Top Five Must-See Shows This Weekend in Phoenix

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 25: Father Figures @ Crescent Ballroom

The Father Figures started with a 50th birthday party, which is either the least or most punk thing ever.

Traditional agitated punk wisdom would suggest that guitarist/vocalist Michael Cornelius, bassist/vocalist Tom Reardon, and drummer Bobby Lerma lead pretty square lives: All three are married with children (Cornelius is actually a grandfather), gainfully employed, and happily settled into middle age. Picking kids up from school and punching the clock doesn't leave much time for smashing the state.

But then there's that other element of punk, the one that suggests that "being punk" is less about sold-at-Hot Topic anarchy and more about actual freedom. The idea that just because you age doesn't mean you have to mellow out. By that logic, The Father Figures, and the band's excellent new LP, All About Everything, is sure as hell more punk than you.

"[Punk] always seemed like it was the safe place for everybody who didn't fit in anywhere else," Lerma says. "For me, as a kid, it was pure 100 percent freedom -- to do what you wanted to do, dress how you wanted to dress, go to the thrift store and get the craziest pants that you wanted to because you thought that they looked cool."

Cornelius, Reardon, and Lerma share a background in Phoenix's storied punk history. In the 1980s, Cornelius was a founding member of JFA, a band that defined "skate punk" on a national scale. Reardon played in Religious Skids, a band that secured the coveted opening slot for a show featuring Fugazi, or "the dude from Minor Threat's new band." Lerma played in The Voice and other bands and joined the guys in frequent skate sessions. Phoenix was punk rock's Wild West -- a place where nearly anything went, fueled by a daring skate culture and endless landscapes of abandoned concrete. Separated from national trends, things got weird and woolly -- with JFA, Meat Puppets, and Sun City Girls creating strange new punk sounds that couldn't have been born anywhere other than the desert. -- Melissa Fossum

Read more in this week's Father Figures feature.

Read our extended Q&A with the Father Figures

Friday, January 25: Chino XL @ Stray Cat

A 38-year-old Jersey-born rap veteran who is a certified member of Mensa, Chino XL has called L.A. his home for a decade and a half. "I feel like there's more space, metaphorically, because there's space physically," XL says.

"Whenever Jesus was tempted or looking for clarity, he went to the desert. You can really wrangle the writing muses here. I've lived in Jersey, and there's inspiration there, but inspiration is more accessible out here because it's quieter. I did my last album with no outside stimulus, like a complete deprivation tank, with my mind turning in on itself. I kind of dig that. Also, the Latino communities have embraced me so wholeheartedly that they've made me work much harder to rep them in hip-hop."

He's built a loyal following on the West Coast for his intense lyrics, a following he'll expand when he visits Phoenix's long-running WTFunk night at the Stray Cat, performing tracks from his latest, RICANstruction: The Black Rosary, which unflinchingly touches on subjects including his daughter's cancer and his own suicide attempt. Despite the brutal subject matter, XL remains willing to work with his listeners: "I think that [it's] very, very crucial that I can be followed. I don't try to challenge the listener as much as I open up my arms and say, 'Walk with me.'" -- Chaz Kangas

Saturday, January 26: DJ Juheun @ Bar Smith

Bleeding-edge MacBook Pro? Check. Professional-grade Beats by Dre cans? Yup. Pirate, er legally obtained version of Ableton and/or Serato Scratch Live? Downloaded and installed. Sounds like you're well on your way to following the well-trodden path into the world of DJs and EDM. Hell, you've probably already worked a few house parties and uploaded a few amateurish Diplo/Porter Robinson remixes to your SoundCloud.

So what's the next step? It probably would be wise to attend Bits & Things, a combination workshop and social mixer (no pun intended) taking place on Saturday, January 26, at Bar Smith, 130 East Washington Street. The monthly get-together aimed at EDM artists, knob-twisters, and anyone working a mixer for a paycheck will afford them a chance to get together and share ideas and network, says organizer Steven Chung (a.k.a. Juheun). "It's the next step for any DJ who is trying to continue on is to start producing music, so this event/meet up is a perfect way for DJs and producers to get together and share ideas," Chung says.

He adds that the event is open to "both bedroom and guys who are already releasing stuff," and will feature a speaking appearance by Scottsdale Community College electronic music instructor Elaine Walker, as well as the chance for artists and DJs to perform their tracks. Doors open at 6 p.m. Admission is free. -- Benjamin Leatherman

Saturday, January 26: CASA Benefit with Gay Kiss, Dead Canyon, Seas Will Rise, and Sacred Followers @ Yucca Tap Room

"This whole interview is just going to be us trying to figure out how an assembly line works." I am at the house of Mark Glick, the founder of Anxiety Machine records, along with all the members of the hardcore band Gay Kiss. Together, we are packing copies of their soon-to-be-released LP. Record and insert go into the jacket, jacket into the poly bag, bagged product into boxes that will be taken on their tour.

Everyone has an assigned task, and while there is some initial confusion, work eventually moves at a steady pace. The LP we are packing, Fault, was recorded last summer under the kind of eccentric circumstances that the band seems to thrive in -- the vocal tracks were recorded in the bathroom of the band's practice space for the sake of "challenging" vocalist Roger Calamaio.

"I taped stuff on the wall to taunt him," says guitarist Mitch James. "Like a very recent deep wound," Calamaio says. "Shit that had just happened." The approach worked: Gay Kiss makes the kind of music that normal people can't play. Not something that sounds like Keith Morris cheekily singing "I'm about to have a nervous breakdown," but more like an actual nervous breakdown.

If you lament about the lack of weird hardcore bands like Die Kreuzen and My War-era Black Flag in this day and age, cut it out. There's Gay Kiss. -- Mike Bogumill

Sunday, January 27: Sea Wolf @ Crescent Ballroom

The indie-folk movement has become a plague. What started as an innocent return to roots quickly became a fad and, somewhere along the line, the pining for simplicity and an authentic nod to American roots music turned into a push to get ahead.

But the cynicism directed at Americana's revival doesn't apply to singer/songwriter Alex Brown Church, the man behind Sea Wolf. His acoustic-driven pop songs are intricately woven around literary narratives that are full of life, and they aren't weighed-down, gimmicky, old-timey affectations.

With his third album, Old World Romance, Church trades in his trademark introspection, but this attempt is his most mature and sincere. We spoke to Church over the phone, asking about balancing romance and sappiness, his literary influences, and how he felt having his song "The Violet Hour" appear on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack.

New Times: I like how you described your latest record to OC Weekly: "A romantic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway." It fits perfectly. What's your attraction to romanticism?

Alex Brown Church: I don't know if it's so much an attraction as it is just an instinctual subject matter on my part. I couldn't really say exactly why. I wouldn't even necessarily say I'm attracted to romanticism, but I think when I say Old World Romance, it is a little about that. It's sort of a nod to having a romance with the old, corporal world. To me, it's sort of a reference to the romantic views of the Old West and romantic painters, like Caspar David Friedrich. These grand landscape painters who romanticized the West . . . I guess I have a somewhat romantic way of viewing the world, so that tends to come out in my music. -- Troy Farah

Read more of our interview with Alex Brown Church of Sea Wolf.

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