Things to Do

Best Phoenix Concerts This Weekend: Zona Fest, Under the Mistletoe, Modest Mouse

Nelly will perform on Sunday, December 3, at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale.
Nelly will perform on Sunday, December 3, at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale. Ticketmaster
There are two types of concertgoers this weekend: Those who are going to Zona Festival and, um, everyone else. If you’re one of the former, hit up our guide for tips about attending. For anyone in the latter group, though, the good news is there are other big shows in the Valley from Friday, December 2, to Sunday, December 4 (heck, Zona ain’t the only music festival this weekend).

To wit: Power 98.3 is staging its Under the Mistletoe holiday concert with headliners like Nelly and Lil Jon and indie rock kings Modest Most are celebrating the 25th anniversary of one of their most beloved albums. Meanwhile, rock icon (and Phoenix resident) Alice Cooper will fete a milestone of his own, the Arizona Hip Hop Festival will showcase local rap talents, and influential acts Social Distortion and Lee Fields and the Expressions will also be in town.

Read on for more details or click over to Phoenix New Timesonline concert calendar for more live music this weekend.

Social Distortion

Friday, December 2, and Saturday, December 3
Marquee Theatre, 730 North Mill Avenue, Tempe
If there’s one thing Mike Ness learned in the 1980s about the music biz, it’s that being a punk rocker and sustaining a career were never intended to be bedfellow aspirations. In a music genre seemingly predicated on living fast with reckless abandon, the founder, lead singer, and guitarist of Social Distortion followed suit. And yet, against all odds, as a 16-year-old high school dropout and homeless teen, Ness recruited the lineup that would set things on fire musically in 1978. It wasn’t long before Social D would become the West Coast’s answer to the pioneering punk bands/scenes exploding in New York, London, and Detroit. What Ness and his band did to differentiate themselves from the pack was mix a melting pot of hard rock, rhythm and blues, and country. Move ahead to 2022 and Ness has not only persevered but he’s also outlived many of his punk pioneer compatriots. Lately, he’s been touring with Social D, including playing two nights at Tempe’s Marquee Theatre this weekend, plus working on material for a forthcoming record, the band’s eighth LP and first since Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes dropped in 2011. With Aaron Lee Tasjan and Chris Shiflett; 8 p.m.; $39.50 via Mark C. Horn

Lee Fields and the Expressions

Saturday, December 3
Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue
Most schools of theology hold to the belief that the soul is eternal, an unchanging spiritual constant that will outlast the annihilation of all matter. Soul music shares a similar timeless quality: it exists in an eternal now of desire and pain, unmoored from modern culture and technology. It’s hard to tell what year Lee Fields recorded himself crooning “Honey Dove;” its sultry, stripped-down soulful groove wouldn’t sound out of place during the glory days of Motown and Stax. A veteran soul and funk performer, Fields bears a striking resemblance to James Brown in person and on tape (he sounds so much like the hardest-working man in show business that he provided additional vocals for Brown’s biofilm Get On Up). His music mines a less energetic vein than Brown’s, though, focusing on the more slow, syrupy side of soul. He can sound haunted (“Could Have Been”) and horny (“Ladies”) with utter conviction. He’s worked with soul greats like the late Bobby Womack and more modern practitioners like the late Sharon Jones, gracing their tracks with his warm, lived-in vocals. So long as singers like Fields are here to carry the slow-burning torch, soul will never die. 7:30 p.m., $28/$32 via Ashley Naftule
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Jeremiah Green (left) and Isaac Brock (right) of Modest Mouse.
James Joiner

Modest Mouse

Saturday, December 3
The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street
Indie rock kings Modest Mouse last performed in the Valley about a year ago in support of their most recent release, the experimental 12-track LP The Golden Casket. Their gig this weekend at The Van Buren, which is technically sold out, is in support of another album, albeit one that came out a quarter-century ago. The Lonesome Crowded West, Modest Mouse’s best-selling 1997 album (widely considered to be one of the more celebrated and influential records in indie rock) is turning 25. In honor of the occasion, Isaac Brock and drummer Jeremiah Green (Modest Mouse’s only remaining original members at this point) are on the road performing every track from TLCW with encores featuring such deep-cut songs as “Too Many Fiestas for Rueben” and “Edit the Sad Parts.” In other words, don’t show up to The Van Buren hoping to hear “Float On.” With Mattress; 8 p.m., tickets are available on the secondary market. Benjamin Leatherman
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Rock 'n' roll legend (and Valley resident) Alice Cooper.
Jim Louvau

Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding

Saturday, December 3
Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street
Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding, the holiday-themed variety show created by the longtime Valley resident and his wife, Sheryl, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, marking two decades of bringing top-tier talent to town for a good cause. This year, the sold-out show at Celebrity Theatre boasts its typical all-star lineup, including Sammy Hagar, Rob Zombie, Wally Palmar of the Romantics, the Gin Blossoms, Sixwire (who Cooper will be performing with), and comedian Jim Breuer. Also on the bill are the winners of Cooper’s American Idol-esque youth talent competition, Proof Is in the Pudding: singer Eleeza, band The Darn Kids, and dance troupe Fierce & Fabulous. There’s music and fun and merriment for all, but beneath the lighthearted exterior is a serious mission. Proceeds from the Christmas Pudding benefit the work that the Coopers do through their Solid Rock Teen Centers, two facilities in north Phoenix and Mesa that provide free arts programming and a safe space for young people ages 12 to 20. 7 p.m., tickets are available on the secondary market. Jennifer Goldberg

Yung Gravy and bbno$

Saturday, December 3
Arizona Financial Theatre, 400 West Washington Street
Yung Gravy has one thing in common with Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman. Like Jesse, he loves MILFs. MILFs are Yung Gravy’s chief artistic concern, his raison d’etre. His first big song “Mr. Clean” (an absolutely shameless hijacking of The Chordettes “Mr. Sandman”) is his ode to all the MILFs of the world, assuring them of the quality and quantity of his sauce. “Mr. Clean” is the ur-text, the key that helps unlock what Jacques Derrida would call “the bottomless chessboard” of Yung Gravy’s sound and vision. Gravy’s music is second-hand, clumsy pilfering: wipe Ric Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” and Gravy’s TikTok anthem “Betty” would immediately cease to exist. His goofy lyrics are a chasm of meaninglessness, the swaggering of a marketing major who knows “white guy who’ll fuck your mom” is a great gimmick for social media engagement. Every generation gets the novelty rapper they deserve. Watching his music videos, it’s clear that all the charisma you don’t hear in his voice went everywhere else: he’s an engaging presence, a self-effacing dirtbag par excellence. His sauce isn’t so bad, really; just keep it away from your mothers. With Freddie Dredd and DJ Tiiiiiiiiiip; 8 p.m., $49.50-$112.50 via Ashley Naftule
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Beach House is scheduled to perform on Saturday, December 3, at Zona Festival.
David Belisle

Zona Music Festival

Saturday, December 3, and Sunday, December 4
Margaret T. Hance Park, 1218 North Second Street
Zona Music Festival, which takes over Margaret T. Hance Park this weekend, is bringing an eclectic lineup of about 50 indie, rock, and alternative acts, many of whom are Arizona-based musicians. Given the festival's creator, Stephen Chilton of Psyko Steve Presents, that's not a surprise. Since 2000, Chilton has been one of the Valley's most active concert promoters, helping to launch the careers of many local-turned-national acts. And now, he's partnered with Downtown Phoenix Inc. for what he hopes is the first of many Zona festivals to come. The headliners — Beach House and Bleachers on Saturday, and Portugal. The Man and Japanese Breakfast on Sunday — are well-known names in the indie music world. Other acts on the bill, including soul/psychedelic outfit Chicano Batman, early-aughts notables Phantom Planet, and pop singer-songwriter Luna Aura have their own loyal followings. But it's the heavy representation of local artists — including Sydney Sprague, Snailmate, Tatiana Crespo, Black Carl, Playboy Manbaby, Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra — that make Zona so special. "Something I always want to do is include local artists wherever I can," Chilton says. "It's a big part of what we do." Noon, $89-$175 general admission, $175-$349 for VIP passes via Jennifer Goldberg
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Arizona Hip Hop Festival founder Justus Samuel.
New Times Archive

Arizona Hip Hop Festival

Saturday, December 3, and Sunday, December 4
Monarch Theatre, 122 East Washington Street
You've got to admire the chutzpah of Arizona Hip Hop Festival founder Justus Samuel. He’s putting on this year’s event at the same time the much larger Zona Music Festival will be going on less than two miles away. Granted, there probably isn’t a great deal of overlap between the two events when it comes to audiences. Plus, Samuels tells Phoenix New Times it's good to have an alternative for those who can’t afford a pricey festival ticket. “We’re gonna do fine,” he says. Like its previous editions, the Arizona Hip Hop Festival will offer multiple stages (five on Saturday, three on Sunday), vendors, artists, and sets by a huge selection of local rappers and emcees. The lineup includes headliners like Odd Squad Family, Rum Nitty, Dela Preme, Young Bookie, Toure Masters, Kiddo Wreckz, The Real Khiry, Flawsum, and dozens more. Snoopy BadAzz of Deathrow Records is also scheduled to perform. Noon, $10-$50 via Benjamin Leatherman
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The party instigator himself, Lil Jon.
Benjamin Leatherman

Power 98.3's Under the Mistletoe

Sunday, December 4
Desert Diamond Arena, 9400 West Maryland Avenue
‘Tis the season for holiday concerts put on by local radio stations, a hallmark of this time of year that typically features multiple artists. And typically, one of the yardsticks used to gauge the quality of such shows is the strength of the lineup. By this measure, Power 98.3’s Under the Mistletoe gig looks like a winner. Mr. “Country Grammar” Nelly and his on-again/off-again squeeze Ashanti will headline the event, backed up by east coast rapper Ja Rule. Sharing this superstar-studded bill are crunk king Lil Jon, his fellow southern rappers the Ying Yang Twins, and onetime Puff Daddy protege Ma$e. Whether or not the show itself will be memorable will be up to the artists to decide. 7 p.m., $64-$249 via Benjamin Leatherman


Sunday, December 4
Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue
After 34 years of punk rock, Anti-Flag aren’t showing any signs of waving the white flag. The Pittsburgh band are elder statesmen of punk, as renowned for their radical politics and activism as they are for their blistering music. While the lineup has shifted over the years, singer/guitarist Justin Sane remains the band’s north star and fixed center. Twelve albums into their career (with a 13th, Lies They Tell Our Children, set to release next year), Anti-Flag still sound as caustic and loud as ever. The band’s espoused anti-capitalist politics has got them “shot by both sides” (to quote punk O.G. Howard Devoto). They've had to push back against criticism over the years that their band name is anti-American, and also faced accusations of selling out for signing to RCA Records in 2005. But their track record of advocacy is undeniable: while so many other bands play coy with their public politics, Anti-Flag backed movements and organizations like Greenpeace, Amnesty International, and the Occupy movement. They’ve never lost sight of the anger that animates punk music. No gods, no masters, no flags: just hard, righteous rock to rage to. With We Are the Union and The Limit Club; 7 p.m., $22/$25 via Ashley Naftule
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.
Ashley Naftule

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