February is a strange month for music: Established acts always seem to wind down winter arena tours just as up-and-comers begin ramping it up before the big spring music festivals. So this month, find the calendar filled with shows from Kanye West, who extended his "Yeezus" tour to bring him back through the area (to Baltimore Arena); Lauryn Hill, who is returning to Washington (to the Lincoln Theatre) after a sold-out appearance in December; and such acts as wunderkind rapper Earl Sweatshirt and YouTube darlings Karmin.
Whom should you see? Our picks:
Earl Sweatshirt's voice had barely taken on its deep register when his cutting-edge Los Angeles hip-hop collective, Odd Future, began to garner international fame in 2010.
Then he disappeared. (His mother sent the 16-year-old hip-hop star packing for Samoa for a little behavior adjustment, it was later revealed). So forgive Earl - a.k.a. Thebe Neruda Kgositsile - for the handful of years it took to deliver "Doris," his promising major-label solo debut. Now 19, with his mystique strong as ever, the rapper is finally embarking on his first big world tour, which brings him to the 9:30 Club this month.
Buzz factor: 9. Before Earl Sweatshirt hits the festival circuit this spring, expect his Washington performance to reveal whether he can maintain the heady energy of the Odd Future crew when he's flying solo.
Feb. 17 at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. 202-265-0939. www.930.com. $25.
Watch: "Chum" (Explicit)
Johnny Cash's eldest daughter has had a prolific music career in her own right, churning out a handful of chart-toppers and winning a Grammy Award in the 1980s. Last year, however, with the album "The River and the Thread," a rollicking, bluesy meditation on her father's South, the singer has re-emerged as a country powerhouse.
Buzz factor: 7. If you missed Cash's sold-out residency at the Library of Congress in December with husband and co-songwriter John Leventhal, this show at Lisner is another chance to see her perform songs from the album.
Feb. 14 at Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. 202-994-6800.
Watch: "A Feather's Not a Bird" on KCRW
The Black Angels and Roky Erickson
Austin's Black Angels, below, perfectly mimic the kind of hallucinogen-assisted '60s rock that blares in dive bars. In many ways, that's why the psych rockers are the ideal band to tour with one of the genre's pioneers, Roky Erickson of the 13th Floor Elevators, as he slowly reclaims his place in the music scene after decades battling mental illness.
Buzz factor: 6. These two acts made waves when they toured together before, with the Angels as Erickson's band. If you're a fan of trippy classic rock, the show is a must; the duo is already selling out tour dates.
Feb. 14 at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. 202-667-4527.
Watch: The Black Angels' "Don't Play With Guns"
Occasionally, a band comes along that the music industry seems to have churned out in one stultifyingly stylist-dressed package. Karmin (real-life couple Amy Heidemann and Nick Noonan) is that act. The Los Angeles scene-making duo was first noticed with a series of silly YouTube covers of songs such as Chris Brown's "Look at Me Now," in which the vanilla-looking Heidemann rips through a rap with all the streetwise proficiency of Nicki Minaj. Since then, they've performed renditions of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" and Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair," and opened for Robin Thicke, Kings of Leon and a host of other big acts. But Karmin's tour, which stops at the Fillmore this month, is drumming up heat for its own material, namely the forthcoming
Buzz factor: 3. The sweet couple, who met at the Berklee College of Music, has had the requisite makeovers (curiously, they're often spotted in matching outfits). But more surprising is the musical shakeup that has them performing Abba-esque disco tunes. Millions may have watched the pair on YouTube, but we just can't see fans falling for this kind of inauthenticity.
Feb. 7 at the Fillmore, 8656 Colesville Rd. 301-960-9999.
Listen: "I Want It All" (Lyrics only)
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
On their latest album, "Give the People What They Want," Sharon Jones and her swinging big band, the Dap-Kings, channel the funky best of the Motown era, as they have for nearly a decade. But count this record as a personal triumph for the soul singer, too: It's the first work released since Jones was treated for cancer last year. After months of canceled shows and uneasy
progress, she's back on the road, championing soul music and sharing her songs of survival.
Buzz factor: 7. Jones and the Dap-Kings, who shot to fame as the studio band for Amy Winehouse's pitch-perfect album "Back to Black," are ferocious live performers. It's no wonder that both of their shows at the Lincoln Theatre have already sold out.
Feb. 10-11 at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW. 202-328-6000.
www.thelincolndc.com. Sold out.
Watch: "Stranger to My Happiness"