SPRING SEEMS THE time for musical death and rebirth here in Minneapolis. After a month of lamenting the upcoming end of live music at the Uptown Bar, the plug finally gets pulled this week. Following the Grifters and the Ass Ponys on Thursday (see A-List), the last show is a benefit for the Animal Rights Coalition on Saturday. And the last band to play (drum roll) is the Wonsers, with Steeplejack and Jerry Lefkowitz (of Fauna/Whoops Kitty fame) opening. While you're out paying your final respects, congratulate the Steeple boys; after shopping their Paisley Park-recorded debut Kitchen Radio they've now signed with the honky-tonkin' DejaDisc label outta Austin. Look for a summer release (Uptown Bar, 3018 Hennepin Ave.; Mpls.; 823-4719).
In other finalities, blitzkrieg trio Mickey Finn will reportedly call it quits after one more gig at 7th St. Entry tonight (Wednesday). After seven years and five drummers, Finn founders John Pucci and Dana Cochrane leave behind two fine albums and a couple of singles that were as good as any local pop noise in the '90s. In '94, they were robbed (in my opinion) of MMA Song of the Year honors for their twisted cover of Michael Jackson's "Shake Your Body." Cochrane's now working on an all-bass trio with Pete Conway (Flour, Rifle Sport) and Amy Larson (Strumpet, Flour) called Brits Out of America. Tonight's farewell gig features Cooper, Command Module and Cockpocalypse ($4. 8 p.m. 7th St. Entry, 701 First Ave. N., Mpls.; 338-8388).
Ever wonder why any kind of music-biz contract is always covered in all-caps mumbo jumbo like WHEREAS, HERETOFORE and INASMUCH? If you do, you need to know more before you sign on the dotted line. With the latest in its series of informative panels, Minnesota Music Academy presents "Street Legal: Legal Issues for Musicians" at the Fine Line on Tuesday. Local entertainment lawyers Doug Myren, Dan Satorius and Tony Mendoza will be on hand to sort out the rhyme and reason of publishing, licensing, and getting signed ($16/$6 MMA members. 6-8 p.m. Fine Line Music Cafe, 318 First Ave. N., Mpls.; 338-8100).
Indie CD onslaught XIV, in stores any moment: Pimentos for Gus, East of Sweden (World Control); Unbelievable Jolly Machine, Flap Jack (Mutagenic); Voodoo Love Mint, Something in French (Angry Seed); 36 Headshots, 46 Stars and a Sunfish (Metro). (Groebner)
WE § U
THE U OF M's Whole Music Club continues to bring cool bands to town, though it seems something of a well-kept secret. This Friday's showcase is headed up by Braniac. Now why, you may ask, aren't they Alternative Nation stars yet? Probably because they have too much electronic noise in their raw indie pop sound, and maybe because they have too many cute cartoon aliens and kitties on their CD sleeve instead of the requisite cute band photo. Hissing Priggs in Static Couture, Braniac's debut for Chicago's Touch and Go, isn't exactly easy-listening, but it's weirder and smarter than the usual indie-rock guitar squall. Good move, men. Meanwhile, one would hope there's an early turnout for new critical darlings Sleater-Kinney, who frankly deserve the praise--they're a girl-punk band with a careening sense of momentum and a singer (Corin Tucker) whose pipes and emotional fury have kept us up at night (see feature, p. 32). Opening are our own Superman Curl, who have plenty of sloppy fun recycling vintage punk, pop, and new wavery, and Lazy ($5/$4 students. Doors at 7pm. Whole Music Cafe, underground at Coffman Union, 300 Washington Ave. SE, Mpls; 624-6453). (Keppel/Hermes)
THURSDAY IS ONE of the busiest music nights the Twin Cities have seen in ages. Fans of fascinating rhythms are directed to Tito Puente's gig at the posh Metropolitan. Puente, who turned 73 this week, seems just as vital today as when he was igniting the mambo craze 40 years ago, or rearing stars like Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Ray Barretto, and Celia Cruz in his big bands. While timbales remains his most proficient and crowd-pleasing instrument, Tito can blow saxophone and play some spirited vibes and piano when the occasion warrants. And since the Latin dance crowd may be Minnesota's hardiest partiers, expect the venue's dance floor to be packed ($18.50-$38. Metropolitan, 5418 Wayzata Blvd., Golden Valley; 989-5151).
Meanwhile, the obvious danger in putting four dynamic jazz pianists on four pianos in the same hall is too many notes and not enough nuance. Fortunately, each member of The Contemporary Piano Ensemble has matured beyond mere technique and places a priority on emotional expression. Using a vocabulary of blues, soul, and post-bop swing, each player is a headliner in his own right. Marcus Miller and James Williams were weaned on gospel and R&B bands as well as bop. Mabern, the elder statesman of the quartet, is a feisty, two-handed pianist with natural blues leanings. And Keezer is a young prodigy with astonishing chops that, like his peer Benny Green, have been honed into a sprightly, individualistic attack. Backed by bass and drums, the quartet swings in unison with enormous centrifugal force, and stokes the momentum further with distinct but complementary solo turns, making it feel like four great piano gigs for the price of one ($16-$18. Thursday, 8 p.m. Ted Mann Concert Hall, U of M West Bank Campus, Mpls.; 624-2345). (Robson)
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