House of Blues, February 29
Boston’s finest are back at it, barnstorming the good people of America in need of a raucous Celtic-punk fix in time for St. Paddy’s Day. The bagpipe-toting boys from Beantown have now put in more than 20 years of Scorsese flicks, Warped tours, Fenway appearances, Bruins faceoffs and hypothetical gigs at Rob Gronkowski’s birthday festivities — hey, it seems plausible to us — and can still out-rock and out-party bands half their age. Sometimes the Murphys do slow down long enough to make another record, and their last one, 2013’s Signed and Sealed In Blood, is a fine one indeed. In the words of allmusic.com, opener “The Boys Are Back” makes “the perfect prelude to a night on the town you're not likely to remember in the morning, and the rest of the album follows suit.” Sláinte!
Cullen Performance Hall, March 3
She may not be quite as widely known as Enya, but for followers of the realm where Celtic music dissipates into New Age, Loreena McKennitt is equally esteemed, if not more so. Her lilting vocals and otherworldly harp notes might sound beamed directly from the misty isles of Arthurian myth, but McKennitt was actually born in a much different part of the former British empire — the plains of Manitoba, southwest of Winnipeg. Since 1985 debut Elemental, McKennitt has sold more than 14 million records by blurring the distinctions between medieval balladry and contemporary folk music, earning worldwide acclaim for albums including The Visit and The Book of Secrets. For her first visit to Houston in ages, she’ll be joined by longtime accompanists Brian Hughes (guitars) and Caroline Lavelle (cello); their work can also be heard on 2012’s Grammy-nominated live recording Troubadours On the Rhine.
McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, March 4
Earlier this month, Joe Ely was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association’s Hall of Fame, a fitting honor for an artist whose panoramic songs flow so naturally from his West Texas roots; this on top of his official title of 2016 Texas State Musician. At the moment he’s enjoying some of the best reviews of his long career owing to last year’s Panhandle Rambler, a collection of songs that finds Ely examining his native South Plains with a sociologist’s eye for detail but a poet’s pen: Here are hobos, trains, migrants, victims, oil wells, brassy Southern belles, wild-man DJs, and the shades of past greats like Woody Guthrie and Buddy Holly. Ely, who just turned 65 a few weeks back, ain’t quite ready to take his place among them just yet — there’s still a lot of zip in those old gut strings. Shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m.
GARY CLARK JR.
Warehouse Live, March 4
Gary Clark Jr.’s standing within the music industry was on display at last month’s Grammy awards, in which he and Chris Stapleton paid tribute to B.B. King with “The Thrill Is Gone” and were only upstaged a little by Bonnie Raitt. (She’s good.) Clark has been on a real hot streak lately, emerging as a major festival headliner and releasing last year’s The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, a sprawling update of Curtis Mayfield-style soul and dustings of folk, rock P-Funk, G-Funk and hip-hop that is positively bursting at the seams with artistic growth. And for anyone grumbling that it’s still not much of a blues album, Clark recently returned home to celebrate the latest reopening (and sixth overall) of Antone’s, the legendary Austin club where he got his start as a walk-on at the weekly “Blue Monday” jams — but this time he did it as one of Antone’s co-owners.
Walters Downtown, March 4
On the list of great Texas punk album titles, It’s Too Hot For Revolution! has to be right up there at the top. True, MyDolls’ designation as “punk” has always been more of a reflection of the times in which they first appeared — 1978, when Houston’s artistic climate was quite a bit more conservative — than the style of music they play. Mostly, as the band’s Linda Younger told us last year, “MyDolls music just happens.” Collecting unrecorded songs from before the band’s original 1986 breakup plus “Don’t Fucking Die,” a Sonic Youth-style guitar meditation in memory of late guitarist Kathy Johnston, whose death sparked their re-formation about five years ago, Revolution! is actually an excellent art-rock record. But to be fair, their aggressive reading of Charles Bukowski’s poem “Fair Stand the Fields of France” is about as punk as it gets, too. With Gretchen’s Disco Plague…It’s Infectious!, No Love Less and Vacation Eyes.
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Raven Tower, March 5
Houston has already been exposed to Austin five-piece rock band The Vanity via Summer Fest 2015, where they performed two impressive sets in sweltering heat, according to our man on the scene Nathan Smith. The fast-rising outfit released its three-song debut EP, Strangers, a year ago; its Kings of Leon-ish vibe found wide acceptance with tunes that scream “dance, fools.” Led by Houstonian Alex Dugan, who claims to have a high tolerance for destructive behavior and vodka, the band has become one of the Live Music Capital’s top indie-rock acts in only one year and — barring any highly destructive behavior — looks to be on track to rise to the top of the rock charts with the release of its first full-length. Catch them at smaller venues like Raven Tower before they hit the arena circuit. With Second Lovers. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
NRG Stadium, March 6
Few people have done so much with six seconds as Shawn Mendes. With his voice and good looks, he became one of the most popular people on Vine, winning fans by singing six-second clips of pop hits. From there, the story goes as well as one could hope in the age of social media: tours with other Internet celebrities, Teen Choice Awards, a major-label album and a slot opening for Taylor Swift on one of the biggest tours of the year. Yes, Shawn Mendes is proof that viral success can in turn become actual success. Now he gets to show his stuff on the biggest stage in Houston, RodeoHouston’s rotating stage. It's a big opportunity, but the Sunday-afternoon gig seems tailor-made for a 17-year-old with his career arc; Houston is probably jam-packed with teens with curfews who want to see him in person instead of on their phones. Enjoy one of the few rodeo performances you're likely to see where the talent could compete in the calf scramble. CORY GARCIA