Heights Theater, March 1
Not all that long ago, Valerie June was busking on the tiny stage in the front room of Leon’s Lounge. Look at her now: The singer and songwriter has toured with Norah Jones and sung with Eric Church at the ACM awards, while musicians like Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and Booker T. Jones had a hand in her 2013 debut, Pushin’ Against a Stone. As you might expect, UK audiences have become quite taken with her too. Now the Memphis dweller has another batch of self-described “organic moonshine roots music” on the way, next week’s The Order of Time (June Tunes/Concord). Songs like “With You” and “Got Soul,” which she recently previewed on CBS Saturday Morning, seem almost preserved in amber, stripping away superficial notions like genre and, well, electricity to reveal the essence of an artist who is keenly aware of her voice and precisely how to use it. With Oh Pep!
WORLD'S CHAMPIONSHIP BAR-B-Q CONTEST
NRG Park, March 2-4
Among the dozens of individual events associated with the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, the World’s Championship Bar-B-Q Contest may be the most Texan of them all. Here there are enough cooked meats and rockin’ country music for a whole year crammed into one three-day feast for the senses, often leaving those who attend too dazed and hung over to attend the rodeo itself for another few days. We figure you might appreciate a guide to who’s onstage while all those ribs and potato salad go down, so here are some highlights from one of the cookoff’s most promising lineups in a while. Thursday, Lubbock’s No Dry County, the Rankin Twins and Rich O’Toole prime the pump, before Friday goes full honky-tonk with Cory Morrow and Mike & the Moonpies, plus a pair of don’t-miss local ladies in Bri Bagwell and Libby Koch. Don’t peak too soon, though — with Shooter Jennings (son of Waylon), beach lover Roger Creager, country-pop siren Jessie James Decker and more, the cookoff’s finale promises a Saturday night for the ages.
White Oak Music Hall, March 3
BLSHS quickly earned a loyal following in Houston’s indie scene (and several HPMA nominations) by melding progressive synth-pop and trap flirtations with the enchanting vocals of Michelle Miears. When work on the trio’s debut album was diverted, Miears took the opportunity to caps-lock her last name and record a solo EP, Who Will Save You?. The record's six songs are largely unmoored from standard pop structures, hewing closer to ambient/classical territory, mixing in intermittent beats and using Miears’s melodious vocals as a guide. Any aspiring filmmakers out there ought to see if soundtrack work interests her, because she’d be good at it. Miears wrote, produced, performed and recorded the EP by herself, asking only engineer John Griffin (Southern Backtones) to help make it shine. It does. With Tee Vee and Pearl Crush.
Toyota Center, March 5
If it feels like it's been a while since Green Day has been to town, you're not wrong. Touring behind their most recent effort, Revolution Radio, this marks the band's first show in Houston since way back in 2009, which also happened to be four albums ago. Yes, somehow Houston missed out on an entire era of Green Day, but that's okay; most seem to see Revolution Radio as a return to form for the band after three unfocused records. Still, it's the old stuff you know you're looking forward to the most, unless that’s the even older stuff. But whether you got into Green Day in 1994 or 2004 or at any other time, the trio has songs for days and aren't afraid to reach deep into their catalog when they hit the stage. So while Fall Out Boy seems to be in town on the regular and Blink-182 is about to play their second show in Houston in the past year, it's good to have the kings of pop-punk coming back to town. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, even if you're a basket case or American idiot. With Against Me!. CORY GARCIA
Heights Theater, March 5
Jay Farrar, the less experimentally-minded side of the Uncle Tupelo coin, still lives in a world where guitars are not relics, and even still kill fascists. The St. Louis native has now invested more than two decades into Son Volt, his post-Tupelo group long hailed as one of the finest rock groups under the Americana umbrella in their own right. Farrar’s songs are as Midwestern salt-of-the-earth as they come, often mingling Woody Guthrie-style populism with meat-and-potatoes riffs and drums, just the ticket for those who enjoy their songs served up with a conscience and a side of feedback. Notes of Blue (Transmit Sound), the group’s brand-new album and eighth overall, cranks up the volume a few notches over 2013’s country-tinged Honky Tonk, but the Son Volt faithful will find plenty of food for thought here as well. With Johnny Irion.