This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, April 26
Gladys Knight @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.
Gladys Knight and the Pips recorded a number of minor hits for Motown in the mid-to-late '60s, but it wasn't until the group left the label that they scored their signature hit, "Midnight Train to Georgia." Knight has had a colorful career since splitting with the Pips for good in 1988, recording the title song for the James Bond movie Licence to Kill, opening a chain of well-loved chicken and waffle restaurants, and, at age 67, competing this year on "Dancing With the Stars." Her most recent album is the 2006 standards collection Before Me, which includes winning interpretations of "God Bless the Child" and "Stormy Weather."
Friday, April 27
Rich Kidz @ 618 Live on Water, 9 p.m.
Atlanta's Rich Kidz began several years ago as a teen ensemble, but has since whittled down to the duo of rappers Yung PU and Skateboard Skooly. They've released a handful of strong mixtapes, the latest being this winter's triumphant Everybody Eat Bread, a collection of delirious half-rapped, half-sung bangers highlighted by the victorious Waka Flocka Flame collaboration "My Life," one of many tracks that suggests big radio play in the future. Tonight the duo performs at an event hosted by DJ Nalege of V100.7.
Lisa Gatewood @ Sugar Maple, 9 p.m.
Like her kindred spirit and sometimes collaborator Heidi Spencer, folk-pop singer Lisa Gatewood's songs play like a series of deep, heavenly sighs. That sense of dreamy resignation carried Gatewood's 2007 debut, I've Read Salinger, a loose song cycle about emotional retreat, and it returns on her sophomore release, Midway, a lovely album rich with themes of infatuation and separation. The songstress will play two sets tonight to mark the album's release.
Cinematic Titanic @ The Pabst Theater, 6 p.m.
The cult comedy program "Mystery Science Theater 3000" ended its run in 1999, but alums of the B-movie-mocking show have moved on to two similarly styled projects. Mike Nelson and the show's late-period cast started the downloadable audio commentary service RiffTrax, while "MST3K" creator Joel Hodgson and the show's early cast (including Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl) formed Cinematic Titanic, a touring troupe that riffs live at screenings of such anti-classics as The Oozing Skull and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. The troupe does two nights in Milwaukee this weekend, skewering Doomsday Machine on Friday and Astral Factor on Saturday.
Saturday, April 28
Florence and the Machine w/ Blood Orange @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Florence and the Machine can credit much of their stateside recognition to a Cinderella moment: The art-pop group was picked from relative obscurity to perform among much bigger names at MTV's 2010 Video Music Awards. The smartly choreographed performance of the group's joyous soul-stomp "Dog Days Are Over," which surrounded singer Florence Welch with frolicking modern dancers, sent the band's debut album Lungs, already more than a year old at that point, shooting up the charts, and radio programmers scrambled to add the song to their playlists. Last year the group released a second, similarly catchy and even more theatrical album, Ceremonials.
The Life and Times w/ Sleepcomesdown and Disguised as Birds @ Cactus Club, 9:45 p.m.
Allen Epley spent the better part of a decade on the road with his clench-jawed Kansas City indie-rock band Shiner, a project that mellowed considerably over its run as it evolved to explore moodier, more atmospheric sounds on its records. Epley picked up where that group left off when it disbanded in 2003 with his current trio The Life and Times, which drank deeply from the shoegaze well on its 2005 debut, Suburban Hymns. The group's recent releases, including this year's No One Loves You Like I Do, have been even showier, loaded with grand choruses and big, beaming modern-rock guitars.
Terminal Milwaukee: The Crawford/Ex Fabula Project @ Alverno College's Pitman Theatre, 8 p.m.
A dyed-in-the-wool Milwaukeean, WMSE station manager Tom Crawford has spent his whole life in the city, working odd jobs and living in many of its neighborhoods. Tales from that life have made him a favorite at the Ex Fabula storytelling slams, so that series' creators chose him as the focus of the spinoff series Terminal Milwaukee, where Crawford and guest storytellers riff on a different neighborhood at each installment. That series draws to a close with this climactic final installment, which will feature musical accompaniments from accordionist Steve Meisner, the bagpipe-heavy Billy Mitchell Scottish Ensemble and the reunited '70s punk band The Lubricants.
Tuesday, May 1
Bo Burnham @ The Pabst Theater, 7 p.m.
Internet goofball Bo Burnham was one of the early breakout stars of YouTube, where videos of the then-teenager singing about white supremacists and Helen Keller spread quickly. Comedy Central, never one to miss a chance to capitalize on adolescent-male humor, took the comic singer-songwriter under its wing, making him the youngest performer ever to headline "Comedy Central Presents" and releasing three of his comedy records in as many years, the latest of which, Words Words Words, is the companion album to Burnham's latest TV special.
Melvins w/ Unsane @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
Melvins' massive, sluggish metal was a prime influence on Seattle's late-'80s grunge scene, and Nirvana in particular, so when Kurt Cobain's band broke, he returned the favor. With his endorsement, Melvins landed a deal with Atlantic Records. Ultimately their stint did little to expand their audience beyond a dedicated cult, and the band was dropped in 1996, but they've recorded at a brisk pace ever since. Their upcoming album Freak Puke was recorded with a slightly different lineup than the band usually tours with, a three-piece the group has deemed "Melvins Lite," though there's nothing light about the music itself. Expect its songs to thunder when the band performs them with its usual four-piece, two-drummer lineup.
Wednesday, May 2
Old 97's w/ Sam Roberts Band @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
Though they'll always be best known as an alt-country band, the Old 97's have covered more territory than that restrictive label suggests. Their 2008 album, Blame It On Gravity, was especially expansive, touching on Latin rock and '50s doo-wop, but the group has returned to the basics on their latest albums, The Grand Theatre, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, focusing on the syrupy rock 'n' roll and hard-driving Texas country music for which they're most celebrated.
Sleepy Sun and Moss Folk @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
Perhaps motivated by encouraging reviews of their 2009 debut, Embrace, San Francisco freak-rockers Sleepy Sun pushed their druggy, psychedelic rock into even more extreme directions on 2010's Fever, a claustrophobic record that exaggerates the darker, bluesy undercurrents that ran through bands like Cream, Iron Butterfly and Jefferson Airplane. After touring with kindred spirits The Black Angels last year, this month the band released its third album: Spine Hits, a record that balances pastoral folk with dense, acid-rock jams.