When he goes back to Chicago to finish his senior year at Loyola University in a couple of weeks, Colin Caulfield will have quite a story to tell about how he spent his summer vacation. Among the highlights are prepping his first album for a prominent New York indie label and opening shows for Dawes, Local Natives and Sebadoh frontman Lou Barlow.

"It's been going really well for a first go-round like this," said Caulfield, 21, who records and performs under the rather generic but fitting moniker Young Man.

The St. Paul native was back in town visiting his family last week and returns Wednesday on his mini-tour with Barlow and Wye Oak, coming to the 400 Bar.

A drummer throughout his tenure at Cretin High School, Caulfield realized drum kits don't fit too well inside dorm rooms, so he picked up an acoustic guitar and keyboards instead. He started learning some of his favorite songs and turning them into lo-fi music videos that he posted on YouTube, including tunes by such current collegiate favorites as Animal Collective, Bon Iver, Beach House and Deerhunter.

It was Caulfield's organ-hazed cover of the Deerhunter track "Rainwater Cassette Exchange" that really earned him attention. None other than Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox posted a link to the clip on his own blog, declaring, "[It's] fantastically superior to the original. It actually sent shivers up my spine, especially during the second verse."

Somewhere between all the YouTube hits and the modest European following he developed while studying abroad (and gigging) around Paris this past winter and spring, Caulfield started earning attention from music bloggers and record labels with his original songs, which he shrewdly posted alongside the covers on YouTube. The attention culminated in a deal with French Kiss Records, the label behind the Hold Steady's first two albums (as well as Local Natives, the Dodos and Les Savy Fav). It will release Young Man's debut EP Tuesday on iTunes and Oct. 12 everywhere else.

Titled "Boy," just like U2's debut -- a fact Caulfield is probably too young to know -- his first batch of music blends the soft and (yep!) boyish indie-folk sound of Sufjan Stevens and Iron & Wine with the more atmospheric, harmony-looping recording style of the acts he has covered on YouTube. He wrote the songs last summer at home in St. Paul before heading off to college, resulting in such titles as "Home Alone" and "Just Grown."

"They're all relevant to that moment in time where you're sort of forced to let go of childhood," Caulfield explained. "I've moved past that period already, but I can still relate to those songs, and I think most people can."

Since recording "Boy," Caulfield has turned Young Man into a full band with classmates from Chicago. They plan to perform at New York's CMJ Fest in October and a smattering of select gigs until school lets out next summer. He said he has already written enough songs to issue a double album next year, although he admitted, "I don't think the label likes that idea."

Yeah, let's not get ahead of ourselves, young man.

Curtiss A on display

We knew he was a Beatles fan, "Jeopardy" master and pretty good talker in addition to being a local rock pioneer, but did you know Curtiss A is also a collage artist? His first-ever exhibit is now open at Gallery 122 at Hang It, 122 SE. 8th St., Mpls., with the grade-A title "Something to Do Until the End of the World." He's hosting a reception there Friday from 7 to 10 p.m., followed by a party (and performance) at the 331 Club.

"I've always covered my walls with the stuff I find interesting, and at some point I ran out of wall space and started putting it in frames," the veteran rocker said with a laugh, explaining the origins of this decades-in-the-making exhibit. Many of the images he pastes together came out of the bins of Comic Book College in Uptown, plus old magazines and other vintage publications. "I look at it as a very green activity, since I'm really just recycling."

On a serious note, the exhibit title alludes to an apocalyptic vision that permeates most of Curtiss' artwork: "I very much believe Armageddon is coming sooner than later," he said. In the meantime, he's still planning the 31st annual tribute show on the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death, Dec. 8.

West by Nordeast

Forget Emmer vs. Dayton, at least for one weekend. The big smackdown is Nordeast vs. the West Bank, as two of Minneapolis' coolest neighborhoods go head-to-head with three competing music fests, two of which are brand spanking new.

The inaugural West Bank Music Festival takes place Saturday, spread out around the Cedar-Riverside area and centered on an outdoor stage next to the Nomad Pub, where Chooglin', Red Pens, the Brass Kings, International Reggae All-Stars and more will perform from 3 to 10 p.m. A $5 wristband will also get you into the neighboring clubs for Mark Mallman (at the Triple Rock), Dessa (Nomad), Mississippi blues heir Cedric Burnside (Palmer's Bar), Belfast Cowboys (Whiskey Junction) and Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles (Acadia), among many others.

Music lovers can also jump from venue to venue and genre to genre at the Nordeast Music Fest, which kicks off Friday with the Hopefuls, Zoo Animal, Adam Levy's Liminal Phase and more at the Ritz Theater ($10), while Curtiss A's party is at the 331 Club (free). On Saturday, the Ritz is hosting the Northeast Dinnerbell benefit for Meals on Wheels with the Mighty Mofos, Roe Family Singers and Goodnas ($20), while the 331 Club has Haley Bonar, Dark Dark Dark, Daredevil Christopher Wright and more from 3 to 10 p.m. (free) and Mayslack's presents another Levy band, Hookers & Blow ($6). Shuga Records is also putting on an all-electronic festival-within-a-festival Friday through Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. (free) with Soviet Panda, Woody McBride, DVS1 and many more. Full schedule is at www. nordeastmusicfestival.com.

Northeast Minneapolis also has the free Red Stag Block Party on Saturday with Cory Chisel, Heiruspecs, E.L.nO and more. Too much for one weekend? We'll see.

Random mix

After recording the final show of his electrified "Blood of Man" tour last fall, Mason Jennings is issuing his new "Live at First Avenue" album Tuesday, featuring three unreleased songs. First Ave will host a free listening party Monday next door in the Depot (6-9 p.m.). Jennings also has a new studio album coming out this fall, "The Flood," featuring re-recordings of songs he dug up on a "lost" cassette tape from 15 years ago. ... Mason is down to perform again at First Ave on Oct. 8, opening for Semisonic in a benefit for sound engineer and hit-and-run accident victim Brad Kern. The Twilight Hours, Hang-Ups and Two Harbors also will play. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. for $22.50. ...

Here's a sunshiny summer counterpart to Curtiss A's annual December tribute to the darker Beatle: The Melismatics, Blue Sky Blackout, White Light Riot, Adam Levy, Ashleigh Still, Janey Winterbauer, Dan Israel, Alicia Wiley and more are taking over First Avenue on Wednesday for "Macca," a tribute to Paul McCartney. The show will include a raffle and DJ sets featuring the music that inspired Sir Paul when he was a kid (8:45 p.m., $8-$10). ... In other Beatles news, Minnesota Public Radio's "Midday" will mark the 45th anniversary of the band's Met Stadium concert on Friday at 11 a.m. (91.1 FM, MPR.org), including an interview with photographer Bill Carlson, whose photos from the 1965 show are on display at the Minnesota History Center. ...

Another great summer for downtown St. Paul's Music in Mears series winds down next Thursday in Mears Park with the New Standards, Alicia Wiley and Andy Elwell, followed by a screening of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" (starts at 6 p.m., free). ... After the success of their Montana campouts, John Hermanson and Chris Cunningham are planning the Storyhill Fest Midwest for Sept. 4-5 at the Presbyterian Clearwater Forest Camp in the Brainerd Lakes area, with performers including Anais Mitchell, Jonathan Byrd and Danny Schmidt (www.storyhillfest.com). ...

For anyone put off by the prices of Kiss' upcoming State Fair gig, the tribute band Kiss Army performs Saturday at G.B. Leighton's Pickle Park in Fridley for $10. Hey, it's only two fewer imitators in makeup than the official Kiss these days, for a fraction of the cost.

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Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658