Rapper Kendrick Lamar may make the summer’s mightiest and most topical noise Saturday at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC — routes 9 and 50, Saratoga Springs).
Hip-hop’s greatest sponge and biggest star, the Pulitzer Prize winner and 12-time Grammy winner rose from Section 8 housing in Compton, son of a gang member, by claiming, absorbing and spinning back everything at us, like Beck from the other side of town.
Lamar has cited every pioneering rapper on both coasts as influences including Tupac, the Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Nas, Eminem, Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, DMX, Lil Wayne, Rakim, Dr. Dre, the Dogg Pound, Kurupt, Ice Cube — but also Parliament-Funkadelic and (on the five-Grammy-grabbing “To Pimp a Butterfly”) Miles Davis!
“Pimp” marked Lamar as “the greatest rapper of his generation” (Pitchfork), “Damn” went further, becoming the first rap album to win the Pulitzer Prize for music in a cultural moment as profound as Bob Dylan’s winning the Nobel Prize for literature.
Every song on “Damn” richly earns its “Explicit” tag for N-words and F-bombs (another Pulitzer breakthrough) except the opener “Blood,” and that depicts a murder. It’s ripped-from-the-headlines raw but boasts a bold beauty in its rumbling, pulse-racing tracks.
Lamar comes to SPAC Saturday on the Championship Tour with SZA, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab Soul, SIR, Lance Skiiwalker and possibly others. 7:30 p.m. $35 (lawn) to $189.50. 800-745-3000 www.spac.org
TIN CAN ALLEY DEBUT
Tin Can Alley formed organically when folksinger-financial adviser Bridget Ball Shaw ran for a seat in the Rensselaer County Legislature last fall and invited musician pals to play a fundraiser. “We did,” said Michael Eck, explaining how they became Tin Can Alley, playing its debut Friday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs).
Kevin McKrell and Brian Melick (bandmates in the Mountain Snow Orchestra Ball led with husband-troubadour Chris Shaw until they retired from performing) asked Eck and Greg Haymes (bandmates in the Ramblin Jug Stompers) to join their set. “We played some stuff off the cuff and I, at least, laughed harder than I ever have onstage,” Eck said. “Immediately after we were done, McKrell says, that was fun, we should do that again. Twenty minutes later he says, that was fun, we should start a band. It was that easy.” Eck said the name came as he drove home. “I passed a street sign that read Tin Can Alley. It was that easy.”
Adding McKrell’s daughter Katie, they emulated the musically loose, message-intensive Almanac Singers and the Weavers, who famously “rehearsed” onstage, snagging a ready-made repertoire from those seminal folk crews plus Tommy Makem, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly — tunes everybody knows and can sing along to. “It’s not meant to be political,” Eck said, “but as Jackie Alper said, singing a song is a political act.” (Alper sang with the Almanacs and hosted RPI’s “Mostly Folk” radio show.) 8 p.m. $16 advance, $18 door, $9 children and students 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
This new band plays in a weekend of Caffe regulars.
Roy Book Binder plays the Caffe tonight. Book Binder learned blues essentials from Rev. Gary Davis (like Jorma Kaukonen), touring with Davis as chauffeur, opener and accompanist; then with Fats Kaplin. He’s recorded and played the Caffe since the 1970s, mixing sweet country licks with salty blues. He also teaches at Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch in Ohio. 7 p.m. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 students and children
Michael Jerling called his latest album “Halfway Home,” but the top area troubadour is all the way home Saturday at the Caffe, where he brings regular collaborators Tony Markellis, bass; and Teresina Huxtable, keyboards and harmonies. 8 p.m. $16 advance, $18 door, $9 students and children
Sunday’s “Saratoga Originals” session brings solo sets by troubadours Rich Clements, Pat Decker and Alex Ciota, then a set together. 7 p.m. $16 advance, $18 door, $9 children and students
VASSAR AT THE EGG
Tonight at The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany), Phil Vassar steps out from behind his Country Songwriter of the Year award to sing his own songs, likely including hits he wrote for Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, Jo Dee Messina, Collin Raye and others. His self-named debut album (2000) charted five singles and his eight releases since include hits compilations, live sets and a Christmas offering. 7:30 p.m. $40, $34, $28. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
CUMMINGS AT MASSRY
Berkshires bluesman Albert Cummings plays the Massry Center at The College of Saint Rose (1002 Madison Ave., Albany) Saturday in a co-presentation with the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and 97.7 WEXT that proves music is a community. (The two venues also co-present the Bridge Jazz Festival.) Since recording his 2003 debut album with Double Trouble, their first project after Stevie Ray Vaughan’s death, homegrown talent Cummings has performed with many of his inspirations and led his own trio in exciting live shows and respected albums, most recently “Someone Like You” (2015) and “Albert Cummings Live at the ’62 Center,” recorded last year in Williamstown. 8 p.m. $24. 518-273-0038 www.troymusichall.org
OK, sadly, Jerry Garcia is still dead, but his Grateful Dead bandmates and others still play Grateful Dead songs — at SPAC Monday as Dead & Co. After 2015’s Fare Thee Well shows everybody thought would be the Dead’s swan song two decades after Garcia passed, original members Bob Weir, guitar and vocals, and drummers Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann recruited John Mayer, guitar; Oteil Burbridge, bass; and Jeff Chimenti, keyboards, to form Dead & Co., a perennial SPAC favorite and keepers of the flame. 7 p.m. $50 (lawn) to $149.50