Either the last great outdoor block party of the summer or the warmest bash of the fall, the three-day Concrete & Grass fest returns to Mears Park in downtown St. Paul with the usual hip, eclectic, artsy music lineup and savory concessions to reflect the surrounding Lowertown neighborhood. Friday's lineup features a trio of the Cities' most reputable female musicians, with Dessa wrapping up her high-profile summer, her fellow rapper/poet Desdamona and twangy picker Molly Maher. Jazz vet Irv Williams and members of the Minnesota Opera also perform. Saturday's daylong roster kicks off with Salsa del Soul and culminates with a reunion by punk pioneers the Suicide Commandos. In between are Current faves Communist Daughter, bluesman Moses Oakland, a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra ensemble and many more. (5-10 p.m. Fri., noon-10 p.m. Sat., Mears Park, E. 5th and Sibley Sts. Free. ConcreteandGrass.com) (C.R.)

Cape-wearing Texan glam/space/electronic-rock duo Ghostland Observatory hasn't lived up to the hype generated by appearances at the Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza fests several years ago, but its Queen-rocky stage shows are still way more captivating than its records. (9:30 p.m. Fri., First Avenue. 18 and older. $20.) (C.R.)

Wild, whirring New York dance/hip-hop/electronic duo Ratatat shows enough wizardry on record to get away with unimaginative titles such as its latest, "LP4," on which partners Mike Stroud and Evan Mast collaborated with a string section and -- in case you didn't already get that they're arty fellas -- enlisted sound bites from Werner Herzog and Terrence Malick movies. The guys also know the high art of psychedelic live shows, which is why they have already sold out here. Dom and Bobby Birdman open. (7 p.m. Sat., First Avenue. Sold out.) (C.R.)

From meticulously sculpted, string-enhanced arrangements to a shared penchant for piling on the guest musicians, similarities between Efterklang and Arcade Fire abound. But the differences count for more. Released earlier this year, "Magic Chairs" finds the Copenhagen-based septet delving further into soulful vocal harmonies and transnational funk than their Canadian counterparts are capable of imagining. Openers Buke and Gass' inspired, melodically rich avant-pop threatens to turn an otherwise memorable night into the stuff of legend. (8 p.m. Sat, preceded by season-opening preview at 7, Walker Art Center. $18.) (R.S.)

Jenny Lewis sure does get around. The Rilo Kiley frontwoman is changing up her act yet again, this time touring and recording under the guise of boy/girl pop/rock duo Jenny and Johnny alongside her longtime beau Johnathan Rice, a singer/songwriter with his own modest hipster following. Their overtly titled new album, "I'm Having Fun Now," echoes melancholy, melodic '80s college-rock. It's still Lewis' tough-kitten voice and attitude-filled, Angeleno writing style that's the main attraction. Brooklyn band Love As Laughter opens. (8 p.m. Sun., Cedar Cultural Center. All ages. $17.) (C.R.)

Electro-pop/rock newbies Marina & the Diamonds, led by witty British beauty Marina Diamandis, are on their first U.S. tour following a U.K. buzz that included the love/hate hit "Hollywood" and a well-received set at the Reading Festival. (10 p.m. Fri., Triple Rock. 18 and older. $13-$15.) (C.R.)

Bloc Party frontman Kele -- who can be excused for pulling a Cher given his full name, Kelechukwu Okereke -- put down his guitar and experimented with electronic instruments on his first solo album, "The Boxer," landing somewhere between TV on the Radio and Erasure. Fellow British electro-rockers Does It Offend You, Yeah open with Innerpartysystem. (9 p.m. Sun., 7th Street Entry. $20.) (C.R.)

Southern Californian stoner-rock/haze-metal band Fu Manchu has been brandishing its Nugent- and Sabbath-derived riffs for two decades now, long enough for last year's mighty album "Signs of Infinite Power" to sound like it fits in again. Black Tusk and local riff masters the Rockford Mules open. (8 p.m. Sun., Triple Rock. 18 and older. $15.) (C.R.)

Having recently performed at the Minnesota Zoo and the Guthrie Theater, Aimee Mann will get even more intimate with an acoustic trio show at the Dakota Jazz Club. She is a perceptive and smart singer/songwriter who puts the artful ahead of the commercial. Hence, the Los Angeleno is best known for her two high-profile blips -- her MTV hit "Voices Carry" with Til Tuesday in 1985 and her Oscar-nominated "Save Me" from the "Magnolias" soundtrack in '99. Opening is Mann's sister, Gretchen Seichrist, one of Minneapolis' more captivatingly quirky and arty singer/songwriters. Read a joint interview with the sisters in Sunday's Variety A+E. (7 p.m. Mon.-Wed., Dakota, $50.) (J.B.)

Two things are hard to believe about the Dave Matthews Band: The biggest touring band of the '00s has not performed in the Twin Cities since 2005, and DMB will be taking 2011 off, the first full-year hiatus in 20 years of touring. Expect a heavy dose of last year's excellent "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King," a tribute to DMB's late saxophonist LeRoi Moore. The touring band includes saxophonist Jeff Coffin, electric guitarist Tim Reynolds and trumpeter Rashawn Ross. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, a garage-soul band, opens. (7 p.m. Wed., Xcel Energy Center, $65.) (J.B.)

Hayes Carll is a Texas troubadour who carries on in the Townes Van Zandt tradition, with a little John Prine and Todd Snider thrown in. He's a witty songwriter who likes to sing about drinkin.' And his tunes are as good as his titles -- "Drunken Poet's Dream," "She Left Me for Jesus" and "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart." (8 p.m. Wed., Fine Line, $14-$16.) (J.B.)


Last seen in the Twin Cities opening for Black Eyed Peas at the X, Ludacris is downsizing for his own headline gig. While his "Battle of the Sexes" debuted at No. 1 in March, it wasn't the album the rapper/actor had intended, which was a showdown with labelmate Shawnna before she bolted for T-Pain's label. Instead he worked with the likes of Nicki Minaj, Lil Kim, Eve and Ciarra, and the project yielded only one big hit, "How Low." Fear not, Luda is working on another album with the Neptunes, "Ludaversal," said to be a sequel to 2008's "Theater of the Mind." (9 p.m. Sun., First Avenue, $40-$42.50.) (J.B.)


The Blue Thursdays series of conversations and concerts continues with Willie West and Willie Walker, a couple of out-of-town veterans who have settled in Minnesota. Minneapolis singer/songwriter Paul Metsa will lead the conversations with West, a veteran of the New Orleans R&B scene who moved to St. Cloud after Hurricane Katrina, and Walker, the underappreciated Memphis-reared soul man who has called Minneapolis home for four decades. (7 p.m. Thu., Music Box Theatre, $12-$14.) (J.B.)


A hard-swinging guitarist from Chicago, Kyle Asche makes his Twin Cities debut in fantastic company. The big draw is legendary Hammond B-3 organist Mel Rhyne, Wes Montgomery's cohort on several classic 1960s LPs, still playing marvelously at 73. Rhyne is the co-star of Asche's 2009 CD, "Blues for Mel," but don't overlook drummer George Fludas, another Chicago heavyweight who's played with Bobby Broom, Ray Brown and Cedar Walton. This should be a smokin' trio. (9 p.m. Fri.-Sat., Artists' Quarter. $12.) (T.S.)

San Francisco's Turtle Island String Quartet has never shied away from stepping out of the classical realm. The players have done material by Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie and an entire album of John Coltrane. Bluesman Robert Johnson's "Crossroads" is in their repertoire. And now comes "Have You Ever Been...?" The album features eight selections by guitar god Jimi Hendrix and a few pieces by Turtle Island founder/violinist David Balakrishnan. This acoustic ensemble gives "Little Wing" jagged, jazzy edges and captures the dramatic electricity of "House Burning Down," "Voodoo Chile" and "All Along the Watchtower." (7 p.m. Sun., Dakota, $30.) (J.B.)

In the recent past, they've feuded like some ancient rock or R&B band. But keyboardist Joe Sample and trombonist Wayne Henderson, who cofounded the Crusaders 50 years ago, have made up and hit the road together again. Wilton Felder, the other co-founder, is ill, so they've turned to saxophone star Gerald Albright to help re-create the Crusaders' 1970s heyday, when they combined jazz and funk into mainstream commercial success (see 1979's smash "Street Life"). (7 & 9:30 p.m. Thu.-next Fri., Dakota, $45-$65.) (J.B.)

Has it really been 30 years since modern-jazz piano legend Bill Evans died? The Twin Cities' own Evans disciple/devotee, Chris Lomheim, is duly marking the anniversary with a tribute gig spotlighting Evans' timeless touch, seminal influence and sublime songbook. "I never had any musician move me like Bill Evans," Lomheim commented. "His music is pure poetry and I felt every note he played. I still do." Drummer Jay Epstein and bassist Chris Bates share the feeling. (9 p.m. Wed., Artists' Quarter. $5.) (T.S.)


The Schubert Club presents four recitals celebrating the manuscripts in the Schubert Club Museum. Things get underway at noon Wednesday with soprano Rabihah M. Davis Dunn and pianist Mindy Eschedor in a program of Mozart and Haydn. That evening, soprano Maria Jette is joined by pianist Ora Itkin, piano, violinist Orieta Dado and cellist Tom Rosenberg for "Muse Salon," a concert of works from Schumann to Shostakovich to Dominick Argento. At noon Thursday, baritone Edward Parks and pianist Ken Noda perform music of Schubert. The festival concludes at noon next Friday with soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw and pianist Andrew Fleser in a contemporary program, featuring works by Jennifer Higdon, Elliot Carter, and Stephen Paulus. (Landmark Center, 75 W. 5th St., St. Paul. Free.) (W.R.B.)

Contributors: Staff critics Jon Bream and Chris Riemenschneider and freelancers Tom Surowicz, Rod Smith and William Randall Beard.