The 25 Best Concerts in Phoenix in January 2017

Run the Jewels is scheduled to perform on Sunday, January 29, at Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
Run the Jewels is scheduled to perform on Sunday, January 29, at Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
Timothy Saccenti
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It’s time for a fresh start, folks – and there’s no better chance for it than the beginning of a new year. The debacle that was 2016 is behind us and its time to look ahead to better things. (Yes, we’re quite aware that there might be some bad things on tap for 2017, but we can at least try to have some optimism, right?)

With that in mind, we’re looking ahead to some of the worthwhile concerts that will happening around the Valley during the first month of the year. And some big names will be coming to town, ranging from living legends like Ace Frehley and Dave Mason to such burgeoning stars as The Seratones and longtime favorites like Mike Doughty.

Oh yeah, and Run the Jewels are also making a return, as is the Phoenix Rock Lottery.

Read on for a rundown of January’s “can’t miss” concerts and be sure to check out our online concert calendar for even more live music events this month.

Piñata Protest – Thursday, January 5 – Yucca Tap Room
Our border brothers in the northern Mexican states for example, have a predisposition for accordion-filled norteños, while rural areas are known to indulge in the more traditional folk music of rancheras. If you're Mexican-American or Chicano, chances are you got a steady dose of both growing up. Isn't that right, you pinché pochos? (It's okay for me to say that; I'm one of them.) With that being said, you might think it a little odd when you hear a band like Piñata Protest, a self-described accordion-powered punk rock band that plays...mojado rock? When you think about the dichotomy of growing up Chicano, the fusion actually makes perfect sense. The San Antonio natives say that their music is not your abuelo's norteño, but it also ain't your pappy's punk rock, either. The quartet, made up of accordionist Alvaro del Norte, guitarist Matt Cazares, bassist Marcus Cazares, and drummer J.J. Martinez, combine driving guitar rhythms, bellowing accordion blasts, and a blistering punk pace, for a unique sound that's surprisingly palatable and pleasantly danceable. ANTHONY SANDOVAL

Music Therapy Blackout – Friday, January 6 – The Pressroom
Sophie’s Place, the name of the music therapy ward inside Mesa’s Cardon Children’s Medical Center, is a natural target for fancy fundraising galas. It’s a children’s hospital with a musical treatment program — could there be a more apolitical cause? As a result, perhaps, Linkin Park, Filter, and other bands have played fundraising concerts for the ward through the years, and this time around, the organizers have enlisted the Beta Machine and local band Vinyl Station for the effort. This will be one of the Beta Machine’s first concerts of 2017, during which the group will release its debut EP. Anchored by bassist/singer Matt McJunkins and drummer Jeff Friedl — the two played together in A Perfect Circle, and McJunkins has toured with Puscifer and Eagles of Death Metal, while Friedl is a sought-after drummer who has played with Filter, Ashes Divide, and others — the Beta Machine is a project that brings to the forefront two musicians who have long played in the back. With McJunkins’ vocals backing up singer Claire Acey, who sang in the British rock band Nightmare and the Cat, the forthcoming EP should be a treat for the ears. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

Dave Mason – Saturday, January 7 – Talking Stick Resort
If you have ever listened to the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, George Harrison or Joe Walsh, you have heard Dave Mason, too. He founded the band Traffic, but can also be heard on the Stones album Beggars Banquet, and Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland.
“I was fortunate enough to spend some great time with him,” Mason says of Hendrix, who had been a dear friend. “I sang on ‘Crosstown Traffic,’ and I played the acoustic guitar on his version of ‘All Along the Watchtower.’” Growing up in Worchester, England, the young Mason and fellow musician Jim Capaldi formed several bands together, including The Jaguars and The Hellions, before joining forces with Chris Wood and Steve Winwood to create the legendary group Traffic in 1967. Traffic’s soulful, blues-inspired influence resulted in psychedelic hits like, “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.” Despite weaving in and out of Traffic repeatedly since 1967, Mason was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 as a founding member. Between gigs with some of the world’s most well-known musicians, Mason forged a successful solo career with radio favorites like, “We Just Disagree,” “Let it Go, Let it Flow,” and his hit with Delaney & Bonnie & Friends: “Only You Know and I Know.” WENDY RHODES

Dar Williams – Sunday, January 8 – MIM
Dar Williams is a longtime singer-songwriter from the state of New York who is most often recognized for her thoughtful folk balladry, but she also sometimes reveals the heart of a rock & roller with her distinctive remakes of songs by Pink Floyd and Neil Young. Her most recent album, 2015’s Emerald, is a generally introspective collection of originals, including songs co-written with Jim Lauderdale and with Jill Sobule. A rustically twanging remake of Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros’ “Johnny Appleseed” adds a welcome bit of punk soul amid all the laid-back folk ruminations. Currently, Williams is commemorating the 20th anniversary of the release of her 1996 record, Mortal City, with a full-length performance. FALLING JAMES

John Paul WhiteEXPAND
John Paul White
Allister Ann

John Paul White – Tuesday, January 10 – MIM
A couple of years have passed since the split of Grammy-award winning duo the Civil Wars. Currently, singer/songwriter John Paul White is touring in support of his first solo effort in a decade, Beulah. The collection of songs, with titles like “Hope I Die,” “Make You Cry,” and “Hate the Way You Love Me,” sounds like a recipe for instant depression. While haunting, stark, and at times crushingly minimal, there’s a solid bubble of hope that floats through those darker twists and turns. His mix of folk and country doesn’t leave out a sprinkling of the soul sounds embedded in his birthplace of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where many classics were cut. AMY YOUNG

Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Wednesday, January 11 – MIM
Collectively, Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore represent almost a century of experience as songwriters whose attention to detail and idiosyncratic voices have made them two of America’s leading roots musicians. Alvin’s music welds the observational grit of fellow Westerners Tom Russell and Merle Haggard with a little of the muscular rock of his time as a member of X and the Blasters; last year, he and brother Phil honored R&B greats including Big Joe Turner and James Brown with Lost Time, the followup to their Grammy-nominated Big Bill Broonzy tribute, Common Ground. The distinctive nasal twang of Gilmore, meanwhile, is one of the most recognizable voices in Texas music, while he’s established himself as a master of philosophical country both with longtime Lubbock compadres The Flatlanders and on acclaimed solo albums like Spinning Around the Sun and Come On Back. CHRIS GRAY

Pink Martini – Wednesday, January 11 – Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts
Pink Martini’s blend of Latin music, jazz, and classical music is the perfect antidote to everything that’s happened in the past year — it’s music that celebrates the world’s diversity while honoring the deep musical traditions formed by musicians long passed. Founded in Portland, Oregon, in the mid-’90s, the group features multiple singers and around a dozen horn players, all skilled in the Neapolitan blend of styles that is practically the perfect lounge music. The group’s debut album, Sympathique, became a worldwide success, earning the group awards from countries as far away as France. The group is a callback to the early half of the 20th century, when America still searched outward for culture, and singers like Eartha Kitt and Doris Day sampled the cultures of the world for songs like finger foods at a fine gala. If anything, Pink Martini is a reminder to the world that Americans still can appreciate music not served on a blue plate under an American flag. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

Martin SextonEXPAND
Martin Sexton
Courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum

Martin Sexton – Friday, January 13 – MIM
Martin Sexton is a singer's singer. Whereas most male vocalists are tethered by timbre to a particular style, Sexton bends his voice with the fluid flexibility of a skilled instrumentalist, adapting to fit his frequent stylistic tangents with aplomb. An instrumental analogy is apt, as Sexton is equally likely to employ his vocal cords for non-verbal effect. For a lesser vocalist, it would be a dangerous enterprise, at best, to make such frequent use of potentially contrived-sounding techniques like scat singing, whistling and (most alarmingly) vocal simulation of actual instruments. Sexton does it so casually and effectively, though, that it never feels out of place or affected. He's no slouch with an actual instrument, either, frequently relying on an acoustic guitar as backup to his vocal shenanigans. The guitar becomes an extension of his voice (or vice versa), and the two share the duty — and the spotlight — with equal verve and charm. NICK HALL

Black MilkEXPAND
Black Milk
Jonathan Stafford

Black Milk – Friday, January 13 – Crescent Ballroom
Last year, A Tribe Called Quest came out with its final album, We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service. It is an intoxicating, aggressive hybrid of poetry, funk, and jazz that makes a powerful statement as the nation fearfully enters the Trump era. Detroit rapper and producer Curtis Cross (emcee name Black Milk) undoubtedly has been influenced by the East Coast rappers throughout his career. Like his heroes, he also released a new album this year with his backing band, Nat Turner, titled The Rebellion Sessions. The collaboration is a surprising turn for Black Milk. As socially and community-minded as the artist’s rhymes are in previous records, he takes a different track with this release. Despite being a mostly instrumental work, The Rebellion Sessions is just as powerful a statement as the A Tribe Called Quest record. It is a pure, unrestrained soul and jazz record that is free from the confines of what hip-hop expects from its artists. Filled with grooves that would make the late great J Dilla jealous, Black Milk says so much without saying anything at all. JASON KEIL

Andy McKee
Andy McKee
Courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum

Andy McKee – Saturday, January 14 – MIM
Andy McKee is that rare breed of guitar player who doesn't need words to make his voice heard. With a finely developed finger-style, rich tonal qualities, multiple percussive aspects, and an expansive feel, McKee's lush solo acoustic guitar instrumentation sounds like several players performing at once — occasionally even a full band — and rarely seems to fall back on past accomplishments. McKee began playing guitar in his teens, focusing on first Metallica, Dream Theater, and Iron Maiden, but also visionary guitarists Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson. A self-proclaimed "metalhead," it was only after attending a performance by Preston Reed, who incorporated a two-handed approach that included intricate fingerstyle playing, hammered strings, and use of the guitar body for percussive elements, that McKee's musical world shifted on its axis. Realizing the limitations of the electric guitar, McKee moved solely to the acoustic. GLENN BURNSILVER

Rock legends Styx.EXPAND
Rock legends Styx.
Rick Diamond

Styx – Sunday, January 15 – Talking Stick Resort
The key to any band’s longevity is the ability to maintain a core sound while changing to lure new generations of fans. The Rolling Stones are the quintessential example, having survived 50 years on gritty rock ’n’ roll licks that receive fresh infusions of timely sound forms (from country to disco) to keep the band in popular focus. Other long-running bands find the challenge of remaining vital enough to avoid the county fair circuit a bit more daunting. After changing a few members over the years or taking a long hiatus, the task can seem insurmountable. Styx is one band that has managed to stay relevant despite those obstacles by updating its sound on new albums, but also by reworking and re-recording the classic hits that made the band one of the biggest acts of the ’70s and ’80s. GLENN BURNSILVER

Ladysmith Black MambazoEXPAND
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Shane Doyle

Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Monday, January 16, and Tuesday, January 17 – MIM
By the time Paul Simon featured Ladysmith Black Mambazo on his 1986 album Graceland, the a cappella group, led by founder Joseph Shabalala, had been together for more than two decades and had established itself as the most successful singing group in South Africa. The band was already rather prolific before teaming up with Simon, and in the thirty years since Graceland, Ladysmith has released a slew of recordings. Sixteen of those have been nominated for Grammys, including a 2016 nomination for Best World Music Album for Music From Inala. The album, which was recorded live around the United Kingdom and Moscow over the past two years, gives insight into just how powerful and uplifting Ladysmith Black Mambazo can be in a live setting. JON SOLOMON

Talib Kweli – Wednesday, January 18 – Club Red
Although Talib Kweli may not sell as many records as some of the artists with whom he’s collaborated, he is arguably one of the most significant hip-hop artists of the past twenty years. Kweli formed Reflection Eternal with producer Hi-Tek in 1996, but it was his pairing with Mos Def for the 1998 classic Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star that brought him to the forefront. Kweli’s socially conscious lyrics and poetic expression coupled with Hi-Tek’s intricate polyrhythmic beats resulted in songs that critiqued racism, police brutality, general American culture and even the tropes of hip-hop itself. In addition, his activism and mentoring of now-dominant artists like J Cole and Kendrick Lamar have made the rapper a true icon. TOM MURPHY

John Jorgenson Quintet - Sunday, January 22 - MIM
When you're feeling saucy, gypsy jazz is the music that soothes the soul. And the only man with suitable credentials to deliver your musical medicine is Grammy-winning guitarist John Jorgenson with his instrumental quintet that includes rhythm guitarist Doug Martin, bassist Simon Planting, jazz violinist Jason Anick, and percussionist Rick Reed. By incorporating elements of Latin, Romanian, classical, rock and Greek traditions into their special blend of music, these pioneers of the gypsy-jazz genre are able to transport you to another world of relaxation and groove. AMANDA PARSONS

The Seratones – Tuesday, January 24 – Valley Bar
We caught the Seratones at a SXSW showcase in 2015 and have been eagerly awaiting the Shreveport rock ensemble's emergence as bona fide headliners. That moment has arrived. Led by the huge voice of rhythm guitarist A.J. Haynes, who will remind locals of Kam Franklin of the Suffers, the band won first place in the 2013 Louisiana Music Prize competition and recently signed to roots label Fat Possum Records, who quickly released the bandÕs hard-rocking 7-inch ("Necromancer"/ "Take It Easy"), produced by roots rock guru Jimbo Mathus. Singled out as one of Paste magazine's Top 20 new bands of 2015, the Seratones appear to be on much the same trajectory as Alabama Shakes, another rocking foursome fronted by a strong black female voice. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Lemuria – Wednesday, January 25 – The Rebel Lounge
Sometimes, we need a little fast-paced pop-punk in our lives — even if we're going through a tragic, emo breakup. Three-piece band Lemuria boasts a melodious, sing-along discography (like Dinosaur Jr. and Superchunk before them) fashioned from the sweet soprano of winsome frontwoman Sheena Ozzella, the sharp croon of drummer/vocalist Alex Kerns, and the quavering bass of Max Gregor. But the band's fundamental themes of heartache and longing (often at the hands of long-distance relationships gone sour) imprint a noisy, unvarnished punk amid sweet indie-pop sentiment. And their versatility has garnered them a gamut of fans. At a Lemuria show, you may witness a crust punk bum-rush the stage arm in arm with a straightedge hardcore kid while chanting unassuming lyrics like "I want my hands in your hair" or "Maybe I should wear lipstick too." Lemuria just has a true crossover appeal. JESSICA MILITARE

Juicy J – Thursday, January 26 – Livewire
You might not think that Juicy J is a particularly thoughtful artist, because his biggest hit ("Bandz A Make Her Dance") is perhaps the least subtle strip-club anthem ever recorded. But the rapper, born Jordan Michael Houston, is a man with a plan. He got his start in the early '90s as a founding member of Three 6 Mafia, which was responsible for some amazing music and remarkable mainstream success that culminated in an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp." But from there, the group fizzled and its fan base aged. Juicy J released a couple of mostly ignored solo records. He seemed destined for a (very respectable) legacy as a Southern hip-hop legend of the '90s. Then something strange happened: He started listening harder to what kids in Memphis were listening to and developed a friendship with Wiz Khalifa. He changed his sound completely, incorporating EDM and modernizing his vocal delivery. And now, everywhere he goes, he sells thousands of tickets to people too young to have ever heard of Three 6 Mafia. It's safe to say he'll be making people (strippers and otherwise) dance for many years to come. KIERNAN MALETSKY

Ace Frehley – Friday, January 27 – Marquee Theatre
Are you tired of Gene Simmons grabbing all the glory when it comes to capitalizing on the insane success of KISS? What about the other members of the band? They deserve more, if not most, of the credit for taking the band of makeup wearing musicians to such lofty heights. Guitarist Ace Frehley not only helped shape the sound that made KISS a juggernaut of rock 'n' roll starting in the mid-1970s, he’s also carved out his own solo career starting in 1987 with his first post-KISS project, Frehley’s Comet, followed by three solo albums in between KISS reunions. Frehley’s latest solo album, Origins, Vol. 1, dropped is on the way and he’s celebrating its upcoming release with another tour that includes a stop at Marquee Theatre in January. DANNY GALLAGHER

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls – Friday, January 27 – Livewire
Frank Turner has been known as a relentlessly positive and charmingly optimistic individual for most of his career, despite having taken a long and arduous road to musical acclaim. He achieved recognition as the singer of London-based hardcore band Million Dead before dismantling the group and going solo in 2005. His first full-length, 2009’s Love Ire and Song, showcased the singer-songwriter as a cross between an English Bruce Springsteen and Billy Bragg. His lyrics were earnest and honest, taking in the absurdity of the world and spitting out truths like “Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings.” Turner’s optimism waned on 2013’s Tape Deck Heart, where, for the first time, he seemed dejected and frustrated by a life on the road and failing personal relationships. His latest, Positive Songs for Negative People, strikes a balance between addressing the trials of life and singing loudly and defiantly as a way of coping with them. Turner will play a career-spanning set in Denver with his current backing band, the Sleeping Souls, when he visits Livewire in Scottsdale this month. ANDY THOMAS

Phoenix Rock Lottery - Saturday, January 28 - Crescent Ballroom
For the fourth straight year, Crescent Ballroom will play host to the Phoenix Rock Lottery. How does it work? Take 25 local musicians, put them in a room, mix them up, and give them a day to come up with a brand-spanking-new name, three original songs, and time to master one cover. The result? Some of the most interesting juxtapositions in the Valley. Past incarnations have included members of Captain Squeegee, Dry River Yacht Club, Emby Alexander, Mergence, Slow Moses, and Jimmy Eat World. In fact, it was at 2015’s Lottery that Jim Adkins and friends started Wet Lab, a pop punk quintet who went on to release a cassette single. This year’s roster will include members of phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, Roar, Okilly Dokilly, Playboy Manbaby, American Longspurs, The Stiletto Formal, Jerusafunk, Bear Ghost, The Haymarket Squares, and Sister Lip. The only way to witness the wild stuff these impromptu bands will invent is to see it yourself. Warning: The show’s typically sold out. TROY FARAH

El-P (left) and Killer Mike of Run the Jewels.EXPAND
El-P (left) and Killer Mike of Run the Jewels.
Courtesy of the Windish Agency

Run the Jewels – Sunday, January 29 – Marquee Theatre
In the micro sense, Run the Jewels exists in a time where rap duos are nearly extinct. Mind, there are still rappers who link together for a money grab (Drake/Future); rappers who have mutually been fans of one another (2 Chainz/Lil Wayne); and the traditional rapper/producer pairings. Where those pairings work and don’t (see the all-important notion of chemistry), Run the Jewels has mashed together the best of their aggression, their timing and dark wit to become arguably the best duo since 2010. In the smallest of pictures, the rise of Run the Jewels, and in particular the second acts of Killer Mike and El-P, should be lauded. They’ve worked on three projects since 2012 and eventually became more famous together than they ever were apart. BRANDON CALDWELL

Caterpillars – Monday, January 30 – Valley Bar
Chris Robinson finally had the lineup of his band Caterpillars he always wanted. After years of lineup changes, the Dallas vocalist and guitarist had recorded an album called The Other Side with drummer Stephen O'Sicky, guitarist Drew Black and bassist Ben Love. They had some great opportunities in front of them, including some shows and press coverage. But then it all fell apart, just as everything seemed to be working out. Against all odds, the lineup got back together in the last year and released their second outing, The Wicked and Wonderful, last October. It's 11 songs of tuneful math pop, with nods to Minus the Bear and the Get Up Kids. It's a step up for this band, and it would not be as strong if it weren't for the performers on the record. Getting to this point took time, but it was certainly worth the wait. ERIC GRUBBS

Mike Doughty – Tuesday, January 31 – Crescent Ballroom
Mike Doughty has put out 14 albums' worth of solo releases since 2000 (most recently The Heart Watches While the Brain Burns in 2016), which just happens to be the year he left Soul Coughing, the band that put him on the alternative map. The singer-songwriter has never stopped doing his thing, which is pairing some of the most creative lyrics you'll ever hear with equally catchy tunes. Doughty also manages to keep up a steady pace of touring to go along with his almost constant recording. "I like touring," Doughty says. "Well, I haven't always liked it, but there is something about being in motion that I enjoy. I'm just constantly engaged by it. I do probably 80 shows a year." The formerly blond and often bespectacled singer is single and "not responsible for maintaining anyone else's life," making touring "a lot more palatable." Along with Doughty's longtime accompanying cellist, Andrew "Scrap" Livingston, the songwriter will be playing a mix of old and new material during the current tour, including a few old Soul Coughing songs, which he's decided to embrace again in recent years. TOM REARDON

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