Music A-List

WEDNESDAY 12.26

Gear Daddies

Fine Line Music Cafe

Three, count 'em, three nights with everyone's favorite Austin, Minnesota, natives. Hardly any local act (including His Royal Purpleness) is more beloved by fans, and it's not hard to see why. They sang about universal things like girls, drinking, losing girls because of drinking, Zambonis, and spider monkeys (okay, maybe the last couple aren't so universal) with just about all of it delivered in a near metaphor-free, straight-ahead manner that was as endearing to the listener as it must have been therapeutic for them (listening to lead singer Martin Zellar sing about "sittin' downtown crying 'neath a statue of Jesus" after his father tells him he's worthless is still just about as heartbreaking as it gets). They officially broke up way back in '94, and have all worked on other projects since (sometimes with one or two of the other Gears in tow), but they've always found their way back to each other. Somehow, their reunions never seem nostalgic. Maybe because, in some ways, their albums seemed a little like nostalgia when they were brand-new. The upside to that however, is that the songs might never get old. With Stook! Wednesday; the Gufs Friday and Saturday. $31 (Friday and Saturday sold out). 7:00 p.m. 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. Also Friday and Saturday Pat O'Brien

THURSDAY 12.27

Mason Jennings

I heard Mason Jennings once drowned a guy for not fully appreciating the beauty of a loon call
courtesy of Red Light Management
I heard Mason Jennings once drowned a guy for not fully appreciating the beauty of a loon call

First Avenue

The formula for Mason Jennings's success is quite simple: The more people hear his music, the bigger he becomes. Like so many aspiring troubadours, Jennings got his start driving from coffee shop to coffee shop and peddling records out of the back of his van. But unlike the experience of most coffeehouse crooners, a devoted Jennings fan base quickly snowballed, and he was forced to move into bigger and bigger venues, press more and more CDs, and eventually sign to a major label (Glacial Pace, an offshoot of Sony's Epic) to keep up with the demands of his rocketing indie-stardom. Thursday night's solo show at First Avenue has become an unofficial yearly tradition for Minneapolis fans, who jump at the chance to cram in like sardines and hang on his every swooping vocal melody and acoustic guitar strum. With Janey Winterbauer & Marc Perlman, and Matt Jennings. 18+. $22/$24 at the door. 6:00 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Andrea Myers

SATURDAY 12.29

The Hard Left

Hexagon Bar

In Chinese dualist philosophy, balance and harmony are represented by yin and yang. In Midwestern rock 'n' roll ontology, these principles are embodied by the Hard Left. Frontman/guitarist Brian Drake is at once an old soul and a young spirit—a well-seasoned, hard-driving rocker/songwriter with unbridled fervor who's as happy sipping green tea as drinking beer and who'll quote William Blake or praise Tom Petty. Decades of writing, performing, and touring in band after band after band, and more than one close encounter with elusive national acclaim have hardly dampened his drive. On the contrary, this earnest veteran is at the top of his game. Penning all eight tracks from last year's Ed Ackerson-produced dynamo The Avant-Garde Sounds of the Hard Left, Drake and comrades Tom Lischmann (guitar), Scott Glaser (bass), and Pat McKenna (drums) have had a damn good year, earning accolades from Little Steven and the Underground Garage posse, signing with French-based Kill City Booking and Management, and attracting a slew of internet myfans. Early next year the band returns to the studio, then jets to Europe for a 15-city spring tour. Catch 'em while you can. With the Mighty Mofos, the Floorshakers, and the Red Flags. 9:00 p.m. 2600 27th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.722.3454. Nancy Sartor

SATURDAY 12.29

Conor Oberst

400 Bar

Swathed in mystery, obfuscated by hearsay, hyped by percolating anticipation, Conor Oberst, Omaha's most sensitive songwriting wunderkind, has booked this two-night stand at the 400 Bar to debut a new, as-of-yet-untitled band. While details have thus far been sketchy, Oberst wants it known these will not be Bright Eyes shows, so don't expect to hear any Bright Eyes music. Rumor has it that the talented young founder of Saddle Creek Records is starting a new band with his friend and former touring mate M. Ward, inciting many to assume that these dates, which are the only upcoming shows he's booked thus far, will mark the debut of this highly anticipated new project. While any official explanation from the man himself has not yet emerged, there's enough puzzle pieces out on the table to warrant the sizzling buzz around these two shows. With Nik Freitas. 21+. $20. 8:00 p.m. 400 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.332.2903. Also Sunday Christopher Matthew Jensen

MONDAY 12.31

Bret Michaels

Myth Nightclub

Let's face it, New Year's is a crap holiday. You're obliged to have such a mind-blowing great time that anything less feels like a failure—you will have no need of anything except a good time, as the song goes. Nothing fits better for a mandatory night on the hedonic treadmill than the adolescent undeath of hair metal embodied in the VH1-enabled career of Poison chanteur Brett Michaels. I shouldn't be such a grinch: At this point he's a comforting rebuke to the punk ideal of perpetual revolt—nothing ever goes away. It's almost midnight! Talk dirty to me! I want action! If not, there's always next year. $104, includes drinks. 9:00 p.m. 3090 Southlawn Dr.; Maplewood; 651.779.6984. Geoff Cannon

Trampled By Turtles/ Pert Near Sandstone/White Iron Band

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