Ted Leo and more

Mason Jennings, Minnesota's folk darling
Courtesy of Mason Jennings



Alejandro Escovedo

Fine Line Music Cafe

With a résumé casually littered with a seminal punk band (ironically, the Nuns), opening for the Sex Pistols (and living down the hall from Sid and Nancy at the Chelsea Hotel), proto-alt-country outfits (Rank & File, True Believers), an Artist of the Decade declaration from No Depression (two years early in 1998), plus a string of solo albums whose critical acclaim far outshines his relative obscurity, Alejandro Escovedo is a rock 'n' roll survivor—literally as well as figuratively, since he's been living with hepatitis C, which nearly killed him five years ago. All of which (and much more) is reflected in Escovedo's extraordinary latest album, Real Animal (Back Porch/Manhattan), an autobiographical tour de force, all the songs written with buddy Chuck Prophet and produced by glam rock vet Tony Visconti. Far from maudlin, each song exquisitely captures an essential stop somewhere on the rock 'n' roll highway, from taut rockers with squalling guitars evoking Iggy Pop and the Stooges to gorgeous chamber-pop and radio-friendly glam rock ("Always a Friend"). Escovedo's references flash by with whiplash speed: Bowie, Lou Reed, Ian Hunter, Ike & Tina, Max's Kansas City, the Kinman bros, John Lennon, even Juan Marichal (the Dominican Dandy's first apparent rock 'n' roll incursion). Animal is overflowing with genuine heart and rock 'n' roll spirit, right down to the poignant last line: "Want to live in this moment/But I'm tangled in the past." But make no mistake, this is Escovedo's moment—perhaps his finest. 18+. $18/$20 at the door. 7:30 p.m. 318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.338.8100. —Rick Mason



Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

First Avenue

He kicked around in different D.C. hardcore (or harDCore, if that's how you want it) bands for years before striking out on his own—and what a solo career it has been. He's become an indie darling with an unimpeachable pedigree and has yet to take a big misstep. His lovely '70s glam-meets-'80s punk template proves to be a giant playground for him and gives way to fiery, legendary live shows that are among the most talked-about around town. His falsetto vocals recall Joe Jackson in a (somehow) non-cheesy way; in fact, they strengthen the overall aesthetic, which is improbable but delightful nonetheless. He never stops creating, whether it be recording or producing; he is quite possibly the busiest man in show business. He somehow found time to record a digital-only release to assist in the legal bills for the RNC arrestees this past summer. Since 2003's Hearts of Oak was released, Ted Leo has become a bit more of a household name, and with each subsequent release he has seemed more and more accessible, then been lauded for it—a rarity in the circles in which he runs, which often equate success with selling out. He's a rudeboy done good and you owe it to yourself to see what all the fuss is about. With Against Me! and Future of the Left. All Ages. $22.50. 5:30 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Pat O'Brien

Crooked Fingers

Turf Club

A decade into Crooked Fingers, frontman Eric Bachmann has gone from an angsty youth to a crooning adult. The band's new album, Forfeit/Fortune, is the latest in an ever-adventurous line of concept albums and musical mutations. Bachmann's first taste of indie-rock buzz came as leader of the seminal '90s band Archers of Loaf, where his spastic, nasal vocals sounded as if they were shredding his throat on the way out; now, he is more lounge singer than screamer. Earnest and often reflective, the layered orchestration still has a little bit of that punk-rock edge to it. There's little doubt of the sincerity with which Crooked Fingers creates lush and haunting melodies, but the noisy punk inside of Bachmann just can't help but skew it a bit lopsided. With the Ugly Suit. 21+. $12. 8 p.m. 1601 University Ave. W., St. Paul; 651.647.0486. —Bob Longmore


FRIDAY 10.17


First Avenue

In the wake of the lackluster Manscape and The First Letter in the early '90s, many had no doubt already prepared a mental epitaph for Wire. But that was before the explosive Read & Burn EP series and resulting album, Send, made the band not only relevant but vital once again. Those hoping for a continuation perhaps should have known better; throughout their 30-plus-year career, Wire have rarely been ones to dwell, and Object 47, the band's 11th studio album, continues their chameleonic tradition. The blunt, guitar-driven aggression of the early aughts has now given way to a percussive, synth-laden sound. It's tempting to interpret Object as something of a retreat, suggested not only by the more mannered musical approach but by the lead single's lyrical resignation as well ("Are you an also-ran, finished and inconsequential?"). But there's an intensity embedded in these songs that belies such facile readings. White flags, after all, hardly suit them. 18+. $15. 8 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Jonathan Garrett




Set the Smith CD release

The Dinkytowner Cafe

Set the Smith's voice is all relaxed, resonant edge, which made him a credible old-schooler on 2004's The Example Part One (Chill Records) despite his evident youth on the cover. In fact he'd been rapping since the mid-'80s, a onetime child MC, tight with local hip-hop pioneers the IRM Crew (his father was their manager). If "They Don't Know" took an argumentative tone, it showed the former Upset the Locksmith to be an assured singer and hooksmith. Those strengths come to the fore on The Smithsonian Album (also on Chill Records), whose irresistible "All I Need" isn't quite knowing enough to admit the vulnerability of absurd overconfidence, but catches you up in its hypnotic lope anyway. "My Struggle" is a bout with self-doubt sobered by ambition, set to a perfectly melancholic quiet-storm loop. And "Da Da Da!" is a true album climax, an oddball shout-along with the IRM Crew's Kel C resurfacing just long enough to make you wish he'd come back full time. The release show features a solid lineup of local hip hop, including another IRM Crew alum, Truthmaze, along with DJ Snuggles, Adonis of the C.O.R.E., Headake tha Chosen, and Cue Dangerous (a.k.a. Old Boy), who co-produced on The Smithsonian. 18+. $6/$8 at the door. 9 p.m. 412 1/2 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis; 612.362.0437. —Peter S. Scholtes

Mason Jennings

Orpheum Theater

Mason Jennings, where hath thou gone? Things seemed so promising a couple of years ago when, after years of refusing major-label offers, Jennings finally caved in and signed to Isaac Brock's Glacial Pace Recordings (a subsidiary of Epic). It appeared everyone's favorite hometown folk singer was about to shoot into the stratosphere. But Jennings and the Glacial Pace label soon parted ways, allowing him to be scooped up under the wing of surfer-turned-adult contemporary rocker Jack Johnson. The resulting album, this year's In the Ever (Brushfire Records), was a disappointment to longtime fans who had come to rely on Jennings's continuously thought-provoking and inspiring output; whether by choice or by proximity to his labelhead, his work has become a watered-down version of what it once was. And despite the fact that he used to be an omnipresent force on the local scene (he started out playing weekly gigs at the 400 Bar and then consistently played sold-out shows at First Avenue), his local appearances have become sparse. Come back to us, Mason. We liked you fine just the way you were. With Zach Gill. $26-$31. 8 p.m. 910 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis; 612.339.7007. —Andrea Swensson


SUNDAY 10.19

Yonder Mountain String Band

First Avenue

Like many bands on the progressive wing of bluegrass, the Yonder Mountaineers like to push things at the same time as adhering to traditions. For the YMSB the latter includes superb picking abilities all around—banjoist Dave Johnston, guitarist Adam Aijala, mandolinist Jeff Austin, bassist Ben Kaufmann—along with fine vocal harmonies and requisite covers of Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley. But the quartet also favors improvisation forays that have put them squarely in jamgrass territory, covering material from such decidedly non-bluegrass outfits as the Minutemen and Talking Heads, sometimes wielding their instruments like rockers, and even dialing up the crunch factor by using drums on their last studio album. All of which helps land them gigs in places like First Avenue. The band also embraces tapeheads' affinity for live performance by regularly issuing live sets, currently up to volume five with this year's installment of Mountain Tracks: one CD of performances culled from 2004-2007, a second capturing a single concert from July 2007. Both feature exhilarating ensemble work. Notorious reprobate and wry songwriter Todd Snider (whose songs turn up in YMSB's repertoire) will open. His new Peace Queer is imminent, but it's uncertain which Snider persona will show up, since his career has ricocheted among folk, hard country, and rock 'n' roll. 18+. $25/$30 at the door. 7:30 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. —Rick Mason


MONDAY 10.20

TV on the Radio

First Avenue

Making post-punk infused ambient, moody noise sound sleek, not to mention listenable and, most importantly, vital, seems almost like a punch line to a bad joke. TV on the Radio manage to surprise once again by doing all of the above on Dear Science, without a hint of irony. They actually make it sound a little sexy at turns ("Red Dress," "Golden Age") which is just about the last thing you would expect from this Brooklyn-based group, who on previous releases seemed bent on being enigmatic and detached. With Dear Science, however, they are beginning to shape up as the U.S. version of Radiohead without the somber iciness. TVOTR are a study in improbabilities: On paper they seem like a niche band that would have a small, extremely devoted fan base, but to the contrary they are near the top of the ever-fluctuating list of bands that matter on a large scale. Their debut LP (2004's Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes) seemed like they had caught a thunderstorm in a thimble, but they have continued to grow and amaze with each subsequent release, building additions onto a structure that seemed to be of questionable construction in the first place. With the Dirtbombs. $20. 21+ at 8 p.m. Monday; all ages at 6 p.m. Tuesday. 701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612.332.1775. Also Tuesday —Pat O'Brien

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