The Eight Best Concerts in Phoenix This Week

LANY is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, December 11, at The Van Buren during ALT AZ's Ugly Sweater Holiday Party.EXPAND
LANY is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, December 11, at The Van Buren during ALT AZ's Ugly Sweater Holiday Party.
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The Valley’s concert scene is the gift that keeps on giving. This week, for instance, it will offer up gigs by such artists and acts as Bernhoft, Skating Polly, the Robert Cray Band, and Koo Koo Kanga Roo.

Meanwhile, local radio station ALT AZ will serve up its annual Ugly Sweater Holiday Party, which will feature sets by performers like Young the Giant, Barns Courtney, LANY, Flora Cash, and Morgxn across two nights.

Curious about what other “can’t miss” concerts are happening around town this week? Check out our list of the best shows in the Valley. And for even more live music happening around the Valley, hit up Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

No words. Just Moonlight Magic.
No words. Just Moonlight Magic.
Joseph Cultice Photography

Moonlight Magic
Monday, December 10
Valley Bar

This ensemble of seasoned local musicians is a great band to get woozy to. Or maybe, they’re the ones causing those woozy sways with breezy original tunes. Their sounds keep you moving; their infectious blend of exotica, lounge, and surf-y sounds are breezy and hypnotic. The band consists of Ruth Wilson on bass, Eddy Detroit on drums and percussion, Andrew Jemsek on organ and accordion, and Jamie Paul Lamb on guitar. Each has a lengthy resume of musical projects.

With a collective wardrobe any respectable lounge lizard would envy, this band doesn’t stick to playing in traditional venues. They’ll cram into the packed downtown tiki bar Bikini Lounge to play right in the middle of the party crowd. Another awesome way to catch them is atop the Clarendon Hotel, performing at the venue’s rooftop bar with the wind carrying their sounds into the infinite view. Or you could swing by their gig at Valley Bar on Monday night, which starts at 7 p.m. and is completely free. Amy Young

Young the GiantEXPAND
Young the Giant
Wesley Yen

ALT AZ 93.3's Ugly Sweater Holiday Party
Monday, December 10, and Tuesday, December 11
The Van Buren

Many of the concertgoers that will flock to The Van Buren during this annual two-night event put on by radio station Alt AZ 93.3 are certain to be clad in ugly sweaters of some sort, considering it’s the theme and all. You might even catch many of the musicians onstage sporting an awful-looking pullover during their performances. Speaking of which, this year’s lineup will include sets by Young the Giant and Barns Courtney on Monday, December 10; and from LANY, Flora Cash, and Morgxn on Tuesday, December 11. Both shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $29.50 to $32 each night. Benjamin Leatherman

Koo Koo Kanga Roo
Tuesday, December 11
The Rebel Lounge

Koo Koo Kanga Roo are two guys named Neil and Bryan (first names only, please), who together are the epitome of the "love-'em-or-hate-'em" kind of music act. Hailing from Minneapolis, Neil and Bryan first began fusing their twisted hip-hop and dance music with kindergarten memories about four years ago. Since then, they've done major tours with the likes of Reel Big Fish and have garnered an audience that ranges in age from 4 to 24.

With these guys, it's just iPods and costumes as they lead crowds in sing-a-longs concerning the best sounding letters in the alphabet and the joys of eating sandwiches without the crusts. Kind of like a really demented and even more nerdy version of They Might Be Giants, Koo Koo Kanga Roo want everything to be as dance-minded and light-hearted as possible. Darryl Smyers

Paradigm Talent Agency

Tuesday, December 11
Crescent Ballroom

Norway's Bernhoft must have a whole record store in his brain – and one of those retro-expert vintage-instrument dealers, too. On albums like 2011’s Solidarity Breaks or 2014’s Islander, the bespectacled Norwegian artist ably delivers the kind of maximalist, everything-new-is-old-again pop/soul that guys like Mayer Hawthorne and Nino Moschella make with bits and pixels and painstakingly restored original synthesizers, which just can't be duplicated any other way. A song like "C'mon Talk" is a perfect example of the way Bernhoft turns concepts like "retro" and "futuristic" inside out: Every decade since the advent of electrically powered instruments is represented here, wrapped up so tight you can't tell where one stops and another begins. So yeah, you can dance to it. But you can also wander through it for hours, discovering new little twists and turns and trap doors you missed the first 40 times. Chris Ziegler

Skating Polly
Skating Polly
Angel Ceballos

Skating Polly
Wednesday, December 12
The Rebel Lounge

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. Peyton and Mayo, known for being multi-instrumental, bring an assured, raw emotional range to their music rather than prettily truncating it. Sativa Peterson

Robert Cray Band
Wednesday, December 12
Mesa Arts Center

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

Entrance to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
Entrance to Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
Lynn Trimble

Handel's Messiah feat. Phoenix Symphony
Wednesday, December 12
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

While there may be no snow on the ground during the holiday season in Phoenix, there sure is plenty of festive music to get you in the spirit. There are myriad musical offerings, from classical to modern, happening this month in the Valley from now until Christmas. One of the hallmark’s of the holidays each year is the Phoenix Symphony’s annual performance of George Frideric Handel’s legendary oratorio, which is widely considered to be one of the best-known choral works of all time. The Phoenix Symphony and its chorus will kick off this year’s run of performances on Wednesday, December 12, at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. Start time is 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $59 to $99. Kayla Clancy

The Steve Gadd Band
Thursday, December 13
Musical Instrument Museum

Steve Gadd has been one of popular music’s most sought-after drummers for decades, appearing on hundreds of recordings and performing live with the likes of Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Steely Dan and many other top acts. He’s joined here by a group of fellow all-stars who’ve all been backing James Taylor of late, including organist Larry Goldings, Walt Fowler on trumpet and flugelhorn, and the brilliant electric string duo of bassist Jimmy Johnson and guitarist Michael Landau. Tom Meek

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