Concert Highlights for the Week of August 15 - 21

FRIDAY 8.17

YO! the Movement's 6th Annual Twin Cities Celebration of Hip Hop
First Avenue
Forget everything you know about hip hop (as in, what the corporate-controlled media tells you rap is) and come check out YO! the Movement's 6th annual celebration of a culture that's ubiquitous, yet maligned and misunderstood. The event (as well as the organization itself) is truly one of the Cities' gems, a sincere and joyful gathering of all the eclecticism that true and fly expression can umbrella, where for once the line between performer/participant and spectator/consumer is (at least temporarily) blurred. Past highlights include killer performances by the likes of Cee Lo and Slick Rick, as well as catching sight of Crazy Legs giggling gleefully as local b-boys and girls stepped furiously for his favor. This year will undoubtedly build on that legacy of inclusion and education, as featured acts Naughty by Nature and (reunited) Eyedea & Abilities mingle with a slew of other local acts, writers, breakers, and assorted fresh kids. Activism never felt so funky. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. For more information, see www.yothemovement.org. Through Sunday —Jordan Selbo

Best Friends Forever (CD Release)
Varsity Theater
Capable of forever banishing any negative connotation from the phrase "Let's just be friends," this local indie-pop trio makes platonic bonding seem about as painful as a tickle fight with a sweet-mannered toddler. Best Friends Forever is the work/play project of real life BFFs Bri Smith and Jes Seamans, who are celebrating their 12th year of friendship with the release of their highly anticipated album Romance, Conflict, Adventure. A joyful package of humorous observations and oddball perspectives on love, life, and friendship, the girls' fantastic lyrics match the playful pop irreverence of the Moldy Peaches and punkish lo-fi sensibility of the Shaggs. On "Ghost Song," a tune about a fantasy romance between human and spook, lyrics like "He's probably shooting blanks/But if not, so what?/We'll have a half-ghost baby," are chuckle-worthy enough to seem memorable, but it's the song's infectious melody that leaves the longest-lasting impression. With Mike Gunther and His Restless Souls, and Maria Isa. 18+. $8. 8:00 p.m. 1308 Fourth. St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. Christopher Matthew Jensen

Baby, don't look so upset–Eyedea & Abilities are here for you (at least for tonight)
Courtesy of Yo! the Movement
Baby, don't look so upset–Eyedea & Abilities are here for you (at least for tonight)

Kelly Willis
Fine Line Music Café
Kelly Willis hit the ground running with a strong string of recordings showing off her rockabilly revival fervor, but nobody much paid attention outside a cult of the initially smitten. A handful of albums and a modicum of success later, Willis has settled in as an alt-country queen who nicely straddles the middle ground between country purity and a rock'n'roll heart. She belongs among Rosanne Cash, Lucinda Williams, and Carlene Carter: a country woman with a well-earned chip on her shoulder and the intelligence to astutely analyze much more than the local drunk down at the honky-tonk. Her new Translated From Love (Ryko), produced by Chuck Prophet, shows off her gorgeous, sassy twang on country-tinged rockers like "Teddy Boys," and "The More That I'm Around You" (with cool harmonies from hubby Bruce Robison and Jules Shear), as well as a pedal-steel driven country ballad ("Stone's Throw Away") and the bluegrass laced "Losing You." She even covers David Bowie's "Success" as a kind of inebriated Sir Douglas Quintet romp, an unexpected nugget in a collection of modest gems. $15/$17 at the door. 8:00 p.m.1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222 —Rick Mason

Cougar
Triple Rock Social Club
It's not easy for Madison, Wisconsin's jazz-reared, post-post-rock group Cougar to record together, much less take their music to the streets. Band members hold down day jobs as lawyers, bartenders, and music teachers in such far-flung provinces as Tucson, Milwaukee, Chicago, and New York City. While their debut, Law, was mixed by Tortoise's John McEntire, don't mistake the group for just another batch of chop-heavy eggheads. Coming together under the tutelage of famed jazz bassist Richard Davis while all were enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, the group soon set out to make an amalgam of their various loves: jazz, rock, composition, improv, and electronic music. Together, the band burns incandescent. As drummer David Skogan emphasized in an interview earlier this year, it's all about distillation and immediacy—turning theories into hooks. Expect such alchemy and spontaneous combustion tonight. With El Guante and Goodday, Montag. $6/$8 at the door. 9:00 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. Andy Beta

SATURDAY 8.18

Arms and Sleepers
Java Jack's Coffee Cafe
If nature could digitally remix its collection of summer night sounds, the disc would be a sister to the music Arms and Sleepers produce. Soothing, earthy, and electronic, it's nature plugged into the wall socket—humid winds with soft tasers, a still field of chattering electric crickets, bubbling space pools. Songs include humming voices that easily replace a string section and add to the eeriness of the cave-like echoes. The Cambridge, Massachusetts, band majestically pours in a wide spectrum of instruments, making complex arrangements that somehow never muddle the overall sound. Reminiscent of the Album Leaf, the group provide a variation of dreary-yet-sweet melodies, jazzy baselines, and innocent piano. Their sound encompasses the ambient genre, so it can be perfect for passive or active listening; for ignoring or closely examining. 18+. $5. 8 p.m. 818 W. 46th St. Minneapolis; 612.825.2183 —Amber Schadewald

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