AJJ & Joyce Manor – Friday, February 26 – Crescent Ballroom
In case you haven’t heard the news, the members of Phoenix-born folk-punk ensemble Andrew Jackson Jihad announced earlier this week they’re shortening the band’s name to simply “AJJ” after 12 years of using their erstwhile moniker. According to a message posted to its Facebook on Wednesday, the decision stemmed from a desire to stop being a “living reminder” of the repugnant ex-president (who rivals Donald Trump in terms of odiousness) and to cease co-opting the politically and emotionally charged Muslim term.
So be sure to avoid invoking AJJ’s former name if you plan on attending the conclusion of its two-night homecoming at the Crescent Ballroom on Friday, during which they’ll share the stage with the punks of Joyce Manor and local desert pop band Diners. AJJ will likely perform its newly release track "Now That I'm at the Top of my Game,” which also debuted earlier this week. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Fetty Wap - Friday, February 26 - Marquee Theatre
To fully understand Fetty Wap you have to fully understand how quickly he rose to fame. In 2004, he was just a guy named Willie Maxwell with one child and another on the way. Another artist looking for a niche in the increasingly competitive New York rap scene. His song “Trap Queen” had been out for a little less than a month. Nobody outside of small sects in Paterson and on the East Coast believed it would be a massive smash single. At best, it was Fetty Wap experimenting with singing on a song with a bit of a Haitian drawl.
About 12 months later, “Trap Queen” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The video has been seen more than 80 million times on YouTube. It has come to a point where Fetty Wap is in demand. As in, Fetty Wap being at the MTV Movie Awards is a news story and he’s being compared to Future as one of the greatest love singers we’ve ever been blessed with. Now, we can't joke about what the hell a Fetty Wap is. He’s intriguing on a human level because he lost his eye via glaucoma, has the power to grow dreadlocks in mere months and has had his entire career transformed by the power of “Trap Queen." BRANDON CALDWELL
The Mavericks - Saturday, February 27 - Talking Stick
There’s a certain irony that has always tailed any talk about the Mavericks. For one thing, they’re a country band of sorts that was birthed in Miami, hardly the most prolific place when it comes to fostering Americana. For another thing, they boast a Latin lead singer whose early heroes included Roy Orbison, Elvis, and Johnny Cash and whose singing style emulates them to the point of perfection. And then there’s the fact that while, yeah, they wear cowboy hats and wisely relocated themselves to Nashville, the band never neatly fit into the country genre. Elements of pop, rock, and Lain music were regularly integrated into the band's sound, making the Mavericks somewhat difficult to categorize, especially as far as the overall music industry was concerned. “We never got picked up by the mainstream country market,” singer Raul Malo told me earlier this year. “Of course, you can argue that we never were a part of it. The crowd that listens to country isn’t going to listen to us...We’re making music with no guidelines, no parameters. That’s kind of how we approach making these records, and it’s an interesting turn of events, especially in my life...it’s a lot of fun.”
Megadeth - Saturday, February 27 - Comerica Theatre
Megadeth has gone through more than its fair share of bandmembers. Its main man, Dave Mustaine, is probably not the easiest man in the world to work with or for, but he’s still here 33 years after the band formed, and Megadeth is still putting out stellar material. Its new album, Dystopia, as one would expect, is technically dazzling, intense and blessed with some hair-raising tunes, as well as being blessed with a positive reaction from fans and critics.
“You always hope that you’ll stand the test of time,” Mustaine says. “Unless you’re an athlete, you want to be triumphant until you lay down and die. This is a whole different type of battle. Whereas athleticism is a whole physical thing, the music industry is a combination of not only that, but a lot of metal stuff, too. You have to create and make people like stuff that they may not necessarily like. Come up with sound and words. When I first started, it was horrible. It was hard, I hurt my hands, I never thought anybody would like anything I ever did. I’m still surprised people like what I write. That probably sounds like bullshit, but it’s the truth. People tell me that they love the new record, and I get shy.” BRETT CALLWOOD
Utopia - Saturday, February 27 - Mind’s Eye
If fans of hard dance were to envision an idyllic setting to get down to the relentlessly paced electronic music genre, we’re pretty sure it would involve something similar what will be offered this weekend at Mind’s Eye in Mesa. Namely, a cavernous setting awash in a maelstrom of vibrant lights and colorfully dressed people thrashing about to a lightning fast fusillade of pounding hardstyle and hard dance beats coming from enormous speakers. And if that happens to be the exact scenario they have in mind, then the underground dance party Utopia – which will take place on Saturday, February 27, at the East Valley venue – is perfectly named. The six-hour event will feature several DJs and producers dropping hardstyle, hardcore, terror, gabber, and happy hardcore, including headliners T2Kazuya, Markove, System Malfunction, and Vigor. Locals like Koliri, DJ Maromi, and The Wicked are also scheduled to perform. BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Tyga - Saturday, February 27 - Livewire
Over the past year or so, Tyga has made more headlines for his behavior off-stage than on it. The 26-year-old rapper has had what would best be described as a rocky relationship with Kylie Jenner and the gossip swirling around the couple has been quite thick. Despite all the hullabaloo in regards to his personal life, what can’t be denied is that the “Rack City” rapper has had one of the more colorful journeys in rap over the past few years. His fourth album, The Gold Album: 18th Dynasty, saw him leave label Cash Money to release it independently. The album was executive produced by pal Kanye West and is straightforward rap, at least compared to his earlier commercial material. With a career that’s as interesting as his personal life, don’t be surprised if Tyga is energized by the chance to put aside all the tabloids and focus on playing music. DANIEL KOHN
Bill Frisell - Saturday, February 27 - Musical Instrument Museum
Americana, blues, surf, rock, avant garde, soul — guitarist Bill Frisell has dabbled in it all in his own jazz-infused way. His latest project harks back to the Golden Age of television and film. When You Wish Upon A Star finds Frisell reclaiming 14 classic soundtracks of his youth, from James Bond to Westerns, the mafia to the macabre. The project grew out of a series of Lincoln Center (New York City) gigs, and Frisell says he couldn’t help be get swallowed up by it. “There is this sort of autobiographical thing going on there. Everything on there has some kind of connection to me in all kinds of ways,” he says. Such connections are evident in the creative and unexpectedly dynamic elements that continually embody his music. It helps that Frisell frequently hires the same cast of supporting players — Eyvind Kang on viola, drummer Rudy Royston, bass player Thomas Morgan, and vocalist Petra Haden — who understand Frisell’s musical genius and how to complement it. “The reason I have them there is I don’t have to tell them anything,” he says. “I don’t want to tell them anything. I just want to hear what they come up with. They continually blow my mind.” Audiences, too, will feel the same way. GLENN BURNSILVER
Diane Coffee - Sunday, February 28 - Valley Bar
There is something about Diane Coffee’s voice. His varied résumé includes voice credits for direct-to-DVD Disney duds like The Lion King 11/2 and Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas, but he also added vocals and piano sprinklings for “Crown,” one of the most haunting tracks from Run the Jewels’ sophomore album. Most notably, Coffee (or, as his driver’s license says, Shaun Fleming) has acted as the live drummer for Foxygen ever since the band’s album Take The Kids Off Broadway. And, intentional or not, there is some stylistic overlap here, but only in the way both projects borrow from all your favorite oldies, meshing lush glam and funky garage rock with acid-dropping Rolling Stones covers. On his own, the Macaulay Culkin look-alike swings between influences as fast as his costumes dissolve in the music video for “Mayflower,” from his album Everybody’s a Good Dog. It’s this flippant flamboyance, a byproduct of our Ritalin-reliant heritage, that keeps Coffee so engaging for so many young Americans. TROY FARAH
Leo Kottke - Sunday, February 28 - Musical Instrument Museum
Leo Kottke is a legendary and beloved master of finger picking guitar and a gifted raconteur. He got his start with John Fahey's Takoma Records in the late '60s and has been releasing noteworthy albums of some of the most inventive and interesting acoustic music ever recorded. Whether playing intricate folk leads or jazz inflected blues, Kottke is ever the master craftsman with a creative imagination to match. A longtime regular guest on A Prairie Home Companion, Kottke, a resident of the Twin Cities, was also awarded an honorary PhD in Music Performance from the University of Wisconsin in 2008. Several years back, he overcame physically debilitating damage to his hearing and tendons that nearly ended his career by switching up his playing style, and he continues strong to this day. TOM MURPHY