Have you listened to music while texting, tweeting and watching a movie? Have you spent an entire weekend hogtied by the invisible lassos of YouTube's "Gangnam Style" spoofs? Drop your smartphone, and step away from the laptop. You need some human contact or you're going to sprout a trackpad. Here are 31 ways to trade soul-sucking screens for the life-affirming screams of fellow music fans.
This list includes highlights from now through the end of April, but new shows are unveiled each week. Visit The Guide for details.
UW Memorial Union Rathskeller, Feb. 1
Though this California quintet call their sound "beach goth," FILTER's review of their brand-new album, Hung at Heart, hits the mark by comparing it to "a sketchy Tijuana pharmacy that's got a little 'something' for everybody." Laced with creepy reverb and the warble of a carnival organ, their sound is almost as intriguing as their live shows, which have recently featured zombie facepaint and a machine that launches bubbles into the crowd.
Barrymore Theatre, Feb. 5
Though they've been together for nearly 30 years, these indie-rock stalwarts sound as inspired as ever. Their brand-new album, Fade, is a masterpiece reminiscent of 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out, only quieter and more dreamlike.
Orpheum Theatre, Feb. 9
Though some locals scoffed at Seth and Scott Avett's ad campaign for Gap pants, that didn't stop folks from rushing to grab tickets to this show. See if the brothers can reclaim the hearts of the anti-corporate crowd with rockin' Americana from their latest album, The Carpenter.
Brink Lounge, Feb. 10
This alto saxophonist's whimsical take on bebop helped keep the genre alive in the 1970s, when jazz fusion was in vogue. If you're lucky, he might treat you to his swinging renditions of the Price Is Right and Star Trek theme songs.
High Noon Saloon, Feb. 13
This experimental rock duo compose almost all of their songs over email, using improvised riffs and a meticulous process of cutting and pasting. But their cerebral tendencies don't interfere with their emotions. Their 2012 album, Moms, explores their memories of their mothers with an abundance of heart.
Majestic Theatre, Feb. 15
This ensemble's fusion of post-punk and soul is one of the most fun and inventive sounds Chicago has produced in recent years. Their live shows are a visceral delight, filled with impassioned shouts, killer drumming and ample amounts of sweat. Daring vocals during songs like "Get It Together" shift their sets into overdrive.
UW Union South Sett, Feb. 22
Though the band's 2012 release, Mumps, Etc., has made some critics mutter their name while shaking a fist at the sky, their live shows can't be beat if you like rock-fueled hip-hop with imagery-laden lyrics and revelatory ruminations.
Orpheum Theatre, Feb. 23
What began as an indie-pop love letter to founder Michael Angelakos' girlfriend has grown into a five-man band whose electronica is equal parts sweet, spastic and introspective. This show will revolve around their sophomore album, Gossamer, which Under the Radar says is "the perfect balance of being risky while still being lighthearted."
Frequency, Feb. 26
With former members of '90s bands such as Jawbox and Knapsack, this group is a living reminder that emo was once a theatrical, confessional extension of the hardcore scene, not a subculture associated with skinny jeans and black hair dye. Don't expect a throwback sound, though. After a nine-year hiatus, the band released A Gentle Reminder, a thoroughly modern indie-rock album whose title track landed on Daytrotter's Best Songs of 2012 list.
Majestic Theatre, Feb. 27
The Mars Volta threw in the towel a few days ago, leaving fans of heady, mathy prog-rock in search of a new favorite band. Luckily, the group's guitarist, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, has joined forces with Teri Gender Bender, the vocalist from the kick-ass Mexican garage-punk band Le Butcherettes, to form this promising new project. Be among the first to hear their debut album, Torn Maps, in concert.
Frequency, March 1
This New York six-piece graced SPIN's Best New Artists list three months ago, earning favorable comparisons to wistful neo-shoegazers Pains of Being Pure at Heart and wispy-voiced popsters Wild Nothing.
Majestic Theatre, March 2
Despite goofy titles like "Hey, Wanna Throw Up?" this Seattle quintet write sophisticated pop songs that incorporate finger-tapped guitar and intriguing time-signature shifts.
Barrymore Theatre, March 6
After wowing fans of America's Got Talent with hip-hop showstoppers, this brazen violinist started exploring the world of dubstep on her YouTube channel and recording her self-titled debut album, which landed on Billboard's top 100 chart.
Frequency, March 15
Many people soured on American Idol in 2002, when judge Randy Jackson sent this gifted jazz singer home because she didn't "look like a star." Since then, her heavenly voice has earned praise from critics at The New York Times, The Boston Globe and NPR, who all think she's not just a star but a master of nuance with timeless appeal.
Orpheum Theatre, March 17
See if Dan Deacon can top the rave-meets-Romper Room spectacle he brought to the Majestic last November. Then bounce through the psychedelic carnival of Animal Collective's Centipede Hz tour, which has inspired crowd surfing and debates about the future of avant-garde indie-folk while traveling to the Midwest.
Capitol Theater at Overture Center, March 19
This Grammy-winning artist draws inspiration from Robert Johnson's country blues and variety from contemporary forms of R&B, folk and jazz. Though he's known as a guitar virtuoso, his storytelling is as captivating as his riffs.
Majestic Theatre, March 19
When Diplo, Jillionaire and Walshy Fire join forces as Major Lazer, crazy things happen. In addition to exploring the electronica world's most tropical subgenres (think dancehall, reggae fusion and Moombahton), they've convinced Snoop Dogg to adopt a ridiculous reggae alter ego named Snoop Lion.
High Noon Saloon, March 20
Though DeMarco's live shows can get lewd and crude, the glam-spattered slacker rock of his 2012 release 2 straddles irony and sincerity so expertly that Pitchfork named it one of the year's best. Seattle's Naomi Punk give grunge a modern twist with slowed-down no-wave rhythms and trails of psychedelic haze.
Stoughton Opera House, March 21
The Wall Street Journal recently proclaimed this award-winning songstress the new Queen of Bluegrass. Give her a royal welcome as she shares her latest album, Sunday Morning Singin'.
Majestic Theatre, March 21
These Portland, Ore., performers are way more fun live than they are in the studio. First, their disco grooves are made for dancing, which is usually more exhilarating when done with others. Second, they dress in drag - or sometimes as '80s rap stars. Luscious synthpop hooks are the icing on the cake, but don't be shocked if the lyrics leave you in a contemplative mood by the show's end.
Majestic Theatre, March 22
The band responsible for 1980's dark, anxious "Mirror in the Bathroom" want to make Two Tone hip again, or perhaps they're just looking for a good time in an era of glowsticks and Auto-Tune. Either way, this version of the group, led by original singer Dave Wakeling, is as tight as ever.
High Noon Saloon, March 28
Sonic Youth may never rock again now that founders Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore have split, but there's a way to fall in love with Moore's wild guitar effects, weird tunings and cryptic lyrics all over again. His newest group, which explore similar terrain as Sonic Youth's most recent albums, will swing through Madison a few weeks after their self-titled debut drops.
Frequency, March 31
Yes, this 20-year-old model-actress is easy on the eyes, but she's not just another pretty face. She's been chasing her musical dreams for more than a decade, whether taking opera lessons or getting tips from family friend Michael Jackson. The New York Times dubbed her synthpop single "Everything Is Embarrassing" an unexpected highlight of 2012, and she's teamed up with Garbage's Shirley Manson to create I'm Not Alright, her Blondie-inspired debut LP.
Town Center at Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, April 6
As the son of bass heavyweight John Clayton, pianist Gerald Clayton must have jazz scales in his DNA. After sharpening his chops in his dad's ensemble, he formed his own trio, which reinvigorates standards with glorious solos and subtle references to modern hip-hop. But this 28-year-old is an old soul, musically speaking, the kind who would have ruled the supper-club swing scene of 1950s New York, according to The New York Times. No matter what era he belongs in, he's flourishing in this one, with two Grammy-nominated solo albums and a successful run at the famed Village Vanguard.
High Noon Saloon, April 11
This show will focus on Watsky's second studio album, Cardboard Castles, which blends his sharp wit and catchy hooks with nimble wordplay that harks back to his slam-poetry performances on HBO's Def Poetry Jam.
Stoughton Opera House, April 12
This Canadian folk musician's lush, evocative voice is an ideal complement to the sparkling timbre of her favorite instruments, which include the autoharp and hammered dulcimer. After turning critics' heads with her Rough Trade debut, Oh, My Darling, she earned a rave from Rolling Stone for her sophomore effort, Heart of My Own.
High Noon Saloon, April 14
Though AllMusic claims the only way to know these enigmatic fellows is through their distinctive freak folk, I first tasted their creative genius in my morning coffee, which singer-guitarist Seth Olinsky brewed at Williamsburg, Brooklyn's Gimme Coffee. The band moved away from that NYC neighborhood a while ago, and so did I, but their sheer weirdness, which often includes nonsensical lyrics, found sounds or shaman-esque incantations, still wakes up the left side of my brain like caffeine never could. See if it does the same for you.
Capitol Theater at Overture Center, April 24
This brainy musician traded his neuroscience major for a musical path while attending Oberlin College, then set off for the School of Scottish Folk Studies and started building a fanbase in the U.K. Since then, many artsy folks have become devotees of his songwriting, including author Stephen King, Rolling Stone journalist turned filmmaker Cameron Crowe, and local artist Trent Miller. Miller references Ritter's 2010 album, So Runs the World Away, in his new exhibition at the Watrous Gallery (located just a few feet from the Capitol Theater).
Stoughton Opera House, April 26 & 27
Learn about the African American folk tradition as this Grammy-winning string band perform traditional tunes such as "Po' Black Sheep," plus old-time blues and a handful of originals that highlight Rhiannon Giddens' dynamite vocals and fiddling. If you cross your fingers, they might play "Daughter's Lament," a tearjerker from the Hunger Games soundtrack.