I'm cheating a bit by making the entire Houston International Festival (iFest) my concert pick for the weekend.
With eight live music and performance stages showcasing Grade-A talent from Houston (local reggae band Irie Time) to Mali (the West African roots and rhythms of Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba) all day on Saturday and Sunday ... comparing it to any other club show in town is a bit like weighing the pros and cons between champagne and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
Now in its 40th year, the 2010 iFest shines a spotlight on the Caribbean, which, for this weekend and next (April 24 and 25), should turn downtown's west end into quite the reggae party.
The festival is open from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 8 p.m. on Sunday and the music offerings are amazingly diverse (check out the full schedule). And that doesn't even include the 40-foot-long pirate ship reproduction that will house the Caribbean Living Museum or the historic 16th century fort and chapel recreations.
(My deal with CultureMap requires that I stick to writing about music, but let me say that all of these exhibits are a great way to mix some fun into your kid's social studies book learning).
Some of the acts on hand this weekend will be very familiar and others are international world music sensations that are little known in the United States. To keep music lovers from getting overwhelmed, I have devised a "can't miss" concert guide for each day.
Follow these listening tips and your iFest musical trip around the world will feel complete.
12:30 p.m. — Irie Time (Chron.com Entertainment Stage) — What better way to warm up for an all-day celebration of Afro-pop and reggae than with this local band of reggae veterans? Irie Time keep the beats simple the way Bob Marley intended.
2 p.m. — Sister Morales (RoomStore Latin Stage) — If anybody ever decided to make the definitive Tex-Mex wedding reception soundtrack, Lisa and Roberta Morales would be featured prominently. The sisters have been exploring the softer side of border balladry long enough to be desert queens of the genre.
4 p.m. — Marcia Ball (Louisiana Stage) — Ball was born in Orange, Texas, raised in Vinton, Louisiana and plays and sings the blues as if she has never ventured outside the Gulf Coast. Her swamp boogie has been a staple in these parts for more than 30 years.
6 p.m. — Joe Ely featuring David Grissom (Bud Light World Music Stage) — If I have to explain who Joe Ely is then I advise you to turn in your Texas passport and move to New Hampshire immediately. He's a member of the Flatlanders and a Lubbock-born legend who has played with everyone from the Clash to Lyle Lovett. He is everything that is great about Texas music.
8 p.m. — Ozomatli (Bud Light World Music Stage) — It took a long time to work in some international flavor for this first day of iFest, but Ozomatli is worth the wait. This Los Angeles-based band mixes Latin percussion, rock electricity, brass fusion and hip hop beats into an amplified blender to make a sound that is exotic and intoxicating. Don't be surprised if they preview songs from upcoming album, "Fire Away," at this show.
Worth the price of admission all by themselves.
12:30 p.m. — Norma Zenteno Band (Bud light World Music Stage) — A mix of Latin rock and percussion-and-string jams by an artist who's been a mainstay in Houston (and at iFest) for decades.
2:30 p.m. — Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba(Bud light World Music Stage) —I mentioned this West Mali string band up top. The chance to experience an internationally-revered ensemble like this is what iFest is all about.
4:30 p.m. — Mighty Diamonds (Bud Light World Music Stage) — It just makes sense to experience a little authentic Jamaican reggae during a Caribbean-inspired iFest.
6:30 — Tab Benoit (Louisiana Stage) — There's no better way to finish off the first weekend than some electric blues by a Louisiana-born master of the strings.