Concert Picks of the week: Justin Townes Earl, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, TheGreencards
There are some grass-is-greener music pessimists who will always insist that a city like Houston can't compete with sexier coastal towns like Los Angeles, New York or Miami for concert talent. They'll argue those towns have round-the-clock nightlife and an unlimited supply of young people with wads of cash, just waiting for the next Britney Spears spectacle, Bruce Springsteen residency or secret promotional tour by Madonna.
To that I say, poppycock. It is all an illusion.
There may be some truth to the idea that a few select European artists (particularly techno DJs) frequent the Atlantic coast more than other parts of the U.S. simply because it's cost effective. But a look at the top 10 tours of 2009 proves that Houston hosted more than half of them in the last 18 months, when the latest tours by U2, Madonna, Pink, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC began.
Furthermore, while we still enjoy all the national talent those sassier metropolis' enjoy, Texas cities and the Gulf Coast have a musical culture all its own. Our scene is frequented by the all-stars of the roots, blues, Americana, Tex-Mex, folk and cow-punk in a way those others cities will never know.
So to the Big Apple, I say, "Enjoy your umpteenth Billy Joel or Bon Jovi stadium concert."
I defy you to match this line-up intimate songwriting, brass-blowing club talent anywhere on the island this weekend.
Friday, Feb. 5
Justin Townes Earle, 7:30 p.m. at McGonigel's Mucky Duck
Only a select few, like the basketball playing son of Michael Jordan or President George W. Bush, can know the expectations a name can carry when a child tries to follow his father into the family business on a national stage. Justin Townes Earle, the offspring of legendary singer-songwriter and occasional rabble-rouser Steve Earle, seems to be handling the pressure —and his guitar string— just fine.
If there is any proof to the power of suggestion, then perhaps being an Earle and carrying a middle-name in honor of the late-great Townes Van Zandt helped to groove a little roots-rich DNA into his nimble fingers and road-wise voice.
Only 28, Earle has already cut his musical teeth in a rock band and a bluegrass group before going solo. Much like his father, he's also had to battle drug use, only to come out on the other side a bit wiser and with a few more stories to write songs about.
His first two albums show a range of influences from roots to rock, but it's his new album,"Midnight at the Movies" that just might be his breakout success
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, 8 p.m. at Warehouse Live
Short of jumping on a plane and heading to the Bourbon Street party in The Big Easy, there may be no better way to get primed for "The Big Game" between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints than to catch this New Orleans fusion institution.
The Dirty Dozen Brass band has been funkin'-up New Orleans jazz for 33 years and is as treasured as the Preservation Hall in New Orleans. The ensemble has played everywhere from the Montreaux Jazz Fesitval in Switzerland to the Austin City Limits Festival in Austin. Lately, young hot bands like Modest Mouse and Widespread Panic have backed them in the recording studio.
Get ready for this weekend's "Who Dat?" party with a little music directly from the streets of the French Quarter.
Saturday, Feb. 6
The Greencards, 7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m. at McGonigel's Mucky Duck
I'll admit that it was hard for me to forgive The Greencards after they ditched Texas for Nashville following the debut album, "Movin' On," in 2003. The group seemed to be doing well creating a following for its eclectic blend of bluegrass, country, celtic and and electric folk. I took it far personally than I should have because I coveted their frequent trips to Houston to play the Mucky Duck. They packed the house and started to bring national attention to their quick'-pickin' and sultry songwriting.
In retrospect, Nashville was probably the right move for them. Since heading to Music City, The Greencards have gone national in a big way. The group's last album, "Viridian," became the first international release to top the Billboard Bluegrass charts and they even had a song from it nominated for a Grammy.
I forgave them once I found out that the instrumental Grammy nominee was titled "Mucky The Duck."
They do remember those good ol' days in Houston after all.