* The Shins will play Stir Cove at Harrah’s Casino in Council Bluffs Thursday, May 31st. Tickets for the show go on sale Friday, Feb. 10th at 10 a.m. The New Mexico-bred, Portland-based indie pop band is led by singer James Mercer and gained prominence after their music was featured in the 2004 film Garden State. The band’s fourth album, Port of Morrow, comes out March 20th via Aural Apothecary/Columbia Records. The show is the first announced date for Stir Cove’s 2012 outdoor concert season.
* Blue Bird, the local indie-pop group fronted by Marta Fiedler, is one of four finalist in a contest to win a showcase spot at this year’s South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Tex. The Maurices Hometown Sound contest will also provide the winner with a trip to Los Angeles to shoot a music video and gifts from Maurices. Voting will take place through March 4th at mauricesmusic.sonicbids.com. More than 500 bands entered the contest.
* House of Loom, 1012 S. 10th St., will host two tribute events this week. The first is a tribute to J Dilla, who died in 2006, on Thursday, Feb. 9th. Midtown Marauders will host the event, which also features a screening of live concert documentary Timeless: A Suite for Ma Dukes. The $5 cover will go to the J Dilla Foundation. The following night, Friday, Feb. 9th, Audibly Nutritous will celebrate the life of recently-deceased Soul Train creator Don Cornelius.
* As good as Cass McCombs can be on his albums, his live show side-stepped away from providing any new layers during a Thursday, Feb. 2nd show at the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. The California singer-songwriter and his band were so unassuming on stage that it was hardly necessary to fix one’s gaze on the band. McCombs and company played live versions that were close to what McCombs recordings sound like, only with McCombs sticking mostly to electric guitar.
* The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn brought out his solo material, backed by an easy-going Americana-steeped backing band Friday, Feb. 3rd at the Slowdown., 729 N. 14th St. Some songs didn’t take dramatic turns away from the distinctive cadence that Finn employs with the Hold Steady, though the best songs of the night did appear to show new sides of Finn as both lyricist and songwriter. The diversion was fun, but I can’t help hoping it serves to renew Finn’s focus on the Hold Steady.