Shows of the Week: A Pop-Star Outlier's Latest Cathedral of Sound
Photo courtesy of BWR-PR
House of Blues, May 16
It is likely folly at this point to look at the Warped Tour and expect any of the up-and-coming acts to break out into the mainstream; those days feel long behind us. But then an act like PVRIS comes along, ticking a bunch of boxes that should lead to healthy career on modern radio: a crafty blend of electro-pop and pop-punk; a dark aesthetic that will push plenty of units at Hot Topic; and a singer with a voice just strong enough to make people stop and pay attention. (See their cover of Sia's “Chandelier” for proof.) But success for PVRIS could be bigger than just a being happy for a talented band making it; for young girls who don't see themselves onstage often enough and for queer teens in love with a genre that hasn't always been the most friendly to them, seeing a band like them succeed has a bigger meaning. Is thinking about the big picture premature? Perhaps, but just being able to have a picture to think about at all is a pretty big step. With Lydia, CRUISR and Beach Weather. CORY GARCIA
FLORENCE + THE MACHINE
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, May 17
Florence Welch is an outlier among modern pop stars — more forward-thinking musically than Adele, less reliant on electronic studio alchemy than just about anyone else. If the UK singer and songwriter is short on peers, it’s because only she can match a truly otherworldly voice with songs that summon similar supernatural forces. She’s just got an aura about her, which certainly permeates her third album as Florence + the Machine, 2015’s How Big How Blue How Beautiful. Sprinkling the essence of spiritual ancestors like Carole King and Kate Bush over classic-soul underpinnings and the kind of sweeping orchestral grandeur a voice like Welch’s demands, How Big is a towering cathedral of an album whose majestic architecture only calls attention to the emotional riptide at its core. With Grimes.
Continental Club, May 18
Forget that trendy so-called “Americana,” the Blasters play American music. There are no banjos or aggressive stomping, no phony vintage outfits, just three guitars, three amps and a trap set, but this 30+-year Downey, Calif. band of rock and roll warriors will stomp a crowd’s collective butt with hard-driving originals like “Trouble Bound,” “Border Radio” or “American Music,” top-shelf tunes that have stood the up over the decades since the Alvin brothers launched them in the early ‘80s. Anchored by one of roots-rock’s legendary rhythm sections and featuring flame-thrower guitarist Keith Wyatt, the Blasters’ current lineup backs down from no one, which is why we described them as "the Roman Legion of rock and roll" the last time they raided our burg. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Discovery Green, May 19
Seeing Bun B onstage Thursday, opening night of Discovery Green’s spring free-concert series sponsored by UH-Downtown, could be a novel experience for many Houstonians. Last time many of us laid eyes on H-Town’s eternal King of the Trill, he was spearheading flood-relief efforts in the sodden Greenspoint area as too many actual elected officials seemed a little too preoccupied with playing politics. This between Bun’s other duties as Rice professor, vagabond Gumball 3000 rally competitor and Campaign 2016 VICE correspondent. Don’t worry much about his rap chops being rusty, though. He’s also coming off a sweet little gig earlier this month, helping DJ Khaled warm up the crowd at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium for another hometown icon whose name happens to start with the exact same letter. With DJ Chose.
Lakewood Church, May 20
City and county officials have rightfully taken their fair share of criticism for inadequate long-term planning and an inconsistent response to last month’s horrible Tax Day flooding (see above), but they do deserve some credit for at least recognizing that many people in this area are hurting right now, and thus helping organize relief efforts like Friday’s “Houston Recovers” concert. Also due some big thanks are Lakewood Church pastors Joel and Victoria Osteen, for making the former Summit available for the event, and good-guy country singer Clay Walker for helping organize it; such a large-scale benefit like this is not easy to put together, especially in less than two weeks. More performers besides Walker should be announced Monday afternoon, and more last-minute surprise guests seem inevitable. (We’re pulling for Joel Osteen’s unlikely duet partner on the 2015 single “Chuuch,” Slim Thug.) The concert will also be broadcast live on Channel 13 (KTRK-TV), and anyone who wants to help — whether they plan to attend or not — can do so by texting HOUSTON to 91999.
Walters Downtown, May 20
Nowadays it seems like critics will bend over backwards to avoid using the word “goth,” as terms like “deathrock” have become more en vogue, but Bela Lugosi’s cape sure fits snugly around Pleasure Leftists’ shoulders. Named after singer Haley Morris’s former college-radio show, the Cleveland foursome crystallize a bracing sound that combines the breakneck, throttling guitars of U2’s first couple of albums with Morris’s otherworldly vocals, which were once likened to a “crying Dracula.” True, it is hard — nay, impossible — to deny a certain resemblance between Morris and the high priestess of post-punk, Siouxsie Sioux, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying the crackling energy and dank-basement vibe of albums like last year’s The Woods of Heaven. Release the bats! With Gast, No Love Less and Lace.
Sam Houston Race Park, May 21
Alabama spent the ‘80s and a good bit of the ‘90s as the only real band to make the country charts with any regularity — in fact, they were the biggest-selling country artist of the 1980s — even as their blend of down-home music, Nashville pop and Southern soft-rock became the template for what fans recognize as “country” today. Alabama largely went the “retirement” route after 2001’s When It All Goes South, but after Brad Paisley’s hit “Old Alabama” kick-started their legacy a decade later, the band decided to roll on again with one of the deepest catalogs in modern country, even adding to it with last year’s Southern Drawl album. No surprise here, but one surefire showstopper around these parts will always be 1984’s “If You’re Gonna Play In Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle In the Band).” With Ryan Bingham.
Toyota Center, May 21
Fifty Shades of Grey helped catapult The Weeknd from a singer with some great (but weird) songs into a juggernaut. So successful was he after he appeared on the soundtrack that it's easy to forget that he was not the only one that flipped a song for the movie into arena stardom. Now, it's not as if Ellie Goulding didn't have her share of popular songs pre-50 Shades, but “Love Me Like You Do” brought her a whole new crop of fans, enough that she's headed to the Toyota Center this visit to Houston. It’s a double-edged sword for those fans who caught her on her previous, smaller shows in town: yes, it means losing physical proximity and good sight lines, but it's always nice to see talented performers get to work on bigger canvases. Fingers crossed Goulding’s already-formidable live show scales well. With Years & Years. CORY GARCIA
Fitzgerald’s, May 21
Originally from Pearland, Fox Parlor began making a name for themselves around Houston on 2014 LP Hell or High Water, which laid on the rock and roll swagger while alternating between a ramrod-straight AC/DC backbone and slinky, hip-swiveling R&B groove on tunes like “Girl I Like to Kiss” and “Ain’t That the Truth.” (“No flashing lights or gimmicks, just piss and vinegar,” front man Andrew Berry told the Houston Press last year.) After a couple of more years of steady gigging at other respectable rock rooms like Walters, Notsuoh and the Continental, Fox Parlor has chosen Fitzgerald’s to release High Water’s followup, the West Dallas Rodeo EP, on Saturday. Produced by John Evans and recorded at SugarHill Studios, the four-song release should be perfectly attuned to feathered bangs and Camaro speakers. With Handsomebeast and Mojave Red.
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