Art Car Ball One & Two Allen Center, May 9
Attention, the 100-150K people who have moved to Houston in the past 12 months, or whatever the actual number is: this weekend is one of the Bayou City's signature events, the Art Car Parade, and you should go. (Helpfully, it's free.) Of course something that sends hundreds of vehicles down one of Houston's major thoroughfares as uniquely decorated rolling ornaments needs an appropriate party to kick it off in style, which is where the Art Car Ball steps in.
This year the ball is being held at One and Two Allen Center at 1200 Smith St., two downtown skyscrapers (and the plaza around them) that should be lavishly decked out for such a lofty occasion. Headlining are gonzo Austin hillbilly punks the Whiskey Shivers, just back from playing California's Stagecoach Festival; alongside the biggest rock stars in the Houston scene right now, the A Fistful of Soul DJs; the handkerchief-waving antics of Free Radicals' second line; and the spirit-raising voices of the Third Ward Community Choir. See artcarball.com for tickets. Houston...you're soaking in it. CHRIS GRAY
New Monsoon Last Concert Cafe, May 9 & 10
Bay Area jam band New Monsoon has been steadily touring since the early 2000s, always making it a point to stop in Houston for a show or two or three or four. Eventually they built up a strong local fan base that was eventually nicknamed the Texas Tribe. Among the faithful was promoter Gary Hartman of Tapir Productions, who became New Monsoon's manager in 2008 but sadly passed away unexpectedly when he was struck by an aneurysm only four years later.
For their return to Houston, New Monsoon have reunited with their original "three-headed crew" of percussionist Rajiv Parikh and drummers Marty Ylitalo and Brian Carey, and will be joined by Railroad Earth's Tim Carbone (fiddle) and ALO's Dan Lebowitz (guitar) at "GaryFest," the second of hopefully many more events to come. Not to be missed. JIM BRICKER
Lady Antebellum Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, May 10
This summer, it's all about the boots and the Southern twang in the great outdoors, thanks to Live Nation's 2014 Country Megaticket. This multi-date country concert package kicks off with a bang with Grammy-winners Lady Antebellum. A new-country hybrid complete with leather pants and an edgier sound, the Nashville trio has seemingly been nonstop since their 2009-10 crossover megahit "Need You Now" and subsequent successes like "Just a Kiss" and "I Run to You."
Also on board Saturday are Billy Currington ("Must Be Doin' Somethin' Right") and David Nail ("Whatever She's Got"), which makes us wonder if the Country Megaticket -- which will host names like Luke Bryan later in the summer -- is indeed the gift that keeps on giving. ANGELICA LEICHT
Madness on Main Street Continental Club/Big Top Lounge/Alley Kat Lounge, May 10
Brought to you by the same folks behind last fall's Yes Indeed! festival, and very much along the same lines, Madness on Main Street gathers more than two dozen local acts and a handful of guests for an eclectic evening of emerging talents and reliable veterans. At $15 a head, it's damn hard to pass up, too.
A few names to watch for here include Casio-tone auteur Children of Pop, Austin R&B belters Latasha Lee and the Black Ties, post-Tax the Wolf prog-rap fusion crew Satellite d'Homme and personal picks Second Lovers, Glass the Sky and Electric Attitude. Beyond that, the real attraction for adventurous fans is that with four stages in all, someone intriguing is bound to be playing throughout the mini-festival's eight-plus-hour duration. See smart.url/madnessonmain for details. CHRIS GRAY
Cody Johnson Sam Houston Race Park, May 10
Huntsville-based Cody Johnson may be the best-kept secret in Texas Country, at least until his debut at Sam Houston Race Park Saturday. His reputation for forthright, traditional two-steppin' and balladry has been growing since his days selling CDs out of his pickup truck on the bull-riding circuit. (True story.) Then again, latest album Cowboy Like Me debuted at No. 7 on Billboard's Hot Country Albums chart back in January, so maybe that cat is already out of the bag. Free admission with racing ticket or $20 after 8 p.m.; concert starts immediately after final race. CHRIS GRAY
More shows on the next page.Sir Mix-A-LotScout Bar, May 10
It's been a long, long time since Seattle hip-hop icon Sir-Mix-A-Lot has had a hit, but he has managed to parlay 1992's infamous ode to bountiful derrieres, "Baby Got Back," into pop-culture immortality. But even that wasn't the DIY rapper's first crossover hit; Mix's 1987 single "Posse on Broadway" also found mainstream success, but nothing comes close to his confessional about loving big butts. The bouncy bass and his exaggerations of classic pimp imagery kept "Back" rotating on the radio, until it eventually sold some two million copies and won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. ANGELICA LEICHT
M Ward Fitzgerald's, May 11
He has come into a somewhat bigger degree of mainstream attention thanks to his sunny retro-pop duo with actress/singer Zooey Deschanel, She & Him, but M. Ward is easily one of music's more thoughtful and self-possessed singer-songwriters in his own right.
The Portland, Ore., troubador's laconic solo albums like 2006's Post-War and 2012's A Wasteland Companion are politically charged without being preachy, and not above tossing in a cover like Daniel Johnston's "To Go Home." Ward is a prime example of a beloved indie musician who would have passed Houston by not even five years ago, so kudos to those who brought him here. With Mount Moriah. CHRIS GRAY
THREE OTHER SHOWS YOU SHOULD CONSIDER By Chris Gray
War Master: Battle-bred local death-metal crew launch a nationwide tour. (Fitzgerald's, May 9)
James Blunt: The blue-eyed British crooner behind "You're Beautiful" is still out there, now pushing 2013 LP Moon Landing. (House of Blues, May 10)
Steel Panther: The ultimate '80s hair-metal band...today! (House of Blues, May 11)
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