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NJOMZA is scheduled to perform on Saturday, February 23, at The Rebel Lounge.EXPAND
NJOMZA is scheduled to perform on Saturday, February 23, at The Rebel Lounge.
Courtesy of Ticketfly

The 10 Best Concerts in Phoenix This Weekend

It's the final weekend of February and the Valley’s concert calendar couldn’t be busier. The 72-hour span from Friday, February 22, to Sunday, February 24, is filled with festivals, big gigs, DJ sessions, and memorable shows aplenty, including the following 10 music events worth checking out.

Buzz-worthy rap artists such as Vic Mensa, Trippie Redd, Noname, and hip-hop artists Injury Reserve are all scheduled to perform this weekend, as will up-and-coming pop star NJOMZA, psychedelic cumbia band Tropica Magica, and popular EDM act Manic Focus.

Details about each of these shows can be found below in our list of the best shows happening in the Valley this weekend. And for even more live music happening around the Valley, hit up Phoenix New Times' online concert calendar.

New Orleans roots-rock group The Subdudes.EXPAND
New Orleans roots-rock group The Subdudes.
Courtesy of The Roots Agency

The Subdudes
Friday, February 22
The Rhythm Room

The Subdudes may not be among the New Orleans musical legends the average Joe could immediately name. But examine the band's track record, which stretches back three decades, and its seamless blend of riveting rock ‘n’ roll, nimble rhythms, and sinewy roots. It's clear the Subdudes have earned their standing as one of the Crescent City's best and brightest. For starters, it takes a certain amount of panache to take a scenario as awful as Hurricane Katrina and translate it into the most basic human terms. On the band's 2007 album, Street Symphony — their first after that devastating debacle — the Subdudes did just that, employing their uniquely Southern style and smooth grooves to convey vivid tales filled with resilience and determination. The result was a series of insightful yet engaging narratives that spun tragedy into triumph. Yet for all that reflection, the Subdudes' sound still conveys an innate sense of celebration. And that's the main reason the Subdudes remain the cool dudes they are. Lee Zimmerman

Fatimah Nyeema Warner, better known as Noname.EXPAND
Fatimah Nyeema Warner, better known as Noname.
Chantal Anderson

Noname
Friday, February 22
The Van Buren

When Chicago rapper Noname dropped her mixtape Telefone in 2016, the response to her stream-of-consciousness raps was immediate. Many were first exposed to her in 2013 when she featured on the track “lost” off Chance the Rapper’s acclaimed mixtape Acid Rap. Last year, her debut album, Room 25, displayed her changing world for all to see. The quick-witted, rapid-fire verses from Telefone remain, but Room 25 adds more introspection laced atop jazzy percussion and soulful strings. she’s also touring and releasing music without the backing of a label, remaining an independent artist. Julian Hernandez


Trippie Redd
Friday, February 22
The Pressroom

Sad-boy rap is here to stay. When Trippie Redd dropped his single “Love Scars” in 2016, the emo rap movement was just starting to climb out from SoundCloud bedroom plays and into the mainstream. In 2018, after gracing the cover of the XXL Freshman Class issue, he released his debut studio album, Life’s A Trip. On “How You Feel,” he pours his heart out over a guitar sample from the 1978 Eddie Money rock ballad “Baby Hold On.” Trippie Redd has visited Phoenix many times in the last year, but this will be the first show where he’ll be headlining. Julian Hernandez

Vic MensaEXPAND
Vic Mensa
Jake Osmun

Vic Mensa and Injury Reserve
Friday, February 22
Coca-Cola Sun Deck at Sun Devil Stadium

Few things in modern music are more satisfying than a good come-up story. The mixture of luck and skill that empower the rise to glory out of monotony, tragedy, or circumstance is a powerful aphrodisiac. And on February 22, the ASU 365 Community Union draws our attention to two particularly enticing cases on stage at the Sun Devil Stadium: Chicago MC Vic Mensa and the Arizona-born Injury Reserve.

Mensa’s releases on Roc Nation have proved the young artist’s ability and willingness to take the city on his shoulders apart from his endorsements. “16 Shots” reflected on the death of Laquan McDonald at the hands of the Chicago police in October 2014. “Rage” is an inspiring track reflecting on the universally dark times of doubt we live in with Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gently” mantra in tow. Even before the memoir format of his full-length debut, The Autobiography, Mensa proved himself to be a thoughtful and introspective commentator on the difficult, thorny plot of progress.

Joining Mensa on stage will be a group with a very different struggle to the spotlight. Getting their start in Tempe back in 2014, Injury Reserve lived in a city that did little to reciprocate their vision. On 2015 debut mixtape Live at the Dentist’s Office, tracks like “Friday Night” and “Washed Up” paint a bleak portrait of a city offering hardly anything in terms of inspiration or opportunity. But a strong critical endorsement put the album on many a radar outside the city. Gerrit Feenstra

John “JmaC” McCarten of Manic Focus.EXPAND
John “JmaC” McCarten of Manic Focus.
Courtesy of Manic Focus

Manic Focus
Saturday, February 23
Shady Park in Tempe

John “JmaC” McCarten has had an enviable career as a DJ thus far. Under the banner of his popular electronica act Manic Focus, he’s created intoxicating and utterly listenable electronica that features live instrumentation and a pastiche of funk, hip-hop, and bass sounds, as well as plenty of grooves and verve. It’s earned McCarten plenty of praise in recent years, not to mention scores of fans and support from such high-profile artists as Pretty Lights, Gramatik, and Zeds Dead. He’s also collaborated with cats like Big Gigantic and released an album (2014’s Cerebral Eclipse) on GRiZ’s label.

Besides helping propel Manic Focus into the EDM stratosphere, McCarten’s music has also played a more important role: helping him deal with being bipolar. As he told Forbes last year, crafting tracks has been a cathartic experience of sorts. “My music and the community surrounding it has been an outlet of expression, love and support as well,” McCarten says. And whenever he gets behind the mixers, like he’ll do this weekend at Tempe’s Shady Park, it can sometimes be an experience wrought with emotion, ranging from exhilaration to anxiousness.

“Onstage depression, for me, often turns into horrible anxiety,” McCarten told Forbes. “I pray that my fans recognize what I’m going through while I try to bring them joy with my music, and I think for the most part they do. I try to lead by example that no matter how intense things gets, it is possible to power through moments of challenging mental tribulations. When this does happen, I usually feel better once I’m off stage.” So when McCarten brings Manic Focus to Shady Park, on Saturday, February 23, it’s likely to be an epic and emotion-filled journey.

The gig will feature support from two equally talented EDM acts, electro-funk and future rock producer Marvel Years and ethnomusicologist/electronica artist Balkan Bump, both of whom utilize live instrumentation and have earned rock star status in the dance music scene in recent years. Performances start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $25. Benjamin Leatherman


Tropa Magica
Saturday, February 23
Last Exit Live

When the focus on psychedelic rock was aimed at the United States and United Kingdom in the late 1960s, the world overlooked the experimentation and music in the genre coming from Latin America. The East Los Angeles rockers Tropa Magica pay homage to the line of psychedelic cumbia before them and tap into the surf rock sounds of their native California. After performing under their old name of Thee Commons for many years, the band sets out with a revamped purpose of bringing what they call “psychedelic cumbia punk” to everyone. Julian Hernandez

Burgeoning EDM superstar Crizzly.EXPAND
Burgeoning EDM superstar Crizzly.
Courtesy of Circle Talent Agency

Crizzly
Saturday, February 23
Aura Nightclub in Tempe

When Texas native Chris Marshall first decided to try his hand at music, it was from behind his computer keyboard. “I was a nerd, just to be straight up,” Marshall says. “Whenever I was home from school, I’d just be online all day, looking up music. I fell in love with dance music because it was newer; it was really fresh. And that’s how I met a bunch of people on Myspace and started connecting.”

By the time he graduated high school, he was throwing his own raves. But it wasn’t until 2010 that he started focusing on music production. He developed a signature style known as “crunkstep” that blended dubstep, trap and several other genres, and began releasing music under the name Crizzly.

Since then, Marshall’s star has been steadily on the rise. He’s played countless festivals, crisscrossed the globe, and released several popular tracks (including “All Black Everything,” “Ice On My Grill,” and “Ima Go Hard”). This weekend, he’ll take over Aura Nightclub in Tempe and give the sound system at the Mill Avenue spot a major workout. Molly Mollotova

Banana Gun will be performing at the Unity Kickoff Festival.
Banana Gun will be performing at the Unity Kickoff Festival.
Julie Breslin

Humdinger Festival
Saturday, February 23
Mesa Amphitheatre

In a city filled with so much talent, where is the all-local-bands music festival? The city of Mesa, Danny Zelisko Presents, and Stateside Presents have put together a small, all-Arizona music festival to highlight the local music scenes. (Full disclosure: Phoenix New Times is also involved.) The ongoing event will feature acts and artists from across the Valley performing at the Mesa Amphitheatre each month from now until June. The lineup for the first edition leans toward rock overall, but bands like Fairy Bones and Banana Gun bring different takes that will keep the festival fresh. The Pistoleros, Michael Nitro, Wyves, Sara Robinson Band, Bear Ghost, Jim Bachmann, and The Runner Up Band are also scheduled to perform. Julian Hernandez

NJOMZA, co-writer of "7 Rings" and "thank u, next."EXPAND
NJOMZA, co-writer of "7 Rings" and "thank u, next."
Since The 80s

NJOMZA
Saturday, February 23
The Rebel Lounge

If you aren’t yet familiar, Njomza Vitia is one of pop’s best-kept secrets, writing for Ariana Grande and singing on tracks for Mac Miller and Skrillex, among many others. But this year, it’s time for the singer and songwriter to finally make a name for herself, and she’s doing so on her first-ever North American headline run in support of new release, Vacation.

NJOMZA spent the middle part of the decade amassing a sizable musical footprint. Prior to her move to L.A., Vitia landed on records with Midwest rappers like Dizzy Wright and left-field electronic acts like Tennyson and Two Fresh. Living in Chicago put her in touch with SaveMoney, the Chicago hip-hop collective at one time encompassing Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, Joey Purp, and Towkio, on whose 2018 LP WWW. Vitia would make an appearance. Perhaps the most important connection Vitia made early was with Mac Miller, who put down a guest verse on her early mixtape Gold Lion. Later, Miller signed NJOMZA to his own Remember Music label after she appeared on The Divine Feminine track “Planet God Damn.” NJOMZA’s 2017 EP, Sad For You, marked the label’s first release.

On Sad For You, years of proximity and guest status for NJOMZA finally gave way to a relatable and infectious pop voice. The lead single presented NJOMZA as a standalone character, not a stranger to heartbreak, but facing it with a wry indifference that the listener can’t help but aspire to. Here, NJOMZA’s effervescent voice was given flesh and blood, and a shock pink wig to boot. Plus, the production list feels like the culmination of years of networking. Half of the record is produced by Tommy Brown and Mike Foster, who both worked extensively on Ariana’s Dangerous Woman. Meanwhile, “Hear Me” is handled by Papi Beatz, who also produced most of Vic Mensa’s excellent debut EP There’s A Lot Going On. Gerrit Feenstra

Arizona native R. Carlos Nakai.EXPAND
Arizona native R. Carlos Nakai.
Courtesy of Herschel Freeman Agency

R. Carlos Nakai Quartet
Saturday, February 23, and Sunday, February 24
Musical Instrument Museum

Flagstaff-born musician R. Carlos Nakai is quite singular among Arizona’s most famous musician for any number of reasons. First off, the traditional Native American flautist’s music has been archived in the Library of Congress (via its American Folklife Center). Plus, he’s also collaborated with such esteemed figures as composer Philip Glass and Israeli cellist Udi Bar-David. Nakai, who is of Navajo-Ute heritage, has also been featured in the 2005 Terrence Malick film The New World and he has scored both a gold and platinum record (respectively, 1987's Earth Spirit and 1989's Canyon Trilogy), the only Native American-oriented albums to achieve such a distinction. This weekend, he’ll perform with his namesake quartet during a two-night stint at the Musical Instrument Museum. Benjamin Leatherman

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