NRG Stadium, March 14
It’s almost hard to buy the ever-boyish Kenny Chesney as the grand old man of RodeoHouston 2016, but it’s a fact. Brad Paisley has made more appearances (by two), but both men made their debut on the revolving stage in 2001, at which point Chesney had already been a major-label recording artist for seven years. Between then and now, the young cowboy-hatted stud has steadily morphed into a sort of contemporary Jimmy Buffett, a soft-rock soothsayer for whom sun and sand hold the answers to most of life’s important questions. Last year he reached another artistic peak with The Big Revival, a comfortably lived-in album that finds Chesney graciously settling into middle age while developing a finely honed appreciation for, as the line in “Beer Can Chicken” goes, “the little things that make life worth living.”
NRG Stadium, March 15
If you're looking for rock music at the rodeo this year, your best bet comes via Detroit's favorite rapper who wishes he was from the South, Kid Rock. Largely under-appreciated as a musician, Rock has always defied genres and conventional wisdom, and in the back half of his career he's managed to cultivate an image that makes him a perfect fit for the rodeo stage. Who would have guessed that the “Bawitdaba” guy would eventually position himself as the standard-bearer of all things Southern? So yes, expect tank tops, talks of country greats and Jesus. Is it going to rock? Probably less than you'd hope but more than you're likely to get anywhere else on the rodeo bill. At least the rapping will be better than anything the bro-country boys hit the stage with. CORY GARCIA
COHEED AND CAMBRIA
Revention Music Center, March 17
It is sort of funny that the same year Star Wars returned to movie screens, Coheed and Cambria took a break from their ongoing space opera. The Color Before the Sun is the band's first album that doesn't feature The Crowing or a talking bicycle or any of the weirdness of The Amory Wars, but it does feature some pretty kick-ass progressive- meets pop-metal tunes. Claudio Sanchez, no matter the subject matter, is really good at writing a catchy hook. This return to Houston marks Coheed’s biggest headlining show in the area in recent memory; with Glassjaw in the support slot, it's also something of a dream show for those who were listening to hard rock in the early '00s, in this universe or Heaven's Fence. With Glassjaw, Silver Snakes and I the Mighty. CORY GARCIA
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, March 17
Maria Chavez returns to the city she once called home to scratch a few new suggestions of what is possible into the stainless steel cladding of the CAMH and the crumbling architecture of our own brains with her upcoming lecture and performance, "Revisiting Those Words: Failed Attempt as Material." This installment in the museum’s 20HZ series on music in the modern world promises new music as well as a critique of institutional biases in the world of art and sound. Ms. Chavez herself should be counted a success story, a local talent gone international, a pioneer in sound art whose “abstract turntablism” combines the deep listening habits and improvisational strategies of the avant-garde with the tools and techniques of a house DJ. This performance continues a series of lectures and workshops Chavez has been presenting at art spaces and performance venues worldwide, in which she revisits proposals for various projects — books, performances, installation ideas, etc. — that were first met with rejection, yet survived to see better days. TEX KERSCHEN
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LITTLE BIG TOWN
NRG Stadium, March 18
NRG Stadium’s acoustics can be fickle, but the vast indoor arena nevertheless seems tailor-made for Little Big Town’s complex harmonies. The group that formed all the way back in 1998 makes their RodeoHouston debut at the peak of their long career, coming off the unprecedented crossover acclaim of their faux-controversial ballad “Girl Crush.” Even before that, the foursome had already become one of country music’s top groups thanks to a well-rounded repertoire that encompasses breezy pop tunes (“Pontoon,” “Day Drinking”) and altogether more mature material (“Tornado”), a dynamic that has also earned Little Big Town their fair share of Fleetwood Mac comparisons. Luckily they’ve managed to avoid the Mac’s well-known offstage pitfalls, allowing Little Big Town to fully embrace their latter-day success. They’ve certainly earned it.
Satellite Bar, March 18
Chicago’s Ratboys describe themselves as “folk,” “indie” and “post country,” descriptors that actually work. The four-piece’s 2015 release AOID has a bit of Hearts of Animals’ insouciance on tunes like “Bugs” or “Charles Bernstein,” as the band balances loping folk-pop grooves with stinging guitar flourishes. Some will be reminded of Holly Golightly and her Brokeoffs, because singer Julia Steiner’s impish voice pairs well with the jangling lilt underlying many of the tunes. Titles like “Folk Song For Jazz,” “Pivotal Dates” and “Our Mortician’s Daughter” reveal much about the braininess of Ratboys, who, despite being very smart, still seem like they only want to rock out and have fun. A very good-vibes band. With Cardboard Swords. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH