This Week in Milwaukee
The Hold Steady, Roots, PBR Street Festival and Modest Mouse
Thursday, July 1
The Hold Steady @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
We’re assuming that
anybody reading this blurb doesn’t need to read yet another Bruce
Springsteen comparison, so instead here’s a bit of trivia about the
Milwaukee ties of Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady. The band’s bassist Galen
Polivka is a Whitefish Bay High School alum who for years played in the
Milwaukee punk band Punchdrunk. Punchdrunk’s drummer, Judd Counsell,
another Whitefish Bay graduate, also played with an early incarnation of
The Hold Steady. If his last name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s
the cousin of Brewers shortstop Craig Counsell.
Are the B-52s the ultimate
party band? Probably. The band’s ultra-kitschy throwbacks to ’60s rock
’n’ roll made them cult favorites during the early days of punk and New
Wave, before their rowdy hit “Love Shack” renewed their popularity in
1989. Though the band’s latest album, 2008’s Funplex, was their first
new album in 16 years, it’s perhaps their most forward-looking record
yet, updating their classic dance-rock with the booming production of
modern electronic music.
The Roots @ Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
worried that The Roots’ new job as the house band for Jimmy Fallon’s
incarnation of “Late Night” would slow hip-hop’s most celebrated live
act can breathe easy. Despite their TV commitments, The Roots have
continued to tour at a steady clip, and last month they even released a
new record, How I Got Over. The album finds the band branching out to
incorporate some of the indie-rock sounds they’ve been exposed to
through Fallon’s show. Members of The Dirty Projectors join the band on
opener “A Piece of Light,” while other songs sample Monsters of Folk and
Jazz in the Park w/ Natty Nation @ Cathedral Square Park, 6 p.m.
This year marks the 15th
anniversary of dub/reggae spark plugs Natty Nation, whose career has
seen them play shows at South By Southwest and CMJ Music Marathon and
open for legends like Lee “Scratch” Perry and Burning Spear. The
Milwaukee band plays an eclectic blend of conscious reggae laced with
hints of psychedelia and hard-rock, which makes them a novel choice for
Cathedral Square Park’s free “Jazz in the Park” concert series.
@ Miller Lite Oasis, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
As The Neptunes production
team, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo were among the most reliable
hit-makers of the last decade, racking up hits for rappers, R&B
singers and pop stars alike. They were never able to duplicate that same
chart success for their rock- and funk-oriented side project, the live
band N.E.R.D., a group that began as an outlet for some of the duo’s
more esoteric influences. The band’s recent work has grown more
conventionally commercial. Their last album, 2008’s Seeing Sounds, was
their most club-minded yet, and judging from its teaser single—a
feather-light dance song with Nelly Furtado called “Hot N Fun”—their
upcoming album Nothing looks to make a bid for the pop charts.
The Bravery @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
New York alternative
rockers The Bravery took a turn for the serious on their second album,
2007’s The Sun and the Moon, which played like one of U2’s lofty ’80s
epics and spawned the band’s biggest hit, “Believe.” On their latest
record, last year’s Stir the Blood, the band returned to the slick New
Wave pop of their 2005 debut. It hasn’t been nearly the chart success
The Sun and the Moon was, yet it finds the band in their zone, cranking
out stylish synth-rock that never takes itself too seriously (even when
it pretends to take itself seriously).
Saturday, July 3
Pabst Blue Ribbon Street Party @ Logan and Potter Avenues, 1 p.m.
In a clever bit of
marketing, Pabst Blue Ribbon has counterprogrammed against Summerfest
for the last three years, hosting its own free block party outside of
the trendy Bay View corner tap Burnhearts. Last year a headlining set by
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks filled the block to near capacity; this
year’s lineup is smaller but should pack a spectacle all its own, thanks
to a performance from the 30-piece Chicago circus punk band Mucca
Pazza. They’ll be joined by garage-rockers White Mystery, punk favorites
Call Me Lightning, the spaced-out hip-hop group Def Harmonic and enough
cases of cheap PBR tall boys to build a formidable aluminum fortress.
of the more unlikely (yet at the same time, more deserving) indie-rock
bands to crack the alternative-rock mainstream last decade, Modest Mouse
charmed the country with their ode to optimism “Float On” in 2004, then
continued to make the same weird and ornery hobo-rock epics they’d been
recording since the mid-’90s. Singer Isaac Brock is currently penning
songs for a follow-up to 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank,
the album that temporarily introduced former Smiths guitarist Johnny
Marr to Modest Mouse’s lineup, though Brock’s said in interviews it’s
unlikely he’ll be ready to debut any of the new material on this tour.
(Arrive early to the Miller Lite Oasis tonight for an 8 p.m. set from
Avi Buffalo, a young indie-pop band that released its aching,
self-titled debut on Sub Pop this spring.)
Tour de Fat @ Humboldt Park, 10 a.m.
Consider it an even
greener alternative to the government’s “cash-for-clunkers” program. At
the inaugural Milwaukee run of its bike ride and festival Tour de Fat,
Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Co. will be selecting somebody to trade
their car for a fully loaded commuter bike. The bike ride around Bay
View begins at 10 a.m. (registration at 9 a.m.) in Humboldt Park, which
will host a slew of bike-themed contests and entertainment, and
continues through the afternoon, with ample libations. Attendees are
encouraged to wear whimsical costumes.
Counting Crows @ Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
The same magic that allowed Counting Crows’ unkempt, dreadlocked
singer Adam Duritz to date two of the three female leads from “Friends”
must have carried over to Duritz’s music career, because 17 years after
the band’s blockbuster debut album, the band continues to draw some of
the biggest crowds of their career. Duritz and his band of Crows’ latest
album is 2008’s Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, which contrasts
Duritz’s stark, existential dread with bright, Van Morrison-styled
Dave Matthews Band w/ Zac Brown Band @ Alpine Valley, 7 p.m.
The Dave Matthews Band
responded to the tragic death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore, long a
defining part of the group’s sound, with 2009’s Big Whiskey & the
GrooGrux King, a stark record that excises any hint of pop gloss from
their sound and features some of Matthews’ bleakest songwriting yet.
Despite its somber tone, it may be the record that best captures the
shaggy interplay and extended soloing of the band’s popular live
concerts. Since the band has announced plans to take 2011 off, the
group’s two shows at Alpine Valley this weekend should be hot tickets.
(Also July 4.)
Sunday, July 4
Silversun Pickups @ U.S.
Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Los Angeles’ Silversun
Pickups wormed their way onto alternative radio with their slithery 2006
hit “Lazy Eye,” an A.D.D.-riddled update on the sounds of the Smashing
Pumpkins and Modest Mouse, but last year’s moody sophomore album Swoon
proved the band isn’t a one-hit wonder. Like the band’s debut, the
record was produced by Dave Cooley, formerly of the Milwaukee band
Danny Gokey @ Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest, 9:30 p.m.
One-time church music
director Danny Gokey was Milwaukee’s first remotely successful “American
Idol” contestant, finishing third in the show’s eighth season, though
with any luck he won’t be the last: The show is filming auditions for
its upcoming 10th season here in Milwaukee later this month. It’s a safe
bet that Gokey, who released a soft country record called My Best Days
in March, will be a staple at Summerfest for years to come.
On the Hill w/ electri-violet @ Humboldt Park, 6:30 p.m.
After more than a
decade of playing together, vocalist Carole Ferrara and guitarist John
Plankenhorn have honed a thoughtful blend of blues, jazz and soft pop.
Last year their group electri-violet released a self-titled debut album,
a mix of AM radio gems and moody originals that featured contributions
from players in the local jazz scene, including bassist Doug Ebert,
drummer Sam Monroe, saxophonist Aaron Gardner and trumpeter Jamie
Gordon Grdina Trio @ Sugar Maple, 8 p.m.
For Vancouver-based guitarist Gordon Grdina, the chance to play with his heroes came unusually early. Ten years ago, Grdina sought out legendary double-bassist Gary Peacock after a Keith Jarrett concert; ever since, Peacock has been his teacher and mentor. In 2006, the two wrote an album with drummer Paul Motian, Think Like the Waves. Since that album, Grdina’s musical endeavors have mushroomed. In both jazz and world music, Grdina uses dissonance as a launchpad for three disparate musical interests: mainstream jazz, free improv and Arabian classical music. Recently Grdina has stepped away from his quartet Box Cutter to perform with his own trio. In December, they released their first album, …If Accident Will, on Plunge Records.