The 25 Best Concerts in Phoenix This February

Lana Del Ray is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, February 13, at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Lana Del Ray is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, February 13, at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Neil Krug
Love checking out live music in Phoenix? Then consider February’s packed concert calendar a Valentine of sorts. And it’s addressed to you.

It’s brimming with big shows and performances by famous names and living legends alike, including Robert Plant, Lana Del Ray, Bruce Cockburn, Miranda Lambert, Kid Koala, Fetty Wap, and They Might Be Giants.

February is also the unofficial beginning to the spring music festival season, kicking off with the annual Crush Arizona EDM event at Rawhide.

There’s also a lot more happening around the Valley when it comes to concerts. Don’t believe us? Then check out the following list of the 25 best shows happening in February or hit up Phoenix New Times’ online concert calendar.

Thursday, February 1
The Van Buren

If you think that you haven’t heard a song by STRFKR, there’s a good chance you’re wrong. The electronic pop band’s 2008 banger “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” has been used in everything from Target pharmacy commercials to episodes of The Blacklist and Weeds. Besides commercial appeal, the band has had a reliable 10-year track record of creating solid albums full of light, synth-filled rock.

And they’ve been looking back on the early STRFKR days.

Last year, the band released roundups of rare and unheard tracks as small collections dubbed Vault Vol. 1, Vault Vol. 2, and Vault Vol. 3. The old tracks were allegedly saved from songwriter Josh Hodges’ ailing computer and date back as early as 2007. Now, they’re taking it all on the road. Lindsay Roberts

click to enlarge Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit. - COURTESY OF SACKS & CO.
Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit.
Courtesy of Sacks & Co.
Passion Pit
Friday, February 2
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

Like many bedroom-recording success stories of the past decade, Passion Pit began in 2007 as Michael Angelakos’s unknown, one-off musical project. But the songs he created for a college girlfriend became the EP Chunk of Change, which led to shows, a record deal, and the formation of a full band. Evolving from laptop beats and the childish, chorus-of-voices approach that MGMT made famous, Passion Pit went on to produce commercial-friendly alterna-pop for the masses.

Through a rotating cast of instrumentalists, the act has always remained Angelakos’s affair: He’s the principal songwriter and composer of everything that is Passion Pit. A few years ago, the musician went public with his battle with mental illness, but that action only seemed to strengthen his fan base. Bree Davies

click to enlarge Eric San, better known as Kid Koala. - COURTESY OF BILLIONS
Eric San, better known as Kid Koala.
Courtesy of Billions
Kid Koala
Friday, February 2, to Monday, February 5
Musical Instrument Museum

Nufonia Must Fall was turntablist Kid Koala's 2003 dialogue-free graphic novel that told the story of a headphones-wearing robot that falls in love with an office girl. In 2016, the Montreal DJ brought his vision to life with help from a dozen artists and technicians, led by Oscar-nominated production designer K.K. Barrett (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Lost in Translation, I Heart Huckabees, Her). It's now a touring production, which will spend four nights at the MIM in early February. Puppets are projected on a screen as they re-create each scene from the book on miniature sets. Kid Koala performs a live score along with a classical quartet. Siran Babayan

The Octopus Project: eight arms and plenty of imagination. - MADELINE ALLEN
The Octopus Project: eight arms and plenty of imagination.
Madeline Allen
The Octopus Project
Saturday, February 3
The Rebel Lounge

Theremins, video games, and film scores — Austin’s the Octopus Project have many projects. A sci-fi quartet of multi-instrumentalists, the band have been releasing a steady string of inventive and hyperactive albums since forming in 1999. The band has become so good at producing their iconic sound that they’re in demand as film and video game composers.

It’s not surprising that they’re sought-after composers. The Octopus Project make music that’s highly visual. Using a mix of electronic and analog equipment, they blur together drum machines, guitars, percussion, keyboard, synths, and theremins to create a sound that’s as pixelated and manic as an old-school arcade game. Yvonne Lambert’s theremin playing is one of the band’s signatures. She uses her instrument’s wobbly UFO sounds to add a kitschy and retro element to the band’s energetic, Devo-inspired songs.

The Octopus Project are also known for putting on sensory overload inducing live shows. Psychedelic lights and projections of original video art and clips from old movies like I Am Cuba take the audience on a disorienting journey through the band’s kaleidoscopic music. Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge Ben Gallaty (left) and Sean Bonnette of AJJ. - ERICA LAUREN
Ben Gallaty (left) and Sean Bonnette of AJJ.
Erica Lauren
Desert Trash Party feat. AJJ
Saturday, February 3
The Van Buren

Folk-punk band AJJ will return to Phoenix on Saturday, February 3, to present Desert Trash, a party they curated that features a lineup full of “friends and heroes.” This multimedia event will be hosted by Kevin McDonald of Kids in the Hall fame. Turns out the legendary sketch comedian is a fan of the band, who came up playing the Trunk Space, and sent them a fan letter last year.

Desert Trash's roster of bands predominately comprises Arizona acts. AJJ will share the stage with Xiu Xiu (solo), Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, Chris Farren, Karima Walker, and Sundressed. The list of bands is still being finalized and more acts will be added soon. But we do know that AJJ will perform with the band's lineup, and as the original duo of Bonnette and Ben Gallaty.

In addition to the music and comedy, the party will feature exhibitions curated by local artist J.J. Horner presented throughout the venue, a live screen-printing demonstration from Tucson’s Tanline Printing, and a pop-up skate park courtesy of the folks from Valley-based Cowtown Skateboards. Amy Young

click to enlarge The members of Walk the Moon. - BRIAN ZIFF
The members of Walk the Moon.
Brian Ziff
Walk the Moon
Wednesday, February 7
The Van Buren

Cincinnati pop-rock group Walk The Moon is using this year's Press Restart Tour to do just that: restart and enter a new phase of their existence as a band. The band has been out of the limelight for the last two years as frontman Nicholas Petricca cared for his ailing father.

Walk the Moon’s new album reflects those shifted priorities; it dials the energy back a bit and offers more contemplative lyrics. Even so, the band tore through an appearance on Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve, revving up the crowd and sporting its trademark war paint. Walk the Moon also has big plans for this tour, including a collaboration with creative content maker FragmentNine, which has provided a live-action spaceship and laser lights to the show. Jeff Strowe

click to enlarge Metal band Sabaton. - SEVERIN SCHWEIGER
Metal band Sabaton.
Severin Schweiger
Thursday, February 8
The Van Buren

When a band is named after a knight’s foot armor, you can probably bet on two things: It’s either a power metal band, or Swedish. Enter Sabaton. Lyrical content focused on war (particularly WWI and WWII) and historical battles make up the majority of the band’s music. Seven of the band's albums are all about these themes, while the final tracks pay tribute to legendary and influential metal bands.

So it makes sense that, in 2012, almost all the members left to form a band called Civil War, leaving vocalist Joakim Broden and bassist Par Sundstrom to recruit new members for their heavy international tour gigs. The band is still loved worldwide though, and they host an Open Air Sabaton festival, as well as a Sabaton cruise. Lauren Wise

click to enlarge British-born dream pop singer Dua Lipa. - MARKUS PRITZI
British-born dream pop singer Dua Lipa.
Markus Pritzi
Dua Lipa
Friday, February 9
The Van Buren

Dua Lipa has a whirlwind year in 2017. The 22-year-old U.K. pop singer released her debut, self-titled album and instantly saw breakout success with the single “New Rules,” which sailed to No. 1 in the United Kingdom, helping her finish the year as Spotify's most-streamed female artist from the U.K. Stateside, “New Rules” caught fire on YouTube, and American audiences are starting to get hip to the singer’s superstar prowess.

This year is shaping up to be huge for Lipa; she’s teamed up with high-profile producers such as Jack Antonoff, Diplo and Chris Martin and is rumored to have a duet with Ariana Grande on the way. Couple that with recent news that she is the first female artist to receive five Brit Awards nominations— for best album, best female artist, best video, best single, and breakthrough artist of the year — and it looks like 2018 will be just as great. Mikel Galicia

click to enlarge "Trap Queen" rapper Fetty Wap performs in Phoenix in 2016. - MELINA DELLAMARGGIO
"Trap Queen" rapper Fetty Wap performs in Phoenix in 2016.
Melina Dellamarggio
Fetty Wap
Friday, February 9
Marquee Theatre

“Overnight success” has been the constant narrative of New Jersey rapper Fetty Wap’s rise to fame. But more than three years after his megahit “Trap Queen” bounced from SoundCloud to the Billboard charts, the glitter-voiced singer-rapper is no longer new to the game.

He’s already shared the stage with Kanye, collaborated with Drake and toured with Chris Brown — but it’s his own Remy Boyz with whom he’s most proud to share the spotlight. The “1738” crew is currently out on the road with the star helping to create the vibe of camaraderie and hometown street cred expressed in his music.

Off-kilter yet melodious and catchy, Fetty’s unique style of warbling has turned the notion of a club banger on its head while ruling the charts with four singles simultaneously — hardly a career move reserved for newcomers. Bree Davies

click to enlarge The members of Blitzen Trapper. - TYLER KOHLHOFF
The members of Blitzen Trapper.
Tyler Kohlhoff
Blitzen Trapper
Saturday, February 10
The Rebel Lounge

It’s been over a decade since Blitzen Trapper’s breakout album Wild Mountain Nation blew the mustaches off half the country’s hipsters and turned them on to the world of experimental folk/country. The self-released album produced a Top 100 hit and garnered high-ranking reviews from Allmusic, PopMatters and Pitchfork, a virtually unheard-of consensus.

Once Sub Pop picked up the Portland-based band, the deal was sealed, and Blitzen Trapper secured its place at the top of the alt-folk heap. The latest offering, last year’s Wild and Reckless, checks all of the genre’s boxes and is bound to rank up there with the group’s most lauded records when all is said and done.

In a live setting, Blitzen Trapper manages to sound like a much larger ensemble than the five-piece it is. Their upcoming show at The Rebel Lounge will probably be one of the best country-infused concerts you’ll see this year, hands down. Oakland L. Childers

click to enlarge Lana Del Rey is due in the Valley in February. - NEIL KRUG
Lana Del Rey is due in the Valley in February.
Neil Krug
Lana Del Rey
Tuesday, February 13
Talking Stick Resort Arena

Lana Del Rey is embarking on an arena tour — a major step for a singer-songwriter who’s been pilloried for her live performances ever since her entry into pop music. Yet Del Rey has not swerved from her gloomy, cinematic vision; it’s the audience that has come around to her talents.

Her biggest breaks into the charts may be the 2013 remix of “Summertime Sadness” and her contribution to the Great Gatsby soundtrack, “Young and Beautiful,” but those songs are defined by a soaring contralto voice and glamorous death drive — which are all Del Rey.

With Lust for Life, her latest album, Del Rey officially moved from cult favorite to year-end best-of lists, garnering a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. Del Rey will bring her chilly-beach-bingo aesthetic to her new L.A. to the Moon tour, where fans can expect a stripped-down style that resists pop-star expectations. Katie Moulton

click to enlarge Legendary singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn. - BOB DORAN/CC BY 2.0/VIA FLICKR
Legendary singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn.
Bruce Cockburn
Tuesday, February 13
Marquee Theatre in Tempe

Bruce Cockburn has to be the most hot-and-cold songwriter operating today. On one hand, there are songs about sunrises, horses running across golden plains, the mysteries of life, and spiritual awakening. And on the other, Cockburn fires off songs about narco-politics, human rights, religious flaws, and environmental degradation, offering such poignant lyrics as "If I had a rocket launcher, some son of a bitch would die."

He is not a man to hold back his feelings, ideas, and thoughts — no matter how unpopular or unusual. In fact, lyrics have always been Cockburn's strong suit, consistently offering striking visual images, thought-provoking nuance, and pointed allegory. His words have drawn the ire of politicos, church leaders, and right-wing leaners and praise from environmentalists, fellow musicians, the hippie set, and those just after a damn good song.

Musically, Cockburn typically meanders though loosely assembled styles and genres that call on Irish brogues, Native American spirits, Middle Eastern Sufis, Southern blues, American folk roots, and idiosyncratic jazz. Cockburn's arrangements are creative and cunning, shifting from numbers interspersed with carefully placed instrumentation or backup vocals and harmonies to stripped-down, barren, and raw orchestrations. He can rock as hard as The Who, shuffle at a whisper, or take on laid-back folk instrumentals à la Leo Kottke. Glenn BurnSilver
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.
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