This Week in Milwaukee
Festa Italiana, Band of Horses and WMSE’s Backyard BBQ
Thursday, July 15
Festa Italiana @ Summerfest Grounds
Festa Italiana is consistently among the most highly attended of Milwaukee’s summer ethnic festivals, in large part because of the food, but this year’s fest also features a particularly rich entertainment lineup, with performances from Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, celebrity jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, former Monkee Micky Dolenz and watermelon-smasher Gallagher. Other attractions include an Italian piazza, chef demonstrations, an 18-foot-tall sand sculpture of Pinocchio, carnival rides and nightly fireworks. (Through July 18.)
Liars w/ Fol Chen @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8
emerged at the start of the decade as one of the top draws of New York’s
burgeoning dance-punk scene, before reinventing themselves as one of
the most unpredictable art-rock bands of their time. Each album since
2004’s haunting, witch-themed They Were Wrong, So We Drowned has twisted
their sound in unexpected directions. Their latest, Sisterworld, is
typically unsettling, a claustrophobic record that hints at existential
angst and sexual violence. An expanded version of the record features
remixes from Thom Yorke, Devendra Banhart and members of Deerhunter,
Blonde Redhead, Melvins and TV on the Radio. (This concert is the
kickoff show for WMSE’s Radio Summer Camp music festival.)
Russian Circles w/ Sweet
Cobra and Death Dream @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
Drawing at times from the
crushing math-rock of Don Caballero as their better-documented metal
influences, Chicago’s instrumental trio Russian Circles grows more
nuanced with each release. The group’s latest, 2009’s Geneva,
dramatically tones down the bruising riffs of their 2006 debut, Enter,
and its 2008 follow-up, Station, instead emphasizing softer, post-rock
passages that only heighten the songs’ almost unbearable tension.
Old 97’s w/ David Wax Museum @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
They’ll always be best known as an alt-country band, but on recent efforts the Old 97’s have covered more territory than that restrictive label suggests. Their latest album, 2008’s Blame It On Gravity, is their flashiest yet, a pointed set of bombastic rock and sly pop that keeps its eyes locked on the pop charts. The album’s sizzling, Latin-spiced “Dance With Me,” for instance, bears more than a little resemblance to a certain smooth Rob Thomas/Carlos Santana collaboration.
Friday, July 16
Band of Horses w/ Bryan
Cates @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Band of Horses’ new Infinite Arms is their
first major label record since they left indie springboard Sub Pop, but
it certainly doesn’t sound like it. No efforts were made to glitz up the
indie-Americana band’s sound; in fact, if anything Infinite Arms is
actually a more modest, intimate record than their breakthrough 2006
debut, Everything All the Time. That album yielded the
soundtrack-friendly, lighters-up single “The Funeral,” but the new disc
is unabashedly small-scale by comparison, channeling the simple charms
of the ’70s folk-rock records that singer Ben Bridwell’s parents
probably owned, garnished with a few direct rockers that should keep the
group’s concerts lively.
Scott Lucas and The
Married Men @ Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9 p.m.
Scott Lucas has spent the
last two decades fronting the alt-rock duo Local H, scoring the 1996 hit
“Bound for the Floor” and in recent years some critical successes that
haven’t sold nearly as well. For his latest solo project, though, Lucas
expands on the simple guitar/drums setup of Local H. His new backing
band, The Married Men, features accordion and violin, but retains Lucas’
trademark grungy angst (Lucas wrote this set of songs to try to win
back an ex-girlfriend). Opening acts tonight are Tim Schweiger and the
Middlemen, Trapper Schoepp and the Shades and Surgeons in Heat.
Doe w/ Robbie Fulks and Nora O’Connor @ Shank Hall, 9 p.m.
John Doe was among the
first and most prominent of what’s now one of music’s most common
archetypes: the punk gone country. Doe still keeps his feet in both
worlds, performing with his seminal Los Angeles punk band X and its
country-folk offshoot The Knitters, but he does most of his recording
these days under his solo alias. His latest release is last year’s
Country Club, which he recorded with Canada’s go-to alt-country backing
band The Sadies. Doe shares tonight’s bill with Chicago country-folk
singersongwriter Robbie Fulks, who continues his iconoclastic ways on
his latest album, Happy, a timely collection of Michael Jackson covers.
Eastside Jazzfest @
Miramar Theatre, 6 p.m.
With hopes of becoming an annual tradition, the
inaugural Eastside Jazzfest rounds up seven acts from very different
corners of the Milwaukee-area jazz scene: progressive-jazz
multi-instrumentalist Isaiah Joshua; the Latin-funk combo Clamnation;
the traditionalist Davis/Peplin Quartet; the fusionleaning Kevin Hayden
Band; the genre-hopping Jamie Breiwick & Choir Fight; the studied
The Phases Trio (with featured alto saxophonist Godwin Louis); and the
Afro-beat group Tristan Royalty Squad. The bill closes with a 1 a.m. jam
session that promises to pull all these varying sounds together.
Zola Jesus w/ Signaldrift and Faux Fir @
Stonefly Brewing Co., 10 p.m.
Recording under the nom de plume Zola Jesus, Madison’s
burgeoning goth icon Nika Roza Danilova has been on a tear over the
last couple of years, recording a slew of albums, EPs, 7-inches and side
projects, all of which have been eagerly hunted down by enamored
bloggers and followers. The best and most accessible of the batch is
this year’s revelatory Stridulum EP, six self-produced songs of steely,
cinematic pop with shades of Bjrk, Bat for Lashes and Siouxsie Sioux.
Sunday, July 18
Twin Sister w/ Mountain Man and Made of Oak @ Cactus Club, 9
Twin Sister crafts rousing, experimental pop symphonies from samples
and found sounds, which can at times make them feel like a second coming
of The Avalanches, though their scope is never quite as busy as that
group. With her soft, awe-struck voice, singer Andrea Estella gives the
band’s watercolor soundscapes a sympathetic, human focal point. The
group’s latest release is this spring’s gorgeous Color Your Life EP,
which, like their 2008 EP, Vampires With Dreaming Kids, is available for
free through the band’s website.
WMSE’s Backyard BBQ @
Cathedral Square Park, 11 a.m.
WMSE caps its Radio Summer Camp music festival with
its second annual Backyard BBQ, a free concert and grill-out in the
closest thing the WMSE studios have to a back yard: Cathedral Square
Park. The music is a celebration of the rural. Headliners Southern
Culture on the Skids close the event at 7:15 p.m. with their rowdy
countryrock, and supporting acts the .357 String Band, The Carolina
Chocolate Drops, Eric Lindell, The Jonathan Burks Band and The Ragadors
touch on similar country, blues and honky-tonk forms. Restaurants
including Maxie’s Southern Comfort and the Palomino will be serving
dishes like jambalaya, pulled pork, barbecue chicken, turkey legs,
burgers, brats, vegan Sloppy Joes, cornbread and hand-shaken lemonade.
Tuesday, July 20
Rasputina w/ Larkin Grimm @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Melora Creager is one of alternative-rock’s go-to cellists, having performed with Nirvana on their In Utero tour, as well as with Belle & Sebastian, The Pixies and, most extensively, Marilyn Manson. With a rotating lineup, Creager has recorded her own songs since the mid-’90s in Rasputina, a cabaret-rock band that typically pairs her with a second cellist and percussionist. The group’s sixth and latest album, Sister Kinderhook, is grounded in steampunk culture and historical fiction, with songs about Colonial Federalism and the New York Anti-Rent Wars of the 1800s. Opener Larkin Grimm records Wicca-influenced freak-folk with producer Michael Gira for his Young God record label.