Top Five Must-See Shows This Week in Phoenix

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It's the Monday after the big game, which means you're back at the office, standing around the water cooler listening to your most annoying co-worker recreate his favorite Super Bowl commercial in vivid, poorly-acted detail.

Excruciating, right?

No fear. 5 o'clock is on its way, and this week brings a whole bunch of great concerts to the 480/602. We've rounded them up, so bite your lip and let him keep rambling on about that Doritos advert: Here's our Top Five Must-See Shows This Week in Phoenix.

Monday, February 4: Stephen Steinbrink @ Trunk Space

No offense to Andy Steinbrink, whose excellent paintings (bras, containers of mustard, broken glasses) adorn the cover of his brother Stephen's latest record, I Drew a Picture, but it's easy to imagine another record sleeve when listening to the carefully arranged pop and folk songs contained therein. Picture a muted oil painting of wild-haired punks huddling around a fire in the middle of a dry Tempe Town Lake, the burned-out husks of Mill Ave high-rises towering in the distance.

It's the sort of image you might find wrapped around a cheap sci-fi paperback from the '70s or an early-'80s B-movie, designed to capture the Road Warrior/Escape from New York market. Though Andy's album cover speaks to the refined power of Stephen's music, there's something in the fantastically savage imagery of the songs that inspires this sci-fi daydream scene.

In fact, Stephen's lyrical themes are drawn from much more concrete sources: a dog-eared, well-annotated copy of Andrew Ross' Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City (written about Phoenix), a decade playing music in downtown Phoenix's ever-shifting arts scene, and downloads of The Beatles mono-remasters. The record, released in the summer of 2012, is something of a "Dear John" letter penned to the city, delivered right as Steinbrink headed out on tour and resettled in Olympia, Washington.

This week, he visits his hometown, settling into a familiar groove at downtown arts spot the Trunk Space, and Steinbrink is no doubt looking forward to spending time with the friends who have inspired many of the "songs as snapshots" of his previous records. But his journey away from Phoenix signals something as elemental as those friendships: Sometimes you have to go away to figure things out. -- Jason P. Woodbury

See also:

-Stephen Steinbrink Leaves Arizona With a Pop Record About Arizona

Tuesday, February 5: Murs @ Club Red

One of rap's great raconteurs, Murs lived a nomadic existence as a youth, never staying in one place for more than a few years at a time. Forced to adapt as the perennial new dude, he brings similar flexibility to his music. Soul love jams, gangsta provocation, herb-soaked chillin', limber wordplay, and conscious science all jostle for position like schoolmates in a lunch line.

The L.A.-based rapper broke in during the '90s, hooking up with Eligh and Scarub at Alexander Hamilton High School to form 3 Melancholy Gypsys and later with Bay Area brethren in the Living Legends crew (before dropping out last year). He adopted their prolific work ethic producing a prodigious catalog that's made him an underground icon.

He made his solo debut F'Real in '97, and has remained wildly prolific ever since. Not only has he lit eight solo joints (including a brief major label turn with 2008's Murs for President) and 8 EPs, but collaborated with 9th Wonder on six discs (the last, The Final Adventure, came in November), Atmosphere's Slug on three discs under the name Felt, and the last couple years, Terrace Martin (2011's Melrose), and Fashawn (2012's This Generation). It'd be even impressive had his laptop not been lifted three years ago, taking a half-dozen more albums of material.

Murs also founded the annual multi-faceted festival Paid Dues in 2006 in California and has since taken it across America and overseas. He's looking to sequel last year Ski Beatz-produced solo album, Love + Rockets, Vol I: The Transformation, "sooner than later," and hopes to one day follow up his new graphic novel, Yumiko: Curse of the Merch Girl.-- Chris Parker

See also:

-Arizona's Murs Bridges Hip-Hop's Divide -Murs Says Don't Write Music If You "Don't Have Shit to Say"

Tuesday, February 5: North Mississippi Allstars @ Rhythm Room

Listening to the North Mississippi Allstars' debut album, Shake Hands with Shorty, in 2000 was like getting hit in the face with a giant blues paddle. I mean, where did that sound suddenly come from? The music was loud, aggressive, and up front, and the raw edge made it hard to not turn up the volume. This offering erased (sadly, only temporarily) the tepid sounds of genre pretty boys Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

Shoot forward 13 years, and bandleaders and brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson have tempered that energy enough to perform with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. But it's not that these boys from the fabled North Mississippi hill country, home to musical innovators R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and the Dickinsons' father, Jim, have changed that much -- they've just adjusted the volume from 11 to 10 while continuing to shred the lines between electric blues and rock 'n' roll.

Not unlike John Mayall's 1960s Eric Clapton-powered Blue Breakers, North Mississippi Allstars -- including bassist Chris Chew -- merely use the blues as a jumping-off point for mind- and sound-altering adventures. Just let there be no doubt, it will be gloriously loud! -- Glenn BurnSilver

Wednesday, February 6: Negative Approach @ 910 Live

I don't think there's anyone who disagrees that posers suck, but being a part of the landscape of contemporary underground music can make one feel as though he half-heartedly has to jump on trends to maintain relevance. It's easy to be a poser. It happens every time someone says something like, "Man, that Pallbearer album was so good" or "I can't wait to see Grizzly Bear!"

Eventually, others' posing gets to you. It leads you to an identity crisis, forcing you to ask yourself: Why be something that you're not? Negative Approach asked this question on its first EP almost 31 years ago. As a record that combined elements of New York punk, London hooligan music, and Motor City rock, it serves as a seminal and timeless work of angry, no-frills hardcore punk. Bands still cover Negative Approach songs like "Ready to Fight" and "Lost Cause" all the time.

However, with the band reuniting in recent years, the opportunity arises to see the songs performed by the musicians who wrote them. Certainly, they are old enough to be parents now, but the anger still remains. So are you gonna come out, stage-dive, and yell stuff like, "We won't take any shit and we're not about to leave," or are you going to keep on posing? -- Mike Bogumill

Thursday, February 7: Pastries With Teeth @ Sail Inn

Most EDM producers cut their teeth in the club, gauging crowd reaction to discern the heaters from the vibe-killing missteps. The recently-formed Phoenix-based electronic duo Pastries with Teeth has honed their craft on a decidedly different dance floor. Andrew "Hoodwink" Hood was approached by the Phoenix Contemporary Dance Company to compose original music for the October 2012 performance of En Fin, a modern ballet set to electronic music.

He employed local DJ and classically-trained violinist Sam Dorko to add crucial strings to the composition, teaming up for two sold-out performances at the Herberger Theatre. Released last December, the full-length Eaten Alive album combines three tracks created for En Fin and a number of other regal yet sultry electro tracks. While the record hints at formal dance concertos with moments of staccato string stabs and lush trills, the overriding bass grooves and glitch textures repel any notions of classical pomposity.

Most notably, the crunchy snare claps and dirty hi-hats of "Bear Claw" are augmented by ominous string plucks until big washes of distorted synth offer a contemporary cleanse. The lengthy, dynamic "Prelusion" explores a more subtle space, slow-building the tension into a galactic guitar-led micro-odyssey. Pastries with Teeth combine the organic with the electronic better than Inspector Gadget. - Chase Kamp

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