FREEDOM OVER TEXAS
Eleanor Tinsley Park (150 Sabine), July 4
In the act of celebrating America’s 240th birthday (my, how time flies), the City of Houston is setting an independence-minded mood for its free annual July 4 bash by offering a more eclectic and exciting musical lineup than most people are probably expecting. Singers don’t come much more All-American than main-stage headliner Darius Rucker, onetime voice of beloved ‘90s pop-rockers Hootie & the Blowfish and lately a CMA-winning country star whose recent hits include “Homegrown Honey.” Joining him will be Houston’s own The Suffers, the plus-size power-soul ensemble who should receive a true hero’s welcome after hitting the spring-festival circuit; and Denton hunks the Eli Young Band, now re-establishing their Texas country bona fides on latest single “Saltwater Gospel.” Elsewhere in the park, the Dr Pepper One of a Kind Stage welcomes Polyester roots-rockers the John Evans Band, jam-band staples Rusted Root and New Orleans live wires Cowboy Mouth, for whom “Light It On Fire” is much more than a song title. Finally, the Liberty Stage features ex-American Idol hopeful Zach Person; J. Paul Jr. & the Zydeco Nubreeds’ Creole dynamite; and a Prince tribute headed up by local jazz linchpin Ernest Walker and ex-Houstonian/Paisley Park alumnus Rick Marcel (playing Prince’s guitar, too). Red, white and blue do, after all, make purple. Gates open at 3 p.m.; for more information see houstontx.gov/july4.
TWENTY ONE PILOTS
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, July 5
A year removed from the release of their chart-topping fourth album Blurryface, Twenty One Pilots will return to Houston to headline the Woodlands Pavilion. Composed of vocalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dunn, the Ohio-born duo's unique brand of thought-provoking indie- and synth-rock exploded into the mainstream last year thanks in no small part to the single "Stressed Out," which bemoans the transition from youth into adulthood. Joseph's provocative, emotive raps are offset by catchy choruses that urge listeners to sing along as Dunn's percussion keeps fans tapping their feet and bobbing their heads. The band acts as catharsis for both its members and its fans, with songs exploring depression, self-loathing and suicidal thoughts. But despite these persistent dilemmas, their music always contains one underlying message — one of holding on to hope. With MUTEMATH and Chef Special. MATTHEW KEEVER
Redneck Country Club, July 8
When Garth Brooks changed the game for honky-tonk singers in the early '90s, Mark Chesnutt went in the exact opposite direction. The Beaumont-raised singer, now 52, started as one of Brooks' leading contemporaries – with a long string of hard-country hits like “Brother Jukebox,” “Blame It On Texas” and “It Sure Is Monday” – but left the major-label life after 2002's Mark Chesnutt. It was hardly a retreat. His next release, Savin' the Honky-Tonks (featuring Kevin Fowler's “Lord Loves the Drinkin' Man”), put Chesnutt on a more agreeable trajectory: raising his family while playing the small clubs and honky-tonks he loves, periodically releasing a new album. He hadn't done that 2010's Outlaw, a tribute to influences like Kris Kristofferson, Hank Jr. and Billy Joe Shaver, so you might say his latest, Tradition Lives, is long overdue. Dropping the day of this very show, luckily it's also well worth the wait.
Revention Music Center, July 8
The pop-music machine is always looking to the future. Superstars become legacy acts, up-and-comers become superstars and new voices show up to fill the void at the bottom. Those gifted and with the right connections will make that progression in time, but it's always neat to see them before they're arena attractions. Which is all a fancy way of saying that if you want to see Halsey, now is the time to do it. While she doesn't have that breakout single that the masses of fallen over – seriously, who thought attaching her to the unnecessary The Huntsman soundtrack was a good idea? – she does have a sizable buzz thanks to opening for The Weeknd and being on the last Bieber record. Her sound is darker than most and her lyrical confessions more compelling, which makes her a welcome addition to the often bright, bubblegum world of modern pop. If she's already playing Revention, assume there are bigger plans ahead for her, so this may be your last chance to see her up close without breaking the bank With Bad Suns. CORY GARCIA
JOE "KING" CARRASCO
Continental Club, July 8
Part Doug Sahm, part Jimmy Buffett, part Elvis Costello, Joe “King” Carrasco is a missing link between the Vox-powered classic San Antonio sound of the mid-'60s and the retro-kitsch aesthetic of New Wave bands like the B-52's. The common denominator is Carrasco's gleeful command of the stage, something that has long since earned him the regal honorific “king of Tex-Mex rock and roll” and made him one of MTV's very first on-air stars. Strange, then, that his name seldom seems to come up in the conversation about authentic living legends of Texas music, a number that dwindles more all the time. (Maybe that conversation is difficult to hear down at the beach, what with all the pounding waves and all.) Be that as it may, Carrasco is a long way from finished, releasing 2013's typically eclectic and freewheeling LP Tlaquepaque as a timely reminder that the next party weekend is never very far away.
Karbach Brewing Co., July 9
Tenacious Houston singer-songwriter Sherita Perez lives by the adage, "the show must go on," which can be hard to do when you don't always feel like folks (or the right ones) are paying attention. Trust us – some of us are; it's hard not to with a strong voice like hers. Once, while waiting for her to go onstage at a downtown bar, she instead joined us out front and did a little streetside ditty, right there at Main and Preston; she was probably audible all the way to Capitol. It wasn't just a vocal warm-up, either, but an impromptu promo for her gig. If you want to see witness the sum of her smarts, talent and tenacity head on over to Karbach on Saturday. With Sik Mule and Henry and the Invisibles; starts at 12 p.m. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Dan Electro's Guitar Bar, July 9
KPFT's Saturday-afternoon program Deadbeat uses the music of the Grateful Dead as a gateway, not to the recreational drug of your choice (although...), but to the vast storehouse of sounds the Dead encountered on their long, strange trip of a half-century and counting. Recent episodes have grazed Dire Straits, Jeff Buckley, Jimmy Cliff, the Kinks, Allison Krauss, Bonnie Raitt, Los Lobos and the Iguanas, to name but a very few. Pop culture has seen a marked uptick in Dead-related activity this year, between the surviving members and John Mayer regrouping as Dead & Company and the indie-rock world's embrace of the group on May's triple album Day of the Dead, evidence of just how wide the band's sphere of influence has grown. That said, the performers at Saturday's Deadbeat-sponsored KPFT fundraiser — Plump, Atomic Nightingales, Funky Mustard, Blackout Vipers, Wild Rabbit Salad and more — have been doing their tie-dyed thing since long before the Dead were “cool” again. Starts at 3 p.m.
Continental Club, July 9
Honky always conjures that great Dazed and Confused line from Nicky Katt's antsy burnout, Clint: “I only came here to do two things: drink some beer and kick some ass. Looks like we're almost out of beer.” The Austin trio has pursued a similarly dogged approach for the last two decades, burning rubber all over this great land of ours to spread their wallet-chain gospel of liquored-up Texan pride in a hail of chunky post-ZZ Top riffs, right down to the Rio Grande mud at the bottom end. Their latest offering is Corduroy (Housecore), a tactile, aromatic album that doesn't tinker with Honky's skill set too much (“Double Fine,” “Baby Don't Slow Down”), but does toss in some funky horns on “Outta Season” and a spot-on cover of Pat Travers' “Snortin' Whiskey” – which, Honky fans need no reminding, completes that thought with “...and drinkin' cocaine!”