She & Him and more

El Vez brings out the Elvis in all of us



El Vez

First Avenue

While visiting Graceland a while back and perusing bottles of Elvis "sweat" and velour playing cards and whatnot in the gift shop, I heard one woman say to another, "Everyone has a little bit of Elvis in them, don't you think?" Well? Some more than others, I guess. Enter El Vez, the self-proclaimed "Mexican Elvis." Not to be confused with Tortelvis, the Elvis impersonator and lead singer of the reggae cover band Dread Zeppelin. Or the impersonator who used to live behind my parents, mowed his lawn fully coiffed, and was married to a woman who looked just like Elvira. More than just a spectacle—though spectacle he is—El Vez uses his Elvis powers for good. It's not just empty impersonation. Dude's got a message. Just make sure you're in the right mood—like, no first dates. Also, El Vez is running for president. El Vez for Prez! With Lysa Flores. 18+. $12/$14 at the door. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Jessica Chapman

Twin Cities Pan African Festival

Cedar Cultural Center

A six-day celebration of African arts that features artists from the continent as well as its diaspora, both global and local, this is less a festival than a cultural and sensory explosion. Minnesota's own substantial population of Africans ensures that many favorites from damn near every place and medium are featured: the infectious Habib Koité and his band from Mali on Wednesday, an outdoor showcase featuring local golden boy M.anifest on Saturday, and Monday's closer K'Naan, the "Dusty Foot Philosopher" from Toronto by way of Somalia, a true child of the hip-hop generation with talent that elicits must-see status. Plus there's plenty of other visual and culinary treats throughout that are just as savory, such as the films Hip-Hop Colony and Music Is the Weapon. The music will sizzle and the images will sweat, and the gathering of young and old, here and there, all under the long reach of African expression by way of the Americas and back again—that's a funky thing. Through August 11. All ages. $20/$25 at the door. 7:30 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.338.2674. —Jordan Selbo



She & Him

First Avenue

Zooey Deschanel is just so precious. Listening to her is sorta like the audio equivalent of watching the movie Amélie. Pair her up with the quirky and almost equally twee M.Ward, and the sum is sickly-sweet irresistible. Remember Deschanel as the adorable, slightly snarky Jovi singing "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town" and "Baby It's Cold Outside" in the movie Elf? That was really her. If you liked what you heard then, you will dig She & Him. That's almost spot-on what they sound like. Deschanel's actress-to-singer/songwriter crossover bid is boosted by the involvement of Ward, who has collaborated with the likes of Bright Eyes, Cat Power, and My Morning Jacket, but the little lady can most definitely hold her own. On the duo's recently released debut, Volume 1, the talented Ward takes a back seat, showcasing Deschanel's vaguely old-timey, lilting vocals. With Becky Stark. 18+. $16/$18 at the door. 6 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Jessica Chapman



The 888 Fest

Hexagon Bar

In Chinese culture there is a mystical quality associated with the number eight and it is considered extremely lucky—which explains why the Olympics are opening today in Beijing. Speaking of the Olympics, doesn't it seem strange how overly dramatic and really, mostly just boring they are? The 888 Fest at the Hexagon promises to be no such thing. Eight bands on one bill for free: could be the best show (it will certainly be the luckiest) in town Friday what with the Plastic Chord's Beirut-ish cacophony of noise and prog-like arrangements, Economy Team's driving grind, and six other bands to choose from as your new possible favorite or at least "by far the best band here," one of which—Old James—will be playing their last show. Already sounds a lot more exciting and dramatic than the Olympics, doesn't it? It's funny how when you expect something you are let down, and when you expect nothing you are sometimes pleasantly surprised. It's up to you to decide how to entertain yourself, but consider this: Maybe you don't know some of these bands, but who do you know on the U.S. Olympic squad besides Michael Phelps? 'Nuff said. With the Guystorm, Young Brides, Power of Two, more. 21+. Free. 9 p.m. 2600 27th Ave. S, Minneapolis, 612.722.3454. —Pat O'Brien



James Blunt

Northrop Auditorium

Hate to get all Ocean's Eleven here, but indulge me as I paraphrase: "You can't lose focus in this pop game for a second." Because, see, the general public's already lost sight of James Blunt; there are, as ever, new, improved distractions. "You're Beautiful"—the hit that launched millions of copies of Back to Bedlam from store shelves waaaay back in 2004—remains a showy bit of fake Rod Stewart, an admittedly athletic wooing device for hapless suitors worldwide. (Second single "Goodbye My Lover"? Not so much.) Homely, deeply-creased mug notwithstanding, Blunt's considerable vocal gifts should've been enough to keep him at the forefront of public consciousness for at least a couple of years. But unless you've been keeping up with the guy, he may as well be missing in action: Last year's All the Lost Souls didn't reach the same sales heights—perhaps due to the then-sales war between 50 Cent and Kanye West—or spawn any inescapable monster singles. Doesn't fan loyalty count for anything in 2008? That's a question we can answer once the tour receipts have been counted. Opening for Sheryl Crow. $46-$136. 8 p.m. 84 Church St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.624.2345. —Ray Cummings

Booker T. & the M.G.'s

Minnesota Zoo Weesner Amphitheater

Outside the world of jazz, it's pretty rare that a band with no significant history of lyric-driven songwriting can make such a huge impact on pop music. Booker T. & the M.G.'s are, naturally, an exception to that rule: From their omnipresent (yet never tiresome) 1962 debut single "Green Onions" through their classic '71 LP Melting Pot and beyond, Memphis's finest house band-turned-stars in their own right bridged the gap from Ray Charles-style soul to the funk of the '70s. And it's not like they needed their own singer, not when they could back some of the finest of their time—Otis Redding, Albert King, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave, you name it. Put their photo in the dictionary next to the word "tight." With Ruthie Foster. All Ages. $39. 7:30 p.m. 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley; 952.431.9200. —Nate Patrin

Gay Beast

Hexagon Bar

With time signatures that would stymie your average graphing calculator and a singular talent for crafting multi-rhythmic noise-pop miniatures that sway and swoon like a popsicle-stick sculpture, local three-piece Gay Beast have hewed from the living mountain of the Minneapolis music community a strange, beautifully ornamented cavern for themselves. It's a complicated time, this jilted age, and after a workweek of listening to Bob Seeger and Grand Funk at your line-cook gig, two-part harmonies in four-four just don't have a prayer when Saturday rolls around. The Yoleus, playing second of four, fit this show like fingerless gloves fit Neil Pert. In the musical Pangea, the Yoleus are Antarctia. Their songs are bold explorations, and their flummoxing guitar lines and rolling drum work are the handpicks and lifelines that keep them trudging forth. It's some vast territory they've chosen, but they always make it back and they've never lost a man. With Paper Mice, Whitesands/Badlands. 21+. Free. 9 p.m. 2600 27th Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.722.3454. —David Hansen



Slough Feg

Turf Club

With Celtic folk metalurgists Slough Feg and our own art-metal heroes Knife World tag-teaming tonight's Turf Club ticket, there is sure to be plenty of ruptured eardrums oozing all over University avenue. The adolescent obsession with Celtic mythology and demons of the netherworld is nothing new to anyone who ever sat through math class concealing Walkman headphones under their upstart hesher mane, etching portraits of minotaurs in their graph-paper notebook. But Pennsylvania's Slough Feg bring a genuine traditional Celtic romp to their rhythms and their composition—their sound has plenty of blood and guts, and it's got plenty of brains to keep it stomping forward. They're metalheads who haven't let their mathlete trophies gather dust since graduation day, D&D'ers who can rip off your face, and not just with a timely saving throw. In support is Knife World—if you haven't put hands on their stellar vinyl release, tonight is a great chance. With Castle. 21+. 9 p.m. 1601 University Ave., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. —David Hansen

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