Mates of State, Idle Hands, and more

Critics' Picks for this week

WEDNESDAY 6.23

Mates of State

400 Bar

Though only achieving national prominence in the past few years, Mates of State's Kori Gardner (who plays a variety of whirling keys and synthesizers, from B-3 organs to Casios) and Jason Hammel (who drums and handles various percussion instruments) have actually been making music together since 1997. Over the past 13 years, the pair has continued to refine their quirky style of danceable indie pop, trading off vocal duties and blending their buoyant harmonies together breathlessly. Gardner and Hammel are coming to Minneapolis for a two-night stand, where they will be joined by half-local indie-rockers Free Energy. Though it seems like just yesterday that brothers Scott and Evan Wells and bandmate Paul Sprangers were making a name for themselves locally in the band Hockey Night, they actually spent the last half of the aughts relocating to Philadelphia, joining forces with a new drummer and guitar player, and building a national buzz as Free Energy, a DFA-signed, blog-approved danceable rock band. The group was just in town earlier this month to play Grand Old Day, and they're back for both nights of Mates of States' run at the 400 Bar. 18+. 9 p.m. $13/$15 at the door. 400 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.332.2903. Also Thursday Andrea Swensson

THURSDAY 6.24

The Idle Hands

Mates of State bring their love connection to the 400 Bar
Glynis Arban
Mates of State bring their love connection to the 400 Bar

Mears Park

Now in its seventh year, the Music in Mears series in the downtown St. Paul park showcases a variety of local musicians, from Communist Daughter to Halloween, Alaska to the Unknown Prophets. Tonight's show features the Idle Hands, a poppy rock act who released their debut full-length, The Hearts We Broke on the Way to the Show, to critical acclaim last year. Chances are, if you listen to the Current you're already familiar with these songs, "Loaded" especially—now here's a chance to take them in outdoors, at a free event tailor-made for helping folks wind down from their work day in style. The Idle Hands will be joined by brand new power-pop band Star Again, who just celebrated the release of their first album earlier this week. All ages. Free. 6 p.m. 221 E. Fifth St., St. Paul; 651.632.5111. —Andrea Swensson

FRIDAY 6.25

The Wailers

Minnesota Zoo Weesner Amphitheater

The Wailers hardly need an introduction: Together with Bob Marley, they have sold more than 250 million albums, effectively introducing reggae music to the masses. They have performed with iconic musicians like Sting, Stevie Wonder, and Carlos Santana. And though only two of the founding members (Bunny Wailer and Beverly Kelso) are still alive and kicking, their evolving cast of musicians continues to tour 40-plus years after first forming with Marley and Peter Tosh in Kingston, Jamaica. The band is led by longtime bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett, who has been with the Wailers since 1969. The bass line on legendary hits like "Jamming," "Buffalo Soldier," and "One Love"? All Barrett, who led the backing band of studio musicians through Marley's now-iconic catalog of songs. The Zoo's intimate outdoor amphitheater should be the ideal setting for taking in such historically rich and refined reggae classics. With the Aggrolites. All ages. $34. 7:30 p.m. 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley; 952.431.9200. —Andrea Swensson

SATURDAY 6.26

Why?, Deerhoof

First Avenue

Initially, this looks like an odd combination; you could call Why? an indie-loving rap outfit (or vice versa), while Deerhoof toys with structure and melody, writing bizarre pop songs that can seem half-formed at first blush. A closer listen reveals what they have in common: an arty streak, a stylistic spikiness that can make finding an entry point into their material a trying—but ultimately rewarding—experience. Both groups are daring, yes, but the evolution of each band suggests that they're also self-aware enough to know that adventurism comes at a cost. Now, Why? are embracing more folk and rock as they become increasingly estranged from the alt-rap scene, while Deerhoof are sporting cohesive songs (well, more cohesive, anyway) and giant-sounding guitars. The changes haven't left them toothless, just more balanced, pairing their eccentricities with populist touches. There's no chance that either of them could backslide into mainstream blandness, but Why? and Deerhoof understand that it's not enough to be surprising; sometimes, you also have to be sweet. For more on Why?, see p. 107. With Southeast Engine. All ages. $13/$15 at the door. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Ian Traas

SATURDAY 6.26

Juana Molina

Walker Art Center

The whimsically creepy, digitally manipulated cover photo of 2008's Un Dia should be the give-away: Juana Molina could sing her songs straight and be striking enough, her minimalist lyrics in Rioplatense Spanish and elliptical riffs on piano or acoustic guitar providing the building blocks for hypnotic lullabies in the key of off. But like Minneapolis's own Dosh, she uses live sampling to loop her songs into sculptures before your ears, and they always go somewhere—at least lately. Two years after its release, Un Dia (her fifth album) sounds like sophisticated songwriting rather than atmosphere, a more boisterous, tropical, and personal Stereolab in love with rhythm if not funk, with electronic distortions veering from dreamy to nightmarish, in the way that digital manipulation can make all reality suddenly uncertain. The concert is presented as part of opening weekend of an exhibition of work by another Buenos Aires artist, Guillermo Kuitca: Everything. $18. 8 p.m. 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.375.7600.

Peter S. Scholtes

MONDAY 6.28

Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain, & Edgar Meyer

Guthrie Theater

Three brilliant, virtuoso musicians and certified mavericks who regularly take their instruments into unprecedented territory, Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, and Edgar Meyer again have scaled new heights with their latest project, a triple concerto called "The Melody of Rhythm." Fleck, who has plucked his banjo in more musical genres than most people can name, and Meyer, the marvelously versatile double bassist and cellist, have collaborated on increasingly intriguing material for several decades. When the Nashville Symphony asked them to write a piece for the opening of its new home, they recruited Hussain, renowned master of the Indian tabla. The resulting composition, recorded last year with the Detroit Symphony conducted by former Nashville leader Leonard Slatkin, is an elegantly sweeping piece that blithely embraces elements of bluegrass, Indian folk and classical, Appalachian folk, jazz, avant-garde, and western classical, emerging as something unique that hangs together beautifully. The Melody of Rhythm album is rounded out with six additional pieces, recorded without the orchestra and emphasizing an improvisational jazz approach that still scampers across vast musical terrain. $53.50. 7:30 p.m. 818 S. Second St., Minneapolis, 612.377.2224. —Rick Mason

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