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Thursday, June 17, 2010

This Week in Milwaukee

Denis Leary, Aziz Ansari, Summer Soulstice Festival and MGMT

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Thursday, June 17

Denis Leary w/ Adam Ferrara and Lenny Clarke @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.

While many of the stand-up comedians who rose to fame during the ’80s have faded into obscurity, Denis Leary has proved himself remarkably versatile. He parlayed his acerbic observational comedy into MTV stardom in the ’90s, then enjoyed a robust film career (most memorably appearing in The Sandlot and The Ref) before starring as a troubled firefighter in the FX comedy-drama “Rescue Me.” That show, which launches its sixth season this month, pairs Leary on screen with fellow stand-ups Adam Ferrara and Lenny Clarke, who join him tonight as part of the second “Rescue Me Comedy Tour.”

Chick Corea Freedom Band @ The Northern Lights Theater, 8 p.m.

As a solo artist and as a player for Miles Davis in the 1960s, pianist and composer Chick Corea was instrumental in shaping the sound of electric jazz fusion, though in the decades since the ’70s he’s increasingly dabbled in acoustic settings. Corea’s latest group, the Chick Corea Freedom Band, reunites him with many of the players he’s crossed paths with over his career, including alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett (an alum of Davis’ later lineups) and 85-yearold drummer Roy Haynes, who before joining the group had last played with Corea on the pianist’s landmark 1968 album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs.

Friday, June 18

Polish Fest @ Henry Maier Festival Park, noon America’s largest Polish celebration reconvenes this weekend for three days of pierogies, folk-art demonstrations, vodka tastings and music. More than 40 vendors will sell wares and keepsakes at the Sukiennice Marketplace, while young talent will compete in the Chopin Youth Piano Competition and the Little Miss Polish Fest pageant. The festival offers a number of ways to get in for free or at a reduced rate this year. Friday’s admission, for instance, is just 50 cents before 5 p.m. (Through June 20.)

Lakefront Festival of Arts @ Milwaukee Art Museum, noon One of the nation’s premier juried art festivals, Milwaukee’s Lakefront Festival of Arts has been going strong for four decades, drawing thousands of people each year. This year the tented, outdoor festival has expanded to include additional artist booths inside the Milwaukee Art Museum, in Windhover Hall. The event showcases 181 artists from around the country and includes live music, a Fiber Arts Fashion Show, a Silent Art Auction

and a wine garden. (Through June 20.)

Aziz Ansari @ The Pabst Theater, 7 and 9:30 p.m.

Should his critically acclaimed but low-rated NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation” not last beyond its next season, Aziz Ansari will still have plenty of work to keep him busy. He’s been in talks to star in as many as three films produced through Judd Apatow, including a Funny People spin-off about Ansari’s arrogant, standup alter-ego, Raaaaaaaandy. Ansari is also a rising star on the real stand-up circuit, this year having released his first record, Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, a sharp, popculture-obsessed set capped by memorable routines about Kanye West and R. Kelly.


JJ Grey & Mofro w/ Brandi Shearer @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

Mofro, the rock ’n’ roll brainchild of Jacksonville, Fla., storyteller JJ Grey, is more or less an extension of its bandleader’s innate melodic gifts. From humble, late-’90s beginnings in the swamplands of northern Florida, the blues-funk group quickly rose through word-of-mouth in the receptive jam band circuit. The band’s Fog City debut, 2001’s Blackwater, captured the soulful minimalism of Grey’s influences, while subsequent albums—Lochloosa (2004), Country Ghetto (2007) and Orange Blossoms (2008)—have broadened Mofro’s audience, allowing Grey to share stages with one of his icons, Booker T.

Tracy Morgan @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.

For seven years on “Saturday Night Live,” actor and comedian Tracy Morgan specialized in offbeat, bizarre and sometimes mentally ill characters, playing them not just for easy laughs but also for audience sympathy. An infamously forgettable sitcom on NBC in 2003 cast Morgan as a cookie-cutter family man, but since 2007 a scene-stealing supporting role on “30 Rock” has allowed him to tap the weird energy he displayed on “SNL”—it helps that Morgan essentially plays a caricature of himself. Capitalizing on his renewed popularity, last fall Morgan released an autobiography about his early life in the Bronx, I Am the New Black.


The Fatty Acids w/ Fable & The World Flat, Faux Fir and The Mean Sons @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.

For the better part of their two years together, Milwaukee quirk-pop aficionados The Fatty Acids played most of their shows in basements. Though they’ve recently begun gigging aboveground, their self-recorded debut album, Stop Berries, Berries and Berries, Berries, which they release tonight, retains the raw, do-it-yourself sound of those early shows, suggesting the spacey psychedelia of Beck and MGMT and the unabashed pop of Peter, Bjorn and John on a much smaller budget.

Saturday, June 19

Summer Soulstice Music Festival @ North Avenue, noon The East Side’s Summer Soulstice Music Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with a lineup topped by the Milwaukee rock and bluegrass group The .357 String Band and the ’90s grunge-rock band Sponge, former alt-rock staples remembered for dreary hits like “Molly” and “Plowed.” Among the other performers are Will Phalen & The Stereo Addicts, The Sandcarvers and The Lovelies. Outside of the music, the event offers a Division BMX demonstration, Milwaukee’s Rage in the Cage dodge ball tournament, a climbing wall, an American Apparel sale and a Qdoba burrito-eating contest.


Sunday, June 20

MGMT w/ Tame Impala @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.

With the release of their 2007 debut album, Oracular Spectacular, MGMT ascended from Brooklyn buzz band to bona fide modern rock stars, thanks largely to three infectious synth-pop singles, “Time to Pretend,” “Electric Feel” and the inescapably perky “Kids.” The group cautioned that their 2010 follow-up, Congratulations, wouldn’t contain anything as poppy as that hit, and sure enough the record is far more psychedelic and far less hook-oriented. Nonetheless, it garnered welcoming reviews and debuted near the top of the Billboard charts.

Tuesday, June 22

Chill on the Hill w/ Leroy Airmaster @ Humboldt Park, 6 p.m.

The origins of Leroy Airmaster date back to the late ’60s, when its members were highschool students eager to decode the blues.

Led by innovative harmonica player Steve Cohen, the group grew to become one of the city’s finest blues acts, drawing eclectic crowds throughout the ’70s and ’80s. The band broke up in 1990, but reunited after two decades apart last year for some sporadic gigs, including two that contributed to the band’s new concert album, Live at Turner Hall. The group plays Bay View’s free Chill on the Hill concert series tonight.

Wednesday, June 23

Quintron and Miss Pussycat w/ Cave @ The Cactus Club, 9 p.m.

Since 1994 under the pseudonym Quintron, inventor and former nightclub organist Robert Rolston has performed at his own private New Orleans club, the Spellcaster lodge, and patented inventions like the Spit Machine, the Disco Light Machine and the Drum Buddy, a light-activated drum machine. Backed by these machines, Rolston performs as a one-man-band, playing on a Hammond organ designed in the shape of a vintage car (complete with working headlights). He’s frequently joined in concert by his wife, Miss Pussycat, a backup singer and puppeteer.