Shows of the Week: Dance-Music Ph.D.s Still Super After All These Years
Pet Shop Boys, actually.
Photo by Ken McKay/Courtesy of Sacks Co.
PET SHOP BOYS
White Oak Music Hall, November 2
Ranking elders of UK synth-pop alongside Depeche Mode and OMD, Pet Shop Boys carry themselves with a rare elegance, wit and style beyond what even those esteemed groups can touch. After debuting with a clutch of mid-‘80s transatlantic pop hits (“West End Girls,” “It’s a Sin”), Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have long since transcended those times by continually refining their brand of thinking-man’s dance music, becoming British icons while nurturing one of this country’s most dashing and devoted cult fanbases. Released this spring, Super marks the Boys' astonishing fifteenth link in a chain of one-word albums notable for their quality and consistency; over the years they’ve also branched out into ballet (The Most Incredible Thing) and a 2005 recasting of landmark Russian silent film Battleship Potemkin’s score. Tours of the States are decidedly less frequent, and are simply not to be missed by anyone bearing more than a modicum of culture and taste.
BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB
House of Blues, November 3
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s feedback-soaked swagger and burn-it-down attitude makes the L.A. trio an endangered species even within the ailing body of rock and roll itself. This is not a band known to play it safe or follow the herd; if anything, BRMC embraces the end with open arms. Such a breakthrough, the passing of singer/bassist Robert Levon Been’s father Michael — former leader of ‘80s alt-rock heroes The Call, who became the sound tech for his son’s band — inspired BRMC’s most recent album, 2013’s Spectre at the Feast. Ferocious and yearning, Spectre makes a fitting monument to Michael Been’s memory and is easily one of the most potent modern-rock albums of this decade; as they should, BRMC has pretty much been touring on the album ever since. With Toronto bashers Death From Above 1979 on directly beforehand, expect a double dose of mayhem Thursday.
Toyota Center, November 4
All bubbles pop. For a while, it seemed like everyone in the world of pop had a gimmick, and every award show was a chance for pop stars to prove they were the wackiest of them all. Slowly but surely, things regressed back to the middle: Gaga went jazz then Ronson; Katy Perry is writing songs for the Olympics; even Miley seems relatively chill these days. Thank goodness for Sia, then, for keeping pop off-kilter. While she may not be the walking meme that her contemporaries have been in the recent past, a major pop star who hides her face and releases incredibly artistic music videos is uncommon at best. With a powerful voice and a knack for writing hit songs (Rihanna's “Diamonds” being the best example), it was only a matter of time before she had a No. 1 song of her own, which she got this year with “Cheap Thrills.” Her show looks to be more performance art than big-time dance party, which is to be expected. Dance Mom fans take note: Maddie Ziegler is in fact on the road for this tour. And make sure you get there early for Miguel, who in a perfect and just world would have had the song of the summer with Kacey Musgraves’ remix of “Waves.” Also with Aluna George. CORY GARCIA
COUNTRY AT THE BALLPARK
Constellation Field (Sugar Land), November 5
Now in its second year, 93Q’s autumn shindig at Constellation Field is worth arriving early for. Nothing against headliner Jake Owen, the seasoned (if bro-ish) hitmaker behind “The One That Got Away” and three No. 1s; nor newcomers Frankie Ballard, who scored three Top 10 singles off 2014 debut Sunshine & Whiskey, and LANco, the strapping Nashville lads who enjoyed their first taste of radio success with this summer’s “Long Live Tonight.” The other two acts elevate Saturday’s show well above standard country-radio-fest fare; that's all. Let’s start with Aaron Watson, the Abilene-raised straight arrow whose 2015 LP The Underdog proved the George Strait model of white-hat traditionalism still packs plenty of commercial clout, shocking the Music City establishment by debuting at No. 1. The other is a trio already getting a lot of mileage off its debut single — Nashville’s Runaway June, whose soaring three-part harmonies and empowerment overtones on “Lipstick” recall the Dixie Chicks, and whose classic Western style goes beyond posing: Singer/guitarist Jennifer Wayne is John Wayne’s granddaughter.
Warehouse Live, November 6
Pop artists like Sugar Joiko don't necessarily come from the most straightforward beginnings. Offstage, she's a self-professed nerd, a lover of video games and anime who sports long, unmistakable silver braids to prove it. But the Louisiana-to-Houston transplant has always had this voice, this perfectly wound instrument that can move into sonic boom territory if provoked. After becoming a mainstay at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar and nailing cover songs left and right, Joiko crafted her own album, Motionless, and released it a little over a month ago. How does one celebrate their debut album hitting Spotify and iTunes? Throwing a concert at Warehouse Live. Any singer with the smallest hint of pop sensibility looks at the WHL stage as not just a rite of passage but a venue to make their own. Motionless packs those pop-meets-hip-hop moments such as “Bad Girlz,” and neon- glow dance cuts like “Magic”; and plays to Sugar Joiko's greatest strength: her ability to be anything she feels like. BRANDON CALDWELL
DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN
White Oak Music Hall, November 6
For nearly 20 years, the Dillinger Escape Plan has blazed a dangerously loud and sometimes bloody trail through some of the headiest and most hedonistic corners of the rock and roll universe. Emerging from the fertile wilds of the late-‘90s Northeastern hardcore scene, the band quickly became a scene unto itself, dedicated to fearless extremity both onstage and in the studio. The group’s pummeling, mechanical riffing and jazzy, syncopated drumming were a deliberate step beyond peers such as Coalesce or Mr. Bungle, and few acts have caught up to them since. Now, though, their campaign of metallic chaos is coming to an end. To commemorate the release of their sixth album — Dissociation, released this month — the band has undertaken one final tour, which slams into White Oak Music Hall Sunday. The show promises to be the loudest and wildest in the venue’s short history, and it could well be the last time the mighty Dillinger visits the Bayou City. With O Brother, Cult Leader and Entheos. NATHAN SMITH
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