Music Picks: Beenie Man, VNV Nation and More

Music Picks: Beenie Man, VNV Nation and More
Jaime Butler
Meat Puppets

Beenie Man

Friday, March 28, at Heroes Lounge

Regardless of the jealous plots and machinations of the rest of the Jamaican reggae royal family, Beenie Man will still proclaim himself "King of the Dancehall" when the controversial reggae star descends upon Heroes Lounge. Though rivals like Yellowman may think Beenie Man is a pretender to the throne, a solid body of hits like "Slam" and "Girls Dem Sugar" prove he still rules. Steve Steward

VNV Nation

Friday, March 28, at the Granada Theater

Based out of Hamburg, Germany, but featuring a duo from Dublin and Essex, VNV Nation play electronic music the old-school way: lots of danceable synthesizer melodies and harsh beats. Ronan Harris and Mark Jackson have been doing the EBM (electronic body music) thing since 1990, and they just keep getting better with age. 2013's Transnational featured more of the epic romanticism that has always fueled the duo's best work. Songs like "Everything," "Teleconnect 1" and "If I Was" recall the glory days of Soft Cell and Ultravox. VNV Nation produce beautiful blips and beats that are laced with the right amount of danger and violence. Best of all, Harris and Jackson never dumb down their music just for the sake of a sweaty throng. You can dance to this stuff to be sure, but you have to think about it as well. Darryl Smyers

The Deep Ellum Big Folkin' Festival 3

Friday and Saturday, March 28 and 29, at Prophet Bar

Folk is as elastic a music genre label as any of the rest these days. Gone are the days when one immediately thought of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan when discussing folk music. Terms such as freak-folk, neo-folk and certainly folk rock have been prominent in music discussion for years now. Practically any band that stops just short of lightning-fast thrash metal is likely to have at least a slight claim to the folk label if they so desire. And who are we to argue or to care, really? The third installment of the Deep Ellum Big Folkin' Festival is the strongest one yet from a roster perspective, and that is in large part owed to the variety of sonic styles displayed throughout the lineup. Local country greats J. Charles and the Trainrobbers and local Southern rockers Dead Flowers will join the likes of Austin's not-that-folky Leopold and His Fiction and even Frontier Ruckus, a Michigan-based group that's enjoyably made it tough for any fan or critic to pin them into any simple genre. All told, there will be more than 30 acts offering an array of styles over two days, and that's pretty folkin' cool. Kelly Dearmore

Meat Puppets

Saturday, March 29, at Dada

Nearly every rock fan knows the Meat Puppets. They're one of the most influential rock bands of all time, twisting various musical traditions into an accessible yet challenging rockist figure. What fewer fans realize is that the Puppets also fashioned post-rock's first article, 1985's eccentrically rhythmic Up On the Sun. If 1985 found the Meat Puppets at their most inventive, 2013 saw them at their most surprising. With the release of Rat Farm last April, the Meat Puppets proved capable of a return to form and showed there are still a few tricks left up those sleeves. With the addition of some young blood, the bandmates have brought country timbres into psych textures, once again indulging in the sort of adventurous synthesis that made them important in the first place. It's with the injection of this newfound enthusiasm that the Meat Puppets are once again touring the globe. Which is why Saturday at Dada represents one of the most exciting opportunities a Dallas venue has given us so far this year. Jonathan Patrick

Yonder Mountain String Band

Saturday, March 29, at the Granada Theater

Resting comfortably between the slick pop-roots of such notable names as the Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons and the grizzly, possibly disease-carrying punk-grass of Hackensaw Boys and .357 String Band, Colorado-based Yonder Mountain String Band have successfully merged the worlds of jam bands and traditional bluegrass since their inception in 1998. While they aren't regulars on late-night television or on VH1 Countdown shows, few other string bands of the past decade have been as commercially successful while remaining true to the rustic yet progressive style of string-band music. Guitarist Adam Aijala, mandolinist and founding member Jeff Austin, banjo player Dave Johnston and upright bassist Ben Kaufmann are perhaps the top of the heap when it comes to bluegrass groups owing more to the Grateful Dead than Bill Monroe. Their solid but often tame albums rarely do their stellar live shows justice, and silver-haired bluegrass purists will likely scoff at the group's covers of Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa. This summer's annual Northwest String Summit, hosted by YMSB, features more beards and tattoos among its lineup in one weekend than an average bluegrass fest would host in a decade. This is a band that jams rock, roots, bluegrass, jazz and funk into a package most should enjoy. Kelly Dearmore

 
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