Without using too much hyperbole, there is an outstanding number of great concerts happening this month -- and they represent a wide variety of genres and styles. The offerings ain't just indie and alt-folk, but also include upcoming shows by rock royalty (Pixies, Cibo Matto), a king of country (George Strait), pop princesses (Miley Cyrus), and even some unusual and experimental fare at the Trunk Space (natch).
Here's a rundown of 15 concerts you'll want to be at from now until the end of the month.
Jesca Hoop - Thursday, February 6 - Rhythm Room
Jesca Hoop likes to play with your mind in ways you cannot help loving. Anyone who has listened to her work knows to expect the unexpected, and Hoop delivers unpredictability with each new release. Hunting My Dress (2010) was just as likely to feature acoustic folk songs ("The Kingdom") as it was scratchy alternative rock numbers ("Feast of the Heart"), and "Whispering Light" topped them all by marrying groovy folk licks to the 38-year-old Northern Californian's subdued, almost conspiratorial, singing as random background vocals evoked a drug trip experienced while watching Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
On 2012's The House that Jack Built, Hoop forayed into beat-heavy alternative pop with catchy tracks like "Ode to Banksy" and "Born To," reminding listeners that she always has more tricks up her sleeve. As if that were not enough, Hoop currently is creating a new album of sorts, Undress, on which she is teaming with such artists as Iron & Wine to take the songs from Hunting and rearrange them. As if trying to prove there's nothing musical that she can't do, it's the second time she's undertaken such a project and surely not the last time she'll keep us guessing. -- Brian Palmer
George Strait - US Airways Center - Friday, February 7
George Strait has been the capital-K King of Country more than 30 years into his run, though he remains something of an enigma for the press. He's not the most open personality, he doesn't see the need to air out every twist and turn of his life on social media, and his legend (the definition fits him) only seems to grow through the years as every subsequent male country singer attempts to at least grasp at what Strait's done since the early '80s.
Strait's luck with a great songwriter like Dean Dillon brings to mind the string of commercial successes that Elton John and Bernie Taupin saw during their heyday. You won't see him as a judge on a reality show, and he won't be writing a tell-all memoir anytime soon.
For members of the music press, that is perhaps why he is still so interesting. His songs seem to mirror his audience more than himself, and he sings everyone else's life while we know relatively little about his own, other than through the stray interview or concert anecdote.
Last September, Strait said that after 2014 he's done -- as such, his performance at US Airways Center on Friday, February 7, is being touted as his "final Phoenix show" ever, which means it's the last chance for Valley folk to see the king in concert. -- Craig Hlavaty
Mayer Hawthorne - Marquee Theatre - Friday, February 7
Pop-soul artisan Mayer Hawthorne is a tougher dude than he gets credit for. Well, okay, his song "Crime" on recent album Where Does This Door Go seems to be about the kind of low-key excuse-me-sir police situation that happens when your house party gets just a little too loud, which admittedly isn't much as far as criminal credentials go. But he was out there singing and playing (with fingerless gloves) in the cold and blowing snow at the NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day, and he's been a relentlessly ambitious -- even fearless -- producer and musician since his house-party days in his native Detroit. Now Hawthorne is confident, rested and ready (like his fellow Pharrell collaborators Daft Punk) to make the most perfect makeout music the future permits. You know what they say: That which breaks your heart only makes you stronger. -- Chris Ziegler
White Denim - Crescent Ballroom - Monday, February 10
After a smattering of respectable LPs and EPs released over the past five years, difficult-to-pigeonhole rockers (even that term seems inapplicable or reductive) White Denim might be either the jammiest indie rockers ever or the most indie rock of jam bands. The White Denim sound is indebted to psychedelic classic rock, yet not exactly tethered to it. And on their sixth LP, Corsicana Lemonade (2013), the Texas foursome delivered an unexpectedly mellow chill-out record.
The more relaxed approach means precious little when it comes to White Denim show, though. By all accounts, Corsicana's songs have been recast with urgency in a live setting. Think of a noodlier, crunchier Doug Martsch of Built to Spill fronting the Drive-By Truckers or the Allman Brothers. In other words, prepare yourself for lots of crowd-pleasing guitar solos. The band's Phoenix date comes a mere four days after a scheduled TV appearance on Conan, an indication that the club shows of today quickly may become the concert engagements of tomorrow for White Denim. -- Derek Askey
Panic! At the Disco - Friday, February 14 - Marquee Theatre
Panic! at the Disco (the exclamation point has found its way back) aren't embarrassed by their pop aspirations. For most bands, that translates simply to being catchy, but Panic! are invested in pop to the point that their rock songs carry the heft and production hallmarks of the slickest R&B-flecked modern radio cuts.
It's a crowd-pleasing tactic that shoves past accessibility and moves straight toward world domination, huge overdrive choruses burrowing their way into your brain and nesting somewhere near your cerebral cortex. It's not subtle or nuanced in any way, but subtlety doesn't matter much when you're going straight for the jugular. -- Ian Traas
St. Valentine's Day Massacre - Friday, February 14 - The Sail Inn
If you happen to harbor any amorous feelings whatsoever for Sedona's decker. or the Valley's Field Tripp, better ditch the candy, roses, and fine-dining adventures and drag your sweetheart to the Sail in Tempe on Valentine's Day night. Both bands will be holding a dual CD release that particular evening, which in itself is reason enough to forgo most of the romantic holiday's typical rituals, let alone the fact that Field Tripp's EP Les is Mormon is the indie/folk-rock band's first new album in three years. A couples dance and photobooth are planned for the event, in case you'd like to do something Valentine's-related, and a so-called "Battle of the Frank Sinatras" will also transpire. Locals The Haymarket Squares and Sister Lip are scheduled to perform, as is Washington's Terrible Buttons. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Oh My God, My Body, My Ears! - Saturday, February 15 - 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 the press release and Facebook page, said time period will be filled with a mixture of experimental, improvisational, contemporary classical, electronic, and jazzy sounds performed by such artists as Jared Nicodemus (a.k.a. fthia), cellist Jenna Dalby, pianist Jennifer Waleczek, violinist Giselle Lee, and local indie band Static Announcements. Those who go the distance will event get a free "Marathon Finisher" t-shirt. There's also an after-party at the FilmBar. -- Benjamin Leatherman
Touche Amore - Saturday, February 15 - Nile Theater
Looking into the hardcore punk landscape today, if you're an outsider, things tend to get a little confusing. Touche Amore is a posthardcore band that is changing what it means and what it sounds like to be a punk band, combining elements of '90s screamo and posthardcore with an intense work ethic and a neverending tour schedule.
The words "screamo" and "posthardcore" usually conjure images of tattoocovered Warped Tour scene bands, but that's not at all Touche Amore. The act get its own brand of posthardcore from such bands as Pg. 99 and Orchid. Initially, Touche Amore showed a lot more of its hardcore side, but these days the outfit is exhibiting more of its throatshredding side, with a sound fashioned by brutal landmark influences such as Converge, American Nightmare and Hope Conspiracy. -- Lucas Chemotti
Bettye LaVette - Sunday, February 16 - MIM Musical Theatre
At 68, Detroit-raised soul legend Bettye LaVette seems to be at the start of a brilliant career. Chalk it up to an unusual biography, which found the gifted singer recording her first charting single at the tender age of 16, touring with a fresh-faced Otis Redding at 19 and later playing in the James Brown Revue -- essentially walking backwards down the road to riches.
In fact, she didn't break beyond the States until 2005, when, teaming up with producer Joe Henry, she dropped I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, featuring songs written by Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann, Sinéad O'Connor and Lucinda Williams. While a 2007 LP saw her singing standards backed by Drive-By Truckers, 2010's Interpretations includes songs by the Stones, the Beatles, and the Who, redone to emphasize the blues they'd emulated in the first place. -- Chris Martins
Sleepy Sun - Sunday, February 16 - Rhythm Room
Northern California psych-rock band Sleepy Sun sound like a younger, fresh-faced version of the Black Angels--they produce a fledgling form of the elder group's muddy guitars and fuzzy melodies--so it was only natural (or perhaps the musical hand of fate) that Sleepy Sun was plucked up by the Angels to open on their 2011 tour. And that's where Sleepy Sun solidified their place in the psych world--though previously touring with Arctic Monkeys, this was an instinctive pairing. -- Erin DeWitt
Imagine Dragons - Monday, February 17 - US Airway Center
Imagine Dragons' debut LP, Night Visions, begins with a guitar intro that might remind you a little of Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead or Alive." Then it descends into a heavy, current-sounding verse anchored by the stuttery, wub-wubbing bass made famous by dubstep -- or at least movie trailers with dubstep in them. That might not remind you of Bon Jovi right away, but it should. Like Bon Jovi in the '80s, Imagine Dragons produces slick, widely appealing arena rock that hits every trend in popular music on the way to its anthemic choruses. In 1986, it was glam, metal, and synths. In 2014 it's EDM, indie, and, well, synths, along with tossed-off, specific verses that build into enormous, vague choruses.
On songs like "It's Time," which you've heard if you own a TV, they put those pieces together with an unnerving precision. Also like Bon Jovi: They're not breaking any new ground, and their big hit has maybe worn out the welcome you gave it after the first time you heard it in a film trailer. But once you accept that they're a big, broad arena rock band, you'll probably enjoy yourself. -- Dan Moore
Cibo Matto - Friday, February 21 - Crescent Ballroom
Japanese food-rap duo Cibo Matto cut two excellent records in the 1990s, then disappeared into the solo-joint ghetto. Their sound -- a synthesis of hip-hop, bossa nova, DJ culture, and rock -- is the equivalent of being stalked by a fusion gourmet food truck in the L.A. of Blade Runner; now, with third album Hello Valentine, they've resuscitated it for an age when culture is so diffuse that epileptic-baiting videos like the one for comeback single "MFN" inevitably get lost in the shuffle. Which isn't to say that you shouldn't be at this show, where you should beg them to play "Know Your Chicken." -- Raymond Cummings
Pixies - Monday, February 24 - Comerica Theatre
Don't you dare reduce the most important prototype for Seattle grunge to "Where Is My Mind" and inspiring Kurt Cobain to include a few dramatic volume changes -- dynamic shifts weren't invented in the nineties, and "Monkey Gone To Heaven" has aged as well as anything else in their catalog. What's more, they're now on to a completely new incarnation: Founding bassist Kim Deal left the band last summer after years of simmering tensions with frontman Frank Black, and their recent EPs (fittingly named EP1 and EP2) are their first new material in twenty years. -- Vijith Assar
Dr. Dog - Monday, February 24, and Tuesday, February 25 - 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
Miley Cyrus - Thursday, February 27 - US Airways Center
PHOENIX, AZ: 2 AMC - Some of the elders still remember the Beforetimes. They claim not to, especially to the guards, but I see it in their faces when they're alone together. They remember life before Miley Cyrus came to Phoenix. When they're alone -- after work and before the Two Minute Sext -- I watch them put their tongues back into their mouths and talk about their old jobs. The Bathroom Attendant says he was a doctor, once. The Sexy Pizza Guy was a teacher. The Foreman of the Ball Crew I'm with -- jeesh 4777, out in the Scottsdale quadrant -- says he used to do the same job, only inside the crane.
Now he rides the wrecking ball, and he keeps his hate bottled up. We all do. In his quarters, in a corner the cameras don't quite see, he's been fashioning a forbidden article out of cotton balls he sneaks from surplus Oxy bottles. They cover his legs and block the RFID tag on his inner thigh. "They're pantz," he told me, once. He was drunk, and talkative. "We wore them over our dongz. Before the Bangerz came."
I was only a child, then, but I've taken it upon myself to become the historian. When I can get through the porn filters at the library, and get to the part of the internet that isn't porn, I read more about pants, and doctors, and the way people behaved when they didn't have to take their molly ration if they didn't want to.
The Foreman knows, I think. I talk to him a lot now, because I know the Bangerz will take him soon. He's gotten careless; he's lost the will to lie. Perhaps he remembers too much. "I suppose someone has to know," he tells me. We're at Thicke's Place, at a table in the back.
"The Coliseum -- we used to call it US Airways Center -- it's where her forcez first landed. February 27, 2014 . . . Day 1, AMC. The press told us we were overreacting. They thought people were sublimating all their discontentz with contemporary pop culture into an exaggerated distaste for one huge pop star.
"Sure, it sounded magnanimous then. It soundz good to say that people should complain about the conditionz that lead to Miley Cyrus, and not just Miley herself. Fat lot of good it did them, though. First against the wall when she deposed the mayor."
He starts to speak again, but then his eyes go wide and he bites down hard on his tongue. Blood mixes with glitter as it streaks down his chin. The Bangerz are here, but we can't stop. -- Dan Moore
Find any show in the Valley via our online concert calendar.
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