The 31st annual Aquatennial Block Party has imported two harmonica-driven party bands: the blues-rockin' Fabulous Thunderbirds, whose frontman, Kim Wilson, got his start on Minneapolis' West Bank, and jam-band favorites Blues Traveler, which probably will preview its Aug. 26 CD "North Hollywood Shootout." Local star Tim Mahoney also plays. (5-11 p.m. today, Nicollet Mall between 3rd and 4th Sts. Free.) (J.B.)

Two bands loved by metalheads-turned-indie-rockers are touring together: New York-based blast-'n'-bombast duo Early Man (a quartet on the road) previews a new EP, while cosmo-comic North Carolina man/band Valient Thorr just issued the insane but fun album "Immortalizer." Both were recorded with Nirvana/Mudhoney producer Jack Endino. (5 p.m. today, Triple Rock. All ages. $12.) (C.R.)

Some of the oddest birds in modern rock, Ween made a strange choice of venues this time, skipping its usual hangout First Ave for the three-times-bigger Wilkins. Perhaps the cult of Dean and Gene Ween really has grown that much since their last album came out four years ago, or maybe it's because the long-awaited new disc "La Cucaracha" has a return-to-form mix of playfully off-kilter arrangements and smirking songs, all of which have generated excitement from longtime fans/nuts. (7:30 p.m. Sat., Roy Wilkins Auditorium. $28.50.) (C.R.)

After two critically lauded but less-than-blockbuster albums on Warner Bros., the Secret Machines have officially left the majors and are recording their third album for the artist-driven label World's Fair, due this fall. The Texas-reared, New York-based psychedelic rock trio is testing the new tracks on the road, which is where its arena-sized power comes off best. (9 p.m. Sat., Fine Line. 18 and older. $15-$17.) (C.R.)

Three decades after his heyday, mystical musicmaker Shawn Phillips remains a superstar in the Twin Cities. He sold out the Guthrie in February, and returns for a Minnesota Zoo show featuring a rare reunion with keyboardists J. Peter Robinson and Paul Buckmaster, who worked with him in the 1970s. Opening is Michael Monroe, Minnesota's solar-powered one-man band. (7:30 p.m. Sat. $35.) (J.B.)

Known for playing guitar and sax in nearly every blues and rock joint in town, blowing solo sax on Hennepin Avenue before big State and Orpheum Theatre shows and helping set up some of those big shows as a member of the stagehands union, all-around good guy Glenn Graham is now battling non-Hodgkins B-cell lymphoma. An all-day benefit features artists with whom he regularly performs (Cornbread Harris, Don King Blues Band, 30 Second Crash), plus bar stars such as Willie Murphy, Koerner & Glover and the Retractions -- 15 bands in all. (Noon to close Sat., Minneapolis Eagles Club.) (T.S.)

"Rockin' the Colonies" is a corny title for a tour, but these three British blasts from the past all were winning live acts. The English Beat was a star of England's 1970s-80s ska revival; the current incarnation is fronted by Dave Wakeling. In the early '80s, the Alarm sounded socially conscious anthems in the spirit of the Clash and U2; the revamped band, which has a new CD, "Guerilla Tactics," features lead singer Mike Peters backed by ex-members of Gen X, Sisters of Mercy and Stiff Little Fingers. The Fixx, another 1980s Brit band, received plenty of U.S radio exposure with "One Thing Leads to Another." (8 p.m. Sun., First Avenue. $30.) (J.B.)

Indiana singer-songwriter Jon McLaughlin saw his profile soar after he performed in the 2007 movie "Enchanted" and sang the Oscar-nominated "So Close" on this year's Oscars. With his propulsive new single "Beating My Heart," he's aiming for the kind of piano pop stardom Gavin DeGraw achieved. His second album, "OK Now," is set for October. Micha Dalton opens. (8 p.m. Mon., Varsity Theater. $13-$15.) (J.B.)

After garnering a buzz at South by Southwest and on tour with the Black Keys, Memphis' scrappy punk purveyor Jay Reatard comes to town following a stop at this weekend's Pitchfork Festival in Chicago. The hyperactive and prolific rocker is staying true to his influences (Wire, the Clean and especially the Wipers) by issuing six 7-inch singles as his coming-out releases on Matador Records before a full LP due early next year. Cheap Time and Private Dancer open. (10 p.m. Mon., Triple Rock. $10.) (C.R.)

Since 2006's "Boys and Girls in America" turned things up a notch, the Hold Steady has played some of the biggest fests around the globe, but keeps coming back to the home-turf club where most of its members were schooled. The barroom poets' fourth album, "Stay Positive," dropped Tuesday to yet more rabid critical praise. Read about the new CD in Sunday's Variety A+E section. The Loved Ones open. (9 p.m. Tue., First Avenue. Sold out.) (C.R.)

Sandpaper-voiced piano man Marc Cohn is the Minnesota Zoo's main music man. Since playing the first concert there in 1992, he has become its most frequent performer. He's back for two nights to promote "Join the Parade," his first album in nine years. Inspired by Hurricane Katrina and a brush with death -- he was shot in the head during a carjacking -- Cohn ruminates about New Orleans, his favorite musicians and loss. (7:30 p.m. Tue.-Wed., Minnesota Zoo. $43.) (J.B.)

Denver's ever-crafty pop-rockers Apples in Stereo are touring the summer circuit, still riding the high of last year's exceptional comeback album "New Magnetic Wonder." The band just issued a new B-sides/rarities compilation, "Electronic Projects for Musicians," which includes a new track written for "The Colbert Report" ("Stephen Stephen"). Iowa's Poison Control Center opens. (9 p.m. Tue., Turf Club. $12.) (C.R.)

Two Dead guys and Flaming Lips. That's the headline for the sixth annual 10,000 Lakes Festival. While Michigan's new Rothbury Festival garnered lots of attention recently with its star-studded lineup, 10KLF is jamming as strong as ever with the Mickey Hart Band, Phil Lesh and Friends, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Leftover Salmon and Flaming Lips, one of rock's most passionately conceptual and exciting live acts, which is expected to preview its film "Christmas on Mars." Throw in funk godfather George Clinton, the famous Dead cover band Dark Star Orchestra, two hyper-creative jazz combos (the Bad Plus and Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood) and it's a guaranteed grand time. There are more than 60 bands over the four days. (Wed.-July 26, Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes, www.10KLF.com. $30-$400.) (J.B.)

Teaming up with 1990s superstars Pearl Jam in 2006, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers rocked the X with renewed determination. This time, the Rock Hall of Famers are touring with veteran British rocker Steve Winwood, an elder statesman at 60, who reportedly will join the Heartbreakers for two classics he recorded -- Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'" and Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home." (7:30 p.m. Wed., Target Center. $29.50-$99.) (J.B.)


Lyfe Jennings has lived the hard-knock life. Two years after being in prison for arson, he offered his first album of thoughtful R&B. He is that rarity: a socially conscious R&B singer whose lyrics and rhythms are informed by hip-hop. But he can be vulnerable as well as street-tough, as evidenced on his third disc, "Lyfe Change," a collection of considerable depth and range. He's smart, sexy and savvy enough to remake the Stylistics' "Brand New" with T.I. The bonus track, "Baby, I'm a Star" says it all about Jennings. (8 p.m. Sat., Myth. $28.50-$30.) (J.B.)


When the Grammy Awards brain trust finally created a Cajun/zydeco category this year, Terrance Simien nabbed the first trophy. The barefooted, bead-wearing bayou hippie is one of Louisiana's more innovative accordion squeezers, but he and his excellent band the Zydeco Experience also rank as one of the genre's best party-starters. That much is proven by their newly released, first-ever live album. Chicago blues vet Eddy (the Chief) Clearwater opens. (7:30 p.m. today, Minnesota Zoo. $24.) (C.R.)


It's a bit late to bid farewell to the Soviet bloc, but that's no reason to avoid the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra's Albanian-Czech-Polish-Romanian-Russian program, led and hosted by the estimable Jere Lantz, which features SPCO violinist Michal Sobieski in Mieczyslaw Karlowicz's all-but-forgotten Violin Concerto. Dvoak and Bartok are on the menu. So, less explicably, is American Leroy Anderson. (7:30 p.m. Sat., Lake Harriet Bandshell, Mpls. Free.) (L.F.)


Charismatic baritone Kevin Mahogany salutes fellow Kansas Citian Big Joe Turner -- the legendary "Boss of the Blues" -- for two nights. He's an old hand at this task, having portrayed Big Joe in Robert Altman's flick "Kansas City" and performed such Turner favorites as "Cherry Red" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll" for years. Mahogany will be backed by the Godfathers of Groove -- Hammond B-3 organ vet Reuben Wilson, guitarist Grant Green Jr. and drummer J.T. Lewis -- plus guest vocalist Kathy Kosins. Sounds like funky fun. (7 & 9:30 p.m. Mon.-Tue., Dakota Jazz Club. $20-$25.) (T.S.)

Composer, keyboardist, poet and inspiration to the Twin Cities avant jazz scene Carei Thomas turns 70 in grand style, with two gala events Thursday: a Walker Art Center all-star salute and a swingin' after-party at the Dakota. For a story on Thomas, see Sunday's Variety A+E. (7 p.m. Thu., Walker. 9:30 p.m. Thu., Dakota. Free.) (T.S.)

Contributors: Staff critics Jon Bream and Chris Riemenschneider and freelancers Larry Fuchsberg and Tom Surowicz.

The harmonizing Watson Twins commanded attention for collaborating with Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis on 2006's "Rabbit Fur Coat." Now Chandra and Leigh Watson step into a fairly dim spotlight with "Fire Songs," a smoldering collection of moody country-folk reflections on love, including a cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven." Tim Fite opens. (9 p.m. today, Turf Club. $10.) (J.B.)