The Big Gigs: Jan. 14-20

  • Updated: January 14, 2011 - 12:16 PM

Trampled by Turtles, Burkina Electric, Cash Only tribute and more shows for the week.

Burkina Electric

Photo: Sam West, Star Tribune

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POP/ROCK

After earning a star on the wall and its first two-night sellout last year, Trampled by Turtles returns to First Ave for a true winter-warmer weekend. The alt-twangy, barnstorming string quintet from Duluth continues to make inroads in the traditional bluegrass/folk field, including a recent appearance on the radio show "Mountain Stage" and an inaugural trip to the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival on tap this summer. They're gaining ground with local hipsters, too: Current 89.3 listeners ranked their "Palomino" album high on the Top 89 of 2010 charts. Caroline Smith and Boys N' the Barrels open the first night. Erik Koskinen and Dave Carroll's TBT offshoot Two Many Banjos play the second show. (9 p.m. Fri., 7 p.m. Sat., First Avenue. Sold out.) (C.R.)

Known for his rich baritone and emotional lyrics, well-traveled singer/songwriter John Gorka was born in New Jersey but has called Washington County home for several years. At a benefit for the Marine Volunteer Fire and Rescue Unit, expect selections from Gorka's splendid 2010 album "Red Horse," a trio project with Eliza Gilkyson and Lucy Kaplansky. (7 p.m. Sat. Marine Village Hall, 121 Judd St., Marine on St. Croix, $20, 612-810-0557.) (J.B.)

While other '80s hair bands still promise to set the stage on fire -- except Great White, of course -- Tesla can boast of doing so in the studio. Their recording facility in Sacramento, Calif., sustained fire damage just before the holidays. The quintet continues to make music there reminiscent of its Stonesy hits "Drugstore Cowboy" and "Little Suzi," including the new "Forever More" album. (8 p.m. Fri., Treasure Island Casino, Red Wing, Minn. Sold out.) (C.R.)

Best known from a Target commercial featuring their 2004 song "Say Something New," Swedish indie-pop band the Concretes finally have something new to say. Their first new album in three years, "WYWH," is their second without singer Victoria Bergsman, who left to form Taken for Trees and took much of the band's buzz with them. However, there's a lot of attention being paid to opening band Hooray for Earth, a rhythmically fragmented, wiry synth-pop band from New York earning comparisons to Yeasayer and other hot names in the blogosphere. (10 p.m. Fri., Triple Rock. 18 & older. $14.) (C.R.)

Johnny Cash might be considered a country legend, but Cash Only: A Tribute to the Man in Black always spotlights his status as a bona-fide rock star. In its 11th year, the event returns with a familiar cast of players, including honky-tonk purists Trailer Trash and their one-night-only Cash Choir, plus the Cabooze's hard-boogying regulars the White Iron Band, reunited garage-rockers Ol' Yeller and southern Minnesota farm boys Six Mile Grove. Even local Nashville vet Sherwin Linton, who once literally stood in Cash's boots, puts on a pretty rocking set for this thing. (9 p.m. Sat., Cabooze. 18 & older. $12-$15.) (C.R.)

Grace Potter has gone from being a granola jammer to a glamorous VH1 Diva. She's always had a big Raitt/Joplin voice, but she and her Vermont band the Nocturnals rock with more precision and force on their self-titled fourth CD, produced by hitmaker Mark Batson. Chamberlin opens. Read an interview with Potter in Sunday's Variety. (8 p.m. Sun., Varsity Theater, $18.50-$21.50.) (J.B.)

Always versatile and chameleonic, St. Louis Park native Peter Himmelman goes style-hopping on his 19th recording, "The Mystery and the Hum," a made-in-Minneapolis disc that was self-released last fall. He does a little rap-rock, rockabilly and twangy Americana. He rocks like Elvis Costello (long his model) and occasionally sounds original, most notably on the acoustic rocker "Ever So Slightly" and the melancholic piano ballad "Trembling in the Beams." (7 p.m. Sun., Guthrie Theater's Dowling Studio, $29.) (J.B.)

Well, Liz Phair is clearly still sucking wind. The onetime queen of alt-rock went from overt attempts at pop stardom in the mid-'00s to revisiting her overheralded "Exile in Guyville" on tour in 2008, and now she has a bizarre new album, "Funstyle" -- which seems to be making fun of pop stardom and the music business behind it. Phair aims to be funny with tracks such as "Bollywood" (a possible slam on M.I.A.) and she slaps on a comically diverse array of musical styles, little of which recalls her heyday material or stands up to repeated listening. Still, she's admirably taking a different path. Sort of like how running your car into a tree is a different path. (8 p.m. Thu., Fine Line. 18 & older. $20.) (C.R.)

When you see Lissie onstage, you'll understand why she had to cancel shows last fall because of shredded vocal cords. The Rock Island, Ill.-reared hippie powerhouse has a fiery, bellowing, gospelized voice that belies her laid-back, echoey soul-rock, part Patty Griffin and part Cat Power. Born Elisabeth Maurus, 28, she earned her a big buzz at the South by Southwest Music Conference last spring along with local airplay on the Current for the single "Little Lovin'." Her soulful reinventions of Hank Williams' "Wedding Bells" and Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" have also turned a head or two. She's back out touting her full-length debut, "Catching a Tiger." Alabaman opener Dylan LeBlanc was named one of Rolling Stone's rookies of the year. (8 p.m. Thu., Cedar Cultural Center, $15. All ages.)

If her "Prairie Home" appearance last weekend whetted your appetite, get a full helping of Nellie McKay, 28, one of the most exciting, rewarding and unpredictable (in a good way) performers on the planet. Sounding like the daughter of Doris Day and Leon Redbone, she is a playful girl one moment and a ferociously swingin' jazznik the next. (7 p.m. Thu. & next Fri. Dakota, $32.) (J.B.)

WORLDBEAT

Afro-pop meets electronica head-on in Burkina Electric, a six-member troupe whose music is both high-tech and soulful, roots-righteous and very stylish. A more ambitious and impressive hybrid than previous hit Afro fusion sounds, it features Austrian composer/percussionist Lukas Ligeti (son of legendary avant composer Gyorgy Ligeti) along with the German electronics wiz known as Pyrolator, plus singing star Mai Lingani and guitar master Wende K. Blass, both of Burkina Faso. Then there are dancer/singers Vicky and Zoko Zoko, who will be joined in concert by Minnesota dancers Leah Nelson and Kenna Sarge. (8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Southern Theater, $20-$22.) (T.S.)

COUNTRY

Wisconsin-bred, pony-tailed Josh Thompson has been getting radio play for "Way Out Here," a boisterous ballad about being proudly from the sticks ("We're about John Wayne, Johnny Cash and John Deere") and last year's "Beer on the Table," a banjo-spiked rocker. He definitely has a bit of an attitude, as he explains in "Blame It on Waylon" on his debut disc. (9:30 p.m. Fri., Cabooze, $18-$20.) (J.B.)

Christian Kane has a long list of acting credits, from WB's "Angel" to TNT's current "Leverage." He's also been making music since the late '90s. He's big on Southern rockers but will essay the occasional ballad. (9:30 p.m. Fri., Toby Keith's, $5.) (J.B.)

Troy Olsen has a Minnesota-sounding name (he's actually from Arizona), songwriting credits for Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton and "Country Strong," and two EPs. His song "Summer Thing," a slice of Kenny Chesney lite, was a modest hit last year, and he's not likely to do much better with the new "Good Hands," invoking Willie Nelson's guitar and Billy Graham's Bible. (9:30 p.m. Wed., Toby Keith's, $5.) (J.B.)

JAZZ

While he's on the road much of the year with piano giant McCoy Tyner, Twin Cities drum master Eric Kamau Gravatt remains a potent if hardly overexposed presence in town with his own combo, Source Code. They convene a couple times a year in downtown St. Paul -- catch 'em while you can. (9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Artists' Quarter. $12.) (T.S.)

After its debut last spring during the Walker's "King for 2 Days" fest, the Dave King Trucking Company has proven to be more than just a one-way ride. The jazz quartet's namesake drummer is taking the sly, laid-back, avant-jazz group out for another spin between his Village Vanguard residency and European tour dates with the Bad Plus. Here, he plays with his Happy Apple cohort Erik Fratzke on guitar, Adam Linz on standup bass and New Yorker Chris Speed on reed instruments. (8:30 p.m. Sat., Loring Theater, 1407 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. $12.) (C.R.)

On his 20th album, jazzman Ramsey Lewis scored a pop hit with "The In Crowd" in 1965. More than 60 albums later, Lewis, 75, remains an eloquent pianist, whose playing is a mix of the formal, the intellectual and the playful. He's got a new trio featuring bassist Joshua Ramos and drummer Charles Heath. (7 & 9 p.m. Tue.-Wed., Dakota, $40-$70.) (J.B.)

BLUES

Making his first local appearances in more than a decade, the excellent Canton, Miss., singer Grady Champion is coming off a strong 2010. He was a winner at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, recorded a live CD in Florida and made a cameo appearance in the upcoming horror film "Rites of Spring." In addition to his soulful voice, Chapman plays great harmonica, writes witty songs and knows how to work a crowd. (7:30 p.m. Sat., Wilbebski's, $10.) (T.S.)

Texas bluesman Hamilton Loomis was mentored by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bo Diddley -- in fact, Bo's last recording was a guest shot on Loomis' 2007 CD, "Ain't Just Temporary." Loomis' latest release is "Live in England," a power-packed showcase for his guitar skills, songwriting savvy and tight band, featuring Louisiana's Stratton Doyle, who adds salty sax, keyboards and backup vocals. Their showstopper? A 10-minute tour-de-force of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Bow Wow." (8 p.m. Tue., Famous Dave's Uptown, $8.) (T.S.)

CHORAL

One Voice Mixed Chorus, Minnesota's GLBT and allies choir, enters the marriage debate with "Love Dares Speak Its Name," a concert celebrating the universality of love and commitment. Through music ranging from pop standards and Broadway ballads to Eric Whitacre's "This Marriage," One Voice tells stories of love, long-term relationships and why they matter -- regardless of gender. It's fresh off a November tour that brought this program to Alexandria, Morris and Gaylord, Minn. Also featured: theater vignettes by the Flower Shop Project. (7:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Central Presbyterian Church, 500 Cedar St., St. Paul, $25-$10, 651-298-1954,www.ovmc.org) (W.R.B.)

ACOUSTIC

An annual cornucopia of acoustic guitar wizardry, International Guitar Night is organized by Californian Brian Gore. He's joined this season by young Alexandre Gismonti of Brazil, who's toured the globe with his famous father, Egberto Gismonti; Italy's enthralling Pino Forastiere, whose drive and advanced tapping techniques should appeal to fans of the late Michael Hedges, and returning British favorite Clive Carroll, who excels at all sorts of musics (blues, Celtic, classical) and is a great storyteller, to boot. (8 p.m. Wed., Cedar Cultural Center, $18-$20.) (T.S.)

Contributors: Staff critics Jon Bream and Chris Riemenschneider and freelancers Tom Surowicz and William Randall Beard.

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