Top Five Must-See Shows This Weekend in Phoenix

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Kelly Clarkson may have slept on his phenomenal Kaleidoscope Dream, but that didn't stop Los Angeles-based crooner Miguel from having one hell of a 2012. He tops our list of must-see shows this weekend in Phoenix, stopping by the historic Celebrity Theatre to showcase sultry jams like "Adorn." We can't promise that the other gigs -- featuring post-hardcore rockers The Used, Red Dirt rockers Reckless Kelly, and more -- will be half as sexy, but they'll probably be pretty good. Excelsior, amigos!

Friday, February 22: Reckless Kelly @ Wild Horse Pass

Somewhere between Dwight Yoakam's honky-tonking cover of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" and Terry Manning's power-pop take on "Guess Things Happen That Way," the Jack Clement-penned single made famous by Johnny Cash, lies Reckless Kelly's "She Likes Money, He Likes Love."

The standout track from the Austin-via-Bend, Oregon, Red Dirt quintet's latest, Good Luck & True Love, has plenty of Americana twang, but also a charging beat, crunchy distortion, and a supremely fuzzed-out guitar solo. "They'll stay together 'til they find something better," frontman Willie Braun sings about a May-December romance on the rocks.

It's the sort of thing Reckless Kelly does best; the kind of song that could sneak onto KNIX's playlist without raising any eyebrows (hell, they're already playing Taylor Swift's crossover singles) but still dirty and edgy enough to appeal to fans of alt-country greats like Drive-By Truckers an effortless blend of country grit and rock 'n' roll soul. -- Jason P. Woodbury

Friday, February 22: Miguel @ Celebrity Theatre

The first line of the album's first song sets the tone: "These lips can't wait to taste your skin." You have entered Miguel's Kaleidoscope Dream, a fantastical, steamy, colorful, gritty-but-polished, polished-but-gritty, dripping-with-sex-sweat bacchanal of Marvin Gaye smoothness. The song is "Adorn," and it hit the young Los Angeles-based Mexican/African-American singer like a flash of light, the chords coming to him on a cross-country flight, the lyrics following shortly after. He touched down, wrote the thing in a blur, and doesn't remember much of anything about the process.

Because that's often how great art is made -- a rush of unexplained and inexplicable inspiration (divine or otherwise) knocks over the singer/writer/painter/poet, a happy accident, and a song/book/picture/poem emerges from the fog. As it did with, say, Stephenie Meyer, who went to sleep one night dreaming of shiny vampires and hunky werewolves, and woke up to find the Twilight saga spill out of her, "Adorn" flashed and pulsed in Miguel's mind's eye from something or somewhere. He couldn't write down the recipe, because there was no recipe. It just appeared, a dream while awake. A kaleidoscope dream.

"There's got to be a better example than that," says Miguel, laughing, fresh from a photo shoot in L.A., en route to Europe. "But, yeah, I guess you could make the [Meyer] comparison. It's the only song that's ever hit me like that. It was so different, so special. I knew instantly I wanted to start the album with it and that I had a single."

"Adorn" has a strong "Sexual Healing" vibe, but you'd be deaf or dumb to dismiss it as a mere knockoff. The song is about love, of course, but it's also about longing, yearning, protecting, every aspect and promise of a relationship all rolled up in a tidy, sweet few minutes. It's the perfect amuse-bouche for the album it kicks off, priming the ears, opening them. -- Brian McManus

Read more about Miguel's sexually healed Kaleidoscope Dream at Village Voice's Pazz & Jop 2012.

February 23: Manufactured Superstars @ Axis/Radius

While costumed DJ twosomes are as much a fixture in the world of electronic dance music these days as pirated copies of Ableton Live, there are a few ultra-talented tandems who rise above the rest. Besides the groovy Gauls in Daft Punk, the Italian dance-punks of the Bloody Beetroots, or even Australia's Northie and Benson, there is Denver's Brad Roulier and Shawn Sabo, better known as Manufactured Superstars.

Not only are their ethereal-yet-energized electro and progressive house sounds better than most rank-and-file DJ/producer teams who sport costumes, both artists also are relatively renowned in their individual accomplishments (Sabo co-founded Beatport, and Roulier owns influential Mile High City nightclub Beta). The NASA-inspired spacesuits worn by the artists during their performances seem apropos, considering how their careers have shot into the stratosphere in the past few years.

Their most recent coup came last month when Paris Hilton lent her vocals to the track "Drunk Text" and starred in its music video. The assistance of the oft-inebriated socialite helped get their shit on MTV, which probably means their gig at Axis/Radius on Saturday, February 23, will be plenty packed. -- Benjamin Leatherman

Saturday, February 23: FutureKind @ Pub Rock

The writer in charge of FutureKind's Facebook biography has a lot to say. This is not standard press-kit chatter. This contains three-syllable-plus words that could put your everyday thesaurus user to shame, terms like "artisanal," "amalgam," and "visceral."

We're not talking about the most-mind blowing cheese to ever hit your palate here -- we're talking about a Phoenix band. A solid one, sure, but there's something to be said for letting the music do the talking. And just days before the dream-pop band's EP release show for Spines at Pub Rock Live, FutureKind is doing just that. Slowly giving their fans a taste of the dreamy, spaced-out pop they've come to be known for in local music circles, FutureKind has hit us with "All Done," laced with singer Thalia Williams' sweet-meets-sassy vocals, and "Slow Build," a lo-fi, Best Coast-inspired jam that shows off the band's layered sounds.

Though the band has been playing gigs around Phoenix since the mid-2000s, it had only one record under its belt, 2008's Surround. Williams and the boys have played regularly at just about every local venue over the past few years. Here's to letting the music do the talking for the next record, too. It speaks volumes. -- Christina Caldwell

Sunday, February 24: The Used @ Marquee Theatre

Long before the band's brand of screamo fell out of grace as the music genre de rigueur of disenfranchised (but still MTV) youth, frontman Bert McCracken spent time homeless, abusing drugs and alcohol, and panhandling for food. In retrospect, it almost seems too much of an up-by-your-bootstraps success story: McCracken went from editing an anti-drug publication in Orem, Utah, to doing crystal meth, only to emerge a rock star after cleaning up.

The bruised backstory played heavily into the success of The Used's self-titled 2002 album for Reprise Records. McCracken roared and emoted at the mic, backed by guitarist Quinn Allman, bassist Jeph Howard, and drummer Dan Whitesides. His street-level anthems of self-disgust and frustration resonated with listeners, and the band's lean toward melodic metal ensured that fans of Thursday and Papa Roach would find something to grab on to. The record was a smash hit.

The band's subsequent albums failed to match that success, and they knew its days on a major label were numbered. With 2012's Vulnerable, the band gracefully made the transition to an indie, Hopeless Records, and the move did them good: Thick with hip-hop qualities and shifting tempos, the record explored new territory while returning to the band's melodic post-hardcore roots.

"I wanted to make a record that reflected the energy and emotion of the first record but also gathered from our eclectic influences," McCracken says. "We're all fans of eclectic music old hip-hop, R&B, funk, and jazz. I grew up on Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, and classic rock like Journey, Heart, and The Beatles."

Growth and maturity aside, McCracken still can't suppress some of his street-urchin tendencies. In fact, McCracken has some advice for those thinking of picking up the band's newest album:

"I encourage people to go steal it from Walmart." -- Lauren Wise

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