AFI is scheduled to perform on Friday, February 17, at Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
AFI is scheduled to perform on Friday, February 17, at Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
Jiro Schneider

The 30 Best Concerts in Phoenix in February 2017

Okay, folks, enough’s enough. You’ve all spent entirely too much time lately scrolling through your social media feeds for the latest dose of horrible news du jour. Seriously.

While we appreciate the need to stay well informed, especially right now, y’all could definitely benefit from taking a breather for a bit, if for no other reason than to keep some modicum of sanity in these utterly insane times. It also might do you some good to get away from your computer, get outside for a bit, or even attend a show.

And there are definitely plenty of great shows happening this month. And that's not an "alternative fact," but is the actual goldurned truth, as evidenced by the following rundown of the biggest and best concerts happening in Phoenix in February. (As always, our online concert calendar features tons of additional gigs and live events.)

Take a look.

Singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart.EXPAND
Singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart.
OSK Studios

Devendra Banhart – Wednesday, February 1 – Crescent Ballroom
Who says busking doesn’t pay? Maybe Devendra Banhart. The beardy folk singer/songwriter tried it back in the ’90s, during his art school days in San Francisco before he dropped out and headed to France seeking some more exciting musical pastures. That choice seemed to work out better, as he got some gigs with indie superstar acts like Sonic Youth and began dazzling Euro rock fans with his neo-psych lyrical poetry. When Michael Gira of longtime noise band the Swans got ahold of Banhart’s music, he didn’t waste time signing them to his Young Gods label, known for keeping a roster of artists who keep their diverse sonic creations off the beaten path. Several albums later, Banhart recently dropped Ape in Pink Marble. This new release’s 13 songs have him continuing to put the freak in the freak-folk sound that rightfully describes his style. His breathy fluidity and vibrato easily channel ’60s folk singers like Donovan and Nick Drake. But even though you can feel that era’s folk fairy dust sprinkled throughout, Banhart’s sound doesn’t commit wholeheartedly to the period. He blends an apparent love of the music of world cultures along with some good old punk-rock snarl that gives his neo-hippie self a bit of a serrated edge. AMY YOUNG

Steve Aoki
Steve Aoki
Courtesy of MSOPR

Coors Light Birds Nest – Wednesday, February 1, to Saturday, February 4 – TPC Scottsdale
To some Phoenicians (no offense Scottsdalites, Glendalaroos, Mesans, and Chandlers), the Birds Nest at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is probably one of Dante’s nine levels of hell. To others, it’s heaven. Regardless of your thoughts, this year’s lineup has a little something for everyone, especially if you like beautiful drunk people, expensive drinks, and a combination of style, substance, and joke rock. Jake Owen headlines the first show of the four-night affair that begins on Wednesday, February 1, and the Florida native country singer who looks like a cross between Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey and Bob McGrath of Sesame Street will undoubtedly kick things off in some semblance of style. The next night, Toby Keith and the Band Perry give fans another dose of new country music. Keith, who is pretty popular in the greater Phoenix area, will make a few funny comments between songs about golf, and all will be well. On Friday, Flo Rida and Kaskade bring a little urban and youth culture to the Bird’s Nest, and everybody is going to get all freaky before the big finale on Saturday with Blink 182 and super-duper DJ Steve Aoki. Saturday may be a level of hell all by itself. Good luck to those with the stones or stupidity to brave this freak show. TOM REARDON

The 30 Best Concerts in Phoenix in February 2017EXPAND
Courtesy of Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande – Friday, February 3 – Talking Stick Resort Arena
Ariana Grande is only 23. But the pixie with the pipes has already made herself a household name, going on to dominate radio and the web as she promotes her second album, Dangerous Woman, which came out in May 2016. The album itself is slickly produced pop that features sounds from trap music, reggae, and other genres, with guest verses from A-listers like Future and Nicki Minaj boosting the quality across the board. And of course, the album places Grande’s jaw-dropping voice front and center. Not many singers can be realistically compared to Mariah Carey, and for even fewer does the comparison actually stick. But with Grande, the praise-by-association is warranted. She can do nearly anything with her voice, from the Carey-esque stratospheric acrobatics to Christina Aguilera-style power hooks. (She can also produce pitch-perfect imitations of other singers, like Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, and Shakira, as she proved in a hilarious Saturday Night Live sketch.) But the odd thing about Ariana Grande is how little we really know about her. It’s an odd thing to say about a child-star-turned-superstar-singer, someone who’s lived most of their life in an increasingly bright spotlight. But there’s nothing deeply personal about Dangerous Woman; nothing about her Saturday Night Live hosting gig that staked out ground anywhere particularly risky. Dangerous Woman, as a result, is as mysterious as it is enticing. Who’s the woman behind the pitch-perfect Britney Spears imitation, behind the inescapable radio hits of the past two years? Even her SNL monologue was about how she pined for her first grownup scandal, the implication being that everything about her image to this point in her life was as polished as a showroom Corvette. But as long as she keeps cranking out hits like “Side to Side” or “Bang Bang,” who are we to complain? DAVID ACCOMAZZO

The members of Bright Light Social Hour.EXPAND
The members of Bright Light Social Hour.
Nicole Fara Silver

Bright Light Social Hour – Friday, February 3 – Valley Bar
Bright Light Social Hour debuted in late 2010 in Austin, Texas, with an eponymous LP that was all over the place in the best possible way, a sometimes confounding mashup of styles that nonetheless felt comfortable in its own skin and instantly marked them as a band worth paying attention to. Six years later, the Austin five-piece is no less ambitious or accomplished, still at it with a bespoke brand of rock that delights in blurring the boundaries between art-rock adventure and outright jams. They’re currently touring in support of a three-song collaborative EP, Neighbors, they crafted along with esteemed singer-songwriter Israel Nash. Expect to hear a track or two from the album at the band’s gig at Valley Bar. CHRIS GRAY

Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Saturday, February 4 – Talking Stick Resort
This far into his 20-year career, Kenny Wayne Shepherd has proven time and again his relevance in blues and country — and he's only in his 30s. Yeah. This guy's career technically started when he was 13 years old, when blues guitarist Bryan Lee invited Shepherd on stage to play alongside him. And similar to members of the Beatles, Elvis Presley, and Stevie Ray Vaughn, Shepherd hasn't let his inability to read music get in the way either, making it abundantly clear that some folks are just inherently talented. He pays homage to some of the great blues artists who inspired him in his latest album, Goin' Home, released in 2014, as a collection of covers. DIAMOND VICTORIA

Gethen Jenkins
Gethen Jenkins
Erin Collins

Gethen Jenkins and the Freightshakers – Sunday, February 5 – Rhythm Room
Honky-tonk conjurers the Freightshakers have an almost mystical depth to their brand of raw outlaw country. Fronted by burly, brilliant singer Gethen Jenkins, the group has evolved over the last seven or so years from a reliable local bar band to a strikingly potent powerhouse with a persuasive, original set. Their rich, luxurious ensemble sound alone is remarkable — the balance, presence, and lovingly wrought dynamism of the pedal steel, guitars, and acoustic bass all cut through with gorgeous, individual tone. Fanatic, big-time, hard country heads to a man, the Freightshakers effortlessly deliver as ideal a dose of renegade country perfection as anyone could wish for. JONNY WHITESIDE

Melina Ausikaitis, Theo Katsaounis, Tim Kinsella, and Bobby Burg of Joan of Arc.EXPAND
Melina Ausikaitis, Theo Katsaounis, Tim Kinsella, and Bobby Burg of Joan of Arc.
Chris Strong

Joan of Arc – Monday, February 6 – Valley Bar
Joan of Arc may be one of the most pretentious bands in existence, but it also puts on a kick-ass live show. The group doesn't come off its throne above the city of Chicago often, but when it does, it almost always ends up snagging a few converts along the way. Nearly every one of its songs relies heavily on noodling guitars that eventually collapse into epic power chords before completely falling apart into a noisy mess, while singer Tim Kinsella makes the postmodern rounds, tapping into the psyche of Gertrude Stein or Samuel Beckett at any given moment to deliver lyrics that don't make a lick of sense. As long as you can get past all of that, Joan of Arc is an incredible live band that will definitely leave you asking for more — even if you don't know what you want more of, exactly. THORIN KLOSOWSKI

Young the GiantEXPAND
Young the Giant
Courtesy of Big Hassle

Young the Giant – Tuesday, February 7 – Marquee Theatre
Alt-rock band Young the Giant are currently touring in support of their excellent third album, Home of the Strange, and its content couldn’t be any more timely. The lyrics in the new material deal with singer Sameer Gadhia’s Indian heritage and American identity — a little bit of enlightenment that the country perhaps needs in the midst of this most insane political climate. Home of the Strange is also the band’s second album for the Fueled by Ramen label, a onetime underground-rock subsidiary of Warner Music Group, after putting out its self-titled debut on metal label Roadrunner. Tracks like “Amerika” and “Something to Believe In” suggest that the band has found its edgy, emotive groove. BRETT CALLWOOD

Austra – Tuesday, February 7 – Valley Bar
Katie Stelmanis, the songwriter behind the Canadian electronic group Austra, does not see the band’s latest release, Future Politics, resonating with the public as a good thing. “People have been grateful that the album exists,” she explains. “I never sought to make a political record to teach people something. I think that because the album is ultimately an emotional response to everything that is happening in the world, people are really connecting with it.” You can hear some of those ideas in the single “Utopia.” In the second verse of the dance anthem, Stelmanid elegantly sings, “My work is valid/I can prove it but I know/A woman screams/She’s looking for meaning.” Our phone conversation takes place days after women marched around the world to fight the fear that the newly elected president will encroach on their rights and values. The album, released on Inauguration Day, might not have elicited the same reaction had it been released a year ago. Future Politics wasn’t inspired by the dark dystopia where crime and poverty run rampant frequently described by President Donald Trump in his speeches. It was a reaction to books that gave Stelmanis the idea of a future where the finite world isn’t obsessed with infinite growth. In her vision, society creates technology that works to combat climate change and the greed that is synonymous with capitalism. JASON KEIL

The members of You Blew It!
The members of You Blew It!
Kayla Surico

You Blew It! – Wednesday, February 8 – The Rebel Lounge
We live in the era of the unexpected, an age where spray-tanned reality stars can become president, where legends like Bowie and Prince can die a few months apart, where surprise album releases spring up from nowhere like mushrooms shooting out of the soil after a rainstorm. And in this time of unexpected developments, who could have predicted the second coming of emo? Dance nights dedicated to the genre are flourishing across America, and bands like Into It. Over It., The World is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, Modern Baseball, and Orlando’s You Blew It! are picking up the tear-stained torch of their angsty forefathers. Here’s where things get really surprising: Most of the emo revival has been great. You can hear the melancholy guitar sounds of the emo revival firsthand when You Blew It! swings by the Rebel Lounge with All Get Out and Free Throw. You Blew It! are one of the most accessible bands in the nu-emo (they put out an EP of Weezer covers, so they’re not afraid to get their pop on). If you like anathemic, heart-on-sleeve, tears-in-my-craft-beer music, these sad bastards have got the goods. ASHLEY NAFTULE

Mayhem – Wednesday, February 8 – Club Red
The Norwegian black-metal band Mayhem has created some of the most memorable music ever to seep up from the underground. The act will play its seminal debut album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, in full during this stop at Club Red in Mesa, supported by fellow black-metal acts Inquisition and Black Anvil. The 1994 album, hailed as one of the most influential works in the genre, includes vocalist Per “Dead” Ohlin, who committed suicide in 1991, and guitarist Euronymous, who was murdered in 1993 by Varg Vikernes of the band Burzum. The current slate of musicians in Mayhem — Necrobutcher, Hellhammer, Attila Csihar, Teloch, and Ghul — played the album in its entirety at Swedish music festivals in 2015. The idea of bringing the masterpiece to live audiences in North America seemed “natural,” according to guitarist Teloch. JUSTIN CRIADO

Dashboard Confessional performs in the Valley last year.EXPAND
Dashboard Confessional performs in the Valley last year.
Jim Louvau

Dashboard Confessional – Wednesday, February 8 – Marquee Theatre
If music genres could be classified as seasons, emo would be winter. It’s music for broken hearts, which means cold hearts and cold colors. Emo fans huddle together and scream the lyrics back to the band on stage because they’re trying to keep warm, metaphorically speaking, by finding that passion in the broken-hearted. At least that’s how it used to be anyway. Sure, there are plenty of modern emo acts doing their thing right now, reaching deep down into those ugly emotions, but these days, going to an emo show is not entirely unlike going to see one of the many classic-rock touring shows that hit town on a regular basis. Sure, the bands are younger, but the spirit is the same: traveling back in time via the magic of nostalgia. And there’s a lot of nostalgia to be had at a Dashboard Confessional show. For proof, look no further than the setlists on their current tour, which include such favorites from the DC discography as "Don't Wait,” “Hands Down,” “Stolen,” “Vindicated,” and “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most.” Time travel doesn’t exist, insofar as we know, but a performance by Dashboard Confessional comes close. Step into the Marquee Theatre, and take a trip back to a world before smartphones and YouTube, to a magical time known as 2002, and prepare to relive all the awkward emotions that came with being a young music fan. Don’t try and deny it: You still, to this day, know all the words to “Screaming Infidelities” and “Cute Without the ‘E’.” CORY GARCIA

Alcest – Thursday, February 9 – Club Red
During the early stages of their development, France's Alcest traveled down the left-hand path of pure black metal. As they evolved, band leader Neige (who on some of the albums in their discography, including 2012’s Les Voyages de l'Ame, plays everything but drums) steered the band into fashioning shoegaze-infused, post-rock dreamscapes. Alcest make their ambition work by underpinning their dreamy harmonies with momentary flashes of black metal. Neige mostly maintains a dulcet tone with his vocals and guitar work but will pepper his songs with black metal cries. Winterhalter, the other member of Alcest, keeps a mostly midtempo beat on drums but will occasionally break into blazing metallic outbursts (though never resorting to unnecessary blast beats). The band has perfected a balancing act that is the musical equivalent of a hypnotist who momentarily lulls you into mentally being on another plane but pulls you back into reality at the last second before you are lost forever. CLINT MAYHER

Valley native Lindsey Sterling returns home.
Valley native Lindsey Sterling returns home.
Jim Louvau

Lindsey Stirling – Friday, February 10 – Livewire
Part Riverdance, part steampunk, part Paganini, part Skrillex — there’s no one really quite like Lindsey Stirling, the Gilbert native whose first exposure to the masses came on America’s Got Talent in 2010 when Piers Morgan told her “she wasn’t good enough” to win the show. But unlike the rest of her AGT peers, Stirling actually has built a career for herself, and though her stage show is more like a Las Vegas act than a traditional concert, she’s still carved out a niche for herself with her mostly instrumental music, which mixes her dexterous violin playing with electronic dance-inspired beats. Stirling, now 30, just released her third studio album, Brave Enough, in August, and she shows no signs of slowing down. DAVID ACCOMAZZO

Branford Marsalis (sitting) and his quartet.EXPAND
Branford Marsalis (sitting) and his quartet.
Eric Ryan Anderson

Branford Marsalis Quartet – Sunday, February 12 – Scottsdale Center for the Arts
New Orleans-born saxophonist Branford Marsalis has been a household name since the early 1980s. Alongside his younger brother Wynton, he set the jazz world ablaze, earning his stripes on the bandstand with Art Blakey. From there, he found work in pop music (the Grateful Dead, Sting) and acting (Throw Mama From the Train, School Daze). His unpredictable career found its highest profile when, just over 20 years ago, he became the bandleader for Jay Leno's incarnation of The Tonight Show. He spent his weekdays on late-night television, smiling politely at Jay's Bill Clinton jokes and most of his weekends jetting to New York to see his young son. Marsalis did not last on the bandstand too long. He left two and a half years later to focus on his saxophone and has released a handful of terrific records, including 2013’s Four MFs Playin' Tunes and last year’s Upward Spiral. SEAN J. O'CONNELL

Turtle Island QuartetEXPAND
Turtle Island Quartet
Courtesy of Musical Instrument Museum

Turtle Island Quartet – Sunday, February 12 – Musical Instrument Museum
This month, the double-Grammy-winning, San Francisco-based Turtle Island Quartet is planning to make a stop at the Musical Instrument Museum in north Phoenix. And they’ve got something special planned for their show. The four-person ensemble – consisting of violinists David Balakrishnan and Alex Hargreaves, viola player Benjamin von Gutzeit, and cello player Malcolm Parson – will perform their interpretation of John Coltrane's seminal A Love Supreme, the one which earned them a Grammy Award in 2008 for Best Crossover Album. For more than two decades, Turtle Island have reworked music from Bach to Hendrix to Clapton, taking on the occasional musical collaborators along the way, such as vocalist and fellow Grammy winner Tierney Sutton. The quartet will be rolling solo, however, during their performance at the MIM’s musical theater, one of the Valley’s finest venues and one that should provide an apt setting for this jazz-centric event. TOM MEEK

DJ Green Lantern – Monday, February 13 – Cobra Arcade Bar
Watchu know about DJ Green Lantern? If you happen to be a longtime fan of both hip-hop and DJ culture, you’ve probably heard plenty about the legendary selector. Like the fact he boasts an unusual nickname (“The Evil Genius”) and used to be tight with Eminem back in the day while serving as the official DJ for Shady Records. Green Lantern’s biggest claims to fame, however, are his pimp skills as both a mixtape guru and mixmaster. His career skyrocketed back in the late ’90s after a series of hot-like-fire mixtapes he crafted earned the attention of Mr. Marshall Mathers, which led to Green Lantern producing the Invasion series of tapes for the rapper. Other famed hip-hop artists like Busta Rhymes, Jadakiss, and Royce da 5’9” have also tapped him over the years to craft their mixtapes, each of which have featured Green Lantern’s creative and innovative style of mixing. Said skills will be on display during his set during Motown on Mondays Phoenix at Cobra Arcade Bar on Monday, February 13. Green Lantern will be the special guest and will work the decks alongside such MOM residents and regulars as Tricky T, Fact135, and O Allen Huddleston. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN

Wax Tailor – Monday, February 13 – Crescent Ballroom
Jean-Christophe Le Saoût, who performs as Wax Tailor, laid the foundation for cinematic hip-hop in 2004 with his EP Lost the Way. Using samples from classic films to mix with hip-hop beats, Le Saoût brings an element of storytelling to his sound. His fifth studio album, By Any Beats Necessary, released in October 2016, showcases guests including Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah and covers genres from blues and soul to psychedelic rock and funk. During his last tour, Le Saoût met and interviewed independent record-store owners to discover what motivates them to sell records. In October, he released a short documentary on YouTube based on those interviews. Titled In Wax We Trust, it’s a must-watch for record lovers. RILEY COWING

The Griswolds
The Griswolds
Courtesy of Round Hill Music

The Griswolds – Tuesday, February 14 – Valley Bar
Tropical indie-pop outfit the Griswolds takes its name from the fictional family in the Chevy Chase-starring National Lampoon's Vacation series. Just like its onscreen comedic counterparts, the band takes having fun very seriously. The Griswolds formed four years ago after singer/guitarist Christopher Whitehall and lead guitarist Daniel Duque-Perez met at party — a sign of things to come – and discovered they were kindred spirits of the mischievous type, indulging in Animal House-style revelry. Later joined by bassist Tim John and keyboardist/percussionist Lachlan West, the Griswolds became a far more functional family than the one that killed Aunt Edna's dog. Their introduction to the public came with 2012's "Heart of a Lion," a bouncy garage rock single that caught the attention of Australia's premier musical tastemakers, Triple J Radio. Things took off from there, and in 2014 they struck gold with their catchy-as-hell track "Beware the Dog," a jaunty, celebratory lead from their debut LP, Be Impressive. And while they tend to emulate '90s alt-rock songs on that album, the quartet blissfully hopscotches through all the most popular tropes of 21st-century indie-pop to great effect. ANGEL MELENDEZ

Chris Robinson Brotherhood
Chris Robinson Brotherhood
Angela Izzo

Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Wednesday, February 15 – Crescent Ballroom
It’s been more than five years since the Black Crowes, the acclaimed blues-rock band featuring brothers Chris and Rich Robinson, embarked on their last tour, in support of their acoustic Croweology album. Chris went on to form the Chris Robinson Brotherhood in the fall of 2010. It’s always seemed a little ironic that he gave the name “Brotherhood” to a band that he plays in without his brother, but maybe that’s the point. CRB (as the band is known) put out its third full-length studio album, Phosphorescent Harvest, in spring 2014, and the band (completed by guitarist Neal Casal, keyboardist Adam MacDougall, bassist Mark Dutton, and drummer Tony Leone) has spent a huge amount of time on the road since then. While we would love to see a Black Crowes reunion, the Robinson brothers have never felt inclined to do things the easy way. TOM MURPHY

AFI – Friday, February 17 – Marquee Theatre
“I wish I could paint,” AFI frontman Davey Havok says with a slight laugh. For anyone who hasn’t been following Havok’s career, the multitalented vocalist is not only one of the most celebrated voices in alternative music but also a Broadway actor, novelist, clothing designer, humanitarian, and winner of peta2’s World's Sexiest Vegetarian contest. But after all of that and the release of AFI’s self-titled 10th album — also known as The Blood Album — he’s still longing to pick up another art form. To AFI's devoted fans, Havok’s desire to continue his artistic journey through many different outlets comes as little surprise — nor does the fact that their latest release doesn't neatly fit into any one genre. Since dropping Answer That and Stay Fashionable in 1995, the quartet has successfully blended just about every subgenre of punk and post-hardcore into an ever-evolving, unique sound. With The Blood Album, Havok and crew have returned with a delightfully complicated yet accessible dark rock album that only a veteran group like AFI could create. JOSH CHESLER

Slim Cessna's Auto Club
Slim Cessna's Auto Club
Gary Isaacs

Slim Cessna's Auto Club – Saturday, February 18 – Valley Bar
For as long as the folk songs of hillbillies and Appalachian wailers have been called "country songs," the genre has been the province of those tip-toeing between grace and damnation — Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, the Louvin Brothers, and others for whom the pursuit of holiness often took a backseat to the pleasures of sin. For more than two decades, Slim Cessna's Auto Club has played country songs but expanded outward as well, incorporating elements of punk, rockabilly, gospel, and rocksteady, all the while evoking Christian dread, employing fire-and-brimstone wit, and singing bloody murder ballads. In that time, the band has developed a reputation as a tremendous live act, and it's well deserved. Led by two frontmen, band namesake Slim Cessna and the wild-eyed Jay Munly, the group's shows feel like violent, apocalyptic hootenannies or gothic church services where the preachers have dipped into sacramental moonshine. JASON P. WOODBURY

Surfer Blood – Sunday, February 19 – Valley Bar
Things should be good for West Palm Beach indie rock heroes Surfer Blood. They have a new album, Snowdonia, coming out this month. They've had opening gigs for some of their biggest influences, like the Pixies and Guided by Voices. Their song "Swim" was even heard on the awesome Netflix superhero show Daredevil. But last year, the four piece heartbreakingly lost their original guitarist, Thomas Fekete, to cancer. "Thomas was so young and had so much to give the world," says Surfer Blood singer John Paul Pitts. "His [memorial] was when it hit me that I would never be able to see him again. Before that I kept thinking he was in hiding and would pop up again." Pitts channeled these emotions to inspire some of Surfer Blood's new music, which he describes as longer and more epic. "I wrote the whole record while he was in cancer treatment. Any time I got tired, I'd think of Thomas, and it gave me the willpower to continue. I'm grateful for the thousand amazing memories I had with him." In spite of their deep loss, Pitts says he's proud of Surfer Blood's continued success. "It's life affirming. It feel like we're on the right track." DAVID ROLLAND

The Growlers
The Growlers
Pam Littky

The Growlers – Tuesday, February 21 – Valley Bar
Listening to the music of the Growlers is a bit like listening to oldies radio before that format was taken over by music from the '80s rather than being dominated by classic pop songs from the late '50s through the mid-'60s. There's a touch of rockabilly, a hint of early psychedelic garage rock, and a dash of surf guitar. It also sounds as though the band's guitarist learned a trick or 10 from Lonnie Donegan. Like the Strange Boys, the Growlers sound out of time, retro in the same sense that there is a retro aesthetic to the films of David Lynch — minus the mind-warping sense of the bizarre, of course. The strangeness of the Growlers is more subtle, tuneful, and catchy, but no less eccentric. TOM MURPHY

The Radio Dept. – Wednesday, February 22 – Crescent Ballroom
This Swedish trio emerged in the early aughts as buzzworthy shoegaze revivalists, but their latest album, Clinging to a Scheme, ironically finds them taking a new tack. The fuzz and feedback are all but gone, replaced by shimmering guitars and synthesizer flourishes. Those with a sweet tooth will be sated by the bright and breezy hooks of Phoenix-esque singles like "Heaven's on Fire," while the rest can revel in the roughed-up production of lo-fi treats like "The Video Dept." Expect homage to Pet Shop Boys and the Cure, and a low-key confidence that perfectly complements the group's entirely unpretentious on-album brilliance. CHRIS MARTINS

What has eight arms and plenty of groove? The Octopus Project.EXPAND
What has eight arms and plenty of groove? The Octopus Project.
Madeline Allen

The Octopus Project – Thursday, February 23 – The Rebel Lounge
Indie rock has its fair share of of instrumental bands, but not many that show the kind of imagination and pizzazz of Austin’s The Octopus Project. To date, spouses Josh and Yvonne Lambert (a true contemporary master of the theremin), drummer Toto Miranda, and instrumental utilitywoman Lauren Gurgiolo have crafted five albums of avant-garde pop that add hefty doses of classical music and electronica, and send them off into the world with concerts that would make Willy Wonka himself envious. The Project’s latest wrinkle is adding vocals in spots to 2013’s typically out-there Fever Forms, and this year composing the score to 2014's Kumiko, the independent film the Austin Chronicle called “a truly mystifying puzzle.”
CHRIS GRAY

Pharoahe Monch – Friday, Februrary 24 – Last Exit Live
Erstwhile Organized Konfusion member Pharoahe Monch has spent the last decade and a half wandering the earth recording great hip-hop – everything from legendary room-destroying bangers like "Simon Says" to the casual, bouncing song-rap "Love," for J Dilla's The Shining. And although Monch might never achieve household-name status, he's one of a select few living legends who have managed longevity in hip-hop without getting stale. Among his unparalleled feats of verbal athleticism is dropping the word "triskaidekaphobia" (fear of the number 13) in verses more than once (originally on "Mayor," in 1999, and again, eight years later, on "Free"). These days, he's still touring in support of his most recent album, PTSD, which follows in the footsteps of 2011's W.A.R., with tight verses, incisive social commentary, and banging beats. TOM MURPHY

Captured! By Robots – Friday, February 24 – Yucca Tap Room
Insanity and chaos are on the horizon – and no, we don’t mean the sort being dispensed by our orange-skinned overlord in Washington, D.C. We’re referring to the insanity wrought by novelty rock act Captured! By Robots, which is partly a band and partly a bizarre performance art project by Jay Vance, also known as JBOT. What he's done here is build a band, literally, by building robots which eventually turned on him and held him captive, hence the name. He is their human slave and now they (wait, he?) tour the country and play at dive bars and holes in the wall. (Or as the C!BR website succinctly describes it: Two kick ass robots, one stupid human. Brutal pummeling music. End of story.) It's probably the weirdest thing you'll see all year unless you saw GWAR; then, it will be the second weirdest thing you've seen all year. With Via Vengeance, Dark Markers, and Dead Inception. H. DREW BLACKBURN

Moose Blood – Saturday, February 25 – The Rebel Lounge
If it weren't for the British accent of Moose Blood singer/guitarist Eddy Brewerton, you'd never know these guys were from the United Kingdom, given their worship of late-'90s American-style emo acts like Jimmy Eat World and Brand New. Their 2014 debut, I'll Keep You in Mind, From Time to Time, rewinds the clock 10 years to a time when muscular riffs mingled with delicate guitar passages and lyrics about being young and heartbroken or, conversely, head over heels in love, were de rigueur. "Do you want to come over late to my house and watch American Beauty in the dark," Brewerton sings on "Gum." "I'll hold your hand until the very end, and we'll stay up late until tomorrow starts." If lyrics like that make you nostalgic for 2002 or, perhaps, Deja Entendu, Moose Blood will delight. DAVE LAKE

Dark Star Orchestra – Sunday, February 26 – Livewire
It oughta come as no surprise that certain outfits are embracing the cover band concept and reaping rewards as a result. Consequently, there's a veritable cottage industry that flourishes via tributes to the Beatles (natch), Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, and a host of others. In many cases, the original band is defunct, and now they, the tribute band, can recreate every note and serve as the next best thing. Still, one has to credit Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra with earning more than a hint of actual legitimacy. Keyboard player Rob Barraco performed with the Dead bassist Phil Lesh in his band Phil Lesh and Friends and also toured with the reunited band that went by the abbreviated name the Dead in 2002 and 2003. Likewise, guitarist Jeff Mattson has also played with Lesh, as well as onetime Grateful Dead vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux. Singer Lisa Mackey claims to having seen more than 200 Grateful Dead shows since 1973, while bassist Kevin Rosen says he's seen 93. Drummers Rob Koritz and Dino English swear their devotion as well. Even so, the most essential factoid that contributes to their cred may well be the number of shows DSO has performed as a unit. Consider the fact that in their full 30 years of activity, up until the point that Jerry Garcia shed his mortal coil, the Dead accumulated 2,318 concerts, a total that Dark Star eclipsed long ago, and in only about half the time. LEE ZIMMERMAN

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