WEDNESDAY 4.15

Death Cab for Cutie/Cold War Kids/Ra Ra Riot

Roy Wilkins Auditorium

An impressive triple header featuring idiosyncratic bands each trying to put its stamp on this modern rock thing. Death Cab, returning as headliners after being handpicked to open for Neil Young last fall, are still riding high on Narrow Stairs, not only their major-label debut (Atlantic) but also their most ambitious album in a decade-long career. The tougher, unsettling music provides an edgier context for Ben Gibbard's dark, increasingly ominous, even threatening lyrics. The California quartet Cold War Kids conjure their own harrowing sound, meanwhile, playing an emotionally sparse, arid brand of punk-informed blues-rock marked by barbed guitar work and skittish rhythms on the brink of chaos. Singer Nathan Willett's yelp quavers as he tries to keep explosive forces in check while grappling with high anxiety, anomie, and desperation on the Kids' latest, Loyalty to Loyalty. The Rhumb Line, last summer's full-length debut by the New York quintet Ra Ra Riot, established the band as a kind of pioneer of indie chamber rock. While the guitar and bass etch restless rock figures, sometimes edging toward exuberant power pop, cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller saw away, insinuating their strings as integral elements but also providing counterpoint, complicating emotional and musical textures alike with sobering, elegant undercurrents. All the while Wesley Miles sings with cool, bittersweet irony, the lyrics often reflecting on death and watery images in apparent reference to the drowning of former drummer John Pike. All ages. $35. 7 p.m. 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651.989.5151. —Rick Mason

THURSDAY 4.16

More Cowbell 5th Anniversary

Turf Club

Avid local-music blog readers already know that we in the Twin Cities have quite the collection of resources at our fingertips. Between sites like Minneapolis Fucking Rocks, Switchblade Comb, Culture Bully, and More Cowbell, nary a show announcement or news tidbit gets by the rabid bloggers, who are eager to be the first to post each new scoop. Founded by power blogger/Twitterer/message-board hound Kyle Matteson, More Cowbell often leads the pack in finding breaking news, making it a must-read source for local music. The blog team, including omnipresent showgoer Paul Hirte, one of the site's most active contributors, will celebrate their five-year anniversary with a solid lineup at the Turf Club. Alt-country troubadours Romantica will headline, with sets by the Evening Rig and newcomers the Absent Arch. 21+. $6. 8 p.m. 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. Andrea Swensson

Kool Keith

Whole Music Club

Aside from maybe Mark E. Smith, there are few musicians more inscrutably pissed off than Keith Thornton—and for good reason. The Ultramagnetic MCs could've been huge (and to hardcore hip-hop fans, they were), but they debuted in 1988, having to wrangle for boombox space with a dozen other rap classics, and their follow-up took four years to materialize, killing much of their potential momentum. And even though Kool Keith later found a significant following going solo as the morbidly surreal college-radio favorite Dr. Octagon, he eventually got tired of being entirely associated with that single facet of his hip-hop persona and murdered his alter ego on wax in 1999 under the name Dr. Dooom. The attempted resuscitation, The Return of Dr. Octagon, resulted in a label-meddled album Keith wasn't happy with, which inspired the bitter, angry—and hilarious—2008 album Dr. Dooom 2, a slept-on fuck-the-industry record with his sharpest lyrics in a decade and typically bugged-out production from Kutmasta Kurt. But just to keep you guessing, Keith likes to bring every aspect of his personality and his 20-plus-year hip-hop career to his shows; expect anything from "Give the Drummer Some" to "Sex Style" to "Simon"—and maybe even Octagon joints like "Earth People" or "Blue Flowers"...death notwithstanding. With Omaur Bliss. 18+. $15. 8 p.m. Coffman Union, 300 Washington Ave. SE, Minneapolis; 612.625.2272. Nate Patrin

FRIDAY 4.17

G. Love and Special Sauce

First Avenue

Garrett Dutton's Philadelphonic tonic—a potent blend of hip hop and blues—still ploughs fresh ground as a mingling of seemingly closely related genres. Besides some North Mississippi bands and a few scattered others, G. and his pals pretty much set the standard for mixing rural roots and urban sounds, further complicating things by stirring in such disparate stuff as Philly soul, psychedelia, even rock steady. The last, complete with a contemporary steely edge, surfaces in a cover of Delroy Wilson's "Wontcha Come Home" on G.'s latest, last summer's Superhero Brother. Hybridization flourishes throughout: O'Jayisms surface on "Crumble," blues-rock referencing Sly drives "What We Need," "Peace, Love and Happiness" crosses the Stones with Neville Brothers second-line rhythms, "Georgia Brown" lashes together the Meters, Allmans, and Little Walter, every cut dialing in various doses of hip hop. The title cut is Delta blues plopped down in the Bronx, with G. ruminating on the sorry state of the world, name-checking Britney Spears, Jesus, Saddam Hussein, and pygmy marmosets. With Elmwood. 18+. $25. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Rick Mason

Travis

Fine Line Music Cafe

Years before Chris Martin had the inspiration to bellow the moody, yawnish purr that contributed to Coldplay's eventual superstardom, Travis set the tone for what was yet to come with their 1999 single "Why Does It Always Rain on Me?" It could be said that the band should be damned for opening the doors for such leisure-rockers as Coldplay and Snow Patrol, but the boys of Travis are hardly the purveyors of poor music that some might have you believe. While fluttering a bit on the British charts, last year's Ode to J. Smith was voted the 28th best of the year in Q Magazine's readers' poll, and the BBC called it an eclectic, experimental mix. Setting all that aside, however, it isn't often that the opportunity presents itself to see a band that once headlined Glastonbury in such an intimate setting as the Fine Line. And yet Coldplay continue to sell out arenas. Why does it always rain on me, indeed. With the Republic Tigers. 18+. $25/$28 at the door. 8 p.m. 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. Chris DeLine

SATURDAY 4.18

The Idle Hands

331 Club

We know that idle hands are the devil's playthings, but since when did being Satan's toy involve making wry, catchy pop music? (The devil works in mysterious ways.) Regardless, the Minneapolis band the Idle Hands channel their muse by splicing angular new wave and jangly Britpop, twisting in bits of Wire and Bowie for a sound that's both immediate and timeless. Having kicked around the Cities for 10-plus years in previous bands and iterations of the Idle Hands, head Hand Ciaran Daly wins with the current boy/girl/boy/girl/boy lineup—the writing is smart, the production is flawless, and the song "Loaded" is all over the Current. Whether complaining about being sick of it all or quipping, "I stopped keeping track of my lost passion...back when I still cared," ennui has seldom sounded so sweet. With Communist Daughter and the Nightinghales. 21+. Free. 9:30 p.m. 331 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612.331.1746. Catherine Clements

Medeski, Martin & Wood

Trocaderos

For nearly two decades, the restless, iconoclastic trio of keyboardist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin (not the late Yankees manager), and bassist Chris Wood (not the late Traffic saxophonist) has experimented out on the wind-whipped precipice where jazz, rock, funk, and other stray genres of scintillating musical imagination crash, clash, and slash at one another with artistic abandon. Skilled musicians and fearless improvisers, MMW have created music with cunning melodic hooks, ferocious grooves, and sufficient waves of original ideas to capture the imaginations of rockers, avant-gardists, and jazz aficionados with equal fervor. They've also become regulars on the jam-band circuit. Lately, MMW has been onto something new even for them: The Radiolarian Series, whose second incarnation was released this week on MMW's own Indirecto label. Taking its name from marine protozoa noted for their intricate exoskeletons (made famous by German biologist Eric Haeckel's elaborate 19th-century illustrations, which grace the CD cover), MMW's aim is to turn standard music-biz operations on their head: performing all new material onstage in preparation for recording, rather than vice versa. So the charms of the newly issued Radiolarians II—from the industrial-rock crunch that yields to angular jazz maneuvering on "Flat Tires" to the lyrical, blues-soaked cover of the Rev. Gary Davis's "Baby Let Me Follow You Down," with plenty of detours into spacey sampling, samba, bop, noise, and even a flurry of avant-stride piano—likely won't be presented here, although what MMW do play with their inimitable touch should be plenty fascinating. With Up Bustle & Out. 18+. $25/$27 at the door. 8 p.m. 107 Third Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.465.0440. —Rick Mason

SUNDAY 4.19

Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3

Varsity Theater

"In a way, pop music is very much a part of its time," says Robyn Hitchcock, "and in that respect I've never really produced pop music. Having said that, there was a time when we were on the radio a lot in the '80s." Indeed, Hitchcock has always managed to package his quirky and sometimes surreal outlook in some very catchy tunes. He split from his first group, the Soft Boys, in the late '70s, and then oscillated between solo work and group efforts with his band the Egyptians. Lately, he's been working with his newest group, the Venus 3, whose members have known each other for ages. Featuring Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows), and Bill Rieflin (Ministry), the group has recorded three albums but released only two. The second was featured in last year's Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food, Death...and Insects documentary, but released only as a live EP. "The one in the film is the second one," he explains. "We released the third one (Goodnight Oslo) first because...it had a bit more of a rock sound, more upbeat." The studio version of the second album will be released at some point, he assures. The group ends its current tour in the Twin Cities. "We're very much looking forward to it," he adds. "It's a venue we haven't played before." 18+. $20. 7 p.m. 1308 Fourth St., Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. P.F. Wilson

TUESDAY 4.21

Peter Bjorn and John/Chairlift

Fine Line Music Cafe

Your first listening session with Does You Inspire You, the debut from Chairlift, may leave you wondering whether the trio recorded in a smoke-machine-equipped studio. Your second bout with the album will probably convince you that their record collections contain a fairly high '80s British gloom-pop quotient. "Bruises," which you may recognize from one iPod Nano commercial or another (are those the new mp3 blogs or something?), is certainly bouncier and shinier than anything else Chairlift has done, but the rest of Inspire feels vintage, musty, clad in Flashdance legwarmers. Which pretty much makes Chairlift either a cautionary tale or the logical endpoint of the wave of Brooklyn-centralized acts—Telepathe, please pick up the red phone—who've decided that tribalist-Gypsy rock makes less sense than overvarnished stabs at Reagan-era FM pop one-hit wonders. We're far more excited about the return of Swede genre-hybriders Peter Bjorn and John, who're treading a decidedly more attractive path. 18+. $17/$18 at the door. 7:30 p.m. 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. Ray Cummings

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