Critics' Picks: Kreayshawn, the Tragically Hip, Patrick Watson, and more

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Jackie Roman

New York Night Train Soul Clap & Dance-Off

Turf Club, Saturday 12.1

Jonathan Toubin might be the crown prince of American soul-funk DJs. Obsessed with obscure 45s from the '50s and '60s, the New York icon aims to produce the energy and pacing of a modern club night, but with gritty, raw tunes that almost no one except a few crazed collectors and spinners have heard before. Toubin fell out of commission after a nearly fatal freak accident in Portland last year, but now he's back, bringing his legendary DJ night and dance contest. Expect the usual parade of unknown floor-fillers from Toubin's vaults, plus some familiar judges including 89.3 the Current's Andrea Swensson, Dillinger 4's Paddy Costello, Doomtree rapper Mike Mictlan, tour manager extraordinaire Robyn Lewis, prime scribe Steve Marsh, Jen "DJ Hot Roxx" Hughes, and City Pages music editor Reed Fischer. Anticipate a sweaty good time. With Lady Heat Hot Soul Party and Hipshaker's Brian Engel. 21+, $10, 9 p.m. 1601 University Ave., St Paul; 651.647.0486. —Ian S. Port

Cold Specks

Cedar Cultural Center, Wednesday 11.28

The musical project of songstress Al Spx, a 23-year-old Canadian transplant currently burning up the U.K.'s indie scene, Cold Specks' debut album, I Predict a Graceful Expulsion, is a record full of subtle yet stunning sonic pleasures. Sporting a self-described "doom soul" sound, Spx's gospel-inflected crooning proves the ideal emotive vehicle for her icy lyrical insights and glacially paced anthems built around minimalist piano figures and hypnotic guitar riffs. Fans of the National should warm to the similarly slow-burning seductiveness in Cold Specks' sound, while anyone with a pulse will appreciate the power of Spx's singular singing voice. With Claire De Lune of the Chalice and Shahar Eberzon. All ages, $10-$12, 7 p.m., 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rob Van Alstyne

Dirty Baby: Nels Cline, David Breskin, Ed Ruscha

Walker Art Center, Thursday 11.29

Dirty Baby is a multimedia collaboration among guitarist Nels Cline, poet David Breskin, and visual artist Ed Ruscha. It was inspired by two sets of paintings by the L.A.-based avant-gardist Ruscha: Silhouettes, dark images that Breskin has described as "a time-lapse history of Western civilization," and Cityscapes, consisting of black strips on single-color fields with aggressive titles like "You Cross Me I Wanna See Blood" and "You Will Eat Hot Lead." The subtext of both is U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Breskin wrote poems for each image in the style of Middle Eastern ghazals, which are meant to be accompanied by music. Cline plays guitar for Wilco, but has also ranged from jazz into the avant-garde. His six-part suite for Silhouettes has an Americana influence (thanks to pedal steel and banjo) but ventures widely into metal-edged rock, free jazz, and funk. Originally released as a book/recording combination in 2010, Dirty Baby has been performed only once before. The impressive eight-member ensemble Cline will lead includes keyboardist Yuka Honda of Ciba Matto, plus Nels Cline Singers percussionist Scott Amendola and bassist Devin Hoff. $25. 8 p.m. 1750 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.375.7600. —Rick Mason

Irma Thomas

Dakota Jazz Club, Thursday 11.29

Irma Thomas has been a treasured soul icon of New Orleans music for more than 50 years. The power and glory of her indelible voice and her infectious stage presence have endeared her to generations of fans, who wave their hankies and put their backfields in motion while second-lining to her version of some NOLA nugget like "Iko Iko." Thomas is responsible for a string of touchstones, including "Don't Mess with My Man," "It's Raining," "Wish Someone Would Care," "Ruler of My Heart," and "Time Is on My Side" (which the Rolling Stones hijacked and turned into a massive hit). After Katrina hit, washing away Thomas's house and club, her wrenching reading of Bessie Smith's "Backwater Blues" helped define the emotional devastation of the tragedy. But just as New Orleans always parties through its tears, Irma's shows ultimately are always for pleasure. $50-$60 at 7 p.m., $40-$50 at 9 p.m. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.332.5299. —Rick Mason

Gary Burger

Lee's Liquor Lounge, Friday 11.30

Sorry, R.T. Rybak. Cult hero Gary Burger is the most punk-rock mayor in Minnesota, hands down. Prior to holding office in the town of Turtle River, Minnesota (population: 77), Burger was the leader of one of the most influential garage-punk bands of the mid-'60s. While the Castaways and the Trashmen were back home in Minneapolis recording surf hits, Burger's band the Monks were touring the German club circuit, melding garage-rock and pop with bizarre sounds like electric banjo and fuzzed-out guitars — all while dressed like honest-to-tonsured monks, complete with shaved heads and black robes. When Burger leaves Turtle River to come down to the Cities for a rare show, hundreds of audiophiles turn out to see him perform. And for good reason: Burger still plays the songs from his seminal Black Monk Time with a blazing ferocity that would put most modern hardcore punk bands to shame. Come early for rockabilly punk revivalists L'Assassins. 21+, $10, 10 p.m., 101 Glenwood Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.9491. —Andrea Swensson

Os Mutantes

Cedar Cultural Center, Friday 11.30

Amid the cultural and political turbulence of 1960s Brazil, Os Mutantes joined the likes of Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil in the role of surrealistic pranksters, taunting the military dictators while fashioning a cannibalistic approach to art and music that still resonates decades later. The Tropicália movement gobbled up psychedelic, pop, and rock influences from around the globe, fused them with samba and other Brazilian roots, and tossed in Marxist absurdities, ambient noise, and provocative lyrics. Many Tropicálistas were forced into exile until the dictatorship fell, and Os Mutantes broke up in the '70s, only to eventually see artists like David Byrne, Beck, and a slew of others adopt their cut-and-paste philosophy. Original Mutante Sérgio Dias resurrected the band in the mid '00s and put out an album, Haih . . . ou Amortecedor, that pretty much picked up where it left off on rock's eccentric fringes three decades before. The brotherly duo Writer opens. $20-$25. 8 p.m., 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —RIck Mason

The Tragically Hip

Mill City Nights, Friday 11.30

Longtime stars in their native Canada, the Tragically Hip have never made the leap beyond large rock clubs here in the States, despite repeated efforts. With their aptly titled 13th album, Now for Plan A, the veteran quintet clearly aren't worried about pleasing anyone but themselves anymore. While prior latter-day Hip albums occasionally suffered for their stabs at adult-contemporary pop-rock, Now for Plan A plays to the band's strengths. No pandering to American radio formats here, just plenty of blasts of muscular mid-tempo rock punctuated by the frantic theatrical vocals of Gordon Downie, still reeling off cryptic yet compelling lyrics 29 years into the Hip's career. If past local shows are any indication, expect plenty of well lubricated and highly impassioned road-tripping Canadians to help pack the club. 18+, $30-$33, 8 p.m., 111 Fifth St. N., Minneapolis; 612.333.3422. —Rob Van Alstyne

Patrick Watson

Cedar Cultural Center, Saturday 12.1

Patrick Watson's music first gained notoriety via a series of elegant chamber pop records, notably 2009's Polaris Music Prize-nominated Wooden Arms. For his fourth album, Adventures in Your Own Backyard, the Montreal-bred talent and his longtime backing band have scaled back the sonic grandeur, serving up a streamlined version of their sound that rightly shines the spotlight on Watson's Jeff Buckley-reminiscent windpipes. While French horns, piccolos, and clarinets still pop up on occasion to provide some lovely complementary melodic coloring, the bulk of Backyard relies on Watson's voice to hook listeners, a task for which his nimble instrument repeatedly proves up to the task. With Half Moon Run. All ages, $15, 7 p.m., 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rob Van Alstyne

The World/Inferno Friendship Society/O'Death

Triple Rock Social Club, Saturday 12.1

The spirited orchestral punk-cabaret of Brooklyn's the World/Inferno Friendship Society and the rousing Americana-rock of O'Death come together for a co-headlining Triple Rock show set to get December started with a bang. The unconventional vaudevillian collective that is the World/Inferno Friendship Society are fresh off of their fabled annual Halloween show (which they have dubbed "Hallowmas"), and are now set to celebrate the release of an exhilarating new 7-inch and comic book, which perfectly complements the group's artsy, convivial aesthetic. O'Death are still touring behind the stark, uplifting beauty of 2011's Outside, a stirring collection of songs partly inspired by the cancer treatment and survival of their drummer, David Rogers-Berry. With Wild Yaks. 18+, $15, 8 p.m. 629 Cedar Avenue, Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. —Erik Thompson

Kreayshawn/Rye Rye

Varsity Theater, Sunday 12.2

Kreayshawn may be ending 2012 feeling less like Nicki Minaj and more like the Numa Numa guy. The Bay Area's most popular white female rapper of 2011 has been trudging north through the East Coast leg of her Group Hug Tour for the bulk of November — just 13 months after the last person on Earth spoke the words, "Have you seen that 'Gucci Gucci' Youtube video?" With paltry crowd turnouts reported from Tampa Bay to the weather-rebounding populous of Manhattan, Kreayshawn's biggest East Coast supporter may be tourmate and Baltimore native Rye Rye. The Maryland crew member is also the strongest argument for attendance to their Sunday tour stop at the Varsity. Where Kreayshawn's cavernous mid-tempo trash oft mentions starting a party, Rye Rye's fondness for house textures actually has the capacity to get the job done. Hopefully the party won't stop when she does. 16+, $18-$20, 6:30 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Andrew Penkalski

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