Pop quiz, hotshot. Valentine’s Day is less than 24 hours hence and you haven’t the slightest idea of what you’re going to do with your sweetheart. What do you do? What. Do. You. Do?
Forget about the usual dinner and movie shtick, or even picking up one of those plastic-wrapped attrocities being hawked on street corners (unless you like sleeping on the sofa, that is). Instead, consider partaking in a more memorable experience at one of the fantastic concerts happening both on Monday, February 13, or during the holiday itself on Tuesday, February 14.
You could get a taste of the old-school sounds being slung by DJ legend Green Lantern while playing old-school coin-ops, for example. Or if your SO is into either metal or ska, you might check out Otep’s show at Club Red in Mesa or get skanking inside the Rebel Lounge during Save Ferris.
The rest of the week is just as packed and includes gigs by all-girl punk band the Coathangers, acclaimed blues-rock band Chris Robinson Brotherhood, and ska legends Mustard Plug. (Even more shows can be found in our online concert listings.)
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
Otep – Tuesday, February 14 – Club Red
Marilyn Manson meets Marilyn Monroe. Political activist. Rap-metal goddess. Actress. Author. Extreme metal maven. Award winner. These are just a few of the ways Otep Shamaya is described. What more could you ask for, then, than to see her perform on Valentine’s Day? Seventeen years ago, Otep and her trio of male musicians known as Rob, Moke, and eViL j, discovered by Sharon Osbourne, scored a deal with Capitol Records. Ozzfest 2001 marked their eighth show ever, and it also marked the first time a female-fronted band played the festival. The great thing about Otep’s body of work (six full-length albums, one live album, one EP), is that it truly offers a range of concepts and tastes: a mix of extreme metal, alt-rock, poetry, rap metal, and lush vocals with emotional screams and intricate instrumentals. Otep is an intelligent, controversial force to be reckoned with. In 2013, after the release of Hydra, Otep had planned to leave the music industry, but was swayed by Slipknot’s DJ Sid Wilson to sign to his label. And thank God for that. With everything currently happening in politics, you can guarantee this live show — in support of Generation Doom, which came out last year — will be one for the books. LAUREN WISE
Esmé Patterson – Tuesday, February 14 – Crescent Ballroom
You could say that seeing Esmé Patterson perform solo for the first time changed my life. I was 17. Esmé and I were both choir geeks at the same Boulder, Colorado, high school. At that time in my life, I was only good at two things: music and writing. My writing experience consisted of short stories and boring school essays about literary symbolism, but I’d taught myself guitar and had just performed a solo acoustic version of a John Mayer song at the school talent show. So basically, I thought I was pretty hot shit. School was ending, and I was deciding between pursuing music or journalism in college, until someone invited me to the finals of Performance Class, a senior-only elective that attracted only the best and brightest music nerds of the choir department. Esmé was one of the performers that day. She sat on a chair with her acoustic guitar and played a medley of Bob Marley songs — the only one I remember is “Guava Jelly.” But more than the songs themselves, I remember the way she played them. Whereas my guitar playing was mathematical and angular, she strummed, tapped, and coaxed sound from her guitar with a fluidity and ease that seemed to flow straight from her heart. While she sang, seemingly one with her guitar, my last lingering thoughts of dedicating my life to music faded away. In an instant, I realized this is what pro-level talent looks like, and I didn’t have it.
We both stayed in Colorado after high school. I went to journalism school and Esmé began pursuing a music career. My junior year of college, Esmé, her sister Genny, Caleb Summeril, and Tyler Archuletta came over to my place. They told us they were starting a band called Paper Bird, and Summeril borrowed my roommate’s guitar and the quartet played a few of their early songs for us. Once again, I was blown away. Paper Bird went on to become a regional favorite, and to this day gets write-ups in places like NPR and the New York Times. Though Paper Bird still tours together, Esmé left the band and started a solo career, getting national accolades for her 2013 album Woman To Woman, in which she wrote songs from the point of view of famous musical heroines, like Dolly Parton’s Jolene or the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby. She scored a hit, “Dearly Departed,” with collaborator Shakey Graves in 2014, and last year, she released We Were Wild, her third solo album. She’s displayed a kaleidoscope of musical identities and interests since we were in high school, but I couldn’t help thinking of her Bob Marley covers when I hear “Yours and Mine,” the 11th song from the album. It’s just her and her acoustic guitar, and music flows from her as easily, and as beautifully, as ever. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
Save Ferris – Tuesday, February 14 – The Rebel Lounge
Following a long absence that included lawsuits, member squabbles and the eventual awarding of the band’s name to singer Monique Powell, ’90s ska-punk favorites Save Ferris finally appear to be getting back to making music. Following several small but successful shows around LA, Powell and her new bandmates face their biggest test yet, the stress of touring. Save Ferris are gearing up for their first new album in 15 years, and first in this incarnation, which was funded through PledgeMusic. Also appearing at their stop in Phoenix at the Rebel Lounge will be Southern California-based ensemble Vista Kicks (which specializes in "bootie shakin' rock 'n' roll) and the ska gurus of local act 2 Tone Lizard Kings. DANIEL KOHN
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
The Coathangers – Wednesday, February 15 – The Rebel Lounge
The Coathangers make fun music for pissed-off people. Seeing as the band – then consisting of Meredith Franco, Julia Kugel, Stephanie Luke, and Candice Jones – was conceived after an anti-Bush rally in the (relatively) halcyon days of 2006, it follows that a strong irreverent streak would follow. Early in the group’s history, this meant baking cookies and bringing along prizes for audience members at shows, to say nothing of their ballsy, impassioned onstage antics. Although the band is a long way from passing out baked goods at shows, the Coathangers have continually found new ways to garnish their traditionally punk aesthetic both live and on record. “[We] definitely have gotten a lot of wild and positive reactions from songs like ‘Squeeki Tiki’ 'cause it’s pretty weird,” says singer and guitarist Julia Kugel, referring to a standout track on their latest album, 2016’s Nosebleed Weekend. The song, a cathartic shout-along about a failed relationship, is punctuated by a squeaky dog toy. Naturally, this unconventional instrument is used in live renditions. Raucous audiences are nothing new for Kugel and crew; along with the likes of Black Lips, Deerhunter, and Carbonas, the Coathangers were part of a mid-2000s wave of Atlanta-based garage-rock revivalists that extolled and encouraged audience belligerency. Ten years, one fewer member, and five albums later, Kugel, Franco, and Luke have fostered a fan base that is as dedicated as it is ambitious. ZACH SCHLEIN
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
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Mustard Plug – Thursday, February 16 – Yucca Tap Room
Not many bands have attained popularity and commercial success outside the mainstream music industry box the way that Mustard Plug has done. While they can't claim to be most famous ska-punk band in existence, the septet have amassed a sizable cult following, as well as radio-friendly songs and music videos, like "You" and "Everything Girl." After forming in 1991 and, a year later, releasing a full-length tape on Dashiki Clout, Skapocalypse Now!, Mustard Plug released the popular Evildoers Beware! in 1997 via punk label Hopeless Records. This was the beginning of their zenith, coinciding with the mid-'90s ska craze, which would continue for roughly five years until their breakup in 2002. Fortunately, Mustard Plug got back together five years later and have since dropped a couple more records, including In Black and White (where they took their music in murkier directions, and 2014’s Can't Contain It. Now, 15 years after their breakup, Mustard Plug, who swing through Yucca Tap Room in Tempe on Thursday, is still kicking out ska and have come back around to their older, poppier rhythms while still developing a new sound. GARYN KLASEK