It's cold in Seattle, but Y La Bamba's songs are pure sunshine. Catch them with Tres Leches and DJ Lucha on Sunday.
This week, our music critics have picked everything from the 34th Seattle Improvised Music Festival to Wiz Khalifa to KEXP's International Clash Day cover show. Follow the links below for ticket links and music clips for all of their picks, and find even more shows on our complete music calendar. Plus, check out our arts critics' picks for the 63 best things to do this week.
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Events may be subject to change due to snow. Do consider double-checking with event organizers before leaving the house

TUESDAY

CLASSICAL

2Cellos
Croatian classical populists 2Cellos, otherwise known as Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser, became famous in 2011 after their version of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" went viral and they were subsequently featured on Glee. They'll return to the Seattle area on their national Let There Be Cello tour.

ROCK/POP

Richard Thompson Electric Trio
Closing in on 70 years of age, Richard Thompson has earned the right to do whatever the hell he wants. A consensus choice for guitar-hero status, folk-rock division, this British master sauntered into the pantheon during the ’60s and ’70s with psych-folk deities Fairport Convention and via his many recordings with wife Linda Thompson. Richard’s sage, foghorn voice is one of the most comforting in music and his repertoire—including “Meet on the Ledge,” “Night Comes In,” “When I Get to the Border”—is more vast and compelling than most performers his age still treading the boards. DAVE SEGAL

WEDNESDAY

BLUES/COUNTRY/FOLK

Elizabeth Cook, Chris Shiflett, Kendell Marvel
In the vast traditionalist swamp of good old-fashioned country music, Elizabeth Cook never stops distinguishing herself. Her 2007 LP Balls earned its title with the hit "Sometimes It Takes Balls to Be a Woman" and a gorgeous cover of the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning," and Cook's 2010 LP Welder leaves Balls in the dust. The music of Welder runs the gamut, from the twangy stomp of "El Camino" to the stripped-down acoustics of "Follow You Like Smoke" and beyond, but the lyrics are of a piece—simply witty, deeply telling, packed with the kind of pristine details that make you think songwriters should be eligible for Pulitzers. DAVID SCHMADER

CLASSICAL

Kinan Azmeh and the Silk Road Ensemble
In the hands of Kinan Azmeh, the clarinet—already a captivating and mysterious instrument with a subdued yet rich and distinctive timbre—becomes even more hypnotic and compelling. The soloist and composer generally works within a classical, jazz, and Arabic musical framework, crossing and melding qualities, and incorporating new elements and influences (like Indian rhythmic structures) as he goes. This date marks his world premiere of a new clarinet concerto with Seattle Symphony; he’ll also be performing a program with Yo-Yo Ma’s group, Silk Road Ensemble, of which he is a member. LEILANI POLK

HIPHOP/RAP

A$AP Rocky
A$AP Rocky might be the most famous member to spring out of NYC’s A$AP Mob, likely because he had a chart-topping catchy-as-fuck track with Drake, 2 Chains, and Kendrick Lamar in “Fuckin’ Problems.” I can’t lie, I dug it. I also don’t hate “Sundress,” although I might give credit to the Tame Impala track that’s being sampled (“Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind?") and one of its coproducers (Danger Mouse) than A$AP’s singsong raps about an ex stepping out with her new man. And that track “Everyday”? Hot. Soulful and dark, with perfect guest tapping (Rod Stewart, Miguel, Mark Ronson), and strong A$AP Rocky rhyme game, from more leisurely to sped-up spits matching a mid-song tempo change. Lester Black gets credit for turning me on to that one. And A$AP Rocky gets credit for being good. LEILANI POLK

ROCK/POP

Sloucher, Jo Passed
Local quartet Sloucher’s moderately paced ascent from Capitol Hill Block Party in 2017 to Bumbershoot in 2018 proves that quality rock can still gain traction in a world ruled by hiphop, neo-R&B, and EDM. There’s nothing fancy or complex about Sloucher’s music: It’s effortlessly, unassumingly melodic, rhythmically punchy, and as comfortable as a broken-in pair of jeans. Some artists just have the knack, but Sloucher don’t sound like that Detroit new-wave band; they’re better than that. DAVE SEGAL

WEDNESDAY-FRIDAY

BLUES/COUNTRY/FOLK

El Corazon Presents: Reverend Horton Heat
Real Texas legend the Reverend Horton Heat will return to Seattle for a night of short songs and tall tales, as is their backcountry custom. 

WEDNESDAY-SUNDAY

EXPERIMENTAL/NOISE

34th Seattle Improvised Music Festival
The Seattle Improvised Music Festival is touted as the longest-running event of its kind in the United States—dedicated wholly to “the music of the moment.” Local and visiting artists are brought together, and spontaneous music happens, pulled from the cosmos and explored unencumbered by fixed tempos, chord progressions, melodies, or planned structure. Or at least that’s what the press materials say. The five featured visiting artists are vibraphonist Andria Nicodemou, clarinetist/vocalist Holland Andrews, vocalist/dancer Odeya Nini, electronic musician CK Barlow, and saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi. LEILANI POLK

THURSDAY

BLUES/COUNTRY/FOLK

Dark Star Orchestra
Dark Star Orchestra keep the indomitable legacy of the Grateful Dead twinkling with their spot-on tribute concerts. They plunder the mother lode of the jam-band progenitors' vast output for Deadheads who miss the real deal or for those unfortunates who never had the chance to witness them live. DSO's MO is to replicate momentous Dead set lists from the group's deep archives, and then nail every facet of the music. Clearly, DSO have their inspiration's wonderfully tight/loose chops, fluid sense of time and space, and that all-important stamina to keep on truckin' through the transitive nightfall of diamonds. DAVE SEGAL

HIPHOP/RAP

Warren G, Grynch, DJ Indica Jones
The OG of the G-funk era who collaborated so effortlessly and classically with Nate Dogg (RIP) on numerous tracks including “Regulate”—a fine paradigm of hiphop and one of the greatest hiphop production tappings ever of Michael McDonald's soft-rock anthem “I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You’re Near)”—is landing in Seattle. Warren G’s catalog isn’t large, but what he lacks in quantity he makes up for in quality. Spend the day listening to him on Spotify, and you’ll see what I mean—he gets flow, rhythm, and how to build a nice funky groove and make it sinister, sexy, or serious. Did you know he was instrumental in helping shape the sound of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic? Peep Warren’s YouTube doc, G-Funk, to learn more about how significant he was to West Coast hiphop. Then go get your head bob on with him on this night. LEILANI POLK

ROCK/POP

Tangerine, Cumulus, Emma Lee Toyoda
Tangerine sound like music blaring from top-down cars, driving through the suburbs in the summer of 1988. The greens were greener back then, I think. Tangerine sound like watching Pretty in Pink for the first time. Tangerine sound like taffeta, glitter, and patent-leather shoes with socks. Tangerine sound like what a tangerine tastes like—citrusy, and sweet. They’ll be joined by Seattle band Cumulus, which is the name of the most perfect kind of cloud and sounds as such. Tangerine will also be joined by Emma Lee Toyoda, the progenitor of “semi-nocturnal madgrrlrock.” JASMYNE KEIMIG

Webdriver Torso, TERMINATor, Ghost Soda
Seattle duo Webdriver Torso—bassist/keyboardist Alex Noelke and singer Emily Gorman—cast disdainful synthesizer melodies, forbidding vocals, and ruthless, jackhammering beats throughout clubland for that dancing-in-the-ruins sensation that feels paradoxically uplifting. Chris & Cosey and Adult. fans, take note. Relatively new trio TERMINATor features former members of Rose Windows and Dræmhouse. The one set by them I caught during Flower Fest 3 at Lo-Fi impressed me with its ramshackle charm—like Raincoats meet the Shaggs, but with the occasional mesmerizing flute interlude. The show is presented by Thick As Thieves, a quarterly free local comics art anthology edited by Ryan Andrew Tiszai and Simon Lazarus Vasta. DAVE SEGAL

VARIOUS

KEXP Presents International Clash Day
To wrap up a week of programming for International Clash Day—started by KEXP's own Morning Show host, John Richards—the local music station will host a Clash cover night with Hotels, Mirrorgloss, Guayaba, and Dark Smith, who will play songs from London Calling in honor of the album's 40th anniversary. While you're there, grab a special can of Transistor IPA, designed by Scuttlebutt Brewing just for the occasion.

FRIDAY

HIPHOP/RAP

Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y
I recently texted my brother—a huge Wiz Khalifa fan—asking why the Pittsburgh rapper is worth listening to. He hit me back with this: “Why is any music worth listening to?” Good point, bro, good point. He went on to explain that Wiz is “unique in this rap game” and that “all he raps about is weed and pursuing your goals.” Wiz raps for the people who just wanna light up and have a good time. Which is most of Seattle. On this date, he’s joined by Curren$y of “Bottom of the Bottle” fame. JASMYNE KEIMIG

LATIN/WORLD

Tanya Tagaq
Inuk experimental artist and throat singer Tanya Tagaq was probably best known as one of Björk’s supporting players on the Medulla album before she won the prestigious Polaris and Juno prizes—not necessarily because people care about awards, but because her awards performance in front of a list of Inuit survivors of domestic assault went viral. Tagaq combines traditional throat singing with electronic arrangement, punk attitude, and some death-metal vocal flourishes to create dramatic music with a political slant. JOSEPH SCHAFER

ROCK/POP

The Aces
Utah-based all-female quintet the Aces will bring "shimmering indie-pop with an electronic edge" to Seattle.

King Tuff, Tropa Magica
Judging by his newly bred full-length, The Other, it seems King Tuff has dashingly dropped the headbanger garage rock and is gracing us with something a little more synth-buttery smooth, a little more shimmery (like his album cover portrait), a little more situated in the hypno-pop arena. ZACH FRIMMEL

Nic Masangkay's Birthday Fundraiser!
Help fulfill local queer spoken-word artist and singer-songwriter Nic Masangkay's birthday wish: supporting their Dark at Dusk: The Final Suicide collaborators at this dance party with Dakota Camacho, Julz Ilang-Bulan, and DJ Phenohype.

FRIDAY-SATURDAY

ROCK/POP

Cowboy Junkies
The first time I ever heard Cowboy Junkies was on a dirty, beer-stained couch at the radio station I used to help run in college. My friend and I were supposed to be studying, but we ended up just lying around listening to music. She put on their cover of Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane,” which seemed to fit every mood I could ever have at 21—melancholy, meditative, cautious, ready to yield to the good things in life. Like the rest of the band’s work. Cowboy Junkies are now celebrating 30 years together as a band. Cheers to that. JASMYNE KEIMIG

FRIDAY-SUNDAY

CLASSICAL

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in Concert
Relive the nostalgia of your '80s childhood with this special screening of Steven Spielberg's tender classic E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial synced up with the full Seattle Symphony playing John Williams’ Academy Award-winning score.

OPERA

The Rape of Lucretia
Benjamin Britten's chamber opera The Rape of Lucretia is an impactful piece and considered iconic within the genre. This tale of an ancient Roman noblewoman, whose rape by an Etruscan prince spurred a rebellion that overthrew the Roman monarchy, was first performed in 1946 and will be reimagined here with the cultural context of everything that has happened regarding these themes of hubris and suffering over the last 73 years.

SATURDAY

BLUES/COUNTRY/FOLK

Denim & Diamonds
Join members of Tacocat and Votiv for a night of line-dancing and honky tonkin'. Go all out with your outfit for the chance to win a prize.

CLASSICAL

Harry Partch Ensemble
The opportunity to hear the wholly idiosyncratic music of Harry Partch performed live rarely occurs, so prioritize this event. Blessed with an outsized sonic imagination, Partch also built his own assemblage of bizarre, gargantuan instruments (Chromelodeon, Cloud-Chamber Bowls, Zymo-Xyl, and Spoils of War, etc.) tuned to a microtonal scale (43 unequal tones per octave, bro), which allowed the itinerant American composer to create disorientingly beautiful works that sound as if they’re beamed in from another universe. This program will also include performances of pieces by John Cage, Erik Satie, Arvo Pärt, Luciano Berio, and Charles Ives. DAVE SEGAL

DJ

Beyond Bollywood Valentine's Dance Party
DJ Gabbar will spin a "special spicy masala mix" of Latin and Top 40 grooves before DJ Rkay takes over with Bollywood beats. 

FUNK/REGGAE

Fiji, Sly & Robbie & the Taxi Gang with Bitty Mclean
Fiji is a massively popular Hawaiian reggae singer who traffics in mellow, sunshiny vibes geared to buoy the heart and banish worries. But the main reason to hit Nectar tonight are Sly & Robbie, the in-demand Jamaican rhythm-section gurus who’ve provided dank, slinky, and tuff grooves for countless dub, reggae, dancehall, and R&B artists in a career dating back to the 1970s. Their work with Grace Jones’s 1980s LPs alone earns them a spot in the pantheon. This tour finds them backing UK/JA lovers rock singer Bitty McLean. DAVE SEGAL

ROCK/POP

Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
Like Kraftwerk, Bob Seger largely ignores and underrates his early work. However, last year saw the rerelease of those brutal, soulful garage-rock singles he cut with the Last Heard circa 1966–67 on the Heavy Music comp. So maybe the Motor City icon is realizing the serious hunger for music from his wild, youthful phase? Does this mean Seger and the Silver Bullet Band will rekindle that flame, or will they play it safe with the heartland stadium-rock and sentimental balladry that scored some of your least-favorite TV ads? With a fan base consisting mainly of folks who’ve probably written their wills, the latter seems more likely—although recent sets have included early barn burner “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” and the haunting troubadour move “Turn the Page.” DAVE SEGAL

Clean Lines, Dirty Sidewalks, the Lucky Boys, Love & Respect
Y’all, check this white-hot, all-local lineup at the North End’s hottest club, which is also celebrating its nine-year anniversary! Now, I oughta say tonight is a big deal for, um, “grunge” grandpas Love & Respect. For real, I was told they all got special day passes from the West Seattle old-folks home to play—and please, for Christ’s sake, don't stare at their wheelchairs, you ablest jerks! As for the rest of the bands, we’re promised “shoot to thrill” raw rock-and-roll from Clean Lines, the power poppin’ new wave raves of Dirty Sidewalks, and no frills, super fun punk from Lucky Boys. MIKE NIPPER

SUNDAY

CLASSICAL

Mostly Nordic Chamber Music Series: Nordic Neighbors: Latvia
Popular Latvian composer Peteris Vasks will continue the Mostly Nordic Chamber Music Series with a program of contemporary classical pieces and Latvian folk music, including music for flute, string quartet, and vocal ensemble, performed by Paul Taub, the Skyros Quartet, and the Mägi Ensemble.

ROCK/POP

Vundabar, the Red Pears, Le Grotto
Boston-based group Vundabar’s most recent release, 2018’s Smell Smoke, came to be after frontman Brandon Hagen spent four years taking care of a relative with declining health. The record reminds me of crunching around on all the salted streets of Boston during the winter. Red brick and white snow. Bright cold days. Damp socks. Just so we’re clear, what I’m getting at with all these metaphors is that Vundabar is great Northeastern indie rock. They’ll be joined by El Monte band the Red Pears, whose music falls on this side of psychedelic-DIY-punk-inspired rock. A perfect all-ages show. JASMYNE KEIMIG

SOUL/R&B

The-Dream
Terius Youngdell Nash, aka the prolific pop songwriter and R&B mainstay The-Dream, has been providing club soundtracks equally tailored to the high-heeled dance-floor seductress and “the fellas” for more than a decade, before and during which he penned chart-topping songs for a string of stars from Britney Spears to Rihanna. Those familiar with his repertoire know not to look to his hypersexual R&B for tender love confessions, but for the smoothly sung, yet bluntly posed eroticism meant to take you from the bar to the bedroom and beyond. The often hilariously explicit detail you encounter on a Dream song is one of its draws, and it’s what will keep the drinks and pheromones flowing at his show. TODD HAMM

ROCK/POP

Justin Timberlake, Guests
Recently rustic pop star Justin Timberlake will drag his polarizing new album Man of the Woods around the country on his tour of the same name.

Y La Bamba, Tres Leches, DJ Lucha
Oh my god, Y La Bamba are so good. So good, it’s hard to describe why what they do works so well. I will try: Imagine the sound of a guitar but expressed as light through a crystal, then converted back into sound. Slather Luz Elena Mendoza’s folky, craggy, beautiful vocals on top, and you have sonic gold. I’m listening to “Cuatro Crazy” right now, a single off their newest album, Mujeres, and it’s like pure summer, or sunshine. The Portland band will be playing with Seattle geniuses Tres Leches, whose songs “gleefully twist rock conventions while maintain hooks amid the encroaching chaos,” according to Dave Segal. This is a stellar lineup and absolutely should not be missed. JASMYNE KEIMIG