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

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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