Houston, with its ever-evolving artistic foundation and burgeoning opportunities for dreamers and doers alike, is continually proving its place as a creative mecca. With the ushering in of Day For Night, the laser light-filled music fest, and the strength-in-numbers turnouts at Free Press Summer Fest and top tier shows, H-Town is quickly carving itself out as a top music destination for both local and national acts. With more opportunities for musicians comes more opportunities for music lovers to enjoy the bevy of melodies sweeping through the city on any given night.
During 2015, I caught sets of 88 artists across 11 shows and three festivals. The following listed performances showcase the city's growing and ever-changing music scene.
Band: Death Grips
Date: July 17
On a late, sweaty night last summer, Fitzgerald’s was home to one of the strangest, most passionate affectations to experimental music of the year. After years of infamous cancellations of big scale tours and no-shows at key performances, hip-hop trio Death Grips kept their ragingly infamous streak yielding a dominant-submissive dynamic with their devoted fan-base only to finally settle for a live payoff. Trailblazing through a sold-out mid-sized venue world tour, waves of die-hard fans were met with a showcase performance in an equally savage July heat.
Band: Janelle Monae
Location: Day for Night Fest
Date: Dec. 19
The seemingly always up-and-coming R&B goddess—a Grammy nominee and visually unique songstress—made her first appearance in Houston since a fall 2013 show at House of Blues. Bringing her highly energetic showmanship, Monae lit up the crowd with her takes on James Brown and Jackson 5, easy marks for bringing a fun and charged atmosphere. Effortlessly gliding through double-time speed choreography and projecting fiendishly challenging harmonies seemed like second nature to the singer.
Band: Mac DeMarco
Location: Warehouse Live
Date: Oct. 18
Following a three-year obsession left dry with no Houston performances, cult classic jangle-pop aficionado Mac DeMarco graced us with his scintillating presence and irresistible guitar hooks at Warehouse Live. He kept things interesting by flowing from guitar-picking love songs to a wild 15-minute tour through Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” causing myself and those around me euphoria and collective laughter.
Band: Chance The Rapper
Location: Free Press Summer Fest
Date: June 6
Chicago’s finest Chancellor Bennett showed up in jean overalls with a thousand lyrics in those pockets, and what went down was the most theatrically enthralling performance at 2015’s Free Press Summer Fest. If you’ve listened to Chance the Rapper’s cult classic mix-tape Acid Rap, you know how much of a crush he has on Houston as much we have a crush on him. At the summer festival, the rapper graced his turnt fans stomping the ground to his music; a disciple of flow among followers. He made a lavish entrance with the explosive gospel-gone-juke opener “Good Ass Intro.” Even Chance’s playful top shelf banger “Pusha Man” was brought to new life with an instrumental rendition of his mix-tape beats.
Band: Toro Y Moi
Date: May 18
Keeping things analog for the first time in front man Chaz Bundick’s career, this particular Monday night offered up flourishes of lush indie rock compositions off his 2015 album What For?, a stylistic ode to Tame Impala's recent landmark album Lonerism. Bundick, who garnered a major following with his psych-electronic crossover genre 'chillwave,' took the stage with a live band for the first time in his career. The stage was bathed with tapestries of scintillating colors, a change in the norm of using laptops and laser lights to dress the room. Upon having a respected catalog of albums from this current decade, there's a refined excitement in watching a once underdog now totally ace a performance off sheer experience and even dynamic set list ingenuity.