Two summers ago, the Not a Damn Thing tour was brought to you by Bupkis. Last summer, Vaxxed and Masked summoned concert-starved fans to a handful of Test the Waters shows. But this summer's live music schedule looks much more crowded and a lot more familiar, with recognizable superstars hitting the road and locals doing good stuff at our favorite clubs. Here’s our Memorial Day to Labor Day rundown of some of the top shows in Houston this summer:
I’ll Have What She’s Having’s Rock & Roll Picnic, Continental Club, June 5
Food and music come together for a cause at Continental Club in this event supporting bodily autonomy for all. Houston organization I’ll Have What She’s Having raises funds focused on healthcare for hospitality industry workers and its 1973 Project raises funds for Texas organizations to help people get abortion care. Some of the city’s big-name chefs – like Top Chef: Houston participant Evelyn Garcia and James Beard-recognized Pondicheri chef Anita Jaisinghani – will handle dinner duties while entertainment is provided by DJ Gracie Chavez and female-led bands including Nobody’s Daughter of Girls Rock Houston, Katie Rushing, Dusty Santamaria, Calliope Musicals and Austin psychedelic desert rockers Sheverb.
Machine Gun Kelly, Toyota Center, June 10
Sure, he’s got some haters but there’s something undeniable about Machine Gun Kelly, right? Which is why a capacity crowd is expected to fill Toyota Center for the genre-colliding artist’s first stadium tour. MGK’s fans have streamed his hip-hop and pop punk offerings over 15 million times and purchased more than 10 million albums. It doesn’t hurt to have a virtual PR machine like Megan Fox on one’s arm or high-pro friends like Travis Barker or an endorsement as the future of rock from none other than Mick Jagger; but, if the music wasn’t right would 52 arena dates be booked for this tour?
White Oak Music Hall Benefit Show Series, White Oak Music Hall, June 18
Even though live shows are back with a vengeance, not all of your favorite acts will be swinging through soon. Never fear, fans of Misfits, Journey, The Beatles and more. Local bands like Another Run, Mother Ghost, RoZY and Blossom Aloe will be covering their tunes at this show which aims to earn thousands for mental health services for the city’s music and arts communities. It’s part of an ongoing series at White Oak Music Hall and is just $10 per ticket. We’d pay more than that to hear members of Swimwear Department take on Presidents of the United States’ “Lump.”
Also in June: Clay Melton, Heights Theater, June 3; Ben Rector, 713 Music Hall, June 3; Steely Dan, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, June 3; Tech N9ne, House of Blues, June 7; Samm Henshaw, House of Blues, June 8; Shaun Cassidy, Dosey Doe, June 8; Flobots, Warehouse Live, June 8; Destroy Boys, Secret Group, June 16; PJ Morton, House of Blues, June 17; Micah Edwards, Heights Theater, June 18; Debbie Gibson, House of Blues, June 18; Denzel Curry, 713 Music Hall, June 25.
Fleet Foxes, 713 Music Hall, July 2
Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold has been busy lately. Besides prepping for the band’s summer tour dates, which stretch into mid-September and cross the Atlantic, Pecknold added background vocals for Post Malone’s recent musical guest spot on Saturday Night Live. At the front of the stage on tour, Pecknold and Fleet Foxes’ co-founder Skyler Skjelset will share for the first time with audiences live renditions of songs from Shore, the band’s critical smash from 2020. The album’s songs have been called “a richly embroidered gratitude” of life and contemplations on death which see the band “staring into a darkness and responding with beauty, acceptance and light.” They’ll be impactfully delivered live in the cozy confines of 713 Music Hall.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, 713 Music Hall, July 3
The last time Jason Isbell tried to play a Houston show, it became international news. Slated for an August 2021 date at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Isbell cancelled the show when the venue couldn’t or wouldn’t restrict attendance to only people who could show proof of COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test. At the time, the move seemed controversial, but Isbell’s stand became the model for post-lockdown concert-going.
Isbell sticking to his convictions comes through in his music and Houston fans are still waiting to hear songs from 2020’s Reunion performed live, along with an extensive back catalog and, who knows, maybe a song from Georgia Blue, an album of cover songs by Georgia artists Isbell promised if Joe Biden won the state of Georgia in the 2020 presidential election. He made good on his word, of course, because that's Jason Isbell. If there’s a better artist to kick off Independence Day festivities, we can’t think of one.
Kendrick Lamar, Toyota Center, July 22
Kendrick Lamar’s may be the most eagerly awaited tour date of any on any of these summer concert lists. He’s hitting the road for “The Big Steppers Tour” to support his first new album in five years, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. It's presently the top-charting album on Billboard’s 200 and four of its 18 tracks are in the charts' Hot 100 singles.
Houston’s date will be one of the first shows of the 65-date tour, meaning the Bayou City, which Lamar has expressed an affinity for in the past, will be one of the first places anywhere to hear the new songs live. The album was released only two weeks ago and, as with past Lamar efforts, has gotten glowing reviews. He’s been dubbed “the defining poet of his generation” and a “once in a generation” artist and his latest record showcases what he excels at, skillfully expressing his own (and having us consider our) doubts, beliefs and hopes.
Banda MS, Smart Financial Centre, July 22 and 23
The pride of Mazatlán, Sinaloa is closing in on 20 years as a group, two decades of critical success marked by 20 consecutive chart-topping hits and wins in various categories at the American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, Billboard Latin Music Awards and too many Spanish-language honors to mention here. Seen as influential Mexican artists in their genre and otherwise, they’ve racked up nearly a billion streams over their massive career and are the all-time, most-streamed Mexican group in the world. That’s a career too big for just one night in Houston. Smart Financial Centre is welcoming back the band with two weekend dates, Friday, July 22 and Saturday, July 23.
Also in July: The Quebe Sisters, Heights Theater, July 2; Anything for Selenas, House of Blues, July 2; Mandy Moore, Heights Theater, July 7; Purity Ring, White Oak Music Hall, July 14; Coheed and Cambria, 713 Music Hall, July 15.
Kevin Gates, 713 Music Hall, August 19 and 20
Kevin Gates is an open book, a page-turner filled with autobiographical but somehow also identifiable lyrics. Over several mixtapes and a couple of albums the Baton Rouge rapper/singer has built a superstar's following, strong enough to warrant a pair of scheduled summer dates in downtown’s 713 Music Hall. Gates is touring to support his approaching album Khaza, a reportedly 19-track opus that's been brewing since his sophomore album I’m Him from 2019. The new single from the album, “Bad For Me,” was just released and the full album drops June 17, giving Houston fans ample time to absorb the new stuff ahead of the shows.
SEVENTEEN, Toyota Center, August 20
What’s a summer concert schedule without a K-pop boy band? SEVENTEEN might be one of the genre’s most ambitious with its 13 members split into a trio of units - a hip-hop team, a vocals team and a performance team - doing everything under one banner. Houston CARATs (the official name for fans of the group) are expected to fill Toyota Center with “The Power of Love” (the band’s 2021 project, which culminated in a movie) when the group stops by in support of its fourth studio album Face the Sun, which has notched 2 million pre-order sales ahead of the album's release on May 27.
Lyle Lovett and His Large Band, Smart Financial Centre, August 27
The legendary singer-songwriter will saunter down the road from home in Klein to Sugar Land for one of the late summer’s circle-the-date shows. His new album (and first in a decade) 12th of June was released just a couple of weeks ago and the titular date is a nod to the birthdate of his twin children who will celebrate their fifth birthdays soon. The usual insights on life, love and death share track space with songs inspired by being a relatively new dad. It’s always a treat hearing Lovett and company do their thing live and will be fun to see which new favorites they combine with old classics in the set list.
Also in August: Leon Bridges, White Oak Music Hall, August 1; Metalachi, Warehouse Live, August 4; Three 6 Mafia, House of Blues, August 5; Los Lobos, Heights Theater, August 10; Incubus, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, August 19; Lost 80s Live, Arena Theatre, August 19.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.