Blake Shelton Reliant Stadium, March 15
After more than a decade of climbing country music's ranks to become one of its most successful and charismatic male vocalists, Blake Shelton found himself taking a little heat not long ago when comments he made about certain "old farts" clinging to country's past bit him where the good Lord split him. It was a little surprising to hear him talk that way, considering that Shelton flies the honky-tonk traditionalist flag higher than just about any big Nashville star these days, and because the kind of self-effacing wit that plays so well to the coasts on his The Voice judging gig was notably absent.
But the whole thing has already blown over (mostly), in no small part because it's hard to stay mad at a guy whose new single, "Sure Be Cool If You Did," derives its title from a catchphrase in stoner-cult movie Dazed & Confused. The song's parent album, the forthcoming Based On a True Story, will be Shelton's ninth overall. CHRIS GRAY
Local Natives Fitzgerald's, March 15
Local Natives followed up 2009's vastly popular Gorilla Manor with this past January's Hummingbird, furthering the L.A. act's rep as the West Coast version of Vampire Weekend. All jangle, drama and pie-eyed wonder, the Natives's songs are definitely made for swooning to in the quad.
Within two album cycles, the indie-pop touring juggernauts have gone from packing Mango's to the gills to selling out House of Blues in 2010 and now Fitzgerald's. CRAIG HLAVATY
Tegan & Sara Warehouse Live, March 15
Calgary-raised identical twins Tegan and Sara Quin have come a long way from folkish early albums such as 2000's This Business of Art. If it's been a while since you thought about the Canadian duo -- like maybe since the White Stripes covered "Walking With a Ghost" on 2005's Get Behind Me Satan -- you might want to give them another listen.
They've never lost their keen melodic instincts, true, but have now developed into full-on dance-pop dynamos after last year's Heartthrob, which shares both a glossy aerobic-workout aesthetic and an actual producer, Dave Kurstin, with Ke$ha. CHRIS GRAY
St. Patrick's Day Party Griff's Irish Pub, March 17
Beloved Montrose sports bar Griff's is known as a relatively low-key place to watch the Astros or Texans and grab a thick 'n' hearty steak on Tuesdays, and also for the most bacchanalian St. Patrick's Day party this side of the Blarney Stone. From noon on Sunday, mostly local bands of a hard-rock and/or Celtic bent will keep Griff's beer flowing and the bathroom lines full.
Setting up on the patio will be Cottonwood Blossom, Jerry Jones, Tom Ryan, Black Queen Speaks and The Tyburn Jig; Infinity's Twin, the Dollyrockers, and L.A.'s the Dolly Rots have the honors in the parking-lot tent. Houston's Dead Rabbits close out the night around 8 p.m. by releasing a brand-new CD. Please designate a driver or call a cab. CHRIS GRAY
FIVE OTHER SHOWS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER By Chris Gray
Bernie Worrell Orchestra: Part of George Clinton's P-Funk supporting cast and an eventual Talking Heads and Mos Def collaborator, keyboard master Worrell is a deserved Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. (Last Concert Cafe, March 15)
El Vez: The "Mexican Elvis" is celebrating his Silver Jubilee this year, 25 years that has seen him go from L.A. punk band the Zeros to becoming a folk icon in his own right with songs like "En el Barrio" and "Suspicious Minds" spin "Immigration Time." With Dash Rip Rock. (Continental Club, March 15)
Lillian Axe: The ambtious pop-metal band behind the albums Psychoschizophrenia and 2012's XI: The Days Before Tomorrow will auction off a guitar built by the band's Steve Blaze to raise money for the familes of nine U.S. Air Force and one civilian contractor who were killed in an April 11 ambush with an Afghani militia. See www.airforceguitar.com for details. (Concert Pub North, March 16)
Luke Bryan: Toothsome Nashville heartthrob sorta redeems himself from the awful hit "Country Girls (Shake It For Me)" with a concept album about Spring Break, ingeniously titled Spring Break... Here to Party, which features the closing track "Take My Drunk Ass Home." (Reliant Stadium, March 16)
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George Strait: "The Cowboy Rides Away" from Reliant in a show so sold-out even the new pope would have trouble getting tickets. But there are ways. (Reliant Stadium, March 17)