The Five Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Ray Wylie Hubbard, Omotai, Sucre, etc.

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Photo by Jason Wolter
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Main Street Crossing, September 3

Ray Wylie Hubbard likes to live by words he eventually set to music in the song "Mother Blues" from his 2012 album The Grifters' Hymnal: "The days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well, I have really good days." The 67-year-old iconoclastic singer-songwriter is a holdover from Texas' progressive-country scare of the '70s, and pocketed plenty of mailbox money from writing Jerry Jeff Walker's Viva Terlingua! hit "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother."

But starting with his mid-'90s albums Lost Train of Thought and Loco Gringo's Lament, Hubbard began releasing music at a steady clip that has yielded ten more albums and improbably endeared Hubbard to both the good-timin' Texas Country scene (where he's something of a kindly uncle figure) and Americana aesthetes who can't stand that crowd. CHRIS GRAY

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The 30 Best Concerts In Houston Before Halloween

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Photo by Christian Faustus/High Voltage PR
Islands
Walters, September 6

Given the recent excitement of the Unicorns' first shows in a decade, opening some recent Arcade Fire dates, the good news that their Canadian indie successors Islands are headed back to town for the first time in a while should make a few townies happy. The show should be a burner, too. JIM BRICKER

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Always a Fighter, Bilal Learns to Let It Flow

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Photos courtesy of eOne Records
Smooth or sharp, Bilal delivers the goods.
It hasn't been an easy ride to international stardom for vocalist and composer Bilal Sayeed Oliver, who performs simply as Bilal. The Philly native, who roomed for a while with jazz pianist and Houston native Robert Glasper, almost quit the business when his second album was rejected by Interscope and then leaked to the Internet, where it has now racked up half a million downloads.

It was quite a setback for an artist who broke onto the scene with his 2001 album 1st Born Second and its smash single "Soul Sista," which soared to No. 18 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop charts and established Bilal as an artist to be reckoned with. But after a period of introspection during which he worked with Glasper, Erykah Badu, Beyonce, Jay Z and the Roots, the multi-talented artist bounced back with 2010's Airtight's Revenge.


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The Best Concerts in Houston This Week: August Alsina, Better Than Ezra, KISS, etc.

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Photo by H. Matthews/Def Jam
August Alsina
Warehouse Live, August 29

This show has already sold out, so time to hit up the "secondary market." But August Alsina is that hot, no thanks to rumors that he's now dating Nicki Minaj. She's definitely a fan of the New Orleans-bred singer's "No Love" single, because she appears on the now-viral remix. That's nothing new for Alsina, 21 years old and part of the YouTube generation of artists whose record deals are a direct result of their homemade videos; or at least the number of views those videos have accrued.

After two well-received volumes of his The Product mixtape, Alsina is now on the Def Jam roster and in April released his full-length LP, Testimony, leading with his hit duet with rapper Trinidad James, "I Luv This Shit."

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Seth Walker's 10 Favorite Texas Blues Tunes

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Photo by Zack Smith
Seth Walker should be no stranger to Houston audiences from his many years as one of Austin's hardest-gigging musicians, whose relaxed but precise take on white-man's blues has built an impressive following in this part of the world. (The similarities between him and John Mayer are undeniable, but Walker is much better behaved.)

Last year he relocated to New Orleans after a spell in Nashville and, with Oliver Wood of the Wood Brothers producing, cut Sky Still Blue, a stylish collection of new songs that seamlessly weaves the Crescent City's innate funkiness into Walker's well-appointed cocktail-lounge R&B. We were looking for a different way to give his gig at the Mucky Duck tonight some love, so we convinced Walker to send us his ten favorite Lone Star blues songs for a Texas twist on Throwback Thursday.

Pay attention -- this guy knows his stuff.


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The Five Best Concerts In Houston This Week: Aerosmith, Buxton, Charlie Robison, etc.

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Photo by Barry Sigman
Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry at Toyota Center in 2012
Aerosmith, Slash
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, August 25

Aerosmith's reputation has been tarnished by some bad records and worse decision-making over the years, but even that can't obscure this fundamental truth: in their prime, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry's Boston bad boys not only lived up to the hype as America's Rolling Stones, but on immortal mid-'70s LPs Toys In the Attic and Rocks, managed to out-raunch Mick and Keef themselves. One decade-long trip off the deep end later, they came roaring back to be one of the biggest bands of the late '80s and early '90s with the killer one-two combo of Permanent Vacation and Pump.

Despite various hiatuses, that dreadful Armageddon ballad and Tyler's American Idol stint, Aerosmith has remained a top concert draw to this day, due mostly to hit-studded shows where the mediocrity recedes and the Toxic Twins step to the fore in all their bloozy glory. One of Perry's most successful guitar acolytes, opener Slash is a happy man these days, still cranking out all those Appetite for Destruction favorites with maximum intensity live and periodically releasing no-frills installments of agreeable hard rock such as next month's World On Fire. CHRIS GRAY

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Austin's OBN IIIs Are No Retro-Rock Chumps

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Photos by Renate Winter
With unlimited sweat, furious finesse and hook-heavy musical manners, Austin's OBN IIIs are the bastard child of Flamin' Groovies and Radio Birdman, just as their latest slab Live in San Francisco documents. Their closest allies in Texas are likely the equally forceful, cunning and haunting Sons of Hercules, so be prepared for a pent-up cataclysm.

Pitchfork has claimed them as retro-"townies" reinventing the anti-college rock of the 1970s, even likening them to floppy-haired heroes Van Halen and Blue Oyster Cult. Think again, and take off the revisionist glasses. OBN III's kind of grit and determination seems a lot less like the black-light poster crowd of rusted Mustangs and stinky hashish and a lot more like Budweiser slamming, take-no-prisoners garage-rock rioters from vintage MC5 to the Cynics, the Greenhornes and Zen Guerrilla. This would never have been heard on FM airwaves alongside REO Speedwagon and Asia.


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The 10 Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Bottle Rockets, Rudz 36, Garfunkel & Oates, etc.

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Photo courtesy of Bloodshot Records
Bottle Rockets, Marshall Crenshaw
Continental Club, August 22

The pride of Festus, Mo., the Bottle Rockets would be the best band you've never heard of except, if you've ever subscribed to either No Depression magazine or the Bloodshot Records mailing list, you've absolutely heard of them and know exactly why they're so damn good. Ex-Uncle Tupelo roadie and satellite member Brian Henneman started the Bottle Rockets when the former band started going down the tubes; overall his bunch was less Black Flag-influenced than the Tupelo guys, but the Bottle Rockets' similar combination of classic country, Southern rock and indie attitude made them a cornerstone of the burgeoning alt-country scene.

Simple music-business malfeasance kept the band from climbing much higher on the ladder of success, but they persevered and last year Bloodshot Records reissued those first two albums, 1993's Bottle Rockets and '94's The Brooklyn Side, in a deluxe edition with demos and everything. So good guys don't always finish last after all, and joining them on this rare Southwestern tour is power-pop Ph.D. Marshall Crenshaw, whose first-rate catalog goes a lot deeper than his lone Top 40 hit, 1982's "Someday, Someway." CHRIS GRAY

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The Five Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Panic! at the Disco, Suzanna Choffel, etc.

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Photo by Marco Torres
DJ Sun at the 2014 HPMA ceremony
DJ Sun
The Flat, August 18

On last year's One Hundred -- amazingly, his first-ever full-length release -- DJ Sun pours his 20-plus-year career into an album that, although it was hardly the only reason, resulted into his induction into the Houston Music Hall of Fame earlier this month. One of Houston's most in-demand DJs, Sun and a host of friends and collaborators delivered a seamless work that never lulls, never lags and maintains an unshakably mellow groove throughout, with intricately laid-back latticework that should come as no surprise to anyone lucky enough to have met the man.

Among his multitude of weekly gigs, Sun's long-running "Rocksteady Mondays" residency at the Flat, where he is now managing partner, is probably the most chill environment to glimpse this true turntable craftsman at work. CHRIS GRAY

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The 10 Best Concerts in Houston This Weekend: Mercy Bros., Wiz Khalifa, Nine Inch Nails, etc.

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ReverbNation
The Mercy Brothers
McGonigel's Mucky Duck, August 15

Houston may not have seen a band like the Mercy Brothers around these parts since the Sideshow Tramps (mostly) folded up the tent. The five-piece from about 200 miles east in Lafayette, La., are the kind of evangelists who have no fear about playing the Lord's music in the devil's stomping grounds.

To them, "gospel music" includes country, rockabilly, R&B, second-line, swamp pop and other great stuff from the state where the cooking is spicy and the music even spicier. The Brothers' one and only album, Holy Ghost Power!, came out last December and is available at their shows, where you can hear their saucy covers of Prince's "Erotic City" and the Jim Carroll Band's "People Who Died," too.

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