Music A-List

THURSDAY 12.06

Jonathan Coulton

Varsity Theater

I could spend a few hundred words dorking out about the reasons Portal is one of the greatest video games of the last five years—the comedy, the brainteasers, the fantastic warping of your typical first-person shooter's 3D space—but when it comes down to it, the cherry on the sundae (so to speak) is the catchy little ditty that plays over the end credits when you beat it. "Still Alive" is typical of Jonathan Coulton's music, a song that fuses lighthearted folk-pop with lyrics concerning science gone horribly wrong—in this case, a half-Kelly Clarkson/half-HAL 9000 AI warbling cheerfully to her test subjects about their disposable mortality. Not only is Coulton one of your more talented science-folk crossover artists, he's also collaborated with the equally nerd-comedy-adept writer/performer John Hodgman, and his website (www.jonathancoulton.com) features plenty of examples of his twisted humor, the surprisingly eloquent office-zombie memo song "Re Your Brains" chief amongst them: "All we want to do is eat your brains/We're not unreasonable, I mean, no one's gonna eat your eyes." $18/$20 at the door. 7:00 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. Nate Patrin

FRIDAY 12.07

KDWB Jingle Ball

Target Center

'Tis the season for 101.3 KDWB to cram your ears full of Christmas cheer at their annual Jingle Ball. This year, the Target Center will be playing host to a bevy of top-flight performers—and Avril Lavigne. The highlight is sure to be Kanye West, who handily beat out 50 Cent when West's Graduation trounced Fiddy's Curtis in first-week sales back in September. The defeat has certainly taken its toll on Mr. Cent: As of this writing, 50 Cent is only worth .34 Euros. Super-producer Timbaland is also sure to bring the ruckus with a couple of artists he's recently lent his Midas touch to, Keri Hilson and One Republic. Maybe you haven't heard of them, but you've heard of Missy Elliott, right? You can thank Timbo for that. Also slated to perform are Jordin Sparks, who apparently won some type of televised talent competition, and Good Charlotte, who are described by KDWB's website as "just barely distinctive from the likes of corporate alternative rockers Blink-182 and Third Eye Blind." They said it, not me. $22-$127. 7:00 p.m. 600 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.673.0900. Steve McPherson

Richard Hawley

400 Bar

Known as one of Britain's most formidable guitar slingers for hire, Richard Hawley made a name for himself by serving as a touring member of Pulp, and through cutting session work for the likes of Beth Orton, Robbie Williams, and Nancy Sinatra. Over the past six years, he's also built up a considerable solo catalog as a singer/songwriter, with five solid albums and a Mercury Prize nomination for his 2005 release, Coles Corner. His latest effort, Lady's Bridge, is another sophisticated rock/pop affair marked by Hawley's somber, Scott Walker-like baritone and tender lyrical sensibilities. Named after the oldest bridge in his hometown of Sheffield, England, much of the album seems to draw from the passing of his father, a longtime Teddy Boy and musician, and comments on Hawley's spiritual transition into life without him. For genuinely heartfelt songwriting and flawless rock composition, it doesn't get much better than this. With Ferraby Lionheart. 18+. $12. 7:00 p.m. 400 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.332.2903. Christopher Matthew Jensen

SATURDAY 12.08

Johari's Window CD-release

400 Bar

Sometimes, a band's influences can tell you the whole story. For instance, if I told you that singer/acoustic guitarist Jon Jacobsen lists Pearl Jam as one of his touchstones, as does lead guitarist Robert Paro (who also counts Jeff Beck and P-Funk guitarist Eddie Hazel in that club), and that bassist Jason Schooler finds inspiration in the music of Wes Montgomery while drummer Jared Brewington is a fan of Earth, Wind and Fire and Stevie Wonder, you can probably suss what Johari's Window sound like. Their music leans heavily on the interplay between acoustic and distorted electric guitars, and Jacobsen's gravelly tenor is sure to evoke memories of late-'90s mainstream rock. Brewington's spry and polyrhythmic drumming keeps the sound from getting turgid, guaranteeing that a live Johari's Window show will be high-energy. Plus, in the fine tradition of the HarMar shopping mall and the MarTen parking ramp, the name Johari's Window comes from a psychological profiling device whose moniker was crafted out of its creators' first names: Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham. 18+. $5. 7:00 p.m. 400 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.332.2903. —Steve McPherson

Nortec Collective

Walker Art Center

Of the many mind-altering, body-soothing goodies found in Tijuana, few are more intoxicating than Nortec Collective's audacious tunes. A mash-up of hot accordion- and brass-driven Mexican norteño dance music, chill Euro-American techno, and sheer cojones, Nortec's mostly instrumental grooves channel the jittery, pungent, brazen exuberance of their home city through a million filters, samples, and loops, creating an infectious Technicolor blend that obliterates the boundaries between analog and digital, or north and south. The band is making a rare stop in town and will preview tunes from its Tijuana Sessions Vol. 2 album, due out next year. $20. 8:00 p.m. 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.376.7600. Catherine Clements

SUNDAY 12.09

Amon Amarth

Station 4

Original co-billed headliners Decapitated won't be at Station 4 on Sunday, thanks to a tragic October 29 collision in Belarus that totaled the band's tour bus and claimed the life of drummer Witold "Vitek" Kieltyka four days later. (Singer Adrian "Covan" Kowanek remains hospitalized.) But even minus Polish technical death-metal prodigies, the lineup is rife with dicey enchantments. Amon Amarth walk an unusual path for Scandinavians in metal. Like dozens of other bands from Bergen to the Faeroes, the sole remaining headliners identify as Viking. But, rather than skewing black and/or folkish like most of their co-religionist colleagues, the Swedish quintet wrap lyrics informed by the Norse belief system around robust, melodic death metal. (They also bang their heads in unison live!) Seattle-based Himsa are quickly becoming one of America's most formidable thrash bands. While not yet exactly themselves, melodic death-metal openers Sonic Syndicate show considerable promise. All ages. $18/$20 at the door. 5:00 p.m. 201 E. Fourth St., St. Paul; 651.298.0173. Rod Smith

Hanson

First Avenue

A couple of years back on an episode of Family Guy, resident hound Glenn Quagmire, after being informed that Taylor Hanson was, in fact, a guy, copped to having "posters and magazines and...oh my God!" In short, Hanson had become a huge punch line. Yes, they were a little girly, and they blew up and fell back to Earth in what seemed like only a matter of weeks, so it's hard not to poke a little fun. So what do you do to combat being considered washed-up by the general public by the time you reach middle school? Well, the Hanson boys (Taylor, Zac, and Isaac) kept on making music, of course. It just went unnoticed by the masses—in short, they went about their lives as if they never had been caught in the blindingly bright klieg lights of fame for even a few seconds. All of them are now married (between Taylor and Isaac they have what conservatively seems like 14 children), but the show goes on—albeit to far fewer people. It seems to suit them just fine, and in interviews over the past few years they seem to wish "MMMBop" could simply be erased from history as much as the rest of us do. 18+. $25/$30 at the door. 7:00 pm. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Pat O'Brien

MONDAY 12.10

Lemonheads

Varsity Theater

Sometime around the early '90s, the Lemonheads, a Boston trio with solid punk-pop origins, were flirting with next-big-thing status amid mainstream media's fascination with indie rock. Evan Dando, who had by then essentially become the Lemonheads, thanks to a revolving cast of bassists/drummers, had been officially declared a beautiful person by People. Despite a smattering of solid albums, it all fell apart, at least partially due to Dando's personal excesses. During a Lemonheadless decade, Dando cleaned up, recorded a low-key solo album, and engaged in such curious projects as fronting the resurrected MC5. Dando revived the Lemonheads last year, with bassist Karl Alvarez and drummer Bill Stevenson (both ex-Descendents), and an eponymous disc (on Vagrant) full of assured, melody-rich rock that charges along with purpose and style. Dando's charismatic voice floats over the scurrying mix with dark though effervescent lyrics, while the band's flowing propulsion—amended here and there by Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis and the Band's Garth Hudson—never falters. 21+. $16/$20 at the door. 7:00 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Rick Mason

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