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It’s a rare occasion when an august figure from recent musical history steps out of the halls of academia and joins us common folks for a good old rock show. Well, maybe not rock, exactly. Tony Conrad’s contributions to the birth and early development of minimalism began in the early ’60s, when he teamed up with the likes of LaMonte Young, Marian Zarzeela, and John Cale to form perhaps the first prominent ambient/minimal ensemble, the Dream Syndicate (from which the ’80s paisley undergrounders took their name). While tonally exciting to some and psychologically unnerving to others, Conrad’s music explores the relationship between a few closely tuned tones and uses agonizing durations on amplified strings to create a densely powerful form of expression. It has influenced the likes of the Velvet Underground and continues to inform the work of more melodically oriented musicians such as John Fahey, David Grubbs, and Jim O’Rourke. Conrad (who teaches on the media faculty at SUNY, Buffalo) opens tonight for Grubbs (pictured), whose latest output can be heard on Camofleur, his final collaboration with O’Rourke as Gastr Del Sol. While Grubbs’ contributions to the album reveal hints of an almost Beach Boys-like pop enthusiasm, his last solo record, Banana Cabbage, was entirely a study in restrained piano and guitar instrumentals. With a new solo release due out in September, however, Grubbs is well on his way to repaying the musical debt he owes to Conrad. At 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11, at the Black Cat, 1831 14th St. NW. $6. (202) 667-7960. (Amy Domingues)