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Houston Music Festivals

The last three weeks of this month promise to be hard on your wallet, eardrums and liver

It may be more correct from a musical standpoint than a meteorological one, but in Houston, April is the coolest month. There's something — maybe too much — to do almost every weekend. It's kind of a shame we don't scatter these events across more of the calendar, but March is complicated by Spring Break and the fall months by football. And the rest of the year is either (unarguably) pretty damn hot or (allegedly) too cold.

Anyway, here's a round-up of this month's major shindigs. We will follow up with more detailed looks at many of these shows and artists — we're running this now just so you can start your advance planning/gas rationing/liver preservation now...

Week One

Saturday, April 12, offers a study in ­contrast.

The revitalized Westheimer Block Party features a dizzying array of Inner Loop talent, ranging from Buxton's gentle indie folk to Rusted Shut's pulverizing noise, from the trillcore of the Fucking Transmissions to the maximum C&W of Opie Hendrix. All that and plenty of indie rock, too, ranging from the '70s-tinged sounds of Spain Colored Orange to the '90s-flavored stuff from the Young Mammals (formerly known as the Dimes). And did we mention Sideshow Tramps, Karina Nistal, Thee Armada and Studemont Project will be there too? And literally dozens more? Helluva line-up — outside of our own Houston Press Music Awards showcase, this is the best one-day local music fiesta in town.

Meanwhile, over at the Johnson Space Center, of all places, the Bay Area Rally will be held in conjunction with the inaugural Texas Outlaw Music Festival. Cosmic redneck poet Billy Joe Shaver heads a biker-friendly bill that also includes Texas music/Southern rock/Red Dirt acolytes Back Porch Mary, Jackson Taylor, and No Justice. There will also be a motorcycle rally, and the whole shindig is in honor of Yuri Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut who was the first man to break the surly bonds of earth. The whole deal is also sponsored by Boeing. Only in Houston could something so mainstream be so odd...

On April 13, the wise Owls at Rice have a day to themselves with the 17th annual KTRU Outdoor Show. Stunning, anthemic Brooklyn indie rockers Parts and Labor headline a bill that begins at noon with children's performer/Rice grad/Shepherd School of Music professor Rachel Buchman, Austin Russian music devotees Flying Balalaika Brothers, Houston indie kids the Balaclavas, local underground rapper/singer Nosaprise and electronica artists Dead PA. Also on the bill are noise rockers KAI/ROS and Social Insects, Rice students who recently won a KTRU battle of the bands. Refreshments will be provided by St. Arnold's.

Week Two

Things start to get hairy on Friday, April 18, with two festivals firing up at opposite ends of the greater metropolis, each honoring a totemic crawling aquatic critter.

Up in cutesy Old Town Spring, the Texas Crawfish Festival kicks off three days of rock, country and bayou music. East Texas blue-collar prog-rockers Fair to Midland headline the rock stage on the first night, while Band of Heathens and Wade Bowen clean up on the C&W side. (There is also a zydeco stage there; the lineup, at press time, had not been released for any of the dates.)

Meanwhile, at the Beach Bar and Grill down in the aptly named town of Crystal Beach on the rough-and-ready Bolivar Peninsula, Hayes Carll's second annual Stingaree Music Festival starts thrashing its songwriting barbs. The opening night finds Carll, the Sideshow Tramps, Gurf Morlix, Bonnie Bishop, the Magpies, Corb Lund and Darrell Scott on the slate.

If you think that presents a dilemma or two, you'll need a helicopter to hit all the good stuff in the area on April 19 and April 20.

On April 19, Day Two of the Crawfish Fest stars both the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing on the rock stage, with Miss Leslie, Max Stalling, Pauline Reese, Honey Browne and Zona Jones twanging it up on the country side.

Day two of Stingaree offers Liz and Lincoln, Band of Heathens, another show from Carll Wrecks Bell, Mando Saenz, Ian McFerin Band, Eliza Gilkyson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, The Stone Coyotes and John Evans.

And then this is also opening day of the Houston International Festival, which will find Bettye LaVette, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Red Stick Ramblers, Buddy Guy, Felipe Galvan y Los Skarnales, Flamin' Hellcats and Grupo Fantasma, among many others, taking various downtown stages.

April 20 is day three for the Crawfish and Stingaree Fests and day two of iFest.

Up in Spring, you can check out Evangeline, Orange Is In and Jeremy McComb on the rock stage. Rick Treviño is sandwiched between two unconfirmed performers on the country stage.

Down on the beach, there's Graham Wilkinson, Travis Linville, the Dedringers, Will Kimbrough, Terry Allen, and the Sideshow Tramps, not to mention a festival wrap party at the must-be-seen-to-be-appreciated beach dive Sharkey's.

Downtown, Trinidad's Major Riley, the Wailers, Haitian Emeline Michel, Louisianans Trombone Shorty, Sonny Landreth and Terrance Semien invade from near and far, while locals on the bill include Cuervo, Yoko Mono, Kyle Turner, Diunna Greenleaf, DJ Sun, Mike Reed and ­Kelly Dean. All that and cosmic blues-based harmonica ace Charlie Musselwhite, too.

And then there's the fact that this is, after all, 4-20. Most real stoners will be easy skankin' to Bob Marley's old backing band at iFest, but others of a more hasher libertarian Ayn Rand ilk will no doubt opt for Rush, who are up in The Woodlands — the trees, man, the trees! — on this most momentous of days. But if you already blew the price of a ticket to either of those shows on a fat sack of kind bud, never fear: one economy option is local Zep tribute band Black Dog, who can help you sort out what is and what should never be up at Fitz's.

Week Three

Whew.

Take a breather for a few days, and then head back up to Spring on April 25 for day four of the Crawfish Fest, with rockers Glass Intrepid and Texas troubadour Ray Wylie Hubbard, Brandon Rhyden and honky-tonker deluxe Davin James.

The next day's slate up there, on April 26, features Bob Schneider, Three Fantastic, SkyBlue 72, John Evans, Jesse Dayton, Todd Frisch, and Mickey and the ­Motorcars.

It's also day three at iFest. Dominican merengue king Joaquin Diaz, the Lowrider Band (read: War, of "Lowrider," "Cisco Kid," "The World is a Ghetto" and "Spill the Wine" fame), Shemekia Copeland and the Neville Brothers grace the main stage, while locals or semilocals the Soul Rebels Brass Band, the Hollisters, the Blue­runners, Brian Jack, Miss Leslie, Johnny Falstaff, the Resin Valley Boys, Somabit, Los Pistoleros de Tejas and Espantapajaros take to the side stages.

Up at The Woodlands, there's BuzzFest, and not quite all of the bands up there suck. Canadian neo-trad punker Billy Talent and Aussies Sick Puppies are somewhat decent, and My Chemical Romance appeals to my deeply suppressed latent theater nerd. ("Dead!" on Guitar Hero II made a believer of me.) Then, of course, there's the roll call of shame of compressed guitar/whiny vocals bands like Three Doors Down, Puddle of Mudd, Chevelle, Filter and Theory of a Deadman, whose name actually sounds like a parody band of this genre. And how is Seether gonna "Fake It" through the rest of their 55-minute set?

And on April 27, with the final days of the Crawfish Fest and iFest, it all comes to a close.

In Spring, there's Fight to Rescue, Zydecane, Without a Face and folky singers Adam Carroll and Shake Russell.

And downtown, spirited Pentecostal family band the Jones Family Singers, blues chanteuse Trudy Lynn, local zydeco king Step Rideau, Soulfruit, Free Radicals, Trenchtown Texans, Spain Colored Orange, Plump, Mary's Band, Grupo Batacha and Karina Nistal perform on the side stages. Meanwhile, the main stage stars Mauritius's Menwar, the Garifuna Collective from Belize, Habib Koite and Bamada from Mali, and Taj Mahal, who will also lead the Pan-African jam to close the whole shindig.

And that, my friends, is not a bad way to end Houston's coolest music month.

Houston International Festival
April 19 & 20 and April 26 & 27
http://www.ifest.org
The northwest corner of downtown Houston, including City Hall,Tranquility Park and Sam Houston Park

Texas Crawfish Festival
April 18-20 and April 25-27
http://www.texascrawfishfestival.com/
Old Town Spring

Outlaw Music Festival/Bay Area Rally/Yuri's Night
April 12
http://www.bayarearally.com/OutlawMusicFestival.aspx
Space Center Houston
1601 NASA Pkwy.

17th Annual KTRU Outdoor Show
Sunday, April 13, noon-9 p.m.
http://bang.rice.edu/
Rice University Intramural Fields 2 & 3

Stingaree Music Festival
April 18-20
http://www.stingareemusicfestival.com/
Highway 87, Crystal Beach, Texas.

BuzzFest
April 26
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Sold Out / Listen to The Buzz to win tickets.

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