First Avenue

Mason Jennings has "gone electric" with his latest album, Blood of Man (on Jack Johnson's Brushfire label), though you'd hardly notice from the local-radio hit "The Field," which has the lonely amplified strum and echo of early Billy Bragg, a Pennsylvania accent in place of an Essex one. The song is a political point made poignant in narrative, a trick Bragg never quite managed, sung from the point of view of someone who has lost a grown child fighting in Iraq ("Sometimes late at night/I go to the field/Is that where you are?/Are you a shooting star?"), her grief finally turning on the war itself: "I don't want no victory, I just want you back." Like any Minnesota artist popular enough to headline First Avenue more than once a season, Jennings has detractors, and you can imagine them resisting this tune's for-the-throat emotionalism, length, and repetitive catchiness (he found a wider audience 10 years ago doing something similar with "Rebecca Deville"), or the simplicity that divides the world into those who want victory and those who experience loss. Yet there is something undeniable in that equation, at the gut level where pop operates, and in Jennings himself. A less earnest or reflective new-Dylan could never have been so moving paying tribute to partnership ("Confidant"), the Wellstones ("Ballad of Paul and Sheila"), or unplanned parenthood ("Which Way Your Heart Will Go"—which deserved a better movie than Ghost Town). His latest live band might be his best ever. With the Pines. 21+. $20. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Peter S. Scholtes

Hunting Club

Sauce Spirits and Soundbar

'70s rock revivalist Little Man headlines this week's benefit for Legal Aid
Darin Back
'70s rock revivalist Little Man headlines this week's benefit for Legal Aid

Listening to the first minute and 45 seconds of "Yours Truly" by locals Hunting Club, music snobs prone to making comparisons might have the band name Muse on the tips of their tongues. There are the ultra-dramatic guitar lines and swooning vocals that manage to capture the width of six notes in the space of one. Then come the Beach Boys-esque harmonies in the chorus. Quickly, the urge to categorize falls limp, because you notice Hunting Club are more than the sum of their inspirations or techniques. Within one song the band can doodle in sparse terrain, then erupt into a crowded, speaker-blowing intensity. They can bring you to the depths of sorrow, and then rescue you with tones of hope. Add it all up, and Hunting Club become a beautiful and complex animal, defying any stereotype, and you realize it's more enjoyable just to listen than to dissect. With Speed's the Name, These Modern Socks, and Kill Me Kare Bare. 21+. $5. 9:30 p.m. 3001 Lyndale Ave. S.; Minneapolis, 612.822.6000. —Erin Roof

SUNDAY 12.20


The Cedar

With Ben Kyle's rustic, impassioned vocals landing somewhere between Jeff Tweedy's wounded poetry and Ryan Adams's bad-boy cool, alt-country act Romantica alternately thrive on intimate, spare songs centered on Kyle's heartfelt singing and spritely, full-band arrangements colored by glistening steel-pedal guitar and occasional mariachi horns. For their new EP, the cleverly titled Control Alt Country Delete, the Minneapolis quartet puts the emphasis firmly on the freewheeling, full-band side, writing and recording all the songs in one day last spring while in Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest. Capturing Kyle and company at their loosest and most spontaneous, Control is Romantica's most playful, rollicking effort to date, creating a ramshackle beauty as they work out arrangements at the spur of the moment. As they prepare to release the follow-up to the nationally acclaimed America next March, Romantica promise a lively show that should render all comparisons to their elders beside the point. All ages. $10/$12 at the door. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Jeff Gage

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