This Week in Milwaukee
MC Hammer, Freight and Lil Wayne
Thursday, Aug. 4
American Idol Live @ Bradley Center, 7 p.m.
For the last decade "American Idol" has been a pop-culture juggernaut, creating stars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry. Though in recent seasons the show has been unable to produce any sensations like Adam Lambert, it has still drawn ratings that any other TV show would envy, and the show's 10th season was a considerable step up from its lackluster 2010 offering. This season's tour features the top 11 contestants, including the growling, Adele-styled Haley Reinhart, mohawked rocker James Durbin, Milwaukee reggae singer Naima Adedapo and big winner Scotty McCreery, a teenage country crooner with an outsized voice. The singers will perform some of their fan-favorites from the show, as well as new material and collaborations.
The Pines @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Hailing from Minneapolis, the same musical hotbed that launched the career of Bob Dylan, The Pines follow gently in that legend's footsteps, honing a sound that combines acoustic folk with bluesy undertones and poetic lyrics. The duo's first major release, Sparrows in the Bell, was a critical favorite and ranked among the very best roots albums of 2007. The band's latest foray, Tremolo, shows the continued maturity in their craft and features contributions from a number of Minneapolis players, including singer/guitarist Ben Ramsey's father, Bo, and brother, Alex.
MC Hammer w/ Tone Loc and Young MC @ Wisconsin State Fair Park, 7:30 p.m.
Fueling Wisconsin's voracious appetite for food, drink and entertainment, the State Fair returns with enough cheese curds and beer-battered brats to send even the heartiest of Midwestern men into severe food comas. This year's headliners are typically eclectic, drawing from the world of classic rock, Christian contemporary and modern country, but first the event kicks off with a bill of retro hip-hop from MC Hammer, the "U Can't Touch This" rapper who burned bright and fast in the early '90s, and Tone Loc and Young MC.
Friday, Aug. 5
Anchorman @ Discovery World, 5 p.m.
The first of Will Ferrell's film collaborations with director Adam McKay, 2004's Anchorman uses its loose narrative about the fall and redemption of self-absorbed Action News anchor Ron Burgundy as an excuse for a series of increasingly absurd, occasionally violent sketches involving Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Steve Carell, Ben Stiller and Jack Black. The movie screens at dusk tonight outside as part of Discovery World's "Fish Fry & a Flick" series, following a Bartolotta fish fry that begins at 5 p.m. There will also be a host of food trucks and specials on Point beer.
Flogging Molly Flogging Molly @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
The once-radical marriage of Celtic music and punk no longer seems so radical these days, as the Pogues-inspired punk bands that emerged in the '90s have shown some unlikely traditionalist tendencies. Even Los Angeles' Flogging Molly, one of the heaviest of the American Celtic punk bands, has toned down their early roar a bit to make more time for folk ballads, rebel songs and other genuine displays of appreciation for the Celtic tradition. The group's 2008 album, Float, and their new Speed of Darkness embrace these softer sounds, but as the group's double-disc album Live at the Greek Theatre attests, the group still kicks up an unforgiving ruckus in concert.
Eric Johnson @ Pabst Theater, 7:30 p.m.
Younger, more technologically savvy crowds may recall Eric Johnson's name from the video game "Guitar Hero III," where wannabe shredders annihilated their fingers trying to play Johnson's Grammy-winning piece "Cliffs of Dover." In more conventional musical circles, Johnson is one of the most respected guitarists on the planet, known for his profound stylistic range on the instrument as well as his flawless technical mastery. Some of his singles are simply bewildering arrangements of finger picking. Of course, thanks to "Cliffs of Dover," pimpled preteens with Play- Stations all around the world already knew that.
Saturday, Aug. 6
African World Festival @ Henry Maier Festival Park, noon
The African World Festival has fallen on tough times in recent years, as financial difficulties forced organizers to scrap the three-day festival in 2008 and 2009. It returned last year as a daylong event, and keeps that format this year. What it lacks in length, though, the event makes up for with a remarkably rich lineup of jazz, blues, funk and gospel. Among the headliners are Charlie Wilson, the former singer for The Gap Band who has reinvented himself as a solo artist and hiphop hook singer; jazz vibraphonist Roy Ayers; jazz flutist Najee; and soul singer Clarence Carter, of "Strokin'" infamy.
Freight w/ Northless and Absolutely @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
A few weeks after his band Death Dream played its final show at the Cactus Club, singer Brian Rogers reunites his former noise-rock band Freight for one last show before he moves out West. Opening are two Milwaukee bands enjoying considerable buzz inside the city and beyond: metal heavyweights Northless, whose new album Clandestine Abuse received unexpected Marc Cohn props from National Public Radio's "All Songs Considered" (not typically a top source for metal recommendations), and Absolutely, the young trio that won over the local punk scene with their exuberant debut album, Learns to Love Mistakes.
Tuesday, Aug. 9
Lil Wayne w/ Rick Ross, Keri Hilson, Far East Movement and Lloyd @ Marcus Amphitheater, 7 p.m.
Self-proclaimed "greatest rapper alive" Lil Wayne didn't waste any time returning to his breakneck schedule following his release from prison last year; he's recorded dozens of guest verses and has reportedly finished Tha Carter IV, the long-delayed sequel to his 2008 blockbuster Tha Carter III, the best-selling album of that year. To tide fans over, last month he released a feisty mixtape titled Sorry 4 the Wait. Sharing this tour with Wayne is fellow radio mainstay Rick Ross. After being outed in 2008 as a former correctional officer—a revelation that would have almost instantly killed the credibility and careers of most mid-level gangsta rappers—the stout Florida rapper silenced critics with his great 2009 record, Deeper Than Rap. His 2010 follow-up, Teflon Don, was even better, a hard-hitting but also immensely soulful rap album featuring assists from a host of modern R&B greats, including John Legend, Cee Lo, Erykah Badu, Ne-Yo and Lil Wayne Raphael Saadiq.
Josh Groban @ Bradley Center, 7:30 p.m
In what was a glorious precursor to his current standing and legacy in the musical world, a 17-year-old Josh Groban served as a stand-in for the legendary Andrea Bocelli at the 1999 Grammy Awards, rehearsing his songs with another vocal demigod, Celine Dion. Of course, Groban has since elevated himself to (at the very least) equal status as Bocelli, selling 24 million records worldwide and producing four consecutive multi-platinum albums. Groban's signature single "You Raise Me Up," a ballad sung with power and purity, proved he could sing, but recently he's set out to prove he has a sense of humor as well, by singing Kanye West tweets on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and by turning out an unexpectedly hilarious performance as Emma Stone's asshole boyfriend in Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Wednesday, Aug. 10
Chris Isaak @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.
In 1991, a full two years after its appearance on Chris Isaak's landmark 1989 album, Heart Shaped World, the single "Wicked Game" became a Top 10 hit thanks to its appearance in the David Lynch film Wild at Heart. Isaak's out-of-time rockabilly look made him an unlikely pop star, so it wasn't too surprising that he never scored another hit, but he's stayed busy, recording regularly and starring in Showtime's "The Chris Isaak Show," one of the weirdest programs nobody ever watched. In 2009 he released a satisfying new album, Mr. Lucky, which he'll follow up this fall with a tribute record to Buddy Holly.