The ’90s are hot right now. The live music scene is looking back, with several big names from the grunge-dominated heyday playing Houston this week — in addition to some standouts from the pop and country genres. Here are the biggest and best.
CultureMap show of the week: Smashing Pumpkins and Metric
Smashing Pumpkins are back. Well, sort of: They are three-fourths back, with band leader Billy Corgan opting to leave former girlfriend and bassist D’arcy Wretzky at home due to whatever drama those two have going on. Fortunately, drummer Jimmy Chamberlain and guitarist James Iha return to the live stage for the Shiny and Oh So Bright tour. They’ll be playing classic cuts from their first five albums.
Even better, one of Canada’s best bands, Metric opens, and if there was any justice in this world, they’d be the ones filling arenas. They are that good. They've just released hot new single, "Dark Saturday" and will be worth getting to the Toyota Center by 7 pm sharp.
The Smashing Pumpkins headline at the Toyota Center, located at 1510 Polk St., on Tuesday, July 17. Metric opens. Tickets start at $29 plus fees. Show starts at 7 pm.
Sam Smith: Crooning to the rafters
James Bond title crooner Sam Smith brings his unique voice to Houston on a hot streak. The multi-award winner is set to release his new album, The Thrill of it All, in November, and first single, “Too Good at Goodbyes,” went to No. 1 on almost every conceivable chart. Fans of amazing vocal talent shouldn’t miss this one.
Sam Smith performs at the Toyota Center, located at 1510 Polk St., on Wednesday, July 18. Cam opens. Tickets start at $35 plus fees. Show starts at 8 pm.
CultureMap recommends: Julianna Barwick
Acclaimed avant folk singer Julianna Barwick makes sounds rarely heard in a live setting, by looping her gorgeous voice and synths into an ethereal, dreamy mix. To give you the sense of whose radar she's on, she’s been commissioned by Radiohead to remix their work. And although she hasn’t put out anything since 2016’s Will, it’ll still be a treat to see her in the intimate confines of Rockefellers.
Julianna Barwick rolls into Rockefellers, located at 3620 Washington Ave., on Thursday, July 19. Mary Lattimore and Ak'chamel, The Giver Of Illness open. Tickets start at $13 plus service fees. The show starts at 8 pm.
Sugar Land, meet Sugarland
It’s a match made in heaven, as Sugarland performs in, ahem, Sugar Land. While not named after the suburb, the country duo, comprised of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, is no stranger to the Houston area, having played RodeoHouston two times previously. The Georgia-based group has sold millions of albums, and they’re selling a bunch more with the release of their latest, Bigger, this past June. Their song, "Babe," features a little-known singer named Taylor Swift, who shows some real promise here.
Sugarland performs at Smart Financial Centre, located at 18111 Lexington Blvd. in Sugar Land, on Saturday, July 21. Frankie Ballard and Lindsay Ell open. Tickets start at $59.50. The show starts at 7 pm.
Roasting with Blue October
Summertime — the perfect time for beer-sponsored festivals with questionable lineup choices. The good thing about these types of events is they’re usually cheap to get into and there’ll be at least one or two bands that you’re willing to pay to see. Houston’s own Blue October will headline the Bud Light Roast this Saturday, which is what anyone who sits on the lawn will be doing if they get there early, but hey, there’ll be plenty of beer to drink, right? Alt-rock bands AWOLNATION, Theory of a Deadman, and more will also perform.
Blue October headlines the Bud Light Roast at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, located at 2005 Lake Robbins Dr. in The Woodlands, on Saturday, July 21. AWOLNATION, Theory of a Deadman, Robert DeLong, and Hold On Hollywood also perform. Tickets start at $15 for lawn seating, $20 for reserved seats, plus fees. Tickets increase $10 on day of the event. Gates open at 3:30 pm.
Counting 25 years with the Counting Crows and Live
The second nostalgia trip back to the ’90s in two weeks hits Cynthia Woods this weekend as the Counting Crows bring their 25 Years and Counting tour to town. August and Everything After, released in 1993, made the Crows huge stars with hits “Mr. Jones,” and “Round Here” becoming radio staples.
They’ll be joined by another huge ’90s hitmaker, Live, whose grunge-lite Throwing Copper was inescapable back in the day with several singles ("I Alone," "Selling the Drama," and "All Over You," and “Lightning Crashes”) rising to the top of the alt-rock and modern rock charts. Those who hate 25-year high school reunions should go to this instead.
The Counting Crows and Live relive the ’90s at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, located at 2005 Lake Robbins Dr. in The Woodlands, on Sunday, July 22. Tickets start at $23 for lawn seating, $29.50 for reserved seats, plus fees. Gates open at 5:30 pm.