Top 5 Must-See Phoenix Shows This Weekend

First they ignore you, then they're frightened by you, then they're fond of you, then you create a youth center for at-risk teens." - Alice Cooper.

His annual Christmas Pudding show and more make up this weekend's 5 must-see Phoenix shows.

Former Friends of Young Americans - Yucca Tap Room, Tempe - Saturday, December 7

Former Friends of Young Americans had the style--melodic but foreboding, a little too dense to be immediate but too catchy to be an acquired taste--and they had the songs. On Dives Like A Fool, Swims Like The Dead, the reason for their record release party, they've added the sound. Songs like "Before They Died," whose chiming, pretty guitars run headlong into a thrashing outro, have an airiness that last year's Estes Diluculo lacked; the instruments, spinning around like pinwheels or ersatz gears, have a space that makes the moments they grind together feel earned and inevitable.

The resulting sound is familiar from Former Friends past--the distant, fortune-cookie lyrics, the echoing dead space that feels like its own instrument--and if their debut didn't work for you this one might not either. But if Dives Like A Fool, Swims Like The Dead isn't an evolution, it's at least a cousin that won the genetic lottery. -- Dan Moore

Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding - Comerica Theatre - Saturday, December 7

When it comes to tradition during the holiday season, Phoenix isn't known for snowmen, hot cocoa, or sledding. But one thing that can always be counted upon is the tradition of Christmas Pudding -- Alice Cooper's Christmas Pudding, to be exact. And it's a tasty recipe.

After nearly five decades and 30 records, Cooper has perfected his craft of putting on shows and making music. Now in his mid-60s, he's reaping the career rewards and has gone from rock 'n' roll's official villain to a charitable hero in the Valley of the Sun. Called the most "beloved heavy metal entertainer" by Rolling Stone and an "overlooked songwriter" by Bob Dylan in 1978, Cooper survived the worst excesses of the shock rock lifestyle and has come out the other end happy and healthy -- and now he's helping hundreds of teenagers do the same.

In November 1995, Cooper and his wife, Sheryl, a professional dancer, began the foundation Solid Rock to raise money for music and arts programs. But then the duo proposed a teen center to provide an outlet where teens could learn and equip themselves for their future. -- Lauren Wise

Read our complete interview with Alice Cooper

Mouse Powell - Club Red, Tempe - Saturday, December 7

Emcee and Phoenix staple Mouse Powell will take to the stage at Tempe's Club Red Saturday night to celebrate the release of These Are The Good Times, a $3000 Kickstarter project that's morphed into a star-studded local snapshot. Besides Powell, the record features Jason Devore of Authority Zero, Andres Rodriguez of The Veragroove and Christina Moore from Where are All The Buffalo, along with Captain Squeegee's Danny Torgersen on the trumpet.

The end result is one of the most eclectic, diverse hip-hop albums released anywhere this year. For the release party Powell will welcome Torgersen as well as all of The Veragroove to back him up while he lays down These Are The Good Times in its entirety. Powell, one of the purveyors of Phoenix's long-running hip hop night The Blunt Club, has plenty of experience putting on a great show, and his collaborators will only make this one bigger. Also playing on Powell's big night are Playboy Manbaby, GLDN GHST, Cash and the Ref, and Wax Society. -- Jeff Moses

Beyonce - US Airways Center - Saturday, December 7

In Beyonce's defense, when you've been famous for something like 15 years the possibility exists that you've been photographed enough times--that however many photos of you needed to exist in the universe have now been made. That could be why she--like Kanye West next week--is not credentialing photographers for Saturday's show. (She could also still be sore over those unflattering photos of her at the Super Bowl, which are more flattering than any photo of me that will ever be taken, at least until weaves become socially acceptable for white male music writers.)

That's not the story, of course. It's a rare chink in Beyonce's seemingly indestructible public-relations armor, but she remains Beyonce, a pop juggernaut for whom arenas fill and robot-hands snap. Until it becomes possible for phones to take unflattering photos at arena concerts, and not just parties in overlit frat-house basements, she's won this round.

The story is that well more than a decade on in her career she's remained a vital pop-cultural force, even as a lot of the bands and artists she once tangled with on the charts join forces and book nostalgia tours. "Crazy in Love" was the fourth biggest hit of 2003--right ahead of 3 Doors Down, and right behind Sean Paul. That's staying power.

The Samba Project - Tempe Festival of the Arts - Sunday, December 8

There's an almost hypnotic quality to Brazilian music--samba and bossa nova beats get transmitted by piano, drums, and guitar under catchy melodies so that your feet start moving before your brain knows quite what's going on. If you're not able to head down South to experience the rhythms first-hand, Brazilian-fusion group The Samba Project brings Brazilian flavors to the Tempe Festival of the Arts, performing a set of both traditional covers and original tracks. "Listening to us is truly like traveling to Brazil, but without having to pay for an overpriced plane ticket," says captivating frontwoman Amanda Soares.

And with the World Cup heading to Brazil this summer, their show provides a head start to the properly festive mood. Soares describes the band's music as reminiscent of something you'd hear in a Brazilian bar or café, energetic, emotionally-charged songs with lyrics so heartfelt that you can feel their power even if you don't speak Portuguese. Set against a backdrop of street performers, including stilt-walkers and magicians, along with 400 visual artists and a bevy of wine and beer purveyors, the set marries Brazilian traditions with the Tempe arts scene. -- Nicki Escudero

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Dan Moore