The Seven Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

Black Milk
Black Milk Michael Yohannes
There’s an eclectic buffet of live music that’s been laid out for y’all this weekend. Here's a look at the best concerts to see in Phoenix this weekend.

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Joe Diffie
Scott A. Thornbloom

Country Unplugged – Friday, January 13 – Celebrity Theatre
True country music may be more popular now than ever. With throwback sounds like that of Sturgill Simpson recalling Randy Travis, or Chris Stapleton sometimes proving a dead ringer for Travis Tritt, it’s high time that the real thing is experienced, no matter how good the current crop of throwback or red-dirt country is. Joe Diffie, Lorrie Morgan, and Mark Chesnutt come to the Celebrity Theatre on Friday, January 13, and while it’s easy to dismiss this as the country music that characterized previous decades, it’s the common thread through all of that left-of-Nashville twang today. Chesnutt is the guy behind honky-tonk tunes “Goin’ Through The Big D” and “Bubba Shot The Jukebox,” both staples on Phoenix’s unsung country stations like 94.1 KRDE and 94.7 KFLG. Diffie’s known for “Pickup Man” and “John Deere Green,” and more of an ’80s country music sound. Morgan, however, may prove to be the real star of the stacked lineup, as it’s her influence that can be heard in the songs of latter-day country stars like Shania Twain and Trisha Yearwood, with empowered anthems and bouncing bass lines in equal measure. The beauty of a tour like this is more than just knowing virtually every song in every artist’s repertoire. While a full singalong night is worth the cost of admission, this is also a show that a parent or grandparent will enjoy in equal measure. Rare is it these days that we can enjoy the music we were raised on, with the people that raised us, at an event that doesn’t start with “Desert” and end with “Trip.” K.C. LIBMAN

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Martin Sexton
Courtesy of the Musical Instrument Museum
Martin Sexton – Friday, January 13 – Musical Instrument Museum
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 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

Falling in Reverse – Friday, January 13 – Marquee Theatre
It feels like Falling in Reverse has been constantly on tour since forming in 2008, building a solid fan base, and regularly hitting the Billboard charts with albums like The Drug in Me Is You and Fashionably Late.  They’re rumored to have another album out in early 2017. But while Falling in Reverse is the headliner here, Motionless in White is probably the most metal band on this bill, and the one I’d head to The Marquee to see. The gothic metalcore act hailing from Pennsylvania has always had a great balance of screaming and clean melodic vocals, and also have an album coming out in early 2017. Issues, Danger Kids, and Dead Girls Academy are also on the lineup. LAUREN WISE

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

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DJ Mercurius FM
Benjamin Leatherman
Never Be Alone Again: A Bloghouse Throwback Party – Saturday, January 14 – Rips
Every music geek has a favorite era that they happen to adore. Local electronic dance music producer Bo Eleftheriou, for instance, is a major aficionado of the bloghouse era of the midaughts. For anyone unfamiliar with that particular time period and sound, however, allow Eleftheriou to explain the trend: “Bloghouse was a music scene that started about 10 years ago through MySpace and independent
music journalism in the form of blogs. It was all about indie electronic music and pushing the boundaries of genres and party music,” he says. “It was formed by the DIY soul of artists like Justice [and] it inspired a generation of young music artists to create their own dance music on their own terms.” And Eleftheriou, who’s better known by his DJ moniker Mercurius FM, would know, considering he was one of those artists who was creating tastemaking electro beatscapes and remixes for the blogosphere around that time. And just like a number of EDM producers such as A-Trak have been doing as of late, Eleftheriou’s feeling nostalgic for bloghouse, hence his dance night this weekend, Never Be Alone Again. Described as a “bloghouse throwback party,” the one-off event on Saturday, January 14, at Rips, will feature Eleftheriou spinning electro-house and fidget sounds from that era, including tracks from Boys Noize, Soulwax, LifeLike, Herve, Alan Braxe, and others. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN

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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
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