Critics' Picks

WEDNESDAY 1.16

G Love & Special Sauce

First Avenue

A jam band featuring an ever-present frontman equally liable to perform an impromptu freestyle session, croon with heartfelt emotion, or rock a trucker's hat slightly tilted (in a way that was oh-so-stupid even five years ago), the unstoppable garbage barge that is G Love & Special Sauce rolls into town Wednesday for what is sure to be a sweaty good time. I say garbage barge because the group has no qualms about incorporating virtually any and every genre of popular (and even not-so-popular) music into its mix, creating sounds both slightly groovetastic and slightly annoying. But for those who prefer their blues lightly dusted with R&B, or their guitar workouts more smooth jazz than Jimi (Dave, I know you're out there!), this show's for you. They've been touring extensively for over a decade now, so even though they hate each other, at least the groove's got to be tight. 18+. $25. 8:00 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Jordan Selbo

THURSDAY 1.17

Blonde on Blonde CD-release show

Varsity Theater

Blonde on Blonde play the kind of dirty blues-rock that makes you want to steal a '67 Camaro and chug tequila straight from the bottle as you hurtle through traffic at breakneck speed. It's the kind of music that makes you regret the smoking ban in this city, even if you don't smoke. The plush confines of the Varsity seem a little too fancy for these guys (think more along the lines of an unfinished basement with a drainage problem and empty liquor bottles strewn about), but songs like "Cocaine Blues" and "Midnight to Mexico" could quickly make you forget your surroundings and cause you to think you're at some down-at-the-heels west Texas roadhouse. These four have clearly taken cues from the bluesiest chunks of the Guns 'N Roses catalog and Aerosmith's pre-drug meltdown days. There are approximately one million bands in this vein, but the energy and sheer boldness of Blonde on Blonde saves them from sounding like the one million and first. 18+. $6/$8 at the door. 8:00 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. Pat O'Brien

FRIDAY 1.18

Cash Only VIII

Cabooze

Through two memoirs, a cinematic biopic, a Broadway musical, and a Judd Apatow-penned comedic parody, the world has heard much about the life of the Man in Black. But from his early singles on the legendary Sun Records to his parting American Recordings series produced by Rick Rubin, the songs he created deserve the most attention. Fortunately, the Cabooze, the Twin Cities' go-to spot for musician tributes (having previously arranged homage to the likes of Prince, Luther Vandross, Phish, and the Band) has assembled a crack lineup of country, folk, and blues musicians to render those songs fresh over the course of this annual two-night dedicatory bash. Highlights are sure to include the classic-sounding roots rock of Ol' Yeller, the festival-friendly White Iron Band, and the always-engaging, honky-tonk hullabaloo deemed Trailer Trash. $12. 8:30 p.m. 917 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.6425. Also Saturday Christopher Matthew Jensen

Best New Bands

First Avenue

Hey—First Avenue is still our goddamned club, isn't it? So why does it seem that out-of-towners get to have all the fun? Well, the Mastodons and Girl Talks and Ted Leos of the world get to spend some quality time descrambling their hotel porn channels, because tonight our holiest of holies is reserved for the most challenging, ambitious domestics to debut in 2007. Okay—Ghana-born M.anifest might put a twist on "domestic," but with a honey-glazed flow belying a stunningly incisive world consciousness, he is easily our most precious new import. From the strident crush of Gay Witch Abortion to the slow-burning haunt of To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie, from the jangle of Mouthful of Bees to the spasmodic Cold War nostalgia of Gospel Gossip, it's a lineup that shows off a sophisticated sonic schizophrenia that is ours and ours alone. Xenophobes unite. 18+. $7. 7:00 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. David Hansen

SUNDAY 1.20

White Williams

Triple Rock Social Club

There's some Prince in Joe "White" Williams's music, and some Steve Miller Band, and Strangeloves as well; every listener will likely overhear favorite singles here. Smoke (Tigerbeat 6), the Cleveland indie-pop musician's debut, is the sort of album that would sound great in a semi-loud bar without calling too much attention to itself; there's a deftness evident, instrumentally and production-wise, but the effect is that Williams's one-man-band creations seem vaguely—if annoyingly—familiar. Take "New Violence," for instance; compositionally agreeable if monotonous, lyrically ambiguous, and acupuncture-needled with gratuitous neon-synth effects, it comes off like Beck covering a Duran Duran cover of some Ramones b-side. Some time later—as if to underscore some unspoken point about the classics never really dying—the apparently immortal "I Want Candy" is exhumed for a twitchy, agitated electro makeover. (It should be noted that slow jam "In the Club" not only has nothing to do with 50 Cent's "In Tha Club" but also is way more Paisley Park patient than G-G-G-Unit graceless.) Tying it all together—yes, even the title track, which seems to be a cross between calypso and bumpin'-fresh space rock—is Williams's vocal drollery, so Play-Doh malleable and filter-assisted that his delivery shape-shifts into something different for each track. The singer sublimates himself to the song, not the other way 'round, so it's all too simple to tune out whatever he's singing about and just recognize it as another melody-lugging element in the mix, another pale gloss on something you must have heard before, somewhere else, once upon a time. 21+. $12. 9:00 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. Ray Cummings

TUESDAY 1.22

Todd Rundgren

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