Music A-List

I heard Mason Jennings once drowned a guy for not fully appreciating the beauty of a loon call
courtesy of Red Light Management


Gear Daddies

Fine Line Music Cafe

Three, count 'em, three nights with everyone's favorite Austin, Minnesota, natives. Hardly any local act (including His Royal Purpleness) is more beloved by fans, and it's not hard to see why. They sang about universal things like girls, drinking, losing girls because of drinking, Zambonis, and spider monkeys (okay, maybe the last couple aren't so universal) with just about all of it delivered in a near metaphor-free, straight-ahead manner that was as endearing to the listener as it must have been therapeutic for them (listening to lead singer Martin Zellar sing about "sittin' downtown crying 'neath a statue of Jesus" after his father tells him he's worthless is still just about as heartbreaking as it gets). They officially broke up way back in '94, and have all worked on other projects since (sometimes with one or two of the other Gears in tow), but they've always found their way back to each other. Somehow, their reunions never seem nostalgic. Maybe because, in some ways, their albums seemed a little like nostalgia when they were brand-new. The upside to that however, is that the songs might never get old. With Stook! Wednesday; the Gufs Friday and Saturday. $31 (Friday and Saturday sold out). 7:00 p.m. 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. Also Friday and Saturday —Pat O'Brien


Mason Jennings

First Avenue

The formula for Mason Jennings's success is quite simple: The more people hear his music, the bigger he becomes. Like so many aspiring troubadours, Jennings got his start driving from coffee shop to coffee shop and peddling records out of the back of his van. But unlike the experience of most coffeehouse crooners, a devoted Jennings fan base quickly snowballed, and he was forced to move into bigger and bigger venues, press more and more CDs, and eventually sign to a major label (Glacial Pace, an offshoot of Sony's Epic) to keep up with the demands of his rocketing indie-stardom. Thursday night's solo show at First Avenue has become an unofficial yearly tradition for Minneapolis fans, who jump at the chance to cram in like sardines and hang on his every swooping vocal melody and acoustic guitar strum. With Janey Winterbauer & Marc Perlman, and Matt Jennings. 18+. $22/$24 at the door. 6:00 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Andrea Myers


The Hard Left

Hexagon Bar

In Chinese dualist philosophy, balance and harmony are represented by yin and yang. In Midwestern rock 'n' roll ontology, these principles are embodied by the Hard Left. Frontman/guitarist Brian Drake is at once an old soul and a young spirit—a well-seasoned, hard-driving rocker/songwriter with unbridled fervor who's as happy sipping green tea as drinking beer and who'll quote William Blake or praise Tom Petty. Decades of writing, performing, and touring in band after band after band, and more than one close encounter with elusive national acclaim have hardly dampened his drive. On the contrary, this earnest veteran is at the top of his game. Penning all eight tracks from last year's Ed Ackerson-produced dynamo The Avant-Garde Sounds of the Hard Left, Drake and comrades Tom Lischmann (guitar), Scott Glaser (bass), and Pat McKenna (drums) have had a damn good year, earning accolades from Little Steven and the Underground Garage posse, signing with French-based Kill City Booking and Management, and attracting a slew of internet myfans. Early next year the band returns to the studio, then jets to Europe for a 15-city spring tour. Catch 'em while you can. With the Mighty Mofos, the Floorshakers, and the Red Flags. 9:00 p.m. 2600 27th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.722.3454. —Nancy Sartor


Conor Oberst

400 Bar

Swathed in mystery, obfuscated by hearsay, hyped by percolating anticipation, Conor Oberst, Omaha's most sensitive songwriting wunderkind, has booked this two-night stand at the 400 Bar to debut a new, as-of-yet-untitled band. While details have thus far been sketchy, Oberst wants it known these will not be Bright Eyes shows, so don't expect to hear any Bright Eyes music. Rumor has it that the talented young founder of Saddle Creek Records is starting a new band with his friend and former touring mate M. Ward, inciting many to assume that these dates, which are the only upcoming shows he's booked thus far, will mark the debut of this highly anticipated new project. While any official explanation from the man himself has not yet emerged, there's enough puzzle pieces out on the table to warrant the sizzling buzz around these two shows. With Nik Freitas. 21+. $20. 8:00 p.m. 400 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.332.2903. Also Sunday —Christopher Matthew Jensen

MONDAY 12.31

Bret Michaels

Myth Nightclub

Let's face it, New Year's is a crap holiday. You're obliged to have such a mind-blowing great time that anything less feels like a failure—you will have no need of anything except a good time, as the song goes. Nothing fits better for a mandatory night on the hedonic treadmill than the adolescent undeath of hair metal embodied in the VH1-enabled career of Poison chanteur Brett Michaels. I shouldn't be such a grinch: At this point he's a comforting rebuke to the punk ideal of perpetual revolt—nothing ever goes away. It's almost midnight! Talk dirty to me! I want action! If not, there's always next year. $104, includes drinks. 9:00 p.m. 3090 Southlawn Dr.; Maplewood; 651.779.6984. —Geoff Cannon

Trampled By Turtles/ Pert Near Sandstone/White Iron Band

The Orpheum Theater

The pluckiest way to dispatch the waning year may be with a potent dose of northern grass in its many varietal splendors—blue, new, maybe even askew. This party of Minnesotans with a Southern exposure is headed up by Trampled By Turtles (recently upgraded to a quintet with the addition of fiddler Ryan Young), who give Bill Monroe's baby a punkish dose of adrenalin that threatens to rocket Dave Carroll's banjo into orbit. The Turtles' latest CD, Trouble (Banjodad), plays havoc with tradition, straying into new-grass fusion at times, fashioning weepy country laments about excessive carrying-on, and constantly flirting with indie-rock fragments that finally break out on the positively grungy "Who's Calling?" The Turtles' partners in roots-twisting innovation, Pert Near Sandstone, are a string band with grassy inclinations that stretch to country at either end of the new/old timey scale, pop, and even intimations of urbanity—they even question the resident repulsive Republican regime on "Aught Three Waltz," a song from their own far finer incumbent, Up and Down the River. For pure weirdness, the album also sports a sizzling Transylvanian klezmer breakdown innocuously dubbed "Gypsy Reel." Between the grassy knolls will be the White Iron Band, whose finest contribution to the evening's theme may be a little Tex-Mex ditty called "Sweet Mary Jane" from last year's live and definitely kickin' At the Cabooze disc. A rowdy, countrypolitan bar band par excellence who rock out hard, this is one Iron that's always hot. $25. 8:00 p.m. 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.339.7007. — Rick Mason

Brother Ali/BK One/Toki Wright

7th St. Entry

The New Year's Eve party, as an established form of therapy, gives us a few magical hours to teeter on the edge between another disappointing year spent wasting time, money, and brain cells, and the promise of a better one to come; a chance to celebrate (or, if you're like me, mourn), and hope wildly, if for only a moment. Whatever your M.O. any other time, tonight's the night everyone from diamond-encrusted high rollers to hoodied-up hooligans all want the same thing—chiefly, to shake the dirt of the old calendar off their shoulders while strutting drunkenly into a fresh groove. What's the perfect soundtrack for such a metamorphosis? How about three titans of the local rap scene? While Toki Wright has been providing soup-for-the-soul edutainment to those big and small (most notably with his annual Twin Cities Celebration of Hip Hop), Ali and DJ BK One have been regular collaborators since 2000. With music trump tight up to and well past midnight, grab that special someone and shake your shit. 21+. 9:00 p.m. $18/$20 at the door. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Jordan Selbo

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