Things to Do

The 8 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

Spafford is scheduled to perform on Sunday, December 30, and Monday, December 31, at The Van Buren.
Spafford is scheduled to perform on Sunday, December 30, and Monday, December 31, at The Van Buren. Courtesy of Big Hassle
What’s on tap for the final weekend of the year? There are several blowouts bidding farewell to 2018, as you’d expect, as well as a slew of high-profile shows by notable local acts.

Valley faves Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers and Spafford are putting on their annual end-of-the-year blowouts, both of which will likely attract big crowds. Meanwhile, Lydia will celebrate the 10th anniversary of their 2008 album Illuminate, rap legend Too $hort will be in town, and EDM fans will flock to Rawhide for the first night of this year’s Decadence Arizona festival.

Details about each of these shows and music events 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 town, hit up Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

Rap legend Too $hort. - TICKETMASTER
Rap legend Too $hort.
Too $hort
Friday, December 28
Monarch Theatre

To paraphrase the artist: His name is Short, his game is long, he freaks these hoes, and sings these songs. Too $hort is Oakland’s poet laureate of pimp talk. Too $hort’s been dropping albums since 1985.

Rap careers tend to age quickly, with most artists getting out of the game by the time they hit 30. That’s not the case with $hort, who has endured and prospered while so many of his peers have either died or retired. Call him West Coast rap’s Energizer Bunny, ready to spit his filthy “cock tales” raps.

After decades of hustling, Too $hort announced that this year’s The Pimp Tape (his 20th album overall!) will be his last record. So he’s hitting the road to regale fans with stories about his XXX exploits. If you love dirty rap, you owe it to yourself to hear the $hort Dog bark one more time. Just be sure to leave the kiddies at home. Ashley Naftule

Lydia is in the mood to celebrate. - COREY DAVIS
Lydia is in the mood to celebrate.
Corey Davis
Friday, December 28, and Saturday, December 29
Crescent Ballroom

Don’t ask Leighton Antelman to explain how his dream-pop outfit, Lydia, composes songs. Like Lydia’s music, which is full of hazy edges and misty melodies, Antelman’s answer provides a vague guide to the band’s musical aspiration.

“There’s a lot of different randomness. I’m not really sure,” he says inconclusively. “We all have our own mini studios in our houses, and we all write our first ideas — the melodies or harmonies — separately. Once we have these, we get together and try and mash together a couple ideas and go with one of whatever and see what happens. I think that’s a lot where it comes from.”

Whatever the process, the outcome works for the Gilbert-based band. The sound is both dreamy and poppy, yet it has an alt-edge to it. There are unexpected harmonies and lush passages, moments of longing and angst. Vocals float in the ether above the music, creating a roller coaster of emotions.

This weekend, Lydia celebrates the 10th anniversary of their 2008 album Illuminate with a two-night stint at Crescent Ballroom. They’ll perform the 12-track album in its entirety each night along with songs from their most recent effort, Liquor, which came out earlier this year. Glenn BurnSilver

The X-Files wouldn't be the same without its classic theme. - COURTESY OF FOX
The X-Files wouldn't be the same without its classic theme.
Courtesy of Fox
Blockbuster Scores: Music from TV and Film
Friday, December 28, to Sunday, December 30
Phoenix Symphony Hal

What makes a great television show even better? A memorable theme song definitely helps, especially one that you’ll be humming long after you’ve finished binge-watching. Ditto for blockbuster films featuring a spectacular score that’s rife with memorable motifs. Such is the case with the themes for iconic TV programs like The X-Files, The Simpsons, and Game of Thrones or such films as Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and Ghostbusters.

This weekend, you can hum along with these themes when the Phoenix Symphony presents Blockbuster Scores: Music from TV and Film. Led by conductor Stuart Chafetz, the musicians of the PSO will perform legendary themes from a variety of popular television shows and flicks, including House of Cards, Downton Abbey, Wonder Woman, and Lost.

Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 28, and Saturday, December 29, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 30, at Phoenix Symphony Hall, 75 North Second Street. Tickets are $30 to $108. Benjamin Leatherman

Jim Brickman
Saturday, December 29, to Monday, December 31
Musical Instrument Museum

If you’re looking for a more low-key, intimate New Year’s Eve experience, head north of the bustle of central Scottsdale to the Musical Instrument Museum for a performance by pianist Jim Brickman. Unless you follow adult contemporary music, that name probably isn’t ringing any bells, although you’ve probably heard his music more than once. You might have heard one of his collaborations with Lady Antebellum or Olivia Newton-John, or heard one of his Grammy-nominated songs on Pandora, or in television commercials or shows like CBS Sports, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and Jimmy Kimmel Live! He’s played at notable venues like the Grand Ole Opry, Carnegie Hall, Disney World, and the White House. Oh yeah, and did we mention that his sensible and balanced style of contemporary music has made him the most charted Adult Contemporary artist in history? MIM will host nightly performances during New Year’s Eve weekend, each starting at 7 p.m. Amanda Savage
click to enlarge Raise a toast with Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers this weekend. - CASSANDRA TOMEI
Raise a toast with Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers this weekend.
Cassandra Tomei
Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers
Saturday, December 29
The Van Buren

Say what you will about Roger Clyne's talents (which are substantial), when it comes to instigating a party, the native Arizonan is skilled. The stories surrounding the raucous Refreshments shows he was a part of back during the Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy days have been trumped by the kind of off-the-hook wingdings he hosts as frontman for the Peacemakers. The tequila-soaked "Circus Mexicus" beach blast held in Puerto Peñasco draws thousands of Peaceheads every year, for instance. Suffice it to say, RCPM's pre-New Year's Eve celebration at The Van Buren is likely to be just as action-packed. After Tucson’s Orkesta Mendoza performs, Clyne and company will launch into their typically high-energy set featuring “Mekong,” “Nada,” and (of course) “Banditos.” Heck, you might ever hear the theme song for King of the Hill, which RCPM wrote and performed back in the ‘90s. Benjamin Leatherman

Cash’d Out
Sunday, December 30
The Rhythm Room

Touring tribute bands have an especially tough row to hoe: If other places are anything like Phoenix, there’s already one on every third stage in town, it seems like. But San Diego’s Cash’d Out has made it work for more than a decade, combining a repertoire that spans more than 150 songs and the authentic booming baritone of frontman Douglas Benson, whose Man in Black is quite a bit better than merely passable.

Cash’d Out was the first tribute act to be endorsed by Johnny's official website; and has likewise impressed members of the Man in Black’s extended family, like ex-Tennessee Three drummer W.S. Holland, who has sat in with them, and Cash’s former manager Lou Robin, who has called their show “like going back in time.” Drawing heavily from Cash’s Sun years and the Live at San Quentin and Live at Folsom Prison albums, Cash’d Out will amble into the Rhythm Room this weekend. Chris Gray

click to enlarge Spafford is scheduled to perform on Sunday, December 30, and Monday, December 31, at The Van Buren. - COURTESY OF BIG HASSLE
Spafford is scheduled to perform on Sunday, December 30, and Monday, December 31, at The Van Buren.
Courtesy of Big Hassle
Sunday, December 30, and Monday, December 31
The Van Buren

Local jam-rock act Spafford have become staples of the festival circuit, complete with a community of “Spaff-nerds,” a moniker coined by die-hards who keep coming back for the group’s improvisational, electro-funk style. “It’s been a steady grind,” says keyboardist Red Johnson. “We’ve been chipping away at a common goal for many years. It’s an exciting thing, but I can’t really say it has been a huge surprise. It’s something that we all have worked really hard for, and watching it come to fruition right before our eyes is a huge deal.” Bassist Jordan Fairless adds, “At this point, we’re still in awe of how far we’ve come.”

The quartet is saying goodbye to 2018 the best way they know how: a two-night get-down at The Van Buren to bring in the New Year. Performances will take on Sunday, December 30, and Monday, December 31. General admission is $22 to $27 and VIP packages (which include tickets to both shows, a meet-and-greet and photo op with the band, the chance to attend a soundcheck listening party, signed merch, and other perks) are $149. Jason Keil

click to enlarge Morgan Page - COURTESY OF CIRCLE TALENT AGENCY
Morgan Page
Courtesy of Circle Talent Agency
Decadence Arizona 2018
Sunday, December 30, and Monday, December 31
Rawhide Event Center in Chandler

Electronic dance music will be blasting from sound systems at any number of New Year’s Eve celebrations over the next several days, including down in Chandler at Rawhide Event Center during this year’s edition of Decadence Arizona. The two-day event, which is both an EDM festival and New Year’s Eve party all in one, will feature more than three dozen DJs and producers performing, including many famous names in the mix. Chief among them is Skrillex, who will headline the first night of Decadence Arizona 2018 on Sunday, December 30. Artists such as Above & Beyond, Morgan Page, Porter Robinson, Drezo, Dr. Fresch, Fransis Derelle, GG Magree, Rezz, Skism, Trampa, Solardo, and Valentino Khan are also scheduled to perform on Sunday. Gates open at 3 p.m. Tickets are $119 to $129 per day for general admission, and $179 and up for VIP. Benjamin Leatherman
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Phoenix New Times Music Writers