Taylor Swift for 2020?
That idea would be utter nonsense until a former reality TV star and huckster of mail order steaks hadn't claimed the most powerful position in politics in 2016. While it probably won't come to fruition (but never say never), Tay-tay released a statement a few weeks in which she endorsed her Tennessean Democrat candidates in the mid-term elections via social media. Reports show that over 65,000 people registered in the day after her Instagram post, proving that music still has the power to influence the masses.
Meanwhile, a strong slate of live shows in Houston should bring out the masses this week, regardless of political affiliation. Also, don't forget to vote.
These are the biggest, best, and most notable shows in Houston this week:
A night of vocals: Josh Groban and Idina Menzel
It's a face-off of the most beloved performers among suburban moms who shop at Pottery Barn and Barnes and Nobles as vocal powerhouses Josh Groban and Idina Menzel are at Toyota Center. Groban, who also dabbles in acting (see The Good Cop on Netflix) has sold over 25 million albums based on the strength of his operatic vocals that gained him tremendous fame the early-to-mid aughts.
Menzel is most notably famous for being the voice behind the song that will never die in "Let It Go," in the Disney film, Frozen, while being an acclaimed Broadway star. Say what you want about their cool factor, but it's hard to think of two more talented singers to put together on a bill. Groban is touring behind his new album, Bridges.
Josh Groban headlines the Toyota Center, located at 1510 Polk St., on Tuesday, October 23. Idina Manzel opens. Tickets start at $35 plus service charges. Doors open at 7 pm.
CultureMap Free Show of the Week: Hayes Carll at Party on the Plaza
The last performance of the year for the fantastic Party on the Plaza concert series at Discovery Green features The Woodlands native and Grammy Award nominee Hayes Carll and his fine Americana songwriting. Carll made a name for himself by contributing several songs to the 2010 Gwyneth Paltrow film, Country Strong. Showing his versatility, Carll's albums placed on the country, folk, rock, and indie charts.
He'll be joined by Dallas-based blues act Charley Crockett, a troubadour in every sense, having hitchhiked and train hopped across the country at a young age before releasing his first album, A Stolen Jewel, in 2015. Admission is free to this early set. Take advantage of this unique series before it goes away until 2019.
Hayes Carll headlines Party on the Plaza, at Discovery Green, located at 1500 McKinney St., on Thursday, October 25. Charley Crockett opens. Admission is free. Bands start at 6:45 pm.
The ecstatic folksy pop of KT Tunstall
Indie-alt-folk-pop rocker and Scottish performer KT Tunstall might be much bigger back home, but she has established herself on these shores with a songbook that has been included in a variety of TV shows and movies that you probably liked. Her 2005 hit, "Suddenly I See," featured in the Meryl Streep vehicle, A Devil Wears Prada, Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty, and American Idol (for better or worse).
Her albums have hit the top ten on the U.S. Billboard charts and she headlines major festivals in Europe, making this intimate show at the Heights Theater a treat for casual and die-hard fans alike. She's touring behind this months album, WAX.
KT Tunstall performs at the Heights Theater, located at 339 W. 19th St., on Friday, October 26. Maddie Ross opens. Tickets are $24 plus a $6 service fee. Doors open at 7 pm.
Cloud Nothings at White Oak
Ohio-bred Cloud Nothings are widely considered one of the best indie rock bands right now. The band released the strong 2018 offering, Last Building Burning, the latest in the long line of critically acclaimed albums dating back to 2010. The crunchy guitars give way to moody soundscapes, but infectious melodies buoy the songs above any arty pretension. Taking a bit of the best musical touchstones of the last 30 years of alternative rock — they've recorded with Nirvana producer Steve Albini — doesn't hurt either.
Cloud Nothings headline at White Oak Music Hall, located at 2915 N. Main St., on Friday, October 26. Moths open. Tickets are $15 plus a $6.49 service charge. Doors open at 8 pm.
Buzzfest without a lot of buzz
Buzzfest? More like buzzkill. It goes to show you how far alt-rock radio has fallen. Once the most exciting formats when it burst into the mainstream nationwide in the mid-'90s, it was the place to go for those who wanted to escape the waning hair metal years and same old classic rock hits (see: "Hotel California"). Now, alt-rock is the stale cheese, with little-to-nary originality to be heard from its early days.
Case in point: the Buzzfest line-up that features A Perfect Circle, a band whose biggest hit was at the turn of the century; Scott Stapp, the lead singer of Creed that played a huge part in alt-rock's overly commercialized turn; and Puddle of Mudd, a band with one big dumb song in "She Hates Me," which somehow found an audience way back in 2001. But hey, music taste is subjective and there are likely lots of people who like these bands. We hope they have fun.
Buzzfest goes down at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, located at 2005 Lake Robbins Dr. in The Woodlands, on Saturday, October 28. Tickets start at $42.50 plus service fees. Gates open at noon.
CultureMap recommends: Jon Batiste
There are a few artists that exude so much talent, they could bottle it and sell it for hundreds of dollars an ounce at a fancy boutique store. New Orleans native Jon Batiste is one of them. There's a reason why the guy was handpicked by Stephen Colbert to lead the new Late Show band. He's worked with the foremost musicians in the world, including Stevie Wonder, Lenny Kravitz, and Prince. What makes him unique is his original takes on standard American classics, songs being morphed towards an entirely different direction, as shown on his new album, Hollywood Africans. Batiste does it all.
Jon Batiste performs at the Heights Theater, located at 339 W. 19th St., on Saturday, October 26. Maddie Ross opens. Tickets are $25 plus a $6 service fee. Doors open at 7 pm.
CultureMap show of the week: Maxwell
The New York R&B star Maxwell shot to the top of the charts in the late '90s, quickly selling boatloads of albums of his silky, smooth, yet progressive approach to the genre while becoming a sex symbol. His first album, Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite, is considered by many critics to be a masterpiece.
But then a funny thing happened. He practically disappeared for long stretches of times over the last 15 years, only producing two albums since 2016. Now he's back, touring behind his 50 Intimate Nights North American tour. Word is he'll be performing new material, including new single, "The Glass House (We Never Saw it Coming)."
Maxwell performs at the Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land, located at 18111 Lexington Blvd. in Sugar Land, on Sunday, October 28. Tickets start at $50.50 plus service fees. Doors open at 8 pm.
British (tabloid) star Jessie J
British singer Jessie J is an inarguable pop star. Case in point: she shared a stage with Queen at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. Her hits haven’t translated to a massive American audience, but her cult here is strong, including alleged new beau Channing Tatum (he definitely has a type).
If you’re into sugary Top 40, Jessie J’s hits, including, “Bang Bang,” featuring Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, “Price Tag,” and “Flashlight” from the Pitch Perfect 2 soundtrack have massive hooks and featuring a talented woman with a huge set of pipes. She's in the midst of releasing her new album as a series of EPs and is touting new single "Love Will Save the World." Call this show a guilty pleasure.
Jessie J brings her powerful vocals to Warehouse Live, located at 813 St Emanuel St., on Sunday, October 28. Tickets are $27 in advance plus service charges. Doors open at 7 pm.