Critics' Picks: Japandroids, Deep Blues Festival, the Walkmen, and more

Japandroids, in post-celebration mode
courtesy of the artists


7th St. Entry, Tuesday 7.03

In light of its title, Japandroids' new Celebration Rock bookends its eight tracks with the perfect sound effect: the pop of fireworks. The second album from the Vancouver duo is a legit contender for record of the year based on its irony-free sense of jubilation and the pervasive feeling that these guys are going all-in with this adrenaline rush. Celebration's muddy, cranked-up production only enhances its songwriting's skittish sparkle, constantly reminding you that these tracks will make for A-grade sing-alongs. Plus, this record includes a ferocious cover of the Gun Club's "For the Love of Ivy," so let's award Japandroids a couple of bonus points for having great taste and making good on it. With Cadence Weapon. 18+, $15, 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N, Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Reyan Ali

The Promise Ring

Varsity Theater, Wednesday 6.27

Now that seemingly every early '90s alt-rock band with a modicum of talent has successfully mounted a cash-in reunion tour, the ever-accelerating pace of pop-culture nostalgia dictates it's time for late-'90s scene kings to make a run at reunited glory. Hence the return of the Promise Ring, not quite a decade removed from their late-2002 dissolution. Notorious for their shape-shifting ways over the course of their seven years together, the Milwaukee quartet helped launch the then-nascent emo rock movement on the strength of early albums like 1997's Nothing Feels Good before eschewing blistering angular-indie angst in favor first of feel-good Weezer-copping power-pop (1999's commercial high-water mark Very Emergency) and later moody folk-rock (2002's unjustly maligned swan song Wood/Water). Reunion gigs thus far have seen set lists spread the love equally between all the phases of TPR's boldly chameleonic career. With Mark Mallman and Grant Hart. 18+, $25, 8 p.m., 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis, 612.604.0222. —Rob Van Alstyne

Emmylou Harris

Minnesota Zoo Amphitheatre, Thursday 6.28

To call Emmylou Harris a great, even iconic country singer is both paying her an ultimate compliment and a bit misleading. Her fine, reedy voice has confirmed her country credentials by making listeners feel every ounce of heartache for years. But Harris also has more eclectic interests, really tapping the breadth and depth of the musical universe for inspiration, making her a visionary artist in scope and insight. She covers the Louvin Brothers, Johnny Ace, and Springsteen, and her vocals have been paired with Dolly Parton, Mark Knopfler, Conor Oberst, and Elvis Costello. Last year's Hard Bargain was unusual in that Harris wrote most of the material, with striking results about mentor Gram Parsons, post-Katrina New Orleans, the murdered Emmett Till, and her late friend Kate McGarrigle. All their spirits will likely swirl around the stage. Opening will be Field Report, a highly touted Milwaukee outfit with a fall album due that's the brainchild of Chris Porterfield, former bandmate of Bon Iver and Megafaun. $58. 7:30 p.m. 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley; 800.745.3000. —Rick Mason

Twin Cities Jazz Festival

St. Paul, Thursday 6.28 Through Saturday 6.30

The 14th T.C. Jazz Fest, a veritable who's who of the increasingly impressive local jazz scene, will flood St. Paul's clubs throughout its three-day run. You can't go wrong with Mary Louise Knutson, the Zacc Harris Group, Connie Evingson, and Cory Wong, all with sparkling new albums in recent months. The high-profile gigs will take place on two free stages: in leafy Mears Park, surrounded by historic buildings, one of the most gorgeous settings of any urban festival, and on the nearby Sixth Street Stage. Three premier local jazz vocalists will grace the Mears main stage: Pipi Ardennia, Charmin Michelle, and Debbie Duncan. They'll be joined by a grand, eclectic cast: Francisco Mela & Cuban Safar is an expansive bop to Afro-Cuban band led by Cuban drummer Mela, who also often plays with McCoy Tyner and Joe Lovano. The trombonist of the famed New Orleans musical family, Delfeayo Marsalis is as equally steeped in jazz tradition and classical training as his father and brothers. He has a lengthy résumé as a producer, is a high-caliber player mentioned in the same breath as J.J. Johnson, and is a talented composer and arranger, as displayed on his recent version of Duke Ellington's Shakespeare-inspired jazz suite "Such Sweet Thunder." The Araya Orta Latin Jazz Quartet is a Miami-based ensemble sporting two sets of brothers who explore the broad spectrum of Latin jazz. Italian violinist Luca Ciarla straddles the junction of jazz, classical, folk, and contemporary music, employing things like a loop machine to push boundaries in all directions. The most anticipated performance of the festival is the collaboration between the Bad Plus, the iconoclastic, genre blurring trio of local origin, and acclaimed tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman. Notices from their previous performances together have been ecstatic, suggesting ferocious displays of fire and ice. The full festival lineup at Free outdoor stages; check individual clubs for admission fees and times. Various locations in downtown St. Paul. —Rick Mason

Brendan Benson


Varsity Theater, Friday 6.29

While still best known for his stint co-fronting the Raconteurs alongside Jack White, Brendan Benson led a rich musical life long before he ever hooked up with Mr. White Stripe, and continues to hit new highs in his post-Raconteurs solo career with the release of this year's What Kind of World. All that time ripping it up with White has definitely shifted Benson's sound somewhat from the days of breezy power-pop masterpieces like 2002's Lapalco. On his fifth solo album, the amps are turned up and bluesy riffs predominate while maintaining Benson's knack for earworm melodies. Despite all the tough-guy Who-styled rockers, however, it's the poignant piano ballad that hits hardest, with present 89.3 the Current staple "Bad for Me" proving Benson just as adept at emulating top-shelf McCartney as he is the Daltrey/Townshend playbook. With Young Hines and the Howling Brothers. 18+, $15, 7 p.m., 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Rob Van Alstyne

Deep Blues Festival

Bayport BBQ, Friday 6.29 Through Sunday 7.1

After a year's hiatus, the original Deep Blues Festival will be revived this weekend by Chris Johnson, who originated the idea and put on the first four fests beginning in 2007. The 2012 event will be more compact, leaner, maybe meaner, and now will take place at Johnson's juke joint along the St. Croix, the Bayport BBQ. There'll be 26 music acts from four countries and 16 states, but numbers only begin to tell the festival's story. The concept is revolutionary, especially in these latitudes, focusing on music that would seem to have most of its roots in morth Mississippi's Hill Country and the Delta, but whose gritty essence is celebrated with cultlike fervor around the globe. For the uninitiated, deep blues refers to the raw, primal sound of guys like the late R.L. Burnside: intense, down and dirty stuff about straight-edged razors to the throat and moonshine whiskey. And that somehow connected with a punk ethos out of elemental rock 'n' roll, along with the latter's affinity for wild and woolly country, folk, and bluegrass. This year's lineup is littered with wonders to discover and behold. To cull a few off the top of the barrel: David Kimbrough Jr., son of the late blues great Junior Kimbrough; Cincinnati's psychedelic-blues outfit the Buffalo Killers; the fiery, rabid Southern rock of Alabama's Lee Bains & the Glory Fires; gutbucket blues-rock from the Welsh duo Henry's Funeral Shoe; the grainy folk-blues of Iowa's William Elliott Whitmore. Sold out. 4 p.m. Friday, noon Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday. 328 Fifth Ave. N., Bayport; 651.955.6337. —Rick Mason

Joan Jett/Heart

Mystic Lake Casino, Friday 6.29

In a dream lineup for lovers of classic-rock goddesses, Joan Jett and the sisters Heart are coming to Mystic Lake to take us all back to the days of acid-washed jeans, Chevy Caprices, and bodacious hair. A cornerstone of the nostalgic rock tour circuit, this will be Heart's fifth time in the Twin Cities in three years, following an appearance at the Big Minnesota Get Together last August with Def Leppard. It's really former Runaway and legacy badass Joan Jett who makes the lineup special and adds some needed grit. She hasn't been in the Cities since 2006 at First Avenue, though the club honored her and the Blackhearts with a star in its landmark rock-legend constellation in 2010. It probably didn't soften the sting when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gave her a virtual face-palm by passing over her nomination for inclusion into the hallowed halls, but Jett belongs in her own canon of cool. It's not every day you get to see such forces of nature on the same stage — and outdoors, no less. 18+, $35-$47, 8 p.m. 2400 Mystic Lake Blvd., Prior Lake; 952.445.9000. —Jen Boyles

John Prine

Minneosta Zoo Amphitheatre, Friday 6.29

From Montgomery to Paradise, the hint of an illegal smile on his lips, John Prine has probed and dissected the essence of America's character over the past 40 years with a wry humor and sharp insight rivaling Mark Twain's. His first, early-'70s albums were revelations, populated with indelible working-class characters grappling with quiet desperation and worse, etched in folkie tales laced with dusty country, while Prine sang with a downhome twang reflecting his parents' Kentucky roots. Prine wrote those early classics while delivering mail in the Chicago burbs, then first recorded them in an impromptu Chicago studio session and live at a Chi Town club. Prine's Oh Boy label released both last year on The Singing Mailman Delivers, the title adopted from an old Roger Ebert review, and showing that his raw but riveting performances were already delivering the goods. At the zoo, Prine will be backed by bassist Dave Jacques and guitarist Jason Wilber. Willie Watson of Old Crow Medicine Show will open. $67. 7:30 p.m. 13000 Zoo Boulevard, Apple Valley; 80.745.3000. —Rick Mason

The Walkmen


First Avenue, Saturday 6.30

David Byrne had us believing that heaven is the place where nothing ever happens, but then came the Walkmen's Heaven. Its release is the bookend of a decade that saw these East Coast rockers grow from precocious New Yorkers who lucked into a stunning debut with Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone into family men in tailored suits. They're having a lot more fun and have a far higher success rate than bond traders, though. Turns out that Heaven is where some of the finest pop-oriented material of a career happens, like "Heartbreaker" and "The Witch," while losing none of the hand-painted varnish of their older material. All live experiences with the Walkmen are high on style and substance, but there's this undercurrent of danger always lurking too. With Young Man. 18+, $20, 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N, Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Reed Fischer

Still Flyin'

7th St. Entry, Sunday 7.01

Starting life in 2004 as a 15-person, reggae-oriented enterprise fronted by former Masters of the Hemisphere frontman Sean Rawls, Still Flyin' eventually found their way back to the plucky pop sensibilities of Rawls's predecessor band without sacrificing their love for deep grooves. The San Francisco collective's ace third album, the just-released On a Bedroom Wall, throws a stylish New Wave dance party featuring plenty of shiny synthesizer squiggles and jangly guitars. Cross-breeding classic R.E.M.-styled college rock with the sleeker sounds of dance-friendly modern European acts like Phoenix, the album is an instantly ingratiating record chock full of the rare tunes kinetic enough to transform the 7th St. Entry on a Sunday night into a booty-shaking dance party. With the Joseph Bell and Dial-Up. 18+, $8-$10, 8 p.m., 701 First Ave. N, Minneapolis, 612.332.1775. —Rob Van Alstyne

C.J. Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band

Dakota, Tuesday 7.3

Any way you wanna look at it, C.J. Chenier is zydeco royalty. He is, of course, the son of the late, great King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier. But C.J.'s achieved enough on his own to warrant a legitimate claim to the zydeco crown. For one, he's a great singer, commanding a rich, deeply expressive voice. He's also formidable wielding the old squeezebox, plus versatile enough to play saxophone, flute, and keyboards too. And he's put his own contemporary mark on zydeco while remaining true to its swampy roots and retaining the raucous spirit of those southwest Louisiana roadhouses. It took C.J. five years to follow up on his strikingly evocative post-Katrina lament The Desperate Kingdom of Love. But last fall's Can't Sit Down perfectly captures the new disc's party-hearty spirit in the title. A modern sensibility flows through tracks like "Zydeco Boogie," but C.J. and the band also boil up the bayou waters with vintage nuggets like Clfton's "Hot Tamale Baby" and Boozoo's "Paper in My Shoe." Get ready for Louisiana fireworks a day early. $25. 7 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.1010. —Rick Mason

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