in the Bathroom," "Best Friend," and "Too Nice To Talk To" showed off a unique style of ska and pop that still gets you bouncing every time you hear it. These days, Wakeling fronts the U.S. version of this legendary ska group. Thin ties and trilby hats are welcome. NATE JACKSON
California X - Sunday, January 11 - 51 West
Anchored by the red-hot troika of Speedy Ortiz, Mean Creek, and Potty Mouth, Massachusetts's bustling music scene has set the underground ablaze in capturing the glory days of Amerindie yore. Now California X are dipping the Mass-rawk in glorious goo, Dinosaur Jr-style. Hailing from the land of J Mascis (Amherst), the flannel-flyin', scraggly-haired hooligans in Cali X channel the oozing muck and addictive melody of Dino's '88 touchstone Bug on their new garage-punk sprawl, Night in the Dark. Now raise those fists and mosh in Cali X's sludge pit. BRAD COHAN
G. Love and Special Sauce - Thursday, January 15 - Marquee Theatre
Back in the summer of 1994, college radio stations every so often played a song that sounded old yet kind of new. It started with a drumbeat, followed by a guitar and bass riff. Then came a voice, a lazy drawl somewhere between rap and song. This was the era before Shazam and even Internet music downloads. But it didn't take detective skills to figure out the song was called "Blues Music," because those were the two words uttered most often. Nearly two decades later, G. Love & Special Sauce continue to kick out their hip-hop, rock 'n' roll, funk, and blues. DAVID ROLLAND
Phoenix Rock Lottery - Saturday, January 17 - Crescent Ballroom
Local promoter "Psyko" Steve Chilton may have borrowed the idea of assembling a bunch of local musicians and randomly assigning them bandmates -- a "rock lottery," as it were -- from bigger cities like New York City, Seattle, and Dallas, but the resulting show was all Phoenix. Last February, members of Captain Squeegee, Jimmy Eat World, the Whisperlights, The Stereo, Avery, Source Victoria, Ladylike, Where Dead Voices Gather, Snake! Snake! Snakes! Wooden Indian, and other Valley luminaries took the stage at Crescent Ballroom, with only an afternoon's worth of time to prep, and performed brand new material. The ensemble names tended toward the silly -- Beer Barbacoa and the Ballroom Burros, Bitch Choir, DCKSPLT, Auto-Tune-Workout -- but the resulting music was surprisingly, okay, astonishingly cohesive. The idea was likely a goof, but it ended up being yielding goods that had Phoenix feeling pretty damn great about its music scene.
Here's hoping the follow-up on January 17 yields similar, if not better, results. The field of musicians participating musicians this year includes many returning favorites (Jim Adkins, Robin Vining, Mike Bell, Danny Torgersen, and Lindsay Cates) as well as a number of first-timers (Jason Roedl of Mergence, Black Carl's Emma Pew, Ian Metzger of The Gentle Hits, North Brother Island's Megyn Neff, Mickey Pangburn of The Prowling Kind, venerated drummer/producer Bob Hoag, and at least a dozen others). As with last year, we're betting that local music fans will wind up being the ultimate winners. PHOENIX NEW TIMES
Valley Fever's Quarantine 5 - Saturday, January 17 - Yucca Tap Room
Meanwhile, another horde of well-respected and amply talented local musicians will mass at a popular music venue for an epic show for the ages. In this case, however, the genres involved are of a decidedly more homespun bent, buckaroo, including alt-country, Americana, roots, rockabilly and maybe a touch of folk thrown in for good measure. We're, of course, referring to weekly outlaw country night Valley Fever's annual Quarantine hootenanny, which is booked by its resident DJs, Dana Armstrong and Johnny Volume, and features band and artist from around Arizona and throughout the southwest participating in a day-long festival of twanging and crooning. This year's bill includes Phoenix-based acts Junction 10, Pick and Holler, Jimmy Pines and Washboard Jere, Kevin Daly's Chicken and Waffles, Flathead, Maricopa County Prison Band, Barefoot and Pregnant, Trailer Queen, and Hashknife Outfit, as well as special guests Tom VandenAvond and Chip Hanna. Armstrong and Volume will spin outlaw country tunes between sets as folks amble into the Yucca and sit for a spell to bask in all the down-home sounds. PHOENIX NEW TIMES
Nels Cline - Sunday, January 18 - MIM
NYC-via-Cali guitar-wielding godhead Nels Cline is one tireless, globe-hopping maestro. Consider this: Just in the last year, the punk-jazz noise-monger has performed his six-string magic with Cibo Matto and Wilco, dueled with young gun Julian Lage on guitar-duo record Room, and, with the Nels Cline Singers, given an ax-shredding clinic on Macroscope. Tonight, Cline's DIY free-improv roots will be in full-throttle gear as he converges with the hall-of-famers of Brooklyn's avant-jazz scene for interstellar fret-pounding and skronk-heavy freakouts. BRAD COHAN
Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - Sunday, January 18 - Mesa Arts Center
If you've never caught one of this Brit orchestra's concerts live -- or, even on YouTube -- then we're not sure how you've managed to find a modicum of happiness in the world. Before you expire in your misery, therefore, get thee to the Cerritos Center and fill your head up with the most unusual, brilliant and happiness-inducing music you've never heard. Covering everyone from Otis Redding to Nirvana (with crowd-favorite, Ennio Morricone's "The Good the Bad and the Ugly" always in tow), it's positively uke-madness whenever these limies get together, and this time, they're even inviting you to bring in your four-stringer and join them in a uke-a-long. God Save the Queen. STACY DAVIES
John Jorgenson Quintet - Tuesday, January 20 - MIM
When you're feeling saucy, gypsy jazz is the music that soothes the soul. And the only man with suitable credentials to deliver your musical medicine is Grammy-winning guitarist John Jorgenson with his instrumental quintet that includes rhythm guitarist Doug Martin, bassist Simon Planting, jazz violinist Jason Anick, and percussionist Rick Reed. By incorporating elements of Latin, Romanian, classical, rock and Greek traditions into their special blend of music, these pioneers of the gypsy-jazz genre are able to transport you to another world of relaxation and groove. AMANDA PARSONS
Wolfgang Gartner - Thursday, January 22 - BLUR Nightclub
Wolfgang Gartner eschews onstage gimmicks typical of electronic music concerts. While there's no shortage of DJs looking to be the center of attention, Gartner prefers to let his skills do the talking, showcasing the candy-colored, sawtoothed synths and glitchy beats that fuel his laptop alchemy. When asked why he avoids such shtick, the electro-house guru says it helps him stand out from his desert-slinging, costume-sporting, hamster ball-surfing EDM brethren.
"I don't throw cake at people. I don't wear a suit or a mask. I don't spray champagne. I don't get on the mic and stand on a table and yell at people to get the fuck out. I play music that I think people should hear and put a lot of organic, physical energy into it without gimmicks," Gartner says. "I feel like I'm one of the few people who has any integrity left in the DJ industry these days because it's all come down to people thinking audiences are so stupid that they're trying to get them anyway that they can--by throwing stuff at them or getting them to [form a] mosh pit. It's gotten to a point where it's ridiculous, and personally, I will never buy into that." Good thing, too, since such things probably wouldn't fly in an intimate Scottsdale danceteria like BLUR Nightclub. NICOLE PAJER
Marchfourth Marching Band - Friday, January 23 - Crescent Ballroom
Marchfourth Marching Band is an act that's difficult to describe without raising a few eyebrows, and hey, that's understandable. After all, they have a roster of over 30 horns players, percussionists, dancers, guitarists and more that travel the country in military, circus-inspired costumes and wacky sunglasses playing a combination of polka, gypsy and rock. If it sounds bizarre and vaguely immature, it is, but in a great way. These Portland-based 20-somethings that left behind prospects of a "real job" to tour with their buddies, play a few elaborately decorated instruments and make friends with stilt walkers. It's not a bad gig if you ask me. But before you say they these guys are childish hippies, know that the band's "conductor" actually does some conducting. And everyone, even the stilt walkers, waits for his cue. Because, you know, every circus needs a ringmaster. CHRISTINA CALDWELL
Eric Church - Saturday, January 24 - Talking Stick Resort Arena
Preferring to write his own material, country star Eric Church opts out of the Nashville song-factory system, in which recording artists draw from dozens or hundreds of potential tunes pitched by publishing houses employing stables of writers. His assault on the charts has been a ground game, not an air war; lacking quick success on the radio, he built his following (the Church Choir, natch) by hard touring, hundreds of shows a year spent prowling the stage, pounding his chest and stomping so energetically he once broke his foot. And in a genre fetishizing squeaky-clean heartthrobs and flooded with party-hearty bros, Church comes off more thoughtful, complex and dangerous than his peers.
That rebel image has long been a central selling point for Church, who studied business and marketing at Appalachian State University in his native North Carolina. Eight years after getting fired from a Rascal Flatts tour, he still gets mileage out of pissing off the well-scrubbed duo. More recently, he ripped one of country's reigning royals in a feud with Blake Shelton. And he's rarely without the reflective aviator shades that give him the look of a deranged motorcycle cop. Released in February, Church's fourth album, The Outsiders, works the oppositional angle from the title on down. "They're the in-crowd, we're the other ones," he growls on the opening track. Given that his previous disc, 2011's Chief, spawned four Top 10 country singles - including a legit pop crossover hit, "Springsteen" - and that both it and The Outsiders opened at No. 1 on the pop charts, it's fair to ask just what he's outcast from. What happens when the self-styled loner is elected homecoming king? ANDERS SMITH LINDALL
Bill Frisell - Sunday, January 25 - MIM
Bill Frisell's vivid explorations and syntheses of jazz, country, blues, rock, pop, and folk are distinguished both by his love for the roots material and the helixian contortions he uses to open them up for fresh examination. For his latest project, Guitar in the Space Age, Frisell enlists frequent collaborators Greg Leisz (guitar/pedal steel), bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Kenny Wollesen to trace some of the music that deeply influenced his formative years. It's a sort of surf-to-turf tour of the '50s and '60s, stretching from the Ventures, Duane Eddy, and the Beach Boys to Merle Travis and Chet Atkins via Charlie Christian, the Byrds, and Junior Wells, promising to be both fun and educational. RICK MASON
Travis Tritt - Sunday, January 25 - Chandler Center for the Arts
Since the early '90s, Travis Tritt's characteristic long hair and Southern-rock vocals have been a fixture on the airwaves. You probably remember him from "T-R-O-U-B-L-E," the honky-tonk hit that made him a country mainstay. In the later years of his career, Tritt has earned a reputation as a bit of an "outlaw" in country music, especially as his rough-around-the-edges, Southern-rock-and-blues-influenced tunes stood up against the slicked-up likes of George Strait. Shine up your boots and get ready for a show that will assuredly be 100 percent country -- even if country isn't so country anymore. AMY MCCARTHY
DirecTV Super Fan Fest - Wednesday, January 28, to Friday, January 30 - Super Fan Stadium
As you read this, construction crews are plenty busy erecting an enormous, albeit temporary, structure in the vicinity of University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Once completed, it will become the "Super Fan Stadium," which is capable of holding thousands upon thousands of people (as well as several high-profile bands and performers) and is one part of the 40-acre DirectTV Fan Fest at Pendergast Family Farm.
Three straight days of public concerts will be held at the stadium, each boasting a stellar roster of musicians. The first night on Wednesday, January 28, will include country and Americana artists Zac Brown Band, Thomas Rhett, Sam Hunt, The Cadillac Three. A smorgasbord of pop, R&B, hip-hop, reggae, and dance music awaits those who attend the second evening, which will feature Jason Derulo, Calvin Harris, Alesso, Magic! and Becky G. However, the offerings on Friday, January 30, are a mix of indie and alternative rock -- Imagine Dragons, Young the Giant, American Authors, and Ingrid Michaelson -- capped off by a performance by Snoop Dogg. PHOENIX NEW TIMES
Darius Rucker - Thursday, January 29 - Coors Light Birds Nest
For those that crank pop country radio out of their pick-ups, Darius Rucker is the breakthrough solo singer with a silky baritone and two chart-topping albums. For those that haven't turned on a radio in ten years, Darius Rucker is perhaps more recognizable as the leader of 90's pop-rock balladeers Hootie and the Blowfish. However, country has unequivocally become Rucker's life. He said he doesn't even listen to rock music anymore. "I'll do that thing where I hit 'random' on the iPod and an R.E.M. song or a U2 song will play," he says, "and I'll be happy that it came on. But even if I wasn't playing it, I'd be listening to country."
Even though the Blowfish sold more than 10 million copies of their 90's mainstay Cracked Rear View, Rucker's country re-invention is due to trump his radio-rock past, if it hasn't already. He's sang duets with Adele, performed on nearly every single talk show and, of course, sold platinum figures of his 2008 country debut, Learn to Live. Comparing the two styles, Rucker clearly finds country songwriting to be a more challenging and personal pursuit. He says pop songwriting can consist of nonsense syllables and nonsense topics, whereas country songs have to convey a relatable narrative. "With pop music, you can have 'whang-dang-doodle' or 'Who let the dogs out?'" he laughs. "It can be about nothing. When the day ends, it's the same music, notes and words; yet even honky-tonk guitar stuff has a story." CHASE KAMP
SuperFest 2K15 - Friday, January 30 - Celebrity Theatre
While Super Bowl 2K15 will showcase some of the biggest and best pigskin pros currently in the game today from both the AFC and NFC, the SuperFest will bring together some of the biggest and best rhyme-spitters from the realms of both hip-hop and rap. Influential and legendary doesn't even begin to do justice the legacy of the icons booked to appear at the event on January 30. There's headliner Big Daddy Kane, who has performing since hip-hop's late golden age of the '80s and released the landmark track "Ain't No Half Steppin," as well as KRS-One (better known as "The Teacher" for his many contributions to the genre), and East Coast hip-hop innovator and lyrical king Rakim, famed for his trailblazing partnership with Eric B. and their much-beloved album Paid in Full. But whatever you do, please refrain from dissing these stars with racks about how this is essentially the "Legends Game" of hip-hop. PHOENIX NEW TIMES
Kid Rock - Friday, January 30 - Coors Light Birds Nest
There is one vestige of the felled rap-rock era that just refuses to shrivel up and go away. This artifact of one of popular music's more unfortunate trend cycles remains so popular, in fact, that he still manages to sell out massive concerts. Ladies and gentlemen, Kid Rock is still very much alive and kicking. And on January 30, he'll be kicking it in front of an enormous crowd inside the Coors Light Birds Nest at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and (naturally) dispensing such big hits as "Cowboy," "Bawitdaba," "Born Free," and "American Bad Ass." SARAH STANLEY-AYRE
CBS Radio's The Night Before - Saturday, January 31 - Talking Stick Resort Arena
Although the name of this concert makes it easy enough to glean the fact that its taking place the evening prior to Super Sunday, it doesn't exactly spell out its particular musical bent or lineup, which we're more than happy to do. It's scheduled to be an arena-sized shindig of radio-friendly country music kings, including the likes of Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line. They'll be joined by local boy Dierks Bentley and mixmaster Dee Jay Silver, who specializes in creating crowd-pleasing country music remixes and is signed to Sony Records. PHOENIX NEW TIMES
Knife Party - Saturday, January 31 - The Pressroom
Knife Party, the bombastic dubstep/drumstep/electro-house duo of Australian-born producers Gareth McGrillen and Rob Swire, are scheduled to make their first-ever appearance in Phoenix later this month on January 31 at The Pressroom, which just happens to be the night the Super Bowl. Naturally, the gig has been dubbed the "Relentless Bowl."
If you're unfamiliar with Knife Party and their exploits over the last three years, the act began as a side project of McGrillen and Swire (both of whom are part of Aussie drum 'n' bass outfit Pendulum) that shot into the EDM stratosphere in 2011 with such explosive and dubstep-heavy electro tracks as "Destroy Them With Lazers" and the wicked "Internet Friends" (the source of the infamous audio drop, "You blocked me on Facebook/And now you're going to die") and Knife Party's debut EP 100% No Modern Talking. Then came 2012, when they released the Rage Valley with its chartbusting hits "Centipede" and "Bonfire" (the latter of which was memorably used in an episode of Breaking Bad), as well as "Antidote," their ultra-popular collaboration with Swedish House Mafia. Their biggest release thus far, the Billboard-topping EP Haunted House, dropped last year.
Suffice it to say, Knife Party's been on heavy rotation in clubs and DJ remixes, a constant prescience at big festivals like Electric Daisy Carnival and Coachella, and regular visitors to cities steeped in EDM like New York, L.A., and Vegas. As for Phoenix? Eh, not so much, an oversight that will be corrected in the midst of all the football full-tilt boogie of Super Bowl week. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
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