m Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
With Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights, Justin Jones
Details: Friday 8 p.m. State Theatre, 687 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. $16-$19. (727) 895-3045.
Grace Potter — stiletto lover, cheddar cheese enthusiast, '70s rock fanatic — lives on the road. She and band the Nocturnals have become regulars on the jam circuit, knocking out bluesy, Southern-influenced rock nightly. Like Joss Stone for the Bonnaroo set, Vermont's leggy, feisty blond has a sultry voice and 6-inch heels to match. But hear her on Paris (Ooh La La) and she's Joan Jett with a Hammond B-3. On ballad Apologies, she's Sheryl Crow with the scent of patchouli. Rolling Stone dubbed this versatile crew a "best new band of 2010."
>> John Mellencamp
Details: Friday 7 p.m. Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 N McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater. Sold out. (727) 791-7400.
Ah, John Mellencamp. The six-string slinger rocking for the heartland. The upholder of blue collar, Springsteen-y, Stones-y traditions. The friend to the farmer. The political and social activist with pop appeal. All those distinctions work fine, just don't call him the Cougar. He hates that. Friday, Mellencamp will navigate his varied catalog (expect a new twist on Jack and Diane), but not before showing a screening of It's About You, a documentary about his 2009 tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. No tickets? When I tell you it's sold out, it's going to hurt so good.
Details: Friday 7 p.m. Ritz Ybor, 1503 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. $16.50 and up. (813) 247-2555.
In 1996, a group of classically trained cellists from Helsinki, Finland, released a Metallica tribute album, Apocalyptica Plays Metallica By Four Cellos. Then, these "one-trick ponies" did the unthinkable. They stuck around for 15 more years and sold a couple million albums. Symphonic metal sleeper I Don't Care, with its distorted cello tones and vocal grumblings from Three Days Grace's Adam Gontier, was one of the biggest surprise hits of 2008-09.
Ra Ra Riot
With the Luyas
Details: Wednesday 8 p.m. Crowbar, 1812 17th St. N, Ybor City. $13-$15. (813) 241-8600.
In spite of its name, Syracuse, N.Y., act Ra Ra Riot plays well-mannered, poetry-quoting chamber pop that moves both mind and feet. The calming keyboard-cello-bass combo recalls fellow brain bands Death Cab for Cutie and Arcade Fire, while the spring in its step resembles that of Vampire Weekend. The liberal arts rockers have been likened to "Dexy's Midnight Runners playing REM."
Sonny LaRosa and America's Youngest Jazz Band
Details: Saturday 7 p.m. Bayside Church, 3380 State Road 580, Safety Harbor. $10; free for children 10 and younger. (727) 669-7212.
Over the course of 33 years, Safety Harbor's Sonny LaRosa has taught and conducted more than 500 child musicians, none of them older than 13. Two years ago, a career highlight came when his group performed on the main stage at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Alumni of the orchestra include Blue Note saxophonist Eric Darius and R&B singer Ryan Kendrick. Other former students have gone on to play with Wynton Marsalis and Al Green. Now in his 80s, the man the Wall Street Journal called a "model educator" hopes he can help keep big-band music alive and well for generations to come. He has invited all graduates and their families for a reunion show of sorts Saturday.
Times correspondent Carole Liparoto can be reached at [email protected]