Critic's Picks

WEDNESDAY 8.25

Lou Barlow & the Missingmen

400 Bar

Lou Barlow's like a musical nomad; the man simply can't find a project or identity to call home. From Dinosaur Jr.'s passive-agro fits to Sebadoh's sad-sack navel-gazing to Sentridoh's four-tracked woe-is-me to Folk Implosion's indie-omnivore splay—the laundry list of additional team-ups and one-offs is far to long to unfurl here—Barlow's worked hard to make willful lameness seem almost, well, cool, wearing his unrequited adorations on his sweat-stained black tees like loser badges of honor. In recent years, he's reunited with his old Sebadoh and Dinosaur Jr. frenemies for tours and albums that were as artistically satisfying as they were profitable; right now, he's on the road with a crew called the Missingmen. Goodnight Unknown, the Missingmen's debut, was no great shakes, but follow-up EP Sentridoh III is at least lively and somewhat memorable. If you're lucky, Mr. Losercore will shed the band, grab an acoustic, and passionately mine the vein he's best in. With Young Man. 18+. $10. 8 p.m. 400 Cedar Ave. S. Minneapolis; 612.332.2903. Ray Cummings

A Tribute to Paul McCartney

First Avenue

Perhaps at one of Curtiss A's John shows you've, in earnest or jest, yelled out for one of Paul's songs and received a cold stare from some Lennonist toughie. Well now, at last, some people want to fill the club with silly love songs, serious harmonies, deathless melodies, and funny looking basses. And what's wrong with that? With the Melismatics, Blue Sky Blackout, White Light Riot, the Duke of Dark, Guppy (featuring Adam Levy & Ashleigh Still), the Lanes, John Eller, John Munson, Janey Winterbauer, Dan Israel, David Ronald Beckey, Alicia Wiley, Kelly Jo Mitchell, and others, plus probable appearances by Michelle, Admiral Halsey, Jude, Magneto, Titanium Man, Father McKenzie, and the one and only Billy Shears. 18+. $8/$10 at the door. 8 p.m. 701 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Dylan Hicks

THURSDAY 8.26

Big Head Todd & the Monsters

Minnesota State Fair Grandstand

There's something fitting about Big Head Todd & the Monsters positioning themselves as a cover band. They've put out a dozen albums—half within the last decade—but haven't had a bona fide radio hit since 1998. (Given the regular rotation "Bittersweet" still seems to get on Cities 97—this isn't just my imagination is it?—Minnesotans might easily overlook this fact.) They are at once a household name and anonymous; they tour constantly, but it's a rare fan who knows all their songs. So don't be surprised if, to win the crowd during their gig this week at the State Fair, BHT&M perform a very solid rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden," a song featured on their recently released Rocksteady. And don't be surprised if it's not the best thing they play. Rocksteady is a diverse, impressive album—the styles range from reggae to blues to something indefinable but prominently involving a harmonica—and considering the polished stage presence they've developed over the last 20 years, the familiar should combine with the unknown to make for an engaging show. All ages. $28. 7 p.m. 1265 Snelling Ave. N., St. Paul; 651.642.2262. Max Ross

FRIDAY 8.27

S. Carey CD Release

Southern Theater

"What's the last thing a drummer says in a band?" "Hey guys, we should play this song I wrote!" We've all heard the joke, and while it's not very funny, it's also not very true (see also: Dave Grohl.). Bon Iver drummer Sean Carey recorded his debut, All We Grow, under the moniker S. Carey, and while it's not a long drive out from familiar territory, it's certainly a tantalizing affair. The arrangements are far less sparse and the songs only about half as tear-jerking, but the careful craft and delicate, fragile nature of the songs are the lush, blooming valley to Bon Iver's frozen Arctic tundra. Carey finds beauty and gravity in the little things, and while they meander into darker territory at times, there's always something to grab onto at the end, not just a howling abyss waiting to swallow him whole. Carey proves once and for all that drummers aren't just faceless, bipedal metronomes for the guys out in front onstage. All We Grow is filled with a quiet poignancy that will make you want to right every wrong from your past, no matter how small the infraction. With Lucy Michelle. $12. 7 p.m. 1420 Washington Ave. S. Minneapolis; 612.340.1725. Pat O'Brien

Carolina Chocolate Drops

Minnesota Zoo Weesner Amphitheatre

Resurrecting the nearly buried and forgotten African-American string-band tradition—specifically of the Carolinas' Piedmont region—initially may suggest an intellectual exercise, especially coming from the three versatile, virtuoso musicians who constitute the Carolina Chocolate Drops. But Justin Robinson, Rhiannon Giddens, and Dom Flemons play with such joyful immediacy that the sepia tones of their largely vintage material quickly blossom into full color, coursing with vibrant spirit that's riddled with old-timey flair and anything but creaky. All three switch off on vocals and banjo (an instrument with African origins, not incidentally) and were tutored by ninety-something Joe Thompson, considered the last living link to the black Piedmont legacy. Robinson and Giddens, both classically trained, also play fiddle; Flemons plays guitar; and various members weigh in on such things as bones, jug, and kazoo. The Drops' latest, Genuine Negro Jig, collects such trad tunes as "Cornbread and Butterbeans," which talks about "eatin' them beans and makin' love as long as I am able," the title piece (renamed "Snowden's Jig" for its apparent mid-19th century composer), whose ethereal minimalism flirts with modern avant-garde, and the sprightly dance tune "Cindy Gal." Easily slipping into the same spirit are a pair of originals, plus covers of Tom Waits's "Trampled Rose" and Blu Cantrell's 2001 R&B hit "Hit 'Em Up Style," providing another neat contemporary link. The Twin Cities' Roma di Luna will open with its own takes on vintage Appalachian sounds. All ages. $24. 7:30 p.m. 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley; 952.431.9200.—Rick Mason

American Idols Live

Target Center

The sad truth about

American Idol Season Nine is that it'll be remembered less for who battled for the crown than for who was loitering near the exits: acerbic, resigning judge Simon Cowell. Don't believe me? Force yourself to remember the contestants. Winner Lee DeWyze had a voice that was perpetually on the verge of failing; good-natured Crystal Bowersox wanted to be the new Ani DiFranco; a picture of Siobhan Magnus shows up in most dictionaries near the word "quirky"; Michael Lynche was really, really lucky. As most Idol seasons wind down, there are usually a few vocally blessed humdingers whose debuts everybody around the water cooler plans to check for; this time, not so much. So why should you buy tickets to this iteration of American Idols Live? Because the pagentry will probably be out of this world. Because your nieces and nephews will never forget that you treated them to this. Because Idol's sell-by date passed a few years ago, and it's unlikely that there'll be too many more of these tours. $31-$70.50. 6:30 p.m. 600 1st Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.673.0900. —Ray Cummings

SATURDAY 8.28

Michael Jackson: A Tribute to the Life & Music of the King of Pop

Cabooze

With a lineup stocked with local R&B luminaries, this Saturday's second annual tribute to Michael Jackson at the Cabooze is sure to showcase a few memorable one-off collaborations. Featuring Stokley and O'Dell of Mint Condition, St. Paul Peterson of FDeluxe and the Time, Julius "Juice" Collins of Greazy Meal, Paris Bennett of American Idol fame, her sister Jamecia Bennett and their Sounds of Blackness cohorts Deevo and Ashley, and Brandon Commodore. As with last year's tribute, the show will feature covers that range Jackson's entire career, starting with his early hits with the Jackson 5. With Ray Covington, (The Maxx Band), Yohannes Tona, (Dr. Mambo's Combo), Russ King and Manny Fresh, (The New Congress), Darnell Davis (Darnell Davis & the Remnant), Darius Ewing, Shayde, Dan Kusz, Aaron Wiener, and AJ Eskridge.18+. $10/$15 at the door. 8:30 p.m. 917 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.6425. Andrea Swensson

MONDAY 8.30

Lady Gaga

Xcel Energy Center

Since playing the Fine Line last year behind a number-one single about the focusing power of a good song ("Just Dance"), Lady Gaga has toured almost nonstop, watched pop realign itself around her sense of disco, and seen every one of her six subsequent singles—you know them even if you can't name them—reach the Top 10. For anyone absorbing her out of the air, "Poker Face," "LoveGame," "Paparazzi," "Bad Romance," "Telephone," and the electro-ska "Alejandro" (with Beyoncé) might seem to be about nothing but sex or fame, or sex as fame. Which makes her tender attitude toward fans—her "little monsters," whom she describes in Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair cover profiles as her truest love—both refreshing and a little scary. Like a certain other Italian American who got her start in the Lower Manhattan art/club scene, Gaga has become synonymous with spectacle for its own sake, even as she writes music so catchy that re-mixers tackle her album-only tracks. If she's not yet as great as Madonna or Like a Virgin, she's also a couple years younger at the same stage, with every sign of wanting (and being able) to bring the whole world into her bubble. With Semi Precious Weapons. $51.50-$177. 8 p.m. 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, 651.726.8240. Also Tuesday Peter S. Scholtes

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