THURSDAY 7.22

Squeeze

Minnesota Zoo Weesner Amphitheater

"We haven't been to Minneapolis for a few years, I'm quite looking forward to it," says Squeeze's Chris Difford. "A friend who makes my guitars lives there." Difford and his songwriting partner Glenn Tilbrook have been the only consistent members of the seminal new-wave band, though former members come, go, and come back again. Aside from Pet Shop Boys and Madness, you'd be hard pressed to find a more English band. "I think you're absolutely right we are very English; that's always been the case. We've always been mentioned in the same breath as the Kinks, and that's all fine, I don't mind," Difford says. The band hasn't recorded a new album in a dozen years, but after a U.K. tour in the fall that will change. The songwriting methodology may also be different. "In my solo stuff I write about stuff that affects me," Difford explains, "and stuff that's more personal and autobiographical. I'm looking forward to writing with Glenn again and seeing where it takes us." In the meantime, the group will release Spot the Difference, a reworking of their classic numbers, on August 3. The live show, too, features all of their well-known tracks. "Every hit you can get into an hour-and-15-minute set." With the English Beat. All ages. $38. 7:30 p.m. 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley; 952.431.9200. P.F. Wilson

Built to Spill

First Avenue

Right now the term "indie rock" has a nebulous definition, encapsulating a wider spectrum of music than it ever has before, so it might be hard to believe that it once stood for a particular sound. And, once upon a time, Built to Spill reigned as kings of that sound, where perfectly imperfect vocals and vast expanses of guitar met to create something heartfelt, something that couldn't posture if it tried. There's no irony to be found here (in their facial hair or otherwise), so it's no wonder that the newest incarnation of indie has marginalized one of the most talented bands in the Midwest. They've made only minimal changes to their sound since crafting genre-defining masterpieces Keep It Like a Secret and Perfect From Now On, and while they may be short on evolution, the band has classic songs and guitar chops to spare. Good ol' indie rock might not be as hip as it used to be, but in Built to Spill's case, it's still long on quality. With Fauxbois. 18+. $20. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Ian Traas

FRIDAY 7.23

Bassgasm 2

First Avenue

February saw First Ave bursting at the seams with all the party people who came out for Bassgasm, techno chieftain Woody McBride's mash note to Twin Cities dance fans. For an evening, petty infighting was drowned out by low-end throbbing from speakers stacked 12 feet high, while a few thousand sneakers danced on the grave of anything that didn't look like a good time. Now, as with all blockbusters, the sequel is upon us, making us wonder if anything can stand up to the first installment. Mr. McBride is once again bringing us a mix of notable locals, up-and-coming DJs, and old-school rave heavies like remixer-to-the-stars Tommie Sunshine and acid king Terry Mullan, a combo that's sure to bring in another massive crowd. But will it have that same special quality, the sense that the event is somehow bigger than the sum of its parts? Here's to Part Two cultivating the same unforgettable vibe—but with double the explosions this time. With Hulk, HeavyGrinder, Mike G, and more. 18+. $15 /$20 at the door. 5 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Ian Traas

FRIDAY 7.23

Ben Sidran

Dakota Jazz Club

Ben Sidran is a polymath who holds a doctorate in American studies, has written several books, hosted and produced numerous radio and TV programs, and produced dozens of albums for artists as diverse as Diana Ross, Jon Hendricks, Van Morrison, and Rickie Lee Jones. The Wisconsin native (still Madison-based) is also a singer, keyboardist, vibraphonist, and songwriter with some 30 solo albums to his credit. Plus—drum roll—he co-wrote "Space Cowboy" (among other tunes) when he played with fellow Badger Steve Miller in his band of renown. Despite his legitimate rock legacy (including sessions with the Stones and Clapton), Sidran basically is a jazz hound from the hipster school of Mose Allison, or, as he once titled an album, on the cool side. Bringing it all back home on his latest album, Dylan Different, Sidran shines a brilliant new light on a dozen early Bob Dylan classics with jazzy arrangements that slyly incorporate simmering elements of funk, rock, and gospel. Meanwhile, Sidran's arid, Allison-style vocal delivery—once called "existential jazz rap"—compels us to pay close attention to vintage Dylan lyrics that were initially seized upon as phenomenal and revolutionary. Although long consigned to relative indifference by familiarity, the lyrics regain their luster thanks to Sidran's cool treatment, even "Blowin' in the Wind." On his way to Tokyo, Sidran will stop in for two nights at the Dakota with what he calls a "super hot" band: son Leo on drums (who also produced the album), trumpeter Mike Leonhart, reed player Bob Malach (who all played on it), plus the Twin Cities' own longtime Sidran associate Billy Peterson on bass. $25. 7:30 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. Also Saturday —Rick Mason

SATURDAY 7.24

Natalie Merchant

O'Shaughnessy Auditorium

After maintaining a low profile for some time, former 10,000 Maniacs singer Natalie Merchant is back with the eye-opening Leave Your Sleep, her first studio album in seven years. The two-disc, 26-track, highly eclectic, meticulously researched, hugely ambitious project is stunning in its scope and realization, succeeding on its charm and vivid arrangements of music ranging from folk to jazz, reggae, Celtic, Appalachian, Chinese, and touches of classical along with folk rock. Merchant wrote all the music to accompany poetry by writers equally acclaimed (Ogden Nash, e.e. cummings, Robert Louis Stevenson) and obscure, their work united by acute senses of wonderment, whimsy, eccentricity, and surrealism, since many were written for children. Mother Goose is present, but it's far from a kids' record, rather embracing the breadth of human innocence and experience, defying age. The range of Merchant's contributors is equally broad: The Wynton Marsalis Quartet makes Nathalia Crane's "The Janitor's Boy" into a trad jazz jaunt, Albert Bigelow Paine's "The Dancing Bear" becomes a klezmer romp at the hands of the Klezmatics, and the Fairfield Four and Hazmat Modine douse Arthur Macy's "The Peppery Man" with gospel and blues. All the while Merchant's distinctly textured voice and sly phrasing seep into each tune, at once a unifying force but also adapting to her surroundings in chameleon-like fashion. On tour Merchant will be accompanied by an eight-piece band that leans toward chamber folk. $47-$57. 8 p.m. 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul; 651.690.6700. —Rick Mason

SUNDAY 7.25

Yellowman

Cabooze

Them a mad over King Yellow, especially back in the early '80s when his verbal dexterity overcame the social stigma of being an albino and set him atop the Jamaican dancehall scene. Yellowman's popularity was due in part to the blatant raunchiness of his sexual boasts, but his verbal exploits often were as witty as they were rhythmically agile. He was a groundbreaking toaster and a huge influence on the generations that followed. After several serious health scares in the '90s, Yellowman shifted to a more socially conscious variety of reggae with far more topical concerns. The once prolific Yellowman has been barely heard from since 2003's New York, so it's difficult to say what shape he's in or what he's up to while noting that the King has a substantial catalogue to draw from. Innocent, the local reggae roots-rock band, opens. 18+. $15/$17 at the door. 9 p.m. 917 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.6425. —Rick Mason

MONDAY 7.26

The Gaslight Anthem

First Avenue

To Brian Fallon, frontman for Jersey boys the Gaslight Anthem, icons like Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer aren't dead and buried—they're living a busy second life as an integral part of his world, where classic cars and old movies never go out of style. Early on, the band seemed to pine for eras they were born well after, but on this year's American Slang, Fallon has focused in on a more familiar past, referencing ex-wives instead of Marilyn Monroe. The effect isn't really modernizing, since the group has taken great pains to internalize everything that screams "classic," but it makes clear that Fallon considers his idols a part of his family, a blueprint rather than an influence. The material ranges from bluesy torch songs to punkish heartland homages the Boss would be proud of, but even if Springsteen wasn't popular with the indie set at the moment, Fallon and company would still be masters at crafting the same nostalgia-steeped rock that's landed them so much attention—it's in their blood. With Chamberlain and Tim Barry. 18+. $20/ $22 at the door. 7:30 pm. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Ian Traas

TUESDAY 7.27

Blitzen Trapper

First Avenue

Oregon's Blitzen Trapper apparently listened to the striking but too-mild country rock of their fourth album, 2008's Furr, and decided it was missing something—maybe the more pronounced influence of Yes and Queen? So they've turned up the guitars and come back with more chords and grooves on Destroyer of the Void, their new one for Sub Pop, but fewer tunes as immediately memorable as "Furr," "Black River Killer," or "God & Suicide"—whose melody they recycle for "The Tree," a bad sign. Then again, Eric Earley has the plain, unstrained talent to sustain interest through slower-burn material, including the understated piano-orchestral number "Heaven and Earth," which might even turn out to be his best. And a growing legion of fans have nothing but slack to cut. With Avi Buffalo. 18+. $15/$18 at the door. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Peter S. Scholtes

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