Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, the Jayhawks, and more

Thursday 6.17

Gorilla Zoe

Karma

Gorilla Zoe is just the latest in a long, long line of dreamers who labor under the delusion that anybody with Southern roots, access to decent recording equipment, and a pulse is entitled to be a rapper. The Atlanta MC has yet to crack the lock on a national level, but the internet is knee-deep in his free mixtapes and individual tracks; he threatened to drop 28 mixtapes this past February but didn't quite get there. Thematically, Zoe's material will be familiar to anyone who's spent time marinating in modern chart-rap: the popping of overpriced bottles in VIP lounges, carousing with foxy ladies in VIP lounges, retiring to VIP lounges after a hard day's work as a narcotics trafficker, passing blunts back and forth in VIP lounges. (Won't somebody dedicate a banger to the stoic, massive gatekeepers whose job is policing VIP lounges?) He opts for beats that sound like ecstasy fugues, dreams up hooks that celebrate children's standards and juvenilia, and lobs punch lines like "Her boyfriend drives a Yugo, and he practice yoga/She doin' what he don't know, she swallows me like yogurt." All of this would be forgivable—workable, maybe—if Zoe displayed even an ounce of charisma or star presence. As is, he's a sub-Biz Markie player in a world where dozens of other Southern rappers—Lil Wayne, Plies, Trick Daddy, Gucci Mane, et al.—are light years ahead of him on every conceivable level. Zoe's been in the game since the mid-'00s, and he needs to come clean with himself and recognize where his talents really lie: ghostwriting. 18+. $20-$30. 10 p.m. 315 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.333.3200. Ray Cummings

Thursday 6.17

Twin Cities Jazz Festival

The Jayhawks, circa 1995
courtesy of American Recordings
The Jayhawks, circa 1995
San Diego quintet Delta Spirit
San Diego quintet Delta Spirit

Mears Park and other downtown St. Paul locations

The Twin Cities Jazz Festival takes several big steps toward maturity in this year's 12th annual incarnation, adding a second free stage at its hub in Lowertown's Mears Park and beefing up its lineup of stellar artists. As usual, St. Paul's downtown clubs will be bursting with activity during the fest's Thursday to Saturday run, presenting some of the finest local talent, including pianists Butch Thompson and Mary Louise Knutson, vocalist Joann Funk and the Atlantis Quartet hot jazz outfit, and the funky Jack Brass Band. Check out the complete schedule at www.twincitiesjazzfestival.com. Back in the park, Friday's lineup will be highlighted by rising trumpeter Sean Jones, sax titan Joe Lovano, and, on the Sixth Street stage, the eclectic sound of Aakash Mittal. Jones, a former member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, has burgeoning dual careers as a bandleader and educator. Equally adept as a sleek, high-flying balladeer and blazing, post-bop barnburner, Jones, whose gospel, R&B, and pop inclinations marble his work, will lead his regular band: saxohonists Brian Hogans and Walter Smith, bassist Luques Curtis, and drummer Obed Calvaire. Lovano's long and illustrious career has been distinguished by a tireless quest for freshly expressing classic jazz ideas in dozens of contexts, while his own reed work glows. He'll lead Us Five, the lithe, youthful, equally stellar band that appeared on last year's Folk Art. Mittal is a Colorado-based multi-reed player whose talented quartet plays a heady mix of bop, avant-garde jazz, East Indian trad stuff, and funk. On Saturday, veteran alto saxophonist Bobby Watson will take the main stage in the late afternoon, showing off his muscular sound, which sports a bluesy taste of his native Kansas City as well as the bustling bop of mentor Art Blakey. The rest of the evening will have a New Orleans flavor, although quirky even by Crescent City standards. New York-based saxophonist John Ellis creates contemporary jazz interpretations of New Orleans traditions with his NOLA-based Double-Wide band, which includes drummer Jason Marsalis, sousaphonist Matt Perrine, and organist Brian Coogan. Their recent Puppet Mischief is a delightful mash-up of twisted NOLA-isms. Next up will be iconic jazz guitarist John Scofield and his Piety Street Band, which features three more New Orleanians: Meters bass monster George Porter Jr., pianist Jon Cleary, and drummer Terence Higgins of Dirty Dozen fame. Their 2009 CD was a phenomenal interpretation of gospel standards via NOLA R&B and jazz, and their performance should close things down with style. Free. 6 p.m. 221 E. Fifth St., St. Paul; 612.308.5785. Through Saturday —Rick Mason

Friday 6.18

Delta Spirit

Varsity Theater

Ode to Sunshine, Delta Spirit's debut, was a suitably sunny romp among rock, country, blues, and pop roots from a 21st-century indie-rock perspective, ragged enough to authenticate the passion in Matt Vasquez's musings and soulful howl, as well as identify the San Diego quintet as true believers. Three years later, their sophomore effort, History from Below (Rounder), is even better. Vasquez has emerged as a formidable writer who eloquently captures the ambivalence of life's triumphs and tragedies, from the gospel-like "Vivian," with its touching, heartfelt chorus ("waiting to see heaven with you"), to the murderous revenge in "Ballad of Vitaly." The band's roots-savvy sound is masterfully crafted without being self-conscious, casually referencing the Band, the Stones, country blues, the Bakersfield sound, even the raucous glory of Let It Be-era Replacements. Much of Delta Spirit's explosive energy is kept in check on History in favor of songs that simmer and brood, building exquisite tension as Vasquez spins his tales, such as "Salt in the Wound," so taut with anguish by the end that the guitar strings whine at the strain. Elsewhere things rock a bit harder, especially "Golden State," with its slashing, Keith Richards-like guitar, and "911," rife with political implications and a Beatles chorus. Overall, it's a bristling, accomplished album from a confident band just hitting its stride. Opening will be Ezra Furman & the Harpoons, a band that emerged from Tufts University a few years back, quickly building a cult rep via a folkie-punk-indie-rock vibe attached to Furman's quirky narrative tunes (which have been compared to early Dylan). 18+. $12/$14 at the door. 7:30 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Rick Mason

Saturday 6.19

Ramblin' Jack Elliott

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