Molly Maher plugs us into the six-string talent that will take the stage Saturday in Mears Park.
The Monday morning after the Paul McCartney concert, Molly Maher was counting the minutes until somebody came into the famed St. Paul guitar store she helps run and started playing “Blackbird.”
“It’s such a gorgeous melody, but everyone plays it and it drives me crazy,” said Maher, a renowned local singer-songwriter and bandleader as well as a longtime fixture at Willie’s American Guitars.
Thankfully, Maher will hear much more sophisticated and innovative guitar work on Saturday. She was once again tapped to emcee and perform at the second annual Lowertown Guitar Festival, a one-day showcase of a wide variety of six-string players in downtown St. Paul’s Mears Park.
Her involvement is a sure sign the event is not intended for the stereotypical male guitar geek. “It’s not just a dude thing, and it’s definitely not just for face-melting guitar shredders, either,” she said.
Maher helped book the acts along with Suicide Commandos guitarist Chris Osgood and other staffers at St. Paul’s McNally Smith College of Music, where the festival’s accompanying clinics and a teen competition also take place Saturday starting at 9 a.m. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman — who never shies from letting us know he’s also a guitar player — and his staff came up with the idea for the fest as another way of bringing people downtown.
Saturday’s lineup at least guarantees a jam-packed stage. Here’s a guide to the headliners:
Robben Ford (8:30 p.m.): The California vet was hired by Charlie Musselwhite at 18 and has a résumé as eclectic as Saturday’s fest hopes to be. “He’s known more as a blues guy, but he’s done a lot outside that, especially jazz stuff with Joni Mitchell and even Miles Davis,” Maher said.
Greg Koch Trio (7 p.m.): “He’s an amazing player in his own right, but he’s also a really good clinician and teacher,” Maher said of the Wisconsinite, a Fender staffer and maker of instructional DVDs. “In the world of guitar education, he’s a giant.”
Jim Campilongo Trio (5:30 p.m.): “He’s for all the cool kids,” Maher joked, noting the New Yorker’s stint with Norah Jones in the Little Willies and his work with Wilco guitar wiz Nels Cline.
Rosie Flores (4 p.m.): The Texas rockabilly/alt-country star has recorded for Rounder and Bloodshot labels and is a personal favorite of Maher’s. “She’s an icon in that Telecaster rockabilly world.”
Phil Heywood (2:30 p.m.): Another of the Twin Cities’ great acoustic finger-pickers and a “Prairie Home” regular. Said Maher, “Anybody who loves Leo Kottke will love Phil, too. Leo himself loves Phil.”
Saturday’s festival will also feature a second stage showcasing more local talent, including Jeremy Ylvisaker (Alpha Consumer), Chris Beaty (Clementown), McNally Smith student Trevor Wiest and Maher herself, who’s pairing with her former teacher Gabriella Sweet.
Sims debuted his barbed new track “Uh Huh” earlier this week ahead of the Sept. 2 release of his new seven-song collection, “Field Notes.” That’s the first in a string of Doomtree recordings due in the coming months, also including ones by Mike Mictlan, P.O.S. and (early next year) the whole crew. … Mark Mallman’s new single “Horror Movies” is also going around the Web ahead of his set Saturday at the Pizza Lucé Block Party and an entire album he said is inspired by the ’70s “coke era” of Bowie and the Stones. …
Angst-heavy hard-rock quartet Chiefs of the North headline the Cabooze on Friday to tout their second album, “Reach,” recorded at Flower Studios with Ed Ackerson (9 p.m., $5-$8). Between frontman Troy Metcalf’s deep moan-to-howl voice and the stormy guitars, the record sounds like a melding of Tool and the Cult. … Bomba de Luz is hosting an all-ages party Wednesday at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall for a new concert album, “Live in Chicago,” recorded at the Windy City’s Treehouse Records. (7 p.m., $8). ...
The Jayhawks will play an Electric Fetus in-store set on Aug. 17 for fans who buy the new reissues of their three 1997-2003 albums there. … About the only time you’ll see them besides St. Paddy’s Day, the popular Thin Lizzy tribute band Jailbreak takes over the Triple Rock on Saturday to celebrate Phil Lynott’s birthday (10 p.m., $6). …
Vita.mn’s August Music & Movies series at the Lake Harriet Bandshell continues Friday with Fort Wilson Riot and “Mars Attacks!” (7 p.m., free). … In addition to the guitar fest, Mears Park plays host to a strong double-header with Chris Koza and the Greycoats next Thursday for the weekly Music in Mears series (6 p.m., free). The series wraps Aug. 28 with Pennyroyal and Benjamin Cartel.