15 Concerts Worth Taking a Summer Road Trip

Pictured here, L-R, guitarist Brent Hinds and bassist Troy Sanders of Mastodon, the kind of band worth traveling to see live.
Pictured here, L-R, guitarist Brent Hinds and bassist Troy Sanders of Mastodon, the kind of band worth traveling to see live. Teresa Sedo via Flickr Commons
With summertime finally upon us, most red-blooded Americans know that the open road is calling. While many quality touring bands continue to skip our fair city, Houstonians must either embrace our unfavored status via angry social-media rants or log some miles on the highway if we want to catch quality acts. For Houstonians, musical destinations are not only necessities, but the perfect excuse for a road trip.

When Mastodon’s most recent tour neglected to book a Houston date, we opted to chase their tour bus to the next closest stage available, the Moody Theater at ACL Live, home of Austin City Limits. Knowing this venue (and this town) would not disappoint, the three-hour trek along 290 was joyfully made. With feet up, cruise control engaged and an obligatory Buc-ee’s stop performed in advance, we headed northwest toward the hill country with not only the promise of prog metal greatness, but some rock and roll booty shakin’ from openers Eagles of Death Metal and cerebral instrumentalists Russian Circles.

Without gushing over the venue and the energy only a music city like Austin can bring, we were happily surprised; in fact it was the best concert of the year to date, which got us to thinking — what other bands could be worth trekking across the great Lone Star State to see? Here, then, are 15 shows this summer that not only are worthy of a painfully long drive but, more important, won’t be visiting Houston, either. So saddle up, bring a cooler, book your Airbnb in advance and check your tire pressure twice.

Champions Square, New Orleans, June 8
The first show that skips H-Town is just a few miles east in NOLA and the lineup couldn't be a sweeter match — three brooding alt-rock acts that fit together perfectly. Expect this to sell out and be the best show to open the summer, especially if you (perhaps wisely) decided to skip FPSF this year. And do you really need a reason to travel to New Orleans? We didn't think so either.

The Blue Note, Oklahoma City, June 17
This tour kicks off in OKC’s Blue Note venue and while anyone could arguably catch Austin’s The Well and Dallas’s Wo Fat in Texas, there’s no chance of catching them together anywhere in Texas. These two doom-metal bands are creating some powerful Texas sludge — just ask Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead, who once featured The Well as his favorite band on his travel show, Ride. That's good enough for us.

Grizzly Hall, Austin, June 26
Three-piece Eugene, Oregon, doom-metal masters YOB have only one Texas date this year. YOB travels infrequently and this tour is no exception. With only seven dates, three of which are at Brooklyn's St. Vitus, there's no guarantee when they'll be back through Texas, much less Houston. If you're off this summer, catch this Monday night gig; you won't regret it.

Starplex Pavillon, Dallas, June 29
To catch a European metal act of this caliber in America during the summertime is an anomaly and reason enough to go. This band should be on the summer metal festival circuit across the pond, but they’re not, at least for this date. Last year they made it to Chicago Open Air; this year we give thanks they're at least in Texas.

Emo's, Austin, July 3
STRFKR's lyrical, intelligent synth-pop is the kind of class act whose quiet brilliance can only be appreciated live. This three-piece Portland act has been to Dallas as recently as February and San Antonio's Paper Tiger last November, but hasn't seen a Houston stage since March 2013. If STRFKR is your band, looks like you'll need some transportation to ever see them in person.

Stubbs, Austin, July 8
It's really just not fair that Austin gets all the cool, edgy acts all summer long. If you missed them at Middlelands last month, New York duo Phantogram is worth not only the gas money, but also a weekend stay. (Why not? It's a Saturday night.) With a soundscape of electronica, dream-pop and trip-hop making some of the most bubbly smooth sounds in a long, long time, Phantogram is a guilty pleasure and we will gladly make the drive to witness all their shoegaze glory.

House of Rock, Corpus Christi, July 8
Technically sound and brutal, Born of Osiris may be the surprise road trip of the summer. Not only is the show scheduled on a Saturday evening, but with close proximity to Corpus's white sand beaches, it's the perfect excuse to bring a tent and wake up oceanside.

Chesapeake Energy Arena Oklahoma City, July 17
We can’t even begin to imagine why Sir Paul wouldn’t want to visit Texas in the summer heat, but we’ll forgive him this time. While he does have a Bossier City, Louisiana, date on this leg of his extended Out There tour, OKC is our choice here because of its Bricktown Entertainment District, Deep Deuce (jazz district) and the Paseo Arts District, not to mention the easily accessible Will Rogers Airport. All that is enough to keep anyone there for an extended stay.

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Kristy Loye is a writer living in Houston and has been writing for the Houston Press since July 2015. A recent Rice University graduate, when not teaching writing craft or reciting poetry, she's upsetting alt-rights on Reddit.