Top Five Must-See Shows in Metro Phoenix This Weekend

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Curious about what's going on around town this weekend? Need some suggestions where to rock, dance, or krump in the Valley of the Sun?

Don't fret: These are our Five Shows to See This Weekend.

Friday, December 21: Black Bottom Lighters @ Martini Ranch

In an age when musicians everywhere are trying to figure out how to make some money - almost any amount of money without resorting to Kickstarter "we can have money, plz?" pleading, teaming up with a bigger entity makes sense.

Of course, it's got to make sense. Bob Dylan repping Victoria's Secret might strike an odd chord, but Lil Wayne shilling for Mountain Dew (#Dewnation) makes perfect sense. Ditto for Glendale's Black Bottom Lighters teaming with the Arizona Cannabis Society to funding the recording of the band's debut self-titled EP. Clearly, these guys know synergy when they see (smoke) it.

The reggae rockers continue to tie in relevant content to their audience. The band's high budget video for "Nuclear" plays out like a mini movie, a tale of lust-gone-wrong that ends in a Tarantino shootout (and features a porny cameo from KWSS radio presenter and band friend Beef Vegan).

The band releases its debut EP tonight at Martini Ranch, with like minded rockers Catfish Mustache, Valley Love, The Rootrees, Makai Souljahz, Mob vs. Ballot Box, presented by KWSS' The Morning Infidelity. --Jason P. Woodbury

Friday, December 21: Minibosses @ Hollywood Alley

Nintendo Rock -- that's right, faithful recreations of old school video game soundtracks -- occasionally bubbles up to mainstream outlets like NPR and Salon, and every time it does, one name is a guaranteed mention: The Minibosses.

The Valley's own have been the most devout of the devout, pushing hard for more than a decade and over 250 shows.

"I'd say that early on, it was a lot more fresh and new to crowds," guitarist Aaron Burke told Up on the Sun's Melissa Fossum in October. "Sometimes the enthusiasm would be overwhelming, and that was great, because now some of that has tempered. That's fine, that's to be expected. Now there's just more familiarity with it, so you we kind of got rid of some of the newness of it, but the crowds are still great, it's just now everyone knows the songs and it's kind of nicer that way, in some ways.

Before, like 12 years ago, we'd have a lot of people that thought we were a prog rock band, or didn't really know what we were doing. We kind of didn't either, but now no one's really surprised to hear about a video game band because now there's hundreds of them. It's crazy." -- Jason P. Woodbury

Saturday, December 22: Joe Strummer Memorial @ George and Dragon English Pub

Keith Jackson stops short of officially canonizing Joe Strummer -- but seriously, just short of it.

"I don't know how to describe the guy's personality," Jackson says of the frontman of The Clash, actor, and leader of global-punk outfit The Mescaleros. "I don't want to say he was saint-like, but..."

He goes on to laud the punk legend. "There was no pretentiousness with Joe, none of that rock star demigod bullshit." Jackson's own street rock band, The Glass Heroes, clearly learned the right lessons from Strummer musically, emphasizing straight-ahead rock 'n' roll that isn't afraid to incorporate disparate stylistic influences, but Strummer's influence goes far beyond that, Jackson says. He was struck by Strummer's grace and style, becoming a lifelong fan after meeting The Clash in Detroit in the late '70s.

"He was a huge influence on me . . . He was my Bob Dylan. But he was an influence on a lot of people. Not just the punk rock world, but as a humanitarian. Like a lot of people, he re-created himself a few times over, but I think he was happy with himself at the end."

Jackson has annually honored Strummer each December since he died of a congenital heart condition on December, 22, 2002. He's planning on doing it one more time -- stacking a lineup with his own band, as well as The Plainfield Butchers, Domino UK, The Sex, Button Struggler, and Scorpion vs. Tarantula, on Saturday, December 22, at the George & Dragon English Pub.

"This'll be the 11th show I've done for him, but it's the 10th anniversary of his death," Jackson explains. "Right after he died, I had a show, then I had another one. But it's the 10th anniversary of his death, so we're calling it the 10th annual. This is the last one . . . I said I'd do it 10 years, and this the last one."

In recognition of Strummer's humanitarian aims, Jackson donates the profits from the event to various organizations that were near Strummer's heart. "After his death, I thought, 'What better way to pay tribute to the man?' This year, Jackson plans on donating the proceeds to the Save the American Honey Bees foundation. "He was [concerned about] the dying of the honeybees in North America," Jackson explains, noting that in recent years, he's also donated proceeds to the Strummerville Foundation for New Music.

"There was just something about him," Jackson says. "A good example is, we were hanging out at the Cajun House [in 2001]. There were a bunch of people backstage, and he goes, 'Eh, let's get the fuck out of here.' [Laughs] I said, 'Let's go.' So the guys in the band and a couple of our friends grabbed Joe by the arm and went down to Acme Roadhouse. Acme was just closing, and we were walking fast to make last call, we gotta hoof this. We're all walking down the street, and he goes, 'You know, Bob Marley once told me, if you can't keep stride with a man he's not worth talking to, right?'"

Later, after the waitress mistook Strummer for Jackson's older brother, Jackson asked him about that Bob Marley quote, only to receive a sly grin from Strummer.

"I said, 'You never fucking walked anywhere with Bob Marley,' did you?" Jackson laughs. "He goes, 'No,' and just starts laughing. He was that kind of guy, just real funny." --Jason P. Woodbury

Saturday, December 22: Spirit Cave @ Trunk Space

Spirit Cave is a young band, but members Ryan Breen and Michael Bell have been playing shows together for more than a decade, each with his primary band, Back Ted N-Ted and Lymbyc Systym, respectively. It was only a matter of time before they struck out together.

Given Breen's expressive, synth-driven pop in Back Ted N-Ted and Bell's beautiful instrumental post-rock in Lymbyc, one might imagine Spirit Cave trading in epic, M83-meets-The Postal Service sounds.

But Breen and Bell like surprises, and Spirit Cave finds itself positioned far away from the duo's other projects.

"I've been really inspired by Fleetwood Mac and The Cars, and a lot of '80s big California productions, [like] the classic [Beatles-style] production," says Breen. Collaborating as a full live band marks refreshing change for the former one-man-band leader, and the West Coast pop traditions suit Spirit Cave on well its debut EP, ∞8.

Perhaps it's Breen's move back west that inspired the sun-kissed sounds. Breen recently moved back to his home state of Arizona following a 21/2-year stay in New York City, where he recorded for Modern Art Records (Miniature Tigers, Geography, Pretty and Nice, Chain Gang of 1974) when he wasn't busy with his role in English chanteuse Imogen Heap's live band.

The domino effect that led him back to Phoenix started when he was dismissed from Heap's group and soon thereafter found himself at odds with his label. His decision to forgo touring in support of Back Ted N-Ted's The Mirror meant that Modern Art's parent company, ILG, wouldn't push the record. In turn, the record foundered, ending up on iTunes with little fanfare while Breen sought out catering and bartending jobs.

"I definitely was pretty upset about how it all panned out and got into it with [Ben Collins,] the owner of Modern Art," says Breen. "I was definitely pretty hard on him and said some mean things, and he did back and burned a bridge. It was a long time in the making. There was a lot of pent-up resentment I had toward him about how he handled my stuff."

He moved back to Phoenix in 2011 after his grandfather died, and, he says, the creative drive to write music wasn't there. With Back Ted N-Ted still legally bound to Modern Art, the prospect of playing music wasn't particularly appealing to Breen.

"I'd make attempts to write songs, and I was really angry and upset about how it all went down. I couldn't get inspired, I couldn't get past that emotional reaction to it," says Breen. "It took me a good year to get over it, to get to a positive place and feel good about being creative again."

During Breen's dry spell, he took a job at Phoenix Theatre, where he met his current girlfriend. He appreciated the company's frank approach when it came to professional feedback. Breen uses the same constructive honesty with Spirit Cave, fostering a creative songwriting environment with Bell.

"I was trying to take a more abstract approach with Spirit Cave. It was more about the words and less about putting myself out there," Breen says in reference to Back Ted N-Ted's literal songwriting. "[It's] more about the music and the picture that it paints."

Breen also handles the business side of Spirit Cave and plans to self-release an EP every few months. The band's first effort, ∞8, chronicles the songwriter's conflicts leaving Modern Art and struggling to find creativity.

"The idea of a 'spirit cave' is a place where you go to be spiritual," Breen says. "It's kind of a joke, but it's kind of serious, too. [I want the music] to feel like a spirit cave, to feel like a safe place, a spiritual realm." --Melissa Fossum

Sunday, December 23: decker. (Opening for Life of Science) @ Crescent Ballroom

The snare drum hits that open Sedona-based decker.'s forthcoming new record, Slider, sound like shotguns. It's an appropriately menacing sound for what follows, as singer/songwriter Brandon Decker seethes: "I burned the boat / I swam ashore / I'm out of breath / I slammed the door / I laid the whore /and I'm dead at best," over swelling church organ, rattling guitars, and that firearm percussion.

It's a bold step in a more bombastic direction, but elsewhere on the album, Decker slips into the downcast soul that made his 2011 record, Broken Belts, Broken Bones, stand high above the folky troubadour crowd. It's hard not to hear the psychic scars of the band's traumatic van crash in August, especially on the aptly titled skeletal song "In the Van." Indeed, Decker says the incident left the band shaken, but also with a sense of resolve.

"Of vast significance, this album got finished on the heels of our almost tragic accident, and the completion of it is this tangible accompaniment to the courage in recovery that [vocalist] Kelly [Cole] has shown," Decker pens in an announcement that Slider will see global distribution by Digital Syndicate Network. "Of any record, this one has the most meaning to us." -- Jason P. Woodbury

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