Born Ruffians

Ontario trio Born Ruffians made their debut with 2008's Red, Yellow and Blue, showcasing a twitchy indie-pop shuffle that could make Crispin Glover look like Warren Beatty. Frontman Luke LaLonde's squirrelly tenor juts impetuously in and out of inventive arrangements as his bandmates shout and harmonize over swinging, joyously capricious rhythms. The debut was a bit more mannered and measured than their earlier EPs, and the band returns to that more energetic style on its latest album, Say It. But there's a newfound assurance and polish to the songs, which feature enough enduring hooks to survive on more than nervy charm. "Ballad of Moose Bruce"'s rootsy, Fleet Foxes-like lilt helps kick up the group's heels, while the thin pulsing guitar jags that underpin "Retard Canard" suggests Talking Heads schooling Gang of Four. Meanwhile, LaLonde observes in a wavering, seasick croon, "Honesty is annoying most of the time." The album's highlight comes in the horn-abetted folk-soul of "Come Back," which keenly sways to an easygoing R&B groove. It's a pleasant surprise to hear Born Ruffians move away so comfortably from their usual herky-jerky. — Chris Parker

Born Ruffians, with Young Rival and Diamonds & Pearls. 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 17, Beachland Tavern. Tickets: $10; call 216-383-1124 or go to

Sheryl Crow

It's been almost 20 years since Sheryl Crow's Tuesday Night Music Club stormed up the charts, turning the former backup singer into an overnight sensation with catchy singles like "Leaving Las Vegas" and "All I Wanna Do." She was a reliable hitmaker throughout the '90s, playing pop music with a classic-rock edge. While 2008's introspective and subdued Detours didn't resonate with fans, the Missouri native has persevered. Her breezy new single, "Summer Day," features a soulful horn section and serves as introduction to 100 Miles From Memphis, where Crow explores old-school R&B with a little help from guests like Justin Timberlake and Keith Richards. The album comes out next month. — Niesel

Sheryl Crow, with Colbie Caillat. 8 p.m. Friday, June 18, State Theatre. Tickets: $41-$101; call 216-241-6000 or go to

Bamboozle Roadshow

This year's Bamboozle Roadshow pays tribute to modern pop-punk's '90s roots by mixing in some old-school faves (Good Charlotte, Third Eye Blind) with disciples (All Time Low, Simple Plan) and next-generation kids (the entire bottom portion of the bill). Electronic hip-hop goofballs LMFAO are also on board, presumably to get the party started midday. But the real stars here are Boys Like Girls, who broke out last year with their second album, Love Drunk. And it's not so much because they did anything bigger or better with their three-chord songs about boys, girls, and love. Taylor Swift joined frontman Martin Johnson in the hit ballad "Two Is Better Than One," and she briefly took them to a new level, adding both strength and sweetness. Unfortunately, Swift has her own career to tend to, so she won't be joining Boys Like Girls onstage. But by the time they get there late in the day, following a dozen-plus bands, you'll know the pop-punk drill by heart. — Michael Gallucci

Bamboozle Road Show. Noon Friday, June 18, Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City. Tickets: $32.50; call 800-745-3000 or go to

Mates of State/Free Energy

Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, the husband-and-wife duo behind Mates of State, once had typical day jobs. She was a teacher; he was a cancer researcher. Then they found a much more enjoyable vocation: a pop band. It's hard to imagine either of them without an outlet for the kinetic energy they display onstage. They're sharing that fun with comedians, contortionists, and sword-swallowers as part of the Summer Crushes tour. While Gardner rocks out on the organ, Hammel pounds out the percussion. They exchange vocal harmonies and melodies, soaring over each other like happy kids. Mates of States' carefree merriment glows in the funky electro-dance track "Fraud in the '80s" and the stark, bedtime pop number "Lullaby Haze." In addition to their own songs, expect to hear favorites by Belle and Sebastian, Nick Cave, and Daniel Johnston, all part of the duo's new covers album, Crushes. Philadelphia's Free Energy share the bill. Sticky riffs and thick drumming fuel their huge sound, which will probably hit the back of the room and bounce around with a Thin Lizzy-style crunch. — Danielle Sills

Mates of State and Free Energy, with Todd Barry. 10 p.m. Saturday, June 19, Grog Shop. Tickets: $12 advance, $14 day of show; call 216-321-5588 or go to


If jazz and rock are like a bickering, codependent couple, Tortoise are the faded memory of their promise and possibility. The Chicago quintet mixes the two genres without compromising either's integrity, respecting the source material and rarely falling back on the music's potentially harsh juxtapositions. Tortoise have weaved mellifluous lines in and out of complex time signatures and challenging arrangements over the course of 20 years and six albums. But even their most demanding songs leave fans with a tune on their lips. As the swooning guitar line in "Charteroak Foundation" (from their most recent album, 2009's Beacons of Ancestorship) wraps around a driving rock rhythm, a counter-line dances wickedly, exposing the glimmering notes between the languid progressions. The result is a haunting polyrhythmic melody that's just as impossible to hum as it is to get out of your head. That's not to say everything the band does is progressive snobbery. "Prepare Your Coffin"'s glossy playfulness and "Yinxianghechengqi"'s snotty posturing are evidence of a band more focused on following the music's lead than subjecting it to intellectual tinkering. It's been more than a decade since Tortoise were crowned post-rock kings. They still manage to surprise and engage. — Nick DeMarino

Tortoise, with Brett Naucke. 9 p.m. Monday, June 21, Grog Shop. Tickets: $15; call 216-321-5588 or go to

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