Bayou City

Shows of the Week: North Texas A Cappella Aces Spread Holiday Cheer

Toyota Center, November 22
The a cappella juggernaut that is Pentatonix is rapidly becoming a 21st-century holiday institution. After winning NBC’s The Sing-Off in 2011, the North Texas quintet jumped a few rungs on the popularity ladder three years later with the double-platinum That’s Christmas to Me, one of those holiday albums that seem destined for the shelf of undeniably cheesy but oddly likable seasonal pop classics, right up there with Mannheim Steamroller’s A Fresh Aire Christmas. Now here they come to Toyota Center on the heels of last month’s A Pentatonix Christmas, the group’s second holiday-themed release in three years, which combines traditional Yuletide fare (“White Christmas”) with the originals “Good to Be Bad” and “Christmas Singalong,” plus N’SYNC’s “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year” and — awkward timing and everything — Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” With Us the Duo.

Silver Street Studios (2000 Edwards), November 25-27
Events that eliminate the hassle of holiday shopping while providing a bounty of live music, much of it emerging and local, are to be celebrated and sought out during this hectic time of year. Enter Pop Shop Houston, a three-day seasonal bazaar wherein more than 120 artists and artisans will take over the sprawling Silver Street Studios, bringing with them all manner of handmade creations, plus food, cocktails and special guests from Austin, The Octopus Project — the electro-pop veterans whose stage shows resemble a prom in outer space. To set the proper mercantile mood, local tastemakers Wonky Power and Psychic Claw Records have hand-plucked an equally festive musical lineup: El Lago, Dollie Barnes, Vodi and Mind Shrine (Friday); Birthday Club, Young Girls, Secret Sands and Bang Bangz (Saturday); and DJs Fredster and Mr. Castillo (Sunday). Best of all, the entire weekend will only set you back $8 for a three-day pass (kids 12 and under get in free), or $5 for Sunday only, or nothing at all after 3 p.m. Sunday. If you can’t put a serious dent in your gift list here, you’re just not trying hard enough. Would-be vendors should apply to; gates open at 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon on Sunday.

Wortham Center (Cullen Theater), November 25
Bob Schneider’s funky yet laid-back take on singer-songwriter rock has enamored him to at least a couple of generations of Texas coeds, but lurking underneath all that sorority love is an artist aspiring to be the Lone Star Michael Buble. In recent years Schneider has made great strides toward that worthy goal by leading the Moonlight Orchestra, his dinner-jacket revue of holiday standards and familiar favorites that sweetens the musical eggnog with a horn line, jazz rhythm section and the tango-riffic sounds of the Tosca Strings. Presented by his old friends at McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, Schneider’s post-Thanksgiving tradition enters its fifth year by welcoming fellow Austinite and acclaimed jazz singer Lex Land; Americana breakout Bonnie Bishop, whose LP Ain’t Who I Was is a lock for many best-of-2016 lists; and Tyler native Paul Cauthen, whose evocative pairing of country and soul prompted Rolling Stone to name him one of ten new country artists to watch back in September.

Revention Music Center, November 26 and 27/White Oak Music Hall, November 26
About five to seven times a year, a night rolls around that features multiple great acts in multiple venues, causing you to have to decide where you'll be spending your evening. November 26 presents one of those nights for those of us who are into big hooks from bands that know their way around a synth or two. Over at Revention, The 1975 return to Houston for the first time since their quite epic show up in The Woodlands earlier in the year. Also that night marks the Houston return of The Naked and Famous, who will be making their debut over at White Oak. Both groups released damn solid albums this year and both have at least one song worthy of your end-of-year-list considerations ("She's American" and "The Sound" by the former, "Higher" by the latter). The 1975 are masters at what they do onstage, but TNAF have a stronger catalog. The 1975 are the new hotness, but you've been rocking "Young Blood" forever. Matt Healy is the sexy bad boy you hate to love; TNAF seem like genuinely nice folks. Really, you can't lose when it comes to what to do this night, unless you decide to stay home. Or at least that was the theory at first. It appears as though The 1975 have added a second date at Revention, so you might just be looking at the best weekend of the year if you've got the cash. Do you? (The Naked and Famous: With XYLO and The Chain Gang of 1974.) CORY GARCIA

Toyota Center, November 27
Counting back from her breakthrough album (1963’s The Barbra Streisand Album) and stage role (Funny Girl, 1964), it only took Barbra Streisand half a century to perform in the Bayou City. That she’s coming here now still doesn’t quite seem real, as if one of the demigods from the Olympus of Old Show Business accidentally hired a travel agent keen on Southwest Airlines. But that perspective tends to gloss over what an enormous shadow Streisand, who was hailed by no less than Beyoncé at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors, still casts over the American performing arts. Even discounting the poolhouses full of trophies she's won (two Oscars and 14 Grammys chief among them), Streisand continues to matter where it counts — the cash register. Her two most recent albums, 2014’s Partners and this summer’s Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway, both debuted at No. 1. (Skeptics among you who foolishly dismiss her as a voice of yesteryear are invited to peek at the secondary StubHub market.) Finally, her lack of experience as a touring artist hardly means the production won't be first-class all the way; even then, it still may not be up to the standards demanded by Streisand’s powerhouse yet near-robotically precise voice.

Warehouse Live, November 27
Red Fang have earned a stellar underground reputation for their rhythmically complex brand of hard rock, fusing stoner riffs and odd time signatures to create a truly foreboding atmosphere. Not the sort of group many fans might imagine would be produced by a member of the Decemberists, but that’s what happened when Chris Funk of the baroque indie-folk heroes helmed his Portland neighbors’ 2011 and 2013 albums, Murder the Mountains and Whales and Leeches. For last month’s Only Ghosts, Red Fang’s latest LP and third for Relapse Records, the quartet turned to Korn/Deftones/Slipknot veteran Ross Robinson to help them deliver another rib-bruising set of glowering riffs and breakneck tempos. With Torche and Whores.
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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray