Electric Fetus Reborn, Song of Zarathustra, and more

Justin Townes Earle, a powerful songwriter with a potent history

Justin Townes Earle, a powerful songwriter with a potent history


Basia Bulat

The Cedar

Toronto native Basia Bulat's 2007 debut, Oh, My Darling, etched a fine line among traditional folk, alt-pop, folk rock, and chamber folk while her dusky, vibrato-rich voice lent a distinctively organic pungency to the entire affair. That earthy flair is also at the core of her new album, Heart of My Own, again produced by Howard Bilerman (of Arcade Fire fame), and densely packed with Bulat's mystical musings about love's vagaries. She wrote many of the songs after a visit to the Yukon, and if some, like "Gold Rush," have an obvious link, the entire album has a brash, frontier quality, whether on a brittle mountain ballad such as "Sparrow" (featuring just voice and ukulele) or a full-blown, galloping romp like "Go On," haunted by shadowy demons. Dual violins give a baroque elegance to "Sugar and Spice," carrying over to the intro of "Gold Rush," which quickly shifts into a charging, Celtic-tinged folk-rocker. In fact, Bulat draws on elements from Appalachia, the Balkans, Bavarian music halls, vintage country, the Byrds, and jazz, while employing an equally eccentric mix of instruments from autoharp, banjo, and uke to French horn, cello, and organ. Holding it all together is Bulat's charming blend of resilient strength, cautious vulnerability, and resolute spirit. And those folk-rock hooks. All ages. $10. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rick Mason


Justin Townes Earle

Turf Club

Even before he played a note, Justin Townes Earle had a potent legacy to deal with, as the son of renegade singer/songwriter Steve Earle and the namesake of Texas troubadour Townes Van Zandt. With two albums under his belt, the younger Earle has been able to not only live up to expectations, but also manage it on his own terms. His songs tell stories with emotional depth, such as the convoluted love morass "Someday I'll Be Forgiven for This," a weepy country-folk lament from last year's Midnight at the Movies. He can do straight country, too, as in the fiddle- and pedal steel-driven, Bakersfieldesque "Poor Fool"; country blues ("They Killed John Henry"); and jaunty string-band music ("Black Eyed Suzy"), each time sketching vivid characters snared by intractable forces. Earle's casually eclectic sweep of Americana may suggest his father's, but he pushes it in his own unique directions, such as on the bluegrassy, mandolin-etched cover of the Replacements' "Can't Hardly Wait." And his voice and perspective are entirely his own, ones likely to be reckoned with for years to come. With Joe Pug. 21+. $12/$14 at the door. 8 p.m. 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. —Rick Mason

Portugal. The Man

Varsity Theater

Instead of trekking out into the tundra to go to the record store and buy hot new pop music, it feels like the members of Portugal. The Man spent a number of frigid Alaskan winters indoors, strumming along to their parents' dusty LPs. While an early incarnation of the band leaned toward progressive post-rock, the last couple of albums have doubled up on the hooks while exposing roots in the classic-rock canon, tinges of soul and protest songs peeking out from the borders of their most recent material. But it's unfair to lump them in with the glut of rootsy folk acts that have recently gained a foothold in indie; Portugal's sound skews far more muscular, and they're not frightened to break out scores of giant, buzzing guitar riffs or cheeky group sing-alongs. Sure, they take their name from a foreign country hundreds of miles away, but they've synthesized their influences into an aesthetic that's bathed in pure, uncut Americana. With Port O'Brien and the Dig. 18+. $13/$15 at the door. 8 p.m. 1308 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.604.0222. —Ian Traas


The Brass Kings (CD-release show)

The Cedar

A live performance by the Brass Kings needs to be experienced to be appreciated. The local trio channel generations of American roots music with their unique takes on folk and bluegrass, with Steve Kauol playing elliptical Ry Cooder- and Steve Earle-inspired resonator guitar while bandmates Brad Ptacek and Mikkel Beckmen work furiously at their washtub bass and assorted household utensils. Whipping up high-octane renditions of traditional and original pieces, the Brass Kings play with a sense of humor typical of contemporary bluegrass musicians and a down-home abandon that invariably gets the crowd moving. The Cedar's spacious environs are ideally suited to these shows, so it's virtually inevitable that the Kings would choose to collect a series of recordings from the venue on their newest album, Live Humdinger, which they're releasing tonight. That way you can experience the real deal, then take home the closest thing you can get to the real deal as an artifact from the show. With special guests. All ages. $10/$12 at the door. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Jeff Gage

The Electric Fetus Reborn

First Avenue and 7th St. Entry

The eclectic lineup alone is bound to get a wide variety of local music fans snatching up tickets to this benefit concert, and the fact that it's for a good cause only ups the ante. The Electric Fetus Reborn will feature the re-emergence of Cloud Cult, who have been off the tour circuit for the past six months as lead singer Craig Minowa and his wife Connie had a child. According to a recent press release, Minowa has spent their hiatus working on new material (they have a new album in the works, set to be released later this year), so their set at First Ave will likely feature some unreleased songs—but get there early, as the headliners at this benefit will be playing an unusually early set at 8 p.m. Other bands on the bill range from a hefty portion of singer-songwriter and folky fare (Jeremy Messersmith, Caroline Smith & the Goodnight Sleeps, Peter Wolf Crier, Roma di Luna) to more musically diverse groups like hip-hop duo Unknown Prophets, honky-tonkers Trailer Trash, '60s pop revivalists Total Babe, dance-pop group Ruby Isle (featuring local piano man Mark Mallman), and a unique collaboration between experimental guitar player Bill Mike and beatboxer Carnage. Most of the ticket proceeds will benefit the reconstruction of the Electric Fetus, which was hit by a tornado last summer and suffered extensive damage, and a dollar from each ticket will benefit relief efforts in Haiti. 18+. $16/$20 at the door. 7 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Andrea Swensson


Song of Zarathustra

Triple Rock

After the hell he's put them through, it's a wonder that Travis Bos's vocal cords haven't exploded through his neck. Minneapolis hardcore lovers will remember Bos's old band, Song of Zarathustra, with a wistful tear in their eye, fondly recalling local venues filled with man-on-fire screams and peals of feedback (and maybe even the fact that their ears invariably rang for two days after seeing the band live). Bos has had a hand in a few bands after SOZ called it a day in 2003, but none have had as great an impact as his best-known group, so the news of a reunion show was enough to send shivers of anticipation down the spines of fans all over the Twin Cities. SOZ trafficked in sounds that were fast, raw, and unapologetically abrasive, and even though they've been defunct for seven years, the excitement around this event makes it hard to predict that they'll provide anything other than the thrashing intensity that made their name. With Gay Witch Abortion, STNNNG, and Atlantis Audio Archive. 18+. $8. 9 p.m. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. —Ian Traas


Laura Veirs

The Cedar

July Flame is a variety of peach Laura Veirs came across in an Oregon farmers' market. Their sweet beauty inspired her new album's title track, a lush evocation of a midsummer night's reverie, as exquisitely complex as the life teeming at that time of year. But with a slight hitch in her voice and Eyvind King's somber viola lurking deep in the mix, Veirs also provides a bittersweet hint that it's all ephemeral; July's fecund felicity inevitably yields to February's frost, and with it, she suggests, maybe love fades away, too. July Flame is a change in direction for Veirs. After several band-oriented albums for Nonesuch, she released the new one on her own Raven Marching Band Records while going for a sparer sound built around her fingerpicked guitar. The tracks are hardly bare, however, their myriad elements instead flitting about elegantly sculpted spaces: a muted choral group sidling up alongside an acoustic guitar here, splashes of Bacharach-like horns there, swirling vocal currents from Veirs and My Morning Jacket's Jim James flirting with each other against distant percussive thunder, a sneaky trace of pedal steel, a stray string quartet. With Veirs's voice often floating ethereally over the meticulous arrangements, it's almost like a subtle orchestration of summer's natural forces, in harmony until the season passes. Veirs will be backed by the Halls of Flame, likely including many of those contributing to the album. Opening will be fellow Portlanders Old Believers and Seattle's Cataldo, led by former Macalester College student Eric Anderson. All ages. $12/$14 at the door. 7 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Rick Mason