Shows of the Week: Final Four, They Might Be Giants or the Melvins...You Decide

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Under the Volcano, March 30
Austin-based folk-rocker Christy Hays writes widescreen tales of the everyday and delivers them in a sultry, earnest, thoughtful Southern-belle style. Songs like “Birds Point Levee,” “Chicon” and “Winter Solstice” deal with big stuff — floods, Monsanto, integration and a host of other concerns. She comes from that Lucinda Williams place of mournful poems that flow like molasses over old scars and fresh wounds, looking for the sunshine but frequently ending up in darkness. While Hays has just one full-length, 2012’s Caliche, and two EPs, she rarely plays Houston, and has just began touring again following a shoulder surgery six months ago, so she should be fresh and feisty. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Warehouse Live, April 1
Reducing They Might Be Giants' vast discography to a single album is an exercise in futility, but if you're going to do it anyway, 1990's Flood is a good place to start. The college-radio and 120 Minutes success of singles “Birdhouse In Your Soul” and “Istanbul” means it's probably the record most likely to resonate beyond TMBG loyalists, while its juxtaposition of eccentric humor, hyper-literate wordplay and whimsical polka-pop is definitely the Brooklyn duo in a nutshell. Considering they've got a new album out, Phone Power, it might seem odd that TMBG is instead playing Flood in full on this tour. On the other hand, odd is what they do best, and few bands of the past 30 years have done odd better than this one.

Numbers, April 1
British death-metal institution Napalm Death is one of the genre's most storied bands. Originally begun in 1981 in the West Midlands, they earned their spurs in Birmingham, Britain’s grim industrial giant, winning over the rowdy lads with their torrid sonic blitzkreig. The band has gone through frequent personnel changes, but has pieced together a legacy that few metal bands can match. It also holds a Guinness Book record for the shortest song ever, “You Suffer.” Joining them are graybeard Washington state metal gods the Melvins, making this a must show for many in Houston's sprawling metal community. With Melt Banana. Note: early show; Classic Numbers will retain its regular Friday slot. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

House of Blues (Crossroads Stage), April 1
Technically, Steve Gilbert's new Hempstead Highway is a “debut” album, albeit one made by an obviously seasoned musician. By high school, the guitarist and singer was already playing in local juke joints and icehouses, before moving on to the bright lights of the L.A. roots-rock scene and coming home in the late '90s. Gilbert has been a fixture on Houston's bluesier stages since then, spending a number of years with the H-Town Jukes. Hempstead reflects that experience with a tribute to one of Gilbert's local mentors, the late Joe “Guitar” Hughes, and some solid playing by a number of Houston's most reliable musicians, among them William Hollis, Snit Fitzpatrick, “Sparetime” Murray, Jeffrey Hamby and Carl Owens. The methodical, even laid-back Hempstead is not meant to knock anybody's socks off, but for those looking to curl up after midnight with a tumbler of something amber, it'll do quite nicely indeed. This no-cover gig at House of Blues' downstairs Crossroads Stage would make a great introduction to Gilbert's low-key style if he's somehow escaped you thus far.

Rudyard's, April 1
Gourds fans hungry for some of that hillbilly jam-band hoedown boogie that seemed so effortless should take joy in the fact that Phil Cook will bring his traveling circus to town Friday night. A former member of Megafaun, the Durham, North Carolina, improvisational ensemble that went on hiatus (much like the Gourds) in 2012, Cook returns with a new project that may remind listeners of The Band, Little Feat or Ry Cooder. The group is loose and rootsy, and constantly refuses to remain the slave of any one genre or style as Cook keeps it loose and constantly improvisational. This will be the good-time show of the week in Houston. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Continental Club, April 1 and 2
Like azaleas blooming, there's no surer sign of springtime in Texas than Southern Culture On the Skids setting up shop at the Continental Club for a weekend. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina, trio doesn't put out records quite as frequently as they used to; in fact, their latest, 2013's Dig This, is merely an update of 1994's Ditch Diggin'. That, however, is beside the point. SCOTS' bespoke musical elixir – brewed from surf-rock, B-movie kitsch, rockabilly, Link Wray swagger and whatever else happened to be near the kitchen sink that day – has been loosening inhibitions and stoking hillbilly pride for more than three decades. Their Continental weekends have now become the stuff of local legend, marathon affairs where fried chicken is apt to be flung from the stage and camel-walking is mandatory.

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