Top Five Must-See Shows This Weekend in Phoenix

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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, January 18: Keller Williams @ Marquee Theatre

Feeling good must make Keller Williams feel good. There's never a dull moment in the guy's catalog, which now includes merry versions of Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy" and Kris Kristofferson's "Don't Cuss the Fiddle."

Williams aims to entertain as well as enlighten audiences with Appalachia renditions of these tunes and covers of songs by Beck, Amy Winehouse, Pink Floyd, and The Raconteurs. But let's not confuse a night with Keller Williams with any other night filled with jammy covers. Williams' songwriting and acoustic-guitar prowess have drawn accolades throughout his career, and writers have long tried to pigeonhole the Virginia native as a one-man jam band.

They're half-right. Yes, he plays barefoot and has a penchant for blending bluegrass with funk, but Williams has proved over the years that he's anything but a stereotypical hippie. Though he also recently released a kids-themed album, aptly titled Kids, Williams has shown he's still the "freaker by the speaker" capable of unleashing the frenetic funk and quirky grooves he's known for. -- Jeff Casale

Friday, January 18: Sugar Thieves @ Rhythm Room

We hope Phoenix-based blues band Sugar Thieves has a reliable crash pad in Memphis, Tennessee. The band seems to head down south so often that it's practically a second home for the band. The band's headed to Memphis to rep Arizona at the International Blues Challenge, but not before their friends organize a huge kick-off party for them.

On Friday, January 18 the band will be joined by fellow bluesy acts Becky Lee and Drunkfoot, Dry River Yacht Club, and Banana Gun at Phoenix most esteemed blues hall, The Rhythm Room. The band's going the extra mile too: In addition to performing, they'll be hosting a silent auction, raffling off guitars, private performances, and lessons with the Thieves themselves. -- Jason P. Woodbury

Friday, January 18 and Saturday, January 19: Sundown Showdown 5 @ Yucca Tap Room

Anyone scrambling for a connecting thread between the bands playing the fifth annual Sundown Showdown at Yucca Tap Room is shit out of luck. There's nothing sonically connecting the throbbing, analog electro pop of Vial of Sound to that of proto-metal savages Ace-High Cutthroats, nor would you find old school punks Grave Danger filed next to monolithic desert psych band Destruction Unit.

But that's the point of the Sundown Showdown, organized each year by former Reatard/current Destruction Unit main-man Ryan "Elvis" Rousseau. His taste is eclectic, and the only thing that unites his lineups is a dedication to outsider noise, made by musicians with little record for punk rock orthodoxy or volume restrictions.

In addition to leading Destruction Unit through its sandworm-riding riff jams, Rousseau will be on hand DJing between sets by the aforementioned bands, as well as Otro Mundo, Numbats, Style and Substance, Lenguas Largas, and more. Bring ear plugs if you want - but illicit substances and an open mind will probably do you more good. - Jason P. Woodbury

Saturday, January 19: IAMWE @ Crescent Ballroom

It's easy to write. Learning to edit, however, takes time.

It's a lesson IAMWE is intimately familiar with. When we last talked to the local indie rockers in depth, they fully anticipated pushing out a record in December of 2011. Nearly a year later, they released Run Wild, or the record formally known as She's a Soldier - edited, aged and genuinely heartfelt.

Initially named for Bella, a 100-year-old woman that touched the band that drummer Josh Carlson befriended while working at a local hospice, She's a Solider was about Bella; Run Wild is instead inspired by her spirit.

"...sometimes things change and the emotion and design take on a different personality but that's the beauty of any art process," singer Tim Maiden explains. "You have to be willing to let the journey become what it may and enjoy the ride. The tone of the record has morphed/transformed from its original design but still at its core continues to be truly inspired by our dear friend Bella. I think I was trying to honor her life too intently but if Bella had the choice, I think she'd want us to honor the impact she had on us more than anything. The songs became more mood-friendly and our title track "Run Wild" is a great example of that. We wanted to finish the record with a mood so free that nothing could stand its way." -- Christina Caldwell

Sunday, January 20: Weird is the New Cool @ Martini Ranch

To paraphrase the common axiom: In show business, it's not who you know, it's who knows you. Phoenix-based hip-hop crew Weird Is the New Cool counts former Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, radio DJs Johnjay and Rich, and MTV favorite Gym Class Heroes among its admirers, achieving recognition for its laid-back, summery sound without even releasing an album. But the band's history isn't nearly as breezy as its sound.

The group formed in 2007, when singer Kyle Collins enlisted the help of his Dobson High School friend and guitarist Nate VerWoert to back him. Eventually, the twosome grew to a six-piece group, and in 2010, after a couple of years crafting their sound, WINC released music videos for the über-catchy "Beer Pong" and "Arizona." The latter -- which features myriad cameos, including a lip-synching Steve Nash -- gained nearly 90,000 YouTube views.

The momentum was derailed that winter, when a rollover car accident involving their van, "The WINC-Mobile," killed their friend and driver Dan Branigan and seriously injured guitarist Cash Murphy. The group's future was uncertain, and the fatal accident put the group's album release plans on hold.

But they roared back: The band has proved its loyalty to the local scene by supporting other local bands whenever they can, including hosting them in the practice space they've created, the Space Music Studio. Seven bands practice there, including Authority Zero, and WINC says one of their biggest goals is to stifle the cliques in the scene and unite local bands -- something Devore says the band is succeeding at. -- Nicki Escudero

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