Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding returns to the concert calendar this month.Jim Louvau
The last month of every year is typically the busiest, which is completely understandable with the holiday season and all.
December 2021 will be no exception. The metro Phoenix concert scene will also be plenty busy as well as the next few weeks are filled with shows being put on by radio stations (ALT-AZ 93.3 and The Bounce 101.1), Yuletide concerts (Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding), and high-profile tours rolling through town (Allman Family Revival, Milky Chance). Add in some local legends performing for hometown crowds (Gin Blossoms, Injury Reserve) and a two-day electronic dance music massive (Decadence Arizona) and you've got a packed calendar.
Details about each of these concerts and events can be found below in our list of the best shows happening in the Valley in December. (For more gigs around town, check our Phoenix New Times' online listings.) And as we're sure you're aware by now, every major music venue in metro Phoenix is requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccinations or a recent negative test to attend their shows.
Last fall, NPR rock critic Ken Tucker noted that the Happy Fits are “making some of the freshest, catchiest pop music around right now.” The New Jersey band isn't exactly new to the music game. Since forming in 2016, the trio, which infuses their blend of folk and indie rock with huge dollops of pop, has accumulated over five million streams with the song “Too Late” and tallies more the 861,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. And in 2020, the Happy Fits released their sophomore album, What Could Be Better, to critical acclaim. They’re back on the road after pandemic-related delays caused their touring plans to be put on hold and will roll into Valley Bar, 130 North Central Avenue, on Wednesday, December 1. Indie rock multi-instrumentalist M.A.G.S. and rock band Snarls open the 8 p.m. show. Admission is $20. Kendall Little
Blue October’s records have always reflected vocalist Justin Furstenfeld’s mental state. The band hit it big with angst-ridden tracks like “Hate Me” and “Into the Ocean,” which explored drug addiction, suicidal ideation and depression. But since the early 2000s, Furstenfeld – who found sobriety and subsequently peace – has focused on the positive, and Blue October’s last three albums have consequently abounded with positivity and life-affirming messages. They’re touring in support of their latest release, 2020’s This Is What I Live For, and will play The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street, on Thursday, December 2. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $37 to $40. Matthew Keever
Ice Cube is coming to the Valley in early December.
The Bounce 101.1 Throwback Holiday Jam at Footprint Center
Every hip-hop radio station worth its weight in Arbitron ratings has a Christmastime concert these days. In the case of The Bounce 101.1, it’s the Throwback Holiday Jam on Friday, December 3, at Footprint Center, 201 East Jefferson Street. True to the station’s old-school hip-hop bent and playlists, the concert will have sets by legendary West Coast rappers like Ice Cube, Too $hort, and Warren G. Other throwback acts scheduled to perform include R&B/hip-hop artist Baby Bash (remember "Suga Suga"?), Oakland-born duo Luniz, and J.J. Fad, the all-girl trio behind the 1988 track “Supersonic” (the one that will.i.am ripped off for “Fergalicious”). The night kicks off at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 to $150. Benjamin Leatherman
Awsten Knight, Geoff Wigington, and Otto Wood of Waterparks.
Waterparks at The Van Buren
Waterparks are nothing if not prolific. Since 2016, the Houston-born pop-punk band has released four studio albums and a live record, including the recently released Greatest Hits, which — like the rest of the group’s output — received widespread acclaim from both critics and fans. Fans of sing-along choruses and snarky lyricism can catch Waterparks in concert on Friday, December 3, when their current tour comes to The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street. California-based indie artist Phem opens the 7 p.m. concert. Tickets are $30 to $35. Matthew Keever
Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding at Celebrity Theatre
Since its launch in 2001, Alice Cooper’s annual Christmas Pudding concert has always proven to be a tasty recipe. Every year, the Valley legend mixes an impressive lineup of musicians (usually culled from his Rolodex) with generous amounts of rock ‘n’ roll revelry and a dash of charitable spirit to create one of the most memorable shows of the holiday season. Such will be the case with the 2021 edition of Christmas Pudding on Saturday, December 4, at Celebrity Theatre, 440 North 32nd Street, which will include sets by Cooper and his touring band, as well as special guests like Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, Ed Roland of Collective Soul, Sugar Ray’s Mark McGrath, and Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals. The event starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $60 to $300. Proceeds from the event will benefit Cooper’s Solid Rock Teen Centers. Benjamin Leatherman
Since her debut, indie rocker Courtney Barnett has built a reputation around her captivating vocals and her gritty, bone-crushing guitar playing. Over the years, those skills have been incorporated in collaborations with artists such as The Breeders, Kurt Vile, and Jen Cloher. Her second album, 2018’s Tell Me How You Really Feel, is uncharacteristically more introverted than her previous witty EPs and debut album. But still, Barnett is doing her thing. She’s set to visit The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street, on Saturday, December 4, in support of her new album, the equally introspective Things Take Time, Take Time, which drops in November. British-born indie musician Bartees Strange opens the 8 p.m. concert. Tickets are $31 to $36. Jacob Vaughn
A scene from a typical Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Footprint Center
If there's a time to embrace extreme performances, it's Christmas, a holiday about extreme consumption and lights — lots of lights. You've likely been hearing some epic holiday tunes on the radio lately, such as Trans-Siberian Orchestra's over-the-top creation “Carol of the Bells.” TSO was founded by the late composer Paul O'Neill, whose band gained worldwide fame with the 1999 album The Christmas Attic. The rocking new-age instrumentalists will bring their one-of-a-kind holiday cheer — with electric riffs, mad strings, tons of colorful laser lights, and, yes, bells — to Footprint Center, 201 East Jefferson Street, on Sunday, December 5. Get rock-opera'ed out in preparation of the holiday frenzy. Performances are at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $36.49 to $84.75. Liz Tracy
Nekromantix at The Rhythm Room
Psychobilly is a tragically underappreciated genre, but Nekromantix couldn’t care less. For the past 30-plus years, this Danish-American trio have displayed a unique swing-dance sensibility alongside a punk-rock attitude, accentuated by tongue-in-cheek lyricism about the macabre. Anyone who hasn’t seen frontman Kim Nekroman play his coffin bass live should do themselves a favor and visit the Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School Road, on Tuesday, December 7, or Wednesday, December 8, for what’s likely to be a pair of raucous gigs. Rockabilly bands The Delta Bombers and Volk open both evenings at 8 p.m. Tickets are $22 in advance, $25 at the door. Matthew Keever
The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ debut album, Don’t You Fake It, reached platinum status in 2016, a decade after its release. Supported by the singles “Face Down,” “False Pretense” and “Your Guardian Angel,” the Florida rockers rose to stardom. Since then, TRJA has released a total of five albums, most recently 2018’s The Awakening. Fans of emotive rock can see the band locally at the Nile Theater, 105 West Main Street in Mesa, on Wednesday, December 8. Phoenix-born metalcore/post-hardcore act Eyes Set to Kill and hard rock bands The Wildfires Projekt, Dead American, Embrace the Sun, and Then It Hit Me will round out the bill for the 6 p.m. show. Admission is $20. Matthew Keever
ALT-AZ's Ugly Sweater Holiday Party at Mesa Amphitheatre
For the better part of 30 years now, Weezer has been a household name. The pop-oriented rock quartet — fronted by the one and only Rivers Cuomo – got its first taste of mainstream success in 1994 with “Undone (The Sweater Song),” which became a favorite on college campuses. Since then, the band has put out more than a dozen studio albums, but not all of their discography has been celebrated (read: anything that’s not the Blue Album or Pinkerton). Undeterred, Weezer has pressed onward, and are still touring and performing. Cuomo and company are scheduled to headline the annual Ugly Sweater Party put on by local alt-rock radio station ALT-AZ 93.3 on Saturday, December 11, at Mesa Amphitheatre, 263 North Center Street. Female-fronted punk band The Regrettes and Phoenix-born pop wunderkind UPSAHL open. Gates are at 4:30 p.m. and tickets are $65 to $175. Matthew Keever
Pop-punk outfit Beach Bunny’s happy-actually-pretty-sad spirit is on full display in their music, particularly on their first full-length album, 2020’s Honeymoon. The opening track “Promises” is meant for blaring with the car windows rolled down, windblown hair and all, screaming about an ex. Vocalist/guitarist Lili Trifilio’s vocals guide the production, set to lyrics less optimistic than Beach Bunny’s melodies suggest. At the top of the chorus, she sings: “Part of me still wants you.” A few bars later: “Part of me still hates you.” Despite covering lyrically gray areas, Beach Bunny’s songs are so colorful and energetic that you might find yourself smiling at the melancholy, dancing through it all, and hollering the lyrics (in no particular order) when they perform at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue on Saturday, December 11. The 8 p.m. show is sold out but tickets can be found on the secondary market. John Amar
Ukrainian progressive-metal band Jinjer, fronted by vocal powerhouse Tatiana Shmailyuk, will play Tempe’s Marquee Theatre, 730 North Mill Avenue, on the heels of the group's fourth album, Wallflowers, which dropped in August. Deathcore band Suicide Silence and metal act All Hail the Yeti are also on the bill for the 7:15 p.m. show on Sunday, December 12. It’s $32.50 for general admission on the Marquee’s main floor and $67 for access to the balcony. (Note: This show was originally scheduled for The Pressroom. All previously purchased tickets will be honored.) Jon Solomon
Marc Broussard at The Van Buren
Louisiana-based troubadour Marc Broussard has soul in his genes. The son of acclaimed guitarist Ted Broussard (of the Boogie Kings), Marc has seen his fortunes rise consistently ever since his first solo release in 2001. Broussard, previously involved with the Christian act Y, doesn't hide the influence spirituality has in his music, nor does he self-righteously proclaim his beliefs. His first hit, "The Wanderer," was a song about self-discovery using whatever means necessary. Over the years, Broussard's albums (including 2014's A Life Worth Living and 2017's Easy to Love) have fruitfully mixed funk, blues, and rock while incorporating strains of bayou legends Professor Longhair and Doctor John. Another key influence is Randy Newman, as Broussard's compositional flair and lyrical insight put him on a level shared with very few singer-songwriters. See if you agree when Broussard comes to The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street, on Sunday, December 12. The show is at 8 p.m. and the Jamie McLean Band is the opener. Admission is $35 to $55. Darryl Smyers
Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Daush of Milky Chance.
Courtesy of Republic Records
Milky Chance at 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 DJ/producer Philipp Daush. Their 2013 album Sadnecessary became an international hit, launching the duo into multiple world tours, as well as performances 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 latest release is Trip Tape, a 10-track collection of covers, demos, and remixes, as well as their newest single, “Colorado.” It’s bound to be in Milky Chance’s setlist when they come to The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren, on Monday, December 13. The 13-and-over concert begins at 8 p.m. and tickets are $37.50. Eleanor Lambert
Dave Koz returns to the Valley with a sleighful of holiday sounds.
Mesa Arts Center
Dave Koz and Friends at Mesa Arts Center
Grammy-winning saxophonist and smooth jazz king Dave Koz is bringing his annual Christmastime tour back to the Valley for a performance at Mesa Arts Center, 1 East Main Street, on Wednesday, December 15. This year, he’ll be accompanied by guitarist Jonathan Butler, trumpeter Rick Braun, saxophonist Richard Elliot, and vocalist Rebecca Jade to form a Voltron of jazz. They’ll perform a variety of holiday tunes and favorites during the festive concert, which starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Ikeda Theater. Tickets are $61.50 to $192.50. Brett Gillin
This year marks the annual Allman Family Revival tribute tour’s return to the road in celebration of Gregg Allman’s birthday. Launched by Devon Allman in 2017 as a tribute to his dad, the 19-city tour rolls into Arizona Federal Theatre, 400 West Washington Street, on Thursday, December 16. What was initially began as a one-time family affair in honor of the elder Allman four years ago has become a fan favorite after word spread about the tour’s intense four-hour jam sessions and special appearances. Devon, who resembles his late father, promises a hot night. It will start with a warm-up set by his project with Duane Betts, the Allman Betts Band, before an all-star cast – including musicians Robert Randolph, North Mississippi Allstars’ Cody and Luther Dickinson, Eric Gales, Jimmy Hall, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd – performs. The music kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $38.50 to $85. Nathalie Baret
Fats'e went through many genres before becoming a hip-hop artist.
Fats'e at The Nile Theater
Born in Minneapolis, Fats’e is the child of a musically inclined father. The two used to jam together at home, while Fats’e would play keyboard and his dad joined in with bongos, creating an “indie rock” sound. By 11, Fats’e formed a band with a few of his friends, playing shows at small venues in the Dallas area. When he was a teenager, his musical stylings grew into a “deathcore” sound, and by 2015, the artist traded emo for hip-hop as he joined a freestyling collective. It was then that Fats’e identity was born (during a session, he shouted the phrase “Big Fat C on the microphone and the name immediately stuck). On his second full-length album, Staring at the Ceiling, Fats’e amalgamates all of his musical backgrounds into a hyperpop, punk-rock package wrapped in influences of hip-hop. Sonically, it sounds like the lovechild Charli XCX and Lil Uzi Vert, but lyrically, Fats’e takes us on a cathartic journey. At the moment, he’s on tour in support of the album and is due at Mesa’s Nile Theatre, 105 West Main Street, on Friday, December 17. He shares the bill with fellow emo rapper 93feetofsmoke. The show is at 8 p.m. and tickets are $18 to $20. Alex Gonzalez
For the countless adults caught in that awkward place between Gen X and Y who remember when MTV played music, there are a handful of names that impart that deliciously distinct '90s-lost-innocence nostalgia, from Blues Traveler to Bush to Counting Crows, but it might just be Gin Blossoms who take the cake. With the salty-sweet voice of frontman Robin Wilson and hits like "Hey Jealousy," "Follow You Down," and "Til I Hear It From You," Gin Blossoms had a virtual monopoly on the soundtracks to school dances and car make-outs of the '90s. Formed in 1987 in Tempe, Gin Blossoms broke out with "Hey Jealousy," a song that became the center of a tragedy after its writer, Blossoms co-founder Doug Hopkins, was fired and later committed suicide in 1993. The rest of the band's members continued on to success before eventually breaking up in 1997. In 2002, the band reunited and has survived a shuffling in and out of members over the years, but, at least for now, they're stable and performing. Gin Blossoms will play Scottsdale’s Talking Stick Resort, 9800 East Talking Stick Way, on Saturday, December 18. The show is at 8 p.m. and tickets are $30 to $100. Jacob Utti
Johnny Rawls at The Rhythm Room
Johnny Rawls is a decidedly old-school kind of guy. An award-winning singer, he takes his cues from classic R&B singers like Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and his personal mentor, O.V. Wright, the man he credits with launching his career. “I sing soul,” Rawls says. “I stand out because I do original songs that have a good beat to them. It’s a different side to the blues. I take a lot of time and effort to write songs so they don’t sound like they were just thrown together. In order to stand out, you have to write great songs.” And you can hear these great songs being performed by Rawls on Saturday, December 18, at the Rhythm Room, 1019 East Indian School Road. Tickets for the 9 p.m. gig are $12. Lee Zimmerman
Ask your teen niece if she knows who Dionne Warwick is, and you may get a no. Still, it's likely she knows the words to "I Say a Little Prayer." Dionne Warwick has maintained great popularity since she started her career singing gospel as a kid. She comes from a musical family, some of whom were members of Drinkard Singers, a gospel group that Elvis wanted to join him on tour. Also, Warwick's cousin was Whitney Houston, and you cannot beat that kind of familial clout unless you're Paris Jackson. When the great Warwick comes to the Showroom at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino, 5040 Wild Horse Pass Boulevard in Chandler, on Saturday, December 18, don't "Walk on By." Her concert is at 8 p.m. Tickets are $47 to $87. Liz Tracy
Back in the early '90s, when the Cleveland natives of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony were first starting out, they performed over the phone for N.W.A.'s Eazy-E who was feeling them out for his Ruthless Records label. Rapper Krayzie Bone told Thrasher Magazine that Eazy put them on speaker so everyone could hear them. The people in the room hadn't heard anything like it before. No one had, in fact. The group — originally consisting of members Bizzy Bone, Layzie Bone, Krayzie Bone, Wish Bone, and Flesh-N-Bone — had a crazy original sound that included majestic, melodic harmonies (hence their name). When “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” came out in 1993 and "Tha Crossroads" was released in 1996, Bone Thugs took the world by storm, winning a Grammy for the latter. They’re scheduled to return to Tempe’s Marquee Theatre, 730 North Mill Avenue, on Sunday, December 19. Doors are at 6 p.m. and tickets are $40 to $80. Liz Tracy
Mannheim Steamroller Christmas at Gammage Auditorium
Like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Mannheim Steamroller are best known for concert spectacles in which classical music and standards are rockified for the holiday season. Originally concocted as an alias for record producer/composer Chip Davis, the band are now a 24-member group supplemented by a full live orchestra. They’re wrapping up this year’s holiday tour and will roll into ASU’s Gammage Auditorium, 1200 South Forest Avenue in Tempe, on Tuesday, December 28. You’ll hear an array of holiday hits from the Christmas album, first released by Davis in 1984, which will be accentuated by multimedia effects. Think of it as a way to keep the Christmas festivities going a little longer. The performance is at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $40.50 to $125.50. Eric W. Saeger
Richie With A T (left) and Parker Corey (right) of Injury Reserve.
Injury Reserve at The Van Buren
Local fans of Injury Reserve are getting a treat for the holidays as the homegrown hip-hop act will return to the Valley in late December. The Tempe-born duo of rapper Ritchie With a T and producer Parker Corey’s current tour will include a show at The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street, on Wednesday, December 29. Fittingly, the tour and local performance will be in support of their new album, By the Time I Get to Phoenix. It’s the first music Injury Reserve has released since founding member Stepa J. Groggs died in June 2020. The album was reportedly recorded before the rapper’s passing and will feature his contributions. Tickets for their Phoenix gig, which starts at 8 p.m., are $22 to $25. Benjamin Leatherman
Caros Verdugo (left), Eric Wilson (middle), and (right) Rome Ramirez of Sublime With Rome.
Sublime with Rome at Marquee Theatre
Faced with the loss of key personnel, at what point does a band call itself something different? Sublime With Rome has been grappling with that question ever since drummer Bud Gaugh departed a few months after the already-reconfigured group released its "debut" album, Yours Truly, in 2011. Currently, Eric Wilson is the lone holdover from the original Sublime, the SoCal-based band whose laidback mix of reggae, ska, West Coast rap, and punk had a profound impact on ‘90s alternative rock. This all came about because even singer Bradley Nowell’s untimely death in 1996 couldn’t slake the persistent demand for Sublime’s music, eventually inspiring Gaugh and Wilson to reboot the band in 2009 with singer/guitarist/Sublime superfan Rome Ramirez. Now, after years of successful post-Yours Truly touring, Sublime With Rome is still writing what is already one of the more unusual chapters of recent rock history. They’re scheduled to perform a two-night stint at Tempe’s Marquee Theatre, 730 North Mill Avenue, on Thursday, December 30, and Friday, December 31. Tickets are $50.50 to $117.50. Chris Gray
Marshmello is scheduled to perform on New Year's Eve at Decadence Arizona 2021.
Decadence Arizona 2021 at Rawhide Event Center
One of the biggest New Year’s Eve events in the Valley, especially with the electronic dance music crowd, isn't necessarily found in any club or local nightspot. Instead, it's out at Rawhide Event Center, 5700 West North Loop Road in Chandler, during the annual Decadence Arizona festival, which boasts an enormous selection of superstar DJs, producers, and EDM artists performing for crowds of thousands across two nights. After taking a pandemic-related pause last year, the event returns for its 2021 edition on Thursday, December 30, and Friday, December 31, with a suitably massive lineup. Kaskade, Alesso, DJ Snake, and Seven Lions are scheduled for the first night and Marshmello, Destructo, Dillon Francis, Excision, and Diesel (a.k.a. Shaquille O’Neal) holding it down on New Year’s Eve. Gates open at 5 p.m. each night and tickets range from $99 to $179 for general admission. Benjamin Leatherman
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