House of Blues, August 10
A diamond-grilled rap court jester whose success has raised some provocative questions about the value of identity and authenticity in the upside-down modern music industry, Riff Raff is at his best when he’s reminding people to not take him too seriously. He was once just another hustler on the streets of Southwest Houston whose rap skills endeared him to Swisha House, the venerable local dojo who put a permanent stamp on his sound but could hardly contain his outrageous ambitions. It took a spin through the showbiz funhouse of MTV’s From G’s to Gents for Riff Raff to truly come into his own; his cartoon-pimp social-media alter ego Jody Highroller did the rest. Controversial as he is, Riff Raff’s actual records like last month’s The Peach Panther reveal a canny performer who, if you can read between the lines of his codeine-heavy, frequently absurd rhymes, might even have something important to say about the endurance of the American Dream. With Dollabill Gates and Trill Sammy & Dice Soho.
CHARLIE FAYE AND THE FAYETTES
McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, August 12
Of the many wonderful things ‘60s music has given the world, one of the most enduring has been the girl group. Granted, the concept is hardly unique to that decade — witness the Andrews Sisters — but the likes of the Supremes, Ronettes and so many others set a standard for harmonies and hairdos that survives to this day. Enter Charlie Faye and the Fayettes, a trio of Austinites who have (temporarily?) put their solo careers on hold for this enchanting trip back through time. Each of the Fayettes is a more than capable performer in her own right — Faye and Betty Soo as among Austin’s sharper singer-songwriters, and Akina Adderly as leader of powerhouse retro-soul group the Vintage Playboys — but together, on their eponymous debut released in June, they’re so much more. The lyrics often come with a modern wink, as on Austin-hipster critique “Eastside,” but the musicianship is pure retro gold. Somewhere, Dusty Springfield is smiling.
Fitzgerald’s, August 13
Troller and their artist-run label Holodeck Records (see SURVIVE, BOAN, Dylan Cameron, et al.) herald Austin’s newfound sense of musical purpose: retro-tech, artful and uncannily urbane. Especially live, Troller churn an ominous sludge of heavy bass and trap-house production with a dollop of Diamanda Galas’ patent medicine for souls suffering in a living hell. MNYNMS, pronounced “Many Names,” make sophisticated electronic pop redolent of haute couture and superyachts, more Eyes Wide Shut than EDM, and it mightn’t be too long before they get raptured out of the trenches. Buoyant Spirit’s creeping, brooding minimalist lullabies of loathing (directed toward both the self and others) will soon be available on a new cassette on Miss Champagne records. Bridging the human and the unknown, Gerritt Wittmer will provide a quick exposition in time-refraction, sound gapping, chiaroscuro and heavy breathing. Funeral Parlor creates filmic synthesizer ruminations and late-late-late night music, and all throughout the night Neil Ebbflo — Houston’s first word in video synthesis — will accompany the musical performances with abstract colorform video. Truly, a special night of modern music, a grab bag of mixed treats for you. TEX KERSCHEN
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, August 14
As the voice behind No Doubt’s “Just a Girl,” Gwen Stefani slid easily into the skin of a ready-made role model, with vocals that lacked the acid of many of her peers in the ‘90s alt-rock scene. Her legions of “Gwennabes” only increased when Stefani released solo debut Love. Angel. Music. Baby. in 2004, otherwise known as the summer of “Hollaback Girl.” The Sweet Escape followed two years later, as Stefani continued incorporating club music and hip-hop with similar success, but between her clothing line, a couple of No Doubt reunions, and raising a family, the gap between solo albums stretched to a decade. It took the breakup of her marriage to singer Gavin Rossdale to create This Is What the Truth Feels Like, which manages to be of a piece with Stefani’s previous work — all the big No Doubt hits are still in her set list — but also contemporary pop radio, as heard on 2016 hit singles “Make Me Like You” and “Used to Love You.” With Stefani's "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" running buddy, Eve.
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House of Blues, August 14
Consistently ranked among the planet’s top guitarists, Eric Johnson combines intimidating virtuosity with a Zen-like performance style; when people talk about musicians being “in the zone,” this is who they mean. A recent habitué of the annual Experience Hendrix tours, Johnson has arguably surpassed even his chief inspiration, developing a fluid and fiery hybrid of rock, jazz and blues into an always versatile yet instantly recognizable sound. His body of work is certainly mirrored in the title of Johnson’s latest album, 2014’s Eclectic, a collaboration with ex-Miles Davis/Blood, Sweat & Tears guitarist Mike Stern. Besides his 14 albums, Johnson’s fans can also sample a handful of one-off singles on his website, among them the George Harrison tribute (and Christopher Cross duet) “Imagination of You” and his version of Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary.”
DEERHOOF, TELE NOVELLA
Walters Downtown, August 14
Unsurprisingly, Austin’s Tele Novella purveys a strikingly cinematic element in their music that makes it equally suited to a modern indie soundtrack or a vintage Bond film. Debuting in 2014 with the Dial Tone EP (lauded by Spin for its “macabre undertones”), the four-piece updates the seductive noir-pop of ‘60s groups like Os Mutantes and the Velvet Underground to slide right into today’s indie landscape. In their relatively short time together, Tele Novella has shared the stage with oddballs like Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, fellow Austinites The Octopus Project, and Deerhoof, the similarly idiosyncratic Bay Area veterans who headline Sunday’s show supporting their recent album The Magic. After signing to the Seattle-based Yellow Year label earlier this year, Tele Novella is on the road drumming up interest for full-length debut House of Souls, which shines when singer Natalie Ribbons gets under the skin of melancholy gems like “Heavy Balloon” and “Even Steven.” With Blank Spell.