The 11 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Week

Jessica Lea Mayfield is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, January 23, at Valley Bar.
Jessica Lea Mayfield is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, January 23, at Valley Bar. Courtesy of ATO Records

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click to enlarge Rob Crow and Zach Smith of Pinback. - DREW REYNOLDS
Rob Crow and Zach Smith of Pinback.
Drew Reynolds
Wednesday, January 24
Crescent Ballroom

Putatively named after Dan O'Bannon's character in John Carpenter's shlocky 1974 science-fiction film Dark Star, Pinback was started in San Diego in 1998 by Three Mile Pilot's Zach Smith and Rob Crow, who had been involved in various experimental bands of the time, including Heavy Vegetable.

While the outfit didn't exactly invent math rock, it did take a certain musical precision and employ it in inventive, emotionally expressive ways rather than using the music as a mere display of technical prowess. Thanks to 2001's Blue Screen Life, Pinback broke away from being a truly underground phenomenon, while the band's three subsequent albums revealed its breadth of creativity, including 2012’s Information Retrieved, which featured Smith and Crow working their signature textures into entrancing, transporting atmospheres.

While Pinback hasn’t put out a studio album since Information Retrieved, they released the compilation Some Offcell Voices (a merger of two of their earliest EPs, 2000’s Some Voices and 2003’s Offcell) last year and are currently in the midst of their latest tour. Tom Murphy

click to enlarge Power pop band Charly Bliss. - JACQUELINE HARRIET
Power pop band Charly Bliss.
Jacqueline Harriet
Charly Bliss
Wednesday, January 24
The Van Buren

“I’m gonna die in a getaway car,” Charly Bliss’ Eva Hendricks sings on the band’s ecstatic single “Percolator.” Not since J.G. Ballard’s Crash has vehicular violence sounded so desirable. Hendricks croons the chorus like she’s singing about winning the lottery. And the catchy music that surrounds those lyrics begs listeners to sing along.

A four-piece band from Brooklyn, Charly Bliss are a throwback to the ’90s. Rather than trying to reanimate the corpse of flannel rock, though, the Blissers pull inspiration from poppier rock bands of that decade like Veruca Salt and Letters to Cleo. Combining Hendricks’ girlish vocals with driving guitars, Charly Bliss have created a grungy bubblegum sound. If someone remakes 10 Things I Hate About You in the near future, they’d be a shoo-in to play the prom band.

While the band have been around since 2014, it wasn’t until last year that they dropped a full-length album. The 10-song sugar rush Guppy was one of 2017’s most impressive debuts. Songs like “Westermarck,” “DQ,” and “Ruby” burst at the seams with unshakeable earworms and sharp hooks. Guppy is a bracing reminder of how fun rock can be when it’s punchy, bratty, and to-the-point. Ashley Naftule

Esham, better known as the creator of the "wicked shit." - REEL LIFE PRODUCTIONS
Esham, better known as the creator of the "wicked shit."
Reel Life Productions
Tuesday, January 23
Last Exit Live

Since releasing his first album in 1986 at the age of 13, Esham’s personalized style of acid rap has influenced rappers like Tech N9ne and Insane Clown Posse, leaving a major mark in the subgenre of horrorcore.

Thirty years later, Esham Smith is still making music and expanding his community of those looking to share in the “wicked shit,” including those who in the audience at Last Exit Live on Wednesday. “The ‘wicked shit’ is a particular type of music that we do, the acid rap,” Smith says. “It’s a genre that dives into dark imagery and really mental subjects. A lot of kids choose to express themselves through this musical artform instead of violently at times, and this music originated in Detroit, Michigan.”

Decades later, the "wicked shit" is carried on by horrorcore artists around the world. “Everybody keeps it going, and we are all inspired by each other,” Smith says. “Whether it’s ICP hosting the Gathering of the Juggalos or taking the culture even further in other ways, I think we all learn from each other.” Lauren Archuletta

Lewis Nash
Wednesday, January 24
The Nash

At one time (read: 25 years ago), local wunderkind Lewis Nash had instant name recognition in any major U.S. city with a thriving jazz scene. And did his hometown extend him the same courtesy? Eh, not so much. There was little evidence in Phoenix of that era of the famed drummer’s exploits alongside the the likes of Branford Marsalis, Art Farmer, or the late Dizzy Gillespie. However, times have changed.

Fast forward to today, and the 59-year-old musician's name is up in lights, literally, as the namesake of downtown jazz joint The Nash. And you could cover the walls inside with a tally of all the legends and luminaries that Nash has accompanied or collaborated with during his 36-year career, from his esteemed mentor Max Roach to such jazz giants as Stan Getz, Sonny Rollins, and McCoy Tyner. He's also appeared on upward of 500 records with no signs of slowing down.

This week, Nash will visit his namesake venue on Wednesday, January 24, to show off the skills that made him famous during a pro jam session. Pianist Mike Kocour and bassist Ben Hedquist will also participate in what’s sure to be a master class in jazz artistry. Benjamin Leatherman

Machine Head
Thursday, January 25
Nile Theater in Mesa

Any list of great thrash-metal bands – Slayer, Metallica, Hatebreed, and a few others – has to include Oakland's Machine Head. Approaching its 20th year, the band deserves props for longevity alone and continues to raise the bar, despite sometimes confounding fans with elements like the rap-style vocals of 1999 LP The Burning Red. And with multiple members coming and going, drug abuse, record-label shenanigans, and general personality disorders, Machine Head seems perfect for a big-screen biopic.

Their 2011 full-length Unto the Locust marked a return to form for a band that seems to have finally righted its ship, with "ReaperMan" of the online Encyclopaedia Metallum opining, "These are the kinds of songs that the band could walk out onto a stage, play, throw down their instruments, and walk off, the unsaid (and unanswered) challenge being 'follow that.'"

Machine Head’s been busy as of late putting the finishing touches on its new album, Catharsis, which drops on January 26 via Nuclear Blast Records. The night before, they’ll be causing the brick walls of the Nile Theater in Mesa to shake with their thrash-metal. William Michael Smith
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.