Critics' Picks: Lucero, Thomas Dolby, White Rabbits, and more

Das Racist: Postmodern rap saviors?
Biz 3

Das Racist

Triple Rock Social Club, Thursday 4.5

Heems, Kool A.D., and their hype-man Dapwell make up the Brooklyn-bred, left-field rap group Das Racist, who have risen to indie prominence thanks to their uniquely postmodern take on hip hop. The style is languid and pot-soaked, but generously supplied with literary references, rap in-jokes, racial and cultural politics, and legitimately tight bars. With nods from Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and Spin regarding last year's album Relax, and their pair of free projects Shut Up, Dude and Sit Down, Man, the group's buzz has sustained far beyond their initial viral hit, "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell," a repetitious screed of a song (the title is its only lyric) that could be taken as sociopolitical commentary — or pure blather. The thin line between these sides is where Das Racist sit most comfortably, muddying hip hop's tropes with humor and self-awareness while still respecting the culture at its core. 18+, $17-20, 9 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. —Jack Spencer

Lucero / William Elliott Whitmore

First Avenue Mainroom, Wednesday 4.4

Although a punkish mix of rock 'n' roll and country has long been Lucero's hallmark, the band has finally fully embraced its Memphis roots. Like 2009's 1372 Overton Park, new album Women & Work is marbled with potent Memphis elements: bristling horns from Jim Spake and Scott Thompson, Rick Steff's roiling organ, classic soul, North Mississippi blues, southern fried pop, and even a gospel choir on the billowy finale, "Go Easy." Just before that is the lusty honky-tonk rocker "Like Lightning," while "Juniper" sounds like a Skynyrd session at Stax, and "On My Way Downtown" suggests a country soul summit attended by the Stones and Springsteen. Raspy voiced frontman Ben Nichols, meanwhile, continues to write sharp tales of opportunities lost, found, and astray, ricocheting between rowdiness and poignancy. Opening will be Iowa folk-blues troubadour William Elliott Whitmore, whose creaky, harrowing voice and sparse acoustic picking on guitar and banjo lament current (especially rural) hard times ("like a tree by the river I'm hangin' on") while holding out hope for a miracle. 18+, $20, 8 p.m., 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Rick Mason

We Are Augustines

Fine Line Music Cafe, Wednesday 4.4

Billy McCarthy knows well what it takes to withstand tough times, and he's poured all of his lessons learned into Arise Ye Sunken Ships, the excellent debut album from his new group We Are Augustines. McCarthy's first band, Pela, built up significant buzz for its anthemic brand of indie rock on both coasts before running aground amid bad record label breaks and worse luck on the road — two separate major tours were cut short due to freak stage accidents. At the same time McCarthy's band was unraveling, his incarcerated schizophrenic brother committed suicide while in solitary confinement. Instead of letting all these trials and tribulations break his spirit, McCarthy channeled them into a set of cathartic tunes that tackle victimization and self-doubt head on, beating back the darkness with bold and triumphant melodies. Deeply autobiographical songs chronicling his brother's struggle with mental illness ("Book of James," "Patton State Hospital") are balanced nicely by wider-lens portraits of everyday people in turmoil ("Headlong into the Abyss," "Chapel Song"), and it's all set to a densely layered yet instantly ingratiating brand of jagged-edge indie rock. With Band of Skulls. 18+, $18, 8 p.m., 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. —Rob Van Alstyne

Pretty Boy Thorson

Hexagon Bar, Friday 4.6 + Saturday 4.7

It's been a turbulent ride for Pretty Boy Thorson and the Falling Angels. The band has more spin-offs than Happy Days, but the Falling Angels keep pulling back together. On Friday and Saturday, the band is taking over the Hexagon for back-to-back nights to record a live album. Thorson is likely to be belligerent and brash onstage as the band rips through sorrowful songs masking country woe behind sing-along punk. Beer and whiskey will serve as the unifying ingredients between the seemingly different styles. But don't expect the songs to be tear-jerkers. Thorson and company offer a riot of energy to contradict their downer content. It's not so much crawling into a bottle to forget one's troubles as it is a call to celebrate the common bonds of human emotion. The odds are good that the band will mix in a few songs from the Slow Death's 2011 release Born Ugly, Got Worse too. 21+, free, 10 p.m. 2700 27th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.722.3454. —Loren Green

Thomas Dolby

Cedar Cultural Center, Friday 4.6

Thomas Dolby cultivated a mad scientist schtick that still persists decades after his quirky 1983 hit "She Blinded Me With Science." Back then, he was something of an electronics/synth pop/multimedia pioneer whose influence eventually surpassed his own hits. Dolby had another reasonably large hit with "Hyperactive" in 1984, followed by an increasingly lower profile while scoring films as well as working as a producer and session musician with artists ranging from Joni Mitchell to Prefab Sprout to George Clinton. Resurfacing after a two-decade-or-so hiatus, he's mixing the sci-fi stuff with a vintage Indiana Jones look while dragging along on tour a 1930s-ish trailer dubbed the Time Capsule in which fans can record "a personal video message to the future." While words of wisdom are preserved for subsequent generations, Dolby presumably will deliver songs from last fall's Map of the Floating City, whose 11 tracks are divided into three divergent sections: the dark, electronica-dominated "Urbanoia," roots-oriented "Amerikana," and breezy, ethereal "Oceanea." With swinging London horns flitting about, retro synths, and well-crafted, mostly traditional songcraft, it's primarily a case of back to the future. $25, 8 p.m., 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rick Mason

Irvin Mayfield Quintet: A Love Letter to New Orleans

Orchestra Hall, Friday 4.6

Trumpeter, composer, bandleader, educator, and cultural dynamo Irvin Mayfield may include on his lengthy résumé jazz artistic director of the Minnesota Orchestra, but his heart belongs to New Orleans. Formidable Crescent City guests joining Mayfield and his quintet include iconic singer Aaron Neville, whose remarkable, fluttery vocals have been integral to New Orleans music since the '50s; master percussionist Bill Summers, who played with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters and with Mayfield co-founded the Latin saturated Los Hombres Calientes; and drummer/vibraphonist Jason Marsalis. TV journalist Soledad O'Brien will serve as host. The evening's repertoire will be largely drawn from the compilation CD accompanying Mayfield's lavishly illustrated book of the same name, a deeply personal rumination on the city and its music, featuring a striking cover portrait by famed jazz photographer Herman Leonard. The music, drawn from various Mayfield projects, runs the New Orleans gamut from Mardi Gras Indian stuff to jazz, gospel, funk, blues, the piano tradition, and raucous brass bands. $25-55, 8 p.m., 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.371.5656. —Rick Mason

Heiruspecs' Third Annual Scholarship Fundraiser Show

Turf Club, Saturday 4.7

St. Paul hip-hop collective Heiruspecs still remember where they came from, and keep giving back to the students of their alma mater, St. Paul Central High School. All the proceeds from these two performances at the Turf Club go to the Heiruspecs Scholarship Fund to benefit SPCHS students who have an active interest in the arts. The fund was created in 2010 in a partnership between the group and the Saint Central High School Foundation, which has since given out over $6,000 in scholarships to Central students pursuing higher education. In addition to Heiruspecs, there will also be performances from Audio Perm, Meta, the Deaf, and many more, including some special guests at the late show. $10-$12, all ages at 5 p.m., 21+ at 9 p.m., 1601 University Ave, St. Paul; 651.647.0486. —ERik Thompson

Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps / Retribution Gospel Choir

First Avenue Mainroom, Saturday 4.7

After selling out First Avenue for the release party of Little Wind in September, and opening for Dawes's New Year's Eve gigs, Caroline Smith & the Goodnight Sleeps hit the road for a lengthy U.S. tour that brings them back to First Avenue on Saturday night. While the band's heartfelt, countrified folk-rock can only be strengthened by the added experience, Caroline and co. didn't really need much improving in the first place. Duluth's Retribution Gospel Choir should add some volatile punch to the bill, as Alan Sparhawk frequently works out some gritty guitar riffs with RGC that he doesn't get to unload in his subdued other band, Low. 18+. $12. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Erik Thompson

White Rabbits

Triple Rock Social Club, Saturday 4.7

Already labeled Spoon's promising kid brother based on the prickly, highly danceable post-punk found on their 2007 debut, White Rabbits further welcomed the comparison by enlisting Spoon frontman Britt Daniel to produce their follow-up, 2009's It's Frightening. On the freshly released Milk Famous, however, the NYC sextet appear to have finally stepped out fully from behind the sizable shadow of their primary influence. A dark and warped listen, Milk Famous manages to cuddle up to cacophony without giving up the groove, with distorted keyboard textures and haphazard guitar riffs finding a tightly rhythmic counterpoint in the smooth performances of the band's dual percussionists. Even with their embrace of the strange, White Rabbits still traffic in imminently danceable tuneage. With Gull, 18+, $14, 8 p.m., 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. —Rob Van Alstyne

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >