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Liars, Widespread Panic, and more: Critics' Picks

The late Bill Hinkley, with his longtime partner Judy Larson
Eve MacLeish

WEDNESDAY 7.7

A Tribute to Bill Hinkley

Nicollet Island Pavilion

It's tempting to say the heart and soul of the Twin Cities folk scene, forever centered on Minneapolis's West Bank, died along with master musician and raconteur Bill Hinkley, who succumbed to a blood disorder at age 67 on May 25. But it wouldn't be true, because the indefatigable spirit of Hinkley—along with his wit, wisdom, and encyclopedic knowledge of music in general and picking in particular—lives on among his many friends, colleagues, students, and fans encountered over some four decades here. It is no exaggeration that he could play virtually anything on guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and banjo. He and Judy Larson, his wife and musical partner, were regulars in the early days of A Prairie Home Companion, and played countless gigs in clubs and backyards, as well as on many of their friends' recordings. Their masterpiece was Out in Our Meadow, a double album released by Red House in 1987. At the time, Judy compared its issuance to giving birth. This tribute concert will likely feature scores of musicians who were Bill's friends. An early list just begins with Paul Metsa, Dan Newton, Marya Hart, Becky Thompson, Willie Murphy, Mary Dushane, and Cal Hand. Donations will cover costs, with any extra going to fund scholarships at the West Bank School of Music and Homestead Pickin' Parlor, where Hinkley taught. All ages. 5 p.m. 40 Power St., Minneapolis; 612.253.0255. —Rick Mason

Widespread Panic

Orpheum Theatre

Renowned as a great live band and among the leading lights of the jam-band circuit throughout their near quarter-century, Athens, Georgia's Widespread Panic concentrate on old-fashioned songcraft on their new album, Dirty Side Down—all the better as a solid launching pad for WP's free-flowing live escapades. There is, of course, evidence of Panic's improvisational prowess on Dirty, most prominently on the instrumental "St. Louis," a terser version of a concert staple that still manages to ramble deep into jazz and blues terrain via Jerry Garcia-like guitar work. That the rest of the tracks work nicely as songs is a tribute to WP's dual strengths, as well their eclecticism. Over the course of the hour-plus album, the mood shifts from the haunting, plaintive cover of the late Vic Chesnutt's "This Cruel Thing" to exuberant boogie-fueled Southern rockers like "Cotton Was King." Elsewhere there's an amiable country rocker ("Clinic Cynic"), muscular blues-rock ("North"), a New Orleans-style shuffle ("When You Coming Home"), and an ambitious, mercurial tribute to Le Petit Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that wends its way from gossamer surrealism to gritty rock with an undercurrent of Latin rhythms, just the stuff for a prime Panic attack. $35. 7:30 p.m. 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.339.7007. —Rick Mason

THURSDAY 7.8

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

Minnesota Zoo Weesner Amphitheater

Nearly 20 years into his career, Troy Andrews is suddenly a phenomenon. His hotly anticipated major-label debut album, Backatown, was greeted with ecstatic reviews when it was released in April. He has a prominent role in Treme, the HBO series based in his New Orleans neighborhood. And he and his crack band, Orleans Avenue, have been all over the festival circuit as well as touring Europe this spring. Andrews, a.k.a. Trombone Shorty (a nickname he long ago outgrew), is all of 24, but has been well-known on the Crescent City music scene since he was barely taller than his trombone. Spectacularly eclectic, Backatown (named for a tough part of town where early jazz developed) brings together everything Andrews absorbed in New Orleans (funky brass bands, second line, Mardi Gras Indians, trad and contemporary jazz) and elsewhere (funk, pop, soul, hip hop), and whips it back out with a flourish, from blistering brass band and funk workouts to a blazing jazz foray led by Andrews's soaring trumpet, and a shimmering, jazzy, funky cover of Allen Toussaint's "On Your Way Down" (sporting Andrews's charismatic vocals and Toussaint on piano). Opener Tab Benoit was a crusader for protecting Louisiana's ravaged wetlands even before the current gulf oil disaster's epicenter erupted near his hometown of Houma. His electric blues are spiced with a variety of south Louisiana elements—New Orleans, Cajun, Creole. He'll be backed by the veteran Crescent City outfit Louisiana's Leroux. $28. 7:30 p.m. 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley; 952.431.9200. —Rick Mason

FRIDAY 7.9

Greg Brown

Minnesota Zoo Weesner Amphitheater

As poetic as William Blake, as raw as some old blues guy scratching away at a hand-built guitar somewhere in the Delta, Greg Brown easily ranks among the essential songwriters of this era. Certainly a folkie, perhaps the quintessential Iowa troubadour, but also someone whose music reflects a deep understanding of real country, rootsy rock 'n' roll, blues, and even soul, Brown stands almost alone in his ability and willingness to cut to the heart of things without being maudlin, condescending, contrived, or any number of other deadly songwriting sins. Yet Brown, as distinctly tied to the Midwestern cultural and physical terrain as Springsteen is to New Jersey, can be blissfully sentimental (paeans to Iowa's tiny towns and his grandma's canned goods), shamelessly romantic, downright rhapsodic about such minutiae as the aroma of coffee, unapologetically nostalgic ("The Train Carrying Jimmie Rodgers Home"). He can be a little silly, too. As he's gotten older, he hasn't shied from maturity, especially in his love songs ("Milk of the Moon"), his characters have struggled with more intractable moral dilemmas, and his anger over the indignities foisted on the modern world has only reached sharper pique. Expect Brown to reach deep into his rich catalogue. Also on hand will be longtime Brown collaborator Bo Ramsey, a superb guitarist (especially on slide), producer (for the likes of Lucinda Williams), and himself a performer of roots-oriented material. $30. 7:30 p.m. 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley; 952.431.9200. —Rick Mason

FRIDAY 7.9

Kendra Shank

Artists' Quarter

New York-based singer Kendra Shank is frequently cited as one of jazz's most inventive vocalists, high praise that she has confirmed repeatedly over the years via her busy club schedule in the city and a relatively sparse but superb catalogue of recordings. On her latest, 2009's Mosaic, Shank's voice is as lovely as ever, a refined instrument that glows ever brighter thanks to her mastery of technique and painting tonal colors. But Shank really excels in her brilliantly unique phrasing, which allows her to create highly original interpretations of songs by coaxing multiple layers of nuance from the lyrics. In this she is admirably abetted by her first-rate working band: pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist Dean Johnson, drummer Tony Moreno. Mosaic unexpectedly kicks off with a straightforward but beautiful version of Carole King's "So Far Away," Shank's voice doing a languid dance with Billy Drewes's clarinet. On Cedar Walton's "Life's Mosaic," Shank unleashes a wondrous array of vocal feints and jabs as well as a ferocious dynamic range, all centered on a scat foray that seems to create its own language. Equally formidable is her soaring version of "Blue Skies," which she builds from an improvised melody and impressionistic improv to a striking version that rivals the iconic Patsy Cline standard. Backing Shank at the AQ will be local musicians Bryan Nichols (piano), Terry Burns (bass), and Phil Hey (drums). $17. 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651.292.1359. Also Saturday —Rick Mason

SATURDAY 7.10

Cro-Mags

Triple Rock

The '80s New York hardcore scene gave rise to a slew of young bands that are now considered venerable influences in punk circles, but Cro-Mags stand out among the crowd. Soldering riffs stolen from cock-rocking metal to punk's relentless speed, the band built a freight-train sound: heavy and fast, barreling along with enough weight to crush whatever got in its way. But the gritty toughness of anthems like "Hard Times" and "We Gotta Know" was tempered with the band's interest in Eastern philosophy, the spiritual rigor providing a counterpoint to the fury. The path to enlightenment eventually led to the band's breakup, but they've recently reformed (minus a couple of founding members), intent on showing a new generation that the old school was built brick by thrown brick. The Triple Rock will host two consecutive nights with the Cro-Mags headlining, doubling your chances of catching a show—and as everyone knows, if you get an opportunity to see a group of unfrozen cavemen, you take it. With Killingtime, On, the Killer, and Neverender on Saturday; Trapped Under Ice, On, Iron Rain, and Relentless on Sunday. All ages. 5 p.m. $25. 629 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.333.7399. Also Sunday —Ian Traas

TUESDAY 7.13

Liars

First Avenue

With every album, Liars keep changing their story. They broke out as a part of the New York dance-punk fad, but somewhere along the way the band lost touch with the fractured disco backbeat, opting to make albums that were more expansive and atmospheric than their Big Apple peers'. This year's Sisterworld is a lesson in spooky tension, one where dissonant synthesizers rub elbows with oddly layered vocals and create a space that sounds detached, antisocial. That emotional tautness gives way to spazzy freakouts, bursts of violence that flare up and then dissipate into shadowy dread.  The derelict ravings are only one side of the multidimensional Liars, but live, the anger and energy are on full display as the band reach back through their catalog to deliver the most visceral cuts. Even as Liars shrug off expectations and explore different avenues of sound, the grinding drive of their best material coupled with their captivating stage presence is what will make a lasting impression outside the studio. 18+. $10. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Ian Traas

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Nicollet Island Pavilion

40 Power St.
Minneapolis, MN 55401

651-642-1049


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