Yes, we’re well aware that Christmas happens to take place this weekend and — in all likelihood — most of y’all will be busy with trimming the tree, decking the halls, making the yuletide bright, and whatnot. If you need a break from all the holiday hullabaloo, there happens to be a variety of concerts and live music events worth checking out. And, as always, you can hit up our online concert calendar for event more choices.
Christmas at Crescent feat. Cherie Cherie - Friday, December 25 - Crescent Ballroom
The band first performed at Crescent Ballroom under the name Neil Diamonds Are Forever and later gave a nod to the Suicide song "Cherie." But Cherie Cherie has come a long way since doing Neil Diamond covers. Like a moody noise-pop cross between Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls, Cherie Cherie employs two vocalists, Ann Seletos (drums) and Lonna Kelley (guitar), who share the spotlight equally.
Matt Wiser (lead guitar) and Jay Hufman (bass) round out the band, giving a strong Jesus and Mary Chain feel with some folk influence. Formed around March 2013, Cherie Cherie self-released its debut EP, Share, in December of the same year, and it quickly disappeared into the hands of fans. Ryan Breen recorded all five tracks in two days at Kelley's home, and they were mastered at SAE Mastering. The band has said they wanted to capture a particular sound at a particular time in a particular place, which is why they chose the same living room that doubles as practice space. TROY FARAH
IHYWYP - Saturday, December 26 - Trunk Space
It's been more than five year since Flagstaff musician Phil Buckman subjected Valley audiences to his outlandish alter ego IHYWYP (a.k.a. I Hate You When You're Pregnant), and local fans who remember the chaotic and colorful one-man act are probably jonesing for another fix. If you’ve never got a chance to witness an IHYWYP during the its heyday from 2002 to 2005, you missed out on one of Arizona’s most unique bands, to say the least. A standard IHYWYP show saw Buckman, typically clad in children's underwear or an equally outlandish outfit a one-man tornado of techno-rock terror as he hurled his 6-foot-5 frame around music venues as he sang side-splitting songs set to beats programmed on a drum machine and filled with pop cultural non-sequiturs or bizarre stories (including such signature tracks as “Sleeveless,” “Levitra Versus Viagra,” and “There is Stuff in This World”).
Buckman created IHYWYP as sort of a lark while serving as a roadie for his friend’s bands in 2002 and started performing as an opening act. It quickly got attention, as well as ink in publications like Wired and Thrasher, resulting in a slew of performances across Arizona over the next three years before Buckman more or less retired the act in 2005 to work on other bands. He’s occasionally revived IHYWYP for one-off shows now and again, much like the one planned for this weekend at the Trunk Space that will also include Inhalants, Natalie Eickmeyer, and Cactussin. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Black Label Society - Saturday, December 26 - Marquee Theatre
For almost two decades, Zakk Wylde has always been equal parts influence and inspiration in rock and metal. By the time he was 20, he’d sparked Ozzy Osbourne’s interest and went on to co-write and record several albums with the Prince of Darkness, including the multi-platinum No More Tears, Ozzy’s bestselling solo album (featuring “Mama, I’m Coming Home”) and much of the 2002 double-platinum Ozzmosis. Wylde’s résumé also includes countless guest appearances, benefit shows, a comedic 2013 guide to the music industry (Bringing Metal to the Children), movie appearances, and most recently, a line of gear that kicked off with Wylde Audio (debuted at NAMM 2015) and Wylde Guitars (premiering at NAMM 2016).
But none of his projects and bands comes close to expressing his metal identity as Black Label Society. For 15 years, the bluesy, unwavering, guitar-heavy quartet has been notorious for pinch harmonics and shredding solos as it is piano-fueled, soaring ballads. While 2014’s Catacombs of the Black Vatican is testament to BLS’ if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it mentality, fans can look forward to 2016’s Book of Shadows 2 (a sequel to Wylde’s ’96 debut solo album). LAUREN WISE
Chronic Future - Saturday, December 26 - The Rebel Lounge
When brothers Ben and Barry Collins banded together with besties Mike Busse and Brandon Lee in 1995 to form Chronic Future, the impact was immediate. While still tweens, they scored a local hit with a song about brattish kids of privilege called "Scottsdale," which they eventually parlayed into mainstream success in 2004 with a song called "Time and Time Again" and a deal with Interscope Records. This good fortune led to a series of individual projects and, inadvertently, a period of inactivity as a group that they temporarily broke this year with a July 18 show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York and now a show at the Rebel Lounge on December 26. The poetic irony is that this venue was once The Mason Jar, where the band played its first show. All indicators say the upcoming gig will be its very last show.
And yet the foursome are by all accounts still best friends who get together every weekend. What are we missing here? "We never made a conscious decision to stop playing. I think we all just started working on different things, " says Ben Collins, speaking via phone from his adopted new home in Greenpoint, New York. "It's weird to even call it a reunion because we all hang out all the time. We never stopped seeing each other." Rather than the reunion misnomer, the band prefers to bill it as a 20th anniversary show, as it's been two decades since that initial all-ages show at the Jar and the release of "Scottsdale," the song that for some locals made the young band synonymous with being spoiled rich kids. The show isn't for money or a career boost, just for fun. In that way, the guys doing a show at a club on Indian School Road, a few blocks away from where Collins' mom lives, completes the circle. Just change the numbers when Collins says, "We were just 15-year-old skater kids that just wanted to fuck around. We loved it." SERENE DOMINIC
Mary X Mas - Saturday, December 26 - Location TBA
The night after Christmas 16 years ago, a bunch of ravers gathered out in the snow. They gathered and laughed and took drugs that were strong; they listened to music and danced all night long. They built great big bonfires to give themselves light, then capped the evening with a huge snowball fight. The party returns this year for the brave, so Mary X Mas to all, and to all a good rave.
Mary X Mas jingles all the way from 9 p.m. Saturday, December 26 to 7 a.m. the next morning. The lineup will include performances by DMC world champ DJ Swamp, CL McSpadden, and others. The location of the rave — most likely outdoors on the west side — is secret; call 602-359-7160 the week of the event to find out where it’ll be held. ZACH FOWLE
Straight No Chaser - Sunday, December 27 - Mesa Arts Center
A cappella music is a strange thing. It conjures up either images of old-man barbershop quartets, or, more likely, the specter of those over-eager, overly animated dudes on your freshman dorm floor. Yes, these days, single-sex a cappella groups are largely confined to campus life, but every so often, a group manages to break through to the pseudo-mainstream. Among the biggest of these going currently are the California barbershop revivalists and the 10-member Indiana group Straight No Chaser.
Straight No Chaser, or SNC to their acolytes, are slightly past college age, but still young and pretty enough to ensnare hordes of female fans. What also helps is the accessibility of their music, which is about half renditions of standards like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and Christmas carols, and half reworkings of current pop hits. They're not sarcastic or parodic like many college groups, but definitely display a marked sense of humor. ARIELLE CASTILLO