Free Radicals AvantGarden, January 6
Free Radicals is both Nick Cooper's revolving-door ensemble that at any given moment could be playing free jazz or Latin funk, and also Cooper's ongoing testimonial to how much he digs being a member of the Houston music community. He has so much experience at this point that he has very much become a one-man hub of that community.
In 2012, Cooper brought that same kind of musical civic pride to the Radicals' first albumin several years, The Freedom Fence, and then in July watched it win a well-deserved Houston Press Music Award for Local Album of the Year. The group's weekly jam, wherever it may be, is a true local-music institution. For a while it's been at AvantGarden, a local-music institution of its own, and follows David Dove's avant-music showcase They, Who Sound -- still another. CHRIS GRAY
Debonair Lounge Cafe 4212, January 6
For the past few months, the only way to get each week off on a good foot has been at this Museum District oasis of cool. Debonair Lounge has already welcomed a who's who of Houston's hottest young hip-hop and R&B performers -- the first Debonair of 2014 features Maya Jaye, AJ McQueen, possibly Propain and always that smooth-ass Debonair house band -- strutting their stuff for one of the most stylish audiences in town.
Hosted by local scenesters Tay Mitch and Brad Gilmore, whom Channel 39's Newsfix called "ebony and ivory at its finest," these few hours will have you looking forward to every Monday... just not Tuesdays. The party never stops on Instagram at @DebonairLoungeHTX, too. CHRIS GRAY
Rick Lee & the Nite Owls The Hideaway on Dunvale, January 7
We got to partake in the pleasure that is the Hideaway on Dunvale for steak night one Tuesday, and it included the magical blues stylings of Rick Lee & the Night Owls. Hosts of the Hideaway's weekly "Big Ass Blues Jam," Lee and his band do ZZ Top, Bobby "Blue" Bland and B.B. King covers. We also witnessed the man playing his axe with the leg of a chair and licking the strings at one point. It was a good night for everyone, and we're sure the guitar had no complaints either. CRAIG HLAVATY
Cate Le Bon Fitzgerald's, January 8
There's nothing ordinary about Welsh native Cate Le Bon (no relation to Duran Duran's Simon, if you're curious). From those eerie vocals to her self-professed obsession with death, the young singer-songwriter is nowhere near the usual folksy types that have dominated that scene over the past year. She seems fragile and opaque in comparison, perhaps due to her ice-cold lyrics or the spiny, somewhat spooky guitars framing her delicate vocals. ANGELICA LEICHT
Nick Gaitan & the Umbrella Man Big Top Lounge, January 9
Recorded at Houston's historic SugarHill Studios, Umbrella Man's 2012 album Bridges and Bayous is long on local lore. "Hurricane Song," "El Barrio del Alacrán" and "Dead End Saints" are steeped in neighborhood history, both recent and distant. Gaitan wrote the Pogues-like "Sunken Ships" after the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and reworked "Beautiful Fools" and "Juana" from his days in Houston ska-punk institution Los Skarnales.
"We're surrounded by bayous," Gaitan said at the time of Bridges' release. "We move from one side to the other as we grow up, we start moving around the city, we move around with our families, people move out of the house and move on. I was focusing on a city in motion, where bridges and bayous are part of our lives." CHRIS GRAY
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