The 10 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Week

Magic Giant is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, January 23, at Crescent Ballroom.EXPAND
Magic Giant is scheduled to perform on Wednesday, January 23, at Crescent Ballroom.
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Got any big plans this week? If not, consider checking out one of the many concerts taking place at music venues around the Valley. And believe us, there are plenty of notable shows happening, including those making up the following list.

Big-name artists and acts such as Magic Giant, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Wild Moccasins, and The Pink Spiders are all scheduled to perform around town in the nights ahead, as are legends like JJ Grey, Branford Marsalis, Tommy Castro, and Corb Lund.

Details about each of these gigs can be found below. And for even more live music happening around the Valley, hit up Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

JJ Grey in concert.EXPAND
JJ Grey in concert.
Courtesy of All Eyes Media

JJ Grey and Mofro
Tuesday, January 22
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

After just a few notes, anyone witnessing JJ Grey in action can't help but notice how strong his stage presence is. He doesn’t need pyrotechnics or an elaborate stage show or costumes to pull a crowd in. All he needs is a microphone, a harmonica, and a guitar or two, and he’ll pull the crowd down to his world of dirty, authentic Southern grooves and deep-fried soul lyrics. Grey epitomizes what a frontman should be, and the rest of Mofro kick out grooves that would make a dead Confederate dance like his reanimated life depended on it. His lyrics are reminiscent of the great Southern poets: Fiercely personal, universal, and political without a hint of superiority or peachiness. Jonathan Cunningham

Tuesday, January 22
Club Red in Mesa

At its best, metal music is always ridiculous. To describe Ensiferum as ridiculous would be like describing Michael Scott in the seventh season of The Office as "kind of annoying." Their name means "sword-bearer" in Latin, they play symphonic speed-metal, wear kilts, pose with swords in their publicity shots, sing about mythic heroes, and generally do other things that would not be out of place at a Renaissance festival. This is music for history geeks, mythology buffs, and guys with weird, gnarly chin beards. "Ridiculous" barely scratches the paunchy, black-shirted, and sweat-panted surface.

I shudder to imagine anyone taking this too seriously, but you know, I love the idea of Ensiferum, and I love that they make music for the people they make it for, because that's the other qualifier for the best metal music possible: It's made for outcasts, people who don't care about the norm, and who will happily strap on a kilt, toss up devil horns, and get down to symphonic metal played at galloping speed while imagining themselves roaring into battle to defeat a mythic enemy, or at least work up the courage to tell Mom they are "moving out, for real!" Jason P. Woodbury

Canadian-born country singer Corb Lund.EXPAND
Canadian-born country singer Corb Lund.
Denise Debelius

Corb Lund
Tuesday, January 22
Yucca Tap Room in Tempe

It only takes one listen to any Corb Lund album to know the guy is witty and whip-smart. The salty Albertan, who studied jazz in Edmonton before joining metal band the Smalls, also has a good sense of history and a strong respect for the land and people who work it, whether ranchers, farmers, or roughnecks on a drilling rig.

Lund is a bona fide populist country-rock star in Canada, rolling across the prairies like a cash-gathering machine, playing to sold-out auditoriums and concert halls. He brings a highly educated Western wildness and cowhand contrariness to his literate brand of mile-a-minute country music. Backed by a band nourished equally in jazz schools and honky-tonks, Lund delivers brain-teasing neo-cowboy hipster rhymes that show he knows as much about Kerouac and Dylan as he does about Larry Mahan and Ian Tyson. Lund has one of the most interesting pushing-the-boundaries bands in the alt-country genre. William Michael Smith

The Pink Spiders
Tuesday, January 22
The Rebel Lounge

The Pink Spiders are some cocky dudes. The act's bio was once littered with superfluous and self-aggrandizing words such as "iconoclastic" and "Machiavellian," and the trio themselves, which hail from Nashville, had a larger-than-life bravado about them that makes the hand-clapping, cutesy pop punk they play seem more important than it actually is. Deep down in their pink bellies, however, the Spiders are just regular dudes whose debut album, Teenage Graffiti, was produced by erstwhile Cars frontman Ric Ocasek. Since those early days, the outfit have released a few other albums, including 2008’s Sweat It Out and last year’s Mutations. They’re scheduled to perform on Tuesday night at The Rebel Lounge. The show starts at 8 p.m. and Fourbanger and Just Another Day will open. Tuyet Nguyen

Houston-based Wild Moccasins found a way to Look TogetherEXPAND
Houston-based Wild Moccasins found a way to Look Together
Arturo Olmos

Wild Moccasins
Wednesday January 23
Valley Bar

Sometimes, a band can go away and never return even if they release something new. It's been four years since we heard a new album from Houston's Wild Moccasins. On their latest release, Look Together, the four-piece turns things up a notch by mixing synthpop and dream pop into their indie pop sound. They don't waste time in reminding us why those four years felt so long.

Opening with one of the already released singles "Boyish Wave," the band keeps things synth-infused while the spacey guitar dances atop the track. Zahira Gutierrez sings above it all like she's echoing notes from the vacuum of space. They follow with the groove-heavy sounds of "Temporary Vase," where Nicholas Cody's bass and Avery Davis' drums make a Latin-infused sound. Complete with Gutierrez' haunting vocals and Cody Swan's guitar noodling, the result is a deep and slower paced jam.

The catchy sounds of another released track, "Longtime Listener," pick the pace back up. Swan's guitar here is where the magic lies, offering up a pedal soaked sound. The vocals remind you of shoegaze bands that were never as catchy, while the bridge offers more depth than the band has shown in the past. This continues on "Missing You (the Most)" where the band return to their New Wave past, though with more synthwave tones. Easily their strongest release to date, Look Together offers up plenty of danceable tracks that should make anyone a fan. David Garrick

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness will be making a return trip to The Van Buren on January 23.
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness will be making a return trip to The Van Buren on January 23.
Brendan Walter

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
Wednesday, January 23
The Van Buren

Though he calls his current project Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Andrew McMahon is a man who knows exactly where he is, where he's been, and where he's going. Born in 1982 to what he describes as a "piano-playing mom and a dad who was a product of the '60s protest movement," music was an ever-present part of life for McMahon and his four older siblings.

At the age of 9, he began playing piano and writing songs. It was his EP Ready Break with his band Something Corporate that first found the then-17-year-old a record deal. A couple of years later, when he was fronting the band Jack's Mannequin, calamity struck. He was diagnosed with leukemia. After more than 10 years in remission, McMahon says he still carries psychic scars from fighting cancer.

His 2016 record, Zombies on Broadway, had the celebratory vibe of a man who has bested disease. However, on his latest release, Upside Down Flowers, there’s more of a nostalgic vibe as many of its 11 songs involve McMahon recalling memories of childhood, family, founding Something Corporate, and dealing with illness. As is the norm for any McMahon project, it involves vivid and evocative storytelling. David Rolland

Branford Marsalis (sitting) and his quartet.EXPAND
Branford Marsalis (sitting) and his quartet.
Eric Ryan Anderson

Branford Marsalis Quartet
Wednesday, January 23
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

New Orleans-born saxophonist Branford Marsalis has been a household name since the early 1980s. Alongside his younger brother Wynton, he set the jazz world ablaze, earning his stripes on the bandstand with Art Blakey. From there, he found work in pop music (the Grateful Dead, Sting) and acting (Throw Mama From the Train, School Daze). His unpredictable career found its highest profile when, going on three decades ago, he became the bandleader for Jay Leno's incarnation of The Tonight Show. He spent his weekdays on late-night television, smiling politely at Jay's Bill Clinton jokes and most of his weekends jetting to New York to see his young son. Marsalis did not last on the bandstand too long. He left two and a half years later to focus on his saxophone and has released a handful of terrific records, including 2013’s Four MFs Playin' Tunes and 2016’s Upward Spiral. Sean J. O'Connell

The members of Magic Giant (from left): Zambricki Li, Austin Bis, and Brian Zaghi.EXPAND
The members of Magic Giant (from left): Zambricki Li, Austin Bis, and Brian Zaghi.
Razor & Tie Publicity

Magic Giant
Wednesday, January 23
Crescent Ballroom

Magic Giant connect with their audience in a way that is rare, overwhelming, and refreshing in world of social-media extroverts but real-world introverts. “Our mission is to move bodies and souls, and we are excited by group experiences,” says frontman Austin Bis.

Bis, along with Zambricki Li, who plays banjo and fiddle, and Brian Zaghi on upright bass and acoustic guitar, got together only a handful of years, but the three play like old friends. “Zambricki and I met in 2012, and then Brian and Ian [Meltzer] — who plays drums with us — have known each other since middle school, so then we just joined forces 18 months ago and played our first show,” says Bis. That first show took place at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles and went just about as well as any of them could have hoped. “Sold out. Line up the street. The guys that presented it said it’s never happened since.”

And Magic Giant hasn't stopped since either. The trio are touring in support of their 2017’s LP In the Wind and are set to perform at a number of notable music festivals this year. The band have managed to create an atmosphere at their shows that touches large and small crowds alike, but they don’t really have a size preference, according to Bis. “They both serve a very different purpose," he says. "One is we can get very intimate with our crowd and just totally interact one-on-one immediately with the people. And the rest is the feeling of moving a whole sea of people.” Rosie Darch

Tommy Castro (center-right) with his current backing band The Painkillers.EXPAND
Tommy Castro (center-right) with his current backing band The Painkillers.
Victoria Smith

Tommy Castro and the Painkillers
Wednesday, January 23
Musical Instrument Museum

Poor Tommy Castro was born 40 years too late. He really should have been going to elementary school with folks like John Lee Hooker and Wilson Pickett. That way he could have donated to the golden era of blues, when monsters like B.B. King and Buddy Guy were seemingly in every smoky, wrong-side-of-the-tracks juke joint in America.

Since he missed that boat, Castro did the next best thing — he jams like Hooker and Pickett and moans like King and Guy. Castro's most recent release, Stompin' Ground, is notable on two counts. First, it's some seriously good blues music. Second, Castro captures what is very much a live medium and transfers that sound to CD with much more success than — gasp! — Mr. King or Mr. Hooker.

With going on two dozen albums under his belt, including 1999's Right as Rain, which readers of Blues Revue magazine voted one of the 40 best albums of all time, Castro knows his way around a studio. In short, Castro rocks with a style both easy and hard-hitting. He’ll be in town this week with his latest project, The Painkillers, at the Musical Instrument Museum for a Wednesday night show. Olivia Flores Alvarez

Corrosion of Conformity
Thursday, January 24
Crescent Ballroom

Metal band Corrosion of Conformity have been around for 35 years, but you wouldn't know that by catching them perform. Minus a six-year hiatus, bassist and metal legend Mike Dean has been with the band for 30 of those years, performing their intense music nightly.

"Our trajectory as a band, it's been a good one,” Dean says. “Technically what we do now is different than what we did we when began, it's the same in a lot of ways though. It's funny to see many bands today use thrash as their jump-off point."

Much has been said about the early days of Corrosion of Conformity, their thrash sound that was eventually abandoned for a heavier metal sound. No Cross No Crown is their latest release. The current world of streaming has dried up a lot of physical sales, keeping bands like C.O.C. out on the road for long periods of time. Though Dean says that's kind of always been the case. "It's probably that way, but even 20 years ago you had to still go out a lot. Touring is everyone's revenue stream,” he says. In late January, CoC will bring their latest tour to the Valley. David Garrick

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