25 Best Concerts in February in Phoenix
Over the Rhine is scheduled to perform on Friday, February 20, at the MIM.
Look, we understand if you spent all of last weekend locked inside your house. We can't blame you in the slightest, considering all the madness surrounding that whole football thing. Now that its past, we wholeheartedly emerging from you self-imposed exile and getting out, especially if it involves seeing some live music.
And as our extensive online concert calendar demonstrates, there's a lot of those going on in February. Here are 25 of the best options that are worthy of your cash.
Bass Drum of Death - Friday, February 6 - Trunk Space
Bass Drum of Death crank out a sound that's as fearsome as their name, which is even more impressive considering singer John Barrett started as a one-man band. Expanded now to a trio, the Oxford, Mississippi, group begins with a garage-rock foundation, but songs such as "For Blood" are pumped with grungy power chords as Barrett sneers over it all with punky aplomb. "Better Days," from BDOD's new album, Rip This, changes things up with acoustic-guitar strumming and woozy violin. The band returns to fuller rock power on "Left for Dead," with Barrett howling through a filter and bolstered by stadium-rock guitars. "We're not coming down," he insists, as the song's video plays a montage of hot rods, knives, guns and beautiful women in casts and bandages. FALLING JAMES
Zola Jesus - Friday, February 6 - Crescent Ballroom
The name isn't blasphemous -- at least not intentionally. In fact, Zola Jesus (sometimes known as Nika Roza Danilova) combined French writer Émile Zola with our Lord and Savior's name to alienate her peers, not to piss off the pious. But it seems now Zola has more friends than she ever could imagine or she sure works well with others, having collaborated with artists ranging from M83 to Fucked Up to Prefuse 73, not to mention the time David Lynch remixed her song "In Your Nature" or the time avant-garde composer J.G. Thirwell helped her remix her hits in the neo-classical style.
What's the attraction? First and most obvious are Zola's vocal stylings, which have grown into her own distinct technique -- owing to Elizabeth Fraser as much as Ian Curtis -- and were honed over 10 years through classical opera training. But perhaps deeper than that is Zola's masterful command of mood, atmosphere, and environment, which are woven into her dark, raw dirges. With her latest album, Taiga, Zola explored pop-star territory, but whatever she does is a welcome relief from normal. TROY FARAH
DJ Craze - Friday, February 6 - Maya Day & Nightclub
A few years ago, comedian Daniel Tosh put the DJs of the world on blast via his famed TV show Tosh.0. And true to form, the fearlessly snarky standup comic was quite merciless: "Do you know why everyone thinks they can DJ? Because everyone can," Tosh stated. "It's easy: pat your head and rub your stomach. There, you're an amazing DJ. Ninety percent of what DJs do is [pretending] to touch stuff. Stop acting like you're so busy. You're not hacking into the mainframe of the Pentagon; you're a professional iPod controller." Ouch.
With all that said, however, its readily apparent that Tosh has never seen the legendary DJ Craze perform one of his signature sets, since the comedian would likely take back a few of his aforementioned barbs. The world-renowned turntablist is nothing like your ordinary club jock or button-pusher, as his gigs are filled with a flurry of activity on the ones and twos. Not only can the Miami-born selector serve up records, he can also cut, scratch, spin, and manipulate the decks to create a symphony of hip-hop, breaks, bass, and trap sounds. Its little wonder, then, that he claimed the DMC World Championships three times in the late '90s and is considered to be one of the best in the DJ biz. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Wolvves - Saturday, February 7 - Trunk Space
After releasing their first two EPs, Live Forever and Go Demon or Go Home with Tempe-based cassette tape label Rubber Brother Records, Phoenix garage punks Wolvves are finally dropping their first full-length album, Whatever, on Tucson-based Diet Pop Records. The new record has a completely different sound from Wolvves' first two offerings. It is vastly more mature than Live Forever, and while inklings of the new sound are present on Go Demon or Go Home. With this new record, the band leans as far away from punk as possible, while still fitting into the genre, and more toward garage rock.
Perhaps frontman Aydin Immortal has recognized his own mortality and made a conscious decision to create something worthy of being left behind. But more likely, the group is starting to gel as a four-piece after just more than a year of playing together. So what used to come off as great because of the sheer amount of talent in the band now comes off as utterly amazing because the talent is focused and shaped to fit the best interest of the overall sound. Whatever is Wolvves' departure from being a fresh new band seeking a sound and a scene. It is the group's coming-out party as premier music makers in metro Phoenix. JEFF MOSES
Gabriel Sullivan - Saturday, February 7 - Last Exit Live
Robert Rodriguez, eat your heart out. Gabriel Sullivan is a traveling guitarist who might put even the toughest mariachi to shame. Growing up a punk teenager in Tucson, where he still resides, Sullivan became smitten with the local Latino flavor, blending cumbia and conjunto with Balkan brass and desert psychedelia. Kickstarter graciously funded the Denmark field trip necessary to record Sullivan's sixth album, Jvpiter, produced in an Internet-free farmhouse where the sun set for only two hours a day. Bassist Thøger T. Lund and the Danish portion of Giant Sand joined the singer-songwriter for an approach that is much more stripped-down than gypsy folk of 2011's None of This Is Mine, Sullivan's work with Taraf de Tucson. But for all the world-weary backpacking Sullivan gets up to, his roots will always be distinctly Sonoran. Also co-fronting Chicha Dust with fellow Tucsonan Brian Lopez, it's obvious Mr. Sullivan has a flair for the sounds and textures that define this arid region. TROY FARAH
The Avett Brothers - Saturday, February 7 - Mesa Amphitheatre
Blood is thicker than water, but for the Avett Brothers, music is thicker than blood. It's not just a moniker -- Scott and Seth Avett really are related, and they've been playing together since they were kids. But 2000 was the year they started releasing their signature blend of fervent bluegrass and folk. Fifteen adventurous years later, the North Carolina indie rockers have released four EPs and eight full-lengths (with another on the way), earned a Grammy nomination, played a few late-night TV guest spots, and have been heard on shows like Parenthood and One Tree Hill.
But if one attribute stands out over the Avett Brothers' varied career, it's that they are gentlemen. Their approach to soulful, traditionalist Americana is stark yet rich, sometimes sarcastic, often existential. But their technique is especially unique in the light of their contemporaries, because it is unambiguously honest. TROY FARAH
Murder By Death - Monday, February 9 - Crescent Ballroom
It's really a pity that Murder by Death never soundtracked the HBO cult gem Deadwood, because the moody quintet would have been perfect for the job -- and not just because their songs sound like bar ballads co-written by Jesse James and Snidely Whiplash. Throughout the Indiana group's 15-year, seven-album history, Murder by Death have crafted a theatrical career out of singer Adam Turla's Wild West bark, an insightful lyrical bite and the bittersweet aftertaste of their dark, orchestral melodies. Both sinners and saints come to life in the band's full-bodied, sing-along stories, and recurring topics like alcohol, betrayal, the devil inside and the actual horns-and-hell devil himself have grown more evocative as the band matures. If their 2012 album, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon, is any indication, Murder by Death's good-versus-evil battles long ago transcended black-and-white simplicity, instead delving headfirst into the murky intrigue that exists in the gray area. KELSEY WHIPPLE
Jessica Lea Mayfield - Tuesday, February 10 - Last Exit Live
Don't let the name fool you. Or the bluegrass pedigree developed playing in the traveling band that was her family. No, Jessica Lea Mayfield is an out and out rocker, owing as much to the Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots as she does Bill Monroe. While her first two albums, With Blasphemy So Heartfelt and Tell Me -- produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach -- admittedly had a slight county flair, her latest, Make My Head Sing... channels '90s alternative rock. Full of fat chords and powerful riffs, atmospheric vocals and dreamy layers, sonic overload and stripped down acoustics, the album is both brash and soft at the same time. It fits Mayfield's persona perfectly. Despite the brooding look and heavy make-up of her publicity photos, she's also pretty giggly, too. GLENN BURNSILVER
Motion City Soundtrack - Tuesday, February 10 - Marquee Theatre
Ever since Motion City Soundtrack frontman Justin Pierce announced his trepidation for what is to come on the insanely catchy "The Future Freaks Me Out," from the Minneapolis fivesome's 2003 debut, I Am the Movie (Epitaph), it's been nearly impossible to deny the band's infectious hooks. Combining the immediate likability of jumping power pop with a knack for memorable songwriting and relatable lyrics, MCS has soared through five records that are similarly engaging, including 2011's Go. EMILY ZEMLER
Pharmakon - Wednesday, February 11 - Trunk Space
NYC noise artist Margaret Chardiet, better known to her growing legions of fans as Pharmakon, is having a moment. Pharmakon is by no means accessible music, but for some reason has struck a serious chord with both noise-lovers and the uninitiated. The project's physical take on noise, power electronics, and industrial lifts the most potent and unsettling elements from each discipline, and peppers the whole nasty mélange with Chardiet's paint-peeling howls. Her live performances are notoriously intense, and her new album for Sacred Bones Records, the intimidating and very present Bestial Burden, has been buzzing harder than her hardworking amplifiers. That appreciative drone is only going to get louder once as she tours the world. VILLAGE VOICE
Red Bull Thre3style Regional Qualifier - Saturday, February 13 - Monarch Theatre
Over the past few years, the Red Bull Thre3style DJ Championship has become the premier DJ Battle in the U.S., with competitors entering from all over the country. It divides the country into four regions with preliminary battles in different cities. The winners of each (judged by past winners and other industry veterans) continue on to compete in Los Angeles. Winning the national or even regional competition would be a huge step forward in any DJ's career.
In an industry where so much of your success or failure is influenced by things like your image, marketing, industry connections, money, location, and other factors, it's nice to enter a competition that is based strictly on your performance. All you have is your 15 minutes, your equipment, creativity, song selection, technical ability, and gift to make an impression. In a world where success is clearly not based on merit alone, theoretically everyone entering the battle has the same chance for success. ADAM FOSTER
Riff Raff - Friday, February 13 - Club Red
Riff Raff is an endlessly quotable, sui generis pop culture figure, a bona fide celebrity who pals around with Drake and Justin Bieber. His YouTube videos get millions of views. Despite some extremely catchy songs, he's had no chart success to speak of, and many folks paying attention to him don't necessarily find his music compelling. They just want to know if he's serious.
Onlookers argue over his merit and his intentions, and detractors include both well-known rappers and commenters on white-power message boards. (One called him a "race traitor.") There's something polarizing about him; depending upon your point of view, Riff Raff seems either to embody the worst racial stereotypes or to transcend them. He peppers his rhymes about money, cars and women with surrealist humor that's crass but often hilarious -- on his recent single "Dolce & Gabbana" he rhymes, "Your bitch playing strip poker/I'm outside eatin' fried okra/(With who?) With Oprah!" BEN WESTHOFF
Marilyn Manson - Friday, February 13 - Marquee Theatre
Love him or loathe him, let's face it: Marilyn Manson is the last great living rockstar. Other stars and other bands sell more records these days, but he was on to something in 1998's Mechanical Animals when he wrote "Rock is Dead," because the genre is in serious need of a make-over. For better or for worse Manson is still unpredictable-- sometimes he barely makes it through shows, and some nights the shows are just downright bad. Other nights there are still glimpses of greatness, and that is what fans will be hoping for tonight as he plays an intimate show at Marquee Theatre. JIM LOUVAU
Jorma Kaukonen - Monday, February 16 - MIM
Jorma Kaukonen is a genuine musical journeyman, a man whose trajectory has all but ensured his musical immortality. As a member of both the Jefferson Airplane and its bluesy offshoot Hot Tuna, which he formed with bassist and longtime friend Jack Casady, his name is forever ingrained in the annals of rock history. At the age of 74, he remains as active, enthused, and eager to pursue his muse as at any time in his 50-year career.
Kaukonen first met Casady, the man who would become his lifetime musical partner, when they played together in a Washington, D.C., band dubbed the Triumphs. By the mid-'60s, the two men were on sturdier footing when they joined the fledgling Jefferson Airplane. Despite Kaukonen's appreciation for traditional folk blues -- artists like Howlin' Wolf, Son House, the Reverend Gary Davis, and Muddy Waters - he and Casady became an integral part of that band as it made its transition from folk rock to the high-flying psychedelia that typified the Airplane at its peak. Though never a particularly prolific songwriter, several Kaukonen compositions became staples of the band's repertoire -- "Hey, Frederick," "Embryonic Journey," "Feel So Good," and "Good Shepherd" among them. LEE ZIMMERMAN
Dr. Dog - Monday, February 16 - Crescent Ballroom
A psychedelic, backward-looking outfit from Philadelphia, Dr. Dog fill their music with oddball harmonies and opaque lyrics that allow them to operate in a dreamy, in-between-genre space that has led them to comparisons from everyone to Springsteen and the Beatles to the Avett Brothers. But in their jam-packed discography there's no cult-worship like the Boss, no British Invasion, and certainly none of the family-friendliness that the Avetts boast. Instead, the sextet dabble in DIY oddities that continually recall their forebearers -- Dylan, the Dead, even Simon & Garfunkel at times -- but still manage to stamp their own inky sound across the top of it all. Their latest, 2013's B-Room, imagines the best parts of "classic rock" mushed together and filtered through a lo-fi cheesecloth. CAITLIN WHITE
Steve Aoki - Thursday, February 19 - Livewire
A Steve Aoki performance is one of the better, faster, stronger sets in electronic dance music. To a world once dominated by heads-down, booth-enveloped DJs, Aoki has introduced punk-rock antics: He showers crowds with Champagne, voyages into the liquid masses crowd-surfing on an inflatable boat, and even sprained his neck stage-diving last year. The results, somewhat like adding theatrics, molecular gastronomy and television cameras to modern cuisine, have been sensational if not outright controversial. "He's not a guy, like many DJs, who just stands there and stares into his computer," American EDM pioneer Egil Aalvik of Groove Radio says. "He's anything but that."
Instead, Aoki is the king of caking -- throwing handfuls of actual birthday cake, topped with the scene's signature "peace, love, unity and respect," or PLUR, at his adoring fans. For all his success, the 37-year-old L.A. resident is an unlikely EDM superstar. He came out of left field in the mid-'00s, playing indie rock and hip-hop, letting the likes of Lindsay Lohan take over his decks, and practically dissing dance-music royalty, telling Billboard's Kerri Mason in 2007: "Paul van Dyk, Erick Morillo, Tiësto -- I have never even heard of half these DJs, or know their music." Aoki has lived to eat those words, gleefully so. He's not only a convert -- he's also American EDM's new prince. The punk who took the piss out of the superstar DJ became the highest-ranked stateside spinner on DJ Magazine's vaunted annual Top 100 DJs poll. Only L.A.'s Skrillex, who's relatively new to DJing and uses a push-button laptop program, ranks higher. DENNIS ROMERO
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band - Thursday, February 19 - Gila River Arena
He's been a Michigan garage-band pioneer, an AM rock god and a Chevy pitchman, but Bob Seger is now, simply, a survivor. A new record is rumored to come out next year. Even if it doesn't, the man has earned a victory lap after more than 50 years in the rock 'n' roll business. His live shows inspire Springsteen levels of devotion, and the traits that those two men share -- a blue-collar work ethic, piano-driven rock, plenty of raspy growling -- have long since changed from a young man's angst to an old man's memory. But if "Night Moves" has taught us anything, it's that those memories hold all of our secrets and desires. Even if rock 'n' roll never forgets, it occasionally needs a reminder of who its elder statesmen are. CHRISTIAN SCHAEFFER
Over the Rhine - Friday, February 20 - MIM
Over the Rhine have crossed over the river and disappeared deeper into the trees during the past few years as the husband-wife duo of Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist have stripped down their band and retreated to the rural Ohio home they call Nowhere Farm. The place is reflected in the title of their latest album, Meet Me at the Edge of the World, where their intimate folk songs take place far from the busy noise of the rest of the planet. Instead, the couple has created its own rhythm, centered around close-cropped voices and stark strums of guitar. "Take a left loneliness/There's a place to find forgiveness called home," they confide with soothing harmonies. FALLING JAMES
Scott H. Biram - Friday, February 20 - Crescent Ballroom
He stomps. He hollers. He yodels and howls. Scott H. Biram also plays guitar, shakes tambourines and basically, utilizing various effects, makes more of a racket on stage then one man should be allowed the pleasure. But it is a pleasure for Biram, whose music has been featured on FX's Sons of Anarchy, and who recently released Nothin' But Blood, his eighth album (many self-released).
Unlike his wild stage act, Biram's studio work is more formulaic and features added instrumentation. "Whatever it takes to make a song sound full," he says. On stage, where Biram has cemented his reputation as dynamic performer with a primal energy (and scream), he is able to reproduce, through the magic of electronics and creative passion, most of those songs without backing musicians -- and he likes it that way. GLENN BURNSILVER
Oh My God, My Body, My Ears! - Saturday, February 21 - Trunk Space
We're almost certain that if you're reading this, then you're probably no stranger to marathon concerts and have -- in all likelihood -- previously attended at least one Coachella, FYF, or EDC, as well as possibly a McDowell Mountain Music Festival or two. If our presumption is correct, then you're fit to endure this epic 10-hour music event that will transpire from noon until 10 p.m. According to is organizers, said time period will be filled with a mixture of experimental, improvisational, contemporary classical, electronic, and jazzy sounds performed by a variety of such musicians and artists as Josh Bennet, Dominique Holley, Elizabeth Kennedy Bayer, Parker Davis, and others. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Pavlo - Saturday, February 21 - MIM
Acoustic guitar casanova Pavlo is an infectious mix of traditional Greek plucking, frenetic flamenco runs, and a home-spun story that could only come from wilds of Canada. His work is full of chops-heavy runs and romantic flights of fancy -- think Rodrigo Y Gabriela with a Mediterranean flair, and more aimed at lovers than fighters. CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN
Napalm Death - Monday, February 23 - Club Red
There exist few bands in any genre putting out relevant albums that stand against earlier efforts from decades prior. Napalm Death helped birth the chaotic grindcore genre with their 1986 debut Scum, but newest album Apex Predator - Easy Meat showcases an act that may be aging, but still has plenty of venom left to spew. Their brand of metallic mayhem has evolved into something a little more moshable, but their sense of organized chaos is still very much intact. JASON ROCHE
Cold War Kids - Thursday, February 26 - Crescent Ballroom
After Spoon made its case for adventurous, soulful rock music produced with the piano mixed as loud as the guitars, a few bands took that particular ball and ran with it. The Missourians in White Rabbits haven't been heard from in some time, but Cold War Kids has been busy of late, releasing Hold My Home last fall and touring behind the new set of songs. The lineup has shifted slightly, with Modest Mouse and Shins drummer Joe Plummer taking over the drum stool, but the band's sound is still focused on Nathan Willett's heat-seeking vocals. Electronic musician Elliott Moss will open the show with synthscapes from his debut Highspeeds. CHRISTIAN SCHAEFFER
Bad Suns - Friday, February 27 - Crescent Ballroom
L.A.'s Bad Suns shine brightest when they find the right balance among lustrous hooks, jittery urgency, bubbly enthusiasm, adolescent angst, and adult perspective. The last might be a bit surprising for early twentysomethings, but Christo Bowman manages to inject a measure of mature reality into hormonal love woes. And the quartet has a lot going for it, now headlining its own tour after opening in the past year for the 1975 and New Politics. With a sound largely derived from effusive '80s pop tempered by edgier, more haunted concerns via the likes of U2, the Suns can do ridiculously catchy (as in "Cardiac Arrest," the single and centerpiece of last year's Language & Perspective) along with stormier stuff like "Sleep Paralysis," with its jagged rhythms, arch guitars, and anguished vocals. But monotony creeps into some tunes; character and texture get lost in the Suns' sometimes relentless glare. RICK MASON
Philip Glass - Saturday, February 28 - Gammage Auditorium
It's hard to overestimate the impact Philip Glass has had on classical music. Apart from being (arguably) the world's greatest living composer, Glass almost single handedly brought minimalism into contemporary popular culture -- influencing legions of rock and electronic artists while simultaneously introducing classical music to a generation of otherwise uninterested listeners. The composer/performer's recorded output displays a staggering variety, sprawling over a massive collection of works, including everything from dance pieces and film scores to large-scale operas and symphonies.
It was during a working relationship with famed Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar that Glass developed his melodically cyclical trademark, an Eastern-steeped approach that has not only defined the composer's career, but in a very real sense changed the course of music. JONATHAN PATRICK
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.
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