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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May 29 - Jun. 4

This Week in Milwaukee

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Thursday, May 29

Barbara Walters @ Alverno College’s Pitman Theatre, 7 p.m.
Who would want to know the lurid details of iconic journalist Barbara Walters’ sex life? Apparently plenty of people. This year the queen of celebrity interviews, so adept at scooping her competition, turned the spotlight on herself with the announcement that in the 1970s she had an affair with married U.S. Sen. Edward Brooke. The revelation, of course, was well timed to coincide with the release of Walters’ new memoir, Audition, which she’ll be speaking about tonight.

2 Foot Yard @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
2 Foot Yard, an experimental trio fronted by Tin Hat Trio violinist Carla Kihlstedt, aggressively exhibits just how versatile the violin/cello/percussion setup can be. When this California-based trio reigns itself in, it weaves together pretty, classical pop compositions, but more often than not they seem interested in covering any and all territory possible. Traces of bluegrass, rock, folk, jazz and traditional Bulgarian music are fused into combustible, Fiona Apple-esque torch songs.

Downtown Dining Week @ Multiple locations
Downtown Dining Week kicks off its seven-day run today, with restaurants all over the city offering special three-course menus perfect for foodies looking to sample new fare. Among the 30 restaurants offering $10-lunch and $20-dinner menus throughout the week are Bayou, Rip Tide, Swig, Yanni’s, Benihana and Ouzo Cafe.

Friday, May 30

Jay Leno @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Purists may stick to David Letterman, but the masses have voted with their remotes and they prefer Jay Leno, whose straight-forward, common-reference-point comedy can be a welcome change from the low-budget, hit-or-miss absurdism that makes up much of the late-night talk-show landscape. With his tenure at “The Tonight Show” ending next year, Leno is about to become one of television’s most coveted free-agents, but as necessitated by his contract, he’s stayed mum about his future plans.

Buckethead @ RiverSplash! Festival, 8:45 p.m.
The first of Milwaukee’s many free outdoor bacchanals, RiverSplash! commences the summer festival season with three days of music, fireworks, junk food and large plastic cups of beer—all the good stuff. In addition to the requisite local cover bands, the festival organizers roped in an odd little headliner for opening night: Buckethead, a masked, heavy-metal guitarist who endeared himself to the jam community with his elastic, virtuosic playing.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band w/ The Dead Science @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Leave it to a Godspeed You! Black Emperor side project to make their satellite band seem positively grounded. Founded by three Godspeed principals, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra- La-La Band are every bit as long-winded as you’d expect, given their name, taking the plodding buildups and grand crescendos of post-rock to new excesses. That’s not to say Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra doesn’t dole out thrills. Their violent, percussive payoffs are reliably breathtaking, but they arrive only after long patches of minimalist mumbo-jumbo and listener-vetting drones.

1956 w/ Test-site and Disguised as Birds @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
Milwaukee’s 1956 pounds out the heavy, chugging alternative-rock riffs that proliferated throughout the early ’90s, but underneath the grind, the band reveals an unexpected softer side. “Persistent,” one of the standout tracks from the group’s measured 2007 album, Saboteur, is steeped in the same bleary-eyed pensiveness that made The National’s Boxer such a treat.

Junior League @ The Social, 8 p.m.
There’s a temptation for young bluegrass bands, especially those rooted in the jam-rock scene, to exaggerate the genre’s rural qualities, playing up the twang and speeding up the tempos until they’re left with an unflattering sendup of the music they purport to pay homage to. Taking a more natural approach to acoustic roots music is Junior League, a Washington, D.C. band with Milwaukee ties (guitarist Elias Cohn hails from Shorewood). Without skimping on the fiddle or the mandolin, the group rides a steadier, more contemporary groove, following much the same formula that made Nickel Creek’s best work click. The honeyed vocals of banjoist Lissy Rosemont make their songs go down especially easy. (The band will also be performing at RiverSplash! at noon on Saturday.)

Saturday, May 31

KingHellBastard w/ Kid Millions and The Co-Workers @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.
In a city rife with alternative rap ensembles, KingHellBastard still stands out. The eight-member collective includes established veterans like the prolific Dana Coppafeel (who, with his viscous, quick-witted raps has established himself as one of the scene’s brightest gems in recent years) and they specialize in the kind of Pabst-swilling, party-bringing hip-hop tailor-made for a night out, albeit with an earnest streak that might be lost on the inebriated. Tonight’s show will double as a release party for Marlo, a new CD that KingHellBastard members Coppafeel and DNA recorded under the moniker Cups & Bottles. The latest in what promises to be a very long line of hip-hop references to “The Wire,” the album’s title nods to the HBO drama’s vengeful antagonist Marlo Stanfield.

Flobots @ The Rave, 8 p.m.

In a bid for post-rap-rock relevance, Linkin Park downplayed the role of rapper Mike Shinoda on their most recent album. A year later, however, Denver upstarts Flobots stormed modern-rock radio playlists by doing just the opposite, delivering “Handlebars,” a single built around monotone, Shinoda-esque raps. Nobody will mistake the Flobots emcees as the next coming of Rakim—if anything, their launch-padflat verses evoke Cake’s John McCrea—but unlike so many alternative-rock bands that play hip-hop for novelty, at least they seem to have a genuine love for the genre to complement their incisive hooks.

Sunday, June 1

The Kooks w/ The Morning Benders @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
The millionth band to try their hand at streamlined, Strokesian guitar-rock—but also one of the better ones—The Kooks conquered the charts with their happy-golucky 2006 debut, Inside In/Inside Out, and have had early success with their recently released follow-up, Konk. Named after the studio of Kinks mastermind Ray Davies, where it was recorded, the album delves even further into retro British-invasion rock, a logical fit for the young fab foursome’s already-gleeful sound.


Tuesday, June 3

Ana Ruth Bermudez, Rene Izquierdo and Mrs. Fun @ Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 7:30 p.m.
Between the summertime weather, the continued proliferation of the mojito and Fidel Castro’s headline-making faux-endorsement of Barack Obama, Cuba has been on the mind lately. A new Milwaukee ensemble, which makes its debut tonight, promises to meet the demand for all things Cuban with a repertoire of traditional and popular Cuban music. Cellist Ana Ruth Bermudez and guitarist Rene Izquierdo both hail from Cuba—in fact, Bermudez became an official U.S. citizen just this spring—and the ladies of Mrs. Fun, Connie Grauer and Kim Zick, are ardent advocates of all things Caribbean.