KID CUDI Revention Music Center, February 17
Kid Cudi can always be counted on to bring the weird. An early signing to Kanye West’s GOOD Music label, Cudi found success with Top 5 single “Day ’n’ Nite” and album Man In the Moon: The End of Day. Now 32, the Cleveland native has undergone quite an aesthetic transformation since then, forming the rock/hip-hop hybrid duo WZRD with producer Dot Da Genius in 2012 and generally earning a reputation as one of the most eccentric performers and adventurous collaborators out there. Last year he released Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven, a largely lo-fi spazz-punk affair that would make even the Butthole Surfers proud, down to the running commentary by none other than Beavis and Butt-Head.
TRAE THA TRUTH Warehouse Live, February 18
When Trae Tha Truth has a homecoming show, it’s similar to when a king rolls back into his castle after a long battle, victory firmly clenched in his grasp. And his return to Houston after releasing Tha Truth and Tha Truth Pt. 2 should feel like he’s been out slaying a thousand giants. As practically a rap planet of its own, Trae’s method has always been simple: He draws you in with tales of his life through a husky, almost solemn growl before unleashing the fire and brimstone that show his scars. He’s a pained giant and, when it comes to a live show, far closer to a battle-tested warrior who wears his victories through the ink on his skin. Sometimes you forget how many classic songs Trae has in his catalog, until you hear them live and start dancing and rapping along with him. (Note: free admission with RSVP to scoremore.com.) BRANDON CALDWELL
JOSH ABBOTT BAND Stampede Houston, February 19
The Josh Abbott Band has steadily grown into one of Texas country’s A-list acts with songs that consistently hold a mirror up to the audience, all the better to keep the beer flowing during the group’s exhaustive live shows. Many, many miles after examining their roots on 2012 breakthrough Small Town Family Dream, the Lubbock-formed band’s 2015 LP, Front Row Seat, departs from the genre’s standard beer-and-pickups mold enough to tell a story in five acts. The plot may be familiar — falling in and out of love, reflecting the real-life divorce Abbott was going through at the time Seat was recorded — but here the band captures both the highs and the lows in evocative, heartfelt detail, from the barnstorming “Live It While You Got It” and flirtatious “Kisses We Steal” to the despairing “Ghosts” and safely numbed “Anonymity.” Those who write Texas country off as merely ballcaps and beer cans should hear this album.
WARREN HAYNES AND THE ASHES & DUST BAND House of Blues, February 20
Warren Haynes’s career has been a blur of collaborators and collaborations since he joined the revived Allman Brothers Band in 1989, making a formidable lead-guitar tandem indeed alongside Dickey Betts. Author of latter-day Allmans fan favorite “Soulshine” as well as the Garth Brooks hit “Two of a Kind, Workin’ On a Full House,” Haynes was a mainstay for all but a few years of the Allmans’ second run, which came to an end in late 2014, but he also founded the harder-edged Gov’t Mule in 1996. While the Mule remains ongoing, Haynes has also notched a few tours with the remnants of the Grateful Dead and saluted the soul and R&B he loved as a boy on raucous 2011 solo album Man In Motion. On last year’s Ashes & Dust, Haynes teamed with New Jersey’s Railroad Earth to revisit the music native to the area around his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, showcasing a more reflective, Appalachian-rooted side of his instrumental virtuosity.
ROBERT DELONG Numbers, February 20
Originally trained as a drummer, Robert DeLong has taken his teen rave experiences, formal education as a drummer and his time in indie-rock bands, and, with help from a series of joysticks and Wii controllers, constructed some of the catchiest EDM tunes around. His 2015 album In the Cards featured earworm single “Don’t Wait Up,” which became an instant electronica dance favorite. The Washington native comes across as a half dance-punk and half idiot savant whose compositions often contain healthy doses of snark; in “Long Way Down,” he informs a lover “I been fuckin’ around while you been saving the world from nothing.” Comparisons with Quintron & Miss Pussycat wouldn’t be far off, although DeLong’s oeuvre is more industrial than Quintron's and with less Southern grease. Brainy and tense, DeLong’s musical concoctions should find plenty of love in Houston. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
CARLY RAE JEPSEN House of Blues, February 21
Carly Rae Jepsen could have taken the easy path post-”Call Me Maybe,” releasing albums of bubblegum, under-produced pop every 18 months for the next few years until the song made an ironic comeback. Instead she went retro and embraced everything that made '80s pop glorious. The result was Emotion, a critical smash and a favorite of anyone who bothered to actually give it a listen. It’s also the pop record that many hoped Taylor Swift's 1989 would end up being. If you don't dance the second you hear the saxophone in “Run Away With Me,” it's a shame your heart no longer works. Since the release of the album, Jepsen has managed to hustle her way into Grease: Live and re-recorded the Full House theme for Netflix's Fuller House reboot. She's now finally returning to Houston, and while she may not be packing in arenas, there's a very good chance this will end up being the pop show of the year. CORY GARCIA
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