Free Radicals AvantGarden, July 7
Free Radicals is both Nick Cooper's revolving-door ensemble that at any given moment could be playing free jazz, Latin funk or brass-band music, and also Cooper's ongoing testimonial to how much he digs being a member of the Houston music community. He has so much experience at this point that he has very much become a one-man hub of that community.
In 2012, Cooper brought that same kind of musical civic pride to the Radicals' first albumin several years, The Freedom Fence, and watched it win a well-deserved Houston Press Music Award for Local Album of the Year. The group's weekly jam, wherever it may be, is a true local-music institution. For a while (off and on) it's been at AvantGarden, a local-music institution of its own. CHRIS GRAY
The Donkeys Mango's, July 8
Like Best Coast, the Donkeys are one of those bands that bathes in the abundant California sunshine and it just makes them sad. In ten years, the San Diego-based quartet has crafted four albums brimming with loneliness and melancholy, most recently this year's Ride the Black Wave. (See what we mean?). This music is geared for early-morning surfing runs, late-afternoon bong hits and late-night bonfires (the psych-y "Imperial Beach"). This is some supremely mellow shit, but it's beautiful too. With Iva Dawn and Deep Cvts. CHRIS GRAY
Queen feat. Adam Lambert Toyota Center, July 9
The living members of Queen have always wanted to stay in the spotlight, it was always just a question of finding the right person to fill the massive shoes Freddie Mercury left behind. Luckily for them, Adam Lambert was picked for American Idol -- auditioning with "Bohemian Rhapsody" naturally -- and the only question was when the tour would actually take place.
Five years later, it's here, and while no one will ever actually replace Freddie Mercury ("icon" isn't even a strong enough word to describe him), Lambert is about as good as we can expect to get while Brian May and Roger Taylor are still alive. For one night at least, we can all be champions once again. CORY GARCIA
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Sarah Jaffe Fitzgerald's, July 9
Sarah Jaffe has already has already shared a producer with fellow DFW native St. Vincent (John Congleton, who helmed 2010's Suburban Nature), now she looks poised to share the same kind of critical praise that greeted St. Vincent's self-titled LP earlier this year. Now 28 and fresh off an appearance on Eminem's latest LP MMLP2 (she's on opening track "Bad Guy), Jaffe is now road-testing songs from her upcoming third album, Don't Disconnect, which adds a good helping of electronic elements to her shrewd and discerning songwriting. CHRIS GRAY
New Edition NRG Arena (formerly Reliant Arena), July 10
No self-respecting compilation of '80s and '90s R&B and New Jack Swing is anywhere near complete without the individual and collective contributions of the six men who have made New Edition such a force in urban music for the past 30 years. If you don't have one handy, that's a shame, but it should include tunes by original lead singer Bobby Brown ("My Prerogative"); his replacement Johnny Gill ("Just Got Paid"); Ralph Tresvant ("Sensitivity"); and Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe, who as Bell Biv DeVoe nearly topped them all with 1993's "Poison."
Filling it out is easy -- just include all their group hits, from early teen-pop singles "Candy Girl" and "Mr. Telephone Man" to the more sophisticated jams of their two reunion albums, 1996's Home Again ("Hit Me Off") and 2004 sequel One Love ("Been So Long"). Serve with 30 years' worth of style, and you should be good to go. With Joe. CHRIS GRAY
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