RAISING THE BAR: Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, there were alternative rock groups we referred to, not unkindly, as “really good bar bands”—usually roots-rock outfits like the Del Fuegos or power-pop outfits such as The Smithereens. Generally, they were non-showy bands that had some songwriting depth and could play a solid club set. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, who play Mandalay Bay Beach on June 8 ($40), is such a band. Their music might not change the course of your life, but for as long as the Nocturnals are onstage at Mandalay, you’ll feel good about living it … particularly if you have a beer in your hand. That’s a vital component of the really good bar-band experience.
HEY, ROCKER: I ain’t gonna bite my tongue/Beg for broken legs no more, sings Ryan Bingham in the soaring, Zeppelin-esque “Beg for Broken Legs,” the first track from his excellent 2012 album Tomorrowland. It’s a screw-you statement that lands on the ears like a punch—proof positive that songs can be weapons. I actually feel pity for whomever the song was intended; just listening to it as a passive observer makes me feel like I should, I dunno, call the Karma Police or something. And it’s just one arrow in Bingham’s quiver; this country/roots-rock singer-songwriter has a number of songs that pierce flesh and bone, songs that beat down the libertine and liberate the beaten-down. I reckon I should have expected as much of the man who wrote the devastating (and Academy Award-winning) “The Weary Kind” for Jeff Bridges to sing in Crazy Heart, but honestly, I wasn’t expecting Bingham to become the complete roots rocker that we always wanted Ryan Adams to be. I’m just glad that he did. See him poolside at the Cosmopolitan on June 13 ($20).
NOW ON SALE: MGMT is playing poolside at the Cosmopolitan on August 26 ($35). Like so many of you, I know this synthpop duo primarily by its hits—“Time to Pretend,” “Kids” and “Congratulations”—but did you know that the band took Nicolas Sarkozy, onetime president of France, to court for using “Kids” in a political campaign without their permission? And that they got Sarkozy to settle? That’s totally badass. MGMT basically fought France and won.