After a two-year hiatus from the fair to take "A Prairie Home Companion" on cruises abroad, Garrison Keillor is back at the grandstand with his radio show. He'll sample strange foods, harmonize with Jearlyn and Jevetta Steele, and wax nostalgic about State Fair adventures of his youth. At the fair, he usually lets the show run long (including an intermission that's really an audience singalong with Garrison), leaving his editors to trim it for broadcast on Saturday. (7:45 p.m. Fri., grandstand, $32 & $25.) Jon Bream

He's a throwback to the classic soul he started performing in the 1960s, and they're young turks with a love of old soul and the musical chops to deliver it with authority. Together, Sonny Knight & the Lakers have become one of the Twin Cities more potent and entertaining live acts. Knight's 2014 comeback album, "I'm Still Here," may be erratic in the songwriting department but it's still commendable. (7:30 & 8:45 p.m., International Bazaar, free) Bream

Zydeco might be the most accessible and joyous music most people don't know anything about (outside Louisiana), and Buckwheat Zydeco is its greatest living purveyor at age 66. The Lafayette, La., native has toured or recorded with Eric Clapton and Keith Richards, and earned a strong following locally with his R&B- and funk-infused, accordion-led dance parties at the Dakota and the zoo. He's a great one for a true Minnesota get-together with old and young music lovers alike. (8:30 p.m., Leinie Lodge bandshell, free.) Riemenschneider

Will Hoge is one of the few Nashville singer/songwriters to get his start on the alt-country side of the twang coin in the late-'90s and then successfully flip to the mainstream in recent years. He wrote the Eli Young Band's No. 1 hit "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" as well as Lady Antebellum's "Better Off Now (That You're Gone)." Plenty more where those came from. (3:30 and 4:45 p.m., Leinie Lodge bandshell, free.) Riemenschneider

Floor-stomping, moon-howling local rockers the 4onthefloor got their fair assignment late after rising country star Sturgill Simpson dropped off the lineup (to tour with the Zac Brown Band). Frontman Gabriel Douglas has bounced the band back from a lineup change and is prepping a new album. While they can mix in a little twang, the quartet will surely be the most rocking thing on the West End — and actually at the entire fair this weekend. (7:30 p.m. Fri. & Sat., Schell's Stage, West End Market, free.) Riemenschneider

The most mixed-bag MN Music-on-a-Stick lineup yet — which should suit its 89.3 the Current-attuned audience just fine — the third annual installment could've counted five of its six acts as possible headliners. The honor will go to button-pushing Rhymesayers rapper Brother Ali, playing his first major local show of the year besides the Soundset pre-party. He will be joined by fellow indie-rap faves Doomtree; indie-rock hero Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü and Sugar notoriety, who just released another storming album, "Beauty & Ruin;" elegantly riveting chamber-rock troupe Cloud Cult, which showed its soft yet deep side on the recent concert album "Unplug;" fun-loving tail-grinder Har Mar Superstar, who made a convincing soul man on last year's "Bye Bye 17," plus harmonious country throwbacks the Cactus Blossoms. (4 p.m. Sat., grandstand, $30.) Riemenschneider

They wowed America on NBC's "The Sing-Off." Now's the opportunity to see a cappella champs Home Free in their home state, showcasing their creative harmonies, country-leaning but resourceful repertoire and endless humor. (1 & 2:30 p.m. Sun.-Mon., Leinie Lodge bandshell, free.) Bream

Both Texas and Louisiana can and do claim Marcia Ball as one of their own. The bluesy but rollicking singer and piano plunker fit in somewhere between Asleep at the Wheel and the Fabulous Thunderbirds in the fabled Austin music scene of the '70s and has been a frequent collaborator and acolyte of New Orleans great Irma Thomas. (3:30 & 4:45 p.m. Sun.-Mon., Leinie Lodge bandshell, free.) Riemenschneider

Former frontman Steve Perry may have surprisingly performed in St. Paul earlier this year with Eels, but it'll be Arnel Pineda, who has more energy onstage than Perry ever did, belting "Don't Stop Believin' " and other Journey classics at the fair. Opening act Joan Jett keeps her sound less complicated so she can preserve her "Bad Reputation" and assert "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." (7 p.m. Mon., grandstand, $48 & $58.) Bream


Closed since June 1 for major renovations after First Avenue took it over, St. Paul's most beloved live music venue reopens this week with restaurant service as part of its mix now. The music menu hasn't been scaled back, either, as evidenced by the first batch of gigs. Fargo-reared noise-rock pioneers Hammerhead, part of the fabled Amphetamine/Reptile roster of the early '90s, made a thundering return at the 25th anniversary Am/Rep bash and are back with a new album. Comb Boats with the Cows' Freddy Votel open (9 p.m. Fri., $10). Saturday's newly announced lineup features Four Fists, the long-gestating duo of indie-rap cohorts P.O.S. and Astronautalis, along with sidelined-of-late synth-rock faves Solid Gold and some surprise guests TBA (9 p.m. Sat., $20). Indie-rap cohorts Psychedelic strummers Night Moves have similarly been closed for summer to work on a new album but will head up a wild quadruple bill Sunday with Carroll, Rupert Angeleyes and the Chambermaids (10 p.m. Sun., $12-$14). The Jayhawks will then precede their First Avenue stand next weekend with a purportedly more off-the-cuff warm-up gig (8 p.m. Thu., sold out). Chris Riemenschneider


Last fall, Boston, kingpin of 1970s corporate rock, delivered its first album in 11 years. Recorded over a long period (like all Boston albums), "Life, Love & Hope" featured five different lead singers, including heyday frontman Brad Delp (who committed suicide in 2007) and founding guitarist/songwriter Tom Scholz. He and his revolving cast try to replicate the classic Boston sound but something's missing on the new album. Let's just say that current lead singer Tommy DeCarlo, discovered on MySpace, is no Arnel Pineda, the dynamo Journey found on the Internet. (8 p.m. Fri., Mystic Lake Casino, $75 & $89.) Bream

After earning a strong reception opening for the similarly toned Poliça at the Ten Thousand Sounds festival last month, electronic-addled North Carolina duo Sylvan Esso is back for its headlining debut. Singer Amelia Meath toured with and sang backup for Feist as part of the three-part women's vocal group Mountain Man. Here, she and producer/beatmaker Nick Sanborn craft loopy tunes that bounce between Tune-Yards jaggedness and Björk quirkiness. Local sonic weaver Dosh opens. (8 p.m. Wed., $15.) Riemenschneider


Iggy Azalea isn't the only Australian who knows how to rap (and it's questionable she does). The Hilltop Hoods are busting out from the land Down Under and have a couple of Minneapolis cohorts lending their support. Sims of Doomtree just launched a U.S. tour with the playful South Australia trio, led by wry-and-weedy rapper Suffa. Brother Ali also guests on one track on their new album, "Walking Under the Stars." While Sims swings back to town to play the fair, they're slipping in their own headlining show. MaLLy and Kids Like Us open. (9 p.m. Sat., Fine Line, $15.) Riemenschneider


A Labor Day staple for 16 years and consistently one of the most pleasant family-friendly music fests, the Laughing Waters Bluegrass Fest will bring in one of the genre's leading banjo vets, Bill Emerson, who got his start with the Country Gentlemen in the late '50s and later Jimmy Martin and now leads his own reputable band, Sweet Dixie. He will headline over the usual "boys" club — local faves the Platte Valley Boys and Middle Spunk Creek Boys — plus John Niemann's new band, King Wilkie's Dream, Sawtooth Bluegrass and the Pride of the Prairie. (1-6:30 p.m. Mon., Minnehaha Falls Park, free.) Riemenschneider


The new album "Tough Commute" is so named because it's a collaboration between Twin Cities-based David Martin guitarist and Portland, Ore., counterpart Mike Doolin. When they recorded their first disc in 2009, Martin was residing in Portland, too. But he returned to Minnesota, where he's played with Latin bands including Salsa del Sol and Beiro Mar Brasil. So this CD release party also serves to introduce the twin guitar group to Minnesota audiences, with support from bassist Chris Bates and drummer Pete Hennig. Expect original music along the lines of Mike Stern, Pat Metheny and John Abercrombie. (8 p.m. Sat., Jazz Central Studios, 407 Central Av. SE., Mpls., $10.) Tom Surowicz


If you like your blues served with a big dollop of jive, check out Rick Estrin & the Nightcats. Estrin is a fine harp player, passable singer and sharp-dressed fella who comes off like a long-lost nephew of Groucho Marx. He used to get second billing to guitarist Little Charlie Baty, but found a showstopping young Norwegian guitarist, Kid Anderson, who might wander off into surf, psychobilly, Link Wray or spaghetti western territory. He's both dazzling and shameless, the roaring lion amid this group of nocturnal cats, and well worth the cover charge by himself. (9 p.m. Fri., Famous Dave's Uptown, $8.) Surowicz

Good news for barflies. Electric bassist and excellent singer Ron Haddock is back from Texas, and that means a reunion by the fine and fun combo called the Retractions. Known for harmony vocals, a tasty mix of roots-rock, classy legit country and cool covers, and a healthy sense of humor — heck, the band was originally known as the Alfalpha Males — the group includes Tim Belden (keyboards, accordion), Tedd Halvorson (guitar), Kipp Galloway (drums), all familiar faces from such bygone groups as the Ranchtones, Molly & the Heymakers and Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls. (9 p.m. Fri., Schooner Tavern, no cover.) Surowicz


Another reminder of the great diversity offered in public radio, KFAI-FM's "African Rhythms" show is putting on a mini-fest to spotlight local talent, dubbed Afrisota: Sounds & Culture of Africa in Minnesota. Genre-mixing rapper Greg Grease headlines with his new electro-dub-hop act Zuluzuluu. Also performing: Fela Kuti-inspired Afrobeat groovers Black Brass, Siama Matuzungidi from the band Marimba Africa, the Titambe West African Drum & Dance Ensemble, Somali spoken word artist Nimo Farah, Timba Kay from Zambia and Mpambara from Uganda. (8 p.m. Sat., Cedar Cultural Center, all ages, $10-$15.) Riemenschneider

One of the great voices of Mali, Salif Keita, above, graduated from a couple of fabled groups (the Rail Band and Les Ambassadeurs) into solo stardom. An albino with royal bloodlines dating back centuries, Keita endured a miserable childhood of ostracism before winning international fame when he relocated to Paris in 1984. The singer-songwriter has recorded with famous folks (Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter, Bobby McFerrin, Grace Jones) and made a pack of records that were sometimes great, just as often overproduced. So it's cool news that Keita is embarking on a rare acoustic rootsy tour featuring kora master Mamadou Diabate. (7 & 9 p.m. Mon., Dakota Jazz Club, $50.) Surowicz


Mears Park in downtown St. Paul again plays host to the Concrete and Grass Lowertown Music Festival. An ensemble from the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra opens the three-day event with Beethoven's Septet in E-flat, one of his most popular works while he was alive — so popular that he expressed embarrassment at it. In the midst of a roster of jazz, rock and salsa musicians will be performances by Minnesota Opera and the Ancia Saxophone Quartet, presented by the Schubert Club. (SPCO: 7 p.m. Thu.; Ancia Quartet: 4 p.m. Sat.; MN Opera: 5:30 p.m. Sat., 221 E. 5th St., St. Paul. Free. William Randall Beard