Magic Sword is scheduled to perform on Saturday, December 8, at Club Red in Mesa.
Magic Sword is scheduled to perform on Saturday, December 8, at Club Red in Mesa.
Otto Kitsinger

The 12 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

This weekend’s slate of concerts is nothing if not epic. It includes a golden-voiced clown singing the hits, a gig by one of the raunchiest rappers around, your second chance to catch the Smashing Pumpkins this year, and your final chance ever to see Minus the Bear do their thing. And that’s just on Friday.

The rest of the weekend is equally packed with awesome concerts, like performances by costumed electronic/synth-rock act Magic Sword, this year’s edition of Alice Cooper’s annual Christmas Pudding showcase, and shows featuring rappers Lil Ugly Mane and 6lack. Local punk legends Authority Zero will also celebrate the release of their newest album.

Details about each of these shows can be found below in our list of the best concerts happening in the Valley this weekend. And for even more live music happening around the Valley, hit up Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

Puddles Pity Party
Friday, December 7
Mesa Arts Center

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Not all clowns are scary. Puddles Pity Party is a singer and self-described "sad clown with the golden voice" (real name Mike Geier, frontman of the Atlanta band Kingsized), who dresses like a Pierrot-style clown complete with white face paint, ruffled collar, and furry balls. He's 6-foot-8, carries a lantern and suitcase onstage, and hardly speaks, except when he's crooning his baritone, cabaret-style covers of ballads, pop, and rock songs. His Live at Joe's Pub album features versions of Lorde's "Royals," Sia's "Chandelier," Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," and The Bee Gees' "I Started a Joke." He also sings mashups of Celine Dion with Metallica and The Who with Johnny Cash. And he's performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Tenacious D-curated Festival Supreme, as well as a few concerts here in the Valley in recent years. Puddles' shows are often interactive, so don't run away. This clown is more cuddly than creepy. Siran Babayan

CupcakKe: As bawdy as she wants to be.
CupcakKe: As bawdy as she wants to be.

Friday, December 7
Pub Rock Live

CupcakKe’s known by many names, including Queen Elizabitch and Marilyn Monhoe. Her Twitter feed is full of selfies in skimpy outfits and fluorescent hair, captioned with the foulest, proudest, bawdiest tweets. A sample: “I got to sit by the window with my legs open cause with these thick thighs my pussy like Jordin Sparks it gets no air.” Now, you might think her persona makes CupcakKe little more than a novelty rapper, right? Wrong. She can rap anybody in the hip-hop game festival under the table and equals 2 Live Crew in their prime when it comes to debauchery. Look out. Douglas Markowitz

Smashing Pumpkins is back in town for another show.
Smashing Pumpkins is back in town for another show.
Olivia Bee

Smashing Pumpkins
Friday, December 7
Mesa Amphitheatre

For Smashing Pumpkins fans, the future's so shiny and bright they gotta wear shades. Billy Corgan, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlain, and the rest of Smashing Pumpkins' reunion tour ensemble have announced that they'll be bringing their Shiny and Oh So Bright Tour back to the Valley in December.

Despite getting off to a rocky start thanks to some he-said/she-said drama between Corgan and founding Pumpkins bassist D'arcy Wretzky, the Pumpkins’ tour has turned out to be a victory lap. It kicked off in Glendale this past summer with a show that was surprisingly engaging and full of energy, overcoming some of its weirder idiosyncrasies. What could have just been a desperate cash grab revealed itself to be a stirring reminder about why the Pumpkins matter in the first place.

Long story short: If you're a Pumpkins fan and you didn't catch their show at Gila River, you owe it to yourself to snatch up tickets to their upcoming show in Mesa before they sell out. Ashley Naftule

Say farewell to Minus the BearEXPAND
Say farewell to Minus the Bear
Chona Kasinger

Minus the Bear (Farewell Tour)
Friday, December 7
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

Back in July, Minus the Bear announced they were ending their time together as a band. Instead of playing a handful of final shows near their hometown of Seattle, the band decided to do one more extensive tour across the country and then call it quits. “There hasn’t been a single year [that] we haven’t done a fall tour,” keyboardist Alex Rose says from his home in West London during a short break from the road. “It just felt right to give people a chance to say goodbye.”

As they are in the middle of this tour, which concludes in mid-December with a sold-out, three-night stand in Seattle, the band has felt the love from newer fans and long-timers. “It’s incredible,” Rose says. “It’s heavy and it’s joyful.”

To prepare for these shows, the band dived deep into their back catalog to sculpt the longest set list they’ve ever played as a band. But these shows will only be in North America. And it can be tough to deal with fan expectation where there is always a wish for at least one more show. “We’re definitely not able to please everyone with this,” Rose says. “So we have to draw the line at some point.”

Minus the Bear was founded by vocalist/guitarist Jake Snider, guitarist Dave Knudson and bassist Cory Murchy, while Rose joined in 2006. Their final drummer, Joshua Sparks, joined in 2017. The band’s most popular albums, Menos El Oso and Planet of Ice, arrived early in their career. Their final album, VOIDS, came out in 2017, while their final EP, Fair Enough, came out earlier this year. Eric Grubbs

Singer-songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle.
Singer-songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle.
Kristin Cofer

Emma Ruth Rundle
Friday, December 7
Valley Bar

Emma Ruth Rundle’s solo music may be inspired by folk, but that hasn’t stopped her from touring the country with bands like black-metal act Deafheaven or post-rock group This Will Destroy You. Folk and metal have rarely traveled side by side, but putting music into stylistic silos is rightfully falling out of fashion. Rundle is part of a new movement of artists like Chelsea Wolfe, Helen Money, and the band Miserable, who are proving that folk can be as dark and intense as metal, and that the imagined divide between acoustic music and heavy, noisier styles need no longer exist.

Rundle, who has lived in Los Angeles much of her life, says she has been influenced by many styles of music. “I think my listening tastes have been pretty out there and varied,” she says. “There’s a sense in the community I’m in that some of what I’m doing doesn’t sound as heavy as the [musical] world I’m in.”

That assessment, she believes, reflects an inadequate understanding of her work. “There are so many places that music comes from,” Rundle notes. “I didn’t grow up in a time when it was just radio. There was the internet when I was a kid, so you could really hear anything.” And in the digital era, there’s no reason that music aficionados should be schooled in only one sound or musicians limited to one genre or set of influences. Tom Murphy

Alice Cooper’s Christmas Pudding
Saturday, December 8
Celebrity Theatre

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 Hollywood Vampires, Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, Sebastian Bach, Beasto Blanco, and comedian Larry the Cable Guy. Lauren Wise

Authority Zero is releasing its latest album this weekend.EXPAND
Authority Zero is releasing its latest album this weekend.
Courtesy of Ticketmaster

Authority Zero (Album Release Show)
Saturday, December 8
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

Authority Zero might not have achieved the national breakout of Jimmy Eat World or Gin Blossoms or even Roger Clyne, but this Mesa punk rock foursome was able to accrue and maintain a loyal following nationally and internationally and survive a hostile record business climate for 20 years. This past year has been a busy one for the band as they've toured and performed constantly and even put out two releases, including a live album, R&B III, back in April. This weekend, they'll drop the second, Persona Non Grata, a 12-song effort, in conjunction with an album release show at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Saturday night. Local bands Runaway Kids, Good Boy Daisy, Nomada, Madd Dog Tannen, and Torn At the Seam will open. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are $20 to $35. Serene Dominic

Courtesy of Ticketfly

Saturday, December 8
The Van Buren

Originally from Baltimore, east Atlanta is where 6LACK (pronounced “black”) honed his skills as an artist. He battle-rapped in high school and even went against one of today’s biggest names, Young Thug, way before stardom. 6LACK was nominated for two Grammys in 2017: Best Urban Contemporary Album for his project Free 6lack and Best Rap/Sung Performance for his song “PRBLMS.” His successes even earned him the attention and praise from Jay-Z and Beyoncé, according to an interview on Sway’s Universe. Time will tell if he receives the same praise and hype for his newest project, East Atlanta Love Letter. Julio Lugo

Magic Sword beams into The Rebel Lounge this weekend.EXPAND
Magic Sword beams into The Rebel Lounge this weekend.
Otto Kitsinger

Magic Sword
Saturday, December 8
The Rebel Lounge

Magic Sword are a synth-rock band based in Boise, Idaho, whose members dress as space knights from a galaxy far, far away. It’s the kind of high-fidelity synth rock that embodies everything glorious about 1980s epic science-fiction movies. Soundwise, think Wendy Carlos’s work for Tron, Tangerine Dream’s soundscapes for The Keep, and Mike Moran’s score to Time Bandits.

The band’s three members (The Keeper, The Seer, and The Weaver) keep their identities secret, but there’s nothing alienating about their presence. Concertgoers are encouraged to join the fun, with merch like light swords on offer. Yes, the theatrics are a gimmick, and so, perhaps, is the retro synth sound of the music. But in an era when many bands only go halfway with a gimmick, Magic Sword commit to the whole experience, which is reflected in their unusual, powerful, and unforgettable shows. Tom Murphy

Kayla Windsor/Emaginarium Productions

Hard Holiday
Saturday, December 8
Club Red in Mesa

’Twas the month of Christmas and all around town, people were celebrating, partying up, and getting down. Like over in Mesa, at the place called Club Red, electronic dance music fiends will let hard beats fill their head. It’s the party known as Hard Holiday, happening on Saturday, December 8, and plenty of DJs will be there, many of whom are great. Hard dance will be blasted in two different rooms, as the sound systems belt out big beats and big booms. Performers will include Atmozfears and Jvst Say Yes, as well as RAMPAGE, who’s bound to impress. A dozen other DJs will also rock the booth, including Decipher, Tryb, Ecto, and Sawtooth. It kicks off at 7 p.m. and goes until 2, giving you plenty of time to dance with your boo. Admission will run you $35 at the door, but will totally be worth it once you hit the dance floor. Benjamin Leatherman

Lil Ugly Mane
Saturday, December 8
Crescent Ballroom

Perhaps no one has done more for the revival of southern horrorcore than Travis Miller, known by several names but most famously as the rapper Lil Ugly Mane. At first a noise musician in Richmond, Virginia, he became associated with SpaceGhostPurrp and Raider Klan, the Miami collective that pioneered the subterranean sound of contemporary trap now found on released by Sheck Wes and 21 Savage. Despite being hundreds of miles away from this scene, Miller produced its essential document, the LP Mista Thug Isolation, in 2012. Full of mysterious jazz samples, noisy effects, and moody, proficient bars from the Mane, the record formed a dark, grimy sound that gave street rap its own Southern Gothic slant, perhaps even more so than the legendary Three Six Mafia.

Miller has unfortunately lived some of that darkness himself. He has spoken with candidness about his struggles with mental health, and his rap project with Wiki, Secret Circle, splintered when fellow member Antwon was accused of sexual misconduct. His work has gotten similarly dark: The more recent Ugly Mane releases are darker, showing even more influence from noise music, substituting the gang-rap flexes with lines projecting a frayed mental state. For now, he carries on, releasing music and playing shows. He performs at Crescent Ballroom with the Arizona-based death metal band Gatecreeper, whose last record came out on the Relapse label. Douglas Markowitz

The musicians of Reckless Kelly.
The musicians of Reckless Kelly.
Carl Dunn & Backstage Design Studio

Reckless Kelly
Sunday, December 9
Crescent Ballroom

Since brothers Willy and Cody Braun moved to Austin, Texas, almost two decades ago, their band Reckless Kelly has always been considered a part of the Texas music phenomenon, but they've also always managed to stand slightly apart from that whole thing. To their credit, the band has never used the beer-taco-Mexico-tequila-Texas-Texas-Texas-more-beer lyrical template that most of the so-called Texas music bands wore like a frat pin. From the beginning, Reckless had real songs and, when they didn't have anything new, they'd rev up amazing covers of Led Zeppelin or Elvis Costello to fill the void. This weekend, they’ll amble through the Valley for a gig at Crescent Ballroom. William Michael Smith

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