Robert Glasper Experiment Miller Outdoor Theatre, August 16
This should be a real pleasure: a free show under the stars featuring a hometown kid who has gone on to become a Grammy winner. Pianist, HSPVA alum and dedicated J. Dilla fan Robert Glasper was showered with hosannas with his 2012 album Black Radio, which saw significant activity on both iTunes' Jazz and R&B charts and went on to sell more than 100,000 copies.
Glasper flirted with the mainsteam even more on last fall's Black Radio Recovered EP, allowing producers such as Pete Rock and the Roots' Questlove to remix some Black Radio tracks. He looks poised for further pop stardom with upcoming Black Radio Vol. 2, due in late October with another litany of guest stars like Snoop Lion, Common, Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump, Lupe Fiasco, Anthony Hamilton and even Theo himself -- that's right, Malcolm-Jamal Warner is on the album. Below is a preview of its first single, the Jill Scott-starring "Calls." CHRIS GRAY
Little Big Town Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, August 16
Keith Urban may be Friday's headliner, but Little Big Town promises to leave the sandy-haired Aussie superstar in their frothy country-pop wake. If they hadn't before, the foursome - all of whom take turns singing lead and harmonize like no other group in Nashville right now - shook off their reputation as Lady Antebellum's poor relations for good with last year's Tornado, their fifth studio disc whose monster hit single "Pontoon" powered its way to a Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.
Think of them as Nashville's version of Fleetwood Mac without quite so many psychosexual head games, which could explain why they've been covering "The Chain" in concert recently. The vibe backstage at an LBT show is probably a lot more mellow, however. Dustin Lynch opens. CHRIS GRAY
The Dead Links Cactus Music (1 p.m.), August 17
Know a good band that never got enough love? Stabbing Westward. We hadn't thought about the Chicagoans best known for 1996 modern-rock hit "What Do I Have to Do" for ages, until we listened to High as It Goes, the brand-new disc by brand-new local band the Dead Links. This band is so new that their Web site only went live this past Tuesday and they don't even have a Facebook page yet, but they're hardly newcomers.
Links partners Scott Ayers and Ken Sheppard's pedigree includes the Pain Teens and Twenty Mondays (respectively), both reminders that Houston has long had a somewhat unexpected knack for turning out quality alterna-pop bands. High as It Goes ranges from aggressive electro-rock to the calmer waters approaching Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb," making it the most pleasantly surprising local debut to cross our desk in a good while. Worth an early-afternoon matinee at Cactus, absolutely. CHRIS GRAY
Mike Stinson Cactus Music (3 p.m.)/Rudyard's, August 17
About moving to Houston four years ago, Mike Stinson says, "If I'd stayed where I was, I still think I would have grown as a songwriter, but the change of scenery has done me good, man." With a probing eye for detail, dry wit and laconic delivery, the fortysomething Virginia native/L.A. veteran also has a way of raising a song's emotional stakes with a line that almost seems tossed off, like "She still thinks I'm a jerk," from "The Box I Take to Work."
That song and ten more just like it -- well, not just like it but similar enough to be different colors in the same crayon box -- appear on his excellent new album Hell and Half of Georgia, which Stinson officially releases with a busy Saturday that sees an in-store matinee at Cactus Music and Rudz nightcap with the Dollyrockers. See this week's Houston Press music feature on Stinson, "Out of the Box," for more. CHRIS GRAY
Lil Wayne Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, August 18
With Lil Wayne, T.I., and 2 Chainz all under the same roof, you know Sunday night is going to be a hot mess of awesome. Lil Wayne is one of the most visible rappers on the scene right now, dropping his own hits while being featured on nearly every track that hits the airwaves, plus he's got rims on his skateboard wheels and is damn near an honorary University of Houston alumnus.
Maybe if you're lucky he'll play some of the tracks off 1999 debut The Block is Hot, 'cause that stuff was crunk. Besides Weezy's main openers T.I and 2 Chainz, try to get there early enough to catch John Jay, an Alief native and Prairie View A&M grad who now calls Atlanta home and takes his rap cues from Nas and Lupe Fiasco. ANGELICA LEICHT
MC Chris Warehouse Live, August 18
If there's a better pairing than hip-hop and Adult Swim, you'd have to ask MC Chris what that might be. The 37-year-old writer, animator and performer got in on the ground floor of Cartoon Network's after-dark programming block -- more like the basement, really -- and became a driving force behind Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Sealab 2021 and The Brak Show, among others.
All the while, Chris was building a rap career intended to establish him as the geekiest MC who ever lived, with "nerdcore" tracks like the Devo-esque "Hoodie Ninja" and an entire subset of songs inspired by the Star Wars universe ("Fett's Vette," "Bossk On a Segway"). He's now released armloads of LPs, EPs and mixtapes including the recent MC Chris Foreverrr, so something must be working. With Dr. Awkward, Jesse Dangerously and Tribe One. CHRIS GRAY
Grascals Dosey Doe, August 18
Pure, young bluegrass groups -- the kind that make music the way Bill Monroe, Del McCroury or Ralph Stanley intended -- don't break out of the open-air festival circuit very often, but Grascals are one who has. Formed about a decade ago, the group of hardcore pickers from Nashville (but hardly of Nashville) first drew mainstream attention by touring with Dolly Parton and went on to win the International Bluegrass Music Association's Entertainer of the Year award two times.
After releasing 2011's Dance 'Til Your Stockings Are Hot & Ravelin', an album-length tribute to the music featured on The Andy Griffith Show, the Grascals covered Elvis Presley and James Taylor on last year's Life Finds a Way. CHRIS GRAY
THREE MORE SHOWS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER By Chris Gray
Bounce TV Summer Music Festival: R&B lions Maze feat. Frankie Beverly and the Isley Brothers head up a lineup also featuring KEM and hosted by Off the Chain comic Rodney Perry. (Toyota Center, August 16)
Hector Ward & the Big Time: Big-sounding Austin eight-piece heads up the "Houston Funktasm 2" with locals the White Flags. (Dan Electro's Guitar Bar, August 16)
Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms, Vertical Horizon: Your '90s pop-rock dreams/nightmares come true. (Arena Theatre, August 17)
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
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