The 25 Best Concerts in Phoenix This January

Nedda Afsari
St. Vincent is scheduled to perform on Friday, January 26, at The Van Buren.
Your resolutions have been made, the holiday decorations are stowed away, and there’s a fresh calendar ready to go. Looks like you’re ready to dive headfirst into 2018.

Want to know what awaits you? Well, if you’re big into concerts, there will be tons of great shows happening over the next year.

It kicks off with a busy January, filled with performances by St. Vincent, Katy Perry, Yo Gotti, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Adam Ant, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Wolf Parade, and Jose Gonzalez.

January will also see the return of such annual events as the Phoenix Rock Lottery and the Coors Light Birds Nest at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
There are also a few make-up dates happening, as Too $hort and Marilyn Manson will make good on concerts they canceled in the fall.

Read on for previews of each of these shows (and many more) or check out our online concert calendar for other music events happening in January.

The man, the myth, the legend: Willie Nelson. - BRANDON MARSHALL
The man, the myth, the legend: Willie Nelson.
Brandon Marshall
Willie Nelson & Family
Wednesday, January 3
Celebrity Theatre

Country music legend, poet, outlaw, and marijuana entrepreneur Willie Nelson is back. This time, it’s with God’s Problem Child, his (depending on how you count) 110th album.

Featuring all new material, the record was released on April 28, one day before Nelson’s 84th birthday. We may be averse to talking honestly about aging in our youth-obsessed culture, perhaps because it feels so unimaginable to our younger selves, but this album gives a glimpse into what it’s like to be in your 80s with your sense of humor intact regarding your own mortality.

“Still Not Dead” confronts rumors of Nelson’s demise. Written by Donnie Fritz and Lenny LeBlanc, “Old Timer” reflects, “You think you’re still a young bull rider, until you look in the mirror and see an old timer.” Former poet laureate Donald Hall wrote in Essays After Eighty a couple of years ago that “old age is a ceremony of losses.” Yet, his essays were, at times, pugnaciously funny.

This is similar terrain to God’s Problem Child. Laconic, wry, and humorous, Nelson is still going strong. And at this point, he’s as beloved as Santa Claus, albeit a skinny, pot-smoking Santa. The last track, “He Won’t Ever Be Gone,” is a tribute to old friend Merle Haggard, who died last April. Sativa Peterson

click to enlarge Booker T. Jones - PIPER FERGUSON
Booker T. Jones
Piper Ferguson
Booker T. Jones
Thursday, January 4, and Friday, January 5
Musical Instrument Museum

It’s almost always impossible to not sound like a doofus when you’re trying to explain to someone what an instrumental song sounds like. After a few attempts, you usually end things with the statement, “You’d know it if you heard it.”

That’s true for Booker T. Jones’ classic rock-and-soul instrumental, “Green Onions,” recorded by his then-band, Booker T. and the M.G.’s. Released in 1962, the track rose to No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and topped the R&B list. It saw some action again in the late ’70s after being included in The Who-based film Quadrophenia. The Memphis native and crew went on to have a number of hits, and they won a Grammy in 1995 for their hit “Cruisin’.”

Jones is a multi-instrumentalist, but his relationship with the Hammond B-3 organ is one that generally gets mentioned when he’s the topic of conversation. He’s played it, as well as the guitar, on his own efforts, as well as in the studio for a number of bands, including Willie Nelson, Elton John, and Rancid. The legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s current tour is a showcase of his lengthy and exciting history, along with a chance to hear some of his recent creations. Amy Young

Yo Gotti
Saturday, January 6
Celebrity Theatre

Yo Gotti raked it up in 2017. With a double-platinum certification for his hit “Down in the DM,” Gotti — whose real name is Mario Mims — found his way to even more chart success before the year’s end. His single “Rake it Up,” which features Nicki Minaj, hit No. 8 on the Hot 100, and his most recent single, “Juice,” just debuted on the charts.

However, the Memphis native continues to stay grounded by remembering his roots. Recently, the rapper released a documentary called I Still Am, which follows the making of his latest record (also titled I Still Am) and the young Tennessee artists he mentors.

The documentary is meant to inspire his fans as well as children growing up in Memphis, Yo Gotti has said in recent interviews. While it remains to be seen what the new year holds for the rapper, there’s no debating what went down in 2017. Emily Roberts

The PHX Pedal Challenge
Sunday, January 7
The Rebel Lounge

The PHX Pedal Challenge is the kind of chaotic musical event that you’ve gotta see in person, according to Ark Calkins, the event’s host. He brought the must-see event to Phoenix from Florida in 2016. Here’s how it works: The anarchy begins with 12 challengers, including one who is picked at random either from the signup at the event’s website or drawn from a hat at the event. The dynamic dozen proceed to compete against each other in four rounds of pure, unadulterated sonic chaos. Each musician is given a random instrument and a pedal of unknown origin that affects the sound of the instrument. And then? They have to improvise for a whole minute.

At the end of each round, three judges will decide who is eliminated based on creativity, performance, and use of the pedal. The stakes increase with each round, with audience participation playing a role in the third. (Previous editions of the event have involved karaoke or the music of a Nintendo 64 being run through the pedals). Valley-based indie rock quartet Nanami Ozone will perform once a musician is declared victorious. So really, everybody wins in the end. Jason Keil
click to enlarge Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Daush of Milky Chance. - COURTESY OF CODA AGENCY
Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Daush of Milky Chance.
Courtesy of Coda Agency
Milky Chance
Tuesday, January 9
The Van Buren

A trifecta of German folk, reggae, and electronic music, Milky Chance are a harmonious cacophony of something you’ve never really heard before. Singer Clemens Rehbein has the voice of a long-lost friend, his raspy, sultry attitude enriched by dreamy beats from producer Philipp Daush.

Their 2013 album Sadnecessary became an international hit, launching the duo into multiple world tours, as well as performance at venues and festivals worldwide. And after a four-year wait, Milky Chance finally released a follow-up album, Blossom, in 2017, which charted in countries worldwide, including the Billboard 200. Their currently touring in support of the 14-song LP and will visit The Van Buren on January 9. Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi opens. Eleanor Lambert

Marilyn Manson
Wednesday, January 10
The Van Buren

Say what you will about America’s favorite satanist, but it can’t be denied that Marilyn Manson will always be an important thread in America's rock and roll fabric.

Whether you’re a fan or not — the shock rocker/boundary-pushing gender-bender goth lord is a divider, people either love or hate him — his cultural impact and musical history is fascinating. To follow his story is to follow the evolution of American popular culture and our reaction to one of its most extreme voices.

Retrospectively, his antics of yesteryear appear tame when compared to today’s standards, and for that, you can thank him and his band. Art, without pushing its boundaries, remains stagnant. If ever there was a performer who capsized the proverbial boat in the stagnant waters of modern rock, it's Manson. Kristy Loye

click to enlarge The members of Roadkill Ghost Choir. - COURTESY OF BIG HASSLE MEDIA
The members of Roadkill Ghost Choir.
Courtesy of Big Hassle Media
Roadkill Ghost Choir
Wednesday, January 10
Valley Bar

The organic Americana sound created by indie folk troupe Roadkill Ghost Choir stands in stark contrast to the sleek, modern, Top 40 radio pop. Banjo-led songs with touches of folk, like the group's breakout track "Beggars' Guild," are as refreshing as taking a dip in a spring.

Add steel pedal guitar licks and Southern-rock charm and you'd assume the five guys who make up the band grew up in some tiny town in Florida's zany swampland. In actuality, the three Shepard brothers at the band's core – vocalist/guitarist Andrew, bassist Zach, and drummer Maxx – were raised in Deland, a town near Orlando.

At age 19, Andrew discovered the sweeping orchestral melodies of Sufjan Stevens and, a few years later, started exploring the country yearnings of Willie Nelson. He calls the discovery of Nelson's outlaw country tunes a "defining moment" in his young career because it caused the young musician to begin crafting songs.

Just a few years later, Roadkill Ghost Choir was fully realized when Andrew asked his brothers to perform with him. Success came at a rapid speed for the Shepard gang – one fan posted a song of theirs on Reddit, thereby catching the ear of notable comedian Joe Rogan, who in turn championed the band on his successful podcast. After just an EP's worth of material, the five-piece found itself on the iconic Late Show With David Letterman. Last year, Roadkill Ghost Choir released their latest album, False Youth Etcetera, which they’re supporting with their current tour. Alex Rendon

TV Girl
Friday, January 12
The Rebel Lounge

Of the many musical children of Beck (or is that Drake?) out there nowadays, Brad Petering is definitely one worth paying attention to.

The L.A.-based musician who calls himself TV Girl is one of those polymaths fluent in the language of 21st-century production alchemy, someone who can easily translate hothouse keyboards, indie-pop noodling, hip-hop beats and abundant sampling into woozy electronica jams perfect for the chillout room and occasionally the dance floor.

Although songs like “Safe Word” aren’t quite as light-hearted, the sardonic observational humor Petering displays throughout 2016 Bandcamp release Who Really Cares is a real bonus on songs like “Taking What’s Not Yours” and “Song About Me,” the latter of which details how annoying it is when your ex puts you in a song. That’s just about the worst. Chris Gray

Too $hort
Saturday, January 13
The Van Buren

It's undoubtedly for the better that pimp culture has taken a backseat to personal independence in the rap vernacular, but that doesn't mean we can't reminisce with one of the iciest players to ever turn a ho out on record (we're using technical terminology here).

At 51, Too $hort is a veteran, having been one of the first Bay Area rappers to rise to prominence after dropping his first cassette in 1985. It was titled Don't Stop Rappin', which turned out to be fitting since he's released 20 albums to date, including 2012’s No Trespassing and 2017’s The Pimp Tape, both independent releases that still managed to raise some big stars for the occasion: 50 Cent, G-Eazy, T.I., Juicy J, Snoop Dogg and, of course, E-40.

All of that speaks to $hort Dog's commitment to craft, which in this case involves lacing strip-club beats with timeless braggadocio. Chris Martins

click to enlarge Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is coming to Tempe. - RAY YAU
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is coming to Tempe.
Ray Yau
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
Saturday, January 13
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s backstory is incredible: Seven of the Chicago brass band’s nine members are sons of jazz trumpeter Phil Cohran, best known for his work in Sun Ra’s Arkestra, and as a founding member of Chicago free-jazz collective Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. But unlike Sun Ra or AACM, whose structures were loose, HBE makes funky, tight instrumentals, which draw from the New Orleans brass band tradition but infuse the sound with skippin’ hip-hop rhythms.

On their 2009 debut album, HBE showed incredible dynamic range. Songs like “Jupiter” are soft and focused but contain so much texture and variation that you can just see these dudes in the basement working it out over and over again. There’s an intuitiveness to the arrangements, which comes from sharing the same blood and fire. A track like “War” arrives in a burst of brass. You can almost feel your hair knocked back by the blast. Randall Roberts

click to enlarge Walshy Fire performs with Major Lazer in 2015. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Walshy Fire performs with Major Lazer in 2015.
Benjamin Leatherman
Walshy Fire
Saturday, January 13
BLK Live in Scottsdale

Ever since joining Major Lazer, Miami's Walshy Fire has been circling the globe, dropping bass, and transforming international party people into wild, explosive, and twerk-elated versions of themselves. It's the logical progression for a Jamaican kid from Miami who picked up on music at an early age and never let go.

He started with parties, then came clubs, then came festivals, then came stadiums. And after harnessing a solid global fanbase, the financial wherewithal to invest in himself, and plenty of business knowledge, he's founded his own label, Planet Raux.

Walshy Fire is currently manufacturing and distributing conscious reggae and Miami bass for release around the world. And in the meantime, he's hosting Vice's "Noisey Brazil," slamming speakers with the new Major Lazer album, Peace Is the Mission, and ascending from performer to executive. This month, he’ll visit BLK Live in Scottsdale for what’s sure to be a high-energy show. Jacob Katel

click to enlarge Alternative hip-hop artist K.Flay. - LAUREN DUKOFF
Alternative hip-hop artist K.Flay.
Lauren Dukoff
Sunday, January 14
The Van Buren

When she talks, K. Flay uses big words. Nascent. Dichotomous. Alienation. It's the sort of vernacular that writers splay all over the page when they're trying to sound intelligent. But Flay actually is intelligent; there's her dual degrees from Stanford in psychology and sociology, for one thing.

With shoulder-length brown hair and an endearing smile, Flay is more Bethany Cosentino than Big KRIT; the newcomer is challenging our stereotypes of how an MC should look and act. But she's also become one of hip-hop's most intriguing new talents.

As shown on her breakout three-part mixtape she released in 2011 – called I Stopped Caring in '96 – there's a grit beneath her privileged exterior. Flay spits rhythmic licks in terse, agitated fashion, with pristine enunciation and verbal posture. "It was never something I ever thought I would do in a professional way," says the woman born Kristine Flaherty, of her emerging status as hip-hop's girl-next-door. "People that I grew up with are like 'What the fuck? You're doing this?'” Dan Hyman

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club rolls into Phoenix in January. - JAMES MINCHIN
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club rolls into Phoenix in January.
James Minchin
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Tuesday, January 16
The Van Buren

It’s strange to think that it’s been 16 years since San Francisco’s Black Rebel Motorcycle Club released its B.R.M.C. debut album. Back then, rock and roll was wallowing in a garage-rock revival led by Detroit bands like the White Stripes, Scandinavians like the Hellacopters, and Australasians like the Datsuns. The downside of this movement is that a whole lot of bands got unnecessarily lumped in, the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club among them.

In fact, the BRMC have far more in common with dark British alt-rock bands like Echo & the Bunnymen, The Fall and The Jesus & Mary Chain, plus art-rockers like The Velvet Underground, and even Sonic Youth. Musically fascinating and blessed with bags of dark mood, the early 2000s media grouped them in with that garage scene because, as with bands like the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, it didn’t really know what else to do with them.

The last full album of new material from the band, Specter at the Feast, was released in 2013, something that front man Robert Levon Been partly puts down to the fact that he prefers touring to recording. Still, there’s a new record, Wrong Creatures, arriving in mid-January.

“There’s a sense of going forward and going back at the same time," Been says. "There are parts that are more getting back to the basic rock band, and then there is a little bit of new territory. We’re trying to keep a little bit of mystery about that right now.” Brett Callwood