Critics' Picks: Death Cab for Cutie, Man Man, Bruce Cockburn, and more

Man Man

First Avenue on Monday 5.23

If you're going by the lyrics of Honus Honus, Man Man's impressively mustachioed bandleader, you'd find life a hideous thing full of loss, violence, and submission. There's some emotional bloodletting happening here, but the band wraps its cynicism in a swaying junkyard boogie that counterbalances the pain with a scruffy facade. Smeared with war paint onstage, it might look like the band members are poised to battle their demons, but they remain strangely inviting even at their wildest, like they've nicely asked you to stay and witness their purifying ritual. Go ahead and humor them—it's a spectacle not to be missed. With Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers. 18+. $15. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Ian Traas

The Twilight Singers

Varsity Theater on Wednesday 5.18

Even amid the Afghan Whigs' Nirvana-sized funk-and-drone of the mid-'90s, singer Greg Dulli was like a beautiful smear across his songs—sensuous and vivid, yet free of the ingenious beat his band conjured. With the Twilight Singers' new and fifth album, Dynamite Steps, the lizard prince finds a quieter, no less perfect cabaret for his floating voice, evoking either Trent Reznor's hurt locker or Bono's woozy ecstasy, or both at once. Fellow New Orleanian Ani DiFranco drops by the album to mark the event, on a tune almost R.E.M.-soft, but it sounds no more like her than it does like anything else. With Margot & the Nuclear So and So's. 18+. $15/$18 at the door. 7 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. Peter S. Scholtes

Hoolie Fest 2011

Shuga Records on Friday-Sunday 5.20-22

Now in its second year, Shuga Records' two-stage music festival, timed to take place during Northeast's Art-A-Whirl, has expanded into a diverse and overflowing lineup of over 75 Minnesota bands. From Current darlings like Communist Daughter, Phantom Tails, and Hastings 3000 to hip-hop stalwarts Unknown Prophets, Muja Messiah, and Maria Isa to astute singer-songwriters Brianna Lane and Jennifer Markey, there's a little something for everyone on Hoolie Fest's bill this year, and the schedule is laid out to encourage trips in and out throughout the entire weekend. With the Nightinghales, Chickadee Mountain Martyrs, Chemistry Set, Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles, Grant Cutler, and many more. All ages. $1 per day/$2 for a weekend pass. Friday 3 to 10 p.m.; Saturday 12 to 10 p.m.; Sunday 12 to 9 p.m. 165 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612.423.2086. Andrea Swensson

Death Cab for Cutie

First Avenue on Saturday 5.21

Now that Death Cab for Cutie have had some time to soak up some of the mainstream acceptance they've picked up over the last few years, could it be that they've stopped being melancholy? New single "You Are a Tourist" trades some of Death Cab's gloomier traits for a new lease on life, all you-can-turn-it-around optimism and plucky guitars. It's not a bad sound, but it's hard to say if Ben Gibbard's uncharacteristic good mood will persist for an entire album. If you're curious, a live peek at the material from the upcoming Codes and Keys could answer your questions. With the Lonely Forest. 18+. $32. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Ian Traas

Foundations of Funk: Maceo Parker & Christian Mcbride

Orchestra Hall on Sunday 5.22

Maceo Parker's blistering saxophone fueled some of the wickedest grooves ever conceived, first alongside James Brown, later with the P-Funk collective, in both cases forging furious funk foundations that're still the template. He can sing, too, as he amply demonstrated evoking Ray Charles on 2008's Roots & Grooves. Virtuoso bassist Christian McBride's versatility is as renowned as his technique, ranging from straightahead jazz to pop as well as projects that dig into funk, fusion, and hip hop. Each will lead his own band, in this case McBride's electric ensemble Situation, featuring keyboardist Patrice Rushen, DJs Logic and Jahi  Sundance, and saxophonist Ron Blake. And if we're lucky they'll collaborate and come up with a groove that might make your head explode. All ages. $22-$60. 7 p.m. 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.371.5656. —Rick Mason

Bruce Cockburn

Cedar Cultural Center on Monday 5.23

An icon in the Great White North, a cult fave in the U.S., Canadian Bruce Cockburn has as solid a body of work as any in the singer-songwriter game. He's more literate than most, etching short stories, getting deeply philosophical, or ripping into grim agents of avarice and injustice, his anger and sharp satire flashing. Cockburn's also a superb guitarist, combining with violinist Jenny Scheinman on the new Small Source of Comfort for several compelling instrumentals that drift into swinging jazz. Elsewhere the vibe is folky, as Cockburn images Tricky Dick Nixon reincarnated as a welfare mom (no, seriously), waxes poetic about the wonders of nature, and reflects on soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Scheinman, who bridges the worlds of jazz, rock, and the avant-garde, will perform as a member of Cockburn's band in addition to doing an opening solo set. All ages. $30-$40. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rick Mason

Four Generations of Miles

Dakota Jazz Club on Tuesday 5.24 and Wednesday 5.25

That would be Miles Davis, and this tribute featuring four major-league players from four different incarnations of his band should be something special. This picks up on an idea that a slightly different lineup recorded live in 2002, then mostly focusing on Miles's '50s repertoire, and that's likely to be the case here. Guitarist Mike Stern was with Miles in the '80s; saxophone giant Sonny Fortune was there a decade earlier; bass virtuoso  Buster Williams a little before that in the late '60s; and master drummer Jimmy Cobb, at 82 the group's elder statesman, anchored Miles's rhythms in the '50s, including on Kind of Blue, considered by many the quintessential jazz album. And no, there's no trumpet player, by design. However, with the International Trumpet Guild's annual conference coincidentally in town, and jam sessions scheduled later in the evening at the Dakota, a trumpeter or two may be coaxed onto the stage from a list of possibilities including Sean Jones, Lew Soloff, Marcus Printup, Trent Austin, and our own Kelly Rossum, back from exile in New York. $35 at 7 p.m.; $25 at 9 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. —Rick Mason

 
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