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The 30 Best Concerts in Phoenix in January 2019

Elton John is scheduled to perform on Saturday, January 26, at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
Elton John is scheduled to perform on Saturday, January 26, at Gila River Arena in Glendale. Mike Brooks
January is an unusual month for concerts. There’s a bit of a slow start due to the holiday hangover as everyone recovers, decompresses, or sobers up. After a week or so, however, touring bands get back on the road and back into a groove as everything starts ratcheting back up.

And once things get going, there are a ton of memorable shows on tap in metro Phoenix in January. The legendary Elton John is bringing his farewell tour through town, for starters, while similarly notable artists like Kris Kristofferson, Melvins, Paul Oakenfold, Booker T. Jones, Peter Murphy, and Andrew McMahon all have local gigs scheduled for the weeks ahead.

Elsewhere on this month’s concert calendar, The Maine will stage their three-day 8123 Fest, the annual Phoenix Rock Lottery will bring together a wealth of local talents to create something new, and this year’s Coors Light Bird’s Nest at the Waste Management Phoenix Open will offer a mix of country, hip-hop, and EDM.

Details about each of these shows can be found below in our list of the best concerts happening in the Valley this month. And for even more live music happening around the Valley, hit up Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

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The eclectic and influential Leo Kottke.
Courtesy of On Tour PR
Leo Kottke
Thursday, January 3, and Friday, January 4
Musical Instrument Museum

Leo Kottke is weird in the best possible way. And his career has been, too. No one's ever accused Kottke of being a pop star. But somehow, he's managed to parlay his awesome aptitude on the acoustic guitar, a knack for instrumental intricacy that's undeniably complex yet somehow warm and inviting, and occasional vocals that amusingly and defiantly stick to the low road into a half-century-long career. His debut long-player, 6- and 12-String Guitar, arrived in 1969, and he released a steady stream of material for decades while quietly influencing generations of pickers, as the dozens of online videos showing amateur players trying to master his licks demonstrate.

Over the years, Kottke, who lives in Minnesota, has become a hero to famous musicians, too, including Phish's Mike Gordon, with whom he's recorded two albums, 2002's Clone and 2005's Sixty Six Steps. But Kottke, who's in his early 70s, remains hilariously unaffected by the esteem in which he's held. He seems satisfied to occupy his own particular reality, which is different enough from the one the rest of us occupy to render his commentary both insightful and delightfully bizarre. Michael Roberts

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Expect antics at The Dwarves gig at the Yucca Tap.
Courtesy of The Dwarves
The Dwarves
Saturday, January 5
Yucca Tap Room in Tempe

Formed in the mid-'80s and inspired by the punk antics of GG Allin, The Dwarves have survived for 25 years by continually evolving their sound while always remaining entertaining. "I almost think it's a form of mass hallucination," declares Dwarves frontman Blag Dahlia, "because by all rights, we should be done now, and yet we still exist."

The punky Chicago iconoclasts have always been shapeshifters. Their '86 debut, Horror Stories, leaned hard on the grimy garage-psych of bands like the Sonics, but by 1988's Toolin' for a Warm Teabag, they'd moved on to the atavistic punk of Allin. They even adopted many of his boundary-pushing antics, such as self-mutilation, on-stage hummers and punching audience members, while wisely avoiding Allin's shittiest behavior.

The Dwarves' outrageous stage behavior has greatly diminished over the years. Their performances now are simply those of a loud, raucous, fun-loving garage-punk band. Dahlia credits this to both age and different membership before returning to the context of their performances as a driving force. Chris Parker

Dale Crover, Buzz Osbourne, and Steven Shane McDonald of Melvins.
Steve Appleford
Friday, January 11
The Rebel Lounge

Many cool bands that formed in the '80s have lost their relevancy, but the Melvins are not among them. The Washington-bred heavy-stoner-rock trio not only still tour but also fully maintain their cool status. Singer and guitarist Buzz Osborne is an outspoken character who is likely the inspiration for The Simpsons' Sideshow Bob. He also introduced Dave Grohl to the rest of Nirvana, which is appropriate because the Melvins influenced grunge and sludge sounds quite a bit. Catch them on January 11 at The Rebel Lounge for an intense and intimate performance. Liz Tracy

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Violent J of Insane Clown Posse is doing the solo thing at the moment.
Melissa Fossum
Violent J
Friday, January 11
Club Red in Mesa

It’s easy, if all you’re familiar with is the shtick, to form a negative opinion of Violent J, one half of the Insane Clown Posse. Rarely seen in public without his trademark makeup, the man plays up to the role in which he’s cast himself like the most committed of method actors. There are people that think he’s one or all of the following: thug, buffoon, white trash, and run-of-the-mill idiot.

Yeah, we can feel you nodding. But scratch the makeup away, just a little, and you may be surprised by what's revealed. Violent J, real name Joseph Bruce, plays the role of the every-Juggalo so well that people don’t quite realize how smart he is. He’d have to be; alongside his business and musical partner, Shaggy 2 Dope, J has made the Psychopathic Records label into a worldwide success. Maybe not quite on the KISS scale, but the ICP boys have found their market, tapped it and know how to maintain it so that it’s mutually beneficial.

In mid-January, Violent J visits Club Red in Mesa on his current solo tour along with fellow Detroit-born rapper Esham. Brett Callwood

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The legendary Paul Oakenfold.
Scott Ramsay
Paul Oakenfold
Friday, January 11
Maya Day & Nightclub in Scottsdale

One of the first true superstar DJs, Paul Oakenfold has done more to popularize electronic dance music in the United States and in his native Britain than any constituent of the current EDM explosion. Long before Skrillex and Deadmau5 brought styles like dubstep and electro into the mainstream consciousness, Oakenfold played a pioneering role in the establishment of contemporary nightlife.

Oakenfold became a household name in the States with the release of his 1998 mix album, Tranceport — a greatest-hits compilation of late-'90s trance — and the relentless gigging that accompanied it. His lengthy career includes highlights too numerous to count, including tours with Madonna and U2, nightclub residencies in both America and the U.K., and headlining festivals across the globe. In 2017, he set the bar for DJs worldwide even higher when he performed on Mount Everest. No joke. While the gig took place at a base camp instead of atop the legendary mountain, it’s a singular achievement worth celebrating. So be sure to high-five Oakenfold when he appears at Maya in Scottsdale later this month. Matt Miner

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Canadian rock/pop band Mother Mother.
Courtesy of Watchdog Management
Mother Mother
Saturday, January 12
Crescent Ballroom

It's not often one hears a musician proclaim he wants to start a "vocal-driven pop band," but such was the case with Mother Mother guitarist/frontman Ryan Guldemond. But why aim for such commonplace pop fare? Because this is the kind of music the generally unaware music populace loves — it doesn't require any thought to subconsciously tap one's foot or nod one's head — and they buy a lot of it. The Canadian band, which also includes vocalists/keyboardists Molly Guldemond and Jasmin Parkin, drummer Ali Siadat, and bassist Jeremy Page, received a jump start to success when New Pornographers producer Howard Redekopp signed on to work his pop magic. So for Mother Mother, the concept has worked well enough, signified by the release of seven albums, nominations for assorted awards (mostly Canadian), and a song, "Bright Ideas," being featured in a series of Kraft food commercials. Might not be the path to legendary status, but it's good work if you can get it. Glenn BurnSilver

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Yes, Disturbed is still a thing.
Travis Shinn
Monday, January 14
Gila River Arena in Glendale

When Chicago metal band Disturbed emerged with debut album The Sickness in 2000, having formed as Brawl in 1994, the hard-rock-loving world was nu-metal crazy. Bands like Korn and Coal Chamber (yes, even Coal Chamber) had convinced everyone that going severely bass-heavy and adding an element of hip-hop to the vocals was the way to go. Maybe throw in some industrial crunch. So for the next five years or so, bands like Static-X, Drowning Pool, and Taproot thrived — and so did Disturbed.

These days, however, people do their best to avoid the nu-metal tag, much like rock-and-roll bands spent the 1990s distancing themselves from the hair-metal label. Nobody wants to be associated with a scene that’s over. “I don’t think we were ever a nu-metal band to begin with,” says Disturbed drummer Mike Wengren. “I just think we happened to come out around the same time … I think that we have a connection with the fans, we write music about real stuff, and people are able to connect to that.”

The fans certainly did stick with the band, even when, in 2011, they decided to take a break for nearly five years. Their 2015 album, Immortalized, was a comeback and, as is usually the case with this band, it was adored by the fan base. Those same fans will flock to Gila River Arena in mid-January for Disturbed's latest Valley concert. Brett Callwood

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Damon McMahon of Amen Dunes.
Michael Schmelling
Amen Dunes
Monday, January 14
Crescent Ballroom

It's a sneaky idea for an essentially solo artist to perform music under a moniker that functions as a band name when they could easily rely on their own given name. It allows them to switch up styles or bandmates and steer the music into assorted directions without appearing too culpable. For several years now, Brooklyn's Damon McMahon has offered up psychedelia that's taken on different forms over the course of five full-length albums as Amen Dunes. McMahon's latest effort, Love, released on the dependably excellent label Sacred Bones (which boasts the Men and Psychic Ills, among others), still has the hazy psychedelic leanings he's honed, but in a more acoustic, accessible manner than ever before. But hey, it's not McMahon that’s behind the music, after all; it's Amen Dunes. Take it up with "them." Kelly Dearmore

The Flesh Eaters
Wednesday, January 16
Crescent Ballroom

The Flesh Eaters began as a project way back in 1977. Over 40 years later, they're still touring, recording and getting together to collaborate when time allows. Fronted by Chris Desjardins (a.k.a. Chris D), the legendary punk ensemble has featured a rotating cast of musicians and a history that stretches into the vaunted Southern California punk scene of yesteryear. Currently, the Flesh Eaters consist of John Doe, DJ Bonebrake, Dave Alvin, Bill Bateman, Steve Berlin, and Chris D. In short, its a punk-rocker's dream team lineup. Jeff Strowe

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The good reverend will rev things up at the Marquee in January.
Courtesy of Victory Records
Reverend Horton Heat
Thursday, January 17
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

You would be hard-pressed to find a traveling musician who plays as many shows and as many towns these days as Jim Heath, of Reverend Horton Heat. In fact, there are not too many saloons, night clubs, festival stages, and places that he hasn’t liked, and even fewer he has not played. If there is a town with fans of the man’s unique take on Gretsch guitar-laden psychobilly licks, chances are Heath has played on their stages.

Along with his trusty stand-up bass sidekick Jimbo Wallace and time-keeper, double-bass drumming machine Scott Churilla, Reverend Horton Heat has played Arizona dozens of times dating back to the early '90s. Across the globe, RHH has shared stages with some great acts at some of the top festivals in the world including: Coachella, Lollapalooza. Reading, Riot Fest Vans Warped, Punk Rock Bowling, Shindig, Bunberry Festival, Arizona Bike Week, Sturgis, and Azkana.

He has recorded 12 albums over the past 28 years, including last year’s Whole New Life on Victory Records. The band’s catalog has variety from high-energy head-boppin’ songs like “Wiggle Stick” or “Psychobilly Freakout” to the more tongue-in-cheek numbers like the double-entendre risqué of “Let Me Teach You How to Eat” or ridiculously fun countrified “Please Don’t’ Take the Baby to the Liquor Store.” And as much as RHH has accumulated a fan base that is spread out the world from the U.S. to the Ukraine, it is the serious craftsmanship of ever-evolving passion for perfecting this sound that has allowed him and band to endure. Mark C. Horn

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Mustard Plug is still skanking after all these years.
Courtesy of Brixton Agency
Mustard Plug
Thursday, January 17
Crescent Ballroom

Not many bands have attained popularity and commercial success outside the mainstream music industry box the way that Mustard Plug has done. While they can't claim to be most famous ska-punk band in existence, the septet have amassed a sizable cult following, as well as radio-friendly songs and music videos, like "You" and "Everything Girl."

After forming in 1991 and, a year later, releasing a full-length tape on Dashiki Clout, Skapocalypse Now!, Mustard Plug released the popular Evildoers Beware! in 1997 via punk label Hopeless Records. This was the beginning of their zenith, coinciding with the mid-'90s ska craze, which would continue for roughly five years until their breakup in 2002.

Fortunately, Mustard Plug got back together five years later and have since dropped a couple more records, including In Black and White (where they took their music in murkier directions, and 2014’s Can't Contain It. Now, 16 years after their breakup, Mustard Plug, who swing through Crescent Ballroom in January, is still kicking out ska and have come back around to their older, poppier rhythms while still developing a new sound. Garyn Klasek

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T-Boz and Chilli of TLC.
Dennis Leupold
Friday, January 18
Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler

It's been a minute since TLC was in heavy rotation on the radio. The group's last certified hit was 2013's "Crooked Smile," a collaboration with J. Cole. But modern popular culture was practically made in TLC's image. It's in the ease with which today's pop stars talk about women's desire and pleasure. The women of TLC did that on their debut single, 1992's "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," with the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes wearing a yellow condom over her left eye in the midst of the AIDS crisis. It's also in the women's empowerment anthems that P!nk and Lady Gaga have taken to the top of the charts in a sea of songs about mindless hookups. It's in the very existence of Beyoncé's career, which began when she was one-third of Destiny's Child, for whom TLC laid out the blueprint for success.

Chilli believes part of the reason TLC continues to resonate with audiences is the group made what she calls "life-changing music." Their songs were the soundtrack to the formative years of the early-'90s and TRL generation, and they addressed everything from safe sex on "Waterfalls" to the ways in which societal standards of beauty can magnify women's insecurities to a dangerous level on "Unpretty." Chilli says it was not only the music but also its honest messaging that resonated with people. "There's nothing fake about us. We're just a very authentic group when it comes to who we are, what we believe in, and what we stand up for, like girl power. That's always and forever been our thing. People can relate to real stuff." Celia Almeida

Chrome Sparks
Friday, January 18
Crescent Ballroom

If it were possible to genetically engineer the quintessential electronic artist for the Tumblr era, Jeremy Malvin, (better known as Chrome Sparks) would likely be the result. Before settling on the Chrome Sparks moniker, Malvin served several stints as drummer for a number of bands, including internet synthpop darling Stepdad. Choosing to take his background in classical percussion in a more danceable direction, Malvin traded in an education in drumming for a career in DJ'ing.

Since the switch, Malvin has enjoyed tremendous success as a solo act. Signed to Future Classic — the Australian label home to Flume, Chet Faker, and Cashmere Cat — Chrome Sparks has attracted attention for not only, well, producing future classics but also successfully juggling several moods and sounds. "Marijuana" — which sampled Idris Muhammad's disco classic "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This" long before Jamie xx did on last year's "Loud Places" — is Chrome Sparks' most popular song for good reason. A lean, three-minute eruption of puff-puff-pass bliss, "Marijuana" is as equally effective as a bass-synth-driven sleep aid as it is a club-floor filler. Zach Schlein

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The musicians and performers of Pink Martini.
Chris Hornbecker
Pink Martini
Friday, January 18
Chandler Center for the Arts

Pink Martini’s blend of Latin music, jazz, and classical music is the perfect antidote to everything that’s happened in the past year — it’s music that celebrates the world’s diversity while honoring the deep musical traditions formed by musicians long passed. Founded in Portland, Oregon, in the mid-’90s, the group features multiple singers and around a dozen horn players, all skilled in the Neapolitan blend of styles that is practically the perfect lounge music.

The group’s debut album, Sympathique, became a worldwide success, earning the group awards from countries as far away as France. The group is a callback to the early half of the 20th century, when America still searched outward for culture, and singers like Eartha Kitt and Doris Day sampled the cultures of the world for songs like finger foods at a fine gala. If anything, Pink Martini is a reminder to the world that Americans still can appreciate music not served on a blue plate under an American flag. David Accomazzo
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Phoenix New Times Music Writers

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