Kendrick Lamar Reliant Arena, June 11
Before Kendrick Lamar had ever released his major-label debut, he'd already worked with hip-hop giants like Dr. Dre, Drake, Warren G and Lil Wayne, thanks to a rabid Internet following and some wildly successful independent work. He's continued to find his footing as one of hip-hop's elite, with last year's studio debut good kid, m.A.A.d city being met with some crazy critical acclaim.
He's also been crowned MTV's 2013 choice for "No. 1 Hottest MC in the Game." Pretty incredible, considering his album only dropped last October. Also with Schoolboy Q, Ab Soul, Jay Rock and Kid Ink. ANGELICA LEICHT
Jesse Dayton Under the Volcano, June 12
Someday people may speak of Jesse Dayton's two-plus years in Kinky Friedman's cowboy boots in the same tones as Mark Twain's famous Hal Holbrook, or perhaps Holland Taylor's turn as the late Texas Gov. Richards in current Broadway hit Ann. Dayton found a natural kinship with the cigar-chomping country singer and political gadfly that went well beyond impersonation, and stretched from the lead role in Always... Patsy Cline playwright Ted Swindley's 2011 stage play Becoming Kinky: The World According to Kinky to Dayton's sorta-sequel of an album, last year's Jesse Sings Kinky.
But nothing lasts forever, and save Wednesday's Under the Volcano gig, Dayton has largely left Friedman in his rearview mirror. Inspired by his appearance as possibly-undead rockabilly singer Captain Clegg in Rob Zombie's Halloween 2 remake, his own feature-film directoral debut, Zombex, recently screened at Cannes(!), and is due to hit U.S. theaters in the fall. CHRIS GRAY
Born Again Virgins Rudyard's, June 12
A show like this on a Wednesday night can either wreck the rest of your work week or get the weekend off to a rousing start: you might go home with someone besides the one you came with, and you'll more than likely wake up hung over. Recently marking their Free Press Summer Fest debut and first-ever Houston Press Music Award nomination, the Born Again Virgins come out swinging and go for the jugular; we always think of Denton's great Riverboat Gamblers.
But why a Best Traditional Rock nod? Damn the cliché, with rock and roll this potent, they really don't make 'em like they used to. The quartet is now hard at work on its debut full-length. Also with Eagle Claw and 2013 HPMA Garage/Punk/Hardcore nominee Bury the Crown. CHRIS GRAY
Mumford & Sons, Michael Kiwanuka, Mystery Jets Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, June 12
WAY sold out. Just in case you were wondering. CHRIS GRAY
Amy LaVere McGonigel's Mucky Duck, June 13
Pay attention to Amy LaVere. She won't be difficult to spot; not too many women play upright bass and front a band these days. But it's her talents as a songwriter, as well as an irresistable bio - her nomadic background includes a mid-teens stint in Detroit punks Last Minute and a Legendary Shack Shaker as an ex-husband - that make her worth seeing Thursday night.
The now-Memphis-based LaVere's most recent release, 2011 LP Stranger Me, is a suite of rootsy, moonstruck pop and much darker undercurrents that could remind listeners of the spookier moments of Belly's great 1993 album Star (it did us, anyway), if it were made on the banks of some off-the-beaten-path Louisiana bayou. Her EP-length collaboration with John Paul Keith of Memphis garage-rockers the One Four Fives, Motel Mirrors, is due later this summer. CHRIS GRAY