A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:
Annie Enneking and the Bang Bang, Open Eye Theatre. The local theater world loves her, but music fans need to meet this vivid singer-song-rocker with a playful streak and serious guitar skills.
Malamanya, Seward Co-Op 40th anniversary, East River Flats; Charanga Tropical, First Wednesdays at Icehouse. The Twin Cities enjoys a wealth of Cuban-centric fusion ensembles. No passport necessary.
Epitome No Question, Red Stag Block Party. This old-school hip-hop dance crew turns a set-change into a game-change when it hijacks a rock fest.
JIM MEYER, FARMINGTON
Alabama Shakes, First Avenue. Suddenly, calm and shy Brittany Howard unleashed her volcanic voice and came across like Otis Redding in Mama Cass' body. This soul-punk sensation is the best new artist of 2012, and this was the best club show of the year so far.
Amadou and Mariam, the Cedar. Backed by a tight, percussive quartet, the blind Malian husband-and-wife duo found good grooves and created good vibes with Amadou's versatile guitar and an exciting blend of African and Western music.
Sugarland, Mystic Lake amphitheater. Playing a no-frills, request-heavy show, frontwoman Jennifer Nettles proved once again that she is one of country music's best and most in-the-moment performers. Her spirit -- she clearly enjoys what she's doing -- was as irresistible as her potent, twangy voice.
JON BREAM, STAR TRIBUNE