Beyonce Toyota Center, July 15
How close to the center of pop culture is Beyonce these days? Here's a sample MTV.com headline, which took us all of about ten seconds to find one recent morning: "Beyonce Wore a Balloon Hat While Eating an Ice Cream Cone, and Our Summer Is Officially Made." Tongue in cheek or not -- we suspect not, honestly -- the Houston-bred 31-year-old HSPVA alumna has become such a one-woman brand and dominant media force it's all too easy to forget that she was already a consummate entertainer before 2003 solo debut Dangerously In Love even dropped.
These days, between allegedly controlling the Illuminati and possibly conceiving a baby sibling to supertoddler Blue Ivy, Beyonce has also extended her current "Mrs. Carter World Tour" far enough to add another Toyota Center date December 10. As of last week, tickets for tonight's show were mighty hard to come by, if not impossible; still, never say never, right? With Luke James.
Brandon Rhyder Dosey Doe (Big Barn), July 16
A dependable name on the honky-tonk circuit around these parts for years, Brandon Rhyder could be heading toward more conventional country territory on his new album That's Just Me, his eighth overall and first to be distributed by Nashville's Thirty Tigers. First single "Haggard" nods not to Merle but both Don Williams and "Ghost Riders In the Sky."
His band -- piloted by blues-steeped guitarist Matt Powell -- is powerful enough to have two live albums under their belts, but Rhyder's stripped-down style should be equally well-suited for Dosey Doe's more intimate weeknight "Real Life Real Music" series. With Kyle Hutton.
Paul Ramirez Band Continental Club, July 17
A weekly gig is about the best way for guitarists to hone their craft, and Houston's Paul Ramirez has done just that Wednesday nights at the Continental for more than a year now. It paid off last year with Sex With a Dragon, his debut CD that throws in a little Santana and New Orleans R&B into Ramirez's stick-to-your-ribs Texas blues-rock and shows some salty reverence towards Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean."
Dragon breathes enough fire that it doesn't wilt when held up to the gold standard of recent Lone Star guitarslinger offerings, Gary Clark Jr.'s Blak and Blu.
Mando Saenz McGonigel's Mucky Duck, July 18
About a decade ago, Mando Saenz was the toast of the Houston music scene, running around with the rootsy likes of Hayes Carll, John Egan and John Evans. Then Nashville came calling in the form of a deal with Houston native and respected producer Frank Liddell's Carnival Music, and Saenz began the curious life of a professional songwriter, which is equal parts craft and compromise.
Two more albums followed, 2005's Watertown and 2008's Bucket, Saenz has also found some success as a co-writer with Stoney LaRue, sending several songs from 2011's Velvet into the Texas Music charts. Now he's returned with another solo release, Studebaker, which is stocked sturdy, memorable tunes like "Breakaway Speed," "Pocket Change" and "The Road I'm On."
Rock Baby Rock It Continental Club, July 18
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Every year on "The Island," Rock Baby Rock It is one of the centerpieces of the Continental Club's calendar, and this weekend returns for lucky No. 13 with bright red and yellow flames painted on both fenders. The three-day celebration of all things rockabilly and hot-rod starts Thursday night with the debut of brand-new locals the Mean .44s; stay tuned for more Rock Baby Rock It later this week.