Want to know what awaits you? Well, if you’re big into concerts, there will be tons of great shows happening over the next year.
It kicks off with a busy January, filled with performances by St. Vincent, Katy Perry, Yo Gotti, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Adam Ant, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Wolf Parade, and Jose Gonzalez.
January will also see the return of such annual events as the Phoenix Rock Lottery and the Coors Light Birds Nest at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
There are also a few make-up dates happening, as Too $hort and Marilyn Manson will make good on concerts they canceled in the fall.
Read on for previews of each of these shows (and many more) or check out our online concert calendar for other music events happening in January.
Willie Nelson & Family
Wednesday, January 3
Country music legend, poet, outlaw, and marijuana entrepreneur Willie Nelson is back. This time, it’s with God’s Problem Child, his (depending on how you count) 110th album.
Featuring all new material, the record was released on April 28, one day before Nelson’s 84th birthday. We may be averse to talking honestly about aging in our youth-obsessed culture, perhaps because it feels so unimaginable to our younger selves, but this album gives a glimpse into what it’s like to be in your 80s with your sense of humor intact regarding your own mortality.
“Still Not Dead” confronts rumors of Nelson’s demise. Written by Donnie Fritz and Lenny LeBlanc, “Old Timer” reflects, “You think you’re still a young bull rider, until you look in the mirror and see an old timer.” Former poet laureate Donald Hall wrote in Essays After Eighty a couple of years ago that “old age is a ceremony of losses.” Yet, his essays were, at times, pugnaciously funny.
This is similar terrain to God’s Problem Child. Laconic, wry, and humorous, Nelson is still going strong. And at this point, he’s as beloved as Santa Claus, albeit a skinny, pot-smoking Santa. The last track, “He Won’t Ever Be Gone,” is a tribute to old friend Merle Haggard, who died last April. Sativa Peterson
Booker T. Jones
Thursday, January 4, and Friday, January 5
Musical Instrument Museum
It’s almost always impossible to not sound like a doofus when you’re trying to explain to someone what an instrumental song sounds like. After a few attempts, you usually end things with the statement, “You’d know it if you heard it.”
That’s true for Booker T. Jones’ classic rock-and-soul instrumental, “Green Onions,” recorded by his then-band, Booker T. and the M.G.’s. Released in 1962, the track rose to No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and topped the R&B list. It saw some action again in the late ’70s after being included in The Who-based film Quadrophenia. The Memphis native and crew went on to have a number of hits, and they won a Grammy in 1995 for their hit “Cruisin’.”
Jones is a multi-instrumentalist, but his relationship with the Hammond B-3 organ is one that generally gets mentioned when he’s the topic of conversation. He’s played it, as well as the guitar, on his own efforts, as well as in the studio for a number of bands, including Willie Nelson, Elton John, and Rancid. The legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s current tour is a showcase of his lengthy and exciting history, along with a chance to hear some of his recent creations. Amy Young
Saturday, January 6
Yo Gotti raked it up in 2017. With a double-platinum certification for his hit “Down in the DM,” Gotti — whose real name is Mario Mims — found his way to even more chart success before the year’s end. His single “Rake it Up,” which features Nicki Minaj, hit No. 8 on the Hot 100, and his most recent single, “Juice,” just debuted on the charts.
However, the Memphis native continues to stay grounded by remembering his roots. Recently, the rapper released a documentary called I Still Am, which follows the making of his latest record (also titled I Still Am) and the young Tennessee artists he mentors.
The documentary is meant to inspire his fans as well as children growing up in Memphis, Yo Gotti has said in recent interviews. While it remains to be seen what the new year holds for the rapper, there’s no debating what went down in 2017. Emily Roberts
The PHX Pedal Challenge
Sunday, January 7
The Rebel Lounge
The PHX Pedal Challenge is the kind of chaotic musical event that you’ve gotta see in person, according to Ark Calkins, the event’s host. He brought the must-see event to Phoenix from Florida in 2016. Here’s how it works: The anarchy begins with 12 challengers, including one who is picked at random either from the signup at the event’s website or drawn from a hat at the event. The dynamic dozen proceed to compete against each other in four rounds of pure, unadulterated sonic chaos. Each musician is given a random instrument and a pedal of unknown origin that affects the sound of the instrument. And then? They have to improvise for a whole minute.
At the end of each round, three judges will decide who is eliminated based on creativity, performance, and use of the pedal. The stakes increase with each round, with audience participation playing a role in the third. (Previous editions of the event have involved karaoke or the music of a Nintendo 64 being run through the pedals). Valley-based indie rock quartet Nanami Ozone will perform once a musician is declared victorious. So really, everybody wins in the end. Jason Keil
Tuesday, January 9
The Van Buren
A trifecta of German folk, reggae, and electronic music, Milky Chance are a harmonious cacophony of something you’ve never really heard before. Singer Clemens Rehbein has the voice of a long-lost friend, his raspy, sultry attitude enriched by dreamy beats from producer Philipp Daush.
Their 2013 album Sadnecessary became an international hit, launching the duo into multiple world tours, as well as performance at venues and festivals worldwide. And after a four-year wait, Milky Chance finally released a follow-up album, Blossom, in 2017, which charted in countries worldwide, including the Billboard 200. Their currently touring in support of the 14-song LP and will visit The Van Buren on January 9. Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi opens. Eleanor Lambert
Wednesday, January 10
The Van Buren
Say what you will about America’s favorite satanist, but it can’t be denied that Marilyn Manson will always be an important thread in America's rock and roll fabric.
Whether you’re a fan or not — the shock rocker/boundary-pushing gender-bender goth lord is a divider, people either love or hate him — his cultural impact and musical history is fascinating. To follow his story is to follow the evolution of American popular culture and our reaction to one of its most extreme voices.
Retrospectively, his antics of yesteryear appear tame when compared to today’s standards, and for that, you can thank him and his band. Art, without pushing its boundaries, remains stagnant. If ever there was a performer who capsized the proverbial boat in the stagnant waters of modern rock, it's Manson. Kristy Loye
Roadkill Ghost Choir
Wednesday, January 10
The organic Americana sound created by indie folk troupe Roadkill Ghost Choir stands in stark contrast to the sleek, modern, Top 40 radio pop. Banjo-led songs with touches of folk, like the group's breakout track "Beggars' Guild," are as refreshing as taking a dip in a spring.
Add steel pedal guitar licks and Southern-rock charm and you'd assume the five guys who make up the band grew up in some tiny town in Florida's zany swampland. In actuality, the three Shepard brothers at the band's core – vocalist/guitarist Andrew, bassist Zach, and drummer Maxx – were raised in Deland, a town near Orlando.
At age 19, Andrew discovered the sweeping orchestral melodies of Sufjan Stevens and, a few years later, started exploring the country yearnings of Willie Nelson. He calls the discovery of Nelson's outlaw country tunes a "defining moment" in his young career because it caused the young musician to begin crafting songs.
Just a few years later, Roadkill Ghost Choir was fully realized when Andrew asked his brothers to perform with him. Success came at a rapid speed for the Shepard gang – one fan posted a song of theirs on Reddit, thereby catching the ear of notable comedian Joe Rogan, who in turn championed the band on his successful podcast. After just an EP's worth of material, the five-piece found itself on the iconic Late Show With David Letterman. Last year, Roadkill Ghost Choir released their latest album, False Youth Etcetera, which they’re supporting with their current tour. Alex Rendon
Friday, January 12
The Rebel Lounge
Of the many musical children of Beck (or is that Drake?) out there nowadays, Brad Petering is definitely one worth paying attention to.
The L.A.-based musician who calls himself TV Girl is one of those polymaths fluent in the language of 21st-century production alchemy, someone who can easily translate hothouse keyboards, indie-pop noodling, hip-hop beats and abundant sampling into woozy electronica jams perfect for the chillout room and occasionally the dance floor.
Although songs like “Safe Word” aren’t quite as light-hearted, the sardonic observational humor Petering displays throughout 2016 Bandcamp release Who Really Cares is a real bonus on songs like “Taking What’s Not Yours” and “Song About Me,” the latter of which details how annoying it is when your ex puts you in a song. That’s just about the worst. Chris Gray
Saturday, January 13
The Van Buren
It's undoubtedly for the better that pimp culture has taken a backseat to personal independence in the rap vernacular, but that doesn't mean we can't reminisce with one of the iciest players to ever turn a ho out on record (we're using technical terminology here).
At 51, Too $hort is a veteran, having been one of the first Bay Area rappers to rise to prominence after dropping his first cassette in 1985. It was titled Don't Stop Rappin', which turned out to be fitting since he's released 20 albums to date, including 2012’s No Trespassing and 2017’s The Pimp Tape, both independent releases that still managed to raise some big stars for the occasion: 50 Cent, G-Eazy, T.I., Juicy J, Snoop Dogg and, of course, E-40.
All of that speaks to $hort Dog's commitment to craft, which in this case involves lacing strip-club beats with timeless braggadocio. Chris Martins
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
Saturday, January 13
Marquee Theatre in Tempe
The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s backstory is incredible: Seven of the Chicago brass band’s nine members are sons of jazz trumpeter Phil Cohran, best known for his work in Sun Ra’s Arkestra, and as a founding member of Chicago free-jazz collective Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. But unlike Sun Ra or AACM, whose structures were loose, HBE makes funky, tight instrumentals, which draw from the New Orleans brass band tradition but infuse the sound with skippin’ hip-hop rhythms.
On their 2009 debut album, HBE showed incredible dynamic range. Songs like “Jupiter” are soft and focused but contain so much texture and variation that you can just see these dudes in the basement working it out over and over again. There’s an intuitiveness to the arrangements, which comes from sharing the same blood and fire. A track like “War” arrives in a burst of brass. You can almost feel your hair knocked back by the blast. Randall Roberts
Saturday, January 13
BLK Live in Scottsdale
Ever since joining Major Lazer, Miami's Walshy Fire has been circling the globe, dropping bass, and transforming international party people into wild, explosive, and twerk-elated versions of themselves. It's the logical progression for a Jamaican kid from Miami who picked up on music at an early age and never let go.
He started with parties, then came clubs, then came festivals, then came stadiums. And after harnessing a solid global fanbase, the financial wherewithal to invest in himself, and plenty of business knowledge, he's founded his own label, Planet Raux.
Walshy Fire is currently manufacturing and distributing conscious reggae and Miami bass for release around the world. And in the meantime, he's hosting Vice's "Noisey Brazil," slamming speakers with the new Major Lazer album, Peace Is the Mission, and ascending from performer to executive. This month, he’ll visit BLK Live in Scottsdale for what’s sure to be a high-energy show. Jacob Katel
Sunday, January 14
The Van Buren
When she talks, K. Flay uses big words. Nascent. Dichotomous. Alienation. It's the sort of vernacular that writers splay all over the page when they're trying to sound intelligent. But Flay actually is intelligent; there's her dual degrees from Stanford in psychology and sociology, for one thing.
With shoulder-length brown hair and an endearing smile, Flay is more Bethany Cosentino than Big KRIT; the newcomer is challenging our stereotypes of how an MC should look and act. But she's also become one of hip-hop's most intriguing new talents.
As shown on her breakout three-part mixtape she released in 2011 – called I Stopped Caring in '96 – there's a grit beneath her privileged exterior. Flay spits rhythmic licks in terse, agitated fashion, with pristine enunciation and verbal posture. "It was never something I ever thought I would do in a professional way," says the woman born Kristine Flaherty, of her emerging status as hip-hop's girl-next-door. "People that I grew up with are like 'What the fuck? You're doing this?'” Dan Hyman
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Tuesday, January 16
The Van Buren
It’s strange to think that it’s been 16 years since San Francisco’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released its B.R.M.C. debut album. Back then, rock and roll was wallowing in a garage-rock revival led by Detroit bands like the White Stripes, Scandinavians like the Hellacopters, and Australasians like the Datsuns. The downside of this movement is that a whole lot of bands got unnecessarily lumped in, the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club among them.
In fact, the BRMC have far more in common with dark British alt-rock bands like Echo & the Bunnymen, The Fall and The Jesus & Mary Chain, plus art-rockers like The Velvet Underground, and even Sonic Youth. Musically fascinating and blessed with bags of dark mood, the early 2000s media grouped them in with that garage scene because, as with bands like the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, it didn’t really know what else to do with them.
The last full album of new material from the band, Specter at the Feast, was released in 2013, something that front man Robert Levon Been partly puts down to the fact that he prefers touring to recording. Still, there’s a new record, Wrong Creatures, arriving in mid-January.
“There’s a sense of going forward and going back at the same time," Been says. "There are parts that are more getting back to the basic rock band, and then there is a little bit of new territory. We’re trying to keep a little bit of mystery about that right now.” Brett Callwood
Thursday, January 18
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, 15 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
Friday, January 19
Gila River Arena in Glendale
Katy Perry’s Witness Tour is two solid hours of pop-music razzle-dazzle with the pop singer strutting around the stage, empowering girls and performing along with her dexterous troupe of dancers.
There are fireworks, a pole dancer, a massive set of lips that gobble up the singer, a massive tiger head for the song “Roar,” a pair of dice that singers dance on, a planet she rides over her the audience while strumming an acoustic guitar; and a ginormous basketball court where she battles in a game of hoops with a cool dad that’s handpicked from the crowd.
You should also expect an inescapable amount of eyeballs during her show on January 19 at Gila River Arena in Glendale. It’s a common motif in her Witness Tour (get it?) and the show will feature a massive moving eyeball projected onto on an eyeball-shaped screen. There are eyeballs in flowers and eyeballs on beach balls. There are robots with TV heads with eyeballs in the center. They are meant to evoke that nagging sense that we’re always being watched, a logical response to surveillance culture, in which cameras record our every move and marketers track our desires.
Party kids will trip in her fantasy world. Children will understand it as Saturday-morning cartoon fodder. And the rest of us can bask in the sheer wonder of it all. Kyle Harris
Morris Day and the Time
Saturday, January 20
BLK Live in Scottsdale
Even though Prince's control-freak tendencies made him itch to play every instrument himself in his first band, Grand Central Corporation, friend and guitarist Morris Day swung his swanky balls around enough to earn a place in the little guy's future collaborative royalty.
Day's song "Partyup" ended up on Prince's genre-ravaging Dirty Mind (the first R&B LP any punk owned), and Day was repaid with his own band, The Time, a funk-rock powerhouse that was the first of Prince's many post-success pet projects.
The Time was the unbridled id of Paisley Park, and the group's 1981 self-titled debut was led by choice workouts like "Cool" and "Get It Up." The band dressed like dandy New Wave pimps and featured geniuses like Terry Lewis and Jimmy "Jam" Harris. When Prince had The Time open for him on a tour with The Rolling Stones, The Time's vibrant grooves and comedic energy tended to make the Purple One purple with jealousy before he hit the stage. As goofy as their antics were, The Time's masculine excesses kept it raw.
Despite masterpieces like "Jungle Love," The Time never got too huge, but then again, we know punks who traded in their LPs after Purple Rain and held on to the bold funk jams of their Time sides. Chris Estey
Jessica Lea Mayfield
Tuesday, January 23
Jessica Lea Mayfield has risen through the songwriting ranks with one foot in the old and the other in the new. She got her start touring with her family bluegrass band, but after a stroke of luck, she was suddenly pushed into the spotlight with high-profile tours accompanying the likes of Black Keys, Ray LaMontagne, Lucero, and Jay Farrar.
But success hasn't seemed to make her too happy: Her songs are still dark, brooding little things you'd expect more from a cranky old woman, not a 28-year-old. Listening to her, you might think she was an old country or folk performer, as her drawl comes across as something you'd be more likely to hear in the '70s than today. Still, she doesn't always play the jaded, lovesick adult, and 2011's Tell Me experiments more with rock and pop than her debut. Thorin Klosowski
Wednesday, January 24
The Van Buren
Wolf Parade has its own quirky appeal. In the first five years after the indie roc/post-punk band formed in 2013, they put out three well received, eclectic records: 2005's Apologies to the Queen Mary, 2008's At Mount Zoomer, and 2010's Expo 86. In 2011, though, they had decided to call it quits. "By the time we toured that last record, it wasn't as fun," drummer Arlen Thompson says, "We realized if we pushed it and did this as a job we would end up totally hating each other. We all had side projects going on, so we thought if we stopped Wolf Parade then, maybe there would be room to come back to it."
In 2016, that room opened up. Thompson was back in his hometown of Vancouver, where his trumpeter father once encouraged him to play drums, (since every band needs a drummer) when he learned keyboardist Spencer Krug and multi-instrumentalist Dante DeCaro were also living nearby. "We thought it was a good idea to get back together. We hung out, talked out some issues, and played some music,” Thompson says. “We sounded terrible that first time, but it felt good, so we started writing new songs."
And you can hear those tracks on their LP Cry Cry Cry, which debuted in October 2017 via Sub Pop. The two singles that were initially released, "You're Dreaming" and "Valley Boy," have a catchiness that will attract new listeners. "Every one of our albums is a response to the last album we made. We look at what we didn't like with the last one and work on it. Expo 86 we tried to get to sound live, like one of our shows. This one, we wanted more lush, so we expanded with horns and synthesizers. Lyrically we were informed by what was happening in America politically." David Rolland
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
Friday, January 26
The Van Buren
Performing as St. Vincent, Annie Clark is a writer of lush, adventurous pop music. As a teenager she was the tour manager for her uncle's band, Tuck & Patti, where she learned not only a great deal about the music business but also a bit about musicianship and effective performance.
In her early 20s, Clark became a member of the Polyphonic Spree and later on joined Sufjan Stevens' band for his 2006 tour. The following year, Clark released her first solo album, Marry Me, a promising debut filled with effervescent melodies and experimental flourishes throughout.
The follow-up album, Actor, appeared two years later and garnered a great deal of acclaim for Clark. Actor was a sonically and artistically mature work that reveals an uncommon depth of artistic imagination and ambition in songwriting and musical conceptualization.
Her current record, Masseduction, hovers in the netherworld between two opposing forces and coasts. The sparse piano ballad “New York” is a straightforward and heartfelt elegy to a vanishing way of life: “New York isn’t New York without you, love / Too few of our old crew left on Astor.” Tom Murphy
Phoenix Rock Lottery 2018
Saturday, January 27
For the fifth straight year, Crescent Ballroom will play host to the Phoenix Rock Lottery. How does it work? Take 25 local musicians, put them in a room, mix them up, and give them a day to come up with a brand-spanking-new name, three original songs, and time to master one cover. The result? Some of the most interesting juxtapositions in the Valley.
Past incarnations have included members of Captain Squeegee, Dry River Yacht Club, Emby Alexander, Mergence, Slow Moses, and Jimmy Eat World. In fact, it was at 2015’s Lottery that Jim Adkins and friends started Wet Lab, a pop punk quintet who went on to release a cassette single.
This year’s roster hasn’t been announced yet, but will likely include a “who’s who” of the Phoenix music scene. The only way to witness the wild stuff these impromptu bands will invent is to see it yourself. And get your tickets now because the show typically sells out. Troy Farah
Saturday, January 27
Gila River Arena in Glendale
When Brad Paisley isn't writing and performing sweet, tender songs that make women melt into a big pile of mush — or even haunting songs about death — he's writing some hilarious, off-the-wall, kind of stupid songs about the things happening to or around him.
That's the charm of Paisley, though: He's the perfect balance of sweet and salty. While other country crooners might be singing about a woman's tight jeans and lipstick (not that Paisley doesn't sing about that, too), Paisley's strength is observing his surroundings and singing about them with some, or a lot of, humor sprinkled in. In late January, Paisley will perform at Gila River Arena in Glendale with support from openers Dustin Lynch, Chase Bryant, and Lindsay Ell. Paige Skinner
Sunday, January 28
Always a pop-minded performer and consummate singles artist, Adam Ant has had a more fearless and confounding career than almost anyone else associated with New Wave. Announcing "ridicule is nothing to be scared of" on 1981's "Prince Charming," he's brushed up against the line between commercial-minded music and something much much more avant-garde too many times to mention, whether post-punk ("Kings of the Wild Frontier") or hip-hop ("Ant Rap").
Still, he may have topped himself with Adam Ant Is the BlueBlack Hussar Marrying the Gunner's Daughter, a concept album (obviously) that doesn't necessarily need to be understood to be appreciated for its bluesy textures and Ant's Iggy-esque slither. Chris Gray
Monday, January 29
The Van Buren
Jose Gonzalez’s welcoming yet melancholy folk tunes have earned him a reputation as a sensitive singer-songwriter capable of balancing different musical impulses to moving effect.
Take “New Leaf,” the lead single off of 2015’s Vestiges & Claws, in which Gonzalez and crew chant “Make the light lead you out” over and over, almost hypnotically, accompanied by uplifting guitar strums and what sounds like a congregation of hand-clappers. But the exuberance is cut by Gonzalez’s understated and melodically perfect vocals, creating the impression that the singer might be trying to convince himself to take his own advice.
Throughout his work, Gonzalez balances the joy of being alive with a sad reserve, sounding something like Simon and Garfunkel — minus, thankfully, that duo’s string-laden bombast. Luke Leavitt
Wednesday, January 31
Birds Nest at Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale
It ain't easy being Flo Rida, but it's gotta be a "Good Feeling." For the past decade, this self-described "international hustler" has kept his grind cranked to "Club Can't Handle Me" levels, endlessly zigzagging between the studio, the gym, and arena-size stages.
Since releasing his debut album, Mail on Sunday, and its breakout lead single, "Low," in 2007, the notoriously ripped hit machine's waking hours have become entirely consumed by ever-exploding obligations. Stuff like repeat trips to the American Music Awards winner's circle, halftime gigs at the NBA All-Star Game, soccer stadium concerts in Europe, über-exclusive VIP fashion parties on South Beach, and impromptu Japanese Jacuzzi parties with 30 female fans from Okinawa.
The cause of all this hard work and even harder play: a four-song string of Billboard number one house-hop hits — 2012's "Whistle," 2011's "Good Feeling," 2009's "Right Round," and the aforementioned "Low" — that's proven the 38-year-old rapper to be one of Planet Earth's most bankable pop stars. S. Pajot