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Friday, July 9, at the Axiom, 2524 McKinney, 713-522-8443.Seven Mary Three

Advice for struggling musicians from Seven Mary Three: If you want your album to become an American standard, the kind of album that's featured on jukeboxes everywhere from soda fountains to truck stops, don't pussyfoot around with clever titles. Just call the fucking thing American Standard, as the band did its 1995 debut. It also helps to include songs about the typical American experience. Take, for example, "Water's Edge," a delightful ditty about the typically American tradition of witnessing a hit, then leaving the body to bloat by the edge of a creek. The band's post-American Standard years have been pocked with record-company battles, disjointed sounds and mediocre records, but Seven Mary Three's latest release, Dis/Location, could catapult it back out of obscurity. The album ain't made it to soda fountains yet, but the sound is a return to the fierce, hard rock that Seven Mary Three hasn't embraced in a decade. -- Ali Ryan

Sunday, July 11, at the Bud True Music Stage at Minute Maid Park, 300 Crawford.The Bellamy Brothers

Howard and David Bellamy are not your average country music shit-kickers. As the Bellamy Brothers, they became one of the genre's most revered and successful acts. But the duo has always taken a slightly left-of-center approach to boot-scootin' boogie. The Charmin-soft radio staple "Let Your Love Flow" topped the U.S. pop charts in 1975 and helped popularize country rock. But the Brothers preferred serious-minded Euro audiences to rowdy American crowds and became a powerhouse in places like Switzerland and Germany. The Bellamys have issued a string of urban-cowboy anthems, including "Redneck Girl" and "If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me)," but the band also has incorporated new sounds, including heavy doses of reggae. Though the duo hasn't lit up the airwaves in eons, it remains a popular live act, delighting audiences with all those easygoing hits. -- Nathan Dinsdale

Friday, July 9, at Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway, 281-807-8700.Reel Big Fish, RX Bandits, Lucky Boys Confusion and Catch 22

Ska-punk is the Rasputin of pop music genres. Like the mad Russian monk of yore, it can be utterly compelling, and it simply will not die. You can shoot it, stab it, poison it, drop it in a lake of boiling hydrochloric acid, fire a laser-guided warhead right up its ass, and the most that will happen is that it'll act all crippled for a while. A few hipsters will become emboldened enough to glance around the room and whisper, "I think it's dead." Then you'll hear that chicka-chickasound again, the shades and porkpie hat-wearing head will lift off the floor, and the pogoing will commence -- yet another wave is upon us all! Run!

Hell, a couple of months ago I was grilling an HSPVA sophomore about what the kids at her school were listening to, and she told me "ska-punk." Didn't we shoot a garlic-encrusted silver crucifix into that beast's heart in, like, 1999?

The Vans Warped Tour may be ska-free this year, but the bands are still out there, waiting for this slowly welling fourth-wave breaker to crash on the beach. Hence this show, which features four of the big names of the genre's 1990s third wave. Judging by the titles of each of these bands' recent albums, they all seem to know they're in a lean period. Reel Big Fish chose the path of resolute bliss, entitling their latest record Cheer Up!, while Lucky Boys Confusion and RX Bandits seem to be gritting their teeth and clinging on to dear life with (respectively) Commitment and The Resignation. Catch 22 admits that what they play are Dinosaur Sounds.

But unlike the T-Rex, it's doubtful that ska-punk will ever be extinct. -- John Nova Lomax

Tuesday, July 13, at Club V at the Verizon Wireless Theater, 520 Texas Avenue, 713-230-1600.Pepper, with Lola Ray

As if to prove the T-Rex line above, here's a ska-ish band that never even played the lower 48 until after their scene was said to be dead. While Hawaii might be best known as a cool place to film cop shows and Adam Sandler flicks, it's hardly rock music central. But Hawaii's isolation must have had something to do with the fact that Pepper was able to reach the mainland in 2000 with a sound that set it apart from the "Let's sound exactly like Sublime" ska-punk fraternity. Pepper offers up its bass-heavy tunes with style, accomplished playing and intriguing arrangements. Check out "Back Home," the opening cut of its sophomore CD release, In With The Old, and you'll find a skitterish mix of crunchy guitar, dub and reggae beats, some countrified pedal steel and tongue-in-cheek Spinal Tap metal riffs.Though they're still pretty young, their songs ooze the kind of worldliness that Fountains of Wayne parlayed into its 15 minutes of Buzzfest fame. Sure, Pepper may not be around as long as Hawaii Five-O reruns, but it's a damn fine thing to hear a group offering up summertime road-trip tunes with some real substance. -- Greg Barr

Wednesday, July 14, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.

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