Shows of the Week: Rodeo Kicks Off With Texas Country's No. 1 Ex-Underdog

Shows of the Week: Rodeo Kicks Off With Texas Country's No. 1 Ex-Underdog
Photo courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
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NRG Stadium, March 7
Aaron Watson shocked country music when 2015’s The Underdog debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s country albums chart, making him the first independent solo male artist to do so. Actually, the surprise was limited to those who hadn’t followed the Abilene-based traditionalist’s long career on the Texas circuit. His latest, Vaquero, is out now.

Super Happy Fun Land, March 7
One of the longest-running bands with one of the busiest touring schedules — they’ve been on the road so long they might not be able to recognize their native Georgia — Jucifer is also one of the loudest. Night after night, without a busload of groupies, in a feat of engineering that likely ought to require a building permit, they assemble a wall of speakers that could dwarf Blue Cheer in volume and sonic power. Jucifer's literal wall of sound serves songs that have long eluded the limitations of genre: between metal and shoegaze, occasionally coy, usually brutal. They play with amazing physical endurance and a talent for melody when it suits them. Over the years their discography of dirges and deafening lullabies, mapping out the unseen worlds between My Bloody Valentine and Sleep, has grown to encompass blast beats and scorched-earth metal a la Discharge and many darker things. With Cave of Swimmers, Wills Dissolve and Paisley Nightmare. TEX KERSCHEN

NRG Stadium, March 9
Already an in-demand songwriter for the likes of Kenny Chesney and George Strait, Chris Stapleton became a genuine phenomenon with a record inspired by his father’s death, 2015’s Traveller. Its heavy outlaw/Southern-rock vibe made a potent antidote to pop-addicted mainstream country, and Stapleton a most unlikely crossover success.

Revention Music Center, March 10
Bring Me the Horizon was first characterized as a "deathcore" band, fusing elements of death metal and metalcore on its debut album, Count Your Blessings. But that changed as the group began incorporating more melodies to hone their new sound on 2015's That's the Spirit. Their fifth studio album was the most accessible and most polarizing in their discography, since it marked a departure from their early sound in favor of big choruses and anthemic verses. Many longtime fans have since abandoned the group, but even more have bought into what BMTH is selling, which blends their screamo background with the kind of synth-rock popularized by Linkin Park. It's not for everyone, but it is the closest the band has ever come to a No. 1 record so far in their career. With Underoath and Beartooth. MATTHEW KEEVER

NRG Stadium, March 10
An R&B leading lady from 2001 debut Songs In A Minor forward, Alicia Keys radiates integrity onstage and off, equal parts diva, feminist and mother. A stark contrast to 2012’s high-concept, operatic Girl On Fire, last year’s HERE stripped her sound and image down to the raw, earthy essentials.

Heights Theater, March 10
Winner of a staggering 15 Grammy awards, Bela Fleck is widely considered to be one of the greatest instrumentalists alive. On banjo, even Steve Martin would probably concede Fleck has no peer, particularly among musicians who have chosen to venture far beyond the territory of traditional bluegrass. However, the 58-year-old Fleck has no trouble whatsoever going the traditional route, as seen lately in his musical partnership with wife and fellow banjoist Abigail Washburn. Although their eponymous 2014 album won the Grammy for Traditional Folk Album, even that one features a Bartok medley and a reworking of his old fusion-minded old group the Flecktones’ “New South Africa” among scattered original compositions and traditional songs like “Pretty Polly” and “Railroad.”

NRG Stadium, March 11
Now pushing two dozen appearances, Alan Jackson trails only memorable “Murder On Music Row” duet partner George Strait as RodeoHouston’s signature entertainer, certainly in the modern era. Recent albums have ventured into bluegrass and gospel, further enhancing his down-home, good-guy image — white hat and all.

Revention Music Center, March 11
This year marks 50 years since two of Jimi Hendrix’s most mythological moments: his literally combustible performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop festival, as well as the release of his trio the Experience’s landmark debut LP, Are You Experienced? For the past decade or so, a diverse assortment of musicians have briefly paused their own careers each year to celebrate the legacy of the great guitarist, who was only 27 when he died in September 1970. This year’s lineup pulls together an appropriately powerhouse selection of artists from the fields of rock (Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford, Jonny Lang, Cesar Rosas and David Hildalgo of Los Lobos), metal (Zakk Wylde) and blues (Buddy Guy, Beth Hart, Keb’Mo’). Each pair of tickets for Saturday’s show also includes a voucher for a live recording of Hendrix’s New Year’s Eve 1969 show at New York’s Fillmore East, the first appearance of his post-Experience group Band of Gypsys, whose bassist Billy Cox will be along for the 2017 ride.

Warehouse Live, March 11
A bassist and singer whose Christian name is Stephen Bruner, Thundercat belongs to the same collective of progressive L.A. musicians as Kendrick Lamar, Steven Ellison (aka Flying Lotus) and Kamasai Washington, African-American artists whose recent work has gone a long way towards eradicating the boundaries between jazz, funk, R&B, hip-hop and pop. After memorable appearances on Washington’s The Epic and Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, Thundercat is more than ready to take center stage on the brand-new Drunk, his third album for Ellison’s Brainfeeder label. Drunk is an appropriately eclectic showcase for Thundercat’s divergent tastes (he even joined thrash veterans Suicidal Tendencies in his teens) while remaining completely of a piece; his singular lava-lamp vision holds true even as the album cycles through more than 20 tracks and guests like Lamar, Washington, Wiz Khalifa and, for first single “Show You the Way,” early inspirations Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald.

NRG Stadium, March 12
Artists who have played RodeoHouston before releasing their debut album are a rare breed indeed. But the NYC dance-pop duo’s string of runaway hits since 2014’s “#Selfie” — “Paris,” “Roses” and “Closer,” for starters — has revealed their near-identical overlap of EDM and Top 40 can pay off big.

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