This Week in Milwaukee
Steve Aoki, .357 String Band and Art vs. Craft
THURSDAY, NOV. 24
Steve Aoki @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Expert remix artist Steve Aoki—also a club promoter, a record producer and the founder of Dim Mak Records—injects tricked-out trance beats into even the most tame tracks to create thumping house music that's virtually impossible to listen to while standing still. Adding layers of scratches and dubs, Aoki remakes hits like Drake's “Forever” and Kid Cudi's “Pursuit of Happiness” with the dance floor in mind. Aoki has remixed artists as diverse as Bloc Party and Peaches, but he also composes original songs, including his 2010 single “I'm in the House,” with Zuper Blahq, the alter ego of will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas.
Aoki performs tonight as part of a Stellar Spark bill that includes many other electronic artists, including DJ JSlay, Noize Pollution, DanAconda, Fonzi, DJ JaKel, DJ Tilex and DJ SSWOPP.
FRIDAY, NOV. 25
Semi-Twang w/ The Mike Benign Compulsion @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Semi-Twang's 1988 record Salty Tears was intended to be the first of a seven-album deal for Warner Bros., and it made the Milwaukee group early heroes of the burgeoning alt-country scene, but its modest sales limited the band's time on the label. For two decades, a new Semi-Twang record seemed unlikely, but after 23 years the band released a follow-up. This year's Wages of Sin takes on a harder, bluesier edge than the group's long-ago debut, yet it retains the same deep reverence for Americana. Here's hoping we don't have to wait another 23 years for a sequel.
.357 String Band w/ Those Poor Bastards and Trapper Schoepp and the Shades @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7:30 p.m.
There's no shortage of young bands resurrecting the sounds of American bluegrass these days, but many of them do so in the spirit of modern jam music, spinning long improvisations from the genre's strident twang.
Milwaukee's .357 String Band takes a different approach, toughening up their bluegrass with washes of rough-and-tumble rock 'n' roll and punk. They've coined their own term for their take on the genre:
“streetgrass.” This show doubles as an album release party for openers Trapper Schoepp and the Shades, the local roots-rock band whose new Run, Engine, Run, is rich with lively Tom Petty-esque rock songs and steel-guitar-kissed country stompers.
Maidens w/ Stock Options, Drumlins and The Customary Silence@ Cactus Club, 9:30 p.m.
Relatively new additions to the vast, impressive stable of gloomy Milwaukee metal and hardcore bands playing dire songs about desperate times, Maidens sing of anguish and sacrifice over sludgy guitar riffs and violent, post-hardcore time signatures on their rousing new EP, Shallows. The band shares this release show for the four-song EP, which is being released on cassette tape through the independent label Error Records and has been posted for free streaming on Bandcamp, with the temperamental postrock trio Stock Options.
SATURDAY, NOV. 26
Beats Antique w/ Mindspyk @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7:30 p.m.
Originally formed to create musical accompaniments for producer/arranger Zoe Jakes' belly dances, the Oakland world-fusion band Beats Antique has blossomed into an internationally popular touring group. Their albums weave an experimental mix of Middle Eastern gypsy music, Afro-beat and funk. It's a sound so busy and eclectic that when Blues Traveler's John Popper lent a bit of harmonica to 2010's Blind Threshold, it barely registered as unusual. The group's latest, this year's Elektrafone, draws heavily from dubstep and hip-hop.
Art vs. Craft @ MSOE Student Life and Campus Center, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Showcasing primarily young designers, Art vs. Craft is an art fair rife with silk-screened posters, tiny jewelry, ornaments, stationery, one-of-a-kind toys and more paintings of birds than you can count. Each of the fair's 100 vendors, a mix of Milwaukee and national artists, has been hand-selected. Every product is independently made and the prices skew low, making this event a destination for both DIY craft enthusiasts and holiday shoppers on the lookout for unique gifts. Tickets are only $4, and the first 300 people receive a free tote bag designed by The Little Friends of Printmaking.
Collections of Colonies of Bees w/ Peter Wolf Crier @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
Milwaukee's post-rock sextet Collections of Colonies of Bees was well on its way toward building a national following after 2008's majestic full-length, Birds, when a 2009 collaboration with Bon Iver blogmagnet Justin Vernon, the Volcano Choir album Unmap, expedited the process, cementing the group's reputation as one of the country's most innovative post-rock ensembles. Tonight's show is the band's first live performance since the release of its gorgeous latest album, GIVING, and its first with a new lineup that includes Ben Derickson of All Tiny Creatures on drums and Decibully's Nick Sanborn on Rhodes piano. The group shares this show with the Minneapolis loud-folk duo Peter Wolf Crier, which this year released its sophomore album, Garden of Arms, on Jagjaguwar Records.
SUNDAY, NOV. 27
Thursday w/ Maylene and the Sons of Disaster @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
Perhaps no band was more responsible for keeping the post-hardcore torch burning into the turn of the century than Thursday, the New Jersey group that inspired many of the last decade's harder-edged emo bands. After a near breakup in 2004, though, the band began to drift away from their trademark sound, starting with 2006's darker, softer A City by the Light Divided, the first of three albums the band recorded with Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann. The band's latest, this year's No Devolución, is the best and most fully realized of the bunch, a record that's every bit as visceral as the group's earliest work, even though it tames the aggression considerably.
Kenny Rogers @ Riverside Theater, 6:30 p.m.
In his 50-year career, Kenny Rogers has recorded 65 albums, moved 120 million records and had dozens of hit singles, but none was more enduring than Rogers' “The Gambler,” a song so popular that it was spun off into a TV movie series, with Rogers starring as poker player Brady Hawkes. His popularity was so enduring that in 1999, at age 61, he became the oldest solo singer ever to have a No. 1 hit on the country charts with his single “Buy Me a Rose.” Rogers' latest release is The Love of God, a gospel album released—we are not making this up—exclusively through Cracker Barrel stores.
TUESDAY, NOV. 29
Brandi Carlile w/ The Secret Sisters @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
Like so many of her adultcontemporary peers who owe much of their name recognition to appearances on the “Grey's Anatomy” soundtrack, Brandi Carlile plays melancholic but melodious folk-pop. She distinguishes herself, though, with an unusually deep love of authentic country, which informs her songs through both sound and spirit. She followed her 2005 self-titled debut with 2007's The Story, an unusually stark, somber affair produced by T-Bone Burnett. Her 2009 album, Give Up the Ghost, is her most expansive and emotionally charged record, filled with songs about self-image, tragic teenage experiences and taxing relationships. This year she released the live disc Live at Benaroya Hall With the Seattle Symphony.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 30
The Birthday Massacre @ Miramar Theatre, 8 p.m.
Although The Birthday Massacre sometimes falls back on the chainsaw guitars and exaggerated loud/soft dynamic of modern goth bands like Evanescence, this Toronto band has a selfawareness and sense of goth history that the Evanescences of the world don't. On recent albums, they've tempered their brutal, industrial riffage with smart nods to Depeche Mode and Siouxsie and the Banshees, while having some fun with their stylishly dark image, filming creepy videos that bow to classic Italian horror movies and modern J-horror conventions (singer Chibi rarely misses an opportunity to dress in slinky costumes, including schoolgirl outfits). This August the band followed up its 2010 album Pins and Needles with Imaginary Monsters, an EP of new tracks and remixes.