AARON WATSON 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.
JUCIFER 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
CHRIS STAPLETON 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.
BRING ME THE HORIZON 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
ALICIA KEYS 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.
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