The 30 Best Concerts in Phoenix in February 2017

AFI is scheduled to perform on Friday, February 17, at Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
AFI is scheduled to perform on Friday, February 17, at Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Jiro Schneider
Okay, folks, enough’s enough. You’ve all spent entirely too much time lately scrolling through your social media feeds for the latest dose of horrible news du jour. Seriously.

While we appreciate the need to stay well informed, especially right now, y’all could definitely benefit from taking a breather for a bit, if for no other reason than to keep some modicum of sanity in these utterly insane times. It also might do you some good to get away from your computer, get outside for a bit, or even attend a show.

And there are definitely plenty of great shows happening this month. And that's not an "alternative fact," but is the actual goldurned truth, as evidenced by the following rundown of the biggest and best concerts happening in Phoenix in February. (As always, our online concert calendar features tons of additional gigs and live events.)

Take a look.

click to enlarge Singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart. - OSK STUDIOS
Singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart.
OSK Studios
Devendra Banhart – Wednesday, February 1 – Crescent Ballroom
Who says busking doesn’t pay? Maybe Devendra Banhart. The beardy folk singer/songwriter tried it back in the ’90s, during his art school days in San Francisco before he dropped out and headed to France seeking some more exciting musical pastures. That choice seemed to work out better, as he got some gigs with indie superstar acts like Sonic Youth and began dazzling Euro rock fans with his neo-psych lyrical poetry. When Michael Gira of longtime noise band the Swans got ahold of Banhart’s music, he didn’t waste time signing them to his Young Gods label, known for keeping a roster of artists who keep their diverse sonic creations off the beaten path. Several albums later, Banhart recently dropped Ape in Pink Marble. This new release’s 13 songs have him continuing to put the freak in the freak-folk sound that rightfully describes his style. His breathy fluidity and vibrato easily channel ’60s folk singers like Donovan and Nick Drake. But even though you can feel that era’s folk fairy dust sprinkled throughout, Banhart’s sound doesn’t commit wholeheartedly to the period. He blends an apparent love of the music of world cultures along with some good old punk-rock snarl that gives his neo-hippie self a bit of a serrated edge. AMY YOUNG

click to enlarge Steve Aoki - COURTESY OF MSOPR
Steve Aoki
Courtesy of MSOPR
Coors Light Birds Nest – Wednesday, February 1, to Saturday, February 4 – TPC Scottsdale
To some Phoenicians (no offense Scottsdalites, Glendalaroos, Mesans, and Chandlers), the Birds Nest at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is probably one of Dante’s nine levels of hell. To others, it’s heaven. Regardless of your thoughts, this year’s lineup has a little something for everyone, especially if you like beautiful drunk people, expensive drinks, and a combination of style, substance, and joke rock. Jake Owen headlines the first show of the four-night affair that begins on Wednesday, February 1, and the Florida native country singer who looks like a cross between Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey and Bob McGrath of Sesame Street will undoubtedly kick things off in some semblance of style. The next night, Toby Keith and the Band Perry give fans another dose of new country music. Keith, who is pretty popular in the greater Phoenix area, will make a few funny comments between songs about golf, and all will be well. On Friday, Flo Rida and Kaskade bring a little urban and youth culture to the Bird’s Nest, and everybody is going to get all freaky before the big finale on Saturday with Blink 182 and super-duper DJ Steve Aoki. Saturday may be a level of hell all by itself. Good luck to those with the stones or stupidity to brave this freak show. TOM REARDON

Courtesy of Ariana Grande
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

click to enlarge The members of Bright Light Social Hour. - NICOLE FARA SILVER
The members of Bright Light Social Hour.
Nicole Fara Silver
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

Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Saturday, February 4 – Talking Stick Resort
This far into his 20-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

click to enlarge Gethen Jenkins - ERIN COLLINS
Gethen Jenkins
Erin Collins
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

click to enlarge Melina Ausikaitis, Theo Katsaounis, Tim Kinsella, and Bobby Burg of Joan of Arc. - CHRIS STRONG
Melina Ausikaitis, Theo Katsaounis, Tim Kinsella, and Bobby Burg of Joan of Arc.
Chris Strong
Joan of Arc – Monday, February 6 – Valley Bar
Joan of Arc may be one of the most pretentious bands in existence, but it also puts on a kick-ass live show. The group doesn't come off its throne above the city of Chicago often, but when it does, it almost always ends up snagging a few converts along the way. Nearly every one of its songs relies heavily on noodling guitars that eventually collapse into epic power chords before completely falling apart into a noisy mess, while singer Tim Kinsella makes the postmodern rounds, tapping into the psyche of Gertrude Stein or Samuel Beckett at any given moment to deliver lyrics that don't make a lick of sense. As long as you can get past all of that, Joan of Arc is an incredible live band that will definitely leave you asking for more — even if you don't know what you want more of, exactly. THORIN KLOSOWSKI

click to enlarge Young the Giant - COURTESY OF BIG HASSLE
Young the Giant
Courtesy of Big Hassle
Young the Giant – Tuesday, February 7 – Marquee Theatre
Alt-rock band Young the Giant are currently touring in support of their excellent third album, Home of the Strange, and its content couldn’t be any more timely. The lyrics in the new material deal with singer Sameer Gadhia’s Indian heritage and American identity — a little bit of enlightenment that the country perhaps needs in the midst of this most insane political climate. Home of the Strange is also the band’s second album for the Fueled by Ramen label, a onetime underground-rock subsidiary of Warner Music Group, after putting out its self-titled debut on metal label Roadrunner. Tracks like “Amerika” and “Something to Believe In” suggest that the band has found its edgy, emotive groove. BRETT CALLWOOD

Austra – Tuesday, February 7 – Valley Bar
Katie Stelmanis, the songwriter behind the Canadian electronic group Austra, does not see the band’s latest release, Future Politics, resonating with the public as a good thing. “People have been grateful that the album exists,” she explains. “I never sought to make a political record to teach people something. I think that because the album is ultimately an emotional response to everything that is happening in the world, people are really connecting with it.” You can hear some of those ideas in the single “Utopia.” In the second verse of the dance anthem, Stelmanid elegantly sings, “My work is valid/I can prove it but I know/A woman screams/She’s looking for meaning.” Our phone conversation takes place days after women marched around the world to fight the fear that the newly elected president will encroach on their rights and values. The album, released on Inauguration Day, might not have elicited the same reaction had it been released a year ago. Future Politics wasn’t inspired by the dark dystopia where crime and poverty run rampant frequently described by President Donald Trump in his speeches. It was a reaction to books that gave Stelmanis the idea of a future where the finite world isn’t obsessed with infinite growth. In her vision, society creates technology that works to combat climate change and the greed that is synonymous with capitalism. JASON KEIL

click to enlarge The members of You Blew It! - KAYLA SURICO
The members of You Blew It!
Kayla Surico
You Blew It! – Wednesday, February 8 – The Rebel Lounge
We live in the era of the unexpected, an age where spray-tanned reality stars can become president, where legends like Bowie and Prince can die a few months apart, where surprise album releases spring up from nowhere like mushrooms shooting out of the soil after a rainstorm. And in this time of unexpected developments, who could have predicted the second coming of emo? Dance nights dedicated to the genre are flourishing across America, and bands like Into It. Over It., The World is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, Modern Baseball, and Orlando’s You Blew It! are picking up the tear-stained torch of their angsty forefathers. Here’s where things get really surprising: Most of the emo revival has been great. You can hear the melancholy guitar sounds of the emo revival firsthand when You Blew It! swings by the Rebel Lounge with All Get Out and Free Throw. You Blew It! are one of the most accessible bands in the nu-emo (they put out an EP of Weezer covers, so they’re not afraid to get their pop on). If you like anathemic, heart-on-sleeve, tears-in-my-craft-beer music, these sad bastards have got the goods. ASHLEY NAFTULE

Mayhem – Wednesday, February 8 – Club Red
The Norwegian black-metal band Mayhem has created some of the most memorable music ever to seep up from the underground. The act will play its seminal debut album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, in full during this stop at Club Red in Mesa, supported by fellow black-metal acts Inquisition and Black Anvil. The 1994 album, hailed as one of the most influential works in the genre, includes vocalist Per “Dead” Ohlin, who committed suicide in 1991, and guitarist Euronymous, who was murdered in 1993 by Varg Vikernes of the band Burzum. The current slate of musicians in Mayhem — Necrobutcher, Hellhammer, Attila Csihar, Teloch, and Ghul — played the album in its entirety at Swedish music festivals in 2015. The idea of bringing the masterpiece to live audiences in North America seemed “natural,” according to guitarist Teloch. JUSTIN CRIADO

click to enlarge Dashboard Confessional performs in the Valley last year. - JIM LOUVAU
Dashboard Confessional performs in the Valley last year.
Jim Louvau
Dashboard Confessional – Wednesday, February 8 – Marquee Theatre
If music genres could be classified as seasons, emo would be winter. It’s music for broken hearts, which means cold hearts and cold colors. Emo fans huddle together and scream the lyrics back to the band on stage because they’re trying to keep warm, metaphorically speaking, by finding that passion in the broken-hearted. At least that’s how it used to be anyway. Sure, there are plenty of modern emo acts doing their thing right now, reaching deep down into those ugly emotions, but these days, going to an emo show is not entirely unlike going to see one of the many classic-rock touring shows that hit town on a regular basis. Sure, the bands are younger, but the spirit is the same: traveling back in time via the magic of nostalgia. And there’s a lot of nostalgia to be had at a Dashboard Confessional show. For proof, look no further than the setlists on their current tour, which include such favorites from the DC discography as "Don't Wait,” “Hands Down,” “Stolen,” “Vindicated,” and “The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most.” Time travel doesn’t exist, insofar as we know, but a performance by Dashboard Confessional comes close. Step into the Marquee Theatre, and take a trip back to a world before smartphones and YouTube, to a magical time known as 2002, and prepare to relive all the awkward emotions that came with being a young music fan. Don’t try and deny it: You still, to this day, know all the words to “Screaming Infidelities” and “Cute Without the ‘E’.” CORY GARCIA

Alcest – Thursday, February 9 – Club Red
During the early stages of their development, France's Alcest traveled down the left-hand path of pure black metal. As they evolved, band leader Neige (who on some of the albums in their discography, including 2012’s Les Voyages de l'Ame, plays everything but drums) steered the band into fashioning shoegaze-infused, post-rock dreamscapes. Alcest make their ambition work by underpinning their dreamy harmonies with momentary flashes of black metal. Neige mostly maintains a dulcet tone with his vocals and guitar work but will pepper his songs with black metal cries. Winterhalter, the other member of Alcest, keeps a mostly midtempo beat on drums but will occasionally break into blazing metallic outbursts (though never resorting to unnecessary blast beats). The band has perfected a balancing act that is the musical equivalent of a hypnotist who momentarily lulls you into mentally being on another plane but pulls you back into reality at the last second before you are lost forever. CLINT MAYHER

Valley native Lindsey Sterling returns home. - JIM LOUVAU
Valley native Lindsey Sterling returns home.
Jim Louvau
Lindsey Stirling – Friday, February 10 – Livewire
Part Riverdance, part steampunk, part Paganini, part Skrillex — there’s no one really quite like Lindsey Stirling, the Gilbert native whose first exposure to the masses came on America’s Got Talent in 2010 when Piers Morgan told her “she wasn’t good enough” to win the show. But unlike the rest of her AGT peers, Stirling actually has built a career for herself, and though her stage show is more like a Las Vegas act than a traditional concert, she’s still carved out a niche for herself with her mostly instrumental music, which mixes her dexterous violin playing with electronic dance-inspired beats. Stirling, now 30, just released her third studio album, Brave Enough, in August, and she shows no signs of slowing down. DAVID ACCOMAZZO
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