Although guitarist and singer Robert Cray had been working with his own band since the late ’70s (and even had a cameo in the 1978 film Animal House as the bassist for Otis Day and the Knights), Cray didn’t really break into the mainstream until releasing his fourth album, Strong Persuader, in 1986. The album, which contained the hit “Smokin’ Gun,” earned Cray a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Over the last three decades, Cray has gone on to prove that not only is he a great bluesman with his feet planted in the genre (he’s even recorded with the great John Lee Hooker), but he can mix in soul as well, as he does on 2014’s In My Soul. He’s also released 4 Nights of 40 Years Live, a two-CD and DVD live album, in 2015. Jon Solomon
Rapper Lucki Eck$ — better known simply as Lucki — has a song called “Poker Face” on his 2017 release Watch My Back. But make no mistake, it’s not a cover of Lady Gaga’s hit from back in 2008.
Where Gaga’s track is about relationship drama, Lucki’s is a nod to Wockhardt, the pharma company that produces a codeine-laden cough syrup famously used to concoct lean, which blends the medicine with Sprite and Jolly Ranchers. And Lucki doesn’t seem to care about his songs reaching the same level of popularity as Gaga, as he notes in the track: “Baby rock-hardt, I feel like a Wock star / I don’t fear a thing but a cop car / Underground king, fuck your top chart.”
With that song, and his others, it takes a minute to focus on the lyrics because his vocal delivery is so laid back – mellow and, at times. hypnotic. It’s not surprising he’s collaborated with the trancey FKA Twigs. The beats below the words aren’t hyper either; they’re melodic and popping with energy, creating a balance with his low-and-slow singing style. Things get grittier when you do zone in on what Lucki’s saying, as he offers slices from his life, referencing topics from drugs to gang life. Amy Young
When German powerhouse vocalist Angela Gossow left Swedish metal band Arch Enemy in 2014, many justifiably suspected that the group’s best days were behind them. After all, Gossow is blessed with a voice that sounds like multiple demons gargling nails. Replacing her would surely prove impossible. In fact, Gossow hand-picked her replacement, Canada’s Alissa White-Gluz, and it was an inspired choice, enabling Arch Enemy to barely miss a beat.
Some fans might have been unable to get past the clean vocals on this year’s Will to Power album, but all of the aggression and energy is still there.
Contemporary thrash band Trivium put out their eighth album this year, The Sin and the Sentence, and frontman Matt Heafy has returned to the screaming vocal style that was absent from their previous record. The bands’ contrasting vocal trajectories should make for a fascinating metal pairing. Brett Callwood
The coming of the full moon each month has been an event that’s been celebrated for millennia, dating back to ceremonies performed by the Celts and Druids. In more modern times, there are events like the annual Full Moon Party in Thailand, which features a raucous, rowdy, and colorful celebration.
Here in the Valley, organizers of the Full Moon Festival get into the spirit of the occasion on Friday, December 1, with an evening of music and revelry at Unexpected Art Gallery.
The event will offer five separate stages of performances from dozens of local DJs, hip-hop artists, and bands, as well as fire-dancing and art displays. The lineup will include such names as rapper Benji Fly and jazz-pop band House of Stairs, as well as a slew of local DJs like Doza, Von Gold, Jak, Alaska, Frank Terry and many more. The event runs from 8:08 p.m. to 3:33 a.m. Admission is $15 and costumes and outfits that reflect the “magic and majesty of the moon” are encouraged. Benjamin Leatherman
¡Vive! Selena Friday, December 1, and Saturday, December 2
It’s been more than 20 years since Grammy-winning artist Selena Quintanilla was murdered by her former manager. Though her career was cut short, Quintanilla had already earned the unofficial title “Queen of Tejano Music,” as she was instrumental in bringing the Texan-Mexican fusion sound to the masses. Her prolific output included five solo studio albums and 27 singles, many of which ranked on a variety of charts, including pop and Latin music lists.
Though decades have passed, fans still can’t get enough of her songs. And the late pop star has been memorialized in multiple ways. There’s the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, statues, a musical movie about her life titled Selena, as well as a number of books. Most recently, a children’s book about the artist was released, colorfully outlining her early years singing for her family’s band, along with her rise to fame.
Then there’s ¡Vive! Selena, a tribute show that celebrates Selena’s songs, her fun sense of fashion, and her lively spirit. Hear an array of songs from her extensive catalog, including hits like “Dreaming of You,” “El Toro Relajo,” and “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.” Amy Young
The Supersuckers started when, as a boy in Tucson, lead singer and bassist Eddie Spaghetti heard "My Sharona" by The Knack, which hooked him on rock 'n' roll. He formed the Supersuckers with a group of friends in the late '80s. "I was more interested in forming a band with guys I liked to hang out with than looking for guitar virtuosos, so I found a ragtag group of drunks."
That motley crew relocated to Seattle right when the grunge movement exploded to national attention. "That was super-cool," Spaghetti says. "Moving to Seattle was like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when everything goes from black and white to color. There was Nirvana, Mudhoney, and Soundgarden all playing. It was amazing."
They signed to Sub Pop (the same record label Nirvana was on) but weren't easy to typecast into the super-serious, woe-is-me scene America came to associate with Seattle. The Supersuckers had a lighter tone and embraced the ridiculous, right down to Spaghetti's trademark cowboy hat. The band would eventually find its voice and build a two-decadelong career touring around the country. David Rolland
Widely known for his tongue-in-cheek hit with Fatboy Slim, “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat,” Riva Starr doesn’t have one sound, and he doesn’t want one. He’s unchained to genres or trends, instead turning to his own mind for creative inspiration that varies wildly over his song-making history.
A sort of mad genius of dance music, Starr has been called cheeky, intriguing, and all around awesome. He’s touched techno, acid house, deep house, indie house, and more. His genre is, in fact, all things electronic. And we like it.
This weekend, he’ll be joined by Berlin-based tech house/deep house duo Mat.Joe during a gig in the Monarch Theatre’s second-floor Scarlet Lounge. Doors open at 10 p.m. and admission is $20. Sarah Purkrabek
The Dear Hunter was a side project launched in 2005 while Casey Crescenzo was touring with his now-former band, the Receiving End of Sirens. He had been writing songs on his laptop and recording them in his spare time; his first collection was dubbed the Dear Ms. Leading demos, and only ten copies were distributed, to friends and family. Crescenzo eventually devoted full-time attention to his solo album, which was released by Triple Crown Records.
Stunningly prolific, Crescenzo has cultivated quite a catalog, with three concept albums providing a fictional account of the Dear Hunter's evolution (Act I, Act II, and Act III), followed by nine conceptual EPs — filled with songs penned to match specific hues, the best of which appear on an album titled The Color Spectrum — and 2013's Migrant, was surprisingly, not a concept record.
A ten-song live album with string quartet and Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise both dropped in 2015, followed in 2016 with Act V. The Dear Hunter’s latest release, a six-song EP entitled All Is As All Should Be debuted in September, just in time for the band’s fall tour with The Family Crest and Vava. Lee Zimmerman
Justin Martin’s DJ sets turn dance floors into raucous bacchanals of animalistic joy. The co-founder of influential imprint Dirtybird Records, he’s often either the weirdest act at the EDM show or the rowdiest act at the house show, but his production work is an entirely more subtle and sensitive affair.
Tracks like his breakout “The Sad Piano,” the feels-dance classic “Don’t Go,” and his remix of Henry Krinkle’s “Stay” are more likely to soundtrack a tender deflowering than a booty-bass blowout. This delicate dichotomy is proving to be a hallmark of Justin Martin’s 20-year career. Ghettos and Gardens, released in 2012, startled the dance community with its depth and moments of quietude amidst the squelchy basses, roaring low end and wonky glitches.
Martin’s sophomore album, Hello Clouds, continues in this vein as a narrative built through songwriting, rather than a collection of dance-floor tunes rammed together. You know, like an actual album — something even the most renowned dance-music producers are often incapable of crafting. Jemayel Khawaja
If thoughts of Santa with his sleigh zooming around the world in one night get your heart racing, stand back when the Trans-Siberian Orchestra rolls into the Valley this weekend. In an extravaganza of lights, lasers, and pyrotechnics, where fist-pumping rock 'n' roll and stinging heavy metal collides with an orchestral string section head-on, TSO crushes any notion of silent night.
"It's not a heavy metal concert," TSO co-founder Al Pitrelli clarifies. "There are elements of that in it, but it is a non-genre-specific musical event. There's choral music, symphonic, blues, jazz, classical. It's basically nailing everything we all grew up with and rolling it into this one behemoth called the Trans-Siberian Orchestra."
That behemoth is loaded with crunchy guitars and lightning fills, tinkling keyboards, and a propulsive string section that drives the sleigh but doesn't mute the bells. A vocal choir adds plenty of heavenly lift, though the male lead singer's powerful shouts and billowing vocals add a sense of forceful determination that classic holiday songs shouldn't be limited to frosty porches or firesides but rather should remain fully open to interpretation and imagination.
TSO will serve up two performances inside Gila River Arena in Glendale on Sunday, December 3. A matinee show takes place at 3:30 p.m. followed by the evening performance at 8 p.m. Tickets are $37.50-$72.25. Glenn BurnSilver
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE...
Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.