This Week in Milwaukee: May 8-14
Thursday, May 8
Robert Randolph & The Family Band @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.
Drawing from his religious and musical education at the House of God Church in New Jersey, Robert Randolph plays what many African-American Pentecostal churches refer to as “Sacred Steel”: the steel guitar. His music isn’t strictly gospel, though—at least not in any traditional sense. It also draws heavily from the electric blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton and the loose, jovial spirit of funk. In 2010, Randolph released his third studio album, We Walk This Road, which he recorded with renowned roots-rock producer T Bone Burnett, but it was a live album the following year, Live in Concert, that really captured him in his element. His latest album, 2013’s Lickety Split, features guest appearances from Trombone Shorty and Carlos Santana.
Friday, May 9
Ex Fabula All Stars @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 6:30 p.m.
The Milwaukee storytelling series Ex Fabula brings another season to a close tonight with this All Stars event, which returns audience favorites from each of the last five seasons back to the stage to share new, true stories based around the same theme, “mother load.” The audience is invited to participate in two ways: They can submit their own quick, two- or three-line autobiographical stories based around that theme for an emcee to read throughout the evening, and they can vote for their favorite storyteller.
Alan Parsons Live Project @ The Pabst Theater, 6:30 p.m.
Move over T-Pain, Lil Wayne and even Roger Troutman. Though all of those artists are pioneers in the use of the voice-manipulating vocoder, Alan Parsons was using the studio device before any of them, incorporating it into his 1976 Alan Parsons Project song “The Raven.” Of course, as a dutiful prog-rock band, the Alan Parsons Project used all sorts of cutting-edge (and sometimes not so cutting edge) studio technology during the ’70s. These days, Parson, who earned his first studio credit when he was just 18 years old (on The Beatles’ Abbey Road of all records), continues to tour with an altered version of his signature band, now called the Alan Parsons Live Project.
Saturday, May 10
Space Raft w/ Doug Tuttle and Technicolor Teeth @ Cactus Club, 9:30 p.m.
Made up of past and present members of Mystery Girls, Call Me Lightning and Temper Temper, Space Raft have become fast local favorites on the strength of their enthusiastic live show. This week Dusty Medical Records will release the band’s self-titled debut, a sterling psych pop record that takes cues from Badfinger and Big Star’s hooky guitar pop. The album’s gleeful lead single “We Are Not Alone” has already been in steady rotation on WMSE, and it’s likely to have some company soon: The whole record is loaded with killer, summer-friendly jams. The group celebrates the album release with this show.
Hello Death w/ Christopher Porterfield @ Anodyne Walker’s Point, 8 p.m.
The Milwaukee doom-folk quartet Hello Death is made up of a fraction of the players from the local post-rock orchestra Altos, but their comparatively trim lineup doesn’t limit their scope any. Recorded at Justin Vernon’s April Base studio in Eau Claire, their 2013 self-titled debut plays like a grand Greek tragedy, with moments of whimsy and beauty undercut by the stern authority of Nathaniel Heuer’s booming voice and upright bass. At this performance at the new Anodyne in Walker’s Point, 224 W. Bruce St., the group will debut Heuer’s gorgeous video for the Hello Death standout “Settlers,” which the band describes as a “meditation on life, death and the meanings we create to navigate and understand our lives.” Field Report’s Christopher Porterfield starts the night with a solo set.
YG w/ DJ Mustard @ The Rave, 7:30 p.m.
New styles come and go in rap all the time, yet it’s still amazing how swiftly and thoroughly some of these sounds can proliferate. In a matter of just a few months last year, California producer DJ Mustard’s lean, snappy “ratchet” beats completely overtook urban radio, reshaping the sound of both hip-hop and R&B. No artist has benefited more from that rise than Compton rapper YG. Primarily produced by Mustard, YG’s debut album My Krazy Life is the definitive ratchet album, a showcase for the hottest sound of the moment. Upon its release many rap critics hailed it as an instant classic, framing it as a modern answer to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic.
Substitute (Who Tribute) w/ Shattered (Rolling Stones Tribute) @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Two area cover bands specializing in the British invasion—The Who tribute act Substitute and The Rolling Stones tribute act Shattered—have organized this show at Shank Hall for an important cause. Proceeds will go to the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Cancer Center, which contributes valuable research to the ongoing battle against cancer. “There isn’t a person in these bands who hasn’t been impacted in some way by cancer,” Substitute’s Tom Branigan says of the show. “When the possibility for this benefit came up, we jumped at the chance to be a part of it. Some of the greatest minds in the world are right here in our backyard, working on treatments and cures that will impact us all.”
Sunday, May 11
The Dan Band @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
The Dan Band is something of a one-trick pony, but at least it’s a pretty funny trick. Backed by a deliberately cheesy lounge band, comedian Dan Finnerty sings profanity-laden covers of new and classic pop hits, usually from female singers. Their cameo in 2003’s Old School forever changed the way frat boys sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” at karaoke, and the comedy act made a return appearance in director Todd Phillips’ The Hangover, again playing the world’s worst wedding band.
Monday, May 12
Ice Balloons w/ Babes and The Sounds of Time @ Cactus Club, 8 p.m.
TV on the Radio is reportedly working on a new album, but that won’t stop the band members from moonlighting with various other solo gigs and side projects. Singer Kyp Malone, for instance, is touring with his latest band, Ice Balloons, a fuzzed-out garage-punk band that lets him indulge some more straightforward rock ’n’ roll impulses than his artier main gig usually allows. The group released a quick, eight-song EP last fall. In concert they strive for maximum spectacle, performing along with video projections and, at some gigs, piña-colada scented smoke.
Wednesday, May 14
Against Me! w/ Tony Molina and Big Eyes @ The Rave, 7:30 p.m.
There was no precedent for Against Me!’s latest album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, the popular punk band’s first album since frontwoman Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender and dropped her birth name Tom Gabel. That’s a difficult enough transition even without the added scrutiny of the spotlight—most transgender women don’t have magazine writers detailing their hormone treatments—but Grace masterfully channeled her many emotions (including a whole lot of righteous anger) into Dysphoria, a remarkably raw, remarkably alive record that reclaims the spark of the band’s earliest, punkiest material. It’s the bravest, most strongly felt record of the year.
Wye Oak w/ Braids @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
Wye Oak’s new Shriek is, to say the least, a transitional album. Until now the Baltimore-born indie-rock band has specialized in spine-chilling dream-pop, laced with the cutting guitar riffs of singer Jenn Wasner. That guitar was the defining quality of 2011’s masterful Civilian, the album that introduced Wye Oak to a bigger audience than ever, but for Shriek, Wasner abandoned the instrument completely, instead letting her bass and drummer Andy Stack’s thick synthesizers carry her songs. It’s an adjustment, to be sure, but Wasner’s evocative, mysterious songwriting remains as compelling as ever.