Shows of the Week: An American Band Whose Patriotism Is Critical
Photo by Danny Clinch/Courtesy of ATO Records
White Oak Music Hall, April 11
Drive-By Truckers have spent more than 20 years trying to reclaim the South’s tarnished nobility, only in a much different way than politicians would have. Never a band for making apologies, the canny Truckers know that the best chance they have of changing people’s minds — about Southern rock as much as the Old South of George Wallace, et al. — is by elevating the Muscle Shoals Swampers as much as the great Lynyrd Skynyrd. They understand that while humor rarely triumphs over hardship, it often lessens the ache. And if those hard-learned lessons come in a gale of tornadic guitars, howling heavier than ever on latest album American Band, so much the better. With Hiss Golden Messenger.
House of Blues, April 14
Any new band comprised of veteran players can only hope the chemistry clicks in such a way that makes them realize what they had been missing all along, and so far The Rides are right on course. For “the blues band of my dreams,” classic-rock chieftain Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield, CSNY) recruited ’90s guitar prodigy Kenny Wayne Shepherd (“Blue on Black”) and esteemed Chicago keyboardist Barry Goldberg, whose credentials stretch back to jamming with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf as a teenager. The trio’s 2013 debut album, Can’t Get Enough, captured a spark of rejuvenation that soon enough spread to the stage, where The Rides’ repertoire spans the Stooges’s “Search and Destroy” to Elmore James’s “Talk to Me Baby.” Last year the group struck while the iron was hot with a studio followup, Pierced Arrow. Texas fans should be delighted to learn that Shepherd’s regular drummer, Chris Layton of Double Trouble fame, is on board for both Pierced Arrow and this tour. With Shannon McNally.
White Oak Music Hall, April 14
There was a time, long ago, when the world was divided on the subject of Morrissey. There were those who despised him for his Wildean affectations and his louche gloom, and there were, on the other hand, people with good taste. These days, Morrissey-penned Smiths anthems like “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” have become the global singalong to three decades of pandemic underemployment and related miseries. Likewise, hits from Morrissey’s solo discography such as “The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get” have mapped out the course of the Internet and its psychic sprawl within the pompadoured craniums of millions. Some artists make it hard on their fans; they behave badly, throwing fits and otherwise carrying on like divas, or they just can’t deliver, but the only difficult thing facing a Morrissey fan is dealing with the pain and the shock that occur when his only Houston show in years sells out before one has had the chance to secure tickets. (And then gets postponed for a month because of a band member's illness.) That, and deciding which Smiths song to put on next. Because he’s a dreamboat, a charismatic performer, a sharp dresser and a smooth operator, with an enviable quiff, an incomparable talent for wit and tuneage, and a croon that induces population booms. Note: This show is sold out…still. TEX KERSCHEN
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, April 15
Without question one of Houston’s most polarizing local festivals, Buzzfest has a very simple formula: Recruit a bunch of up-and-coming rock-radio bands and pair them with groups that once ruled the same airwaves. That formula has certainly worked, as Buzzfest continually ranks among the most-attended local festivals year after year. This year is no different, as headliners include Godsmack, Breaking Benjamin, P.O.D., Toadies and Filter. Other bands on the bill include New Politics, Red Sun Rising and Highly Suspect. Buzzfest features two stages, with music running from early afternoon until almost 11 p.m. Whether you’re looking to check out some of the hottest new bands on the mainstream rock scene or looking to jam to favorites of yesteryear, this one features a little something for everyone. CLINT HALE
SCOTT H. BIRAM, JESSE DAYTON
Fitzgerald’s, April 15
Scott H. Biram’s past album titles scan like the memoirs of a man with hellhounds on his trail and a sizable axe to grind: Graveyard Shift, Bad Ingredients, Nothin’ But Blood. His latest, again for Chicago’s Bloodshot label, is called The Bad Testament and plays true to form, shotgun blues through an outlaw-country lens and a garage-rocker’s gear, as told by a soul who has stared death in the face and likes his livin’ rough. The man whose songs have always boasted mucho mojo is hardly about to stop now. Taking more of a hillbilly-healer approach, Jesse Dayton uses last year’s The Revealer as a means of excavating his rangy youth in the Golden Triangle, a place where the specter of George Jones still looms heavy in the air, and finds a way to renew both his holy-ghost rock-and-roller spirit and honky-tonk attitude.
White Oak Music Hall, April 15
Rising from the ashes of early-aughts garage rock, Foxygen has reinvented itself. Its latest release, Hang, is an about-face from the duo's lo-fi guitar stylings, trading them in for an ornate, multi-instrumental patchwork of classic-rock sounds. The album is a bold, brassy pastiche; songs like "Follow the Leader" groove with the over-the-top orchestral conceits of Electric Light Orchestra, while others like "Avalon" recall the jaunty, fresh-off-Broadway sound of early Elton John. Such a dramatic change in style is an ambitious undertaking, but Foxygen delivers an album that is more than a mere homage to a genre since passed. The band is not only re-envisioning its own musical style, but redefining what that style can be in a modern context. That effort deserves critical plaudits, surely, but it also deserves an audience. Get out to White Oak and see what Foxygen is made of. With Gabriella Cohen. KATIE SULLIVAN
JONATHAN TOUBIN’S SOUL CLAP & DANCE-OFF
Walter’s Downtown, April 15
But for his implacable personal charm, the well-coiffed, well-dressed, Houston-born and New York-based nightlife impresario Jonathan Toubin, a vet of countless bands and weekly engagements, might have been what is known as a musician’s musician. Unlike most other guitarists and DJs, however, he reeks of pizazz. Over the years, by virtue of his charisma and a crazed work ethic, Toubin has become the architect of a strange, portable alternate-reality dance event called the Soul Clap. In this out-of-time world, soul music is still the reigning sound, and blasting it through tiny, tinny, treble-enhanced speakers is all it takes to get bodies moving, hips shaking, necks popping, and pelvises delving into the moony rotations of love. It has the upside-down rules of the dance floor at a wedding reception, which is just to say, even those who don’t dance may dance, strange hook-ups are the rule, and watch out for a few cases of outre frottage. And just like at any wedding, you will be judged. All are welcome to compete for the dance-off’s $100 cash prize, where Toubin will be joined by guest judges Archie and Juanita Bell, Vockah Redu, Zahira Gutierrez, Brad Moore, Darenda Weaver, guest DJs from A Fistful of Soul, and a special live performance by The Phantom Royals. TEX KERSCHEN
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