Houston's 10 Best Concerts In May

New Pornographers
New Pornographers
Photo by Jenny Jimenez/Courtesy of Sacks Co.

NEW PORNOGRAPHERS
White Oak Music Hall, May 4
The notion of ‘too many cooks’ has never applied to New Pornographers, the Vancouver-based outfit whose shimmering, whip-smart brand of power-pop has made them indie-rock sure things since the turn of the millennium, a full seven albums ago.
Credentials don’t come much more impeccable than founder A.C. Newman, who first tickled Canadian fans’ ears in the bands Superconductor and Zumpano; fellow Vancouverite Dan Bejar, the Bowie-esque driving force behind Destroyer; and American ringer Neko Case, the bewitching alt-country chanteuse known for albums such as The Tigers Have Spoken and Middle Cyclone. Last month the Pornographers followed up 2014’s Brill Bruisers with Whiteout Conditions (Concord), which Newman says in the press kit he imagined as “Kraftwerk meets the Fifth Dimension”; the results mine his climate-change anxiety, among other things, to yield yet another not-too-slick but supremely hummable set of songs. CHRIS GRAY

MITSKI
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 make 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

PAUL VAN DYK
Stereo Live, May 12
It seems that Houston’s Trance Family is constantly searching for a home, but for one night, presented by Dreamstate, they will converge on Stereo Live for Paul van Dyk. One of the originators of the scene from the mid-nineties and cementing his place on the scene at the turn of the century with The Politics of Dancing, van Dyk remains a steadfast and current attraction in the electronic-music world by touring and producing the VONYC Sessions podcast. The latest release, “Touched by Heaven,” has a deeper meaning than other songs he has produced in the past; it’s the first track since the German fell from a raised stage during a set in the Netherlands, nearly resulting in his death in February 2016. After an astonishingly rapid recovery from a severe traumatic brain injury and a broken spine, van Dyk is making his way back on the circuit by also playing EDC Las Vegas and several dates at Amnesia in Ibiza. JACK GORMAN

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 re-opens the commission as to how much those artists owe to LaPorte’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 moreso. He’s forever messing with his own signature, sometimes substituting Alice Coltrane vibes for grime production, at other times trading out the noise blasts and the 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

THE DAMNED
House of Blues, May 17
The Damned played their first gig back on July 6, 1976 opening up for the Sex Pistols at London’s 100 Club, helping to start and lead the UK’s punk movement, one of the most exciting and influential scenes in rock history. The first UK punk band to release a single, “New Rose” (1976) and album, Damned Damned Damned (1977), The Damned also toured the United States before any of their peers, in the spring of ’77. The Damned are a legendary band, obviously, but it seems like they are somewhat underappreciated in the U.S. compared to England; though true punk fans in America have always appreciated them, more people in the States have probably heard the cover of “Smash It Up” by The Offspring from 1995’s Batman Forever soundtrack than the (obviously) superior original recording; that’s just sad. The silver lining here is that general-admission tickets for this show, part of The Damned’s 40th anniversary tour, are only 20 bucks, an insanely good deal to see a band of this caliber. Full disclosure, though: only two original members of the band are left, singer Dave Vanian and guitarist Captain Sensible, but the reviews of the shows on this tour have been mostly positive. The Damned helped influence the hardcore scene with their fast-paced songs and rebellious attitude; later albums went in a more post-punk/goth direction, influencing many bands as well. With The Bellrays and Elhae. DAVID ROZYCKI

INSECT WARFARE
Walter’s Downtown, May 18
Remand all that ukulele pop and blues-rock boogie to your fan boat’s storage trunk; if you want to know what the rest of the world thinks of Houston, at least that part of the island that doesn’t know how to rap, it’s Insect Warfare. They don’t make ideal music for drinking craft beer in the shade of a floppy felt festival hat; rather, this is music for sipping datura-tea on a wisteria-smothered veranda while the world burns beyond a cinder to a fine, entirely toxic dust. Their 2007 opus World Extermination featured 20 songs in as many minutes, securing the band a place in the Valhalla of international grindcore, whence they retired after touring Europe and Japan. Since then, they’ve proceeded through the rosters of a who’s who of Houston bands including the Homopolice, Snooty Garbagemen, Subsonic Voices, War Master, and Oceans of Slumber. They’ve turned down all but a few selected reunion offers, and say this is their last show ever, which in the music business means for a few years at least. With Excruciating Terror, Captain Cleanoff, PLF, Holy Money, and Vulva Essers. TEX KERSCHEN



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