Ted Leo and more

Orpheum Theater

Mason Jennings, where hath thou gone? Things seemed so promising a couple of years ago when, after years of refusing major-label offers, Jennings finally caved in and signed to Isaac Brock's Glacial Pace Recordings (a subsidiary of Epic). It appeared everyone's favorite hometown folk singer was about to shoot into the stratosphere. But Jennings and the Glacial Pace label soon parted ways, allowing him to be scooped up under the wing of surfer-turned-adult contemporary rocker Jack Johnson. The resulting album, this year's In the Ever (Brushfire Records), was a disappointment to longtime fans who had come to rely on Jennings's continuously thought-provoking and inspiring output; whether by choice or by proximity to his labelhead, his work has become a watered-down version of what it once was. And despite the fact that he used to be an omnipresent force on the local scene (he started out playing weekly gigs at the 400 Bar and then consistently played sold-out shows at First Avenue), his local appearances have become sparse. Come back to us, Mason. We liked you fine just the way you were. With Zach Gill. $26-$31. 8 p.m. 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.339.7007. —Andrea Swensson

SUNDAY 10.19

Yonder Mountain String Band

First Avenue

Mason Jennings, Minnesota's folk darling
Courtesy of Mason Jennings
Mason Jennings, Minnesota's folk darling

Like many bands on the progressive wing of bluegrass, the Yonder Mountaineers like to push things at the same time as adhering to traditions. For the YMSB the latter includes superb picking abilities all around—banjoist Dave Johnston, guitarist Adam Aijala, mandolinist Jeff Austin, bassist Ben Kaufmann—along with fine vocal harmonies and requisite covers of Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley. But the quartet also favors improvisation forays that have put them squarely in jamgrass territory, covering material from such decidedly non-bluegrass outfits as the Minutemen and Talking Heads, sometimes wielding their instruments like rockers, and even dialing up the crunch factor by using drums on their last studio album. All of which helps land them gigs in places like First Avenue. The band also embraces tapeheads' affinity for live performance by regularly issuing live sets, currently up to volume five with this year's installment of Mountain Tracks: one CD of performances culled from 2004-2007, a second capturing a single concert from July 2007. Both feature exhilarating ensemble work. Notorious reprobate and wry songwriter Todd Snider (whose songs turn up in YMSB's repertoire) will open. His new Peace Queer is imminent, but it's uncertain which Snider persona will show up, since his career has ricocheted among folk, hard country, and rock 'n' roll. 18+. $25/$30 at the door. 7:30 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Rick Mason

MONDAY 10.20

TV on the Radio

First Avenue

Making post-punk infused ambient, moody noise sound sleek, not to mention listenable and, most importantly, vital, seems almost like a punch line to a bad joke. TV on the Radio manage to surprise once again by doing all of the above on Dear Science, without a hint of irony. They actually make it sound a little sexy at turns ("Red Dress," "Golden Age") which is just about the last thing you would expect from this Brooklyn-based group, who on previous releases seemed bent on being enigmatic and detached. With Dear Science, however, they are beginning to shape up as the U.S. version of Radiohead without the somber iciness. TVOTR are a study in improbabilities: On paper they seem like a niche band that would have a small, extremely devoted fan base, but to the contrary they are near the top of the ever-fluctuating list of bands that matter on a large scale. Their debut LP (2004's Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes) seemed like they had caught a thunderstorm in a thimble, but they have continued to grow and amaze with each subsequent release, building additions onto a structure that seemed to be of questionable construction in the first place. With the Dirtbombs. $20. 21+ at 8 p.m. Monday; all ages at 6 p.m. Tuesday. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Also Tuesday —Pat O'Brien

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