Lindsey Stirling is scheduled to perform on Saturday, December 23, at Comerica Theatre.Andrew Zaeh
Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year – and one of the most hectic.
Thanks to the holiday season and its multitude of demands, December is going to be filled with plenty of activities, events, and distractions, all of which will likely dominate your schedule and wallet.
That includes the concert calendar, which is busy with all sorts of holiday-related shows, ranging from Alice Cooper’s annual Christmas Pudding extravaganza to radio station-sponsored events like KMLE’s Not So Silent Night.
It’s not all Christmas everything, however. Plenty of gigs are scheduled for December that have little to do with the holidays, including performances by Descendents, Lindsey Stirling, Jane's Addiction, Lita Ford, Tony Bennett, and Agnostic Front.
Here’s a look at all of the biggest and best concerts that December has to offer here in Phoenix. (And for even more live music options over the next few weeks, hit up our extensively updated online listings.)
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
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
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
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 10 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
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
Country meets comedy during the sets of Wheeler Walker Jr.
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
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
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
When it comes to tradition during the holiday season, Phoenix isn't known for snowmen, hot cocoa, or sledding. But one thing that can always be counted upon is the tradition of Christmas Pudding — Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding, to be exact. And it's a tasty recipe.
After nearly five decades and 30 records, Cooper has perfected his craft of putting on shows and making music. Now in his mid-60s, he's reaping the career rewards and has gone from rock 'n' roll's official villain to a charitable hero in the Valley of the Sun.
In November 1995, Cooper and his wife, Sheryl, a professional dancer, began the foundation Solid Rock to raise money for music and arts programs. But then the duo proposed a teen center to provide an outlet where teens could learn and equip themselves for their future.
The variety show Christmas Pudding kicked off in 2001 as a way for them to raise enough money to open up the center, dubbed "The Rock," where teenagers could be taught dance, music, and art in a safe place
Some of the biggest names in music flock to the desert to be a part of the show, which raises around $100,000 each year. This year's lineup includes appearances and performances by Slash of Guns N' Roses, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, Ace Frehley of KISS fame, rock legend Edgar Winter, Filter, and Megadeth bassist (and Valley resident) Dave Ellefson. Lauren Wise
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 reemerged 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
Agnostic Front was one of the earliest of the New York hardcore bands having formed in 1980 before that term was widely used to describe the faster and more aggressive music that characterized that movement. Toward the middle of the decade, Agnostic Front was an early adopter of the crossover sound that blended hardcore and thrash metal because, according to singer Roger Miret, the two scenes were more alike than they were different.
Along with bands like Reagan Youth, Cro-Mags, Kraut, Murphy's Law, and Urban Waste, Agnostic Front helped shape the last era of first-wave hardcore before it splintered around 1987, prior to President Reagan leaving office. Agnostic Front, however, persisted through 1992 when the band went on hiatus until 1996, when Miret and guitarist Vinnie Stigma put the band back together. Since then the group has been more prolific than ever, releasing seven of eleven total albums, including 2015's The American Dream Died.
It's safe to say the band hasn't mellowed out or tried go the pop-punk route. The songs still address social issues in the lyrics with a refreshing clarity — including the problem of police brutality. Tom Murphy
The stepsister duo Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse met when their parents started dating. Soon, the pair were writing music together with instruments lying around the family home. “I was 12 or 13, and I was kind of like a moody teenager who thought I was too cool to hang out with my little sister,” Bighorse recalls. Obviously, she got over it pretty quickly, because in 2009, by the time she was 14, and Mayo was 9, the two had started Skating Polly in Oklahoma City.
“We just started bonding over music, and when we weren’t writing songs together, or drawing comics for our band,” Mayo says, “we’d go on walks to the park and each take an earbud and listen to Sleater-Kinney, The Dandy Warhols, Nirvana, or The Clash.” Along the way, while making their self-described “ugly pop,” the sisters have received acclaim from some of their musical heroes, including Exene Cervenka of X and Kat Bjelland of Babes in Toyland.
Skating Polly’s latest project is a three-song EP titled New Trick, a collaboration with Louise Post and Nina Gordon, co-frontwomen of Veruca Salt. The partnership gelled right away. “It usually takes a little time to feel comfortable to write songs with someone, to really be that vulnerable,” Peyton says, “but it came so naturally and quickly.”
The result is moodily fun, fuzzed-out pop with layered harmonies. Peyton and Mayo, known for being multi-instrumental, bring an assured, raw emotional range to their music rather than prettily truncating it. Sativa Peterson
Cody Jinks makes the kind of country music that resonates beyond strict fans of the genre. As proof of his cross appeal, all he really needs to do is point to his experience fronting a metal band.
Now that he's considered more of a country artist, however, his outlaw persona lends itself well to both sides of his musical personality. He can churn out vigorous and energetic anthems and then turn things down with ruminative ballads. In a live setting, he's as apt to break out Pink Floyd and Soundgarden covers as he is to cover Hank, Willie, or Waylon.
Although he's five albums into his career, 2017 has been a banner year for Jinks. He's appeared on late-night television, is headlining the Ryman, and has earned praise from many of the industry's heaviest hitters. Jeff Strowe
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