Got any big plans this weekend? Like maybe hanging with friends, heading out to a holiday party, or finishing up your Christmas shopping? All worthwhile pursuits, of course, but you might also want to consider checking out one of the fantastic concerts happening at Valley music venues over the next few nights. After all, there are plenty of 'em happeing.
Local thrash-metal gods Flotsam and Jetsam have a big show planned, as do their fellow heshers in Crushed. Meanwhile, blues icon Jonny Lang will be doing his thing up at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, the pop-punkers of Assuming We Survive will be holding it down at the Rebel Lounge, and the industrial and fetish crowd will be feting Krampus at the Rogue Bar. And that’s just on Friday.
There are other “can’t miss” music events happening the rest of the weekend (including a performance by Jim James from My Morning Jacket at the Marquee Theatre), all of which are included in our exhaustively updated online concert calendar and in the following picks for the best shows this weekend.
The Donkeys — Friday, December 9 — Valley Bar
The Donkeys, not to be confused with the late-’70s power pop band from West Yorkshire or the Japanese noise rock outfit, have a solid fan base in Phoenix, prompting these Californians to visit about once a year. The Donkeys often get pegged as an alt-country or blues rock band, but this oversimplifies the San Diego band’s more full-bodied, psychedelic influences and their pop melodies. After all, multi-instrumentalist Jessie Gulati learned sitar in India, the third-eye twang appearing on tracks like “East Coast Raga” and “Imperial Beach.” Ride the Black Wave (2014) further expanded the Donkeys’ sound with more surf rock and Caribbean influences, but still retains some of their Neil Young nods on “Shines” and “I Heart Alabama.” “Black Wave” even has some Black Moth Super Rainbow influences on it. All this makes for a much more eclectic, yet immersive sound that has the ability to extract so many good vibes at once. TROY FARAH
Flotsam and Jetsam – Friday, December 9 – Club Red
Flotsam and Jetsam are coming off of tours of Europe and the U.S. Not too shabby for a 35-year-old metal band from the Valley. For our money, Flotsam and Jetsam kicks out some of the best metal around, and that’s not just because they are a bunch of hometown dudes who have made good. The band has made an impact on the world metal scene and their most recent record, their self-titled Flotsam and Jetsam, is a strong nod back to the glory days as well. In fact, the glory days of “Flots” might be upon us right now. Eric “AK” Knutson, vocals, and Michael Gilbert, guitar, have been with the band the longest, but the current lineup, which also features guitarist Steve Conley, bassist Michael Spencer, and drummer Jason Bittner, is nothing short of formidable. Their upcoming show at Club Red is the final show of a five-week tour that has seen the band traverse the country, so they should be firing on all cylinders as they come home to enjoy a little holiday cheer before the madness begins again in 2017. So pull on your knee-high moccasins, bust out your tightest jeans and your favorite Maiden shirt, and get ready to rock: Flotsam and Jetsam are coming home. TOM REARDON
Assuming We Survive – Friday, December 9 – The Rebel Lounge
A bouncing synthesis of New Millennium middleweight rock influences, this five-member rock outfit sees no reason why metal's clanking guitars and pop-punk's sanguine melodies and sunny harmonies shouldn't seamlessly coexist. These stylistic bedfellows get it on with gusto on songs like "Yea, So What If I'm Sprung," which is less frat-boy flippant than, say, Blink-182 but not as grudgingly burdened as full-bore "core" bands. It really helps that singer Adrian Estrella actually can (and shuns his peers' almost obligatory screaming), while his bandmates convincingly summon many a mood from their instruments. Tuneful, rhythmically captivating, sincere without sounding overly serious, if they can avoid lower-common-denominator sonic compromise, Assuming We Survive should downright thrive. PAUL ROGERS
Cupcake! Krampus Dance Party – Friday, December 9 – The Rogue Bar
A word of warning to y’all: Not everything that’s out there spying on you when you’re sleeping is as benevolent as Santa Claus. If the Austro-Bavarian legends of yore are to be believed, the insidious and goat-like creature known as the Krampus might just be out there, waiting to punish those who misbehave during the Yuletide season. And on the evening of Friday, December 9, there’s a good chance it’ll be in the vicinity of the Rogue Bar in Scottsdale, laying in wait to dish out some discipline to those in attendance at the Cupcake! Krampus Dance Party. It’ll probably be a busy evening for the creature, given the event’s sin-friendly theme and the typically lurid and fetishistic nature of the monthly Cupcake! parties. As always, DJs Self.Destrukt and Defense.Mekanizm will be spinning up industrial, EBM, electro, and other kinky beats. Former Sadisco* member $&M will also serve as guest DJ. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Crushed – Friday, December 9 – Shady Park
If you were suddenly plunked into the Phoenix music scene in the mid-’90s, the first thing that would strike you was how, despite reports to the contrary, heavy metal was still alive here, fortified by hardcore, grunge, and industrial. Walk into any rehearsal space or club, and you would hear a compressed, distorted, belching guitar sound that you almost never hear anymore. But that sound was pretty inescapable in 1995. I’d almost forgotten how omnipresent it was until you hear the first few seconds of “Trick 900,” the opening track on Crushed’s just-released collection of unreleased demos from 1995 to 1999 called Demolation. You’ll hear it intermittently across this 19-track trek, but you’ll hear lots of other sounds from the ’90s, too — hooky, almost pop arpeggio riffs from guitarist Mike Halland and the superb vocal delivery from Mark Lauer. At a time when every hard-rock frontman was expected to sing like corrosive battery acid was being poured on his head, Lauer’s pleasing-to-the-ear vocals, more Boy George than Hulk, made Crushed stand out from the pack. Here was a heavy band that could deliver a pop tune like “Galaxy Craze,” or cover the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way” and make you believe it was always meant to be played with just two acoustic 12-strings (that “unplugged” thing was still a pretty big deal). No wonder the major labels circled their wagons around this band several times throughout its existence. Crushed is a band that had several lives in its 20-year career, and while the band’s live performances have become sporadic in recent years, they never stopped completely. The CD release show on December 9 at Shady Park in Tempe with Fred Green, Sunset Voodoo, and the Routine will mark a return to live work after a four-year absence. SERENE DOMINIC
Jonny Lang – Friday, December 9 – Talking Stick Resort
Being a prodigy can sometimes suck. Take Jonny Lang, for example. When he burst onto the scene as an astonishingly gifted 14-year-old guitar wünderkind, it must have seemed like the coolest thing in the world. Of course, as gifted as Lang is, his success was intimately linked to his youthfulness — a sort of novelty factor. Pretty quickly, that novelty began to take on a different air, with critics frequently applying his age as a qualifier, asking, essentially, if his limited years had an inverse relationship with his audience's perception. Lang, however, chose to do something at which prodigies often fail — he grew as an artist. Over the course of a decade and five albums, Lang has moved away from the strictures of structured blues, embracing a host of styles ranging from Southern-fried rock to Memphis-style soul to gospel, finding room in his music to embrace the spirit of the blues that got him started in the first place. NICHOLAS L. HALL
Red Bull Flying Bach – Friday, December 9, to Sunday, December 11 – Comerica Theatre
The fast-paced breakdancing-set-to-classical-music show is literally one highlight after another. And just as the audience thinks, “That’s the most amazing dancing I’ve ever seen,” one of the b-boys will spin on his head at warp speed or do a back-breaking flip across the stage that leaves everyone drop-jawed. The Red Bull Flying Bach show, coming for the first time ever to Phoenix, is set to J. S. Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier. There’s a loose plotline. “A crew is doing a full rehearsal at the studio in preparation for their big day,” says dancer Uwe Donaubauer. “Preludes and fugues set the tone. Through arguments, fights, disappointments, and delights, the moods and steps of the dancers change constantly — much like the highs and lows of the notes.” OLIVIA FLORES ALVAREZ
The Sounds – Saturday, December 10 – Marquee Theatre
Bringing the spirit of rock 'n' roll to the stage is easier said than done. For a band like Sweden’s the Sounds, however, it's an art that seems to come naturally, as the New Wave-influenced indie rock band circles the globe, making dance floors tremble from continent to continent. Frontwoman Maja Ivarsson is compellingly thrilling, to say the least. Her wildly charismatic presence is both aggressive and sexy. And some of her stage antics would make even your ex-biker babe grandmother blush. Usually with cigarette in mouth and middle finger in the air, she tends to punch and kick the air, bitch-slap the mic, crawl on the ground, hike up her skirt, and snarl at whatever crowd the Sounds are in front of at the moment. Their shows are a mix of both old and new, and as they alternate back and forth between songs from all five of their studio albums, the Sounds do more than enough to please both old and new fans alike, not to mention provide one of the most entertaining shows you’re likely to see.
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J.Phlip & Kill Frenzy – Saturday, December 10 – Shady Park
Dirtybird might just be the most fun-loving collective in electronic dance music with its barbecue parties, ass-clapping bass music, and lively gang of artist pals who are always down for laughs. But among the Dirtybird boys – Justin and Christian Martin, Claude VonStroke, Worthy, et cetera – one character stands out because of an X chromosome: J. Phlip (a.k.a. Jessica Phillipe), the sole lady on the roster. But just like rest of the crew, she's a slayer when it comes to banging out slick tracks in the studio and making booties bounce in the club. Go find out for yourself this weekend when she rattles the speakers at Shady Park in Tempe along with fellow Dirtybird artist Kill Frenzy and locals Sean Watson and Ghost Effect. SEAN LEVISMAN
Jim James – Sunday, December 11 – Marquee Theatre
Jim James is probably best known as the frontman of My Morning Jacket, a band that crossed over from the underground to the mainstream by virtue of its haunting yet richly melodic and expansive songs. The success of MMJ has given James the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded artists such as Jay Farrar and Calexico, an act he sang with for the Bob Dylan biopic I'm Not There. In 2013, James released his debut solo album, Regions of Light and Sound of God. Fans of his other work will find much to like on the album; in it, James stretches out a little in his songwriting and explores the uneasy relationship between humans and the technology we have so quickly embraced. James just released his sophomore solo album, Eternally Even, on ATO Records. TOM MURPHY