Phoenix local music picks for February: The Black Moods, Steve Gadd, Los Esplifs and more

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The Black Moods are showcasing songs from their forthcoming followup to "Sunshine" in a month whose other local music highlights range from a Miles Davis tribute to the latest edition of Phoenix Rock Lottery.

And if you find yourself at Innings Festival, where Foo Fighters and Tame Impala top a bill that also brings St. Vincent and the War on Drugs to Tempe Beach Park at the end of the month?

Be sure to check out local rocker Sydney Sprague, whose latest album, "Maybe I Will See You at the End of the World," made our list of the Best 2021 releases made by Arizona artists.

Also, Gatecreeper will play a hometown set of what they like to call Sonoran Desert Death Metal on a Decibel Magazine Tour headlined by Obituary and Municipal Waste at the Nile Theater on Thursday, Feb. 3.

The Sunpunchers

The Sunpunchers are among the top local music picks for February in Phoenix.
The Sunpunchers are among the top local music picks for February in Phoenix.

The Sunpunchers blend elements of psychedelic folk and alternative country with something they call “outlaw cabaret," as brilliantly captured on a full-length debut titled "Levity." Highlights range from a shadowy Southwestern folk song titled “Screwtop Head” to a bittersweet country waltz that sets up a heartbroken chorus about how the thing that'll kill me is you with "I love bacon." Singer-guitarist Betsy Ganz has a way with words, a vivid imagination and a stellar band that includes the great Jon Rauhouse coloring the atmosphere on pedal steel guitar. This performance includes special guests from International Dark Sky Association to introduce a new song titled "Dark Enough to See the Stars."

Details: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4. Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. Second St. $15-$28. 480-499-8587,

The Woodworks

The Woodworks
The Woodworks

This is just a solid local bill from top to bottom. The Woodworks were able to celebrate 10 years as one of the Valley's more intriguing bands last year by releasing their most fully realized album yet, "Down By the Ol' Pig Canal." After crashing the gate with "In the Cell," a song that could've kept the paramedics busy as part of a second-stage Lollapalooza set in 1992, they make their way through such highlights as the eerie funk of "Choices" and the haunting balladry of "Imploding > Supernova." They're joined by Chrome Rhino, who bring a playful sense of humor to the table, from the glam piano balladry of "Love and Bigfoot" to the analog synth vibe of "I Love You, But I Know You're a Robot." And any bill that features Fairy Bones returning from the breakup we all hoped would never last is definitely worth your while. It's great to have them back.

Details: 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4. Last Exit Live, 717 S. Central Ave., Phoenix. $12-$15. 602-271-7000,

Phoenix Rock Lottery

After taking a break in 2021 due to the global pandemic, Psyko Steve Presents is thrilled to be able to continue the Phoenix Rock Lottery tradition in 2022.

The way it works is 25 local musicians report to the club in the morning, where a lottery divides them into five new bands. From there, the instant bandmates write three songs and learn one cover, all of which they will perform that night at Crescent Ballroom.

Musicians taking part include return performers Megyn Neff of the Bushkas and the Sunpunchers, David Cosme of Playboy Manbaby and Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, Amber Johnson of decker., Chuck Morriss III of Sydney Sprague's band and Wheelwright, Amelia McLean, Nicole Laurenne of the Darts and Love Me Nots, Michael Coughlin of Buddy Culture, Tatiana Crespo of Las Chollas Peligrosas and Meghan Herring of Doll Skin.

New performers include Amy Young of French Girls, Kalen Lander of Snailmate, Camille Sledge of Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra and Recker Eans of "The Kids Tonight Show."

Details: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5. Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Ave., Phoenix. $15. 602-716-2222,

Joan of Arkansas

They call their music sludge pop in their Facebook bio. And that certainly holds up to a careful spin of "Make it Uglier," an electrifying explosion of feedback, distortion, machine-gunning basslines and impeccably constructed pop songs of the sort a young punk-rocker might have written on the way home from a Husker Du show in the '80s. It's exciting, like this kind of music should be. And Jalipaz Nelson did a brilliant job of capturing the essence of a loud night in a punk-rock dive on these recordings. Most bands don't sound this live — much less alive — in person.

Details: 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5. The Lost Leaf, 914 N. Fifth St., Phoenix Free. 602-258-0014,

The Groove Theory

ZeeDubb and Lord Kash of the Stakes host the latest installment of a popular event that Crescent Ballroom's website promises should be "an exciting night of music mastery, improv, collaboration & community" on the patio with guest DJ Mitch Freedom.

The Groove Theory features a mixture of local musicians collaborating live on stage without a net. From instrumentalists to DJs and MCs, it's all completely improvised.

Details: 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5. Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Ave., Phoenix. Free. 602-716-2222,

Dropout Kings

Dropout Kings
Dropout Kings

It's been a minute since nu-metal was the flavor of the month. That's given Dropout Kings sufficient time to master what it was that made that hip-hop-metal hybrid blow up in the first place. It landed the band on Suburban Noize Records, a label co-founded by the Kottonmouth Kings vocalist Daddy X. And they rewarded their new label's trust with a headbanging triumph called "GlitchGang." They're joined at Rebel Lounge by VRSTY, Guerilla Warfare, Smile on the Sinner and handsxfeet.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6. Rebel Lounge, 2303 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. $16. 602-296-7013,

Wednesday Wednesday

Jesse Teer of the Senators launched this weekly singer-songwriter showcase in December, inspired by Joel Eckel’s Monday Monday show at Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles, where Teer has been a guest performer. In a press release, Teer said, “This kind of songwriters showcase should have happened in Phoenix years ago. But, it probably couldn’t have. There just wasn’t enough of a coalesced scene then. There is now.” Teer hosts the series.

Details: 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Feb. 9-23. Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Ave., Phoenix. Free. 602-716-2222,

Treasure MammaL

Rolling Stone Australia praised their latest effort, 2020’s “Grammy Nominated,” in a feature story hailing Treasure MammaL as “an enigmatic force of nature – a musical presence whose very existence is indefinable, yet still manages to receive acclaim for just about every move that they make.” Their previous effort, “I Will Cut You With My EBT Card,” featured guest appearances by Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, R Stevie Moore, Yvonne Lambert of Octopus Project and Sean Bonnette of Andrew Jackson Jihad. Here at azcentral, we’ve been known to hail their efforts as “a willfully eccentric exercise in thinking-person's party music.” This all-ages show also features the great Robbie Pfeffer of Playboy Manbaby performing as Robbie the Rapper, Lucky Baby Daddy and Yairms.

Details: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10. Trunk Space, 1124 N. Third St., Phoenix. $5.

Los Esplifs

Before founding Tucson's Los Esplifs in late 2018, Saul Millan performed with the Mexican Institute of Sound, Calexico and Orkesta Mendoza. His musical partner Caleb Michel has been a member of the Afro Cuban Allstars since the age of 19. After much encouragement from their musical mentors and the Arizona music scene, they released a self-titled EP they recorded in Tepoztlán, Mexico, introducing the world to their brand of psychedelic cumbia. Last year, they returned with a full-length debut titled "Estraik Back," telling BTRtoday the cumbia sound of their earlier work "is never lost, yet there are pieces of many different genres for everyone to love."

Details: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11. Crescent Ballroom, 308 N. Second Ave., Phoenix. $12. 602-716-2222,


Formed in 2001 by Eric Mobley and Jason Mitchell, they cut their teeth playing funk and soul covers at parking lot festival, BBQ joints and pool halls, eventually working their way up the ladder to opening concerts by Kool & the Gang, Al Green and George Benson. They're back from a nine-year hiatus and sounding as funky as ever on "Life in Transition," from the hard-driving funk of the opening track, "Layin' Blame," which sounds like it's channeling early Funkadelic on the guitar break, to the soulful balladry of "Nobody's Perfect" and "My Only One." This is a co-headlining show with Traveler in the plaza outside Tempe History Museum.

Details: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11. Tempe History Museum, 809 E. Southern Ave. 480-350-5100,

The Saturn III

Taking the name of a mid-sized moon of Saturn, they go hard on the sci-fi imagery, promising "fuzz for the final frontier" and coming through in highlights ranging from the interstellar overdrive of "Inhale the Void (the Fall of Man's Ruin)" on an early EP to their recent cover of "Cosmic Wheels" by Donovan. If you're into stoner-rock at all, they'll gladly take you on a journey to the center of the mind. They're joined by kindred spirits Mississippi Nova, whose sound is an electrifying brand of psychedelic blues from the garage. They rock.

Details: 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12. Pho Cao, 7436 E. McDowell Road, Scottsdale. Free. 480-947-2608,

Emby Alexander

They made our year-end Arizona album list for 2021 with "Soars Era" for reasons that go well beyond it having opened with a reference to Ringo Starr's "Don't Pass Me By." And that's because their brand of odd, experimental chamber pop is more expansive than a glancing reference to the Beatles would suggest, its frames of reference spanning generations to arrive at something that feels timeless and contemporary in the same breath. The overall vibe is refreshingly upbeat, whether singing about UFOs on "Fell Into the Sun (UFO)" or hope on "You Can Do It." They're playing the Lost Leaf, which is set to close in late March.

Details: 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12. The Lost Leaf, 914 N. Fifth St., Phoenix Free. 602-258-0014,

More on the Lost Leaf: Why "an unforgettable part of Phoenix culture" is going away

Steve Gadd Band

The legendary session drummer has lived in Phoenix for nearly two decades. He and his band are up for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album at the 64th annual Grammy Awards, which will be broadcast live on CBS and Paramount+ on Sunday, April 3. They're nominated for the live release "At Blue Note Tokyo." Their previous effort, an eponymous 2018 album, won that same award. Gadd is joined for two performances by Walt Fowler (flugelhorn/trumpet), Larry Goldings (piano/keys), Travis Carlton (bass) and Michael Landau (guitar), highlighting live versions of tunes from previous albums.

Details: 7 and 9 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15. Music Theater, Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix. $35-$40. 480-478-6000,

Banana Gun

Banana Gun on stage
Banana Gun on stage

From the time these Tempe rockers got together in 2009 to jam because their other bands had broken up, their sound has always been a willfully eclectic mix of different elements, from blues and soul to funk and psychedelic rock. They even tapped into an early rock 'n' roll vibe, complete with Little Richard-style piano and reckless abandon to spare, on a spirited highlight of their previous release, "Sex, Drugs & Rock n Roll." And when they hooked up with producer Bob Hoag for "Rules" in early 2020, they came away with something that suggest you leave your expectations at the starting gate with the throbbing bass and U2-esque guitar of "Born to Lose."

Details: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17. Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. $5-$15. 480-352-2822,

Ring Finger No Pinky

Last year's "Chlorine Bomb" offered a gritty, cathartic escape from the pandemic blues with a five-song collection of soulful garage-punk anthems that probably peaked on "Dog Days," where they sneak up on the raw side of a ballad. Griffin Brown is the kind of lead singer who can't quite decide if he's going for wounded or bored when he's probably both, which is exactly what you need to navigate the nuance of a world-weary lyric as dispirited as "Feeling trapped in my walls is taking its toll." They're joined by Vacendak, Halfway to Michigan and Fauna.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17. Rebel Lounge, 2303 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. $12. 602-296-7013,

John Primer/Bob Corritore release show

John Primer is a Chicago blues guitarist who backed the legendary Junior Wells in the house band at Theresa's Lounge and played for Willie Dixon, Magic Slim and Muddy Waters before launching an award-winning career as his own bandleader. This show celebrates his third CD collaboration with Bob Corritore, the harmonica-playing bandleader who owns and operates the Rhythm Room and hosts a long-running blues show on KJZZ-FM. "The Gypsy Woman Told Me" was released in 2020, but they couldn't do a proper CD celebration at the time because of the pandemic. They'll be joined by Jimi "Primetime" Smith, Bob Stroger, Anthony Geraci and Wes Starr.

Details: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18. Rhythm Room, 1019 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. $20. 602-265-4842,

Meet the Sun

The songs on last year's excellent "Androgynous Anonymous" are an intriguing blend of shoegaze, grunge and psychedelic music as contagious as it is ambitious. But it's Kayla Clancy's voice — or more specifically delivery — that reaches out and grabs you by the collar. It's got character, from the oft-repeated odd pronunciation of prerequisite (she sings "prerequOsite") on an opening track that takes more twists and turns than Interstate 17 from Flagstaff to the way her voice quavers in all the right places, at times recalling a young Conor Oberst. That she applies that delivery to lyrics inspired enough to make it worth your while to read along as you listen just makes everything that works about this album that much more rewarding. They're joined by Heavy Breather, Gunchy and DJ Davina.

Details: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17. Valley Bar, 130 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. $12.

The Black Moods

The Black Moods
The Black Moods

These Tempe rockers landed four songs from their latest album, "Sunshine," in the Billboard mainstream rock Top 30 — "Bella Donna," "Bad News," "Whatcha Got" and "Sunshine." That's the most Top 40 entries any Valley act has managed on that chart since Gin Blossoms' quadruple-platinum breakthrough with "New Miserable Experience." So what do they do for an encore? As it turns out, they'll be previewing material from their upcoming third album, including recent single “She Gets Out,” and a second single due out Friday, Feb. 25, the anthemic “Saturday Night.” VIP attendees to this show will see a private advance viewing of the "Saturday Night" music video, directed by photographer/videographer Jim Louvau.

Details: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19. Talking Stick Resort, Loop 101 and Pima Road, Salt River Reservation. $25 and up. 480-850-7734,

Live From Laurel Canyon

Live From Laurel Canyon: Songs and Stories of American Folk Rock is a retrospective of the music and stories of some of the most influential artists who lived in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles in the '60s and '70s.

Those artists include the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, the Doors, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, James Taylor, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles.

Brian Chartrand wrote the show and assembled the players with Mike Florio, telling the story of the Canyon from the Mamas and the Papas' “California Dreamin'” to the Eagles' “Hotel California.”

Details: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19. Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. $34-$44. 480-352-2822,

The Joeys

The future of the roots revival is in good hands with the young local rockers most likely to show up to practice in a Stray Cats T-shirt. Led by guitarist Dean Cheney, the Joeys recently released a great new concept EP, "Punks from Outer Space." After setting the tone with a spooky instrumental called "T Minus Zero," they salute Chuck Berry on a track that swaggers like an old Dave Edmunds record before tossing bits of "Rock Around the Clock" and "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" into the reckless rockabilly of "Black Leather Jacket (Blue Suede Shoes)" and signing with the organ-driven title track (which they revisit for an instrumental epilogue).

Details: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19. Rebel Lounge, 2303 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. $12. 602-296-7013,

Musicians Helping the Homeless and Hungry

Local legends Francine Reed and Alice Tatum are headlining a benefit to help the homeless and hungry with a little help from their friends. They're joined by Michael Reed, Charles Lewis, Diana Lee, Dennis Rowland, Phil Hendricks, Walt Richardson, Andy Gonzales, Chris Gough, Donnie Dean, Hans Olson, Chuck Hall, Michael Nitro, Todd Chuba, Danny Z, We 3, Freddie Duran, MC3, Jennifer Bone and Dan Phillips. All proceeds benefit the Salvation Army. In addition to a minimum $10 donation, they're asking that you bring cans of food if possible.

Details: 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 20. Rhythm Room, 1019 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. $10 minimum donation. 602-265-4842,

Justin Moody

The singer-songwriter recently dropped a four-song followup to "Bruiser," the equally intimate "God Won 2." Highlights range from the bittersweet balladry of "Blindness," on which "How come I see straight through you, I wonder?" is immediately followed by "When will you see straight through me, I wonder?" to a melancholy waltz called "Way Out," on which he makes a mantra of "There's no way out from under this mess I've made out of comfort." He's joined by Captain Lady, Levi Murray and Timm Barnett.

Details: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23. Rebel Lounge, 2303 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. $12-$15. 602-296-7013,

Nazim Rashid

This local saxophonist has played with such esteemed jazz artists as Eddie Harris, who took him on as a student, Jimmy Smith, Pharoah Sanders, Hank Jones, Arthur Prysock, Richard "Groove" Holmes and Eddie Henderson. He played with the San Francisco Big Band for 13 years while leading his own group, the Nazim Rashid Sextet, before moving to Phoenix, where he now leads Nazim Rashid & New Renaissance.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24. Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. $5-$15. 480-352-2822,

Black History Month Miles Davis tribute

Local jazz trumpeter Gabriel Bey joins saxophonist Jermaine Lockhart and special guest vocalist, Charity Lockhart, paying tribute to the music of the great Miles Davis following performances of music from their latest albums. Charity Lockhart has had sold-out shows with her tribute to Aretha Franklin. George Benson, who acted as executive producer on "The Sunshine Album," Jermaine Lockhart's latest release, said, "Jermaine is an artist that comes along every once in a while"

Details: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25. Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave. $45-$60. 480-782-2680,

PK tha Poet

PK tha Poet hosts a hip-hop night called Love Noir with support from GH$T, Queen Cai, Kidd Friendly, Dre and Per. A post on the Valley Bar website hails PK tha Poet as "the street poet that drug dealers listen to," going on to note "PK's music is a neo soul bounce. Inspired by the '70s and '90s, he is influenced to talk to you while making you feel good at the time." That certainly sums up the charms of 2019's "Armelia," an eight-song collection that effortlessly draws you in with PK reminiscing on his childhood to a finger-popping throwback to the golden age of soul.

Details: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25. Valley Bar, 130 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. $15-$35.

The Sugar Thieves

Together since 2006, these Arizona roots revivalists recently released a six-song EP titled "Good Ole Time Tonight." The title track welcomes you into their world with a glam-rocking swagger through the blues that ventures closer to the kind of vibe the Black Keys have been chasing than previous Sugar Thieves efforts. As always, the vocal spotlight is shared by Mikel Lander and Meridith Moore, who sounds amazing on the moody blues of the Dylanesque "Fast Train."

Details: 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25. Rhythm Room, 1019 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix. $12. 602-265-4842,

Okinawa Plane Crash

As their band name and title of their recent album, "Banned in Tempe," would suggest, these local rockers tend to serve their punk-funk/hip-hop hybrid with a healthy side of humor. After setting the tone with a theme song comparing the impact of their music with a plane crash (which is fair), they make their way through songs about a rat named Ben that hangs out at the skate spot ("Skate Spot Ben"), Satan's ringtone and feeling like Michael Cera. There's even a song called "Red Hot Chili Plane Crash" (with some very funky bass). And their logo is part Church of Satan insignia, part smiley face. They're joined at this all-ages show by Bullet Babe, Fauna and Slug Bug.

Details: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26. Trunk Space, 1124 N. Third St., Phoenix. $5.

Hookworm Records Spring Showcase

Last month, Hookwoorm Records celebrated the release of "Hookworm One," a limited-edition 12-inch vinyl EP with one song apiece from the Woodworks, Paper Foxes, Shovel and the Psychedelephants, all recorded by producer Bob Hoag. This month, Hookworm is getting a jump on spring with a seasonal showcase devoted to garner exposure for the acts on "Hookworm Two" with Daphne + The Glitches, Tucson's Birds + Arrows, Sliced Limes and Weekend Lovers. It's a two-part showcase, with a Friday night gig at Club Congress in Tucson and Saturday night at Unity Through Community in Tempe.

Details: 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26. Unity Through Community, 43 W Southern Ave, Tempe. 480-519-7825,

Joey DeFrancesco

Signed to Columbia Records at 16, he joined Miles Davis on a five-week European tour at 17, which led to DeFrancesco playing keyboards on one track on Davis' "Amandla" album. As an organist, he's topped the Critics Poll in DownBeat 9 times and the DownBeat Readers Poll every year since 2005. Jazz Times once hailed DeFrancesco as "the best B3 player on the planet."

He's playing the Nash in support of the recently released "More Music," on which he plays organ, keyboard, piano, trumpet and, for the first time on record, tenor saxophone. Philadelphia organist and guitarist Lucas Brown and gifted drummer Anwar Marshall complete his touring trio.

Details: 7 and 9:15 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 27. The Nash, 110 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix. $20.80 (with student I.D.) to $60. 602-795-0464,

Reach the reporter at or 602-444-4495. Follow him on Twitter @EdMasley.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix local music picks for February: The Black Moods, Steve Gadd