Excited about the Grammys tonight? Yeah, we didn’t think so. The awards show has been somewhat irrelevant for some time (though we are setting the DVR for Lil’ Wayne’s acceptance speech). We couldn’t even find more than a handful of Grammy parties at bars around town, and bars will find any excuse to host an event.
But good news, tonight is actually a great night for music…as long as you’re not sitting in front of a TV. Here are six shows worth your time and money (and one even features a former Grammy nominee, if you need that stamp of approval):
7 p.m., Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln;
Full disclosure: we are suckers for West African music. But we’re not the only ones who love this Malian singer’s mix of desert blues and electronic soul; heck, Time Out called her “the most exciting female African musician emerging on the international stage.” There’s something liberating about listening to songs where you can’t understand the words, and can just appreciate the beauty of the sound, and here, there’s a lot of beauty to go around.
7 p.m. at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont; $10, All Ages
Want to know who the kids are really listening to? Ok, it’s probably Coldplay. But if The Graduate’s last show in the area is any indication, a whole lot of teens are enthralled by the pop-rock stylings of this Springfield-based band. Expect lots of shouted choruses, wild dancing and, if you’re lucky, the boys will do some splashing, Blue Man-style, on the drums.
8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth
Speaking of entertaining percussion, Harper takes things to a new level. The jazz drummer was inspired by the likes of Art Blakey and Max Roach, and since his career launched in the ’80s, has hit the top of the Billboard jazz chart and worked with some legendary artists. Part technician, part showman, Harper closes out a five-day run in the city tonight.
7 p.m., Otto’s Nightclub, 118 E. Lincoln Hwy, DeKalb; $20
You may remember the Allstars beat-heavy take on blues classics from a few years ago; that inventiveness is still around, but don’t forget that these guys can be downright traditional, too (after all, the brothers leading the band, Luther and Cody Dickinson, were raised by one of Memphis’ most renowned producers, Jim Dickinson). And tradition is what you get with the Hill Country Revue, the side project focusing on downhome, gritty blues. Fans can experience both sides of the band tonight at Otto’s.
10 p.m., Rednofive, 440 N. Halsted
Remember how we said there was a Grammy nominee in this group? Here she is: the R&B singer received a nod in 2004 for her backup work on Kanye West’s “It All Falls Down” (we kinda thought it was Mary J., to be honest). She’s now promoting her fourth album, “Labor Pains.”
7 p.m., Subterranean, 2011 W. North; $13, All Ages
This artist is exactly the kind of guy the Grammys should be fawning over. Just consider this backstory: born in Somalia, learned English via Nas and Rakim records his cab-driver father sent from NYC, eventually dropped out of school and settled in Toronto, building a politically progressive career. Trafficking in everything from spoken word to reggae to conscious hip-hop, K’Naan has already been recognized multiple times in Canada, but might not be recognized on the street here. This won’t be true for long.