This week’s lineup of concerts hitting Valley music venues is both eclectic and diverse, to say the least. It includes artists and acts from a wide variety of genres – ranging from alt-country and indie folk to mbube-style choral vocals from South Africa and a hybrid of hip-hop and classical.
There are also performances by a world-renowned guitarist and one of the more unsung heroes of the hip-hop world, as well as showcase of local darkwave artists.
If none of these options suit your particular tastes, be sure to check out our online concert calendar for even more shows happening between Monday, January 16, and Thursday, January 19. In the meantime, here are the eight best concerts and music events happening in Phoenix this week.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo – Monday, January 16, and Tuesday, January 17 – Musical Instrument Museum
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 30 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
Dan Layus – Tuesday, January 17 – Crescent Ballroom
For well over a decade, singer-songwriter Dan Layus fronted Augustana, the Southern California-based indie rock band, which developed a loyal stable of fans and achieved some modest success with the 2005 breakout single, “Boston.” The band continued recording and touring, and their poppy, FM-radio friendly tunes always seemed to be favorites of film and television music supervisors. But as members slowly began peeling away to work on other projects, Layus began to shift his focus toward the direction of both classic traditional country music and its more nuanced offshoot, alt-country. His move to Nashville a few years ago only pushed him further in that direction. “I fell in love with artists like Don Gibson and Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Gram Parsons,” he says. “I’d already been a fan of theirs for a long time, but as I listened closer, I dug back into what those artists were listening to and took note of the lyrical focus, using what I found as a basis for my songwriting.” This activity is reflected on his latest release, Dangerous Things, an 11-track collection that encourages listeners to appreciate life’s simple pleasures. Throughout, Layus untangles his songs from any unnecessary embellishments. With hushed guitars framing his vulnerable vocals, each song is designed to hone in on the stories being told and the resulting emotions they entail. JEFF STROWE
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 20 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
Weird Radicals – Wednesday, January 18 – The Rebel Lounge
Weird Radicals are a relatively new power-pop-inspired band that started as the unlikely collaboration between Andrew Cameron Cline (a.k.a. Archie Children of Peachcake) and Nick Florence (Knights of the Abyss) with a pursuit bent on finding sounds that meet their criteria for impressive indie pop. For their debut, they released a double-A-side single of "Snow Queen/Julian," both showing off the resulting chemistry between Cline and Florence. "Snow Queen" is the faster-paced of the two, featuring pounding drums and chunky guitars all over the place, with an angular New Wave dance beat behind it. It's pretty smart pop from a songwriting stance and recalls the likes of Fountains of Wayne, Cotton Mather, and Jellyfish. With that in mind, they may want to start licensing their songs straight away. The two songs are pitted perfectly against each other, and while I chose to spotlight "Snow Queen," I would encourage you give a listen to "Julian," which is an ode to Cline's son and is a wonderful track in and of itself. Keep your ears peeled for Weird Radicals or check out their show at the Rebel Lounge this week, which will also feature openers Andy Warpigs and Soft Deadlines. MITCHELL HILLMAN
Black Violin – Wednesday, January 18 – Peoria’s Centennial Plaza Park
Male, classically trained string specialists (you know, guys on violins) are hard to find these days. But the innovative duo Black Violin has managed to flourish in their unique roles as genre-bending bards, even in a region not known for its commitment to orchestral endeavors. Kev Marcus and Wil B – of the violin and viola, respectively – got their start doing hip-hop covers, but after winning at the Apollo in Harlem, in front of a notoriously demanding crowd, they knew they were developing a winning formula. Their mix of hip-hop and classical caught the ear of Alicia Keys, who invited them to play alongside her at the Billboard Awards. Marcus and B have also collaborated with Wu-Tang and Linkin Park, all while touring about 200 cities a year. Black Violin even had the honor of playing for the first family at President Obama's second inauguration in 2013. In 2015, the duo released Stereotypes, which explores the limits of their musical tools and promoted social consciousness, ‘cause music is so much better when it has a soul. Style and substance, always a winning combination. Black Violin will bring their talents to the Valley on January 18 for a special free performance at Peoria’s Centennial Plaza Park in honor of Martin Luther King Day. LIZ TRACY
Eric Johnson – Wednesday, January 18 – Musical Instrument Museum
Consistently ranked among the planet’s top guitarists, Eric Johnson combines intimidating virtuosity with a Zen-like performance style; when people talk about musicians being “in the zone,” this is who they mean. A recent habitué of the annual Experience Hendrix tours, Johnson has arguably surpassed even his chief inspiration, developing a fluid and fiery hybrid of rock, jazz and blues into an always versatile yet instantly recognizable sound. His body of work is certainly mirrored in the title of Johnson’s latest album, 2014’s Eclectic, a collaboration with ex-Miles Davis/Blood, Sweat & Tears guitarist Mike Stern. Besides his 14 albums, Johnson’s fans can also sample a handful of one-off singles on his website, among them the George Harrison tribute (and Christopher Cross duet) “Imagination of You” and his version of Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary.” See him doing what he does best this week at the Musical Instument Museum (natch). CHRIS GRAY
Darkwave Showcase 02 – Thursday, January 19 – The Rebel Lounge
If the phrase darkwave doesn't ring a bell, imagine it as being a heavier, even more depressed version of new wave. Darkwave marries the pulsing synthpop sounds of new wave with the grim subject matter and brooding sensuality of post-punk, creating menacing midnight music that you can slit a wrist or make out to (or both). And, as it turns out, it's a lot more popular than you'd think. Just ask DJ Tristan/Iseult, a longtime fixture in the local dark music community who’s been putting together showcases of darkwave artists. The first one featured Tristan/Iseult performing as his on-stage alter ego A0N, along with Bella Lune, Body of Light and Alter Der Ruine. "I wanted to show how there were different audiences for this kind of music. Bands like Bella Lune and Alter Der Ruine brought in a club crowd, while Body of Light brought their Phoenix-Tempe underground D.I.Y following. We brought different crowds together." The latest darkwave showcase, happening at the Rebel Lounge on January 19 will feature touring headliners in addition to local acts. "We've got two headliners: Tempers, from NYC; the other one is Tropic of Cancer, from Los Angeles. Neither of them have played Phoenix before." They'll be playing with Iseult's A0N, as well as noise artist Lana Del Rabies. ASHLEY NAFTULE
The Blunt Club – Thursday, January 19 – Valley Bar
As you might’ve heard by now, Blunt Club co-founder and artist Adam “Dumperfoo” Dumper recently put the Valley in the rear view when he packed up his paintbrushes and moved to Portland late last year. Fortunately for local hip-hop fans, however, Dumper didn’t take any of the nightlife events he’s helped launch with him, be it popular weekly shindig the New Grand or the retro funk and soul joint, Motown on Monday. That also includes the Blunt Club, which will continue packing b-boys and b-girls into Valley Bar every month. The latest edition of the long-running night, which has been going off since 2002, goes down on Thursday, January 19, will feature local turntablists El Goonie, C-Los, and DJ Akshen on the ones and twos all evening, along with Blunt Club resident Pickster One. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
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