Texas®

In this coming week or two following the Turkey Day that’s just passed, there will be some notable bands and tours cutting through our state as a part of some really major tours. Wilco will make their way into Dallas on November 29th and into Austin on December 1st, for example. That’s pretty big, right?

Well, Wilco’s great, but things get even more epic and more arena-rocking in the week after Jeff Tweedy and roll through.

Perhaps the biggest, most anticipated concert tour of the year will hit our state once Jay-Z and Kanye West bring their Watch The Throne show to town. The album of the same name is already one of the better hip-hop releases of the year, but when you combine that album with the boat-load of hits the two MCs have in their arsenal already, it’s sure to be an insane night for all. Be sure to catch them in Houston (the Toyota Center) on December 5th, and then in Dallas (where I’ll be!) on December 6th. Reviews have been more than postivie so far, so it’ll be cool to see if the duo has stepped it up even further by the time they get to Texas.

To make next week even bigger, the Kentucky-bred, rough-hewn indie heroes turned arena-rock mammoths, My Morning Jacket will laser-shoot their way through the same two towns on the following two nights. Still basking in the glow of their latest, border-broadening (and excellent) release, Circuital, the Jim James-led outfit will show Texas why they can rightfully and successfully headline ACL and any other massive festival, regardless of whether they are the household name that many think they should be or not.

Next year will bring big shows: Radiohead has already announced a March tour, Roger Waters will bring the Wall back to Texas in May with giants like Foo Fighters and Coldplay sure to announce their Lone Star 2012 dates soon. But for now, for the end of 2011, the next week and a half is going to be a great time to bring the noise.

I know that we still might technically be still in the midst of Spring, but the temps are beginning to suggest otherwise. Each year, as our energy bills rise, so to does the list of concerts we all circle on our repsective calendars. Below are a few of the top tours and festivals hitting the state. Some you may know all about by now, and others on this list may be hitting your radar for the first time, perhaps. Regardless, we’re pretty sure you’ll find something for almost any taste in the list below…

Austin Psych Fest (April 29 – May 1) - As much of an oddball grouping as your likely to find all year. This intense, all-weekend bill will be filling the Seaholm Power Plant with all sorts of industrial noise and racous bad/good times. Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez Lopez group, along with A Place to Bury Strangers, No Joy and even Texan-goup This Will Destroy You, lead a sonic assult that will likely leave any attendees few questions as to why their ears are bleeding.

Wilco (Houston May 6, Denton May 7) – Not much to add to the simple fact that Wilco will be hitting a couple of places in our state. Word has it that some sort of release is nearing completion, but even if Jeff Tweedy and crew dont play new tunes, their classics are just that – classic.

Editor’s Pick! Homegrown Festival (Dallas May 14): What began last year as a relatively humble gathering of local bands, some of which had outgrown the city limits a tad, has become a full-fledged destination festival, this year. the name of the all-day shindig rings true, still though. Headliners such as Slobberbone, Neon Indian, Astronautalis, and School of Seven Bells are widely known around the country, but all started here in North Texas. The still-new and beautiful Main St Garden is an ideal location that soon might be too small for this budding festival.

Editor’s Pick! Mogwai (Dallas May 15, Austin May 16, Houston May 17) – Perhaps the band that gave real wings to what so many term as “post-rock”. The Scottish outfit has now been together for over a decade and a half, and after three years, they’ve just released an insanely anthemic studio album album, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will, which is their best effort since their debut record, 1997′s Young Team. Similar to a band like Austin’s Explosions in the Sky, who clearly adore Stewart Braithwaite and his crew, Mogwai has always looked to create moving soundscapes that escape simple categorization. The former Matador stars, now working with Sub Pop have had this American tour planned for a while, actually. The Granada Theater in Dallas announced this show back in November, giving fans plenty of time to brush up on their air-guitar and shoegazing skills. A Pitchfork review of the new record, while not glowing, summed up a feeling that has seemed to evident in the band’s recent performances by suggesting, “ On Hardcore, Mogwai sound like they’re enjoying being Mogwai again.” I can only imagine that us Texans will enjoy them just fine.

Editor’s Pick! Twilight Singers (May 30 Dallas, May 31 Austin, June 1 Houston) – Another Sub Pop act that has been around for a while will be making their long-awaited way through Texas. This project is a bit differnt, however. Greg Dulli, formerly the leader of Afghan Wigs, made this his secondary group, therefore output from this act was scarce until his main act disbanded in 2001. After that, releases havent exactly been prolific, but they have at least bore the mark of a real band and not merely a one-off side project. Case in point: Twilight Singers latest album, Dynamite Steps. An all-out alt-rock album that features agressive rock, with agresive melodies and a real sense for drama. Afghan who?

Houston Free Press Summerfest (June 4-5) - Talk about a line-up that doesn’t need much further explanation? The annual festival, held in Eleanor Tinsley Park, has really topped their already impressive acts from previous years. Weezer, Big Boi, Cut Copy, Yeasayer, Jason Isbell, and Beirut headline a line-up that has really strong support from Lower Dens, Hayes Carll, The Black Angels and Those Darlins, among many others.

Adele w/ Wanda Jackson (Austin June 12, Dallas June 15) – Hello, Girl Power! The current darling of the UK and the US album charts pairs herself with the Queen of Rock and Roll? Yes please! That’s a serious amount of soul to put onto one stage in one night.

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Yes, as was mentioned last week, we made it down to hit some shows for the final full day of music for this year’s South by Southwest. Indeed, a good time was had by all and we’re now ready to actually discuss the goings-on of this past weekend.

Unlike in year’s past, when 6th Street was more or less the epicenter of our SXSW experience, this year, South Congress Avenue was ground-zero. Given that we were focusing on daytime events, and not the official night-time programming, such was an easy decision to make, really. With Threadgill’s, the Yard Dog Gallery, the Continental Club, Homeslice Pizza, and Hotel San Jose among the locales hosting free, live music, it was safe to say that we wouldn’t see much of any other area for the pre-dinner hours of the day.

Just after 1:00pm, A few tunes from Austin’s Stone River Boys inside of the Continental Club got us in the mood to get rolling and hit some shows. After a misguided trip up the road to the Yard Dog Gallery, where we had hoped to catch a 1:30 set from Wilco bassist John Stirratt’s band The Autumn Defense (that set wasn’t scheduled until 2:20pm, even though Stirratt had told me different earlier at Guero’s, where I also happened to run into Jon Langford, he of the legendary Mekons and Waco Brothers).

Feeling as though we had to make up for lost time, we jetted down the avenue to Threadgill’s Riverside Dr. location, where a steady stream of quality acts would be hitting the indoor (and air-conditioned) stage for a series of tapings for the superb site, Music Fog.Com. Luckily, the posse arrived just in-time to secure a semi-circle booth near the back, just before Bonnie Whitmore  - with The Masterson’s backing her up - began her set. Playing tunes from Whitmore’s solo-album, Embers to Ashes, the trio inter-played effortlessly, and Whitmore, who has played in the bands of several notable artists recently, continued to display why it is she will be a solo-force for some time, thanks to her vocals that can sonorously go from soft to swelling in a moment’s notice. Later, while still at Threadgills, Eddie Spaghetti of Supersuckers fame revved up the crowd with a mix of new solo-tunes (from recent solo-release Sundowner) and what he deemed “Supersucker classics.” Bawdy and ballsy, Spaghetti swaggered on the small stage the same way he does when he’s commanding a packed club of a thousand sweaty souls.

After recharging in the Fireman’s #4-soaked booth of Threadgills, we headed back up SoCo Ave and squeezed into a beautifully and electrically charged Continental Club for the band that has become one of its de facto house bands, the Mother Truckers. Hubby/wife combo of Josh Zee and Teal Collins led the conquering heroes through a torrid set of tunes that were picked from each of the band’s kick-butt albums. “Size of the Sun” and “Break Up Sex” from their latest release, Van Tour were especially on-point, but the trio of songs from their insane 2008 album Let’s All Go To Bed, “I’m Coming Over,” “Dynamite” and “Streets of Atlanta” were the perfect hybrid of punk and twangy southern rock that has made them such Capitol City faves for the last several years now.

With Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears playing to a beyond-packed parking lot next to the Hotel San Jose, we skipped up the street, back to The Yard Dog Gallery, so we could catch the 5:10pm set of my lunch-mate from earlier in the day, Jon Langford & The Skull Orchard Band. Employing what seemed like a dozen people on-stage, the former founding Mekon was clearly at home, especially since so much of his exemplary folk-art calls the walls of the gallery home. Two dollar drafts of Austin’s Live Oak Amber didn’t hurt either.

As the sun began its descent, the crew looked around for some other shows, but opted to hop in the car and head towards some pizza at Eastside Pies (the Nicola was pretty unreal) and drinks at Opal Devine’s on 6th Street to close out the night.

Thanks to the many wonderful shows we caught during the day, it was nice to know that the pressure of trying to catch a great show that night was off of our slightly burned shoulders.