Athens, Ga.-reared psychedelic freak-folkers the Music Tapes don't need an opening band on their current tour: They've got cartoons, magic, storytelling, games, a virtuosic musical saw player and robotic friends the 7-Foot-Tall Metronome and Static the Singing Television instead. It's all part of what kid-like mastermind Julian Koster — a Neutral Milk Hotel alum and vet of the Elephant 6 collective — is calling the Traveling Imaginary, a touring caravan that even involves an actual circus tent. Sure, why not? (7 p.m. Fri., Cedar Cultural Center, all ages, $14-$16.) Chris Riemenschneider

It's an interesting five-act bill with ample variety and many familiar faces. Shoegazer/experimental band Delta Lyrae gets things off to a sleepy start, followed by the duo of ex-Figures leader Jeff Waryan and Wendy Lewis, who has sung with Rhea Valentine and the Bad Plus. Then it's punk and garage-rock time with the Silverteens, fronted by dynamo Mark Engebretson of the Whole Lotta Loves; rarely seen all-star band the Floorshakers, commandeered by Roadrunner Records owner John Beggs, and finally the Grande Machine, delivering the guitar stylings of Vic Champion, whom we used to know as Matt Potts when he was still a Loose Rails member. (8 p.m. Sat., Wild Tymes, free.) Tom Surowicz

Oklahoma's JD McPherson was one of the coolest breakthrough artists of 2012, thanks to both his "Signs & Signifiers" album and his live shows. Whether playing the State Fair or First Avenue, he won over Minnesota crowds with his fresh take on vintage rockabilly, blues and R&B and his ability to connect with music lovers of all ages. When he spotted youngsters in the State Fair crowd, he instinctively knew it was time to pull out Clarence "Frogman" Henry's "Ain't Got No Home." A singer who can croon and shout, McPherson and his crackerjack combo also know how to keep the dance floor jumping. Opening are Minnesota's own old-timey twang brothers, the Cactus Blossoms. (9 p.m. Sat. First Avenue, $17-$20.). Jon Bream

She's already had a CD release party in St. Paul, so now Rochester blues-rock belter Sena Ehrhardt is giving equal time to Minneapolis. On "All In," her second album for San Francisco's Blind Pig label, the blond bombshell, 30, shows powerful pipes, a sense of style and a way with words (she co-wrote seven of the groove-loving selections with her guitar-playing dad, Ed). She adds a certain slow, soulful savoir faire to Solomon Burke's "Cry to Me," delivers Albert Collins' "Cold Cold Feeling" with the right mixture of pain and determination, and finds a spiritual purpose on the passionate original "Dreamin' or Dyin.' " (9 p.m. Sat. Famous Dave's Uptown, $7.) Bream

Cities 97-beloved pop singer Sara Bareilles hasn't exactly compiled a distinguished résumé since her 2007 smash "Love Song." Let's see: She got sonically braver on 2010's "Kaleidoscope Heart," opened at the Indiana State Fair in 2011 for Sugarland before the stage collapsed, and served as a celebrity judge on the third and final season of "The Sing Off" a cappella competition. Now Bareilles is trying to beat the drums for her "Blessed Unrest" album, due in July. She is recording a series of webisodes, touring solo in small venues and promoting her new single, "Brave," which is typical Barelles pop, with a bit of a hip-hop-inspired rhythm for an au courant feel. (8 p.m. Sat. Cedar Cultural Center, sold out.) Bream

Toronto's goth dance-punk duo Crystal Castles might be one of the hardest indie-famous bands to listen to, with chalkboard-screechy rants for vocals and manic dance beats that sound like a thousand Gameboys going down a garbage compactor at once. Hyperactive frontwoman Alice Glass' onstage antics and their lights do make for quite an entertaining live show, though, which explains why they're a favorite on festival lineups again this year. They're touring behind their third album, "III," which made both NME's and Pitchfork's list of 50 best albums of 2012. Denver's rave-punk guru Pictureplane opens. (8 p.m. Sun., First Avenue, $25.) Riemenschneider

No, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree when it comes to James McCartney. Paul's only son, 35, has released a series of EPs featuring well-crafted, harmony-laden pop music. He even acknowledges the obvious with a cover of Neil Young's "Old Man" and his own mandolin-spiked "I Love You, Dad," another silly love song. Barbara Jean opens. (7 p.m. Sun. 7th Street Entry, $15.) Bream

The Canadian popster known as Lights won a Juno Award (Canada's Grammys) as best new artist, traveled on the Warped Tour and recorded a duet with Owl City. Like the Minnesota hitmaker, she crafts airy, dreamy pop that's the perfect soundtrack for a college-freshman dorm. This year, Lights released an acoustic version of "Siberia," her 2011 synth-driven, electronica-loving collection of sweet-voiced melodic pop, and now she's touring solo, acoustic. (7 p.m. Wed. Varsity, $20.) Bream

If Matchbox Twenty can still play amphitheaters, then fellow late-'90s pop-rock hitmakers Fastball should be able to at least pack clubs. The Texas trio landed the smart, punchy guitar-pop hits "Out of My Head" and "The Way" in the late-'90s, the latter about an elderly couple out for an imaginary joy ride. They're on a short tour before heading out on their own old-folks summer tour with Smash Mouth and the Gin Blossoms. (8 p.m. Thu., Famous Dave's Uptown, $15.) Riemenschneider


The history-respecting, retro-loving folks at Minneapolis' Secret Stash Records not only put out a cool commemorative collection of Twin Cities vintage soul music last year — "Twin Cities Funk & Soul: Rare R&B Grooves from Minneapolis/St. Paul 1964-1979" — but they've also spawned a rebirth for the Valdons, a snazzy vocal ensemble, and R&B vocalist Sonny Knight. Maurice Jacox, a smooth crooner and saxophonist who never left the scene, is part of Secret Stash Soul Revue, as well, and soulful upstart Chastity Brown has been added to the lineup for good measure. (8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Dakota, $25.) Bream

Charles Bradley's story is so compelling that it's been chronicled in a documentary, "Soul of America." He's the up-from-poverty soul singer who was discovered, around age 60, by the co-founder of Daptone Records while working as a James Brown impersonator. Four years later, the raspy-voiced soul man has released his second disc for Daptone, "Victim of Love," which is filled with gritty, emotional original R&B that is more joyful than his debut. Paul and the Tall Trees open. Read an interview with Bradley at www.startribune.com/music. (8 p.m. Tue. Cedar Cultural Center, $17.50-$20.) Bream


Pure Texan honky-tonker Dale Watson already wrote the unofficial anthem of Lee's Liquor Lounge, "Louie's Lee's Liquor Lounge," and his ties to the Twin Cities grew even stronger when he started recording for St. Paul's Red House Records. The Austinite's second album for the label, "El Rancho Azul," has some serious butt-kick twang to it amid some not-so-serious tunes, with titles including "I Lie When I Drink," "I Drink to Remember" and simply "Drink Drink Drink." Do we even need to tell you where he's playing to promote it? Local hillbilly vets Elmer & the Thunderjets open. (9 p.m. Sat., Lee's Liquor Lounge, $15.) Riemenschneider

After two decades of marriage, children and parallel careers, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison have finally intersected on a full record together, a playful gem titled "Cheater's Game." She's the honky-tonk angel who beautifully bounced out of Nashville and into the alt-country realm with the classic 1998 album "What I Deserve," featuring the writing of Gary Louris and Paul Westerberg. Robison holds the humorous distinction of writing the fast-falling single in Billboard history, "Travelin' Soldier," which the Dixie Chicks landed at No. 1 the week of "the incident." No joke, though, he's also one of the best modern songwriters of any genre, with some lines that could make the toughest cowboy weep. It's a rare chance to see them together outside of Texas. (7 p.m. Sun., the Dakota, $30.) Riemenschneider


For the first time in recent memory, the Festival of Nations is presenting a big-name world-music act as part of its always tasty, multi-culti celebration. The Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars were formed a decade ago by displaced musicians in the refugee camps of Guinea, and they have become internationally known purveyors of buoyant Afro-pop reggae. They have entertained at the Minnesota State Fair and regularly at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. An uplifting good time. (8:30 p.m. Fri. Festival of Nations, Roy Wilkins Auditorium, $11-$13.50.) Bream


The Minnesota Orchestra may still sadly be out of action, but its principal timpanist is staying busy. Peter Kogan has released an excellent CD, "Cornucopia," a showcase not just for his sensitive and able jazz drumming, but also his flair for composition. With a cast of local bar stars and Orchestra Hall vets, "Cornucopia" has echoes of jazz greats from several eras (Ellington, Fats Waller, Monk, Wayne Shorter), plus one modern samba detour. It makes a fine case that Kogan, who's also had steady gigs with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony, might have fared just as well in nightclubs and at outdoor festivals, with zero job security but no tux-cleaning bills. At his release party, Kogan will debut two new pieces penned since the disc was recorded. (7 p.m. Mon., Icehouse, $10.) Surowicz

Once upon a time, pianist and composer Bill Carrothers was one of the better kept secrets in jazz. That was about two dozen CDs and even more European tours ago. He has three fairly new CDs in his cool catalog — a pair of solo piano discs ("Family Life" and "Civil War Diaries, Live"), and a critically acclaimed trio date with bassist Drew Gress and Belgian drummer Dre Pallemaerts called "Castaways." (9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Artists' Quarter, $12.) Surowicz

Washington, D.C., jazz keyboardist Marcus Johnson didn't wait to be discovered and signed by a New York or L.A. record label; he just started putting out independent CDs in 1995. It worked. The go-getter veteran of some 16 albums even has his own "lifestyle branding company" and a line of wine. Johnson's musical output is mostly original and often forgettable smooth-jazz fare. He shines best when putting a groovy spin on well-known songs not often heard at jazz shows. Johnson's likely to get down in the pocket on just about anything —from Nirvana to Steve Miller. (8 p.m. Thu., Dakota, $25.) Surowicz


Throughout this dismal season of orchestral lockouts, Accordo (comprising principal string players of our two major orchestras) has been a beacon for Twin Cities music lovers. This is reason enough to hear its season finale, "Intimate Voices," which takes its title from Jean Sibelius' too-seldom-programmed String Quartet, Op. 56, his finest chamber work. But there are other good reasons: Zoltan Kodaly's dynamic Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7, and Antonin Dvorak's beguiling Viola Quintet, Op. 97. (7:30 p.m. Mon. Christ Church Lutheran, 3244 34th Av. S., Mpls. $12-$24 adults, 651-292-3268 or www.schubert.org/accordo.) Larry Fuchsberg