It's too bad the Grand Emporium isn't the sort of place that's fit for a horse (unless, of course, you're telling one of those "horse walks into a bar" jokes). This week's special guest at the Rural Grit Happy Hour is Pop Wagner, also known as the Renaissance Cowboy. Not content merely to play the part onstage, Pop Wagner knows how to rope and ride. When he's not on tour with his guitar, he leads trail rides at home in Minnesota, and he's been known to do his musical gig on horseback from time to time. Being a cowboy with a Web site and an official tour schedule might seem a dubious enterprise. Does Wagner partake in shootouts in saloons? Probably not. He's a kinder, gentler cowboy -- one who's never owned a cow (though he has lived on a farm with 27 unnamed chickens). We'll let it slide, though, because of his reputation as a damn good fiddler, singer and storyteller. And with Betse Ellis and other Rural Grit regulars performing the occasional in-between during Wagner's act, the show should be even better than the episode of Prairie Home Companion starring the Renaissance Cowboy himself, which won the popular radio program a Peabody Award.
The Rural Grit Happy Hour lasts from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Grand Emporium (3832 Main). For information, call 816-531-1504.-- Gina Kaufmann
Love is in the air at the Bottleneck.
It sounds mean, but we hope the husband-and-wife duo known as Mates of State are fighting the night they play the Bottleneck (737 New Hampshire Street in Lawrence). The couple play cheery indie pop, with Kori Gardner's '70s-era Yamaha organ providing layers of dense tones to fill the space in Jason Hammel's drumming. When the Mates play live, they face each other on stage and make no attempt to mask their love with coded lyrics. Even for fans, the longing stares of googley-eyed love from organist to drummer can go from seeming cute to becoming ultimately cheesy and distracting. Maybe we're just jealous. For ticket information, call 785-841-5483.-- Michael Vennard