If you’re headed out to this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open this weekend, we’d hazard a guess that it won’t necessarily be for the golf. In fact, you might not get anywhere near the links at all, bub. Nope, you’re probably there to party, most likely for massively popular Coors Light Birds Nest, which will feature concerts by high-profile artists on both Friday and Saturday night.
However, it’s not the only game in town this weekend, concert-wise. The long-awaited and slightly delayed performance by pop star Ariana Grande is finally happening. Add in some shows by Bright Light Social Hour, K. Flay, The Expendables, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd and you’ve got a packed live music over the next few days.
For even more live music happening around the Valley, check out our online concert listings.
Here are our picks for the best concerts in Phoenix this weekend.
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
Wolfzie – Friday, February 3 – Grace Lutheran Church
The dreamlike atmosphere of Wolfzie’s The Memory Department Pt. 1 was inspired by an actual dream, says Brandyn Jenkins, the computer science student behind the down-tempo electronica project. In the dream, Wolfzie was wandering around an IKEA version of his mind, drifting through the Sadness, Anger, Love, and other departments, finally settling in the Memory Department. There is a distinct nostalgic quality to the record — but more soothing chillwave than vaporwave. Although now he calls Chandler home, Wolfzie is originally from Inkster, Michigan, where he says “violence and crime was something I had to get accustomed to [growing up.]” Wolfzie has been producing for three years, contributed to DaDadoh’s “What I Got” off his LP Radical, and also produces in the dark ambient outfit Militia Joan Hart.
“I’m a minimalist at heart. Less is more with me. I write all my beats in Ableton, and use the Akai49 for keys, pads, and melodies,” Wolfzie tells New Times. “I also use a few plugins to create soundscapes and unique synths. Through this process, I loop and layer sounds, and find ways to fit drum patterns in. Eventually, the beat builds itself.” Wolfzie will perform at First Friday in the Sanctuary, alongside other experimental electronic musicians E Alo, Scott Mitting, and Gimpheart. TROY FARAH
Flo Rida – Friday, February 3 – Coors Light Birds Nest
It ain't easy being Flo Rida, but it's gotta be a "Good Feeling." For the past several years, this self-described "international hustler" has kept his grind cranked to "Club Can't Handle Me" levels, endlessly zigzagging between the studio, the gym, and arena-size stages. Since releasing his debut album, Mail on Sunday, and its breakout lead single, "Low," in 2007, the notoriously ripped hit machine's waking hours have become entirely consumed by ever-exploding obligations. Stuff like repeat trips to the American Music Awards winner's circle, halftime gigs at the NBA All-Star Game, soccer stadium concerts in Europe, über-exclusive VIP fashion parties on South Beach, and impromptu Japanese Jacuzzi parties with 30 female fans from Okinawa. The cause of all this hard work and even harder play: a four-song string of Billboard number one house-hop hits — 2012's "Whistle," 2011's "Good Feeling," 2009's "Right Round," and the aforementioned "Low" — that's proven the 32-year-old rapper to be one of Planet Earth's most bankable pop stars. He’ll be getting rumps bumping and bodies moving inside the Coors Light Birds Nest this weekend along with Kaskade. S. PAJOT
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
The Expendables – Friday, February 3 – Marquee Theatre
Based on the massive crowds you’ll typically find at most reggae-rock shows anytime in recent memory, it's safe to say that there is a surfer-stoner party just waiting to break out at all times. Invite one of the fine descendants of Sublime, and let's rage. Although the Expendables hail from further up the California coast than most '90s third wave ska bands, the guys carry on the same spirit. The sound leans heavier on Upsetters-style reggae grooves, and lets up on Operation Ivy's punk energy. It's at once soothing and uplifting — perfect jams for the beach, or the after-party. Over 20 years, the Expendables have earned a strong following, and have hit the road with 311, Less than Jake, and G. Love and the Special Sauce. This year's current tour supports the group's seventh album, 2015's Sand in the Sky. Along for the show are hip-hop/indie rock hybrid RDGLDGRN and urban reggae act Tribal Theory. TRAVIS NEWBILL
Blink-182 – Saturday, February 4 – Coors Light Birds Nest
The only thing weirder than Blink-182 being able to produce a No. 1 album in the country 20 years into their storied career is that Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker pulled it off without co-founder Tom DeLonge. The only thing weirder than that, though, is DeLonge getting squeezed out of the group while he was off pursuing his obsession with aliens. Nonetheless, the legendary pop-punk band is trudging along and deep through its live gigs with Alkaline Trio singer and guitarist Matt Skiba in place of DeLonge. For faithful longtime fans of the perpetually juvenile band, California is a pure representation of their everlasting glory, chock full of high energy anthems and teenage angst despite their age. This weekend, they’ll team up with legendary DJ and party instagator Steve Aoki to co-headline the final night of the Coors Light Birds Nest up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. MIKEL GALICIA
Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Saturday, February 4 – Talking Stick Resort
This far into his 27-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
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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
K. Flay – Sunday, February 5 – Crescent Ballroom
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. Right now, as she phones in from San Francisco, Flay's speaking on the topic of identity, a fitting topic considering that the 26-year-old is in the process of creating one of her own. The thing is, however, it's not the one she originally had in mind. 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