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.

15 Concerts Worth Taking a Summer Road Trip

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.

Paramount Theatre Austin, July 22
This tour includes a total of four dates, only one of them in Texas. With so few opportunities to catch this longtime indie favorite, and no new music in a few years outside of a handful of singles and some archival stuff, we highly recommend catching Sam Beam's acoustic beauty here.

AT&T Stadium, Arlington, July 29
As if you needed another reason to avoid Dallas at all costs, no one really expects you to attend this; thank the sweet Lord baby Jesus this is the Beeb’s only Texas tour stop. Since this is the news, we’re obliged to report it. There you go.

Southside Ballroom, Dallas, August 6
A Primus concert is the kind of entertaining visual spectacle you'll be talking about for days, but a Clutch show is the kind of live musical experience you'll remember for years. Heavy, bluesy riffs and vocal stylings unparalleled in the rock and roll world, Clutch is worth catching at any cost — even if it means spending a good bit of time on DFW's crowded highways.

Moody Theater at ACL Live, Austin, August 11
Who wouldn't want to rock out with New Wave queen Debbie Harry's Blondie just a few days before public school kicks off again? Sure, this list is heavy with Austin dates, but this is Blondie and it's still technically summer. There's really no excuse not to go. Book an extra day, make the 30-minute drive to San Marcos and float the Guadalupe with the rest of the kids, also a mandatory summer Texas activity.

Isleta Amphitheater, Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 19
We can’t understand why Behemoth has skipped not only Houston, but ALL OF TEXAS again this year, but we know that this show is definitely worth the drive or even possibly a plane ticket. Towns don’t get much more metal than Albuquerque and shows don’t get much darker than this lineup. Three of metal's most angry, atheistic voices on one stage should make for one of the summer's most compelling tours.

The Lowbrow Palace, El Paso, August 23
Sure, the drive is long and practically halfway to Los Angeles, but who cares? This is Pelican’s only Texas date and there’s not another band on tour this summer to deliver your instrumental metal needs the way they can. The pairing of an all-night desert drive under the black Texas sky and arriving to the crushing sounds of Pelican in one of our most notorious border towns are the makings of a road trip your friends will be talking about for years.

Aztec Theater, San Antonio, September 2
Labor Day weekend is the unofficial end to the summer concert season and what better town to spend it in than that which holds the Alamo, the Riverwalk and Texas’s most beloved cross-section of metal, punk and goth fans? With Social D's nostalgia factor sweetening the deal, we can’t think of a better way to close out our road-tripping summer.

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