This Week In Milwaukee
Lyle Lovett , Fish Fry & A Flick and Rufus Wainwright
Thursday, Aug. 5
Lyle Lovett and His Large Band w/ Asleep at the Wheel @ Wisconsin State Fair, 7:30 p.m.
Wisconsin State Fair kicks off its annual 11-day run of carnival rides,
cream puffs, livestock and foods on a stick today. On the festival’s
Potawatomi Bingo Casino Main Stage is headliner Lyle Lovett, who will
play his usual mélange of country, folk, pop and jazz with his Large
Band orchestra. Lovett is paired with an inspired opening act: the
long-running country-swing outfit Asleep at the Wheel, which last year
released a collaborative record with Willie Nelson, Willie and the
Cornmeal w/ SweetGrass @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
their humble beginnings as a house band in Chicago, the
progressive-bluegrass ensemble Cornmeal grew an audience that allowed
them to play high-profile festivals like Bonnaroo with some of the
legends of traditional bluegrass, including David Grisman, John Hartford
and The Del McCoury Band. After releasing three studio albums (the
latest and most accomplished of which is 2006’s Feet First), this year
the band released its first live album, Live in Chicago, IL, Vol. 1.
Tonight’s show is presented as part of Smoke-Free Sounds, a concert
series celebrating the state’s recent smoking ban.
Robert Cray @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.
blues purists never forgave Robert Cray for his 1986 breakthrough
album, Strong Persuader, an ultra-smooth crossover blues record that
briefly made Cray a sex symbol. Those purists, however, have missed out
on the great albums Cray has released since, discs that run the gamut
from traditional blues to blues-soul heavily indebted to Al Green and Hi
Records. Cray’s 2005 album, Twenty, stood out for its reggae-accented,
anti-war title track, but Cray’s most recent disc, 2009’s This Time, was
a more traditional, blues-based affair that put renewed emphasis on
Cray’s showy guitar work. Many of those new songs are featured on Cray’s
new live CD/DVD, Cookin’ in Mobile.
Ray Nitti w/ C-Piepz, Young Major, Kimberlee and Sheba Baby @The Miramar Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
Nitti discovered rap music after he was transplanted to Milwaukee from
the Virgin Islands as a teenager in the late-’90s. Last year the rapper
achieved his first real taste of success when his feisty, good-natured
club single “Bow!” began clocking radio play around the country, a feat
that positions him as one of the city’s most commercially successful
rappers in a decade. This spring, ss “Bow!” continued to receive strong
airplay on local stations V100.7 and 103.7 KISS-FM, Nitti released a
harder, more street-minded mixtape, April Showers. Tonight Nitti shares a
bill with a host of artists from Milwaukee’s club-rap scene.
Friday, Aug. 6
Fish Fry & A Flick: The Hangover @ Discovery World, 5 p.m.
Phillips’ Las Vegas comedy The Hangover made a killing at the box
office upon its summer 2009 release, becoming the highest-grossing
R-rated comedy of all time, making a star of underground comic Zach
Galifianakis and spawning a sequel scheduled for release in 2011. It’s
the rare blockbuster comedy that maintains the goofy, ramshackle feel of
a cult comedy, making it a perfect fit for the Discovery World’s
outdoor Fish Fry & A Flick movie series. The fish hits the fryer
around 5 p.m.; the movie begins at dusk.
Trevor Hall w/ The Tom Fuller Band @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
came early in life for acoustic pop songwriter Trevor Hall. With the
encouragement of his father, he inked a deal with Geffen Records as a
high-school senior, and moved to Los Angeles to work with producers like
John Alagia. After self-releasing a handful of records without an
audience, he pressed on until “Other Ways” made it on the soundtrack of
Shrek the Third in 2007. In 2008, he released the breezy disc This Is
Blue and a live album, Alive & On the Road, followed last year by a
self-titled album, his most reggae-infused yet.
Saturday, Aug. 7
Primus w/ The Dead Kenny Gs @ The Rave, 8:30 p.m.
the decade since the demented funk-metal band Primus last recorded an
album, frontman Les Claypool has kept busy as a lauded player in the
jam-rock scene, sharing stages with Trey Anastasio, Gov’t Mule,
Matisyahu and Buckethead, while recording his own typically off-kilter
albums with assorted ensembles. He’s played off and on with Primus, too,
but until now he hadn’t shown much interest in returning to the studio
with that group. It looks like that’s about to change: Primus recently
reunited with original drummer Jay Lane and has been teasing a
possible new album. Lane had last played with Primus in 1988, but
tellingly he shares Claypool’s jam-scene ties. Most recently he was a
member of the post- Grateful Dead group Furthur, with Phil Lesh and Bob
more than 40 years on the road and a career colored by both hard
knocks and critical accolades, Johnny Winter is considered a vintage
blues artist—one short step away from the status of personal idols such
as Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Winter, along with his brother,
fellow musician Edgar Winter, knocked around east Texas during the
mid-1960s in a variety of different bands before two writers from
Rolling Stone introduced the guitarist to readers as part of a 1968
article on the Texas music scene. Fame, a six-figure Columbia Records
deal and critical acclaim followed. Winter soon found himself jamming
with contemporaries such as Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison and
performing with idols Freddie King and Muddy Waters, who themselves
benefited from the blues revival Winter helped spearhead. Drug abuse,
ill health and fiscal mismanagement dogged his career, but these days
Winter is performing regularly again.
Tuesday, Aug. 10
Steve Miller Band w/ Dave Mason @ Wisconsin State Fair, 7:30 p.m.
Miller is one of the most successful musicians ever to come out of
Milwaukee, an esteemed blues guitarist who crossed over into pop-rock
stardom with his 1973 album, The Joker. Singles came easily to him for
the rest of the decade and into the ’80s, with classic-rock standards
like “Rock’n Me,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Take the Money and Run” and
“Abracadabra.” When Miller plays the Wisconsin State Fair’s main stage
tonight, he’ll have some new music to perform. This year he released his
first studio record in 17 years, Bingo!, and it’s the taut return to
electric blues that many of Miller’s oldest fans were hoping for. It
features covers of songs by B.B. King, Jimmie Vaughan, Howlin’ Wolf,
Jimmy Reed and Otis Rush.
Keane w/ Ingrid Michaelson and Fran Healy @ The Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.
comes as no surprise that this English alt-rock outfit was discovered
by Simon Williams, who also found Coldplay—a band that Keane frontman
Tim Rice-Oxley was once asked to join. After years in the London pub
circuit, Keane’s 2004 debut, Hopes & Fears, proved to be their
breakthrough, emerging as one of the best-selling British albums of the
year. Though it was slower to catch on in America, their slightly
distorted 2006 follow-up, Under the Iron Sea, quickly topped the U.K.
album charts and won a Grammy nomination for lead single “Is It Any
Wonder?” The formula seemed to be working so well that it was a bit of a
shock when the group overhauled its sound for 2008’s Perfect Symmetry,
dropping the adult-contemporary balladry in favor of brisk, ’80s
synth-pop. The group’s new Night Train EP is even more daring, exploring
funk and electronic pop and featuring a guest appearance from Somali
Tuesday, Aug. 10
Rufus Wainwright w/ Martha Wainwright @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
In 2007, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright gave a spectacular concert at
Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater, making good use of the theater’s acoustics
to sing an a cappella Irish traditional, and performing a quick
song-and-dance routine in drag as part of his tribute to Judy Garland.
That concert was recorded for a live DVD and album that was released
last year, Milwaukee at Last!!! Sharing a bill with his sister,
folk-rocker Martha Wainwright, Rufus returns to Milwaukee tonight
performing behind his stark new album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for
Lulu, which he recorded alone on piano, without his usual backing
Wednesday, Aug. 11
Jeremy Messersmith @ The Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
Cities chamber-folk singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith sings in the
dulcet tones of Sufjan Stevens and composes orchestral pop in the
spirit of the Beach Boys. He’s also been making very impressive
records: 2008’s The Silver City, produced by Trip Shakespeare and
Semisonic’s Dan Wilson, was a welcome throwback to ’60s pop records,
and his latest, The Reluctant Graveyard, is even more realized. It’s a
tuneful set of songs about death that’s much more chipper than its
subject matter suggests. All three of Messersmith’s records are
available for pay-what-you-like download through his website. Jeremy Messersmith