Arguably no other city captured more national and international attention this year than Houston — from the Super Bowl to Hurricane Harvey, and the magical Astros World Series run. The same can be said for the music scene that drew attention for major events and a fast growing, strong local coalition of talented musicians, promoters and event organizers putting on world-class shows and festivals.
These are some of the highlights from the past year that had audiences buzzing:
Super Bowl madness
The sheer amount of star wattage surrounding the Super Bowl, the Mecca of American sports, was nothing short of spectacular. The hottest ticket in town in a sea of huge parties came in the form of Club Nomadic, a pop-up music venue downtown that hosted the biggest names in music, sports and entertainment over the course of the week leading up to the big game. Those able to find a way into the venue experienced exhilarating late night performances by Snoop Dogg, Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift (in her only live set in 2017) that won’t soon be forgotten.
Not to be outdone, the free, highly attended Super Bowl Live shows at Discovery Green offered the best in Texas-bred talent. Houston's own Solange heated up a packed crowd with an immaculate, choreographed Thursday set, followed by rapturous shows by Southern rockers ZZ Top and The Suffers (both Houston-based), as well as Leon Bridges and Gary Clark Jr.
Lady Gaga, who created buzz during her stay in the week before the big game on February 5, capped off a hugely successful Super Bowl week with a critically acclaimed half-time performance in what many consider the best Super Bowl ever played.
Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo concerts push the envelope
Yee-haw! The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo broke records in 2017 with over 2.6 million attendees walking through the turnstiles. Live music shows in NRG Stadium brought the crowds as well over three-plus weeks of programming. There were the requisite country stars, including Willie Nelson, Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, Sam Hunt, Dierks Bentley, Zac Brown Band and Aaron Watson. There were pop stars Alicia Keys, and Demi Lovato too.
But a big shout out goes to the programmers, who booked out-of-the-box acts, including DJ duo The Chainsmokers and pop-punk trio Blink-182, the former that turned the dirt and dust of NRG into one huge, family friendly rave.
U2 reminds us of their greatness with The Joshua Tree
Ireland's mega-act U2 had recently fallen on hard times following the iPhone debacle and a string of middling albums. Genius move then to hit the road last spring to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the album that made them legends: The Joshua Tree. The minimal (for them anyway) stage set-up allowed Bono and company to give as intimate a performance you can to 70,000 fans at NRG Stadium in May, all who were treated to some of the most iconic rock tunes of all time. One of the shows of the year, no doubt.
May flowers bring June showers at FPSF
Another year, another Free Press Summer Fest hampered by rain. Three years in a row, Mother Nature shut down portions of the festival at Eleanor Tinsley Park with several lightning delays and rain storms, including the headline performance of pop star Lorde. Thankfully, organizers are still committed to giving Houston music fans a warm weather festival. The Free Press Summer Fest will now be rebranded as the In Bloom Festival and will move from the unpredictable month of June to a more weather-friendly March date in 2018.
Fourth of July festivities make everyone want to DNCE
The Freedom Over Texas Festival brought the fun to Fourth of July with Joe Jonas-led band DNCE and rising country star Hunter Hayes at Buffalo Bayou Park. The event drew attendees with a multitude of food trucks and a massive fireworks display.
A reunited Guns N' Roses shred through all the hits
Fans of Axl Rose, Slash and the boys gave thanks to a much welcomed reunion of the classic band line-up and were treated to a ultra-long set of hit after hit when the huge Not In This Lifetime tour rolled through town in early August. The Los Angeles-based legends followed up the show with a victory lap, bringing the tour to the more intimate confines at Toyota Center later in the year.
Hurricane Harvey impacts local music scene
The record shattering rainfall and flooding of Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston residents and businesses when it made landfall in late August. Musicians of all levels and those who work in the music industry weren't prone to the effects of the storm, with many losing instruments and venues facing damage and lost revenue due to show cancellations. Thankfully, a tight-knit local scene rose to the occasion to immediately provide aid to those in need with several relief shows that showed the true heart of Houston as a music town.
Depeche Mode brings the revolution to Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
The band that sold more concert tickets than any other music act in 2017 brought its Global Spirit tour to the packed out Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion that lapped up nearly four decades of new wave hits. Perhaps no other tour spoke to the current political climate in such an artfully tasteful way, but David Gahan, Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher made sure that fun was first and foremost the order of the night.
Texas Monthly recognizes the growing talent of the Houston music scene
All of those who work in the local music industry know something positive has been happening in the HOU the last few years. Once a city that many acts would skip over in favor of other forward thinking cities, Houston's time has come as a first-class music destination in addition to producing great talent - Solange, The Suffers, The Tontons, Bun B, Paul Wall, Wild Moccasins and many more - events with a wide range of music-centered venues. Texas Monthly expressed as much in it's October music issue that featured a huge amount of love for the the movers and shakers of the Bayou City.
Day for Night gives Houston a world-class festival
Following the line-up announcement a few months earlier, expectations were high for Day for Night, an interactive arts meets progressive music event in downtown Houston in mid-December. In only its third year, the festival delivered on the potential of previous editions, drawing a killer line-up - Nine Inch Nails, St. Vincent, Justice and Radiohead's Thom Yorke - and some of the best visual artists in the world.
The national and international music community took notice, with coverage from industry tentpole Billboard magazine and respected publication Consequence of Sound naming it the Festival of the Year. The scary part is organizers are just getting started and music fans should be extremely excited about where Day for Night will go in subsequent years.