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Thursday, July 22, 2010

This Week in Milwaukee

German Fest, Built To Spill and Heartless Bastards

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Thursday, July 22

German Fest @ Summerfest Grounds

The largest of Milwaukee’s ethnic festivals, German Fest this year features dancers, polka, costumes, games of sheepshead, mask-carving activities, a blacksmith and genealogist, and almost criminally adorable dachshund races, but the biggest draw is, as always, the food. Among the vitals: schnitzel, sauerkraut, sau erbraten, knoedel, bratherring, gulasch and too many varieties of sausage to list here. There’s also a full carnival and nightly
fireworks. (Through Sunday, July 25.)

The Wildbirds @ Milwaukee Boat Line, 9 p.m.

The Appleton/Milwaukee-area roots-rock band The Wildbirds attracted quick buzz, but after a 2008 tour from hell in a bio-diesel bus that broke down, the band followed suit. Last year members Nicholas Stuart and Hugh Masterson reunited, and rebuilt the group with new members Jon Phillip (of The Benjamins) and Quinn Scharber. Tonight the new lineup celebrates the release of its first EP together, Sunshine Blues, and what better place is there to celebrate than on a party boat? The group plays as part of the Iroquois tour boat’s concert cruise series.

Jazz in the Park w/ The Twin Cats @ Cathedral Square Park, 6 p.m.

Founded by identical twins Adam and Seth Catron in the late-’90s, the Indianapolis jazz-funk quintet The Twin Cats has played jam-friendly music festivals like 10,000 Lakes, Summer Camp and F.U.N.K. Their sense of melody and unique approach to fusion (funk, prog-rock, jazz, electronica) was well displayed on their latest album, Thick, the 2009 followup to their self-released album United from the previous year. Both albums are laid-back and aggressive in equal measure, testifying to the band’s background playing small clubs and large festivals alike.

The Faint w/ Zola Jesus @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Even before the indie-dance boom of a half-decade ago, The Faint were playing glamorous, danceable synth-rock, marked by retro New Order arrangements and big, catchy choruses— their libidinous signature single, “Worked Up So Sexual,” still outshines 99% of all dancepunk. The Saddle Creek alums toned things down for their most recent albums, 2004’s Wet From Birth and 2008’s Fasciinatiion, opting for digital soundscapes indebted to Depeche Mode, but their live shows are still all about the party. Performances by The Faint are backed by animated projections that playfully riff on the band’s recurring motifs of sexuality, procreation and existential despair. They share tonight’s bill with Madison, Wis., goth-pop rising star Zola Jesus.



Friday, July 23

Natalie Merchant @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.

While her folky, college-rock band 10,000 Mani- acs continued without her, singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant went solo, releasing in 1995 her hit debut album, Tigerlily. Her work since has alternated be- tween sentimental easy listening for the adult contemporary set and unexpectedly experimental and ambitious. Her 1998 album Ophelia examined the Shakespeare character from a feminist perspective; 2001’s Motherland incorporated orchestral sounds and world-music undertones, and her new Leave Your Sleep pays tribute to poets from Robert Louis Stevenson to Robert Graves and Christina Rossetti.

Built to Spill w/ Fauxbois @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Along with Pavement, Built to Spill was one of the most important indie-rock bands of the ’90s, laying the groundwork for bands like Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins and Modest Mouse with a string of masterful guitar-pop albums. The last decade saw the Boise, Idaho, band slow its studio output considerably as the group spent long stretches on the road, jamming new life into its existing songbook, but last year the group released its latest album, There Is No Enemy. The record balanced short and sweet autumnal pop songs with heavier, more brooding jams.

Saturday, July 24

Jack Johnson w/ G. Love @ Alpine Valley, 7 p.m.

Hawaiian surfing enthusiast Jack Johnson writes simple, acoustic folk-pop songs that ask nothing of their listeners. Jackson’s attitude is so lowkey that it seems possible he’s genuinely unaware that he’s one of the music industry’s most reliable heavyhitters, having sold well over 8 million records. His latest, another hit, is To the Sea, a typically mellow affair he recorded in his solar-powered studios in Hawaii and Los Angeles. Its first single, “You and Your Heart,” has topped the American Triple A charts. Tonight Jackson shares a bill at Alpine Valley with the musician who helped break him: jam-rapping bro G. Love, who plays a solo acoustic opening set.

Call Me Lightning w/ John the Savage, Breathe Fire and Centipedes @ Bay View Post, 6:30 p.m.

The Milwaukee trio Call Me Lightning is named for a Who song, and each year they’ve grown into that name. Their epic new album When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free is their most Who-esque yet, a righteous slab of pummeling stadium rock far removed from the wild-eyed art-punk of Call Me Lightning’s early releases. Like The Who’s best albums, When I Am Gone plays out as a song cycle, telling the vague story of simple men summoned to greatness, fighting death and racing against the clock. Expect plenty of fist pumping when the group plays its album release show tonight.

Thriving Ivory w/ Matt Hires @ Miramar Theatre, 8 p.m.

A San Francisco pop-rock ensemble heavily inspired by Coldplay, Thriving Ivory didn’t have much luck finding an audience for their self-titled debut album when they first released it in 2003, but they fared far better when they re-released the record in 2008 on Wind-up Records. Their 9/11-inspired single “Angels On the Moon” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, as frequent radio play, years of touring and exposure from VH1’s “You Oughta Know” helped the band grow its audience. In April, the band announced the departure of longtime bassist Bret Cohune, but followed up quickly with the announcement of a second album, Through Yourself & Back Again, which they’ll release this fall.

Sunday, July 25

Lords of Acid w/ My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult @ The Rave, 8 p.m.

Led by house music pioneer Praga Khan, the Belgian electronic band Lords of Acid helped define the acid house/rave sound with their debut album, 1991’s Lust, which introduced their trademark blend of sex, drugs and tongue-in-cheek hedonism. Their second album, 1994’s Voodoo-U, featured more industrial leanings—a direction the group explored increasingly more in later albums like Our Little Secret (1997), Farstucker (2000), and Private Parts (2002). In the years since 2002’s Greatest T*ts compilation, the group has been relatively inactive, but their silence was broken last month by the announcement of their current tour. This time around, they’ve enlisted “Rock of Love” contestant Lacey Conner (of the Texas industrial-rock band Nocturne) to handle vocals.

Monday, July 26

Heartless Bastards w/ Peter Wolf Crier @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

An endorsement from The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney helped the Cincinnati garage-rock band Heartless Bastards land a home on Fat Possum Records, and though some early praise hovered around the group’s first two records for the label, it wasn’t until last year’s The Mountain that the band truly came into its sound. Produced by Spoon’s Mike McCarthy and recorded with a new lineup that left singer Erika Wennerstrom the sole remaining original member, the album piled massive, psychedelic sounds over wily, bluesy guitar riffs and featured a broadened palette of instrumentation. Opener Peter Wolf Crier doesn’t set out to rock nearly as hard on his latest album, Inter-Be, a home-recorded singer-songwriter affair in the Bon Iver mold.



Tuesday, July 27

Crash Kings @ The Rave, 7 p.m.

Only months after brothers Tony and Mike Beliveau formed Crash Kings in 2006, the Los Angeles alternative-rock trio caught the attention of hit-making songwriter Linda Perry, who set them up with Wolfmother/Oasis producer Dave Sardy. The Kings’ self-titled debut album, released in May 2009 through Perry’s Custard Records division of Universal, split the difference between hard, bluesy rock and soft piano ballads, and spawned the hit single “Mountain Man.” The group has since maintained an aggressive touring schedule, which has included dates with Stone Temple Pilots, David Cook and Rooney.



Wednesday, July 28

Blitzen Trapper w/ Avi Buffalo @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Much as it ushered in grunge two decades ago, Seattle’s Sub Pop Records has been a leading proponent of the recent flannel-in-the-forest indie-folk movement, signing artists like Iron and Wine, Daniel Martin Moore, Vetiver, Tiny Vipers and Loney, Dear. One of the most successful and prolific of its acquisitions has been Blitzen Trapper, a Portland, Ore., ensemble that on its Sub Pop releases has downplayed the indie-quirk of early records to pay homage to the Americana of acts like Neil Young and, on its latest album, Destroyer of the Void, The Grateful Dead in particular. Opening tonight is another Sub Pop band in a very different mold: Avi Buffalo, a young, co-ed indie-pop band that sings of fleeting summer love on its recent self-titled debut.

Drinking Liberally @ Sugar Maple, 7 p.m.

The leftie mixer Drinking Liberally, which invites progressives to meet once a month at the Sugar Maple to discuss politics, tonight welcomes guest Justin Krebs, the author of the book 538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal. In the book, Krebs outlines ways liberals can lead more socially conscious lives. Among his suggestions: using a solar-power-generating backpack to run a laptop, making progressive financial investments and engaging in informed political conversation.

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