Top 5 Must-See Phoenix Shows This Week

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Are you still writing 2013 on your checks? Are you still writing checks? If the first full week of the year has you a little jet-lagged, it might not seem like a good idea to go to a probably loud show that goes until probably very late at night.

But sometimes the only way to become less tired is to become more tired. At least, that's what the guy in the worn-out-est standard training t-shirt told me the other day while he was trying to get me into his van.

The Shivereens - Crescent Ballroom - Tuesday, January 7

Here's a crowded bill for a free show: The Shivereens, who don't get out much, joined by Sister Lip, the Sunpunchers, and D.G. Scherrer (backed by the Haymarket Squares, also well-represented among the Shivereens). Normally, I'd write something about the Shivereens here -- some weird explanation of their sound, etc. -- but they've got an all-time-great Facebook About explanation of their own, and I'm just going to let them take it from here:

Driving through the South in 1965, you idly twist the AM radio dial. The DJ plays country, soul, gospel, and a little rockabilly. There's a dead body in your trunk.

Well, sure.

Murrieta - Crescent Ballroom - Wednesday, January 8

The first of four "Acoustic Wednesdays" scheduled at Crescent this month is Murrieta, who's got an album coming out in February. The Mesa sextet hasn't played since Thanksgiving, and they won't play again until they're celebrating the release of

A Head & Hand

, which makes this a good time to get accustomed to their back catalog.

The all-acoustic sound will be more of a departure for them than it would your average indie-folk types -- their self-titled EP is decorated throughout with a slippery, singing electric guitar -- but their bouncy Americana, which seems as influenced by The Format as it is the cassette stand at an interstate gas station -- won't suffer from the change of pace. Huckleberry and Owl & Penny will join them Wednesday.

James Durbin - Pub Rock Live, Scottsdale - Wednesday, January 8

When someone becomes famous via a reality talent show but does not win it, a little familiarity with your times tables is helpful. Draw your finger across the years and then down the league tables and you'll get to season 10, fourth place, American Idol: James Durbin. He's the metal one from 2011 (when Scotty McCreery won), and you may have missed him if your favorite part of the show was Simon Cowell. What's James Durbin done in the two years since Idol? He released an album right away, Memories of a Beautiful Disaster, with cowrites from members of that dog. and Evanescence, that did good-but-not-great; another one's coming out in April.

He's stuck around on a big label, but that strange mix of cowriters illustrates the problem with being James Durbin: He doesn't quite fit anywhere except on American Idol as the metal one. Once that's not the case, he's a little too Idol to be metal or even post-grunge and a little too authentically hard rock to make a move all the way into pop. That's trouble if you're still looking to fill arenas, but Durbin's playing Pub Rock -- it might be that he'll never be famous again, but he's a safe bet to have the kind of career that would make most people on the outside of your Idol spreadsheet looking in a little jealous.

Pick & Holler - Rhythm Room - Wednesday, January 8

Phoenix's Pick & Holler is not being ironic or glib when they call themselves an "old-time string band" or their genre "old-time Appalachian music." That's what they are, and that's what they play: A mix of genres connected by their energy and their place in American history.

There's a place for both genres of old-time string bands -- the ones who bend toward contemporary pop sounds and the ones who do their best to preserve something that already exists -- and I'm glad that when you go to a show in Phoenix and see a bunch of guys with vests setting up their acoustic instruments, you've got fair odds of seeing either kind.

Mad Conductor - Trunk Space - Thursday, January 9

Me, I'm pretty simple: All it takes for me to give a band a second look is the gumption to unilaterally declare yourselves a "legendary renegade space rock band." Of course, doing that and then


being legendary, or renegades, or (and this is especially bad) space rock is a good way to get yourself disqualified from any third looks.

Mad Conductor might not strike you as rock right away, and their status as renegades or legends is an eye-of-the-beholder thing, but spacey -- they hit spacey right away, playing a mix of gawky, skillful hip-hop and goofy electro sounds that seems intuitively right as a soundtrack to a half-stoned viewing of Carl Sagan's Cosmos.

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