Shows of the Week: The xx Will See You Now, Houston
Photo by Alasdair McLellan
Revention Music Center, May 9
Seven years ago, a London-based indie-electronic four-piece released an album that took the industry by storm. The xx's eponymous debut incorporated a wide range of influences — R&B, rock and pop supplemented with electronic undertones — to craft an atmospheric, ethereal album that struck a chord in the U.S. and UK alike. The record landed The xx on a number of year-end Top 10 lists, notably in Rolling Stone and NME. Shortly after their debut, one of the band's founding members left, but thanks to their prolific programmer and producer Jamie xx, the band sounds as emotive as ever on their latest release. Now a trio, The xx has received praise from critics and fans alike for their third studio album and first release in five years, I See You. MATTHEW KEEVER
Walter’s Downtown, May 9
Mitski's confessional, cryptic and stripped-down album Puberty 2 set indie hearts ablaze in 2016. With its raw soundscapes and effusive ruminations, the album captures the pains of being young and passionate in a brutally quotidian world. Each song showcases Mitski's vocal strength, even when those songs grapple with failure. In "I Bet on Losing Dogs," for example, Mitski's notes are even and steely as she bemoans her pattern of unsatisfying romances. But the quality of Mitski's musicianship should not go without mention; she's a master of distortion pedals, a fearless purveyor of fuzzy, crunchy guitar. Fans of Neutral Milk Hotel will love songs like "My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars," a chunky number that grumbles under the oppressive demands of the rent. Mitski's unique blend of gentleness and grit makes her a great fit for Walter's Downtown, a beloved venue that's equal parts intimate and dirty. If there was ever a time and a place to see the voice of a young generation play, it's here and now. KATIE SULLIVAN
McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, May 11
Though hardly a household name, Amy Rigby is a superb name to drop whenever the conversation turns to smart singer-songwriters. Her musical origins date back to the No Wave scene in late-’70s New York, where Rigby helped found TriBeCa No Wave hub Tier 3, before going on to tweak Byrds-y country in Last Roundup and ’60s pop in early-’90s Matador girl group the Shams. Her reputation, though, rests largely on 1996 solo debut Diary of a Mod Housewife, a sparkling collection of funny and frank songs about new motherhood, old flames and the truism that domestic life is seldom domesticated. Later, her “Dancing With Joey Ramone,” from 2005’s Little Fugitive, became a favorite on Little Steven’s Underground Garage, and Rigby released three albums with husband Wreckless Eric, the UK-born New Wave hero of “Whole Wide World” fame. Thank last year’s 20th-anniversary vinyl release of Housewife for her first visit to Houston in eons.
Revention Music Center, May 11
Travis Scott’s fans are, if anything, obsessively dedicated. The Mo City rapper recently celebrated his 25th birthday on his Birds Eye View tour, a trip into anarchy where fans either took to the stage to dive into a throbbing mass of people or hung from the rails inside New York’s Terminal 5 — only to either leap onto the crowd below them or lose their grip altogether. “Goosebumps,” with Kendrick Lamar, has become Scott’s biggest radio single, and last year’s Birds In the Trap Sing McKnight his most successful album. In line with his heroes (Kanye West, KiD CuDi, Mike Dean), Scott has turned numerous venues upside down by pushing a rave concept harder than any other performer in his weight class. In less than four years, he's ascended to Houston’s rap throne, yet still somehow remains an enigma because of how little of his actual backstory he puts into his music. Newly minted Rockets ambassador, rumored beau of Kylie Jenner, and Mo City kid with his own jagged crown. That's Travis Scott these days; a homecoming stop only means more of his raucous, energetic norm. BRANDON CALDWELL
Revention Music Center, May 12
It’s nearly impossible to think of a pop-rock album released within the past half-century, however successful or obscure, that hasn’t been in some way influenced by Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys’ 1966 masterpiece was born of Brian Wilson’s overbearing father, the cherubic melodies in his head, his artistic struggles with his bandmates (singer Mike Love in particular) and just a hint of the band’s surf-rock beginnings; the album came at considerable personal cost to its principal creator, who on it even acknowledged “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.” History of course has been beyond kind to Pet Sounds, and Hollywood revisited Wilson’s struggle to realize his vision and difficult path to redemption in the acclaimed 2014 film Love and Mercy, whose current Rotten Tomatoes rating sits at 91. Yet as much as the album has been analyzed and imitated (but never duplicated), few moments could probably ever match watching Wilson perform Pet Sounds live on this 50th-anniversary tour with a pair of special guests, his onetime fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine and longtime Rolling Stones associate Blondie Chaplin.
ROCK THE RANCH
Valley Ranch Town Center (11985 North Grand Parkway East, New Caney), May 12 and 13
Come for the music, stay for the real-estate opportunities: No one can fault the organizers of this two-day festival/neighborhood open house for a stale marketing strategy. Rock the Ranch was conceived to spark interest in Valley Ranch Town Center, the latest high-density, mixed-use development to spring up in Houston’s hinterlands, in this case near New Caney. The promoters, the East Montgomery County Improvement District and Vancouver-based 542 Entertainment, are promising all sorts of enticements — a freestyle motocross demonstration, a barbecue cookoff, shopping, street performers, etc. — but the real lure is a solid music lineup that will christen the 13,500-seat Valley Ranch Amphitheater, featuring one minor stroke of booking genius in Saturday’s main-stage opener: the “I Love the ’90s Tour,” in which Salt N Pepa (with Spinderella), Vanilla Ice, Color Me Badd, Tone Loc and Young MC each get a half-hour to work their Cross Colours-era nostalgia. The weekend should also make a sweet homecoming gig for recent The Voice breakout Sundance Head, who hails from nearby and performs both days; other acts to watch include Houston-born Christian rap star LeCrae, irrepressible “Good Feeling” rapper Flo Rida, R&B/pop smooth daddy Jason DeRulo and Nashville-based millennial blues-rockers New Respects.
B L A C K I E
Civic TV, May 13
Some artists have publicists; some have street teams; B L A C K I E has a rabid cult following such that he’s able to sell out every copy of his self-produced and self-released albums on nothing but word of mouth. Every time Kanye or Death Grips gets mentioned in the press, a forum somewhere online reopens the commission as to how much those artists owe to La Porte’s finest cultural export. The trick of it is, it’s no easy thing describing the actual music Michael LaCour makes, because it’s constantly changing. To call it rap is meaningless, to call it hardcore even more so. He’s forever messing with his own signature, sometimes substituting Alice Coltrane vibes for grime production, other times trading out the noise blasts and hip-hop production with long interludes of progressive sax and transgressive funk. Whether moving forward into abstract realms or doubling down on the performative elements that set a room ablaze, B L A C K I E keeps one hand on the runes and one on the wheel. With Illustrations and Baby Horse. TEX KERSCHEN
Photo courtesy of Chuy Terrazas/Preston Theater
MOTHER'S DAY WITH SAMMIE
Preston Theater, May 14
For Houston music fans of a certain vintage, just the name Sammie is sufficient to conjure memories of sweaty Saturday nights dancing to a nearly bottomless well of classic soul oldies, shows that often ended with the entire audience shaking their collective groove thang. That was the scene at the old Gallant Knight for years and years, and then 2016 Main after that; the music ceased at those long-gone venues, but Sammie Relford hasn’t. Since leaving 2016 nearly a decade ago, the dynamic singer has struggled to find another regular home, but he’s never quit trying, and anyone familiar with his never-say-die spirit knew it was just a matter of time before Sammie got another shot. On Mother’s Day, it comes at the Preston Theater, the brand-new venue near Minute Maid Park that recently hosted Bun B and other top Houston rappers for an episode of the hit Web-concert series Boiler Room. This early-evening show (6 p.m. doors) will be filmed for the debut installment of Preston Theater Live, a similarly minded showcase, and all the mothers in the house even get a free Sammie CD. Early-bird tickets, available here, start at $10.
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