This Week in Milwaukee
German Fest, WMSE Radio Summer Camp and Brady Street Festival
THURSDAY, JULY 28
German Fest @ Henry Maier Festival Grounds
One of Milwaukee's largest ethnic festivals, German Fest features dancers, live polka music, historical displays, mask-carving, a blacksmith, a genealogist, and almost criminally adorable dachshund races, but the biggest draw is, as always, the food. Among the vittles: schnitzel, sauerkraut, sauerbraten, knoedel, gulasch, bratherring (fried herring) and too many varieties of sausage to list here. There's also a full carnival and fireworks on Friday and Saturday nights. (Through Sunday, July 31)
Chris Smither @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
After falling into a drunken abyss that derailed his promising young career, blues singer Chris Smither reemerged in the late 1970s with a newfound dedication to his craft. His third album, It Ain't Easy, a culmination of his dark times, was released in 1984 and contained deeply philosophical musings sung with pain and conviction. In 1998, he received a longoverdue profile boost when he toured with fellow rockers Dave Alvin, Jack Elliot and Tom Russell on the “Monsters of Folk” tour, and he has continued recording steadily ever since.
Rickie Lee Jones @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
After decades of recording everything from jazz to pop to R&B, Rickie Lee Jones has taken to throwing her fans curveballs. Her 1997 record Ghostyhead experimented with drum-heavy trip-hop, and 2007's The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard—a tough, rock 'n' rollminded treatise on religion—was one of the most intimate albums of her career. For this concert, though, Jones is going back to her roots, performing her first two albums (1979's Rickie Lee Jones and 1981's Pirates) in their entirety.
FRIDAY, JULY 29
Carbon Leaf w/ Giving Tree Band @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Even though Carbon Leaf forge their unique sound by using a legion of oddball instruments like bagpipes, mandolins and bouzoukis, their style is assuredly not “Brazilian polka-metal,” as guitarist Carter Gravatt has joked, but rather a dynamic blend of Celtic-rock and bluegrass that has taken on some pop-rock wrinkles over the years. The band achieved surprising success early on as an indie band with their 2001 single “The Boxer,” which helped them land a record deal with Vanguard Records. Citing frustrations with the delays and restrictions of being on a major label, the band left Vanguard to independently release its 2010 album How the West Was One.
MANIA meets Spacetribe Candy!!! @ Borg Ward, 6 p.m.
Brooklyn artist John Gatti and Milwaukee's Jesse Engelbrecht, both 2008 graduates from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, team up for this joint Gallery Night exhibition at the Borg Ward. Their designs are very much of a piece: Both use stark black-and-white imagery that contrasts violence with extreme whimsy, and both artists draw from science-fiction imagery, outsider-art aesthetics and Freudian and Jungian theories of subconscious thought.
Third Ward Ghost Walk @ Milwaukee Public Market, 7 p.m.
Milwaukee's flagship ghost tour doesn't stoop to cheap scare tactics or cheesy ghouls with sheets over their heads, but instead uses historically accurate tales of the “Bloody Third” to elicit uneasiness and goose bumps. The walk is less haunted house and more sightseeing tour, but the captivating stories of Wisconsin's most famous 19th century ghetto should intrigue any history buff or fan of fantastic folklore. The tour runs Fridays and Saturdays through November.
Dosh w/ Haley Bonar, Zoo Animal and Algebro @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
Anticon Records is still best known as a hip-hop label, but there's nary a trace of hip-hop in the label's longtime recording artist Dosh, an ambient multi-instrumentalist from Minneapolis. Dosh's 2008 album Wolves and Wishes featured guest contributions from artists as disparate as Andrew Bird, Fog and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and the artist has a long history with at least two of the three: He's toured and recorded with both Fog and Bird, even co-writing songs on Bird's album Armchair Apocrypha. Tonight's co-headliner Haley Bonar shares Dosh's Minneapolis roots, though her pensive alt-country songs have little in common with his glitched-out productions.
Marc Cohn w/ Shawn Mullins @ The Pabst Theater, 8:30 p.m.
Velvet-voiced folk-rocker Marc Cohn climbed the charts in 1991, racking up three top-100 hits including his ode to Elvis, “Walking in Memphis,” which remains a staple on country radio even today. That popular trifecta from his self-titled debut album also helped him nab a Grammy for Best New Artist and another nomination for “Walking in Memphis.” His latest album, Listening Booth: 1970, was released last year and became his highest charting album ever, reaching #28 in the U.S. He shares this show with singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins, who remains best known for his 1998 hit “Lullabye.”
SATURDAY JULY 30
Brady Street Festival @ Brady Street, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
A BMX stunt team, a rock-climbing wall, a cheese tent and a professional wrestling ring are among the draws at this year's Brady Street Festival, along with the usual slew of jewelry and crafts tents and food vendors. And, of course, there's music: three stages of it, featuring Kings Go Forth, De La Buena, The Ragadors, Herman Astro, Favorite Shape Triangle and The Vega Star, among many others.
Richard Buckner w/ Conrad Plymouth and Nineteen Thirteen @ Linneman's Riverwest Inn, 9 p.m.
Alt-country king Richard Buckner is the type of haunting songwriter who brings his voice down to a whisper instead of raising it when he wants to make a point, but although he's toned down the volume considerably from his raw '90s records, he's not averse to turning it back up occasionally. While still stark, his latest record, 2006's Meadow, ups the rock factor, thanks in part to contributions from members of The Mekons and Guided By Voices. A full half decade after that album, in August he'll finally release a follow up, which he's titled Our Blood.
Eastside Jazzfest @ Helen Bader Performance Hall, 5 p.m.
The Eastside Jazzfest, an ongoing series designed to showcase jazz artists from Milwaukee or with ties to the city, spotlights four acts with this latest installment. Trumpeter and Wisconsin Conservatory of Music faculty member Eric Jacobson performs with his quintet at 5 p.m., followed by UW-Milwaukee jazz studies head Curt Hanrahan and his quartet at 6 p.m. and the George Braith Quartet at 7 p.m. (Braith has invented his own instrument called the Braithophone, a combination of soprano and alto saxophones). The David Hazeltine Trio, led by the New York pianist Hazeltine, a former Milwaukeean, ends the show with an 8 p.m. set.
Tour de Fat @ Humboldt Park Bandshell, 10 a.m.
The whimsical, New Belgium beer-sponsored traveling bike festival Tour de Fat returns for its second year to Humboldt Park. The day begins with a 10 a.m. ride through Bay View that encourages participants to dress up in zany costumes, then continues with an afternoon of music and entertainment (and of course food and beer) in the park, including a headlining set from Free Energy, the Cheap Trick-loving Philadelphia power-pop band that last year released its full-length debut, Stuck on Nothing, on DFA Records.
SUNDAY, JULY 31
The Budos Band WMSE's Backyard BBQ w/ The Budos Band @ Cathedral Square Park, noon - 9 p.m.
Brooklyn's 10- to 13-piece The Budos Band follows in the footsteps of their Daptone Records label mates Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, laying down brass-heavy, retro-minded funk and soul. They aren't strict traditionalists, though. Over a run of three self-titled albums, the band has infused Afro-beat rhythms into '70s-styled R&B instrumentals, and the band's 2010 record imports even more worldly sounds into the mix, drawing from Latin rhythms and Middle Eastern aesthetics. The band headlines WMSE's free Backyard BBQ in Cathedral Square Park tonight at 7:15 p.m., following performances from The Uptown Savages, Will Phalen, Two Cow Garage, the Jambalaya Brass and Whitey Morgan and the 78's. Local vendors will be selling copious amounts of BBQ and summer snacks, and there will also be a youth stage.