Bowerbirds, Caroline Smith, and more

Robert Wilkinson (right) and his newest project, the Snaps
Steven Cohen



Station 4

Most punk bands seem to fall into one of two camps: jokester nihilists gulping down beer as if more will never be brewed, or politically inclined firebrands screaming about class war from a soapbox fashioned from power chords and studded leather. Going by the band's name alone, you can probably guess which faction suits Anti-Flag. While bits of black humor popped up on their debut album in '96, every subsequent release has done away with more of the laughs in favor of screeds about taking action against our crooked government and the corporate pigs that pull the strings. Considering their politics, it's odd that the band signed to RCA for two albums, a polarizing move that left early fans either scratching their heads or going hoarse from cries of "sellout." But with or without a major label, Anti-Flag's live show has always been brimming with spastic energy, and this time they'll need to conjure up every bit of it to win back jilted fans while earning new ones.  With Aiden, Cancer Bats, and the Menzingers. All ages. $16. 5 p.m. 201 E. Fourth St., St. Paul; 651.298.0173. —Ian Traas

Caroline Smith (CD-release show)

Electric Fetus

Caroline Smith's new live album was recorded at the Cedar Cultural Center, so naturally it's a pin-drop quiet and sonically rich recording that plays with a sense of immediacy, as if Smith and her backing guitarist Jesse Schuster are sitting just a few feet away. Though she normally plays with a full band, this two-piece arrangement works just as well, Schuster keeping time with a quickly strummed acoustic guitar and Smith's voice taking on an even more accentuated warble than usual, punctuating her more vulnerable lyrics with a noticeable quiver. Only a few of the tracks are repeats from her debut album, Backyard Tent Set, though most will be familiar to those who have seen her play live, including lovesick ballads ("She Ain't Got It"), whimsical tales of nostalgia ("Birch Trees and Broken Bones," "Sally"), and an agonizing and emotional plea to a boy who's done her wrong ("Denim Boy"). Smith will release the CD as part of the MinnEconomy series at the Electric Fetus, which hosts monthly in-store performances and promotes local albums and artists. She will be performing this evening with alt-country sweethearts Romantica. All ages. Free. 7 p.m. 2000 Fourth Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.870.9300. —Andrea Swensson


Dale Watson

Lee's Liquor Lounge

A regular on the Grand Ole Opry and the Austin, Texas, honky-tonk scene, Dale Watson is such a Bakersfield-sound purist that he posed with a gravestone reading "COUNTRY MUSIC R.I.P." on the cover of 2007's From the Cradle to the Grave, and recorded in Johnny Cash's old Tennessee mountain retreat (at the urging of pal Johnny Knoxville, who directed and starred in the video for "Hollywood Hillbilly"). You don't have to buy into Watson's ethos to admire his form: "Justice for All," with a classic video on YouTube, is both uncannily retro and gracefully, powerfully contemporary in its ambiguous death-penalty narrative. Watson has the Mount Rushmore-sized voice of a sterner Conway Twitty without gravel, authentic enough to pull off a collection of trucker anthems on his latest from Hyena, 2009's The Truckin' Sessions Vol. 2, including a "Convoy"-funky tribute to a cross-dressing OKC driver in "Truckin' Queen." With Javier Trejo. 21+. $15. 9 p.m. 101 Glenwood Ave. N, Minneapolis; 612.338.9491. —Peter S. Scholtes

The Rural Alberta Advantage

The Cedar

Toronto (by way of—you guessed it!—rural Alberta) three-piece the Rural Alberta Advantage generated enough hype with their self-released debut record Hometowns to not only get signed by Saddle Creek (which recently rereleased the album), but to sell out both their initial local show at the 7th St. Entry and this show at the Cedar. And the hype is more than justified, as frontman (and chief songwriter) Nils Edenloff turned his yearning for his beloved Alberta into songs filled with emotion, poignancy, and passion. Their tunes evoke a distinct sense of place as well as postcard images of travel, all while broadcasting a unique and authentic sound that easily transports listeners wherever they choose to let the splendid music take them. Opening are locals Dark Dark Dark, whose haunting folk sounds will only add to the moody music on display this evening. All ages. Sold out. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Erik Thompson


Brad Paisley

Xcel Energy Center

It was the Beatles who once showed, with a much louder drummer, that the shortest distance between a clever line and a catharsis for all time is a tender melody gone falsetto. With his own little team, Brad Paisley achieves the same thing on "Everybody's Here," a song about being heartbroken and alienated in the bar crowd ("everybody's here but me"). When he tackles a subject requiring a few more narrative beats, like why Obama's election victory was bigger than Obama or even politics, he's just as relaxed and funny, knowing he can't distill the feeling into one hook. So he lets the spaciousness between words on "Welcome to the Future" speak volumes even as the narrative builds and catches you up. (The song is about how things have changed for the better: Remember that?) This isn't cleverness powered by optimism; it's genius times love. And the fact that all this unfolds in an entirely meat-and-potatoes country milieu on Paisley's seventh and breakthrough album, American Saturday Night, is either a gift to K102 fans or a potential entry point for everyone else. With Miranda Lambert and Justin Moore. All ages. $39.75 -$59.75. 7:30 p.m. 175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651.726.8240. —Peter S. Scholtes

The Snaps (CD-release show)

400 Bar

Fans of Robert Wilkinson's Brit-pop and post punk-inspired rock band the Flamin' Ohs will be surprised to hear him adopting a country twang on his latest project, but he pulls it off just as effortlessly. The Snaps are a four-piece, and many of the tracks on their debut, Spokes and Wires and Shiny Words, marry Wilkinson's vocal swoops and sighs with softened harmonies by bass player Jenny Case, creating a duality between the gentler voices and grimier guitars that Wilkinson himself has coined "dirty-sweet Americana." Wilkinson is a longtime veteran of the local scene, and there's a bit of Minneapolis history in every track on his new CD, odds and ends scraped up from a life spent in bars and clubs throughout the city. It's a sound that can't be traced back to one band in particular but sounds decidedly familiar, like an old friend blurring memories together into one powerful, poignant tale. The Snaps will celebrate the release of their CD tonight with the Blue Mollies and Patches & Gretchen. 21+. $5. 8 p.m. 400 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.332.2903. —Andrea Swensson


Dorado Schmitt & the Django All-Stars

Dakota Jazz Club

Phenomenal Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt was born 100 years ago, and the Dakota is celebrating his centenary with a great mini festival. It launches Sunday with some local bands (Clearwater, Parisota) patterned after Django's famed Hot Club of France and concludes with Mark O'Connor on Wednesday, sandwiched between guitar wizard and Django disciple Dorado Schmitt and an all-star outfit of fellow Djangoholics. They include violinist Pierre Blanchard (in the role of Stephane Grappelli), Schmitt's guitarist son Samson, and accordionist Marcel Loeffler—all from France—plus American bassist Brian Torff, who played for many years with Grappelli in his post-Hot Club days. Schmitt is a wonderful guitarist in his own right, and his fleet maneuvers on the frets amount to a remarkable evocation of Django's ingenuity and spirit. Schmitt has long been involved in a decade-old New York Django festival that also tours the U.S. He's at the helm of a slightly different Hot Club outfit on Live at the Kennedy Center, recorded in D.C. in 2007 and due out this month. You can almost smell a Parisian boulangerie as the band sparkles though jaunty versions of Django standards like "Nuages," Gershwin and Cole Porter tunes, and even a few sympathetic originals. C'est si bon, and so should these shows, as the Dakota transforms into Montmartre of the tundra. $25 at 7 p.m.; $20 at 9:30 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. Also Tuesday —Rick Mason



Varsity Theater

Six months ago the Bowerbirds came through town near the start of a tour that has taken them across the country and throughout Europe, so their return should theoretically put a new spin on their idiosyncratic freaky, folkie indie music, originally spawned in the mountains of North Carolina. This time around the group will be pared down to mainstays Phil Moore and Beth Tacular, plus drummer Dan Westerlund. And although most of the material will come from last year's Upper Air, there may be a few new tunes. Air's moody sound is sufficiently off-kilter to suggest wild and strange things lurking out in them thar hills, among them the ragged harmonies and eccentric phrasing—both utterly fascinating—of Moore and Tacular, who sing poetically and sometimes with florid metaphors about matters of the head and heart. The music, meanwhile, elegantly lurches and meanders along a twisted path while various instruments scurry about conspiratorially—a fractured bass drum here, a flourish of piano, stray lines of accordion or fiddle—often as fleeting as actual bowerbirds. With Sharon Van Etten. 18+. $12. 8 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Rick Mason

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