This Week in Milwaukee
Foo Fighters, Burnhearts Pabst Street Party and Iron Maiden
Thursday, June 28
Ben Folds Five @ BMO Harris Pavilion, Summerfest, 9:45 p.m.
Ben Folds has kept busy since he disbanded his piano-rock trio Ben Folds Five shortly after the release of its bold final album, 1999's The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. He's recorded plenty of solo albums and toured aggressively, while juggling a three-year stint as a judge on the NBC a cappella competition "The Sing-Off." Last year, though, he found the time to reunite with his old band mates. They recorded three new songs for the Ben Folds Five retrospective The Best Imitation of Myself. After realizing that the old chemistry was still there, they announced a new album, which is expected to come out this summer.
Foo Fighters w/ Silversun Pickups @ Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
When Dave Grohl came out from behind his Nirvana drum kit and brought Foo Fighters to the public ear in 1995, he was immediately accused of riding the former band's famous coattails. The next year, Foo Fighters' self-titled debut album went platinum, and the group has been one of the most consistently successful and respected alt-rock acts ever since. The group's already lofty reputation only grew with last year's no-nonsense Wasting Light, a magnificently heavy album that reunited Grohl with Nirvana producer Butch Vig. Foo Fighters took home four Grammys for the record this February, including one for Best Rock Album.
Friday, June 29
The Walkmen @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 8 p.m.
The Walkmen's distinctly bittersweet take on turn-of-the-century New York guitar rock is at turns blissful and brutal, a dynamic best documented on the 2004 album Bows Arrows and its seething single "The Rat." If the band has never quite recaptured the intensity of that single, it's because they've never really tried. Instead, they've stretched their sound into more comfortable directions on the wonderful records that followed, including 2010's lush Lisbon and this year's Heaven, a sentimental celebration of fatherhood and domestic comforts.
Fun. @ Miller Lite Oasis, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Leaving behind the indie-rock outfit The Format proved to be a smart career move for singer Nate Ruess, whose ironically punctuated new band Fun. has become the breakthrough alternative act of the year on the strength of its blockbuster single "We Are Young." The group's sophomore album, Some Nights, lives up to the infectiousness of that single, with plenty of driving rhythms, upbeat melodies and Queen-styled pomp, but a somber undercurrent runs beneath all that cheer. Even "We Are Young" tells a bleak tale of substance abuse and codependency, though those dark themes are deliberately overshadowed by the song's massive, sing-along chorus.
The Hives @ Summerfest Rock Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
The Hives' breakthrough hit "Hate to Say I Told You So" arrived around the time that The Strokes and The White Stripes were ushering in a so-called "rock revival." That fortunate timing earned the Swedish rockers diamond status on their American introduction, 2002's Your New Favourite Band. Five years later, the band teamed up with producers including Pharrell Williams, Jacknife Lee and Dennis Herring for 2007's overblown The Black and White Album, the only misstep in their otherwise lean discography. Thankfully, the band went D.I.Y. for their latest album, the self-produced Lex Hives, a return to the raw garage rock that earned the group their following.
Saturday, June 30
Burnhearts Pabst Street Party @ Burnhearts, noon-8 p.m.
For five years running, Pabst Blue Ribbon has sponsored a summertime street party outside of the bar Burnhearts in Bay View, hosting headliners like Stephen Malkmus and Detroit Cobras in addition to art displays and food vendors. This year's party is a bit different in that its headlining acts won't be officially announced until the day of, but the widely rumored headliners include at least a few of intense local interest.
The Roots @ Miller Lite Oasis, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Fans worried that The Roots' job as the house band for Jimmy Fallon's incarnation of "Late Night" would slow hip-hop's most celebrated live act can breathe easy. Even with their TV commitments, The Roots have continued to tour at a steady clip, and they've released three albums since joining NBC in 2009, including 2010's How I Got Over, which found the band branching out to incorporate some of the indie-rock sounds they had been exposed to through Fallon's show. Better yet was last year's dense and demanding Undun, a cross-genre song cycle thick with racial and existential themes.
Thievery Corporation @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Imagining a trip-hop incarnation of Bob Marley, the Washington, D.C., duo Thievery Corporation blends smooth, grassroots reggae with synth-driven electronics. Through minimalist lyrics and lethargic rhythms, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton use their unique soundscapes to thoroughly criticize the standards of modern society, whether it's over-hyped contemporary music or American greed. On recent tours the band has brought this sound to the stage with the help of a 15-piece live band, which has lent an extra kick to songs from their sixth and latest album, 2011's Culture of Fear.
Sunday, July 1
Robyn @ Miller Lite Oasis, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
After charting around the world in the late '90s with her single "Show Me Love," Swedish singer Robyn emerged as one of dance-pop's most respected artists, garnering critical praise that sometimes eclipsed her actual sales. The 2005 album Robyn brought with it another international hit, "With Every Heartbeat," and the 2010 album Body Talk, released in three parts, was another critical hit. The album yielded one of her finest singles yet, the sad disco lament "Dancing on My Own," which became her first No. 1 hit in her home country.
Tuesday, July 3
Bob Mould @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Bob Mould was one of the most influential figures of '80s underground rock, thanks to his unabashedly melodic songwriting and guitar work with the seminal punk group Hüsker Dü, which helped lay the foundation for alternative rock's commercial breakout in the '90s. Mould enjoyed some of that success himself, scoring the moderate hit "If I Can't Change Your Mind" with his subsequent band Sugar, before beginning a flirtation with electronic sounds on a long run of solo albums. At this show, he'll perform Sugar's seamless 1992 album, Copper Blue, in its entirety.
Tiësto w/ Steve Aoki, Zedd, Rehab, Tommy Trash and Pierce Fulton @ Marcus Amphitheater, 3 p.m.
After gaining mainstream momentum with a remix of Sarah McLachlan's "Silence" in 2003, Netherlands-born DJ Tiësto has become one of electronic music's top touring draws. Since that breakthrough track, he has remixed just about anything he could get his hands on, working with stadium rockers like Coldplay, pop and hip-hop artists like Katy Perry and Kanye West, and indie groups like Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Tonight he'll make local history when he becomes the first DJ to headline the Marcus Amphitheater during Summerfest, as part of a marathon electronic music lineup that also includes big-draw DJs like Steve Aoki and Zedd.
Wednesday, July 4
Iron Maiden w/ Alice Cooper @ Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
The 1990s were a rough time for heavy metal bands of all stripes, and British metal pioneers Iron Maiden were no exception. The era saw them suffer declining sales and endure the departure of singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith. Nonetheless, the band pushed through, and since the return of those core members in 1999, the group has thrived. The group's latest album, 2010's The Final Frontier—a vintage Iron Maiden album in every way, from the bruising riffs to the campy alien-themed cover art—has proven to be one of their most successful, topping the charts in 28 countries. For their current Maiden England world tour, the band is honoring the classic 1989 live release of the same name with a set list closely modeled after that video.
Fountains of Wayne @ Summerfest Rock Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Released nearly a decade ago, New York pop-rock group Fountains of Wayne's sarcastically groovy 2003 full-length album, Welcome Interstate Managers, brought them into the limelight with their best-known hit, the MILF anthem "Stacy's Mom." The disproportionate success of that track has unfairly pigeonholed the band as one-hit wonders, a reputation that slights the wonderful power-pop albums they've made since. Their latest is last year's Brit-pop informed Sky Full of Holes, another lighthearted set of cheeky lyrics and quirky romance stories.