Rite of Spring: Your Guide to the Season's Live Music

April is here, winter is over, and that tax refund is burning a hole in your pocket. Well, at least two of those things are true, right? Also true is that spring concert season is finally upon us. New releases and tours always coincide with the vernal thaw, and of course, Coachella will be dumping musical largesse on Bay Area concert halls as bands stop in for most of this month, before or after their desert assignation — just like every year. (This phenomenon we now know as Fauxchella.) With that in mind, here's a guide to the stuff you should probably go see during this season of sunshine and Cadbury Creme Eggs. As of press time, tickets were available to all the shows listed here.


9: OFF! @ Oakland Metro

9-11: Neutral Milk Hotel

@ Fox Oakland (Friday tickets still available)

12: Willie Nelson @ Greek Theatre, Berkeley

Willie Nelson, the prince of outlaw country, turns 81 this month. Unlike certain other living, aging legends (cough Bob Dylan cough), Willie can still do onstage what we love him for doing: plucking the strings of Trigger, his battered Martin guitar, and singing in a sweet voice about mammas, cowboys, Georgia, and the sublime joy of frequent overland travel. The man has the face of a granite cliffside and the pipes of a cherubic sage. Like Yellowstone, and maybe even Dylan, his live presence is a pleasure every American deserves to experience at least once.

14-15: MS MR @ The Fillmore

14: Bryan Ferry @ Fox Oakland

16: Foxygen @ The Chapel

17: Queens of the Stone Age

With Warpaint @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

17: Slick Rick @ Yoshi's SF

You know Slick Rick, even if you don't know you do. Any exposure to hip-hop at all has probably included either an original Slick Rick track or a riff off one. He's the golden-era Bronx rapper with the British accent, the hint of Caribbean patois, the effortless flow, and the eyepatch. One of the greatest rappers of all time, and maybe hip-hop's best storyteller. He made "La Di Da Di" and "Children's Story." Nothing else need be said.

18: Mogwai @ Regency Ballroom

18: Motorhead

With Graveyard @ the Warfield

19: Record Store Day

@ various record stores

19: Kelley Stoltz @ The Chapel

19-20: Rufus Wainwright

@ Palace of Fine Arts (Sunday tickets available)

21: The Men @ Rickshaw Stop

23: The Dillinger Escape Plan

With Trash Talk, Retox, Shining @ DNA Lounge

23-24: Shlohmo

@ Great American Music Hall

24: The Jim Jones Revue @ The Chapel

Cross Jerry Lee Lewis with the Sex Pistols and you'd get something like the Jim Jones Review: either a throwback boogie-woogie rock 'n' roll band masquerading as a pack of hellraisers, or satan's spawn working evil deeds on Earth under the auspices of a rock outfit. Either way, a sweaty, devilish good time is guaranteed. If you somehow thought guitar music couldn't make people dance, these Brits will prove you dead wrong — all while blowing your eardrums out. Their once-every-year-or-so show in S.F. is unmissable.

24: Juana Molina

With Emily Jane White @ The Independent

26: Flamin' Groovies

@ Great American Music Hall

26: Lecherous Gaze

@ Bottom of the Hill

26-27: The National

With Portugal. The Man @ Greek Theatre, Berkeley (Sunday tickets available)

28: Franz Ferdinand

With Cate Le Bon @ Fox Oakland

28: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra

@ Great American Music Hall

29-30: Jason Isbell @ the Fillmore

In 2013, Isbell released Southeastern, the best album of the former Drive by Trucker's solo career and arguably the finest country album of the year. But by "country," we don't mean songs about pickup trucks with Nelly verses in the remix. We mean storytelling — lyrics filled with quivering specifics, awkward confessions, and, yes, rural imagery. Isbell, a recovering alcoholic, has plenty of regrets to moan about, plenty of missteps to beat himself up over, and he does it disturbingly well. But he isn't all bleak: In the rollicking "Super 8," Isbell recalls — with a double-shot of black humor — a night of recklessness that brought him close to death. You'll never think of Pedialyte the same way again.

29: Traditional Fools

With Bleeding Rainbow, Generation Loss, and Life Stinks @ Rickshaw Stop


1: Mastodon

With Gojira, Kvelertak @ Fox Oakland


With Chris Cohen @ Great American Music Hall

1: Darkstar

@ 1015 Folsom

6: Atomic Bomb: The Music of William Onyeabor performed by David Byrne and more @ The Warfield

Wiliam Onyeabor is one of the key figures of Nigerian synth-funk — a weirder, more subdued, less political rival to the great Fela Kuti. The eight albums Onyeabor released in the '70s and '80s are classics, with their alien keyboard melodies, irresistible grooves, and antiwar lyrics. One listen to the 10-minute "Body and Soul," or the much shorter "Atomic Bomb," is all you need to realize his talent. But in the mid-'80s, Onyeabor converted to Christianity, and now refuses to speak of his music — a fact that has not stopped the growth of his legend. David Byrne's world music label Luka Bop released a compilation last year called Who Is William Onyeabor?, and this concert is a tribute to his music featuring Byrne, Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor, LCD Soundsystem's Pat Mahoney, and many more.

6: GZA @ The New Parish

8: The Brian Jonestown Massacre

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