The 10 Best Concerts in New York This Weekend, 3/21/14


For more shows throughout the weekend, check out our New York Concert Calendar, which we update daily.

Friday, 3/21:

B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
8:00 p.m., $35/$40
If you want to really grasp how long Pharrell has been making music, think back to the 1993 “Human Nature” mix of SWV’s “Right Here,” the highlight of the trio’s career, and remember that his voice was the one shouting “S, the double, the U, the V” over the song’s intro. Twenty years later, the genius producer has the No. 1 single in the country, and the girl group that gave him one of his early breaks is playing B.B. King’s a month after their reality TV hit, SWV Reunited, finished its first season. Off-screen, the music still slams, and if you’re somehow sick of the group’s early ’90s hits, you’ll likely get a kick out of I Missed Us, the excellent 2012 comeback album that preceded the show. — By Nick Murray

Downstairs at Cornelia Street Café
9:00 p.m. & 10:30 p.m., $10
Royalty of Brooklyn’s avant-garde jazz scene–slaytastic guitarist Mary Halvorson and octopi-armed drummer Tomas Fujiwara–have melded their extraordinary talents together before in myriad groups, but it is in Thumbscrew where the radical twosome may have reached their apex. A collaborative, composition-based fire-breathing trio rounded out by imposing bassist colossus Michael Formanek, Halvorson, serving as de facto leader here, wields and shoots off salvo after salvo from her punk-jazzified six-string like a woman possessed. On its eponymous debut Thumbscrew (Cuneiform), the barrage of riffs are both epic and melodic, the low end beefy and the percussion massive. Expect nothing less than magic from these three avant purveyors. — By Brad Cohan

Webster Hall
7:00 p.m., $25
Warpaint have never been ones for the easy route. They namedrop hip-hop and nod to sonic trends and score commercials as well as the next buzz act, but when it comes to the music, the L.A. fourpiece makes neither the confrontational rock you’d expect from girl-group stereotypes or even just their name, nor the self-consciously poppy or retro work of their peers. They prefer to groove: building songs from happenstance jams (sometimes involving a couple Red Hot Chili Peppers), or letting songs and hooks gnarl themselves into knots that take time to grok. It’s the kind of sound that translates well live, where the sonic chemistry’s got space to catalyze; and there’ll likely be a great deal of that on display when the band plays Webster Hall with the equally iconoclastic Cate Le Bon. — By Katherine St. Asaph

7:30 p.m., $20/$25
The smart and tasteful Ethiopia-born singer toggles between jazz, pop, and traditionalism on her new We Are Alive, which follows the Police’s “Bring on the Night” with the Amharic-language “Kemekem (I Like Your Afro).” She’s a blithe-voiced daughter of Joni who considers music a path to higher ground, with rest stops for the likes of Talking Heads and Lou Reed. — By Richard Gehr

Saturday, 3/22:

Asif Ali Khan
Carnegie Hall
8:30 p.m., $38-$44
Asif Ali Khan was only 13 in the mid-’80s when he began studying with the legendary Pakistani qawwali master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (d. 1997), eventually becoming his premier student. Tonight, Asif brings his eight-piece “party” to New York for the first time. Like Nusrat, Asif is a powerful vocal improviser, whose voice ascends to the heavens bolstered by the harmonium, backing singers, hand-claps, tabla, and double-headed dholak drum that characterize the Punjabi Ang style of an 800-year-old sound. Singing deep Sufi devotional poetry in Urdu, Persian, Punjabi, and other languages, Asif will likely incite Islamic devotees into trance states and increasingly impassioned demonstrations of faith, possibly including, as at Nusrat’s final Carnegie Hall appearance, forceful pounding of foreheads onto stage. — By Richard Gehr

Saturday, 3/22:

Freddie Gibbs
Gramercy Theatre
7:00 p.m., $35
If it weren’t for drug dealers, we wouldn’t have drugs. If it weren’t for the internet, we wouldn’t have viral mixtape downloads. And if it weren’t for Freddie Gibbs, Gary, Indiana wouldn’t be back on the map in our cold, post-Music Man / Michael Jackson world. More importantly, were it not for rappers like Freddie Gibbs, we wouldn’t be in the new golden age of rap. The street poet and hip-hop star built his following organically, bringing the block to his music through honest, uninhibited lyricism and just the right amount of braggadocio to make him exemplar of trill. (That’s true + real for those of you who’ve been hittin’ the haze too hard). His full-length Madlib-produced album Piñata is set for release on March 18 via Madlib Invazion, and will feature Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt, Ab-soul, Mac Miller and a host of others alongside Gibbs, so hop atop a kush cloud and float your way up to bust the Cocaine Piñata at one of the supporting tour dates. — By Erin Manning

Oran Etkin
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola
7:30 p.m., $45
You may be familiar with this excellent clarinetist’s thoughtful collaborations with West African musicians, if not his innovative Timbalooloo children’s music classes. Tonight, however, Etkin will “re-imagine” swing clarinetist Benny Goodman, a fellow child of Jewish immigrant parents, as part of the city-wide Newish Jewish Music Festival — By Richard Gehr

Seth Troxler
10:00 p.m., $20/$30
Seth Troxler has posed naked for festival promotion videos and launched his own barbecue pop-up shop in London, but neither nudity nor smoked meat explain his ongoing popularity. As founding member of the Detroit-based Visionquest label and an in-demand DJ since before his high school prom, Troxler’s infectious enthusiasm and production proficiency are partly responsible for the revival of druggy deep house that continues to chug along in America. Troxler was voted Resident Advisor‘s #1 DJ of 2012, and he’s sure to pack in the crowds as Output’s newest resident. — By Aaron Gonsher

Sunday, 3/23:

Back to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance
St. Patrick’s Youth Center
Saturday, 7:00 p.m.; Sunday, 6:00 p.m., $38-$55
“There’s a rhythmic ceremonial ritual coming up,” Doc says to Marty McFly. “Of course!” McFly says. “The Enchantment Under the Sea dance! That’s where they kiss for the first time.” If you have no idea what that exchange is about, stop reading right now. BBQ Films is re-creating one of the most iconic movie proms and calling it the Back to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. Tonight’s party includes a screening of Back to the Future, of course, a gymnasium decked out just like the one in the film, Tee Tones singing modern hits in 1950s doo-wop style, and a chance for you to vote for prom king and queen. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Michael J. Fox Foundation. — By Araceli Cruz

New Bums
Baby’s All Right
8:00 p.m., $10
New Bums are Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny and ex-Skygreen Leopards member Donovan Quinn, united in ruminative country-folk bliss. A steady stream of strum buoys the players’ bone-dry harmonies and disingenuous prescriptions; all feels aged, lived-in, and warmed over in an endearing way. It’s as easy to mistake this duo for dive circuit troubadours as it is to settle into a hammock and let a lazy, early spring day slip out of your grasp.

The Oral History of NYC’s Metal/Hardcore Crossover
Sorry, But Kanye Is the GOAT
The 50 Most NYC Albums Ever
NYC’s Top 10 Rising Female-Fronted Bands