ballers and shot callers
Keith Urban, Lil Nas X, and Tim McGraw headline Houston's slam-dunk March Madness Music Festival
Houstonians—and the asphalt highways that are taking a rubber pounding from increased traffic—won’t even have two weeks to recover from the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo before the next Big Ticket Event hits town.
The 2023 NCAA Men’s Final Four was a big get for the city, but the actual games are only part of the overall weekend that also includes events, celebrity parties, a Fan Fest, and even tailgating.
And slam dunks won’t be the only type of jamming going on, as the lineup has just been announced for theNCAA March Madness Music Festival. Big names in Americana, country, and hip hop are hitting the stage at Discovery Green downtown from March 31-April 2.
All tickets are free, though they do require reservation online while supplies last.
Performers for the AT&T Block Party on March 31 are still being determined. But here’s the rundown for the other two days:
MOVE by Coca-Cola Stage; 3-9 pm
The afternoon kicks off with singer/songwriter Maggie Rogers. The multi-instrumentalist grew up on a diet of classical and neo soul music. But her career really started when a video of her playing her song “Alaska” to a visibly-moved Pharrell Williams went viral. Nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2019 for debut Heard It In a Past Life record. Last year saw the release of follow-up Surrender.
It's hard to believe that it’s only been a few years since the sing-songy “Old Town Road” was heard everywhere from elementary school classrooms to senior citizen centers, but headliner and Grammy winner Lil Nas X has certainly not stayed staid. He courted new sounds in rap, dance and hip hop (and multiple controversies—see: lap dancing for Satan himself) with the expansive Montero (“Panini,” “That’s What I Want”) while also coming out a both gay and a fashion icon. He also collaborated with rapper Jack Harlow on “Industry Baby.”
Capital One JamFest; 2:30-10 pm
It’s a boot-scootin’ afternoon of classic and contemporary country sounds beginning with Texas native Mickey Guyton. Sure, she’s gotten surface attention for being a rare black female artist in the genre, but any naysayers were silenced by tunes like “Better Than You Left Me” and “Heartbreak Song” before she addressed race in “Hold On, Sister” and “Black Like Me.” Ironically, those numbers were embraced more on social media than country radio. In 2021, she released the debut Remember Her Name, which added gospel and R&B to the mix, and she co-hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards the same year.
The Alabama quartet Little Big Town have been a force going back to their 2002 debut, scoring big hits with “Pontoon,” “Better Man,” “Little White Church,” “Day Drinking,” and “Girl Crush” among them while collecting a lot of award hardware along the journey. Singers Karen Fairchild and Kimberly Schlapman along with singer/instrumentalists Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook’s most recent album was last year’s Mr. Sun. They are also a country group for people who proclaim they don’t like country music.
Keith Urban has a career spanning more than three decades. And while his Australian roots, wife Nicole Kidman, judging on American Idol, and his looks/tattoos get almost as much attention as his music to the general public, the singer/guitarist has got a long and solid discography. That includes 20 (and counting) #1 country hits including “Somebody Like You,” “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me,” “Days Go By,” “Somewhere In My Car,” “Break on Me,” and “Wasted Time.” His last album was 2020’s The Speed of Now Part 1.
Finally, headliner Tim McGraw sheds his period cowboy duds of the Yellowstone TV series spin-off 1883 to strap on a guitar for a similarly hit-heavy repertoire including “I Like It, I Love It,” “Just to See You Smile,” “Something Like That” and “Real Good Man” though “Live Like You Were Dying,” “Back When,” and “Southern Voice.” Some will hope for a pop-up appearance from wife Faith Hill, but the Louisiana native can more than hold an audience on his own while flexing his lean, muscular frame that’s the envy of any a middle-aged man.
Stay up to date with developments and announcements at ncaa.com/marchmadness/musicfest.