Merle and Kris be darned: The weekend in country

After revealing just two weeks ago that - what luck! - Dwight Yoakam was to play the Mystic Showroom that weekend, but - goldangit - it was sold the hell out, I hate to again be the bearer of bad news.

Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson will be playing the Mystic Showroom this Sunday (2/27 7:00, $49-69). But the show is sold out.

If you didn't rush to grab tickets when first advertised (and they sold out quickly), you're missing out; it's rare one finds the opportunity to see two of country's greatest legends on the same stage and in such an intimate setting. There there, young pup. Opportunities to get your country fix abound this week.

Pay tribute to Charlie Louvin tonight at the Dubliner

Page Burkum, of locals The Cactus Blossoms and The Blood Washed Band, has invited all the musicians he figured would enjoy singing a few Louvin Brothers songs down to the Dubliner tonight for a tribute to Charlie Louvin, who passed away in January at the age of 83 (7-9:30).

Merle and Kris be darned: The weekend in country

See how country the Hex gets on a Friday night

We think the noisy weirdo country windmill that is Chickadee Mountain Martyrs qualifies. The band will be playing the Hexagon Bar Friday night as part of Drug Budget's CD release show (9:00, free).

Walk the Line at Whiskey Junction on Saturday night

That wasn't even clever, now. Hmm...jump through Rings of Fire? Worse. Get Rhythm? Just plain stupid. Get Busted? Get married in a fever? This is going nowhere. In any case, the excellent Church of Cash, with their collection of early Johnny Cash covers, is playing at Whiskey Junction Saturday night. Tribute for the troops, redux.

Jamey Johnson, whose original date at the Fine Line found him snowed outta town, is playing a makeup benefit concert this Sunday. Oops, it's sold out, too. Which is good news, as money raised goes to a good cause (8:00).

Go see a play in Osseo

Oh, but not just any play. How 'bout a play written in 1938 about a small town in New Hampshire circa 1901, the tragic third act written by a man from Wisconsin who, as story goes, was at the time suffering writer's block until enjoying an affair in Zurich with a literary socialite, tattoo artist type who would later act as mentor to Ed Hardy.

Does that sound "country?" No, it just sounds complicated. But it is a little part of the story behind the writing of Our Town, Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer-winning play exploring the beauty of our mundane, often simple collective existence.

Simple. Country songwriter Harlan Howard once said, "Country music is three chords and the truth." Simple, and honest. That's country, and Wilder's play is about as country as it gets. It gets at what motivates the simplest parts of us. Not simple as in stupid, podunk. But simple as in uncomplicated, most base and yet most important. These qualities, I think, are also what make country music such a relatable form for most Americans.

Osseo's Yellow Tree Theatre, an independent company intensely community-based and so rooted in a small town ethos that it resides proudly in an old strip mall, is presenting its production of Our Town every Thursday through Sunday between now and March 6 (Thursday-Saturday 7:30, Sunday 2:00, $14-20). We checked it out last weekend. And why should you folks go see it, as way out in the sticks as it is?

Well, much like the story the company tells, and notably the musical score accompanying it (a fine country rendition created by local duo Thomas Fox), the setting itself speaks to that base instinct of what is "home," what's most simple and yet deep down most important, residing always within our hearts. It's a hard feeling to put into words, and it rarely presents itself in our daily lives but rather, for me anyway, seems to creep its way out with just the slightest provocation.

It could be a small-town bar, with ribs on special and a girl scout troop selling cookies as the state hockey team prepares to take the ice for the first third. It could be a grain silo, or a big empty field with the dim light of a farmhouse at its vanishing point. It could be a lone Perkins, its giant flag pinpointing its location on a quiet highway. It could be a strip mall untouched by the 00s and its chain restaurants and chain bookstores, and the tiny community-based theatre that's sprung within it, between a scrapbooking store and a furniture store, that inside appears to have been decorated by your lovingly attentive-to-patinaed things Midwestern mother.

Its familiarity, the feeling it's what you so purposefully left behind can feel both novel and leave a little lump in your throat. Reflecting on who you were when these were commonplace things, usual sights, and who you are now - someone who looks on such things with nostalgia - is a feeling Wilder likely looked to capture and which this company does well, in its strip mall, between scrapbooking shop and furniture store, down the road from a patriotic Perkins, and a stone's throw from someone's century-old farm.

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