We’re trying something new with our weekly gig roundup: recommendations! (OK, new to us.) This week, the State Fair obviously dominates, but there’s plenty to do off the Fairgrounds as well.
Tuesday, August 23
- Bellows + Nat Harvie + The Nunnery @ Icehouse
COVID essentially made all music into bedroom pop, but Oliver Kalb was ahead of the game, and on his latest, Next of Kin, he sings like a sunnier Elliott Smith, with none-too-stripped down arrangements that never intrude on the intimacy. Similarly, Duluth’s Nat Harvie nimbly treads the fine line between small-scale and tastefully augmented on his latest, Married in Song. Rounding out the bill is the Nunnery (aka Sarah Elstran), whose Floating Gardens is more ornate and lush than your typical ambient release, and all the more engaging for it.
Wednesday, August 24
- Seratones with Jackie Kean @ Turf Club
With Love and Algorihythms, these soulful Louisianans have found the precise midpoint between dreamy yet driven R&B they’ve been searching for. Beats and textures are immersive, but singer A.J. Haynes is the reason to listen up—she adapts to hard electro-funk or spaced-out jams without ever sounding like anything less than herself.
Thursday, August 25
- Leon Bridges @ Armory
This Texan R&B revivalist is always best when he balances his throwback tendencies with a modern thrust. (Even better when he exits his element, as on his collaborations with Lone Star psych-rockers Khruangbin.) So his backward-glancing latest, Gold-Diggers Sound, kinda misses the point of the idols he emulates—the old guys had songs, not just a sound. But he’s got the style and the vocal chops to make it a smooth, swooning night at the old war-shed.
- Durry @ Schell’s Stage, Schilling Amphitheater, Minnesota State Fair
Heard enough about these kids yet? Well sorry, but you’re gonna hear more. The Durry sibs are this year’s breakout viral band for a reason, delivering peppy pop that’s not too sugary. In fact, while the Grandstand shows this year are overloaded with nostalgia acts ranging from you-had-to be-there to not-even-if-you-were (the ’90s might not be as great as you remember them, but they were better than Counting Crows and the Wallflowers), the local talent lined up at the Schell’s Stage is top shelf. Read on and you’ll find out more.
Friday, August 26
- Martina McBride @ Canterbury Park
McBride’s such a unprepossessing star you can forget she’s racked up as strong a catalog as any ’90s-spawned country singer. The abuse revenge anthem “Independence Day,” the marital bonding anthem “I’m Gonna Love You Through It,” the comically exasperated “Teenage Daughters”—that’s quite a range, and all true to life. Life ain’t all trucks and clichés about small town life, after all.
- Kamasi Washington @ Dakota
The brawny tenor saxophonist and expansive bandleader, who’s been more commonly extending the reach of new jazz to unfamiliar audiences via rock clubs and festival dates, takes over the Dakota with his 10-piece band for the weekend. In the seven years since the three-hours-plus The Epic opened ears, Washington has been working with collaborators in hip-hop and electronic music, playing a key role in Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. To hear his band cut loose in a small jazz club should really be something.
- Freaque + Sara Elizabeth + Lydia Liza @ Icehouse
As Freaque, Gabriel Rodreick crafts a sometimes spooky, always vivid, never gloomy sort of folk. His latest EP, Victim of a Rose, is an excellent place to make his acquaintance. And the two sharp singer-songwriters with two first names who open are absolutely worth showing up on time for.
Saturday, August 27
- Caitlyn Smith @ Leinie Lodge Bandshell, Minnesota State Fair
After giving Nashville a go, this Cannon Falls-born country singer-songwriter has come back to us. Hardly in defeat—she’s written for some of the best (and also Meghan Trainor) and continues doing business on Music Row. But her performing career is now centered in her home state, and this State Fair gig should be a nice kind of homecoming.
- Honeybutter @ Schell’s State at Schilling Amphitheater, Minnesota State Fair
Aw, the indie kids are discovering bossa nova again—does this old Cardigans fan heart’s good to hear the lighter side of lounge-revival revivalism revived. This local trio bounces and percolates with a fizzy charm that’s marked by sharp arrangements and the warm, bright voice of Clara Wicklund. Nothing wrong with a little elegance, you punks. Check ’em out here.
- Early Eyes, DNM, Products, and Butter Boys @ 7th St Entry
Local music lineup of the week? On their latest album, Look Alive!, synth-pop adventurists Early Eyes still draw on the Minneapolis Sound and various new wave trends, but they’re playfully rooting through a toy-box of sound where too many retro poppers are just proud of their recreations. You also get DNM (pronounced Denim), which is DeCarlo Jackson of Hippo Campus and some pals working in a poppy synth-folk vein, ace post-punks Products, and Butter Boys, who I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from.
Sunday, August 28
- BLK ODYSSY with Eimaral Sol @ 7th St Entry
Sam Houston and his crew explore the thicker, woozier side of funk and soul on their latest, BLK Vintage—think Funkadelic, not Parliament. It’s a head trip, with a fullness you can experience even on dinky laptop speakers. Live, it will no doubt engulf y’all.
Monday, August 29
- Annie Mack @ Schell’s Stage at Schilling Amphitheater, Minnesota State Fair
And on to our third Schell’s pick of the week. Folk-blues-gospel singer-songwriter Mack sings in a big, yet artfully restrained voice, and her songs bend traditional themes to modern. Her 2001 EP, Testify, captures her at her peak—defiant, unbowed, and, if not exactly hopeful, far from defeated.