The 11 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

Nora en Pure is scheduled to perform on Friday, December 8, at Maya Day & Nightclub in Scottsdale.
Nora en Pure is scheduled to perform on Friday, December 8, at Maya Day & Nightclub in Scottsdale. Courtesy of MFM Booking
Look, we totally get it. Right now, your pocketbook is a little on the empty side due to prepping for the holidays. So the idea of forking over a bunch of cash to see a concert might seem a bit on the ludicrous side at the moment.

That's why several economically priced concerts are in our list of the best shows in the Valley this weekend. There’s the RPM Orchestra’s CD release show at The Lost Leaf, for instance, as well as DJ Gila Man’s Brainwave! dance party on Saturday night at Valley Bar, both of which are free to attend.

If you’re into harder sounds, the first night of the annual Desert Frostover will feature a slew of local heavy metal heavyweights performing.

Those who feel like splurging, however, might consider checking out Alice Cooper’s annual Christmas Pudding showcase at the Celebrity Theatre or jazz great Mike Stern’s performance at the MIM.

The choice is up to you.

Details about each of these shows can be found below in our rundown of the 11 best concerts in Phoenix this weekend. (And for even more gigs happening around town, hit up our online live music listings.)

click to enlarge Spill Canvas is back. - COURTESY OF THE BAND
Spill Canvas is back.
Courtesy of the band
The Spill Canvas
Friday, December 8
Valley Bar

If you attended an emo show in the early to mid-2000s, chances are you saw The Spill Canvas. The Sioux Falls, South Dakota, band pounded the pavement with the likes of Motion City Soundtrack, Augustana, Plain White T’s, and Steel Train.

After a brief hiatus in 2011, the band released their last album, Gestalt, in May 2012. Rumors of new music have been bubbling since, and they’ve teased going back in the studio in 2018.
In the meantime, they’ve opted to look toward the past. In 2015, they did a 10-year anniversary tour of their 2005 album, One Fail Swoop, and embarked on a “Requestour” in 2016, asking fans to vote on a set list of their favorite songs from the band’s catalog.

They’ve spent fall 2017 celebrating their 2007 album, No Really, I’m Fine, with a tour that hits Phoenix on its second leg this weekend. Ashley Harris

click to enlarge Pelvic Meatloaf performs during last year's Desert Frostover. - FRANK CORDOVA
Pelvic Meatloaf performs during last year's Desert Frostover.
Frank Cordova
Desert Frostover III (Day One)
Friday, December 8
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

We’re officially in the season of overindulgence: We can eat as much holiday food as we want, drink the hell out of the spiked eggnog and mulled wine, and aren’t judged when we concoct dishes like "bourbon-glazed turkey with bourbon gravy" and "bourbon pumpkin pie." So the season of indulging in all that you love would only be complete with the chance to gorge on some of the best metal, hard rock, indie, and alternative acts that Arizona has to offer, courtesy of the annual Desert Frostover.

The two-part concert, which is now on its third edition, will take place during successive weekends at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Both nights are all ages and the lineups differ by musical tastes.

Day one, which takes place on Friday, December 8, is more about heavy metal and hard rock. As such, expect performances by such locals as Pelvic Meatloaf, Murkocet, Soundmankillz, Atoms Fall, Ciphered Existence, Mission G, Ocean Harvest, and ATGOWAT. Doors open at 6 p.m. Lauren Wise

click to enlarge Metalcore act Whitechapel. - COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
Metalcore act Whitechapel.
Courtesy of the artist
Friday, December 8
Club Red in Mesa

Tennessee's Whitechapel crafts its malevolent deathcore with three guitarists. The down-tuned doom of this act is marked by finger-widdling flurries and false harmonic squeals, Phil Bozeman's disturbingly possessed post-Pantera vocals and a rhythm section that attacks with a cornered, Quaddafi-esque cruelty.

Technically excellent yet utterly heartfelt, Whitechapel is a soundtrack for cynical teens moving out of their parents' shadow and into the world — and that's no small achievement.

This weekend, Whitechapel invades Club Red in Mesa on their current tour. Openers include Carnifex, Rings of Saturn, Entheos, So This is Suffering, and The Exiled Martyr. Paul Rogers

click to enlarge Blues legends Coco Montoya. - FRANK VIGIL
Blues legends Coco Montoya.
Frank Vigil
Coco Montoya
Friday, December 8
Rhythm Room

In 1995, blues musician Henry “Coco” Montoya launched his career as a bandleader/singer/guitarist with the album Gotta Mind to Travel and a hectic touring schedule he’s never abandoned. His newest effort – back on former label Alligator Records – is Hard Truth. Its 11 tracks run the gamut from hard rocking to gut-wrenching blues, including a cover of Albert Collins’s “The Moon Is Full.”

And though he only has a co-write on one of the songs, two in particular stand out to him on a personal level: Dan Steen’s “Lost in the Bottle” and Mike Farris’s moody “Devil Don’t Sleep.”

“‘Lost’ is a very poignant thing, especially with me being sober now," says Montoya. "It spoke to me, and I was happy to get Lee Roy Parnell to play on it. ‘Devil’ was a bit of a challenge, and it took me to task to do something that raw.

“I think the concept on any record is to be able to take it somewhere else, even if it’s out of your comfort zone," he adds. "And that’s the healthiest place to go to. To find something challenging, and not formulaic.” Bob Ruggiero

click to enlarge Jazz great Mike Stern visits the MIM this weekend. - COURTESY OF CONCORD MUSIC GROUP
Jazz great Mike Stern visits the MIM this weekend.
Courtesy of Concord Music Group
Mike Stern Quartet
Friday, December 8
Musical Instrument Museum

You can teach a jazz guitarist how to play rock, but it won't sound the same as a born rocker who became a jazz musician. Such is the case with Mike Stern, who as a child of the '60s geeked out on Clapton and Jimmy Page before discovering bebop. He landed the ultimate jazz gig with Miles Davis, but since it was the eighties, Miles preferred him to shred in true rock-and-roll fashion.

Stern's ability to improvise brilliantly while melting faces off with sheer conviction has made him a fusion fan's favorite for years, and earned him his rightful place among the true superstars of the guitar in any genre. He brings to the Musical Instrument Museum longtime friends Randy Brecker on trumpet, bassist Tom Kennedy, and Dave Weckl on drums. Gary Fukushima
click to enlarge Daniela Niederer, better known as Nora en Pure. - COURTESY OF MFM BOOKING
Daniela Niederer, better known as Nora en Pure.
Courtesy of MFM Booking
Nora En Pure
Friday, December 8
Maya Day & Nightclub in Scottsdale

For a 25-year-old who waited until after she finished her undergraduate studies before really diving into the dance music scene, the intuitive Daniela Niederer (better known as indie dance producer Nora En Pure) may still be green, but she's quickly carved out her own summery, melodic house niche in the ever-evolving, often overly dark electronic music realm, and it's currently taking her all over the world, from Coachella later this year to club gigs around the world.

Her 2013 breakout hit "Come With Me" introduced the world to her refreshing brand of deep indie-house and spent seven months in the Beatport Top 100. Fresh off the release of her Morning Dew EP, a warm, forward-moving double track textured with piano-driven melodies and airy guitar riffs, Nora has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past couple of years as the EDM craze has shifted gears from big-room bangers to a more toned-down, tropical house sound. Falyn Freyman

Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding
Saturday, December 9
Celebrity Theatre

Alice Cooper is a giver. The man could simply tour and play the hits with no frills, but the Valley-based shock rocker insists on presenting an elaborate stage show every single time. Dragging a full-sized guillotine across the country would be more trouble than it’s worth for most people, but Alice isn’t one to leave the naughty kids out there hanging. He makes sure people get what they want — especially on the holidays.

For the last 15 years, he has traded in his straitjacket for a Santa suit and hosted Christmas Pudding. These charity concerts usually feature a who-who’s of classic rock royalty, putting on a big show to benefit Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Center, a faith-based nonprofit organization devoted to helping at-risk local children and teens.

But Christmas Pudding doesn’t just benefit Arizona’s kids, it’s also an opportunity for them to shine onstage. The Solid Rock Dancers will get a chance to perform — as will Amelia and Mariachi Juvenil De Mi Tierra, the winners of this year’s Proof is in the Pudding Musical Talent Search. The American Idol-style musical contest is open to teens, and it’s another way that No More Mr. Nice Guy gives back to the community.

For this year’s 16th annual benefit, Alice is bringing out the big guns. Joining the blood-soaked MC onstage will be fellow hard rock icons Slash, Edgar Winter, KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, and Judas Priest singer Rob Halford. The bill also will include Filter, Nita Strauss and Glen Sobel, SIXWIRE, David Ellefson, and the comedy and music of Gary Mule Deer. There will also be actual Christmas pudding for sale at the event.

Since it’s his shindig, Cooper will also deck the halls with his Grand Guignol rock songs. Considering his taste for the theatrical, he might have some holiday-themed mayhem in store for us. Perhaps he’ll take the angel off the top of the Christmas tree and replace it with his severed head, or lead the crowd in a singalong to “Only Reindeer Bleed.” Whatever Alice is gonna do, it’s sure to make any Grinch’s heart grow three sizes that night. Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge Moving Units will pay tribute to the music of Joy Division. - JEFF JACQUIN
Moving Units will pay tribute to the music of Joy Division.
Jeff Jacquin
The Songs of Joy Division feat. Moving Units
Saturday, December 9
Valley Bar

The disco-hybrid style of bands like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party — sometimes also called “dance-punk” — never quite got enough traction to qualify as a Big Rock Moment, but it was at least more exciting than other passing turn-of-the-millennium trends.

Among the groups that formed in the early 2000s and remain active, Moving Units may have had the most interesting trajectory. Known for songs like “Between Us & Them” and “X and Y,” the L.A. trio re-emerged from a nine-year recording break — during which time frontman Blake Miller became a successful DJ who scored with remixes of Le Castle Vania and Steve Aoki tracks — with last year’s Damage With Care (Metropolis).

Their latest release, Collision With Joy Division (RSRCH), is an exceedingly faithful, album-length tribute to one of Moving Units’ primary influences, the proto-goths and New Order precursors whom many would also call the original dance-punks. Their current tour, which stops at Valley Bar on December 9, is along the same lines, featuring a full set of Joy Division covers from the album. They’ll follow it up with a a set of Moving Unit songs. Chris Gray

click to enlarge RPM Orchestra will release Stepwise at The Lost Leaf. - RPM ORCHESTRA
RPM Orchestra will release Stepwise at The Lost Leaf.
RPM Orchestra
RPM Orchestra (CD Release Show)
Saturday, December 9
The Lost Leaf

Elements of industrial music, bluegrass, and Americana meet in unique ways with this Phoenix group. Noting what each member plays helps paint a picture that there’s nothing typical going on here. You’ve got Pete Petrisko – the conductor – playing shortwave radios, typewriter, and noisemakers. Joining him are Jim Dustan on guitar, bass, banjo, and live sound engineering, and Jocelyn Ruiz Dustan on clarinet, percussion, flute, and found objects. Erik Hunter handles drums and percussion, while Vic Void makes noise on instruments made from salvaged materials. The Dustans and Hunter are also in the local American band World Class Thugs.

The eclectic group creates soundtracks that accompany silent films, often performing live at screening events as well as local music venues. During screening events, RPM Orchestra brings films to life in new ways, as you watch the interplay between the two media.

It’s cerebral and generates a bit of fun cognitive dissonance as you think about the choices the band makes to mirror the on-screen action. It’s subtle enough, though, that you don’t lose sight of the film. For Petrisko, the best part is "the overwhelming positive response of audiences to our often wordless music."

This weekend, RPM Orchestra will celebrate the release of their new CD, Stepwise, during a performance at The Lost Leaf that will include live-scoring some modern and vintage silent film shorts that will be screened at the venue. Amy Young

click to enlarge DJ Gila Man, the oddity-slinging stage name of Ryan Rousseau. - COURTESY OF RYAN ROUSSEAU
DJ Gila Man, the oddity-slinging stage name of Ryan Rousseau.
Courtesy of Ryan Rousseau
Brainwave! A Psychedelic Dance Party
Saturday, December 9
Valley Bar

Local rocker Ryan Rousseau is a connoisseur of unusual, experimental, fantastical, and out-there sounds. Just check out one of his sets around town as DJ Gila Man, which sees the Destruction Unit drummer spinning all-vinyl sets that include all manner of odd and eclectic selections of plucked from his extensive record collection. “i spin mostly cool old school shit i find at thrift stores or dollar bins like Tata Box Inhibitors, Seven Deadly Sins, dome, etc.,” Rousseau says.

This weekend, he’ll be doing just that at Valley Bar along with some friends during Brainwave! A Psychedelic Dance Party. Rousseau and his cohorts Jock Club and Deep Pill will serve up “tripped out sounds” inside of Valley Bar’s music hall, including techno, cosmic synth, minimal wave, acid, disco, funk, and space grooves starting at 10 p.m.

According to Rousseau, he and Jock Club will specifically playing old-school techno, hardshit, dub, grime, and hip-hop. (You might also hear Rousseau bust out with some “weird shit.”) Meanwhile, Deep Pill will perform a live techno set, which will help open your mind and get your body moving. Admission is free. Benjamin Leatherman

Ronnie Milsap
Sunday, December 10
Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino in Chandler

Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Ronnie Milsap has sung so many hits, he could fill his entire set this weekend at the Ovations Live! Showroom at Wild Horse Pass with with No. 1 country singles alone. The 74-year-old North Carolina native and country icon has won enough Grammys and CMAs to fill the top of a Steinway, and sent many of those smooth-sailing songs into Billboard's Adult Contemporary and Hot 100 charts as well.

His more recent efforts are nothing to sniff at either. Milsap earned strong reviews for 2015's Summer No. 17, a collection of pop and R&B covers spanning the '50s through the '70s and concluding with his 1985 classic "Lost In the Fifties Tonight." Jeff Balke
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Phoenix New Times Music Writers