The Five Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

Welcome to one of the most unique weekends of the year. Over the next 72 hours or so, it’s more than likely that many of you'll be doing any combination of decking the halls, spreading holiday cheer, hanging stockings by the chimney with care, wrapping or unwrapping packages, or spending time with kith and kin.

In other words, celebrating Christmas.

Granted, not everyone will be doing so. And there are those that might need a break from the holiday hullabaloo at some point. For either of those camps, we offer up five concerts and music events this coming weekend worth checking out.

For even more live music options, check out our extensively updated online concert calendar. And if you need a place to get in some drinking or dancing over the holiday weekend, hit up our list of bars and music venues that will be open on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

Happy holidays, y’all.

Mary X Mas – Friday, December 23 – Location TBA
Like many of y’all, local rave promoter Matt Dunn is planning a big get-together this weekend for some of your nearest and dearest. Thing is, his affair will be a bit rowdier and more cacophonous than your cheery gift exchange or ugly sweater soiree. That’s because Dunn’s shindig happens to be the annual Mary X Mas rave, one of the Valley’s more notorious dance parties. The Christmas-themed event, which has been going off annually since 1999, features a slew of local DJs spinning a variety of genres for ravers and revelers eager to dance until the wee hours. This year’s edition on Friday, December 23, will be much the same and is reportedly taking place at an unspecified indoor/outdoor location that will be revealed until that night. Renowned Valley DJ (and rave scene veteran) C.L. McSpadden will headline the event, which will feature two stages manned by such locals as Grund, Blakeland, Phunknasty, Nortmon, Speak, Sid, Fairy Dvst, Beargasm, and others. A snowball fight may or may not also take place. Better bring some mittens just in case. Call 602-359-7160 on the night of the event for directions to the event. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN – Friday, December 23 – The Lost Leaf
Most artists would rest on their laurels a bit after releasing an album as powerful and captivating as Rejecting The Program, but is not most artists. Richard Nihil may be the hardest-working musician in Phoenix right now, and he's on something of a manic roll. He has already recorded his follow-up record called Idiot Savant. Being the eager artist he is, he's already started releasing tracks from it through various platforms, but it was "Derelict Starchild" that caught my attention. I don't use the word "genius" lightly, but I've used it in reference to Nihil and his music several times, and I mean it. First, I would urge you to check out his latest album, Rejecting The Program, and catch him live, like at his gig this weekend at The Lost Leaf on Friday, December 23. For my money, Nihil also has what is possibly the best vocals in local music, and on "Derelict Starchild" he shows a completely different side of them. Unlike many of his songs, this is pretty stripped down to a man, his voice, and his guitar, and that's all it needs. MITCHELL HILLMAN

Blind Boys of Alabama – Friday, December 23, and Saturday, December 24 – MIM
Maybe the greatest gospel group ever assembled, the Blind Boys of Alabama have a list of awards and honors that would take up more space than allotted here. Formed in 1939, the group has done a command performance at the White House, sharing the bill with Bob Dylan. In recent years, they've become one of the darlings of the Americana Music Association and won so many Grammys, they're probably bored with the whole thing. Unlike many of the important gospel groups, the Blind Boys embrace secular music and have worked with people like late soul music giant Solomon Burke and Nashville über-producer Buddy Miller on a wide range of projects. After 71 years, Jimmy Carter is the only original member still working full time with the group, although Clarence Fountain tours occasionally, depending on his health. But the Blind Boys have never been about any particular member — they are a collective and a movement, no matter who's in the lineup. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

The Night Before Christmas Holiday Extravaganza – Saturday, December 24 – Tempe Tavern
Local hip-hop artist and promoter Bob Domestic will transform into Santa Bob on Saturday, December 24, when he hosts “The Night Before Christmas" Holiday Extravaganza at Tempe Tavern, which will feature such locals as DJ Blesd1, Blaine Coffee, Black One, Force, and Kdeath of Moodie Black. It gets going at 9 p.m. and admission is free.

The Valley's "Best Of" Musician Jam – Sunday, December 25 – Cactus Jack’s
Jam sessions can frequently result in some memorable music being performed, especially if the musicians involved are amply talented, able to adapt to the improvisational nature of the gig, and can rise to the occasion. Needless to say, all of the artists that will be involved with the Christmas night jam at Ahwatukee rock bar Cactus Jack’s fulfill all those prerequisites and then some. And each is equally esteemed in the Valley music scene, whether it's Los Guys (the local rock supergroup featuring Mark Zubia of The Pistoleros/The Chimeras), renowned singer/songwriter Walt Richardson, Americana/Western soul act D.L. Marble, Banana Gun frontman Kevin Loyd, or Marc Norman of Ghetto Cowgirl fame. Given all these talents, it's certain to be an unforgettable jam. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
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