Mangy old dope-smoking Willie Nelson, with his grizzled face and creepy braids, is far from a natural fit for the Kauffman Center. (And it will definitely be interesting to see if anybody gets popped from this show for smoking weed.) But the man is a country legend, and when you reach legend status, your lowbrow qualities have a way of becoming highbrow-friendly. Nelson's latest is called Heroes, and it's a mix of new material and old covers. It's also chockablock with collabs, including Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Billie Joe Shaver, Sheryl Crow and, oh God, Snoop Dogg.
Thursday, August 16, at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts (1601 Broadway, 816-994-7200)
Sharon Van Etten, with Hospital Ships and Ruddy Swain
The album I keep thinking about while listening to Sharon Van Etten's latest, Tramp, is The Trials of Van Occupanther by Midlake. Both are elegant, mournful indie-folk records that maintain a consistent dreamlike mood throughout. I don't love Tramp the way I love Van Occupanther, but it's growing on me, and I won't be surprised to see it on a bunch of best-of-2012 lists.
Monday, August 20, at the Riot Room (4048 Broadway, 816-442-8179)
Alpha jam-band Phish hasn't released new material since 2009's highly forgettable Joy, but then it's not about the albums with Phish. It's about the live experience, brah. It's about selling enough Sammy Smiths in the parking lot to make it to the next show, brah. It's about that tasty "Guyute" tease during "Harry Hood," brah. I kid; I kid because I love. Nostalgia for my teenage years goes a long way, and I will enjoy the shit out of this show, no matter what (though I wouldn't be opposed to them cutting five minutes off a jam every now and again).
Wednesday, August 22, at Starlight Theatre (4600 Starlight Road, 816-363-7827)
Toy Piano Collective
"The goal isn't for it to be a jazz or hip-hop or psychedelic or Afro-Latin show," Mark Lowrey says about his latest venture, which he's calling the Toy Piano Collective. "It's to be all of those things and maybe something else. I'm basically trying to showcase some of the baddest MFs in KC." In addition to Lowrey, a good many toy pianos and possibly a kalimba, the collective includes Brian Steever (drums), Pablo Sanhueza and Pat Conway (conga, bongo, pandeira, batá), Hermon Mehari (trumpet), Sephiroth (aka Kartoon) on the mic, and Leonard Dstroy spinning.
Saturday, August 18, at Czar (1531 Grand, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Skid Row, with Federation of Horsepower
Heyday-era frontman Sebastian Bach keeps hinting that he might rejoin his old cronies in Skid Row, but thus far he seems content touring with assholes like Axl Rose and starring on terrible VH1 shows with assholes like Ted Nugent. Therefore, this version of the 1980s metal band, which still includes three core members, is booked at Knuckleheads and not, say, the Midland. Which is not to say it won't still be a hell of a time.
Friday, August 17, at Knuckleheads Saloon (2715 Rochester, 816-483-1456)