This week’s slate of concerts in the Valley features shows by a “cholo goth” band, some psychobilly fiends, a crop of country crooners, and a nerdcore pioneer.
In other words, it’s got a little bit of everything.
That includes performances by a pair of certified legends, too: velvet-voiced icon Tony Bennett (who’s making up a previously postponed gig) and old-school country queen Tanya Tucker.
Other worthwhile concerts taking place over the next several nights at music venues around Phoenix include gigs by indie pop/surf/punk act Slow Caves, country-blues musician Charlie Parr, and orchestral pop group The Piano Guys.
Like we said, a little bit of everything.
Details about all of these shows can be found below in our list of the 10 best concerts in Phoenix this week. (And for even more live music happening around town, hit up our online listings.)
Monday, December 4
There’s no shortage of wounded men crooning about their emotions, tearing open their guts like they have nothing to lose. This gimmick, too often mistaken for lyrical bravery, has become so pervasive that one could easily disregard the stunning fingerpicking country-blues poet Charlie Parr, whose introspective songs about depression are infused with pain but also hope.
On his most recent album, Dog, Parr veers from sounding like a frenetic Cab Calloway on “LowDown” to mumbling like Will Oldham on “Sometimes I’m Alright.” Although he walks a line between cultural appropriation and appreciation — Minnesota artists can’t lay claim to Piedmont-style blues — it’s impossible to write Parr off: His masterful lyricism is undeniable, and while his roots-music palette may be limited, his range of styles is vast. Kyle Harris
Monday, December 4
Of all the genres and subgenres of music, one might never have expected that psychobilly – the frighteningly fitful combination of punk and rockabilly – would have such a protracted shelf life. But, somehow, a seemingly endless supply of disaffected youth continue to worship at the dual altars of horror movies and hardcore punk, no matter the year.
Canadian-born psycobilly act The Creepshow is one such band to gleefully celebrate at that mythical place where Iggy Pop and Elvira reign as King and Queen of camp and chaos. Founded in 2005, this Canadian quartet has attempted to fill the void vacated once Glen Danzig left The Misfits with its rip-roaring brand of psychobilly, which is frequently filled with lyrics pertaining to slasher flicks, spooky subjects, and twisted imagery.
Like some undead creature, The Creepshow’s lived through a number of lineup changes over the last 12 years (including two previous vocalists, Jen "Hellcat" Blackwood and her younger sister, Sarah Nicole "Sin" Blackwood) and keep finding ways to keep shock rock alive and well. Darryl Smyers
Tuesday, December 5
Rogue Bar in Scottsdale
Slow Caves formed in early 2014 when two pairs of brothers, who’d been friends with each other for years, decided to put together a serious band: Oliver and Jakob Mueller moved to Colorado from Holland in 2001 and met David Dugan and Jackson Lamperes in elementary school.
The quartet thinks of its name as a verb: “We like to imagine that our music is the sound of your mind slowly caving in on itself,” says the band.
Since its inception, Slow Caves has honed its sound and garnered a reputation for being a charmingly engaging acts unafraid to try out sounds and ideas as it followed its musical instincts to its current sound, somewhere between indie pop, surf rock and punk.
“We've been fortunate to play a ton, so we've been able to filter out a bunch songs that we didn't think made sense,” the band says via e-mail. “What's influenced the surfy vibe on a lot of the new songs is the idea of wanting to be by the ocean when you're trapped in the mountains. We used to get into a new band every week and want to write songs like all of these different bands. Now, we kind of have this idea of what we want to be influenced by and try to stick in that realm. The fact that we play offset guitars (Jaguars and Jazzmasters) also has influenced our playing. We use the [tremolo] bar a lot and try to get super-jangly and -chimey tones that make you want to be at the beach.”
The recently released Desert Minded is the band's sophomore album following a 2014 self-titled EP. And you can expect to be able to hear the new material live when Slow Caves hits The Rogue Bar in Scottsdale on Tuesday night. Abrams and Bad Funk open the show. Tom Murphy
KMLE’s Not So Silent Night
Tuesday, December 5
Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale
If you’re the kind of music lover who hangs mistletoe from your truck’s rearview mirror and has a Garth Brooks ornament on the Christmas tree, the folks at KMLE have a holiday event that’s up your alley. The country station is putting on the sixth annual Not So Silent Night show at Talking Stick Resort, with a lineup of country stars who also know how to bring the rock.
Don’t expect this to be a sedate holiday singalong show. Performers on this year’s bill include David Lee Murphy, Scotty McCreery, Jordan Davis, and Chris Lane.
Instead of buying tickets, you’ve gotta win passes to Not So Silent Night. They’re available at live ticket stops the radio station will be hosting or by calling in on-air. So if you wanna go, add 602-260-1079 to your speed dial. Ashley Naftule
The Piano Guys
Tuesday, December 5
Marketing professionals will tell you that often, simplicity and directness is the key to establishing brand identity. So if you buy a ticket to see The Piano Guys, don’t expect to hear a horn section. Though you will, oddly enough, get a cello.
Producers, videographers, songwriters, and musicians Paul Anderson, Jon Schmidt, Steven Sharp Nelson and Al Van Der Beek have created a unique niche with their on-fire social media-driven videos, often either covers of other pop culture ephemera. Sometimes, all four men will play the same piano at once, making for a crowded bench (though Schmidt and Nelson handle most musical duties).
“It’s just cool to see a piano and cello in crazy locations, and mix genres of music,” Anderson said in a 2014 interview for Music Express Magazine. And the key to getting a full-size piano on top of a high and precarious-looking desert cliff for their African-style cover of Coldplay’s “Peponi?” Easy. “Have a friend with a helicopter!” Bob Ruggiero
Tuesday, December 5
Rafael Reyes and Dave Parley coined the term “cholo goth” for the music they make as Prayers. Their songs reflect the harsh realities of life in a gang on the streets of San Diego while sounding like they could have been made by dark English post-punkers like Bauhaus or synth-pop bands like Depeche Mode. The melodrama of those styles of music and their ability to amplify raw human emotion allows Prayers to explore themes around stripping back imposed identity and living authentically.
In 2015, Prayers put out Young Gods, which was produced by Travis Barker of Blink-182; the release roughly coincided with a Vice documentary on the band, introducing a much wider audience to Reyes and Parley’s intelligence and compassion.
In October, they released Cursed Be Thy Blessings, a two-song EP born of their collaboration with Rikk Agnew, James McGearty and Gitane Demone of Christian Death. Besided the title track, which was produced by Prayers, it boasts a cover version of the famed Christian Death song “Dogs” albeit reworked in Spanish and retitled as “Perros.” You’re likely to hear both tracks during Prayers’ performance this week at Crescent Ballroom. Tom Murphy
Tuesday, December 5
Higley Center for the Arts in Gilbert
Few artists make it out the other side of child stardom. Experiencing the pressures of fame at such a young age has a way of unraveling even the best of talents.
Having burst onto the country music scene in 1972 with top-10 single “Delta Dawn,” Tanya Tucker found fame and fortune at just 16 years of age. As with many before and since, Tucker’s early rise soon gave birth to those demons we typically associate with celebrity struggle: toxic relationships, youthful recklessness, chemical dependence. But unlike most, she persevered and is now at 59 a wiser, more emotive artist because of it.
Glowing with spiritual aching and bittersweet empathy, Tucker’s pop-inflected tunes marry her larger-than-life legacy to intimate songwriting. Loneliness and the toll of addiction are themes felt more than referenced in Tucker’s music, but the weight of such heavy past experiences has gifted her music an inspirational and painterly beauty.
To catch a Tanya Tucker performance is to witness a classic section of country music’s varied history, and to see determination and artistic endurance personified. Jonathan Patrick
Wednesday, December 6,
The Rebel Lounge
Nerdcore, my ass — if you want to hear someone rap about comic books or science fiction or anime, you can pick up an album by MF DOOM or Del the Funky Homosapien instead of glomming onto some kid who's too caught up in geek culture to learn how to flow. mc chris (remember, all lowercase when you spell the man's name) is a notable exception.
Despite being a pioneer of the nerdcore scene, he's expressed numerous reservations about being lumped in with the more one-movement in his wake. And while his uber-nasal high-pitched voice (as heard on classic episodes of [adult swim] series Sealab 2020 and Aqua Teen Hunger Force) and enthusiasm for all things dork have made him a star among the internet people set, all his Star Wars and D&D references are spit with a lyrical agility and a sharp-tongued sense of humor that set him miles above his peers. Nate Patrin
Wheeler Walker Jr.
Wednesday, December 6
The Van Buren
It may be best not to try to define Wheeler Walker Jr. beyond what you’re getting from him in the moment. In a previous incarnation, he was an edgy Hollywood sketch comedian named Ben Hoffman, who mysteriously disappeared from the public appearances. But in this moment, he is a classically influenced country and western musician, buoyed by pedal steel and songs laced with R-rated lyrics.
But no matter who you think Walker really is — country music bad boy or the Tony Clifton-esque alter ego — the real question is, does it really matter? After all, Walker's independently released album, Redneck Shit, debuted in February at No. 9 on Billboard’s country music chart (and #1 on the comedy chart, but he says he doesn’t give a damn about that one).
It's an answer to what he describes as a commercial country music wasteland presented by a Nashville music machine that is only interested in formulaic pop singles. Karen Brooks Harper
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Thursday, December 7
Tony Bennett, the legendary crooner known for signature tunes “Steppin’ Out With My Baby” and “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” is turning his stop at Celebrity Theatre into a family affair.
Daughter and next-gen performer Antonia Bennett opens the show, having inherited her father’s dreamy eyes and clear voice. She grew up in a household where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Gene Kelly were the norm, and has been opening for her father for the past decade.
As for the main attraction, Tony will offer up a marathon of crowd favorites and old classics, including “I Got Rhythm,” “Sing You Sinners,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” and “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road).” This powerhouse talent is still going strong at 91 and audience members will be ready to fly to the moon before this star-studded night is over. Vic Shuttee