WEDNESDAY 10.28

David Bazan

Turf Club

Some artists cloak their every move in carefully manufactured mystery, but ex-Pedro the Lion frontman David Bazan has a refreshing transparency to everything he does. There's no heavy lifting to be done; his words (and his rock songs) are so clear that they require zero interpretation. This unflinching realness is how Bazan is able to tackle religion and politics without coming off as preachy—he's only wondering aloud if there are others who have asked the same questions, not trying to convert the heathens. Recent troubles with booze and his waning faith have distanced Bazan from the Christian fanbase that he and his old band once enjoyed, but his candidness about both has served to strengthen the relatable quality of his music, so his non-churchgoing fans might appreciate him even more for acknowledging his faults. Despite the condition of your immortal soul, it's a rarity and a joy to hear someone say exactly what they mean. With Say Hi and Wye Oak. 21+. $12. 8 p.m. 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. Ian Traas

Asleep at the Wheel

The Cedar

Western swing—packing a potent mix of big band jazz and country—reigned in the 1930s and '40s with the likes of Bob Wills, Milton Brown and his Brownies, the Light Crust Dough Boys, and Cliff Bruner commanding the bandstands. Asleep at the Wheel, led by the redoubtable Ray Benson, picked up the western swing mantle in 1970 and over the following four decades have done such a fabulous job carrying the torch that they've earned a slew of Grammy Awards and a well-deserved niche among the legends of the past. Willie Nelson, who's still working on his own legend, grew up with western swing. Some 30 years ago, producer Jerry Wexler suggested he do an album of WS classics. Nelson and Benson finally got around to it this year, and the resulting Willie & the Wheel is an instant classic. With Willie's magnificently weathered voice leading the way and AATW swinging like a polecat in a cyclone, iconic tunes like "Hesitation Blues" and "Corrine Corrina" twitch and jump with vitality while a rollicking horn section adds a sparkling measure of New Orleans traditional jazz. Willie won't be along on this gig (a joint tour will begin later this winter), but AATW will be their rambunctious selves, Benson leading a particularly fine version of the Wheel these days featuring singer Elizabeth McQueen, fiddler Jason Roberts, and pedal steel player Eddie Rivers. $29/$31 at the door. 7:30 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rick Mason

Me & My Arrow (CD-release)

Uptown Bar & Cafe

There's been a lot of talk about the size of local band Me & My Arrow, but it's warranted, since there are only a small handful of Minneapolis stages that can accommodate them comfortably. They've recently trimmed down from nine members to a relatively lean seven, but in order to pull off the anthemic, heavily layered sound that's become the band's stock-in-trade, the largeness is a necessity rather than overkill. Just the coordination involved in this mini-orchestra should tell you that M&MA are ambitious enough to stand on equal footing with more established projects, and with the release of their debut LP they'll take a major stab at attracting the kind of attention that could transform the band into the nationally recognized indie darlings they deserve to be. That the band's tour concludes with this hometown show at the not-long-for-this-world Uptown Bar could prove to be fitting, as the decline of one Minneapolis mainstay could signal the rise of another. With Story of the Sea, Chooglin', Speed's the Name, Death Cube, and Alicia Wiley. 21+. 6 p.m. Free before 9 p.m.; $6 after 9 p.m. 3018 Hennepin Ave S., Minneapolis; 612.823.4719. —Ian Traas

THURSDAY 10.29

múm

Walker Art Center

Blame it on the cold or midnight sun or essentially being adrift in the North Atlantic or whatever, Iceland keeps producing bands that revel in their frigid quirkiness and uniquely untethered pop aesthetics to create remarkable music, whether it's dubbed experimental, avant-garde pop, post-rock, or pre-22nd century. Case in point: this pair of Icelandic bands hip enough to qualify for the Walker's cachet. Múm (pronounced "moom" and variously written with or without a capital m) is a dozen-year-old collective that expands and contracts around founders Gunnar Örn Tynes and Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason. Currently operating as a seven-piece, múm has a new album, Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know, that's a gossamer wonderland of eccentric chamber pop, integrating electronica cries and whispers with a strong organic element juggling guitars, cello, ukuleles, and idiosyncratic percussion devices. Múm's sound ebbs and flows via swells variously characterized by folky choral washes, psychedelic sighs, bubbling rhythms, wispy melodies, jewel-like apparitions of rock and folk textures, and surrealistic lyrics. Opener Sin Fang Bous is the brainchild of Sindri Már Sigfússon, who also leads the Reykjavik folk-pop outfit Seabear. Clangour, SFB's debut, also ventures into a curiously textured, atmospheric realm of spacey folk, pop, and rock. But the last two elements are a bit more prominent, the rhythms more insistent than múm's amid clear references to vintage remnants of the Beach Boys and even subdued Phil Spector. $18. 8 p.m. 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.375.7600. —Rick Mason

FRIDAY 10.30

Impaler

Station 4

Like Dracula, they've been around a while, wear makeup, and enjoy a splash of gore. Their forthcoming Cryptozoology: Creatures of God? is a tribute to the monsters people believe are real—"Chuppacobbra," "Behemoth in the Loch," "Abominable Snowman." So Impaler are a Halloween institution, festive and rich. But their music is no joke. "Arms of the Kracken" and "Where Is the Minnesota Iceman" embody (or disembody) everything squealing, crunchy, and double-kick-drum elegant about punk-influenced metal that begins with Alice Cooper. They pack a wallop live, and are joined tonight by For Blood, Dying Euforia, and Death Row Martyr. With costume contests, prizes, and more. 18+ $6/$8 at the door. 8 p.m. 201 E. Fourth St., St. Paul; 651.298.0173. Peter S. Scholtes

Wayne "the Train" Hancock

Lee's Liquor Lounge

Last time Wayne Hancock came to town, Brian Setzer showed up at Lee's, surprising the star of the show, who promptly invited Setzer onstage for a couple of songs. It was a rare treat to see the founder of rockabilly-nouveau playing with the granddaddy of Western swing revival. But the proximity of a genuine star highlighted just how unfair it is that Wayne Hancock's never gotten famous. His recreation of '40s-style country and western is spot on, full of glorious slide guitar, low-down cheating husbands, and a walking bass line perfect for getting down to business on the dance floor. Directing his band like a general commanding troops, he stages epic solo battles between steel guitar and bass as his own guitar drives the tempo faster. With seven albums' worth of genuine honky-tonk under his belt, Hancock figures giving you your money's worth requires him to play pretty much all of it, all in a row—more than once, the bar-close lights have gone up and the Train has kept on rolling. With Whitey Morgan & the 78s. 21+. $15. 9 p.m. 101 Glenwood Ave. N, Minneapolis; 612.338.9491. —Ward Rubrecht

Fu Manchu

Triple Rock Social Club

Though they may have focused on a heavier, harsher sound on their last two records (2004's Start the Machine and 2007's We Must Obey), the stoner-rock elder statesmen of Fu Manchu have returned to a sound akin to their skater-punk roots with the release of Signs of Infinite Power. No strangers to waves of smoldering effects, classic-rock swagger, or heavily distorted guitars, the four members of the band have carried on the tradition that was established in the late '80s. There's a unique relationship between the California-based rockers and legendary bands such as Thin Lizzy and the Blue Oyster Cult. As older fans of the classic-rock patriarchs look for a modern solution to satisfy their rock 'n' roll itch, Fu Manchu have repeatedly appeared over the years with new music that cures the craving. The same goes for new fans of the band looking back beyond their years: Fu Manchu have been able to guide them toward decades of musicians who helped shape the face of modern guitar rock. Regardless of which side of the spectrum you may be on, or even if you're just a curious outsider looking in, there are few better modern examples of heavy bands playing today whose reach is so wide. With ASG and It's Casual. 21+. $15/$17 at the door. 8 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave. S, Minneapolis; 612.333.7399.Chris DeLine

SATURDAY 10.31

Loudon Wainwright III

The Cedar

You gotta believe Loudon Wainwright sees a lot of himself in Charlie Poole, by all accounts a rambler, a gambler, a cad, and a rogue who led a wild, itinerant life until ending it prematurely in 1931 by drinking himself to death at age 39. Poole was also a banjo picker whose style presaged bluegrass, an artist whose definitive versions of an entire catalogue of songs are now old-timey standards reflecting both his outrageous lifestyle ("I'm the Man Who Rode the Mule Around the World") and a sentimental streak ("Sweet Sunny South"), and a very early hit-making recording artist ("Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues" in 1925). Wainwright has displayed most of those qualities and more across some four decades of wickedly cynical, incisively observant, often self-deprecating recordings, of which the commercial high point was "Dead Skunks." On Wainwright's epic, two-CD, lavishly packaged tribute, High, Wide & Handsome, he essentially becomes Poole, offering prickly versions of Poole's signature songs as well as new tunes by Loudon and producer Dick Connette written in Poole's voice. Cinematic in scope, it's packed with gems etched with the assistance of the Roches, Chaim Tannenbaum, Chris Thile, Geoff Muldaur, and Wainwright offspring Martha, Rufus, and Lucy. Opener Chris Smither has just released his own fine new album, Time Stands Still, sporting an array of fresh folk-blues fashioned by his elegant, finger-picked guitar work and expressive, ground-glass voice. $20/$22 at the door. 8 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rick Mason

SUNDAY 11.1

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers

O'Shaughnessy Auditorium

When Bruce Hornsby started out a couple of decades ago, he was a roots-influenced piano man with a knack for writing relatively interesting songs sufficiently tied to the pop mainstream to be radio-friendly. And with tunes like "The Way It Is" and "Mandolin Rain," he and his band, the Range, had the hits to prove it. But Hornsby wasn't entirely at home on the Range and subsequently pursued a curiously peripatetic career that has included a stint with the Grateful Dead, collaborations stretching from Ornette Coleman to Tupac Shakur, soundtrack work, live performances with nary a hit in sight, a flirtation with electronica, and an apparent willingness to sing the national anthem virtually any time more than two guys congregate around a ball. His last two—both well-received—releases were a bluegrass collaboration with Ricky Skaggs and a straight-ahead jazz album with Jack DeJohnette and Christian McBride. You can't be a dilettante with guys like that. Hornsby's new album, Levitate, co-credited to his longtime backup band, has a welcome Americana pop-rock sound akin to his early days, although strewn with overt and subliminal references to Warren Zevon, Steve Earle, Steely Dan, the Dead, Sun Ra, and Willie Nelson. Meanwhile, scratch the lyrics' surface and they often take bizarre (as in "huh?" as opposed to "cool!") turns, such as a history of western expansionism in terms of vermin, viruses, and sadistic Nazis, and explaining the lethal tendencies of prairie dogs with Marxist theory. For better or worse, you'd never catch Billy Joel doing stuff like that. $36-$48. 7:30 p.m. 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul; 651.690.6700. —Rick Mason

TUESDAY 11.3

They Might Be Giants

First Avenue

It's been an odd journey for They Might Be Giants, but then again that's what you would have expected from the Brooklyn-based duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell. They began, of course, as an alternative-rock outfit in the early '80s. "I think we kind of maybe point to 1982 as the first time we performed as They Might Be Giants," says Linnell. "We did a show—oh, God, I'm forgetting." Yes, it has been ages. Along the way the band developed a rabid following, became almost an alternative to alternative, and wound up with a concurrent career making educational songs for kids. How did that last happen? "We didn't really think we were making any kind of career choice," explains Linnell. While doing background music for the Fox TV series Malcolm in the Middle, the duo made an album "for the entire family" called No. It sold well, and was one of the reasons Disney executives tapped the Johns to put out more kids' music. They have released a total of four such albums to date. For this tour, the band is performing adult shows, kid shows, and a 20th anniversary celebration of their album Flood, which they will deliver to the Twin Cities. "We've been doing great business," Linnell states. "We're sort of winding our way back to New York." Plans are to tour through early next year, and then finish their next "grown-up" record. With the Guggenheim Grotto. 14+. $20. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. P.F. Wilson

The Tragically Hip

O'Shaughnessy Auditorium

Did you know that Canada has a Walk of Fame? It does. Located in Toronto, it includes but a slim 123 members added since its establishment in 1998. Among those with a star along the enshrined path are such expected names as Wayne Gretzky, Neil Young, and Jim Carrey. But in 2002, Kingston, Ontario's the Tragically Hip joined ranks of such esteemed inductees—though the distinction does little to represent how important the band has been north of the border over the past two decades. While failing to find the same level of success in the U.S., Gordon Downie and Co. rarely perform anything but arena shows in Canada (think a U2-sized affair without the drag of actually having to see U2), though the band's humble demeanor and earthly sound might not suggest such rock-star status. The band's 11th and most recent studio album, We Are the Same, was produced by Bob Rock (Metallica) and was released this past spring. $25-$28. 7:30 p.m. 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul; 651.690.6700.—Chris DeLine

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