The Five Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Hog Leg, Mickey Gilley, Deafheaven, etc.
James Red is one of the most spastic, all-in rock and roll front men it's been our pleasure to witness in Houston. He sings like he's about to swallow the microphone whole, while his body is wracked by something that would resemble the worst dry heaves you could imaginable were he not onstage. Normally we're not in the business of recommending local bands' first gigs ever, but in this case we'll gladly make an exception.
Lately Red had been singing for Born Again Virgins, one of the wildest bands to come down the pike in a while; sadly, they fell apart, so now the singer has assembled Hog Leg, which he likens to a dream team of H-town talent: Travis Massacre (Dixie Waste), Stevie Simms (The Down and Dirties) and Chad Davis (Poor Dumb Bastards). Thus far Red says Hog Leg has worked up eight songs of mayhem and thunder, inspired by all the great local bands that made you burn through sick days all those years ago. "We are all a piece of [the] old-school Houston Texas music scene," he brags. "We aren't ready to pass the torch...we are keeping it." With Brief Lives (a Valient Thorr offshoot) and Funeral Horse. CHRIS GRAY
Little Joe Washington
Boondocks, June 24
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. After Joe's hospitalization for liver and kidney trouble last fall, he's back playing gigs... again. JOHN NOVA LOMAX/CHRIS GRAY
Even almost 35 years since the movie -- released in June 1980 -- Urban Cowboy looms large in many Houstonians' self-image, for natives and transplants alike. In some ways, the boom-town mentality spurred by today's hyperbolic energy market has begun to surpass that of the '70s-'80s oil bonanza, and people never stop looking for love in all the wrong places. In 2014, Gilley's Beer and Urban Cowboy Nights wine are available at area merchants, local bars like Whiskey River and PBR Live offer mechanical bull-riding, and now soundtrack stars Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee are even bringing their "Urban Cowboy Reunion" tour to town.
Although that glittery moment in music history has not aged quite as well as some other kinds of cheese, plenty of songs from that era -- among them Lee's "Cherokee Fiddle" and "Pickin' Up Strangers" and Gilley's "Stand By Me" and "Don't the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time" (a recent Jeopardy! clue) -- have stood the test of time just fine. CHRIS GRAY
"Everybody should be able to relate to these songs and not feel like there's some hidden message," Nick Greer told the audience at the listing party for new album Heart on Fire back in April. "And I hope the album speaks to people, because I can't be the only one who's this angry." Pain and anger notwithstanding, Greer was not lacking in gratitude. Both to his company on on his record, he expressed graciousness and even humility, consistently eschewing any self-flattery and instead acknowledging everyone else's hard work on the album.
Greer described his group's last album as a powerhouse blend of funk, blues, soul and hip-hop. Heart on Fire possesses similar characteristics, but it's bigger; it sounds more grandiose, and combines the disparate elements into a triumphant, unique sound. "We put out a record last March, and it was good," Greer said, "but this one...this is better." The official album-release party is this Saturday; Greer's Thursday-night residency should make an ideal warmup. MATTHEW KEEVER
One of the best-reviewed albums of the decade in any genre, Deafheaven's Sunbather put them on the heavy-music map with a vengeance last year. Notoriously tough Pitchfork awarded it 8.9 out of 10, calling it "a modern classic," while Metacritic's score of 92 made Sunbather the best-reviewed non-box set of 2013. Although they use vocals, the San Francisco five-piece belongs in the same class of mostly instrumental acts like Mogwai and Godspeed! You Black Emperor -- groups who believe that massive-sounding music can also be beautiful, which Sunbather certainly is.
The nine-song, 60-minute album delivers stunning shoegaze-like melodies with maximum metal brutality, while expertly illustrating a vast and complex sequence of emotions in sound. For those curious how Deafheaven might sound in the great outdoors (our guess: pretty awesome), they'll be back in Texas November 9 at Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest. With Pallbearer and Wreck & Reference. CHRIS GRAY
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