Art-A-Whirl, Henry Rollins, and more: Critics' Picks

WEDNESDAY 5.12

The Knitters

400 Bar

An offshoot of the arty L.A. punk band X, the Knitters have put out two albums in a quarter-century. The first, Poor Little Critter on the Road, came out in 1985, when the concept of a rock band—and punkers no less—going full-bore country was a genuine novelty. As such, the Knitters (and a few other bands, like the Mekons) were way out ahead of the alt-country movement, which was in full swing by the time the Knitters released The Modern Sound of the Knitters in 2005. A similar shtick reigns on both: Ex-spouses John Doe and Exene Cervenka do their best to emulate George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Dave Alvin from the Blasters adds a certain rockabilly strum und twang, the originals have a dusty authenticity, and covers of the likes of Merle Haggard and brothers Delmore and Stanley are sincere and often glowing, while drummer D.J. Bonebrake and bassist Jonny Ray Bartel toss a little thrash into their country gallops. Considering the jumble of roots at X's core, the Knitters were never all that much of a stretch. The multiple dynamics at work in their music remain eminently worth hearing. 18+. $17/$20 at the door. 9 p.m. 400 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.332.2903. —Rick Mason

THURSDAY 5.13

Coheed & Cambria

First Avenue

It's true that Coheed & Cambria have toured with groups like Slipknot and Linkin Park, but don't hold that against them. While they often get lumped in with more popular acts on the darker end of the mall-rock spectrum, their big riffs are balanced with aspirations that are loftier than those of their peers. The members of C&C obviously worship at the altar of Rush, animating their songs with knotty progressive touches and an overarching narrative that ties all of their albums together. But all of the technical knowhow and conceptual daring wouldn't mean a thing if the band was boring to watch, and luckily, that's not the case. Leader Claudio Sanchez is a powerhouse, pulling off vocal theatrics and guitar heroism through a mass of sight-obscuring hair, while drummer Chris Pennie manages the band's tricky time changes after earning his stripes as a founder of Dillinger Escape Plan. Blending imagination, talent, and sonic brawn, C&C are worth a closer look. With Circa Survive and Torche. All ages. $25/$27.50 at the door. 5 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Ian Traas

FRIDAY 5.14

Henry Rollins

Pantages Theatre

To Henry Rollins, the term "spoken word" is pretentious; he just gets up on stage and talks. If that seems uneventful, consider that Rollins is a punk icon, activist, author, and actor who has been travelling the world for decades, collecting life experiences and molding them into engaging material for his one-man tours. You could call him a dilettante, but his wealth of job titles suggests that the man is an entertainer, pure and simple—a commanding presence full of ink, muscle, and charisma. While Rollins may have mellowed slightly in comparison to his younger, more desperate days, he maintains a level of coiled-spring intensity that other storytellers wish they had; he's able to flip between jokes and deadly serious subject matter with a combination of finesse and verbal dynamism that feels completely natural. Now he's 49 with graying hair, but you could never mistake Hank for your grandfather, because, really, your grandfather's stories were never this interesting. All ages. 8 p.m. $26.50. 805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.373.5600. —Ian Traas

Rebirth Brass Band and Jack Brass Band

Cabooze

New Orleans's funkified brass-band sound will get addressed from both ends of the Mississippi on this latest Louisiana-Minnesota horn summit. The Crescent City's Rebirth was, along with the Dirty Dozen, at the forefront of the street-corner players who revolutionized the NOLA brass-band tradition in the early 1980s by injecting copious doses of jazz and funk, and ratcheting up the tempos to sometimes breakneck speed. Rebirth co-founder Kermit Ruffins left for a solo career long ago, but brothers Philip and Keith Frazier still lead a blazing krewe through New Orleans standards and lots more. This spring the Rebirth have been featured in the HBO series Treme, based on their home turf. The Twin Cities' Jack Brass Band isn't quite as venerable as Rebirth but has been around for a decade. The Jack's musicianship is top-notch, and they've done a nice job juggling standards and sympathetic new compositions. Last year's Fourth Movement suggests a little northern coolness in the sleek arrangements as the bristling nine-piece hi-Jacks soul and R&B nuggets from the likes of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Rick James, and Prince, hauls them downriver, and gives them prime second-line treatment. Most significantly, the Jack have gotten plenty of respect down yonder, garnering positive reviews of their performances and recordings. 18+. $14/$17 at the door. 8:30 p.m. 917 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.6425. —Rick Mason

SATURDAY 5.15

Benefit for Tattoo Bob

Memory Lanes/Turf Club

Bob Flom: You may know him as Tattoo Bob. He's slung you drinks at the Uptown, Hex, Donnie Dirk's, and Nick & Eddie. What you may not know about Bob is that he employed his spitfire personality to conquer multiple myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells, a couple of years ago, only for that crap to come back. This, of course, makes those of us who think Bob's the bee's knees real mad. What to do? Bob likely doesn't want your doe-eyed sympathy—he's Tattoo Bob!—but his friends have organized two benefit shows. On Saturday at Memory Lanes, Buildings, Telepathos, and the Blood Shot will dole out varieties of grungy, shoegazey psych-metal rock. On Sunday at the Turf, expect something entirely different: a hootenanny-style lineup featuring G-Biz, Trim Reaper, Sharp Teeth, Brian Herb Band, the Hostages, Hastings 3000, and more. 21+. $5-$10 suggested donation at each. 9 p.m. 2520 26th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.721.6211 and 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. Also Sunday Nikki Miller

Art-a-Whirl at the 331

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