This Week in Milwaukee: April 24-30
Thursday, April 24
Loop w/ Moss Folk and Dead Gurus @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
During their brief run in the late â€™80s, Loop never set out to reinvent the wheel. The London groupâ€™s brand of dark, unwavering, loud psychedelic rock drew liberally from bands that had come before them, most prominently Can as filtered through the sheer force of rockers like The Stooges and MC5, but they put those inspirations to fine use on a run of studio albums culminating in 1990â€™s glorious A Gilded Eternity. In the decades since their breakup, the bandâ€™s reputation has grown, as new students of psych-rock have held them up as one of the finest examples of the form, laying the groundwork for their current reunion. For this performance, Loop plays as part of the Milwaukee Psych Festival.
Friday, April 25
Iâ€™m Not a Pilot w/ Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra @ South Milwaukee PAC, 7:30 p.m.
Performing with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra might be a stretch for most bands, but for Iâ€™m Not a Pilot itâ€™s more like a logical extension. The group, which eschews guitars in favor of piano from singer-songwriter Mark Glatzel, prominently features cello from Peter Thomas, a member of the orchestra. For this performance 70 or so of Thomasâ€™s MSO peers will join him to give Iâ€™m Not a Pilotâ€™s grand indie-pop the full symphonic treatment.
Demetri Martin @ The Pabst Theater, 7 p.m.
A 40 year old whoâ€™s probably still carded at bars, the eternally boyish Demetri Martin has emerged as one of Comedy Centralâ€™s house comedians, having contributed to â€śThe Daily Show With Jon Stewartâ€ť and released three stand-up albums through the stationâ€™s label before starring in a program of his own, â€śImportant Things With Demetri Martin,â€ť a loosely themed half-hour of stand-up, prop and sketch comedy. â€śI wonder if there were any Goths in Gothic times,â€ť Martin pondered in a typical joke, with a delivery that suggests a youthful, less depressive Steven Wright. The biggest difference between the two, of course, is that Wright never used a large drawing pad to illustrate his jokes. That prop has become Martinâ€™s signature.
Saturday, April 26
Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood @ The Pabst Theater, 7 p.m.
â€śWhose Line Is It Anyway?â€ť is the show that will not die. Since the Drew Carey-hosted American adaptation of the British improv-comedy program ended its run in 2004, two of its principal players, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood, have kept its spirit alive on the road and on TV through several programs clearly modeled after â€śWhose Line.â€ť Most recently, the show received a second life on the CW network with new host Aisha Tyler, but that new gig hasnâ€™t kept Mochrie and Sherwood from touring behind their two-man version of the show, which includes some of the programâ€™s most popular games and relies heavily on audience interaction. The two have been bringing their live show to the Pabst Theater for 10 years running.
Ira Glass w/ Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass @ The Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.
Since 1995, Ira Glass has been the sympathetic host of the public radio stories compendium â€śThis American Life,â€ť and for much of that time he has been making live appearances, usually behind some version of a lecture explaining how â€śThis American Lifeâ€ť is created. For his latest program, though, heâ€™s trying something a little different. Heâ€™s teamed with dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass for an evening of stories and dance that promises his usual mix of comedy and pathos, only with a lot more visual flair and a few props, including batons and sparklers.
Sunday, April 27
Karmin w/ Bonnie McKee @ The Rave, 7 p.m.
If Karmin didnâ€™t exist, surely some marketing firm would have had to create them. The cutesy pop duo came to attention with noxiously chipper covers of pop and hip-hop songs on YouTube, but on their new debut album Pulses they try to pass off that shticky sound as actual music. Itâ€™s the same toothless bubblegum thatâ€™s been used to sell cars, cell phones and laptops in so many colorful commercials, except Karmin has cut out the middle man: the only product theyâ€™re trying to sell is themselves. Critics, at least, arenâ€™t buying it. â€śHow did we, as a society, allow this to happen?â€ť Julianne Escobedo Shepherd lamented in her review for Rolling Stone.
VNV Nation w/ Whiteqube @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
An electronic duo founded in London, VNV Nation divides its time between pop-influenced dance and trance songs marked by serene synthesizers and harsher, more industrial songs that are nonetheless suited for the dance floor. Their 2007 Judgement softened their sound a bit to produce some of the groupâ€™s most expansive tracks, but the group went full-throttle on 2009â€™s Of Faith, Power and Glory, which found the cult electronic band at its most powerful. On their latest albums, 2011â€™s Automatic and 2013â€™s Transnational, the group splits the difference between those two extremes, striking a balance between melodic electro-pop and scorching club cuts.
Tuesday, April 29
RuPaulâ€™s Drag Race: Battle of the Seasons @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
As cable television has proven time and time again, itâ€™s possible to create a reality TV competition around literally anything, but Logo TVâ€™s hit â€śRuPaulâ€™s Drag Raceâ€ť is one of the relatively small handful of genuinely inspired ones, a behind-the-scenes document of what it takes to become a world-class drag queen. This live adaptation of the show will feature performers from the showâ€™s first five seasonsâ€”Jinkx Monsoon, Sharon Needles, Carmen Carrera, Ivy Winters, Pandora Boxx, and Phi Phi Oâ€™haraâ€”attempting to one-up each other on stage to impress judge Michelle Visage. Guest DJ Mimi Imfurst will help keep the event moving at the quick speed of the TV show.
Sea Wolf w/ Wes Kirkpatrick @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
â€śYouâ€™re a Wolf,â€ť a lovely tune from the California indie-folk ensemble Sea Wolf, caught the ears of anyone who heard the groupâ€™s distinguished 2007 full-length debut, Leaves in the River, setting the stage for the rewardingâ€”if low-keyâ€”career the band has enjoyed since. With Bright Eyes producer Mike Mogis, the group dished out similarly symphonic chamber-folk on its 2009 follow-up, White Water, White Bloom, but singer-songwriter Alex Church manned the boards himself for the groupâ€™s more atmosphere-driven latest record, 2012â€™s Old World Romance, working in the same rainy-day, bittersweet mold of Death Cab for Cutieâ€™s mid-period output. Itâ€™s a tried-and-proven sound, and one that complements Churchâ€™s reflective songwriting.
Wednesday, April 30
Chicago @ The Riverside Theater, 6:30 p.m.
James Pankow is fond of telling the story of the record producer who told him, â€śMan, if you get rid of the horns, weâ€™ll sign your band.â€ť Pankow, one of the founders of and trombonist for Chicago, likened the advice to telling Elton John to get rid of the piano. Thankfully, Pankow and his bandmates didnâ€™t follow that advice, creating one of the first rock/big-band fusion groups to wail its place into Americaâ€™s pop music consciousness. The Windy City band embraced the brass, creating a sound and building a repertoire unlike those of most of its contemporaries. Lineups have changed over the years, most notably with the departure of vocalist Peter Cetera. In addition to Pankow, the current iteration includes founders Robert Lamm on keyboards, Lee Loughnane on trumpet and Walt Parazaider on sax and woodwinds, who have kept the groupâ€™s original vision intact.