As the Deep Ellum Arts Festival makes its return to Main Street this weekend, there is plenty of local and national talent to go around. Country singer Jason Aldean headlines Dos Equis Pavilion Friday night, while down the road, Trees hosts a little nostalgia festival. Across town, rapper Kevin Gates gives a bit more insight into his forthcoming album. Saturday night, Pitbull and Leon Bridges take separate stages to get bodies moving to the beat, and Primus returns to Dallas to play us some Rush. Later in the concert week, punk band American Shit Storm brings the heat to Deep Ellum, Big Thief gives us the sounds of something special and Lil Baby and Lil Durk bring on The Voice of the Heroes. Get out, get around, and most important, get down. Deep Ellum Arts Festival 11 a.m. Friday-Sunday, Sept. 10-12, in Deep Ellum, 2900-3600 Main St., Free
Every year, the Deep Ellum Arts Festival brings the people of North Texas together in celebration of visual arts and music. The festival makes its return this year boasting over 100 original bands, singer-songwriters and other jury-selected musical artists to perform original-only compositions on four outdoor stages and two performance spaces. Representing over 15 musical genres, the talent for the festival this year is second to none. Expect to hear from artists you’ve never heard of and local favorites like hip-hop-soul artist RAVS, rock band Spencer Wharton & the Static Creatures, The Dirty Shirts, Loyal Sally, Remy Reilly and so, so much more. The weekend will close out with a bang with psych-rock band Smokey Mirror and indie-punk band Primo Danger taking separate stages at opposite ends of the festival grounds. And while you’re there, be sure to check out the artwork from artists from around the country and support local businesses. Jason Aldean 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, at Dos Equis Pavilion, 1818 First Ave., $36+ at livenation.com
Country singer Jason Aldean will be making a local stop for his Back in the Saddle tour at Dos Equis Pavilion Friday evening, and he is bringing along singer-songwriters HARDY and Lainey Wilson as his opening acts. Aldean has been on the country music scene for over 15 years now, turning out 22 No. 1 country hits. Aldean released his ninth studio album 9 in November 2019, which included three singles that became hits on country stations, but he was unable to tour the album due to the pandemic. Now that Aldean is back on the road for the first time in over a year, he has promised fans an exciting show that pulls out all the stops. Since Aldean is a three-time winner of the Academy of Country Music Award for “Entertainer of the Year” it's not hard to believe him. The Nixons 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, at Trees, 2707 Elm St., $25 at axs.com
In celebration of its first birthday, the DFW Legacy Series is putting on a nostalgia show at Trees Friday night. The series has been responsible for the re-releasing of some of the best albums from the 2000s-era North Texas music scene, giving new life to albums from Miser, Edgewater, Slow Roosevelt and Doosu. In celebration of the re-release of their album Six, The Nixons will headline the event with support from Dollybraid and SouthFM, which have all had albums re-released in the series. Opening the night is Portland, a tribute band of Forty Percent that features members of the original band as well as Edgewater. Making the entire evening a celebration of North Texas’ scene from yesteryear, the evening will be hosted by Bowling for Soup’s Jaret Reddick. Not only is this a chance for Deep Ellum’s old guard to relive simpler times, it's also a chance for new arrivals to the scene to see what came before. Kevin Gates 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, at South Side Ballroom, 1135 Botham Jean Blvd., $49.50+ at ticketmaster.com
Kevin Gates' career and reputation for confessional lyrics had been well-established long before his breakthrough releasein 2016. The rapper had released 13 mixtapes in the decade before Islah's release, and in the years since, he recorded four more mixtapes, three EPs and his second studio album I'm Him. While the official date for Gates' third studio album Khaza remains to be determined, the rapper has released several singles in anticipation of the new album and current tour of the same name. Known for using refined and melodic Southern rap beats to offset his gritty street lyrics, Gates has always carved his own place in the world of rap music. In recent years, the rapper has included more singing in his music after training with singer Monica. Gates performs Friday night at South Side Ballroom in the Cedars. Pitbull 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, at Dos Equis Pavilion, 1818 First Ave., $29.95+ at livenation.com
Mr. Worldwide himself will be making his way to North Texas this weekend for a Saturday night show at Dos Equis Pavilion. Pitbull's music first hit the dance floor in 2004 when the Lil Jon-produced single "Culo" from his debut album M.I.A.M.I. blew up on radio and video airwaves. Seventeen years later, Pitbull is still cranking out hits that can get a crowd moving. Now on his first dedicated tour since his 2017 tour with Enrique Iglesias, Mr. 305 comes to town almost two years after the release of his latest album Libertad 548. Pitbull's show will have opening support from Australian rapper Iggy Azalea who released her third (and possibly final) album The End of an Era in August. Leon Bridges 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, at South Side Ballroom, 1135 Botham Jean Blvd., $70+ at ticketmaster.com
Before he was winning Grammys and performing for presidents, Leon Bridges was the hottest new soul act in North Texas. The singer has always kept close ties to the scene in which he first made his name, hosting birthday parties and secret shows in some of Dallas’ most beloved venues. After the wild success of 2015’s Coming Home and 2018’s Good Thing, Bridges released Gold-Diggers Sound earlier this summer, which was met with widespread critical acclaim for its progressive R&B sound and emotional songwriting. The album spawned three singles — “Sweeter,” which the artist composed in response to the murder of George Floyd; “Motorbike,” which has a video directed by Anderson .Paak; and his latest, “Why Don’t You Touch Me.” Staying close to his roots as always, Bridges’ opening act Saturday night at South Side Ballroom will be Fort Worth soul musician Abraham Alexander, who was born in Athens, Greece. Primus 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory, 300 W. Las Colinas Blvd., $38+ at livenation.com
Ever the jesters of alternative music, Primus will finally be pulling into The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory in Irving Saturday night on their A Tribute to Kings tour. The tour that was postponed twice due to the pandemic will see the band performing a cover of Rush's 1977 album A Farewell to Kings in its entirety for reasons that are not entirely clear, but very cool nonetheless. Worry not, Primus fans, the band will still be performing a set of their beloved singles like the MTV-buzzworthy songs “My Name is Mud” and “Mr. Krinkle” from their classic 1993 album Pork Soda, among many others. The singles set varies each night, so there is no telling what you might hear in preparation for the Farewell to Kings tribute, but the early reviews have been quite favorable. Primus tours seem to come and go on the whim of bandleader Les Claypool, so who knows when we might see them again. American Shit Storm 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 12, at Three Links, 2704 Elm St., $10 at seetickets.us
Known for their theatrical performances and sharp political commentary, American Shit Storm plays Sunday night at Three Links with support from Hen and the Cocks and Hard Detox. Releasing three volumes of work over the past four years, American Shit Storm earned the award for Best Punk Act at the 2019 Dallas Observer Music Awards for bringing the kind of insight and foreboding that bands like Dead Kennedys and Bad Religion brought to the punk rock genre but had long been missing since the mid-1980s. More diverse than their previous work, the band's latest Vol. III: Now Look What You've Done takes a grungier approach to socially conscious lyrics, with all of its members working together as a group effort. The band has been quite busy lately, bringing down the house at many shows and festivals recently. The Sunday night show will surely bring more of the same. Big Thief 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, at Granada Theater, 3524 Greenville Ave., $32.50 at prekindle.com
Formed in Brooklyn in 2015, Big Thief has been lauded for its blend of indie-rock and folk, making them the toast of media outlets like NPR Music and Pitchfork since their 2016 debut Masterpiece. Over the course of three more albums, the accolades have not ceased with the band's albums being frequently listed on annual top-10 lists and picking up Grammy award nominations. Recently, they released two singles ahead of their current tour — "Little Things" and "Sparrow" — both of which were produced by the band's drummer James Krivchenia. "Sparrow" was recorded in just one take as the band scattered across the recording space without headphones and focused on playing the music. Big Thief's Tuesday night concert at Granada Theater will receive opening support from Jimmy Stallings. Lil Baby and Lil Durk 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, at Dos Equis Pavilion, 1818 First Ave., $39+ at livenation.com
One of the most prominent figures in the world of trap music, 26-year-old Atlanta rapper Lil Baby teamed up with Chicago rapper Lil Durk to create the collaborative album The Voice of the Heroes. A sprawling, 18-track album, The Voice of the Heroes has been praised for the surprising coherence of the two rappers working together toward a common goal. It's in that same spirit of collaboration that these two rappers come together Wednesday night at Dos Equis Pavilion for the Back Outside Tour. Since its release, The Voice of the Heroes has become Lil Baby's second and Lil Durk's first album to reach number one on the Billboard chart, and 16 of its 18 tracks have charted somewhere on Billboard's Hot 100. This is the end-of-summer show you've been waiting for.
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David Fletcher writes about music, arts and culture for the Dallas Observer. You can usually find him at a show in Deep Ellum whether he's writing about it or not. A punk scholar and local music enthusiast, David focuses his attention on the artists screaming in the margins of Dallas' music scene.