Big Gigs: The Twin Cities' best concerts Nov. 29-Dec. 5

  • Updated: November 29, 2013 - 1:00 AM

Toussaint Morrison plays the Triple Rock on Friday

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HOLIDAY

▲ With ongoing loose talk that Lee’s owner Louie Sirian might sell the place and threaten Minneapolis’ cool-city rating as a result, Trailer Trash’s Trashy Little X-Mas shows might boast a little more urgency this year, their 20th annual run. Tennessee-bred countryman Nate Dungan and his band of merry men — note we didn’t say gentlemen — have expanded their holiday schedule to include dates in Rochester, Northfield and elsewhere. But Lee’s is still far and away where their old-school honky-tonk and quirky revelry goes over best. (9 p.m. Sat. and next three Saturdays, plus Dec. 20 & 23, Lee’s Liquor Lounge, $20.) Riemenschneider

Ronettes lead singer Ronnie Spector was featured on one of the greatest holiday albums of all time — 1963’s “A Christmas Gift to You From Phil Spector” — so 25 years ago she decided to stage her own musical yule party in her hometown of New York. For several years, the self-proclaimed bad girl of rock has taken the show on tour to sing her classic renditions of “Sleigh Ride,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” which still rank among the most-played holiday recordings every year. She’ll also perform some of the hits (“Be My Baby,” “Walking in the Rain”) that landed the Ronettes in the Rock Hall of Fame. (7 p.m. Wed.-Thu., Dakota Jazz Club, $45-$65.) Bream

POP/ROCK

After a month on the road together sharing drummers and basking in Ryan Olson’s shady production, Poliça and Marijuana Deathsquads return home for a sprawling two-night stand at … wait, where?! No, “Mill City Nights” is not a misprint. Chalk it up to yet another venture for these adventurous electro-throb rock acts. These are Poliça’s first full local gigs since releasing their wilder and better sophomore album, “Shulamith,” and live reviews have widely praised the new material. No telling what the heck the Deathsquads have planned or who’s going to perform with them, which is always part of the fun/fear. Read an interview with MDS at startribune.com/music. (9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Mill City Nights, $25-$28.) Chris Riemenschneider

Since Frank Ocean never made it to town to promote one of last year’s most critically adored albums, how about somebody else giving his “Channel Orange” a try? Toussaint Morrison is rising to the task. The south Minneapolis rapper — who has shown off his singing skills in local bands the Blend and Lazlo Supreme and is a trained actor to boot — has prepped a set of Ocean material with a live band. He’s calling it a “resuscitation.” Soul-punk band Black Diet, Unknown Prophets MC/producer Big Jess and Dwell & the Shape Shift also perform. (9 p.m. Fri., Triple Rock, $7.) Riemenschneider

For their third annual Thanksgiving Extravaganza, rockin’ urban country combo the Tex Pistols have corraled Kenni Holmen, Steve Strand and Michael Nelson of the Horn Heads (re-christened the Longhorns), backup singers Aimee Lee and Pamela McNeill and two special guests: singer Mary Jane Alm and keyboardist Billy Barber, veteran of a slew of pop, folk and jazz recordings. (8 p.m. Fri., Dakota Jazz Club, $15.) Tom Surowicz

Forget about Lissie’s singer/songwriter days. Her second full-length, “Back to Forever,” is a throwback sonically to 1980s pop/rock but characterized by her point of view. She’s sometimes a political and social commentator but mostly sings about heartbreak. Clearly influenced by Stevie Nicks, the strong-voiced indie rocker shines on “I Don’t Want to Go to Work,” with its radio-friendly chorus, and the dreamy “Sleepwalking,” with its sweet wall of pop. Purple Apple opens. (7:30 p.m. Sat., Skyway Theatre, $26.50.) Jon Bream

A co-op label started by melody-making musicians who worked with big labels in their heyday, Korda Records stages a showcase that’s part release party for a new compilation and part family get-together. Pennsylvania-reared, locally transplanted swirl-pop band the Ocean Blue signed to Sire and made a small splash on MTV’s “120 Minutes” and the like in the late ’80s. They’ll be joined by loungey pop maestro Jim Ruiz’s new band along with the Starfolk and the Owls, each sweetly somber harmony groups featuring former Hang Ups leader Brian Tighe and his wife, Allison LaBonne. It’s the Owls’ first gig in two years. Jake Rudh will also be on hand spinning records. (8 p.m. Sat., Cedar Cultural Center, all ages, $12-$15.) Riemenschneider

Lest you think Kenny Chesney, Zac Brown and all of country’s beach-loving singers were going to make Jimmy Buffett seem as obsolete as that ol’ Hawaiian shirt in your closet, Mr. Margaritaville has returned with a vintage Buffett album. Or maybe you’d consider this year’s “Songs From St. Nowhere” to be a self-parody. Oh, just have fun with “Too Drunk to Karaoke” with Toby Keith, but “I’m No Russian” is corny, punny and politically incorrect. New songs or not, a Buffett live show — his first in the Twin Cities since 2004 — is always a trip to somebody’s idea of paradise. (8 p.m. Tue. Xcel Energy Center, $36-$136.) Bream

Joe Henry has been so busy as a producer, working with everyone from Bettye LaVette and Bonnie Raitt to Billy Bragg and Mose Allison, that his solo career has lost momentum. His last record, 2011’s “Reverie,” was an ambitious collection reflecting on the various meanings of time. This year, Henry worked on the all-star, two-CD “Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War” and the book “Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him” (co-written with his brother David). Now he is squeezing in four rare solo acoustic gigs, including a stop in Minneapolis. Henry has a fondness for the Twin Cities — the Jayhawks backed him on tour and on two of his 1990s solo albums, and he contributed a track to this fall’s “Songs for Slim” benefit project. Read an interview in Sunday’s Variety section. (7 p.m. Tue., Dakota Jazz Club, $27.) Bream

Veteran pop belter Michael Bolton has made all the clichéd midcareer moves: two albums of standards, including one of Sinatra songs, five Christmas collections and a series of discs exploring vintage soul. This year’s Motown salute, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: A Tribute to Hitsville,” doesn’t offer any original interpretations but it’s not bad — even if he sometimes evokes Michael McDonald more than Marvin Gaye. The best tracks are duets with Kelly Rowland and Melanie Fiona. (8 p.m. Tue., Burnsville Performing Arts Center, $67.) Bream

Instrumental funk crew PHO could pass for a pack of young CPAs, or a Mormon mission group. Yet they lay down industrial-strength grooves in the grand tradition of the JB’s, AWB and the Meters, with an electric Miles Davis flourish or two for good measure. These eight guys write catchy originals, and offer exciting solos to go with their irresistible rhythms. Like the BT Express, they’ll do it till you’re satisfied. They headline a horn-heavy, all-funky triple bill that includes St. Paul’s up ’n’ coming McNasty Brass Band, made up of McNally-Smith kids, and the Tasty Tones. (7:30 p.m. Tue., 7th Street Entry, $6.) Surowicz

JAZZ

In what’s become a Thanksgiving weekend tradition, Pat Mallinger is back to show off his fiery and formidable alto sax skills. The St. Paul native has long been established as one of Chicago’s top straight-ahead modern jazz soloists. And another Minnesota expatriate, pianist extraordinaire Bill Carrothers, will help Mallinger scale heady heights on every song. A can’t-miss engagement, perhaps the last of its ilk. (9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Artists’ Quarter, $15.) Surowicz

Reigning Hammond organ king Joey DeFrancesco arrives with a fine new release, “One for Rudy.” It’s dedicated to the most famous studio engineer in jazz history, Rudy Van Gelder, who recorded seminal B3 albums for Blue Note Records and beyond. DeFrancesco will be backed by two Chicagoans: guitarist Jeff Parker, better known in rock and avant-garde circles, thanks to his work with Tortoise and sundry AACM players, and drummer George Fludas, who has anchored trios for Ray Brown, Bobby Broom and Monty Alexander. (7 & 9 p.m., Mon., Dakota Jazz Club, $20-$30.) Surowicz

R&B

Lovers of vintage soul music are divided on Charles Bradley. An exciting, sweaty throwback showman, the former James Brown impersonator is full of affectations, but that shouldn’t diminish his compelling story — he lived on the streets of Brooklyn as a teen, worked odd jobs around the country and signed his first record deal after he turned 60. The subject of a much-praised 2012 documentary (“Soul of America”), the gritty, emotional singer is touring behind his second disc for Daptone Records, “Victim of Love.” Opening is Minneapolis soul siren Caroline Smith. (8:30 p.m. Thu., First Avenue, $20.) Bream

COUNTRY

Nearly four decades ago, the Sky Blue Water Boys, starring super-singer Becky Thompson and guitar great Dan Lund, were the best real country band in town. Thankfully, some things don’t change. Becky Thompson & Old School, with Lund sounding better than ever, remain dedicated to the kind of sounds that Nashville producers so often neglect, but dancers and barflies never stop craving. This sextet sports five great singers, including Minnesota's best steel guitarist, Joe Savage. (8 p.m. Fri., Minneapolis Eagles Club, 2507 E. 25th St., $5.) Surowicz

Hunter Hayes, 22, has released one album and five singles, but he’s already headlining two nights in a Minneapolis theater. That’s because his only country chart-topper, “Wanted,” crossed over to pop — and he’s a bona fide heartthrob. Doogie Howser cute, he has bar-band swagger and guitar chops to burn, not to mention a shelf full of trophies including the CMA Award for best new artist of 2012. His new single, “Everybody’s Got Somebody but Me,” features pop star Jason Mraz. Opening is whip-smart twanger Ashley Monroe, responsible for two of the best country albums of 2013: her own “Like a Rose” and Pistol Annies’ “Annie Up.” (7:30 p.m. Wed.-Thu., Orpheum Theatre, $37.50.) Bream

BLUEGRASS

Best known for backing Steve Martin, the Steep Canyon Rangers are an award-winning progressive bluegrass group in their own right. In the past dozen years, the North Carolina combo has released eight albums without Martin, including last year’s Grammy-grabbing “Nobody Knows You.” This year’s “Tell the Ones I Love” features pretty picking, a country/folk/bluegrass mashup and the warm, mellifluous vocals of Woody Platt (the perfect name for a bluegrass singer, says Martin). The best cut is “Bluer Words Were Never Spoken,” which sounds like the Grateful Dead with impeccable vocal harmonies. Opening are young bluegrassers the Long Shots, named for a Steep Canyon Rangers tune. (7:30 p.m. Thu., Cedar, $20-$22.) Bream





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