Bayou City

Shows of the Week: Rejuvenated AFI Still Not Afraid of the Dark

Photo by Jiro Schneider/Courtesy of BWR-PR
White Oak Music Hall, February 13
It's been nearly 14 years since AFI burst onto the scene with Sing the Sorrow, and it feels like even longer since followup DecemberUnderground was almost too artsy for even its creators to top. That, coupled with a number of issues, led to fans losing interest and a falloff in album sales. The California quartet has spent the better half of the past decade trying to recover, and if the two singles from their brand-new album, AFI (The Blood Album), are any indication, they very well may be able to recapture that old spirit for a second go-round. "Snow Cats" taps into the moody tones of DecemberUnderground, and "White Offerings" is reminiscent of the aggressive tracks that initially made AFI so popular. With Nothing and Souvenirs. MATTHEW KEEVER

NRG Arena, February 14
A true H-Town tradition, the Valentine’s Day Music Festival is like a “get out of jail free” card for all but the most grievous relationship crimes. Put another way, it’s an impressive lineup of mature R&B talents that fans are lucky to see sharing the same stage, in the form of one top-shelf evening for romance. Whether you’re in the doghouse or on the prowl, this year’s artists — Keith Sweat, Bobby Brown, Avant and El DeBarge — represent three decades of fully charged party music and equally forlorn melodic anguish, a litany of hits that includes “I Want Her,” “All This Love,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Twisted,” “Separated,” “Humpin’ Around” and “You & I,” to name but a few likely selections. Tickets for this show are better than a dozen roses, maybe two.

White Oak Music Hall, February 15
People can dance around the “E” word all day long, but Joyce Manor strike the kind of balance between the classic pop-punk of Blink-182 and harder-edged emo à la Jimmy Eat World — admittedly a fine line to begin with — that makes them one of today’s most promising rock bands under any label. The foursome from Torrance, California (it’s near Long Beach), rarely breach the three-minute mark in their songs; a track that did, 2010’s “Constant Headache,” was immediately lauded by Billboard as “[their] biggest anthem” as soon as the band started drawing widespread attention following 2014’s Epitaph debut Never Hungover Again. Last year’s Cody eases up on their usual breakneck pace, at least a little bit, in favor of allowing the songs a little more room to develop as front man Barry Johnson and his mates grapple with the intimidating but inevitable maturity that descends at the end of your twenties. With AJJ and Mannequin Pussy.

Heights Theater, February 17
Kevin Russell will cure what ails you. The man now calling himself Shinyribs ascended from the remains of beloved swamp-boogie outfit The Gourds, reinventing himself as an artist whose stage clothes come from Soul Train Fashions in New Orleans, whose beard comes straight out of Santa’s workshop and whose sound positions him as an unlikely but entirely believable latter-day Gulf Coast shaman. The Texas country crowd has steadily been picking up on Shinyribs’s medicine-show soul thanks to albums like Gulf Coast Museum and Okra Candy, but any remaining agnostics need only wait until Friday, when Shinyribs offers a preview of his next one, I Got Your Medicine, at the Heights Theater. Recorded at Houston’s SugarHill Studios and co-produced by Russell and ex-Squirrel Nut Zippers Svengali Jimbo Mathus, Medicine (due February 24) positions Shinyribs as the natural heir of Tony Joe White and Huey Piano Smith, peddling a peculiar brand of snake oil that tastes a lot like home cookin’.

House of Blues, February 17
Many artists endure awkward, strange cosmic journeys to what one would consider fame. For Belly, the 32-year-old Palestinian Canadian rapper, life took him for penning songs alongside Snoop Dogg and Kurupt a decade ago to signing to Roc Nation and crafting his own world. That's his name constantly popping up in the liner notes for The Weeknd; the guy who also owns a writing credit on "6 Inch" from Beyoncé's Lemonade. It's been one long journey to this point, so it shouldn’t shock anyone that he and Juicy J are tour mates. The latter has gone from Memphis club pioneer to Academy Award winner to one of the decade's rowdier, more poetic and unsurprising stars. Whereas Belly gets by on songwriting and even political statements (he backed out of a Jimmy Kimmel TV gig over Trump's being on the show), Juicy J gets by on sheer personality and almost three decades of joyful chaos. Their RBB Tour is fluent in putting together star-crossed artists who are now musical bedfellows. Expect a long night and plenty of water in your future. BRANDON CALDWELL

Rockefellers Houston, February 17
Mysterious and enchanting, Dollie Barnes’s debut LP, Caught In a Phase, captures on record the singular sound that has been turning heads toward stages across Houston for at least the past 12 months or so. Out-there enough to float in the Cocteau Twins’ stream of consciousness, the album is also accessible enough to dangle Haley Barnes and her compatriots in front of the nation’s more progressive alt-country and college-radio stations. Strong support from Young Mammals and Galveston’s El Lago should make this a memorable release party.

Civic TV Laboratories (2010 Commerce Unit B), February 17
The harp, when played in the courts of the aristocracy, was required to evoke three different emotions from the audience with the music: laughter, sorrow and sleep. Mary Lattimore defies the upper crust and gives a shimmering example of what unconventionally cool, melancholic beauty the harp calls forth with her 47-string Lyon & Healy. The classically trained Lattimore forms her songs with chiming arpeggios, hypnotic textures and a whimsical sense of improvisation to create a fresh aesthetic. Her hazy yet evocative 2016 release, At the Dam, exhibits a wistful journey across America as the result of a fellowship from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Known for collaborating onstage with indie-rock darlings Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile and Arcade Fire, she’s flying solo on this tour. If you were lucky to catch her moving performance at Day for Night with Jeff Zeigler, then you know you’re in for a special treat. With Chalk & Rosali. VERONICA A. SALINAS

Walters Downtown, February 17
Rose Ette is the perfect band for the kind of early spring Houston has been having: warm, breezy, ideal for picnic or patio listening. The four-piece’s 2015 debut EP, Jungle, secured them a good standing in Houston’s growing crop of talented young indie-pop bands, drifting between the dreamlike melodies of “Hideaway” and fuzzier affairs like “Thunder.” To celebrate the release of their new single, the poppier still “Skin,” they’ve hopped on a hot tour by two acts from up north: the gearhead punk of Detroit’s Tyvek and lo-fi noise of singer-songwriter Fred Thomas, now touring last month’s acclaimed Polyvinyl release Changer. H-Town’s raucous Hammer Party joins in the fun up first. With Tyvek, Fred Thomas and Hammer Party.

White Oak Music Hall, February 18
Any group that takes its name from the family in the National Lampoon’s Vacation movies deserves a day in court, and the Griswolds definitely radiate the same fun-at-all-costs spirit as the Chevy Chase franchise. The Australians’ origins date back to a Sydney house party where, the story goes, Christopher Whitehall challenged his friend Daniel Duque-Perez to create a riff on the spot, and the Griswolds were off and running, debuting with the 2015 LP Be Impressive. The band’s sound combines upbeat dance-pop with plenty of winks to vintage Top 40 and the golden age of *NSync. Rest assured their latest release, last year's High Times For Low Lives, will sit most comfortably alongside The 1975, Panic! at the Disco and Walk the Moon in your next party mix. With Dreamers and Camera Cult.

House of Blues, February 18
Released in 2000, the original Unleashed Live! quickly became a touchstone of the latter-day Texas country movement, capturing three of the emerging genre’s Mount Rushmore figures in their prime live onstage at the Mother Church of all Texas music, Gruene Hall. Symbolically, the album — featuring four songs apiece from Bruce Robison, his brother Charlie, and Jack Ingram — represents the point where a songwriter’s craft meets the hungry, let-it-loose atmosphere of a live setting (and especially this one), which explains a lot why Unleashed has become such an enduring totem in the scene. Look no further than the bill of fare — Bruce’s “The Good Life” and “Red Letter Day,” Charlie’s “My Hometown” and “Sunset Boulevard,” and Ingram’s “Mustang Burn” and “Travis County,” to name but a few — for the necessary clues to why the reunion route still sounds so enticing 17 years later.
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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