This Week in Milwaukee: July 31-August 6
Thursday, July 31
Eric Johnson @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Best known for his Grammy-winning 1991 single “Cliffs of Dover,” Texas-born guitarist Eric Johnson progressed from a session player to a solo draw on the strength of his dazzling guitar playing. Although he occasionally sings and dabbles in other instruments, there is no question where the focus of his music lies. Thrilling guitar solos, extended riffs and abrupt shifts in tone are the hallmarks of Johnson’s sound, drawing from prior blues guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix and Wes Montgomery with touches of contemporaries such as Stevie Ray Vaughan. An admitted perfectionist, he uses a complex array of amplifiers and pedals to coax the rich, orchestral sounds he is known for from his guitar.
Wisconsin State Fair @ State Fair Grounds, 9 a.m.
A state tradition dating back to 1851, the Wisconsin State Fair returns for another summery stretch of amusement rides, unusual food combinations and old-fashioned Americana. New culinary concoctions this year at the fair include Deep Fried Maple Bacon Cookie Dough and a Grannie Smith Caramel Apple Shake, in addition to perennial favorites such as corn dogs, fried pickles and the hallowed creampuff. Outside of the food items, well over a hundred of which are available on a stick, the fair has craft vendors, animal displays and an amusement park. Headliners at the festival’s main stage include Aretha Franklin, Peter Frampton, Phil Vassar and Lady Antebellum.
Breadfest @ multiple venues
Started last year as a scrappy, homegrown Summerfest alternative by members of the local band collective Breadking, Riverwest’s Breadfest has expanded this year into a four-day, 10-stage festival featuring more than 40 bands. Those bands include a healthy sampling from Milwaukee’s indie rock, folk and punk scenes, including Estates, The Fatty Acids, Holy Shit!, The Calamity Janes, Calliope, Soul Low, The Championship, Mortgage Freeman and Old Earth, as well as a handful of out of towners, including the Chicago chamber-pop collective The Island of Misfit Toys and Eau Claire folk-rockers Softly, Dear. Despite the bigger lineup, tickets remain dirt cheap. Single shows are $6; day passes are $10; and $25 covers all four days. (Through Aug. 3).
Friday, August 1
Urban Island Beach Party @ Lakeshore State Park, 4 p.m.
Milwaukee is home to Wisconsin’s only urban state park, the often overlooked Lakeshore State Park, located just off of the Summerfest grounds. The Urban Island Beach Party is an annual event hosted by NEWaukee, which benefits the park while showcasing the unique location. This year’s party features music from Soul Low and PANAMA, as well as tropical entertainment such as a pineapple smash, stand-up paddle board demos and a flamingo scavenger hunt which nets lucky searchers a free beer. The Shepherd Express will be there as well, hosting another installment of its popular mobile food fest Street Eats, which will feature food samples from more than 20 local food trucks and carts. Attendees are encouraged to bike to the event; there will be bike valets provided by Wheel and Sprocket and all bikers receive a free beer.
Lil Boosie @ UWM Panther Arena, 8 p.m.
Going to prison may have been the best thing to happen to Lil Boosie’s career. After being incarcerated for drug charges in 2009, the rapper was released early this year amid a homegrown “Free Boosie” movement that gained him attention from the press and built hype around promised new material. Boosie apparently stayed busy while in prison, reportedly writing more than 1,000 new tracks, as well as an autobiography. He will be bringing trunk-rattling Southern rap to Milwaukee as part of a birthday celebration for Milwaukee DJ Reggie Brown.
Saturday, Aug. 2
East Side Green Market @ Beans and Barley, 10 a.m.
Handmade crafts and fresh produce meet at the East Side Green Market, a weekly farmers market in the Beans and Barley parking lot every Saturday morning. Another member of Milwaukee’s strong lineup of outdoor markets, the Green Market brings food, music and art to the East Side. The list of vendors shifts from week to week, but includes food grown right in the city, craft stalls, vintage resellers, and workshops and demonstrations from local businesses. Each week features music; this week’s performer will be singer-songwriter Lady Cannon.
Tuesday, Aug. 5
Aretha Franklin @ Wisconsin State Fair, 7:30 p.m.
Aretha Franklin has amassed a host of awards and honors over the course of some 50 years as a recording artist. She has won 18 Grammy Awards, had more singles on the Billboard charts than any other female artist and was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Queen of Soul uses her dazzlingly powerful mezzo-soprano voice to full effect, imbuing covers and originals alike with terrific meaning and emotion. She stands on a wealth of timeless songs, including “Respect,” “Think” and “A Rose is Still a Rose,” some of the most iconic soul music ever recorded.
The Stooges Brass Band @ Marcus Center, 7:30
New Orleans’ music tradition is in constant evolution, continually updating itself. It’s that openness to new influences that has given rise to modern brass bands like The Stooges Brass Band, a group that updates traditional Louisiana brass music with the spirit of funk and modern hip-hop. Since forming in 1996, the group has gained a following outside of New Orleans, playing major music festivals like Bonnaroo and South by Southwest. They’ll play this Milwaukee show as part of the Marcus Center’s outdoor Live at Peck Pavilion concert series.
Wednesday, Aug. 6
Phox w/ J.E. Sunde and Rae Cassidy @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
The Madison-area band Phox has recently garnered attention beyond the confines of the state, appearing in the likes of Nylon magazine and NPR, as well as being named an “Artist to Watch” by Amazon music. It’s easy to see why: The band has an invitingly unpretentious sound that finds a midpoint between the stylized folk of Bon Iver and the uplifting soul of Fitz and the Tantrums. It’s a compelling combination, and it’s perfectly packaged by singer Monica Martin, whose soft, smoky voice soars above the banjo and the triumphant percussion. The group’s new self-titled album features some of the smartest arrangements of any folk-pop release this year.
Peter Frampton w/ Survivor @ Wisconsin State Fair, 7:30 p.m.
Following a series of largely unsuccessful solo albums, Peter Frampton catapulted into the spotlight with his live 1976 album Frampton Comes Alive, which has become one of the best-selling live albums of all time. A staple of classic rock radio, Frampton is also known for his use of a talkbox, which modifies guitar notes by way of a tube in the guitarist’s mouth, effectively allowing the musician to sing the guitar notes. He’ll share this State Fair show with Survivor, whose song “Eye of the Tiger” has been motivating workouts and inspiring movie montages ever since Rocky III.
River Rhythms w/ Tallymoore @ Pere Marquette Park, 6:30 p.m.
Milwaukee folk group Tallymoore is aligned with groups such as The Avett Brothers and The Lumineers in updating folk music with more modern instrumentation and arrangements, though unlike those groups they’re focused particularly on the Celtic tradition. They use traditional folk instruments such as mandolins and fiddles to reinterpret traditional Irish songs. Thick with rich harmonies and rollicking instrumentation, Tallymoore’s authentic sound lends itself to sing-alongs and dancing in the spirit of the centuries of Celtic music it draws from.