Bowerbirds, Caroline Smith, and more

THURSDAY 1.14

Anti-Flag

Station 4

Most punk bands seem to fall into one of two camps: jokester nihilists gulping down beer as if more will never be brewed, or politically inclined firebrands screaming about class war from a soapbox fashioned from power chords and studded leather. Going by the band's name alone, you can probably guess which faction suits Anti-Flag. While bits of black humor popped up on their debut album in '96, every subsequent release has done away with more of the laughs in favor of screeds about taking action against our crooked government and the corporate pigs that pull the strings. Considering their politics, it's odd that the band signed to RCA for two albums, a polarizing move that left early fans either scratching their heads or going hoarse from cries of "sellout." But with or without a major label, Anti-Flag's live show has always been brimming with spastic energy, and this time they'll need to conjure up every bit of it to win back jilted fans while earning new ones.  With Aiden, Cancer Bats, and the Menzingers. All ages. $16. 5 p.m. 201 E. Fourth St., St. Paul; 651.298.0173. Ian Traas

Caroline Smith (CD-release show)

Electric Fetus

Caroline Smith's new live album was recorded at the Cedar Cultural Center, so naturally it's a pin-drop quiet and sonically rich recording that plays with a sense of immediacy, as if Smith and her backing guitarist Jesse Schuster are sitting just a few feet away. Though she normally plays with a full band, this two-piece arrangement works just as well, Schuster keeping time with a quickly strummed acoustic guitar and Smith's voice taking on an even more accentuated warble than usual, punctuating her more vulnerable lyrics with a noticeable quiver. Only a few of the tracks are repeats from her debut album, Backyard Tent Set, though most will be familiar to those who have seen her play live, including lovesick ballads ("She Ain't Got It"), whimsical tales of nostalgia ("Birch Trees and Broken Bones," "Sally"), and an agonizing and emotional plea to a boy who's done her wrong ("Denim Boy"). Smith will release the CD as part of the MinnEconomy series at the Electric Fetus, which hosts monthly in-store performances and promotes local albums and artists. She will be performing this evening with alt-country sweethearts Romantica. All ages. Free. 7 p.m. 2000 Fourth Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.870.9300. Andrea Swensson

FRIDAY 1.15

Dale Watson

Lee's Liquor Lounge

A regular on the Grand Ole Opry and the Austin, Texas, honky-tonk scene, Dale Watson is such a Bakersfield-sound purist that he posed with a gravestone reading "COUNTRY MUSIC R.I.P." on the cover of 2007's From the Cradle to the Grave, and recorded in Johnny Cash's old Tennessee mountain retreat (at the urging of pal Johnny Knoxville, who directed and starred in the video for "Hollywood Hillbilly"). You don't have to buy into Watson's ethos to admire his form: "Justice for All," with a classic video on YouTube, is both uncannily retro and gracefully, powerfully contemporary in its ambiguous death-penalty narrative. Watson has the Mount Rushmore-sized voice of a sterner Conway Twitty without gravel, authentic enough to pull off a collection of trucker anthems on his latest from Hyena, 2009's The Truckin' Sessions Vol. 2, including a "Convoy"-funky tribute to a cross-dressing OKC driver in "Truckin' Queen." With Javier Trejo. 21+. $15. 9 p.m. 101 Glenwood Ave. N, Minneapolis; 612.338.9491. Peter S. Scholtes

The Rural Alberta Advantage

The Cedar

Toronto (by way of—you guessed it!—rural Alberta) three-piece the Rural Alberta Advantage generated enough hype with their self-released debut record Hometowns to not only get signed by Saddle Creek (which recently rereleased the album), but to sell out both their initial local show at the 7th St. Entry and this show at the Cedar. And the hype is more than justified, as frontman (and chief songwriter) Nils Edenloff turned his yearning for his beloved Alberta into songs filled with emotion, poignancy, and passion. Their tunes evoke a distinct sense of place as well as postcard images of travel, all while broadcasting a unique and authentic sound that easily transports listeners wherever they choose to let the splendid music take them. Opening are locals Dark Dark Dark, whose haunting folk sounds will only add to the moody music on display this evening. All ages. Sold out. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. Erik Thompson

SATURDAY 1.16

Brad Paisley

Xcel Energy Center

It was the Beatles who once showed, with a much louder drummer, that the shortest distance between a clever line and a catharsis for all time is a tender melody gone falsetto. With his own little team, Brad Paisley achieves the same thing on "Everybody's Here," a song about being heartbroken and alienated in the bar crowd ("everybody's here but me"). When he tackles a subject requiring a few more narrative beats, like why Obama's election victory was bigger than Obama or even politics, he's just as relaxed and funny, knowing he can't distill the feeling into one hook. So he lets the spaciousness between words on "Welcome to the Future" speak volumes even as the narrative builds and catches you up. (The song is about how things have changed for the better: Remember that?) This isn't cleverness powered by optimism; it's genius times love. And the fact that all this unfolds in an entirely meat-and-potatoes country milieu on Paisley's seventh and breakthrough album, American Saturday Night, is either a gift to K102 fans or a potential entry point for everyone else. With Miranda Lambert and Justin Moore. All ages. $39.75 -$59.75. 7:30 p.m. 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651.726.8240. —Peter S. Scholtes

The Snaps (CD-release show)

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