Petur Ben at the Schlafly Tap Room, Tim Rakel and David Rovics at Black Bear Bakery

Last night I ventured downtown to check out Icelandic singer-songwriter Petur Ben, who is playing the Schlafly Tap Room (2100 Locust) tonight and tomorrow night as part of the Cod & Cask Festival. (See our preview here.)

I HIGHLY suggest going to check him out. Despite a chatty crowd, Ben charmed, first by playing an acoustic cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and next by two plugged-in numbers that echoed the quirky, rustic Americana of Grant Lee Buffalo or Chris Isaak. (Ben as well physically resembled the latter, thanks to chiseled facial features -- and a hairdo -- and a leather pants-vest-dress-shirt combo.) The musical festivities start at 9 p.m. tonight (Walkie Talkie U.S.A. opens) and tomorrow (Gentleman Auction House plays first).

Also on tap tomorrow night is a late-breaking show at Black Bear Bakery (2639 Cherokee Street; 314-771-2236) featuring David Rovics and Bad Folk front man Tim Rakel. From a press release:

David Rovics has been called the musical voice of the progressivemovement in the US. Amy Goodman has called him "the musical version of Democracy Now!" Since the mid-'90s Rovics has spent most of his time on the road, playing hundreds of shows every year throughout North America,Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Japan. He and his songs have been featured on national radio programs in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Denmark and elsewhere.

He has shared the stageregularly with leading intellectuals (Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn),activists (Medea Benjamin, Ralph Nader), politicians (Dennis Kucinich,George Galloway), musicians (Billy Bragg, the Indigo Girls), and celebrities (Martin Sheen, Susan Sarandon). He has performed at dozens of massive rallies throughout North America and Europe and at thousands of conferences, college campuses and folk clubs throughout the world.

That show starts at 7 p.m.

-- Annie Zaleski

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