With Lady Gaga otherwise engaged, 30 Seconds To Mars set to pounce

A little tip for up-and-coming bands looking to distance themselves — and siphon a few discretionary fan dollars away — from touring giants like Lady Gaga and U2:

Tour in January and February.

Each year ,from the time we all finish the Christmas Ho,Ho-Hoing and the New Years "Ho-Ho-Hoing" (Don't lie: Some of you woke up on Jan. 1, following a night of revelry, with a dog-faced boy or girl, praying for a do-over to open 2011) up until around Valentine's Day, the concert calendar is a veritable wasteland. There was a time when you could at least bank on New Year's Eve for a couple good shows. Not lately.

Sure, a nugget or two will spring up here and there. I'm looking forward to Willie Nelson on Feb. 4 at the Verizon Wireless Theater and Linkin Park on Feb. 15 at Toyota Center, but other than that ... virtually bupkis.

This early year vacuum in the concert continuum is when groups like 30 Seconds To Mars, who land in Houston on Wednesday at the Verizon Wireless Theater, and any other band looking to upgrade from a van to a tour bus (or tour bus to private plane) should be touring their asses off while the artistic giants wake slowly from their post-holiday malaise.

This is not to say that faux-emo rock stylings of 30 Seconds to Mars, led by actor Jared Leto (Requiem For A Dream, Fight Club), isn't an act worth seeing. It's just that the most well-known thing about them is that they are a band led by actor Jared Leto. We all saw how the band-led-by-big-celebrity schtick has worked out in the past.

Can anyone name Keanu Reeves and Russell Crowe's respective past touring bands without looking them up? Didn't think so.

The point is that with three albums in nine years — none of which have burned up the Billboard 200 albums charts — and a handful of guitar-gnashing alt-radio hits (including "From Yesterday" and the more recent "Kings and Queens" and 'This Is War"), the chances of 30 Seconds to Mars grabbing the spotlight during the busy tour months is a long shot. And come March, when RodeoHouston rolls through town and the best of the baby bands roll through Texas for South by Southwest, there will be more shows to choose from than time to see them.

On this dog days concert week, however, 30 Seconds to Mars is the best game in town.