Live Music Is Back!
Welcome to Racket's Massive Spring Concert Preview Blowout.
8:17 AM CDT on March 16, 2022
Here at Racket, we don’t use the word “plethora” lightly.
In fact, if our search engine is to be believed (and why shouldn’t it?) we’ve only used that word once in all of our long, storied existence.
So when we say there’s a plethora of remarkable gigs, concerts, shows, performances, or whatever you want to call those things where musicians stand on stage and entertain you—well, you’d best believe it, bucko. (I’m not checking to see how often we’ve used “remarkable.”)
After a slow winter, the proverbial floodgates have proverbially opened and an uncontrollable river of touring bands are rushing into our area venues.
So to celebrate the technical arrival of spring next week, we’re giving you the lowdown on more than two dozen noteworthy shows happening before the technical arrival of summer. And it was hard to choose—we could have easily written about twice that many shows. We could have kept typing until our hands cramped into knotty, useless claws. Oh, you’d just love that, wouldn’t you?
Pause for the usual disclaimer: Nobody thinks Covid is over, but we can poke our noses into darkened spaces for live music a little more often without feeling guilty. Be safe. Be smart.
And just a little reminder that these are mostly the big, big shows. Be sure to keep your eye on our complete concert calendar every Tuesday for the regular goings on.
Car Seat Headrest
Happy belated Pi Day. Three Pi Days ago, a dear friend of mine died tragically. On Pi Day, of all days. I’m bringing this up because that friend lobbied so hard for me to get into Car Seat Headrest, even curating a customized Spotify playlist featuring the Virginia indie rockers’ hottest tracks. About two years ago, right around the release of CSH’s underrated latest album, the bleepy/bloopy Making a Door Less Open, it finally took: With pangs of took-too-long regret, I became a fan. Will Toledo, the deadpan powerhouse behind the prolific project, had already established a vast trove of material for new fans to explore, including the certified ‘10s indie classic Teens of Denial. (I’ve watched this exhilarating 2018 Pitchfork Fest Paris twofer of “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” and “Destroyed By Hippie Powers” more times than I care to admit.) My point is twofold: CHR rocks, and listen to your friends while they’re still around—they know what’s best for you. Critically acclaimed indie rock/hip-hop blender Bartees Strange opens tonight’s Palace show, the first of a U.S. tour that runs through May. All ages. $29.50-$40. 6 p.m. 17 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul; find more info here. –Jay Boller
“Country like Leann Rimes,” as he boasts on his 2021 album Weight of the World, this Houston rapper purrs in the sort of warm musical drawl that’s deceptively lulling. If you didn’t speak English you might not even suspect how fraught with anxiety and occasional danger his life remains. A striver who emerged from the trap to forge a career he’s now three albums into, Maxo hasn’t left his friends and family behind. But he’s not overly sentimental about the world that made him: Compare “Mama’s Purse,” which instructs outsiders to look beyond appearances to see families trying to get by (“See them crackheads and them junkies?/ Those my uncles and my aunties”) and “Local Joker,” which expresses frustration with how his old pals are still “on the same old shit, with them same old issues.” With Peso Peso and TrakkSounds. 18+. $22-$40. 8:30 p.m. 318 N. First Ave., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Keith Harris
alt-J, Portugal. The Man
It makes sense to see Portugal. The Man on the same ticket as alt-J. Both groups have goofy-twee names that will drive you to spend five minutes googling them if you really want to know. Both have lead singers who tend to sing with a nasally baby voice that could easily be annoying but isn’t. Both also feature synth beats, guitar riffs, and hooks that are catchy AF, so all is forgiven. Portugal. The Man formed in Alaska and are now based in Oregon. Although their eighth and most recent album, Woodstock, was released in 2017, they should have plenty of material to play through. Meanwhile, English alt-rockers alt-J’s 2022 album, The Dream, was described as a "stroll around the curiosity shop" in a very British review by The Guardian. With Windser. All ages. $17-$90. 7 p.m. 500 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Jessica Armbruster
When Poppy rolled up to the 2017 Streamy Awards in a plastic cage on wheels, many dismissed her as a Lady Gaga-lite for the tweens (though her early hit “Lowlife” is a lot more reminiscent of early Gwen Stefani). Turns out she was actually imitating Mars Argo, the ex-girlfriend of her then-collaborator/manager/boyfriend Titanic Sinclair. After settling a lawsuit with Argo and parting ways with Sinclair (both women have accused him of being an abusive psychopath), Poppy has dropped the “cutesy brainwashed victim” act and went for a full-on metalcore/baby-metal sound. The change up suits her; last year’s "Bloodmoney" received a Grammy nom for Best Metal Performance—a first for a female in the dude-heavy category. Her most recent album, Flux, has a softer (though still rocking) sound, and has also received critical acclaim. With Mz. Neon. All ages. $25-$30. 7 p.m. 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Jessica Armbruster
Conor Oberst’s terrific 2017 Palace Theatre show signaled something of a baton passing. While introducing the evening’s opener, the prophetic Bright Eyes ringleader said, “This is Phoebe Bridgers. She’s going to be a big star.” Unbridled by those early “boy Dylan” comps, Oberst has settled comfortably into strong mid-career form–he can still turn a phrase, still write a hook, and those early wails and warbles are wielded with discipline. On Bright Eyes’ 2020 comeback record, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was, the Omaha indie-folk band mines their familiar sound while taking smart experimental chances, including freaking bagpipes. Counter to his emo god legacy, Oberst is actually a jovial country-rock showman these days, one who leads ace bands through a catalog that’s imprinted on the millennial hearts of die-hard fans. Delicate indie-folk dude Christian Lee Hutson, who’s something of a Bridgers protegee, opens tonight’s Palace gig. $45-$80. 6:30 p.m. 17 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul; find more info here. –Jay Boller
Happy New Year! Oh wait, well, this Palace Theatre show featuring Minnesota new wave royalty was supposed to be a 2022 New Year’s Eve concert, then another wave of Covid fucked that up. But what are dates and times when the Suburbs have been a thing for nearly 45 years? Like a friend you see a couple times a year, it’s NBD when they have to cancel at the last minute; you just reschedule. They even have new news to share: The latest album from Chan Poling and the gang, Poet’s Party, was a hit locally. With Run Westy Run and DJ Shane Kramer. 18+. $35-$50. 6:30 p.m. 17 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul; find more info here. –Jessica Armbruster
Girl in Red
Never heard of Girl in Red? That’s likely a symptom of your being old. Since debuting laptop recordings in 2016, the 23-year-old Norwegian has built up a massive following, especially among queer Gen Z listeners. As Girl in Red, Marie Ulven Ringheim writes openly about sexuality and depression in a frank way that resonates deeply; GiR has five singles with 100-million-plus Spotify plays, including girl-girl love ballad “We Fell in Love in October” at almost 400 million. For old rock guys such as myself, Girl in Red’s 2021 debut album If I Could Make It Go Quiet suggested the return of guitar-driven music after decades of dance/rap chart dominance. Opening is Holly Humberstone, another buzzy Euro singer-songwriter you can ask your daughter about. All ages. $25. 6 p.m. 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Jay Boller
R&B has fallen in love with self-expression, and the melodic shapelessness of some of its newer stars supposedly reflects the genre’s newfound honesty. No wonder Jazmine Sullivan, with her gift for songwriting and capturing the perspectives of characters other than herself, took six years off. So you can hear Heaux Tales, which somewhat surprisingly topped Pitchfork’s best albums list last year, as her way of making do with the new sincerity. Its eight songs focus almost exclusively on sex, cut with six spoken “tales” from other Black women for context/padding, and she’s doubled it with the deluxe Heaux Tales, Mo’ Tales. Not gonna lie, I find the generalities of her new material a step back from her older stuff, though when she rises above her conversational midrange to frayed and fraught moments of epiphany in her serrated upper register, it’s all good. So personally? I’ll be shouting for my Reality Show faves. But I’ll be happy to hear the Tales too. With Tiana Major9. $65 and up. 7:30 p.m. 525 N. Fifth St., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Keith Harris
Sons of Kemet
Tenor man Shabaka Hutchings is a central figure—maybe the central figure—in a revitalized London jazz scene that has caught the ears of listeners whose tastes are, shall we say, not typically saxophone-oriented. That’s why his retrofuturist prog trio the Comet Is Coming played the Turf Club in 2019; that’s why his brass-and-poetry quartet Sons of Kemet is at the Fine Line now. The group’s 2021 album, Black to the Future, features exhortations from the avant-garde likes of Angel Bat Dawid and Moor Mother, but live you’ll just get the four Sons: Hutchings, Theon Cross (whose tuba handles bass duties), and percussionists Edward Wakili-Hick and Tom Skinner. That’s more than enough. Their music is direct without sacrificing virtuosity or invention, drawing on West Indian traditions often overlooked by American jazz. Come to dance. 18+. $25-$40. 8 p.m. 318 N. First Ave., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Keith Harris
Pup has a knack for writing funny little turns of phrase that pinpoint the spirit of the moment we’re in and really stick in your ol’ brain box. Take their Fall 2020 pandemic EP, This Place Sucks Ass—hard to say that any more succinctly. This place really sucked ass! Now that live music is back and the noisy Canadian punks can hit the road again, they’re keeping it simple, with a tour they’re calling “Pup Returns: Thank F*cking God.” The only thing we’d maybe change is spelling out the swear. We love swears. Pup returns: Thank FUCKING God. With Pinkshift and Cloud Nothings. All ages. $25. 6:30 p.m. 525 N. Fifth St., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Em Cassel
Cedar Cultural Center
Oh hell yeah. The almost impossibly serendipitous path to this Ghanian musician’s first U.S. tour begins in 1993 Toronto, where Yaw Atta-Owuso recorded 35 minutes of music that sounded a little like techno and a little like rap and a lot like nothing else. He sent the tapes home for mastering where, of the 50 cassettes manufactured (and negligible amount sold) only one copy of Obaa Sima survived. An American student named Brian Shimkovitz bought it from a roadside vendor in 2002, and loved it so much he started a blog (and later a label), called Awesome Tapes from Africa, to share the music more widely. Ata Kak sings, raps, and rap-sings in a high, rubbery voice over keyboard presets ranging from poppy Italo house to New Jack breakbeats; his infectious melodies never stop reconfiguring themselves, especially when the female chorus joins in. Imagine Fu-Schnickens rapping over a Snap!’s “The Power” and you’ll be about a tenth of the way there. It sounds like music anyone could make. And yet, nobody but Ata Kak ever really did. All ages. $20 advance/$25 at the door. 7:30 p.m. 416 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Keith Harris
Hurray for the Riff Raff
Aging punks still awaiting the second coming of Joe Strummer probably weren’t expecting a queer Puerto Rican non-dude from the Bronx with an acoustic guitar to come closer to fitting the bill than any mere man, but it ain’t 1977 no more, pal. Not to saddle Alynda Segarra, very much their own artist, with that sort of baggage, but Segarra does embrace rock heroics and political purpose with a verve few younger songwriters dare today. On Hurray for the Riff Raff’s latest album, Life on Earth, Segarra’s lyrics have a more personal thrust, but the scope of their vision remains just as broad. With Anjimile. 18+. $20-$35. 9 p.m. 318 N. First Ave., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Keith Harris
If you told me in 2019 that Slipknot, almost 25 years into their career, were about to release their best record yet, I simply wouldn’t have believed you. When your band of masked freaks is pushing 50, you’d be forgiven for quietly bowing out. But then Slipknot released We Are Not Your Kind, a snarling collection that features the Iowans at their most mature and most primal. These tracks are seriously heavy, with Corey Taylor’s voice shifting from spiteful snarl (“Critical Darling”) to ominously pensive (“Unsainted”) to all-out blistering chaos (“Nero Forte”), sometimes all over the course of a single song (“Solway Firth”). If you haven’t heard it yet, this Target Center tour date—their first Twin Cities show in 13 years—would be a great place to start. With In This Moment and Wage War. All ages. $45-$145+. 6:30 p.m. 600 N. First Ave., Minneapolis; more info here. –Em Cassel
Dear You was a controversial record in its time. Jawbreaker’s 1995 major-label debut marked them as traitors to their dedicated punk fans, who also hated the band’s more thoughtful and melodic direction. Their label only pressed around 40,000 copies and the record was deemed a failure. Then, like five years later, everyone was like, “Wait lol this record whips ass, also the concept of ‘selling out’ has already become irrelevant, also why can’t I find a copy of this anywhere for less than $100?” To celebrate the 25th anniversary of this once maligned, now classic album, Jawbreaker is hitting the road for a handful of dates this spring, including a stop at the Fillmore. (If you’re interested in learning more about their rise and fall and rise again, there’s the great 2017 documentary Don’t Break Down; Jawbreaker is also one of the 11 bands profiled in Dan Ozzi’s recent book Sellout: The Major-Label Feeding Frenzy That Swept Punk, Emo, and Hardcore.) With Smoking Popes and Dillinger Four. $55+. 6 p.m. 525 N. Fifth St., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Em Cassel
Could the biggest new pop star of 2021 have filled a sports arena? Probably. But why take chances when she can also make bank by packing this smaller venue at three-figure ticket prices. Yes, but is she worth that much? Well. Sour is a front-to-end delight, and as someone lucky enough to have seen Billie Eilish pull a similar ploy just after she broke big, the open space of the Armory concentrates teen enthusiasm into an unforgettable rush. The floor will shake when “Brutal” kicks in; the unison “I still fuckin' love you” of “Drivers License” will deafen chaperones. And if the artificial scarcity imposed by the smaller room and the inflated ticket cost leave many of her fans shut out, it’s you, the worst mom or dad ever, who’ll get blamed, not Olivia. Anyway, giving the teens whose angst her popularity relies on another reason to seethe or sulk ain’t bad business either. With Gracie Abrams. All ages. $400 (lol). 8 p.m. 500 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Keith Harris
The problem with masterpieces is that they tend to reduce everything an artist does afterward, no matter how excellent, to a footnote. But though you’ll show up to hear whichever of the 69 Love Songs makes you swoon, weep, giggle, or tingle, Stephin Merritt’s chamber-pop outfit isn’t purely a nostalgia act. Their/his 2020 album, Quickies, offered 28 doses of concentrated smarts, and its immediate predecessor, 50 Song Memoir, which proffered a song for each year of the first half-century of Merritt’s life, was at least 50/69ths as good as the aforementioned masterpiece. For this theater tour, they’ll be drawing from the depths of Merritt’s three-decade songbook, and the night will be droll, clever, arch, moving, clever, tuneful, oh and did I mention clever? With Jake Xerxes Fussell. All ages. $39.50 and up. 8 p.m. 10 E. Exchange St., St. Paul; find more info here. –Keith Harris
April 21 & 22
“I feel the night creeping.” Ooh, yeah, baby, Britt Daniel is on the prowl. On Spoon’s tenth album, Lucifer on the Sofa, the frontman brandishes the sexier edge of his baritone, on occasion even approaching dangerously and/or enticingly (depending on your taste) close to Neil Diamond territory. The guitars snarl back at him with equal attitude, and the rhythm section uncoils some of the arty tension that’s at best held them together and hamstrung them at worst. Need a little manly sensitivity and introspection? There’s a cover of Bill Callahan’s “Held.” They’ve already sold out one night, necessitating a second. With Margaret Glaspy. 18+. $39.50-$80. 8 p.m. 17 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul; find more info here. –Keith Harris
Lorde’s sophomore album, Melodrama, is already considered a modern coming-of-age masterpiece. Over the years since its 2017 release, the New Zealand superstar must’ve felt pressure to at least match that record’s incandescent blasts of synth-pop perfection. Last August, we discovered that she didn’t really try to. Solar Power is a loose, breezy album that feels fit for nibbling gummies at the beach. “I felt like I could just chill out and flex a little bit,” Lorde, 25, told the New York Times. Critics mostly shrugged, and only the acoustic, Paul Simon-ish title track managed to enter Lorde’s most-played Spotify songs. After achieving a profound artistic statement one album removed from her viral teen debut, the real-life Ella Yelich-O'Connor can be forgiven for lowering the stakes on LP No. 3; she’s too damn talented to keep down for long. Remi Wolf opens. All ages. Tickets are sold out. 6 p.m. 500 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Jay Boller
Somehow, someway, Big Thief just keep getting better. (And, if you play by our generous parameter-setting, that’s great PR for the local music scene, as singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker has lived in the Twin Cities on and off throughout her life.) In 2019 her band took their emotionally charged, earthy indie-rock sound to thrilling new heights with two full-length albums: U.F.O.F. and Two Hands. On February's Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, Big Thief let their hair down but, unlike Lorde (sorry Lorde), they keep interesting ideas bubbling over its 20 tracks. With her impressionistic songwriting and magical voice, Lenker creates a kaleidoscopic folk-rock dreamworld that doesn’t take itself too seriously. (“Spud Infinity'' features prominent jaw harp, for instance.) It’s easy to call Big Thief a band at the height of their powers, but the Brooklyn-launched quartet keeps redefinding what makes them so special. Kara-Lis Coverdale opens. $32-$50. 7 p.m. 17 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul; find more info here. –Jay Boller
You could make a case that Charli XCX is the ultimate millennial popstar. She started posting songs on Myspace back in 2008, where she was first discovered by a promoter. Her earliest shows were warehouse raves. The XCX in Charli XCX? It stands for “Charli Kiss Charli,” which she took from her MSN Messenger username. I mean. The all-caps and everything! Her songs feel fun and youthful and carefree in the same kind of way—“Boys” could certainly be the transcript of an AIM conversation I had in the early aughts—and that’s as true as ever on her new record Crash, where she jokes about doing witchy stuff with Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek and sings about making out at the airport. With Baby Tate. 18+. $39.50-$80.00. 8 p.m. 17 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul; more info here. –Em Cassel
Interpol, the New York trio that formed in 1997, came up alongside other rock-is-back notables like the Strokes, and they’ve consistently put out music over their 25-year career that’s sounded, well, pretty consistent. Their lineup may have changed, but their debut album, Turn on the Bright Lights, isn’t that far of a walk from their latest, Marauder. Lead vocalist Paul Banks vacillates between melancholy robot and matter-of-fact robot, as the musical vibe falls somewhere between “staccato” and “drone.” And that’s kinda part of their charm. You wouldn’t want your heart experimenting with a new beat, and like that hard-working organ these dudes aren’t here to throw in a new note or tempo. Thump thump thump. With TYCHO and Matthew Dear. 18+. $50-$100. 7 p.m. 17 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul. –Jessica Armbruster
The track title “Survivor’s Guilt” sums up the theme of Saba’s latest album, Few Good Things—this Chicago rapper narrates his life as a success story haunted by his family’s past struggles and failures. Musically, Saba favors synth-driven tracks with a slightly vintage feel, and he mixes up his flows, sounding equally at ease spitting melodic triplets, dancehall toasting, or sing-rapping. Flaunting such versatility is his way of enjoying a present he hasn’t quite accepted that he deserves—and proof to the rest of us that he does. With Lute and Amindi. All ages. $25. 7 p.m. 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Keith Harris
This Atlanta duo, like the larger Spillage Village crew they hail from, draw upon the 808s and kudzu style of southern rap royalty Dungeon Family. But Olu and WowGr8 are no retro dead-enders, just practitioners of a timely trap update of a tradition worth extending. Their new album, Ghetto Gods, shines a spotlight on local everyday heroes, and though it’s playful—in their company, even J. Cole loosens up a little—it’s not lightweight. The lyrics are well-observed and warm, serving up advice like “check in on your strong friends,” and the mood is lively but not purely escapist. With Mike Dimes. $35 and up. 6 p.m. 525 N. Fifth St., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Keith Harris
Belle & Sebastian
It’s easy to take Belle & Sebastian for granted. There’s enough distance from their classic albums—including one of the best hat tricks in indie history, 1996's Tigermilk and If You're Feeling Sinister into 1998's Boy with the Arab Strap. Plus, the clever Scottish group’s twinkling, twee indie-pop isn’t an ideal soundtrack for the current End Times. But, at the same time, throw on “I’m a Cuckoo” and try not to smile. Stuart Murdoch’s crew keeps churning away, having released three albums during the last decade. Their upcoming one, A Bit of Previous, is due out via Matador in May. It’s being billed as a return-to-form B&S album, and the video for single “If They’re Shooting at You” carries a pro-Ukraine message. Divino Niño opens. $39.50-$65. 7 p.m. 17 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul; find more info here. –Jay Boller
June 4 & 5
He’s singing duets with Shania Twain and Trixie Mattell. He’s dancin’ to “Chattahoochee” with Noah Cyrus on TikTok. He’s releasing Bronco, his LP follow-up to 2019’s Pony, in three chapters over the course of three months. He’s got Norman Reedus co-starring in his music videos. He’s always, always wearing that mysterious fringed mask, singing songs in that deep baritone, and begging boys to haw when he yees. All that to say, is it any wonder First Ave. had to add a second night? Get to the gig if you know what’s good for you—we’ve got a feeling Orville Peck won’t be back at a venue this small again. With the Nude Party. 18+. $30+. 8 p.m. 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis; find more info here.–Em Cassel
For their first two releases, Haim made fun, infectious pop-rock. On their latest, the trio of L.A. sisters made their first great album. Featuring production from Vampire Weekend collaborators Rostam Batmanglij and Ariel Rechtshaid, Women in Music Pt. III grooves and simmers while still incorporating the trademark chuga-chuga-chuga guitars the group perfected way back on “The Wire.” It’s a thrilling exploration of genres and womanhood, one that earned top 10 placements on most prominent year-end lists. Sasami opens. All ages. $67-$77. 6:30 p.m. 500 S. Sixth St., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Jay Boller
Jeff Rosentstock canceling January’s NO DREAM tour date at First Ave was among the things that almost broke me this winter. But now that the daylight lasts a little longer and the seasonal thrust of my depression is ebbing, I’m willing to admit that June is actually the best time to see everyone’s favorite ska-pologist. It’s a show you should bike to with your friends, in cutoff shorts and sneakers. This is a show you should leave laughing, stepping into a warm night, not huddling your shoulders and hustling to the bus. It’s a show meant for almost-summer, when the air is full of possibility, when it feels like you might just be able to dance and sing so loud you crush the sadness under the weight of your collective euphoria. With NNAMDÏ and Catbite. All ages. $20. 6 p.m. 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis; find more info here. –Em Cassel
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