The Five Best Concerts In Houston This Week: Zola Jesus, Amanda Shires, Topp Dogg, etc.
Photo by Jeff Elstone/High Rise PR
Zola Jesus Fitzgerald's, February 2
Zola Jesus sounds exactly like what she is: a classically trained child prodigy whose high-school favorites included Throbbing Gristle, Swans and Diamanda Galas; the arty drama kid who dreams of playing Coachella someday. If that sounds a little pretentious, it is, but so was Tori Amos and people still listen to Little Earthquakes all the time. Suspending classic singer-songwriter pop a la Carole King in a bath of postmodern production -- think UK indie minimalists The xx -- the 25-year-old singer's 2014 album Taiga never lets all the effects avert the focus from her vocal passion plays. With Deradoorian.
Amanda Shires McGonigel's Mucky Duck, February 3/Dosey Doe, February 5
Also known as Mrs. Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires was one of Americana's hottest fiddle players long before that, and has recently begun emerging as a roots-pop songstress to be reckoned with. A Texan born and bred, splitting her early years between Lubbock and Mineral Wells, Shires joined the Texas Playboys (yes, those Texas Playboys) at age 15, performed for a while in a duo with acclaimed folksinger Rod Picott, and was part of Todd Snider's band on 2012's Agnostic Hymns & Solo Fables.
Along the way, she also released four solo albums along the way and appeared onscreen as part of Gwynyth Paltrow's backing band in the 2010 Nashville melodrama Country Strong. In 2013, the year she and Isbell married, she released Down Fell the Doves, which prompted No Depression to gush, "You shouldn't be wasting valuable time reading when you should already be making plans to buy this album." Shires' Houston-area fans have been blessed with two opportunities to see her this week, three days and many, many, many miles apart.
Be.Witched Wednesday Numbers, February 4
Houston's only night to hear the most sinister subgenres of alternative music all in one place, Be.Witched Wednesdays is a lot more than Siousxie & the Banshees, the Cure and Bauhaus -- not that they'd ever skimp on such cornerstones, either. DJs Damon Allen and FrankiFranki (and their guests) touch on goth, industrial, post-punk, darkwave, EBM, New Romantic, synth-pop, and a lot more besides, meaning all the greats (Skinny Puppy, Clan of Xymox, Sex Gang Children) among plenty of legends and just as many acts you'd nearly forgotten. Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, anyone?
More shows on the next page.
Topp Dogg Bayou Music Center, February 5
PSY's out-of-nowhere 2012 "Gangnam Style" was a huge hint that U.S. audiences could fall hard for the over-the-top charms of "K-pop," the assimilation of Western Top 40 music by aspiring young Korean entertainers. Organized in 2012, super-sized Seoul singing/rapping group Topp Dogg takes a few pages from New Edition and New Kids On the Block's hyperactive playbooks (via One Direction) in their bid for crushworthy international stardom.
According to the Houston Korean American Chamber of Commerce, Texas has the fifth-largest number of Korean nationals in the U.S., with almost 12,000 in Harris County alone. That makes Houston an easy choice for one of the first dates -- the very first, in fact -- of Topp Dogg's 2015 North American tour, and yet another reminder of what an international city this really is.
Paul Thorn Main Street Crossing, February 5
Mississippi-born preacher's kid Paul Thorn comes up with some great album titles: Mission Temple Fireworks Stand, A Long Way From Tupelo and What the Hell Is Going On, the 2012 LP that contains his appropriately lustful cover of Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Snake Farm." His latest, Too Blessed to Be Stressed, is more of what fans have come to expect: the lyrical acumen of Tom T. Hall or John Prine with music that splits the difference between rock, gospel and the gritty country-blues of Thorn's homeland.
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