Critics' Picks: Rush and More

THURSDAY 5.22

Leisure Birds

Turf Club

From the starter pistol to the finish tape, tonight's Turf Club show is poised to unfold like an Olympic sprint. This evening, two of the Twin Cities' most well conditioned and aurally challenging veterans, Skoal Kodiak and Daughters of the Sun (who are flying high after last week's Heliotrope Festival appearances) welcome Leisure Birds to our humble stage with much cacophonous fanfare. Filled out by members of Count Vesuvius, Daughters of the Sun, and the sadly bygone Thunder in the Valley, Leisure Birds bring a tremendously strong pedigree to our bustling musical nursery. First shows are like rookie cards—snatch them up while you can, because a lucky acquisition can easily earn you the right to say "I saw them when..." without seeming like an insincere, elitist jerk. There're only three bands, so smoke fast, get your drinks upstairs, and don't blink. Ain't nothing in the house tonight you won't kick yourself for missing. 21+. 9 p.m. 1601 University Ave., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. David Hansen

Rush

Xcel Energy Center

There are three ways people regard Canadian super-prog/metal legends Rush: There are the fanatics, the camp of Rush haters, and the middle ground of folks who know all the singles, but rarely stray beyond them. Wherever you stand, it's impossible to deny their influence on rock 'n' roll. Geddy Lee's almost-robotic falsetto is one of a kind, while the importance bestowed on Neil Peart by drummers everywhere has reached almost comedic proportions. Add in the smoking guitar of Alex Lifeson, and you have a powerful combination that melds philosophy, math, and classic-rock kinetics and has kept them filling arenas for decades. All this boils down to one question: Don't you have to see Rush in an arena when given the chance, at least once, especially when combined with the grandeur of the Xcel's acoustics? Haters, you can just zip it. $47.75-$89.75. 7:30 p.m. 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651.726.8240. Jen Paulson

FRIDAY 5.23

The Small Cities

Turf Club

There's only one problem with the Small Cities's debut EP: It's four tracks long. The self-recorded, self-titled disc plays like a dream, with intricate pop structures reminiscent of a more moody Shins or slightly less moody Kid Dakota. Even the wavers in drummer David Osborn's voice seem perfectly timed to express a particular emotion: On closing track "I'm Gone," a slow-burning, blistering kiss-off, Osborn's delivery on the line "There's a whole in my heart where you stand" is painstakingly sincere. "What to do with the space in the bed, and everything that went unsaid?" The band responds in turn with echoing harmonies and a hair-raising crescendo that falls off into silence—the silence at the end of a disc that is too short and leaves the listener clamoring for more. The Small Cities celebrate the release of their EP with Black-Eyed Snakes, Mighty Fairly, and Fitzgerald. 21+. 9 p.m. 1601 University Ave., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. Andrea Myers

Alicia Wiley

Varsity Theater

A young woman who considers herself on the shy side, Alicia Wiley looks nowhere near timid when she's sitting behind her piano onstage. Combining a variety of soulful music genres, Wiley is an extremely talented jazz pianist with a voice that's both sexy and refreshing. Solo or with a band, jazz piano like Wiley's is best complemented by an attractive date and a martini of your liking. Hints of Fiona Apple or Tori Amos's voluptuous vocal tones mix with elated Norah Jones-style melodies, helping audience members sit back and breathe easy. Wiley's occasional salsa or Spanish-inspired songs are a stirring treat in between her bluesier repertoire, which can win over any ear in range. Wiley has three full-length albums to date and is currently recording her fourth, meaning there are plenty of gems to play. As she traditionally performs in jazz clubs around the city, the romantic atmosphere of the Varsity Theater will be that much more of a perfect setting in which to be swooned by Wiley's gorgeous creations. With Jistoray and 2wurds. 18+. $10. 8 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Amber Schadewald

SATURDAY 5.24

Company Inc.

Turf Club

On 2007's Limited Liability, Company Inc. let us take a peek into their weird, wonderful world. Cellos that start, bounce along, and disappear just as abruptly as they arrived. Guitar riffs that resemble the beginnings of guitar solos. Lyrics that seem to be intensely personal but at the same time are often incoherent and mumbled. At their core, the songs have the same sort of ambling gait that many Gorillaz songs have but bear more resemblance to a prog-rock Sonic Youth covering Radiohead with the odd time shifts, a sound that could be easily described as "polished lo-fi." Emily Dantuma's off-kilter soprano wail emanates from the ether every so often to command attention, and the tension is often so thick you couldn't make a scratch with an A-bomb. Their sophomore effort, Mr. Person, delivers more of the same. They have been cruising along well below the radar up to this point, somehow, but much like the stealth bomber, they seem poised for a sneak attack. There's no shame in admitting you haven't heard of them—but there will be should you choose to ignore them. With Lazer Forever, Dragons Power Up, and the Japanese Space Program. 21+. 9 p.m. 1601 University Ave., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. Pat O'Brien

SUNDAY 5.25

Soundset 08

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