The Airborne Toxic Event House of Blues, April 29
What happens when you layer dynamic, symphonic arrangements, painfully guttural vocals, and a wicked viola player? You wind up with The Airborne Toxic Event, the L.A.-bred indie-rock band known for its rich, lyrically moody folk-rock. Driven by novelist-turned-front man Mikel Jollett's prose, Airborne touches on the serious side of life with nods to empty relationships, world turmoil, and everything in between.
Think of them as a solemn man's rock band, and ATE's music as a cathartic purge of the deep emotions that spring from facing life's adversity. ANGELICA LEICHT
Matt Costa House of Blues (Bronze Peacock Room), April 29
Singer-songwriter Matt Costa released his fourth album in February on Brushfire Records, a label owned by surf-folk daddy-o Jack Johnson. Costa isn't as spare at Johnson, layering his pop movements with tons of strings, reverb and vintage flourishes that drastically set him apart from the sunburned-dreadlocks crew around him.
Imagine if Marc Bolan traded in his space boots for a nice pair of Reef sandals and a thrift store button-up, and had stars in his beard. Costa's latest and self-titled disc leads off with "Loving You," which should be coming to a wedding compilation near you soon. CRAIG HLAVATY
Little Joe Washington Boondocks, April 30
Out of a Third Ward blues guitar school that has now graduated to the great beyond Albert Collins, Johnny Clyde Copeland, Johnny Guitar Watson and Joe Guitar Hughes, Little Joe Washington is the last man standing. And he's hardly standing still: He's also pedaling his Schwinn from gig to gig, Fender strapped to his back, doing things with it you've never heard before and never will again, and then passing his hat around for tips. JOHN NOVA LOMAX
The Joy Formidable Fitzgerald's, May 1
A dark modern-rock group with echoes of Editors, Interpol and White Lies, the Joy Formidable adds a gothic touch thanks to singer/bassist Ritzy Bryan's whispery but piercing Siouxsie-like croon. Swapping one remote, forbidding locale for another, the trio from Northern Wales adjourned to the northeastern tip of the U.S. -- snowbound Casco, Maine -- to craft the lush and propulsive soundscapes of recent second album Wolf's Law. With Io Echo. CHRIS GRAY
Paul Van Dyk Arena Theatre, May 1
One of the most recognizable DJs in the world, German native Paul Van Dyk is a master of progressive house and trance with more than 25 years of turntable experience, and drew even closer to the pop mainstream on last year's Evolution. The album ran off five singles, including "Eternity" (featuring Owl City's Adam Young) and the Billboard-charting "I Don't Deserve You."
Keeping the cycle going, in February Van Dyk released (R)evolution: The Remixes on his own Vandit label, 16 tracks of artists such as Austin Leeds, Plumb and Michelle Leonard having a go at his work. And with its in-the-round seating and revolving stage, the Arena seems like it would be well-suited for a DJ performance. We'll have to find out. CHRIS GRAY
Yo La Tengo Fitzgerald's, May 2
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The quirky, dependable and remarkably consistent Hoboken indie-rock trio passes through pushing its thirteenth album(!), Fade. Watch for an interview with bassist James McNew in this Thursday's Houston Press. CHRIS GRAY