This Week in Milwaukee: Dec. 26-Jan. 1
Hugh Bob & The Hustle w/ Blessed Feathers and The 4onthefloor @ Turner Hall
Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Made up of former members of the popular roots-rock outfit The Wildbirds, Hugh Bob and The Hustle bring a purist’s eye to a different, often misunderstood genre: country. Playing jaunty honky-tonk tunes about bar-side revelations, pickup-truck travels and the America dream, over the last year the group has worked its way out of Milwaukee’s East Side and onto the national stage. This year the band made their cable TV debut on “The Artie Lange Show,” shared big tours with The Heartless Bastards and JD McPherson, and lent their song “Mess With Me” to ABC’s musical soap opera “Nashville.” They’ve got an ambitious tour schedule lined up for next year, including a slot at Austin’s South by Southwest music festival, but first they’ll play this final 2013 gig with the folk-pop duo Blessed Feathers, which will be performing with a full band tonight.
BoDeans @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 9 p.m.
Even an acrimonious split between founding songwriters Sam Llanas and Kurt Neumann wasn’t enough to destroy the BoDeans. Neumann has kept the band alive, releasing a new album sans Llanas—last year’s rollicking American Made—and carrying on as one of Milwaukee’s most dependable homegrown concert draws. As it turns out, the schism may have actually been good news for BoDeans fans: It’s given Llanas time to dedicate to his solo career, enabling him to release some of the most personal music of his career, while freeing the BoDeans to tour aggressively. Recordings from the group’s American Made tour were compiled on their new double live album, Amped Across America.
Dusty Medical Festival w/ Space Raft, Johnny Ill Band and Ramma Lamma @ Cactus
Club, 10 p.m.
At this point the words “Dusty Medical” almost feel like a blast from the past. During the mid-to-late ’00s, the Milwaukee label released some of the city’s strongest garage/punk/rock records (and quite a few good ones from outside of the city, too), but save for an occasional release, the label has been mostly quiet over the last year or two. That doesn’t mean that it’s dead, though. The label is gearing up for a busy 2014, which will include new releases from Detroit’s Johnny Ill Band (a 7-inch single, in early January); a live LP from Milwaukee’s Sugar Stems (Stems N Friends, out February); an LP from the French garage-psych outfit Sonic Chicken 4 (out February/March-ish); and the debut album from Milwaukee’s Space Raft (probably March/April-ish). To commemorate its return, the label is also hosting a two-day Dusty Medical Festival this weekend, with Space Raft, Johnny Ill Band and Ramma Lamma playing the Cactus Club on Friday, Dec. 27, and the Sugar Stems, Johnny Ill Band, The Midwest Beat, Drugs Dragons and Head On Electric playing Bremen Café on Saturday, Dec. 28.
Saturday, Dec. 28
Jim Gaffigan @ The Pabst Theater, 6 p.m.
Slow and food-addled, Jim Gaffigan is nobody’s idea of a go-getter, but the Indiana comedian has nonetheless showed some real ambition in recent years. In addition to his stand-up tours, specials and albums, he’s expanded his acting profile with appearances in TV shows like “Law & Order” and “Bored to Death,” and movies including 17 Again, Away We Go and Going the Distance. Last year he even gave Broadway a stab, co-starring in a revival of Jason Miller’s drama That Championship Season, and this year he released his first book, Dad Is Fat. Stand-up is still Gaffigan’s clear medium of choice, though. This week he’ll camp out at the Pabst Theater for a record four nights of shows, concluding with his annual New Year’s Eve performance at the venue. (Dec. 28-30 at 6 p.m., Dec. 31 at 9 p.m.)
Local H w/ The Traveling Suitcase @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Little changed since the ’90s. Local H’s music still crashes and thrashes in deference to the glory days of grunge-rock, but the band has resisted becoming a nostalgia act with periodic new releases and a road-tested two-man show. Following up 2008’s Twelve Angry Months, a calendar-themed breakup album that found frontman Scott Lucas in fine, cynical form—this is clearly still the guy who belted out “Bound For The Floor”—last year the band released the politically themed Hallelujah! I’m a Bum, Lucas’s response to the bruising 2012 presidential campaign. It’s an angry affair, but not necessarily a partisan one, throwing punches at both political parties.
Sunday, Dec. 29
Milwaukee Top 10 Albums of the Year Party @ Frank’s Power Plant, 8 p.m.
By now the critics have spoken, and if you follow music closely, you’ve probably seen at least a dozen lists of the best albums of the year. Funny thing about critics, though: They tend to get things wrong. Milwaukee’s Top 10 Albums of the Year Party invites average music fans and compulsives to get together and mingle about their favorite albums and songs of the year. They can write their top 10 on a giant Post-it note and stick it the wall of Frank’s Power Plant to share with everyone, or sign up for a guest DJ slot and share some of their favorite songs from their iPod or iPhone. This free party also features the rarest thing: free beer (while supplies last, at least).
Wednesday, Jan. 1
Cool Fool Kite Festival @ Veterans Park, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Milwaukee celebrates New Year’s Day with two bold, winter-weather-defying traditions: the Polar Bear Plunge at Bradford Beach, where hundreds of lunatics shiver in Lake Michigan, and the neighboring Cool Fool Kite Festival at Veterans Park, which fills the skies with extravagantly designed kites. The “cool” in the title, of course, refers not just to the kites but also January’s frigid temperatures, but free hot chocolate and coffee should help to warm the crowd. If kite flying isn’t your thing, there will also be horse-drawn carriages and ice carving. Professional carvers will be offering free lessons.