Anybody who remembers the dismal '80s-era all-brick incarnation of Mears Park must have the occasional is-this-really-happening moment looking at it now. The once-decrepit, now-verdant square-block park has been at the forefront of the gradual revitalization of the downtown/Lowertown border of Saint Paul, and much of that owes to it being an ideal venue for free live concerts. This weekend's Concrete and Grass is one of the most prominent and the most eclectic, with an adventurous lineup that gives casual come-and-go attendees a chance to take a flyer on something unexpected. Friday evening's lineup is the most audacious draw: a solo acoustic show from local alt-rock icon Dave Pirner (pictured) and an opening set nervy nu-wavers Speed's the Name bookend a performance by, of all things, the Minnesota Opera. But there's just as much to take in during Saturday's all-day block, which includes everyone from jazzy alt-folkies Bomba de Luz to Caribbean-music fixtures the New Primitives to MPB/Tropicalia devotees Alma Brasileira, with the veteran singer-songwriter Freedy Johnston headlining. Sunday's lineup refocuses around classical music the young musician winners of the Schubert Club's scholarship competition start off the afternoon, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra closes it out while Martin Devaney sidles in between with his own brand of roots-inflected Americana.
Fri., Sept. 9, 5:30-10 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 10, 1-10 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 11, 1-5 p.m., 2011