Trombone Shorty at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 2012
Trombone Shorty at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, 2012

Shows of the Week: The New Orleans Party-Starter With the Go-To Gris-Gris

TROMBONE SHORTY & ORLEANS AVENUE
House of Blues, September 19
Like Dr. John before him, Trombone Shorty is pop music’s premiere ambassador of New Orleans gris-gris, a lifelong musician steeped in Crescent City lore with widespread appeal to fans who don’t know a beignet from a bayonet. The 31-year-old musician, born Troy Andrews, joined rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley onstage at Jazz Fest at age four and was a member of top second-line crew the Stooges Brass Band by his teens. Since founding his group Orleans Avenue in 2009, “Get Shorty” has become music-biz shorthand for stars in need of a little Big Easy flavor — Andrews’ myriad guest shots include Zac Brown Band’s “Overnight,” Foo Fighters’ 2014 album Sonic Highways, and even PBS’s Red, White & Blues: In Performance at the White House. In April, he released his debut album for iconic jazz label Blue Note Records, Parking Lot Symphony, an exuberant sampler of Shorty’s style that ranges from Usher-esque party-starters like “Here Come the Girls” to the authentic Meters grooves of “Fanfare” and “Like a Dog.”

BANKS
Warehouse Live (Ballroom), September 20
We are blessed to live in an age with an overabundance of music, so you can be forgiven if you somehow missed Banks' The Altar last year or didn't catch her stellar set at Day for Night 2016. If you've been sleeping on Banks, you're missing out on one of the more interesting voices in modern R&B/pop. Her songs follow the same “open diary” approach like those of many of her contemporaries, while still managing to maintain a sense of distance, which is a delicate balance in what often seems like a genre built on oversharing or trying to be recklessly entertaining. The Altar's “Gemini Feed”/”Fuck With Myself” might have been the very best 1-2 punch on any record of the last year, both being endless catchy in different ways. With Banks, times are typically dark, but there's beauty in the vulnerability. CORY GARCIA

THE CHURCH
Heights Theater, September 20
For decades, The Church have struggled with a dilemma that would be the envy of most bands. Ever since they released Classic Numbers fixture “Under the Milky Way” in 1988, that song’s ubiquity on soundtracks and vintage alt-rock compilations has, unfortunately, left the rest of the psych-tinged Australian rockers’ vast discography in relative obscurity. This despite an abundance of true gems, from uplifting native-land breakthrough “The Unguarded Moment” to Starfish-era single “Reptile,” which is nearly as haunting as “Milky Way,” all the way through 2015’s Further/Deeper, the first Church album since the departure of longtime guitarist Marty Willson-Piper. Fans worried about any disruptive effects of new member Ian Haug (ex-Powderfinger) on the group’s mellow, melancholy sound need not worry. Under the auspices of bassist/vocalist Steve Kilbey since the get-go, The Church — whose next album, Man Woman Life Death Infinity, is due out next month — have long since developed into a model of musical consistency. With The Helio Sequence.

LUKE BRYAN
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, September 22
Say what you want about Luke Bryan, but he’s arguably the biggest country presence in the game since Garth Brooks ruled the roost some 20-plus years ago. Bryan is a born performer, and his songs carry a certain weight with them. Did he write all of those songs? No, but then again, neither did George Strait, Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney or numerous others who have carried the country mantle through the years. Simply put, Luke Bryan, whether you like it or not, is the face of country music, and this concert will sell out. Plus, “Drink a Beer,” penned by the great Chris Stapleton, is one hell of a track. With Brett Eldredge and Granger Smith. CLINT HALE

THE DESCENDENTS
House of Blues, September 22
On the surface, the Descendents seem like goofball heroes – spastic caffeinated kids of the black hole that effortlessly spun lovelorn punk songs like “Hope” and spawned 100,000 band wannabes. Yet, their intelligence and inventiveness still run wide and deep. Influenced by everything from first-wavers like the Alley Cats to the experimental contortions of avant-garde jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, their music defies all boundaries and norms, becoming some kind of volatile hybrid. Meanwhile, their new tunes, for instance “Feel This,” emote like powerhouse punk-pop with bite and gritty propulsion; “No Fat Burger” burns just as hard and fast as their classics while weighing the tribulations of adulthood (like avoiding bypass surgery!), and “Human Being” addresses homelessness and nuclear warheads in less than one minute. As always, they manage the seemingly impossible: a commitment to uncompromising musicality and lyrics that tuck in heartache as well as barbed and insightful sarcasm, which is all underpinned by swells of conscience. DAVID ENSMINGER

FREE RADICALS
Last Concert Cafe, September 23
A new Free Radicals album is effectively a road map of recent headlines and controversial issues, as interpreted by some of the Bayou City's most adventurous musicians. It's also, without fail, a heck of a party. This freewheeling collective of musical activists has been a staple of the Houston scene for more than a generation, consistently brewing an imaginative gumbo of hard jazz, world music and less obscure genres that lately comes packaged under titles referring to refugee camps, political prisoners and the Dakota Access Pipeline. The group's brand-new, self-released LP, Outside the Comfort Zone, follows 2015’s Freedom of Movement and is another constellation of styles oriented around the North Star of astral-jazz pioneer Sun Ra, whose “A Call For All Demons" appears late in the running order. By then, after more than an hour of music, listeners can be forgiven for thinking there's no territory the Radicals have left unexplored, but that is simply not the case. The next album, they swear, will have lyrics.

LEE FIELDS & THE EXPRESSIONS
Heights Theater, September 24
Lee Fields is a true soul survivor. Onstage, the sixtysomething singer is such a powerhouse he’ll be covered in a film of sweat within the first two or three songs. Not only did he earn the nickname “Little JB” back in the day, but he proved it again by providing vocals to Hollywood’s acclaimed 2014 James Brown biography Get On Up. Fields belongs to the class of older musicians whose profile has been elevated by the revival of interest in throwback R&B (the ailing Charles Bradley is another), which he has played a significant part in himself thanks to the handful of magnificent 21st-century albums he made for the Truth & Soul label, among them the My World and Faithful Man. He’s faithful to that same style on last year’s Special Night (Big Crown) an album full of funky organ, sassy horns and fat bass lines, and which its maker has described as “a record about what people do in real life.” It’s pretty much an even split between songs designed for the bedroom or the dance floor, so draw your own conclusions about what that might be. With Mia Borders.

DEPECHE MODE
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, September 24
Fitting for a band whose identity often coils around front man Dave Gahan’s snaky hips, Depeche Mode has shed its artistic skin multiple times, always emerging cannier, more poised and more hypnotizing to their fans as before. The group formed by a bunch of teens in the outer-ring London suburb of Basildon is not the same as the synth-pop breakouts of “Just Can’t Get Enough” and “People Are People,” nor the arena-conquering troubled souls of the Music For the Masses and Violator years, nor the blues-infatuated pilgrims of new-millennium peak Playing the Angel. (Forever the dark horse: ’86’s Black Celebration.) What Depeche Mode does share through its many personae are the songwriting gifts of Martin L. Gore and, in Gahan, one of rock’s hands-down sexiest shamen since Jim Morrison gave up the ghost. That potent combination is pressed into the service of equipment that would make Kraftwerk envious, all the better to craft the shapely and seductive sounds of latter-day albums Delta Machine and this spring’s politically restless Spirit.

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