Critics' Picks: Arctic Monkeys, Janelle Monae & Bruno Mars, and more

Heliotrope headliners Skoal Kodiak

Heliotrope headliners Skoal Kodiak

Heliotrope Eight

Loring Theater on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 5.26-28

After a stint in Northeast, Minneapolis's scrappiest music festival makes its debut at downtown's Loring Theater. The Loring might be closer to the beaten path, but the same can't be said for the program of jazz, noise, and twisted pop that resists categorization as fiercely as an ornery tabby en route to a tick bath. Thursday opens with twisted vaudevillians Dreamland Faces and ends with the International Novelty Gamelan's bent Balinese stylings. Friday night features sets by Milo Fine and Charles Gillett, Paul Metzger with Adam Linz and JT Bates, and the powerhouse duet of Joe McPhee and Chris Corsano, who take prime time. Tenor saxophonist McPhee's raucous musical finesse has delighted and inspired for four decades; he can infuse abstract compositions with soul and make accessible melodies fresh and intricate. Drummer Corsano has played with everyone from Six Organs of Admission to singular saxophonist Paul Flaherty, and his jittery, kinetic style works wherever he goes. Saturday ends noisily with Skoal Kodiak, but not before Thunderbolt Pagoda perforate your eardrums and Votel's (formerly H.U.N.X.) improv mayhem melts your mind. A non-musical highlight is always video artist Emily Kaplan's arresting montages cut in real time to the sounds blasting from onstage. With Myrrh, Grain Belt, John Jacob 3, Humanda, and more. All ages. $12/$24 for weekend pass. 5 p.m. 1407 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.871.1414. —Cecile Cloutier

Bruno Mars & Janelle Monáe

Roy Wilkins Auditorium on Wednesday 5.25

In pop music, there's no missing Bruno Mars, the cleanly soulful crooner who co-wrote K'naan's "Wavin' Flag" and Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You!," had romantic number-ones in both the Mister Rogers-ish "Just the Way You Are" and straight-faced and hyperbolic "Grenade" (as in the one he'd catch for ya), and sang the indelible chorus of B.o.B's "Nothin' on You." He performed that at the Grammys with elfin space funkstress Janelle Monáe, and now those two have teamed for a tour that promises to bring hip-hop-inflected pop and R&B back to a 1964 T.A.M.I. Show version of rock 'n' roll—in other words, full circle. Judging by Monáe's First Avenue set last year, this should be the live event of many young lives. All ages. $35. 7:30 p.m.175 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul; 651.989.5151. —Peter S. Scholtes

The Baseball Project

Varsity Theater on Thursday 5.26

When the Twins were rocking the American League's Central Division last season, so were the local airwaves with "Don't Call Them Twinkies," played by the Baseball Project's all-star lineup with the Hold Steady's Craig Finn pinch-hitting on vocals. With Gardy's crew trailing every other team in victories, and Harmon Killebrew's death, these are grim times for Twins fans, but they won't be able to resist getting fired up when the Project (Finn or no Finn) smacks the anthemic "Twinkies" into the gap. "Twinkies" is on High and Inside, the BP's second superb collection of baseball songs, which singularly explore the passion, pathos, and deep nostalgia inherent in the national pastime. The songs are packed with a genuine feel for the game and accurate details savvy fans appreciate, while their musical sophistication reflects the clutch-hitting lineup of Steve Wynn, Scott McCaughey, Linda Pitmon, and Peter Buck. If you know who else that crew plays for, as well as the Bird, Kung Fu Panda, the Freak, Mookie, Ichiro and Tony C., the Varsity will be your veritable Field of Dreams. 18+. $15. 6 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Rick Mason

The Soviettes

Triple Rock Social Club on Friday 5.27

Part of the charm of the Soviettes' no-frills, good-time punk democracy in the mid-'00s was that they expressed rather than mythologized or sold themselves: three albums in three years, all short, fast, and catchy, unassumingly titled LP, LPII, and LPIII, with nearly identical cover design and all four members (three female, one male) singing. Yet each untutored vocalist was pretty great, and one LP or another made nearly every local publication's all-time or decade's-end list, the best tunes proving timeless. Can we admit they were one of the great Minneapolis bands? Last year they reunited after a five-year split behind Rarities, and here's hoping these occasional gigs become habit-forming. With the Marked Men, Toys That Kill, the Arrivals, and Birthday Suits. 18+. $12. 8 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. —Peter S. Scholtes

The Pine Leaf Boys

Cedar Cultural Center on Friday 5.27

As sneakily clever as their name, southwest Louisiana's Pine Leaf Boys may be the best of the young Cajun/Creole bands, playing traditional material with respectful exuberance but also sometimes kicking things into overdrive with innovative firepower. Either way, the Boys stir up fais-do-do dancers with especially sharp and often raucous ensemble play usually ignited by Wilson Savoy's accordion or Courtney Granger's soaring fiddle (Wilson the son of Marc and Ann Savoy; Courtney of the famed Balfa clan). On the quintet's latest, Back Home, Savoy sings his heart out on the swamp-pop nugget "Fool," the jaunty "Blues De Cajun" swings fiercely, while Dewey Balfa's "Cajun from Church Point" and Lawrence Walker's "Allons Rock 'n' Roll" build up serious heads of bayou rock 'n' roll steam. All ages. $15/$18 at the door. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rick Mason

Arctic Monkeys

First Avenue on Saturday 5.28

It might not seem like Arctic Monkeys have been around long enough to blow through a number of music industry clichés, but they've already had a massive debut, safe-playing sophomore release, and a departure of a third album that shot for a larger, slicker sound than the one the band broke through with. Now, only five years after their much-loved first album, Arctic Monkeys are already talking about going back to basics with their upcoming Suck It and See. The band's clever Brit-rock has always felt like it's ahead of the curve, so perhaps it's only fitting that their career follows suit. With the Vaccines. 18+. $25. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Ian Traas

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Turf Club on Saturday 5.28

The title of Jason Isbell's third solo album, Here We Rest, was taken from the first motto of his home state of Alabama, which was long-ago dropped in favor of something far more antagonistic. Though the phrase was originally meant to suggest an idyllic retreat from a troubled world, Isbell now uses it ironically, as characters in his new batch of finely observed story-songs struggle with fractured relationships, economic collapse, and returning uncertainly from war. Rest not only features some of the former Drive-By Trucker's most perceptive writing, Isbell's musical palette is broader, ranging from electric Southern-rock anthems to a New Orleans shuffle, slices of bluegrass and country, as well as a fine taste of shimmering, classic Muscle Shoals soul. With Maria Taylor. 21+. 8 p.m. $14. 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. —Rick Mason

Anna Calvi

Triple Rock Social Club on Sunday 5.29

Anna Calvi has a captivating voice that sits somewhere between Nico and PJ Harvey, and she's drawn praise for the level of expression that she's able to coax out of a six-string—but her real talent is in building atmosphere. Calvi constructs a suffocating sultriness around each of her songs, and based on her debut album, she has an innate knowledge of how to let a tune smolder and when to go for the throat. It's darkly seductive when she reins it in, but when she lets the bombast loose, it's going to be hard for the Triple Rock to hold her. With Cuckoo Chaos. 18+. $10. 8 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. —Ian Traas

Front Line Assembly

Ground Zero on Sunday 5.29

Remember that brief period in the mid-'90s when industrial music was popular? It was played on mainstream radio and even in feature films. On Sunday, you'll have the chance to relive those nocturnes of yore with the hard percussion and edgy lyrics of Front Line Assembly. This Canadian band came together in 1986, led by former Skinny Puppy member Bill Leeb (a.k.a. Wilhelm Schroeder). Using sequencers, samplers, synths, and vocal distortions, FLA deliver a sound from an alien world that is at once haunting, primal, and accessible. Their scary soundscapes, guttural growls, and danceable beats will keep you moving all night. FLA will be joined at Ground Zero by Gary Zon, a.k.a. Dismantled, one of a group of electro-industrial musicians influenced by bands like FLA, but with a sound that recalls humanity's postindustrial present more than its industrial past—automated, computerized, and oh so anxious. With Cyanotic and DJ Acucrack. 18+. $15. 7 p.m. 15 Fourth St. NE, Minneapolis; 612.378.5115. —Sarah Wash