The most exciting artist performing in town this weekend isn't even headlining, but if the annual conference of Public Radio Program Directors wasn't taking me out of town -- there ain't no party like a public radio programmers party and the public radio programmers party don't stop -- no way I'd miss it.
As noted when I ran down the best albums of the year so far midway through the annum, Janelle Monae has given us a stunning full-length debut with her genre-defying, mind-warping, but always ultra-groovy and insanely melodic concept album, "ArchAndroid." She'll be opening at the Riviera Theatre at 7 p.m. Saturday for the overrated second-tier Elephant 6 glam-disco/theatrical-rock band Of Montreal, whose recent album "False Priest" is a real stinker. But if Monae is half as crazy brilliant onstage as she is on album, she alone will be worth the $22 ticket price.
Bradford Cox of Deerhunter and friend
Usually I scoff at corporate-sponsored "surprise shows" announced at the last minute in "secret locations" and intended primarily to hype us on some obnoxious hipster product. But I love psychedelic pop genius Bradford Cox and his band Deerhunter so much, I'll break my usual rule and give this one a plug: Levi's and Urban Outfitters are presenting a "Secret Generator Series" of concerts at unlikely locales in several cities across the country, and Cox and Deerhunter will perform a free gig tomorrow, the time and location of which only was announced yesterday afternoon: 4 p.m. Saturday at the Kennedy Expressway underpass at 560 W. Grand and the Chicago River‚ (and won't that pretty locale be a joy?).
The late Jay Bennett
A much more worthy cause to support on Saturday is the Tribute to Jay Bennett, the influential and much-loved musician best known for his contributions to Wilco, who died last May. In addition to heralding and benefiting the recently established Jay Bennett Foundation, the show will celebrate the posthumous release of Bennett's last solo album, "Kicking at the Perfumed Air." The music kicks off at 7 p.m. at Subterranean, and performers include Edward Burch and the Third Verse Quiets, David Vandervelde, Steve Frisbie, Dorian Taj, and members of Dolly Varden, among others. The donation is $10.
Finally, this weekend brings us two shows by two of my favorite up-and-coming local bands. District 97 is a wildly ambitious progressive-rock group whose youth belies its accomplishments onstage and on its new "Hybrid Child" CD. The band is celebrating that release at a free all-ages show at 12:30 Saturday afternoon as part of Columbia College's Dance Center Anniversary at Studio 200 in the 1306 S. Michigan building.
And, one more option for Saturday night, that wonderfully melodic, high-energy glam-punk band the Maybenauts open at 8 p.m. at the Cubby Bear for the washed-up but still inexplicably ticking D-level alternative-era rock band Spacehog. Tickets are free via the washed-up but still inexplicably ticking alternative-era radio station Q101.