Things to Do

The 13 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

Childish Gambino is scheduled to perform on Saturday, December 15, at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
Childish Gambino is scheduled to perform on Saturday, December 15, at Gila River Arena in Glendale. RCA Records
Christmas is coming early for fans of big-name great concerts in the Valley. This weekend features a stellar array of bands and artists scheduled to perform at live music venues around town, including Childish Gambino, Tom Morello, Ministry, Steven Van Zandt, JMSN, John Prine, and Tengger Cavalry.

The Advanced Placement tour, which features such acts as The Regrettes and Micky James, will also swing through the Valley, Jared & the Mill will be putting on their annual Holiday Extravaganza, and OK Go will present an interactive concert that’s in sync with more than a dozen of their over-the-top music videos.

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

click to enlarge OK Go bring the magic of their music videos to Mesa on Friday. - COURTESY OF MESA ARTS CENTER
OK Go bring the magic of their music videos to Mesa on Friday.
Courtesy of Mesa Arts Center
Friday, December 14
Mesa Arts Center

Honestly, I can't name a single OK Go song, and I've seen every one of the group's "viral" videos that they seem to put out on a yearly basis. You gotta hand it to them: They were the first act to figure out the power of YouTube and exploit it. Damian Kulash and crew have been making quality power-pop since 1998, and while that's admirable, there's no doubt that the band's audience tripled (and then some) after their first video in 2007. So, go to Mesa Arts Center on December 14, listen to some power pop, witness an interactive show that's choreographed to their various music videos, and have a really great time enjoying the spectacle of their show. Jaime-Paul Falcon

click to enlarge Fletcher and Wyatt Shears of The Garden. - EPITAPH RECORDS
Fletcher and Wyatt Shears of The Garden.
Epitaph Records
The Garden
Friday, December 14
Crescent Ballroom

Twin brothers Fletcher and Wyatt Shears, who make up the two-piece Orange County-based band the Garden, deliver a delicately balanced attack while properly embracing the constraint set by being just bass, drums, and vocals, and they do it with an aplomb that belies their tender age. Shears and Shears are definitely skilled on their instruments (Wyatt plays bass and sings, and Fletcher plays drums and makes faces) and truly play some of the best genre-bending music out there right now. If you had to define The Garden, you might call them post-post-punk or New Post-Punk, but even then, it's not really accurate.

The Garden has distinct qualities of punk, New Wave, no wave, (a dash of) glam, and fair amount of teen angst, even though the Shears boys aren’t teenagers anymore and refer to their sound as "Vada." Raised in a musically forward-thinking home (Dad Steve Shears drums for So-Cal punk heroes Shattered Faith and roadies for X), the twins seem to be extremely comfortable following any musical whim, although their talent and keen eye for fashion, irony, and sarcasm have shaped their musical output in a way that even the most jaded music reviewer would be reluctant to call their music "whimsical." Call it "Vada," we suppose, whatever the hell that means. Tom Reardon

click to enlarge Tengger Cavalry - ADRENALINE PR
Tengger Cavalry
Adrenaline PR
Tengger Cavalry
Friday, December 14
Club Red in Mesa

If you’ve never had an introduction to black folk metal, then this is the show to check out. Presented by longtime Valley metal promoter 13th Floor Entertainment, the headliner is the unique Tengger Cavalry, which blends tradition with modern metal: Mongolian horse-head fiddle and the nomadic music of Central Asia with heavy rock and overtone throat singing. Check them out live this weekend when they perform a solo show at Club Red in Mesa. Start time is 7 p.m. and tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Lauren Wise

click to enlarge The legendary John Prine. - DANNY CLINCH
The legendary John Prine.
Danny Clinch
John Prine
Friday, December 14
Celebrity Theatre

Since 1971, John Prine's been blending, or, rather, muddling the lines between country and folk music. Sure, there might be a stylistic plane on which they might both exist, but no one has done it with more eloquence and chutzpah than Prine. A native of Illinois, the singer/songwriter's giddy-up to the limelight included stints in the armed forces and as a carrier for the U.S. Postal Service before finding some quick fame alongside former writing partner Steve Goodman in Chicago's folk revival scene, thanks to the latter's introduction to Kris Kristofferson.

Prine's work has always been noted for its humor and subtle observations of the human condition. Born in 1946, Prine is first and foremost a performing artist, starting in the early '70s following a string of early, critically acclaimed albums on Atlantic and Asylum records. His compositions have been covered by legends like David Allan Coe, Bonnie Raitt, and Susan Tedeschi. A musician's musician, Prine's never been a household name outside of genre circles, but he's revered by musicians and connoisseurs alike. His narrative approach to storytelling through music is equal to fiction writing in his assuming of the subject's persona and a heartfelt rendition of that subject's story. His work often expertly deals with current events and social commentary under the guise of love and life and the gloomier moments of his personal mythology. Abel Folgar

DJ Tristan/Iseult.
Benjamin Leatherman
The Witching Hour
Friday, December 14
Crescent Ballroom

The theme of Tristan/Iseult’s newest dance party, The Witching Hour, might be a bit spooky, but its origin is hardly shrouded in mystery. According to a Facebook post by the local DJ (who also puts on events like LILITH and HÄXAN), his newest night was born after the proprietors of Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue, approached him about creating a new weekly goth affair every Friday night at the venue. “Given that the event doesn't start until 11 p.m. ... the name The Witching Hour came to mind,” Tristan/Iseult wrote. “And that led me down a path of revisiting 1970s horror and occult films, which will be the projected backdrop for the night.”

And while The Witching Hour features a murky and moody theme not unlike his other nights, the DJ says its soundtrack will differ from its sister events. “Musically, I've tended to curate events that explore more brooding and lower tempos, which I think LILITH and HÄXAN thoroughly cover. So, for The Witching Hour, I'll be bringing the tempo up for most of the night — while keeping the gloom — and exploring both contemporary and retro artists that fit the mood.” As such, expect to hear mixes of darkwave, witch house, industrial, and goth tunes being spun by Tristan/Iseult on Friday evenings starting at 11 p.m. Admission to the 21-and-over event is free. Benjamin Leatherman

click to enlarge Christian Berishaj, better known as JMSN. - SEBASTIAN MALDONADO
Christian Berishaj, better known as JMSN.
Sebastian Maldonado
Saturday, December 15
Crescent Ballroom

When Christian Berishaj writes music, he disconnects. The iPhone is turned off, the email and texts and phone calls reach an electronic dead end, and the Los Angeles-via-Detroit artist seeks out space. Berishaj has no time for bullshit, and he will tell you so. Having undergone a series of musical iterations — first as multi-instrumentalist Love Arcade, which signed to Columbia Records, then later under the moniker Christian TV, which signed with Universal Motown — he struck out on his own and formed his own independent record label, White Room Records.

With that independence, Berishaj built his own wheelhouse. As JMSN, Berishaj has been labeled as R&B, featuring atmospheric, aerated vocals and layers of hall reverb that draw immediate comparisons to the likes of The Weeknd and How to Dress Well. Music critics and fans alike simply labeled the first JMSN record, Priscilla, as "dark," created in a drugged-out vein that could be just at home in a truck stop strip club's champagne room as a low-lit bedroom. K.C. Libman
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Phoenix New Times Music Writers