Critics' Picks: Cloud Cult and More...


Newton Faulkner

Varsity Theater

Exhilarating in an opulently ethereal, Steve Vai sort of way, Surrey, England, import Newton Faulkner brings a neurosurgeon's exactness to the guitar neck, nimbly picking and plucking elaborate harmonics from nylon strings and plugging them right into the fibrillating heart of coffee-shop pop standards. The effect is often like mashing a three-pronged plug into a two-pronged outlet, but it's a sound that has earned him a privileged spot among mindtrippers and tablature scholars around the world. With his head of nitty ginger dreadlocks and an oh-so-serious assortment of climactic performance faces, Faulkner has the kind of image that just begs a YouTube lampoon. But his music is dazzlingly accomplished, benevolent, and as hypnotic as incense smoke, and it is sure to keep your jaw dropping long after your latte has cooled. With Jessie Baylin. 18+. $10. 8 p.m. 1308 Fourth St SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —David Hansen


The New Congress

Cloud Cult, outside their gypsy caravan
Cloud Cult, outside their gypsy caravan


The New Congress are in a league of their own with their combination of funk, rock, jazz, and baby-making music. As this six-piece, complete with two new backup singers, prepares to go into the studio to put the finishing touches on their follow-up to 2006's Everybody Gets Up, they continue to hold down a steady gig as the Thursday-night headliner at Bunker's, where they've been holding court since November. Expect a few surprises from these guys, as their sound has evolved in a way that can only be experienced live—at least until they wrap up their next album. Whether or not opener 2 Wurds are in possession of one of the worst band names ever is debatable, but in all fairness, the solid group of musicians behind the name is one to keep an eye on. 21+. $5. 9 p.m. 761 Washington Ave. N, Minneapolis; 612.338.8188. —Jen Paulson


Young Jeezy


Somewhere between the early tough-guy posturing of Ice-T and Schooly D, Tupac's Thug Life manifesto, and a slew of late-'90s/early-'00s Pac lites (less nuanced, less talented, more steroided—Fitty and Ja Rule chief among them), the big, bad black man archetype went from traditional to explosive to completely ridiculous over the span of rap's two-decade reign on the charts. Similarly, the fascination with moving weight on scale with Scarface has followed a predictable path from simplicity to complexity to commercial exploitation: from NWA and its ilk's casual descriptions of moving eight balls during the onset of the crack epidemic to Raekwon's intricate Mafioso metaphors ("Somehow the rap game reminds me of the crack game"), we have come full circle with a Top 40 radio playlist littered with a slew of studio gangstas bragging about pushing impossible numbers at impossible prices. Young Jeezy seems like a sort of unholy hybrid of these two clichés; so thump your chest, ship another ki, and dance to the soul-crushing beat. With Blood Raw. 18+. $40. 10 p.m. 3090 Southlawn Dr., Maplewood; 651.779.6984 —Jordan Selbo

White Iron Band


Nine thousand, six hundred Grain Belt Premium Beers. Three thousand, four hundred whiskey shots. One hundred and ninety bars. Ten years. Seven children. Six bass players. Four wives. That's how the White Iron Band inventory their last decade of rough living and rowdy performances. While it's doubtful Deloite & Touche would sign off on these calculations, anyone who's ever attended a WIB gig knows that they reveal an essential boozy truth. The band's infectious Midwest boogie blues, propelled by Matt Pudas's frenetic vocals and Sam Weyandt's nimble guitar work, inspires a mighty thirst in its followers. Tonight's gig marks the release of the WIB's third (and finest) album, Devil's Sweet Revenge. With Pert' Near Sandstone and Doug Otto and the Getaways. 18+. $8/$11 for under 21. 9:30 p.m. Cabooze, 917 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.6425. —Paul Demko

The Crush

Triple Rock Social Club

Few bands speak to the Afri-Cola and black Chuck Taylor salad days of our collective Twin Cities adolescence quite like the Crush: pop punk with a heart, a rapier wit with searing chord work, a forceful jangle that owes as much to broken strings as to impassioned strumming. The Crush's shadow still darkens the Triple Rock stage like Athenian ruins, and still elicits grinning reminiscence from the many of us who were fortunate enough to see them the first time around. For those of you still cutting your baby teeth on Triple Rock two-for-ones and polishing your Dead Kennedys buttons as though someone is looking, get yourself a dose of Minneapolis music 101 tonight—you'll emerge sweaty and elated and born again, and chances are you'll be trading high-fives with all those old timers who made you feel young and dumb while you were scanning the Cheapo racks for the new Motion City Soundtrack release. With Dear Landlord and the Steinways. 21+. $6. 10 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis; 612.333.7499. —David Hansen

Maria Isa


Maria Isa packs more balls and bombast in her tiny frame than should be physically possible. Equally proud of her Puerto Rican heritage and St. Paul residency, Isa crafts a sound that is uniquely "Sota-Rico" by mashing up hip hop, R&B, and reggaetón into a feisty blend that induces feverish late-hour booty shaking. Singing about love and freedom and "Minnesota Nice," Isa transitions flawlessly between soulful crooning and spitfire raps as she fluctuates between English and Spanish lyrics. Backed by her Baker's Dozen Band, including a trumpet player and two percussionists, Isa brings a refreshing big-band allure that manages to sound enormous but not overwhelming. "Die Not Kill" is emotional and politicized, while "No Son Celos" is sure to be a crowd pleaser. You may have no idea what she's singing, but damn if it doesn't sound cool. With headliners Alkaholiks. 21+. $20. 8 p.m. 107 Third Ave. N, Minneapolis; 612 .465.0440. —Erin Roof


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