Tonight, Tonight: Cake at The Palladium Ballroom, 100 Monkeys at The Loft, Hayes Carll at The Granada, Kristy Kruger at The Kessler, Two Tons of Steel at The Glass Cactus, Andrew Tinker at The Belmont and The Ranchero Brothers at Anvil Pub

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Quite the hopping Thursday evening we have here. Enough to make a lowly music critic like myself wish he could be in two -- maybe even three -- places at once.

Cake at the Palladium Ballroom
At $35 a ticket, this is one pricey slice of Cake. But, for true believers, John McCrea and crew are seen as musical manna. And, for almost 20 years now, Cake has made some reliably good, albeit unbelievably geeky, music. Although McCrea has stated that Cake's soon to be released effort, Showroom of Compassion, is a departure of sorts, it's hard to find any dissimilarities in the album's first single, "Sick of You." Bouncy rhythms, chunky guitar riffs and McCrea's half-sung/half-spoken vocals are all featured in said single, a song that seems patterned after earlier hits such as "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and "The Distance." In any case, Cake continues to make interesting dance music for nerds, which, if nothing else, is an interesting and surprisingly popular niche.

100 Monkeys at The Loft
If it's a bit too crowded at the Palladium Ballroom, folks could just head up stairs and catch Los Angeles' 100 Monkeys. Of course, it's fairly certain that a sizeable crowd will be at The Loft, too, since one member of said Monkeys is Jackson Rathbone, better known as Jasper of The Twilight Saga film series. All celebrity aside, though, 100 Monkeys is a pretty solid, indie rock and funk band. Songs such as "Future Radio" and "Orson Brawl" display wit and a natural aptitude with all things groove-related.

Hayes Carll, Bobby Bare Jr. and Travis Linville at the Granada Theater
For my money, Hayes Carll is one of the best country singer-songwriters in Texas, if not the outright best. And, before folks start slinging names like Willie Nelson and Robert Earl Keen at me, please take a listen to Trouble in Mind, Carll's 2008 effort that features the classic single, "She Left Me for Jesus" (and its hilarious Cheaters-aping video, posted above). Influenced by such lone star legends as Guy Clark and Townes Van Zant, Carll is a genuine honky-tonk hero, a throwback to a time when country music was less about the wardrobe and hair styles and more about the music.

Kristy Kruger, Lalagray and Sherilyn Segrest  at the Kessler Theater
Due to her seemingly never ending tour schedule, local singer-songwriter Kristy Kruger plays her hometown way too infrequently these days. But having Kruger driving around the country playing any coffeehouse that will have her only makes appearances like tonight's all the more special. And what's even more singular about tonight is the fact that Kruger will be backed by Denton's Box Car Bandits. Kruger doesn't play with a full band very often, so hearing her crafty mix of folk, country and rock with the Bandits will be especially sweet.

Two Tons of Steel at the Glass Cactus in Grapevine
San Antonio's Two Tons of Steel is sometimes, quite erroneously, thought of as a novelty act. Sure, the band plays honky-tonk versions of The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" and Zeppelin's "Days and Confused," but there's a lot more going on here than witty cover songs. The band's 2006 effort, Vegas, is one of the best alt-country albums of the decade. Lead singer Kevin Geil does his best to hold things together as the band melds punk and country in all sorts of cool ways. If you've never had a chance to catch Two Tons of Steel before, this is a great reason to head to Grapevine.

Andrew Tinker at Bar Belmont
For those looking for a more intimate concert experience, Andrew Ticker's solo set at the bar in the Belmont Hotel would prove a fine selection. Tinker's brand of emotional pop and soul goes down super smooth. Plus, the show is free -- it's the last in the DC9-sponsored free Thursday night series of concerts at the spot -- so get a date and get there early.

The Ranchero Brothers at The Anvil Pub
This new Deep Ellum pub has been said to be trying to make a name for itself by not -- ever -- hosting music in its space. Well, tonight, for what the owners promise will be their no-music rule's only exception, the pub will host the Ranchero Brothers, better known as the acoustic side project of Old 97's players Rhett Miller and Murry Hammond, in its comfortable confines. And it's free to attend. Should be quite the time.

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