We’re only three weeks into 2018, and it’s pretty much been nothing but day after day of relentless black rain. Welcome to winter on the West Coast. Based on past years, things are no doubt bound to clear up sometime in July. In the meantime, here are nine concerts—some of them megaspectacles, others under-the-radar tips—guaranteed to get you through the darkness.
Commodore Ballroom on February 3 and 4
In the spotlight: The world’s millions of struggling musicians could be forgiven for hating Milky Chance. Former German jazzbos Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch walked away from the sound that built Blue Note Records to reinvent themselves as a tasteful electro-acoustic pop duo. By “tasteful”, we mean locked onto a formula that nods joyfully to Jack Johnson, Bob Marley, Bon Iver, and late-period Red Hot Chili Peppers without ever sounding derivative.
Why you need to go: YouTube was responsible for making the men of Milky Chance stars. Gorgeously low-key yet entirely infectious singles like “Down by the River” and “Stolen Dance” suggest that the attention couldn’t be more deserved.
Rogers Arena on February 5 and 6
In the spotlight: Difficult as this is to fathom today, the early thinking was that Katy Perry would be a one-hit wonder, a disposable bubblegum princess with an insatiable appetite for cherry Chapstick. Holy sheepshit, did everyone get that wrong. Instead of turning out to be a ’00s Toni Basil, Perry has proven to be not only a consistently reliable superstar, but also a pretty great role model. Declaring herself woke, she’s spent much of the press cycle for last year’s Witness downplaying her slick pop beginnings while preaching empowerment to her fans.
Why you need to go: While the election of Donald Trump made her determined to use her celebrity to enact change, Perry isn’t about to stand at a pulpit for two hours lecturing her fans. The Witness tour is—as one might expect—heavy on spectacle, the singer cavorting with alien insects on stilts, hosting on-stage basketball games, and being swallowed by giant lips. As in Vegas, finding yourself bored is not an option.
Vogue Theatre on February 10
In the spotlight: When toiling away at his day job, Dan Auerbach leans heavily on dirty, superfuzzed riffs and thunder-thump drums. With his second solo outing, Waiting on a Song, the Black Keys frontman dials things down with beautiful results, showing he’s as adept at lazy, sun-faded country as he is at the Keys’ overamped blues.
Why you need to go: Here’s wagering you missed the Black Keys back when they were playing intimate Vancouver venues like the Pic Pub, Richard’s on Richards, and the Red Room. Redemption comes in the form of being able to see a stadium-sized superstar up close.
Orpheum on February 13
In the spotlight: Drake disciples know the men of Majid Jordan best for their backing work on the smash single “Hold On, We’re Going Home”. Fans of caramel-smooth R&B, meanwhile, have embraced the duo of Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman as the sexiest goddam thing to come out of Canada since the Weeknd. (That’s not a typo—it’s how his stage name is spelled.) Sometimes there’s no getting around the reality that Toronto does it better.
Why you need to go: After piling up over 28 million SoundCloud streams for “My Love”, Majid Jordan has been determined to strike while the iron’s hot, following up an eponymous 2016 debut with last year’s The Space Between (released on Drake’s OVO Sound label). Considering everything Aubrey Drake Graham touches seems to turn to gold, world domination is a very likely reality for Majid Jordan.
Pacific Coliseum on February 17
In the spotlight: When interviewed, Avenged Sevenfold frontman M. Shadows seems like a mellow sort of bro-dude, jocularly recounting such stories as his dog eating weed brownies. On-stage the frontman known to his parents as Matthew Charles Sanders does things like stopping shows to respectfully ask security to take it easy on his fans. When he’s singing, however, Shadows is not only one of the most captivating frontmen in modern metal, but also among the most technically proficient vocalists of his generation.
Why you need to go: With hard rock hardly a favourite flavour of the new millennium, and Avenged Sevenfold now over a decade and a half into its career, the group would have been forgiven for phoning in 2016’s The Stage. Instead, critics agree the group has never sounded more alive, drawing on towering prog and classic British steel to show metal is anything but dead.
Commodore Ballroom on February 27
In the spotlight: Right from the beginning, the artist formally known as tUnE-yArDs refused to take the easy path, following up a lo-fi junkyard-pop debut, BiRd-BrAiNs, with the genre-blending triumph w h o k i l l. On her new I can feel you creep into my private life, Merrill Garbus continues to push not only herself, but also her fans, questioning her own privileged place in the world with a sound that takes pop in daring new directions.
Why you need to go: Thinking globally has never been more important, considering the shitshow going on across the border. A night with tUnE-yArDs—who continues to dabble in everything from classic Afro-pop to vintage punk—is guaranteed to remind you that differences are meant to be celebrated rather than feared.
Biltmore Cabaret on February 28
In the spotlight: One has to wonder how cheeky Shamir was being in 2017’s “90’s Kids” when he sang “Put a drink in the air/For the college girls and boys.” From what we can tell, the Las Vegas–born singer and endearing DIY outcast probably never attended a Phi Beta Kappa party at the University of Nevada. And he doesn’t seem like someone who’d be into slugging back Purple Jesus from a red plastic cup. He is, however, funky enough to take some of the sting out of Prince dying, not to mention Michael Jackson.
Why you need to go: If the monsoons keep rolling in, Christ knows you’ll need to do something to drag yourself out of the abyss. Break out those dancing shoes.
Queen Elizabeth Theatre on March 1
In the spotlight: A long time ago, artists didn’t blow up overnight by landing a Viral 50 spot on Spotify. Instead, they made a record, played to 50 people their first time in a new town, and then repeated until a buzz started to build. Enter sometime Feist sideman Afie Jurvanen, who, four albums and a decade into his career as Bahamas, has graduated from the Biltmore to one of Vancouver’s most fabled venues.
Why you need to go: There are incalculable benefits to spending years honing one’s craft in clubs, a biggie being that connecting with fans isn’t a problem once you graduate to bigger stages. Then there’s the beauty of the singer and guitarist finding a sinfully sweet spot between slinky soul and jazz-tinted pop on his new full-length, Earthtones.
Festival Du Bois
Port Coquitlam’s Mackin Park from March 23 to 25
In the spotlight: Now in its 29th year, one of the West Coast’s most enduring festivals once again bridges English- and French-Canadian culture with a top-flight mix of locals and eastern imports. That means getting to hang out in the park with a lineup that includes Quebec traditionalists Les Chauffeurs à Pieds and forward-thinking Montreal fusionists Bon Débarras.
Why you need to go: Festivals don’t last nearly three full decades by accident. In addition to a boatload of music in heated tents, the Festival du Bois offers francophone exhibits, shopping stalls, and traditional food. If you’ve never experienced maple taffy on snow from a sugar shack, get ready to have your mind blown.