Critics' Picks: Sims, Blue Sky Blackout, Old 97's, and more

Sims breaks out with Bad Time Zoo
courtesy of the artist

Sims (CD-release)

Saturday 2.19 at Fine Line Music Café

Calling Doomtree Minneapolis's indie-rap analogue to the Wu-Tang Clan might be bordering on cliché at this point—and a somewhat misleading cliché at that. But when you have a huge hip-hop collective cranking out top-notch solo albums at a rate like we've seen over the last couple of years—P.O.S.'s Never Better, Dessa's A Badly Broken Code, Paper Tiger's Made Like Us, and Lazerbeak's Legend Recognize Legend chief amongst them—it's hard not to think of a frozen-North equivalent to the legendary run that came out of Shaolin in '95-'96. Sims's Bad Time Zoo adds on to that impressive streak, with subject matter that touches on the personal-as-political (and vice versa) and the kind of authoritative flow that emphasizes the truth in the familiar. Nobody's safe from his incendiary focus—"less emotion, more emulsion," as he spits in the chorus to "Burn It Down"—and everyone from liberal-lite do-not-enough-gooders ("One Dimensional Man") to pop-chart perpetrators ("Radio Opaque") gets mowed down under a suite of stress-funk Lazerbeak beats and one of the sharpest lyrical blades in Doomtree's Swiss Army knife. Every member of the Doomtree crew is slated to make appearances at tonight's CD-release show, along with local DJ favorite and Bad Time Zoo scratch provider Plain Ole Bill. 18+. $10/$12 at the door. 8 p.m. 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. —Nate Patrin


Wednesday 2.16 at Cabooze

Galactic's furious future funk ties the myriad facets of New Orleans musical tradition—jazz, brass bands, Mardi Gras Indians, the second line—to the contemporary realm of hip hop, acid jazz, rock, and the avant-garde. The band's ever-adventurous core quintet conjures a ferocious groove anchored by extraordinary drummer Stanton Moore and then wanders far and wide, invariably with an extensive guest krewe ranging from Crescent City icons to cutting-edge rappers. Last year's Ya-Ka-May featured the likes of Irma Thomas and Trombone Shorty, plus an array of artists from the Big Easy hip-hop subculture called bounce. This time around Galactic will be joined by Living Colour vocalist Corey Glover and trombonist Corey Henry of the ReBirth Brass Band. Opening will be the Bridge, a Baltimore band with New Orleans and swamp pop inclinations. 18+. $20/$22 at the door. 8 p.m. 917 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.6425. —Rick Mason

John Devine (CD-release)

Wednesday 2.16 at Loring Pasta Bar

A stalwart of the Twin Cities music scene for several decades, saxophonist and composer John Devine is perhaps most known for IMP ORK, the sizable improvisational ensemble that sometimes worked with the likes of Julius Hemphill and Roscoe Mitchell, as well as for his long tenure playing solo sax at the two incarnations of the Loring Bar. Devine will mark the release of his long overdue album A Little O' That with this performance featuring many of his longtime associates, including cellist Michelle Kinney, trumpeter Jon Pemberton, tuba player Tom Wells, bassist Brock Thorson, and drummer Alden Ikeda. Devine is a superior player whose brawny tone and versatile, often prickly ideas set a strong fulcrum for finely conceived, insinuating original music. There's one smart cover (Monk's "North of the Sunset") on an album that wildly ventures from free jazz maelstroms and post-bop workouts to touches of flamenco, swing, and funk, plus rivulets of sinuous blues, classical, and the avant-garde. Free. 6 p.m. 327 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis; 612.378.4849. —Rick Mason

Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Thursday 2.17 at Orchestra Hall

Though they caught the non-Zulu-speaking world's ear a quarter-century ago with Paul Simon, and launched a quarter-century before that, South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo are still magnificent, still unlike anything else, and still led by the scratchy-voiced tenor who imagined their sound in a dream, Joseph Shabalala. Where the sleeve of 1974's third album, Umama Lo!, showed Shabalala and his various brothers and cousins posing with Mom, the a capella choir now includes four of his sons. The forthcoming children's album, Songs from a Zulu Farm, celebrates the rural life of Shabalala's childhood. (It closes with a hilarious and beautiful version of "Old MacDonald.") Yet the zipping, dipping, astoundingly unified sound of these voices together—as synonymous with democratic South Africa as Nelson Mandela—has evolved and reinvented itself over the years, and remains a wonder live. All ages. $22-$50. 7:30 p.m. 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; 612.371.5656. —Peter S. Scholtes

Blue Sky Blackout (CD-release)

Friday 2.18 at Cause Spirits Soundbar

Jon Hunt is no stranger to Twin Cities music listeners—one of his earliest bands, Lunar 9, landed on our Picked to Click poll in the late '90s—but he brought out the big guns for his latest project, Blue Sky Blackout. Continuing in the vein of sprawling Brit rock that has characterized many of Hunt's other bands, BSB—nothing short of a supergroup—boasts perhaps his biggest sound yet, with former Astronaut Wife member Christian Erickson's booming vocals fronting a three-guitar wall of sound. John Hughes, the EP being unveiled tonight, mixes those ingredients together with an unabashed love for Doctor Who and '80s teen movies with the type of cocksure showmanship that only comes with years of experience. With Grant Cutler and Gorgeous Joe Johnson, Original Mark Edwards, and the Seeks. 21+. $6. 9 p.m. 3001 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.822.600. —Jeff Gage

Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band

Saturday 2.19 at First Avenue

The last time Josh Ritter was in town, the Idaho-born singer-songwriter played the swanky digs at Orchestra Hall, melding wry Americana with the backing of the Minnesota Orchestra. It was a unique and remarkable performance, one that kept even the man himself grinning throughout at the rich layers of sound a constellation of musicians added to his hyperliterate folk-rock. Ritter's sound is textured and unpretentious, but his lyrics sharply articulate a vast range of emotions and insights. If you've heard the heartbreaking "The Curse" from his latest album, So Runs the World Away, you won't be surprised to hear that the bandleader is also prepping to release his first novel, Bright's Passage, from Random House this summer. But just because Ritter works in the capital-A Arts doesn't mean he can't put on a compelling rock show, as evidenced by the rollicking, jaunty tunes on 2007's The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter. Look for a little of both at his First Ave show this week, where he and his Royal City Band will be joined by Scott Hutchison of the Scottish indie-rock outfit Frightened Rabbit. 18+. $20. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8388. —Bryan Miller

Old 97's

Sunday 2.20 at First Avenue

Having suggested, on 2004's "Won't Be Home," that the unquenchable longing souring so many relationships goes back to a person's exit from the womb, Old 97's singer Rhett Miller keeps working the same theme of separation and distance regardless, across a bright career spanning indies and majors, solo and band albums, Dallas alt-country and what now sounds like U.K. garage pop (on last year's The Grand Theatre Volume One). Does it help that he sounds not much older than Justin Bieber? Opening are Those Darlins, who have Kirsty MacColl's attitude and the Soviettes' attack, which makes them sound like the girl group Patsy Cline never joined, plus raunch. 18+. $20. 7 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8388. —Peter S. Scholtes

Randy Newman

Monday 2.21 at Guthrie Theater

Although he's an L.A. kinda guy, to the point of writing film soundtracks and being responsible for the city's unofficial anthem (thanks to widespread misinterpretation of its irony) "I Love L.A.," Randy Newman spent many of his formative years in New Orleans—which goes a long way toward explaining his rampaging quirkiness, along with the persistent Crescent City traits in his piano work. He's a satirist with an amiably sardonic world view, his songs usually amounting to comic adventures in misanthropy. All ages. $43-$45. 7:30 p.m. 818 S. Second St., Minneapolis; 612.377.2224. —Rick Mason

Vinicius Cantuária & Bill Frisell

Tuesday 2.22 at Cedar Cultural Center

Although Bill Frisell and Vinicius Cantuária have played together in various configurations for more than two decades, their new album, Lágrimas Mexicanas, is their first one-on-one collaboration. And it's a beaut, a sophisticated, finely textured summit of Frisell's eclectic, experimental guitar work and Cantuária's contemporary bossa nova sorties spiced with additional Latin roots. Acoustic guitarist Cantuária lives in Brooklyn but sings with the sultry melodic intrigue of his native Brazil. Frisell, the idiosyncratic guitar visionary steeped in a wide array of Americana roots and jazz, creates a complementary tapestry of conspiratorial pulses, tones, loops, and rhythms that give the material sublime and unique dimension. All ages. $35-$45. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rick Mason

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