This Week in Milwaukee
The Strange Boys, Joanna Newsom, Beach House, Passion Pit and the Meat Puppets
Thursday, April 1
Booker T. w/ JJ Grey @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Even after Booker T. recorded one of the most enduring soul grooves of all time, the 1962 Booker T. and the MGs hit “Green Onions,” he remained a prolifi c session player, backing soul legends like Otis Redding and Sam and Dave, as well as rock acts like The Who. Booker T.’s fi rst solo album in two decades, 2009’s Potato Hole, shows that the veteran player still has some surprises in him. It was recorded with alt-country favorites Drive-By Truckers and the great Neil Young on electric guitar, and features covers of OutKast’s “Hey Ya” and Tom Waits’ “Get Behind the Mule.” The album earned Booker T. a Grammy Award this year.
The Strange Boys w/ Jaill and Sugar Stems @ The Cactus Club, 9:30 p.m.
Among the more traditional of the modern garage-rock revivalists, leaning less on psychedelic touches than cohorts like the Black Lips, instead preferring to draw from the same classic R&B tempos that inspired the British Invasion bands, Austin, Texas’ Strange Boys introduced themselves last year with a rousing debut album, The Strange Boys and Girls Club. The group’s prompt follow-up album, Be Brave, is every bit as sweet, shimmying merrily in deference to classic rock ’n’ roll. The Strange Boys share a bill tonight with Milwaukee’s breakout garage-pop act, Jaill, who this year will release their Sub Pop Records debut.
Friday, April 2Salt Creek w/ Orcha @ Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9:30 p.m.
Colin O’Brien and Guy Fiorentini come from very different worlds: O’Brien is a classically trained guitarist and banjoist, while bassist Fiorentini rose through Milwaukee’s ’90s punk scene. Throw in veteran guitarist Jim Eannelli, whose background is in the blues, and you have an unlikely foundation for a bluegrass band, but then again, Milwaukee’s Salt Creek has never been strictly a bluegrass band. As demonstrated on the group’s live album, Live!, bluegrass is just a starting point, a style that allows for ample tangents into rock ’n’ roll, alt-country and Americana.
Dinosaur Feathers w/ Faux Fir and The Fatty Acids @ Club Garibaldi, 9 p.m.
Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Dinosaur Feathers invites instant comparisons to Animal Collective, if only because both acts marry the same infl uences: Beach Boysstyled harmonies and sunny, tribal rhythms. Where Animal Collective stretches these sounds to esoteric extremes, though, Dinosaur Feathers keeps its compositions as tight and poppy as Vampire Weekend singles, making the trio’s plucky new record, Fantasy Memorial, the perfect escape for people who fantasize about sipping piña coladas on tropical beaches over dropping acid under decrepit city bypasses.
Joanna Newsom @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Iconoclastic California singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom keeps fi nding new ways to outdo herself. She delighted some critics and confounded others with her 2004 debut, The Milk-Eyed Mender, a collection of harp-led fairyland folk songs, before revealing herself to be more ambitious than anybody could have guessed with 2006’s Ys, a fi ve-track orchestral suite with arrangements by composer Van Dyke Parks. With its shorter songs, Newsom’s new record, Have One On Me, is breezier and more accessible than Ys—but it’s also three discs long, Newsom’s way of saying she hasn’t dialed back her ambitions any.
Saturday, April 3Wishbone Ash @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
As sometimes happens to long-running classic rock bands with complicated lineup changes, there are now two different touring versions of the seminal prog-rock group Wishbone Ash. The one that plays Shank Hall tonight is the more established, better regarded of the two, led by original guitarist Andy Powell. When Powell seized control of the band in the mid-’90s, he led the group in some unorthodox directions—infamously recording a pair of dance-inspired records under the Wishbone Ash brand name—but he’s since returned the group to its roots, recording a number of nostalgic live albums and the 2007 studio album Power of Eternity.
Beach House @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
The Baltimore duo Beach House had already polished the muted, Mazzy Staresque dream-pop of their 2006 self-titled debut album on their 2008 effort Devotion, but even their biggest supporters couldn’t have predicted they’d make an album as bold and assured as their new Teen Dream. These psychedelic songs still sound like they could have been recorded in a funeral home, but this time around singer Victoria Legrand opens a curtain to the outside world to let in some joyous sunshine as she sings about the most inspirational of muses: love.
Passion Pit @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos has one of those voices that’s so bad it’s good, a shrill and excitable, high-pitched whine. Everything about Passion Pit’s sound is this unstable and enthused. The group’s 2009 album Manners teems with glistening electro-pop, playing like a singles collection even though it’s actually the band’s debut. As they fl irt with alternative-radio airplay and additional exposure from television licensing, the Cambridge, Mass., group has become an in-demand touring act. Tonight’s Milwaukee show was originally booked at the Turner Hall Ballroom before it was rescheduled for the much larger Riverside Theater.
Sunday, April 4Meat Puppets w/ The Etiquette @ Club Garibaldi, 9 p.m.
With more than a little help from fervent supporter Kurt Cobain, ’80s underground rock luminaries Meat Puppets scored a major label deal and eventually a minor alternative hit (“Backwater”) in the early ’90s. These days, though, the group—reunited after a couple of breakups—is back to playing the type of small clubs they cut their teeth in. Tonight they play what’s sure to be a ridiculously wild, crowded show at Bay View’s unassuming Club Garibaldi. Recent shows have found the group in fi ne form, as have a pair of reunion albums of inspired (but defi nitely not overworked) countrydamaged psych-rock.
Monday, April 5Shearwater w/ Wye Oak and Hospital Ships @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.
An Austin group once best known for its ties to Okkervil River, Shearwater sprouted its own wings mid-decade, molding the intimate folk-rock of singer Jonathan Meiburg into dramatic nature cries that erupt in surprisingly forceful ways. The group’s latest, The Golden Archipelago, is gorgeous and fi erce in equal measure, with Meiburg unleashing his choir-boy bellow in service of a song cycle about life on an isolated island. Openers Wye Oak garnered instant Yo La Tengo comparisons for their coed dream-pop, but they distinguished themselves on last year’s striking sophomore album The Knot, purging anything twee about their sound to double down on baleful alt-country twang and untamable loud-soft guitars.
Wednesday, April 7Daughtry w/ Lifehouse and Cavo @ U.S. Cellular Arena, 7:30 p.m.
Bo Bice can claim the dubious honor of being “American Idol’s” fi rst “rock” contestant, but it was the more understated, less theatrical contestant Chris Daughtry a season later who emerged as the fi rst genuine rock star spawned by “Idol.” Though he only fi nished fourth that year, sales of his self-titled debut album ran laps around those of winner Taylor Hicks’ debut, and Daughtry has remained a contemporary radio mainstay ever since. Daughtry’s latest album, 2009’s Leave This Town, presents a warmer, kinder version of the polished post-grunge favored by bands like Nickelback.