This Week in Milwaukee: August 14-20
Thursday, Aug. 14
Rodrigo y Gabriela @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
The virtuosic Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela was versatile enough to be tapped for a Robert Rodriguez soundtrack and a Nightmare Before Christmas tribute album, all before recording what might be the only worthwhile cover of â€śStairway to Heaven.â€ť Along with their other unique covers, that track made the duo a hot act in world-music circles, which they continued to charm with their own unusual takes on songs by Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix and John McLaughlin. In recent years the duo has focused on original songs. They recorded their 2012 album Area 52 with the 13-piece Cuban orchestra C.U.B.A., but they returned to their mostly acoustic roots for their latest record, 9 Dead Alive. Each song on the album is dedicated to a person who inspired them, an eclectic list that includes psychotherapist Viktor Frankl, abolitionist Harriet Tubman and author Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Wilson Center Guitar Competition & Festival @ Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, 9 a.m.
Through Saturday, Aug. 16, guitarists representing multiple genres will compete for $22,000 in prize money at the Wilson Center Guitar Competition & Festival. The semi-finals begin on Thursday, with guitarists in the jazz and classical categories facing off beginning at 9 a.m. Friday, the Wilson Center hosts the semi-finals for the rock/blues and fingerstyle categories. The finalists in all four categories perform on Saturday. All shows are free and open to the public.
Friday, Aug. 15
Dirty Dozen Brass Band w/ Lovanova @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
New Orleans brass bands were falling fast out of favor when the Dirty Dozen Brass Band formed in the late â€™70s. The group not only helped to keep the tradition alive, it also became one of the cityâ€™s most popular touring acts in the â€™80s. Thatâ€™s not to say they were complete traditionalists. Unlike their forefathers, they drew deeply from funk (and later hip-hop) music, and over the years theyâ€™ve collaborated with artists as diverse as Elvis Costello, Widespread Panic and Modest Mouse. In 2012 they released their latest album, Twenty Dozen, their first album of new material since 1999, and their follow-up to 2006â€™s Whatâ€™s Going On, a song-for-song reinterpretation of Marvin Gayeâ€™s masterpiece that they recorded in response to Hurricane Katrina.
KISS w/ Def Leppard and The Dead Daisies @ Alpine Valley Music Theatre, 7 p.m.
With their face paint, flamboyant outfits and flaming guitars, KISS branded themselves as the most theatrical rockers of the 1970s. Following a string of moderately successful records, the risky double live album Alive! brought the band the massive commercial breakthrough they had been seeking all along, and the KISS franchise has been running strong ever since (though many fans prefer to forget the period in the â€™80s when the band abandoned their signature makeup). Founding members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss left the band early last decade, but Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons carried their own on the groupâ€™s latest records, 2009â€™s Sonic Boom and 2012â€™s Monster, both of which sounded like music they could have recorded during the groupâ€™s â€™70s heyday.
Lisa Ridgely and the Fainting Room w/ Count This Penny and Cereus Bright @ Club Garibaldi, 9 p.m.
Milwaukee troubadour Lisa Ridgelyâ€™s folky roots rock is indebted to the thick-skinned spirit of â€™90s alternative rock, where singers guarded their vulnerable hearts behind thick guitars and sarcastic asides. Ridgelyâ€™s latest EP with her band the Fainting Room, Heart Hot, builds on the late-night feel of her 2012 debut Wine in Bed with even prettier songs charting the highs and lows of relationships. It also includes Ridgelyâ€™s pluckiest, funniest song, â€śStopgap Girl,â€ť an old-fashioned country lament directed to a boyfriend at the other end of a great cultural divide (he gets worked up over football and voted for Walker).
Saturday, Aug. 16
IndiaFest Milwaukee @ Humboldt Park, 11 a.m.
In conjunction with Indiaâ€™s 68th Independence Day, Milwaukeeâ€™s IndiaFest will return to Bay Viewâ€™s Humboldt Park for a second year with a full day of music, dance, food and shopping. The free event will feature the sounds of both classical and Bollywood-style Indian music, as well as folk dances including Bhangra and Giddha. A fashion show will display costumes from Indian states, while vendors from Milwaukee and Chicago will be cooking up Indian favorites including dosas, a crepe-like pancake, and biriyanis, a heavily spiced chicken and vegetable rice dish. The day begins with an 11 a.m. childrenâ€™s parade and flag hoisting.
Sunday, Aug. 17
The Polyphonic Spree @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Founded by former Tripping Daisy frontman, Tim DeLaughter, after the death of guitarist Wes Berggren brought that group to a premature end, The Polyphonic Spree was conceived to deliver a sheer, joyous spectacle, offering a whole chorus and symphony of musicians playing in unison, wearing matching colored robes. Plenty of critics noted the eerily cult-like undertones to the groupâ€™s act, and on recent albums the band has run with that idea, pushing their chipper psychedelic pop into slightly darker directions. They traded their colorful gospel-choir robes for more menacing militia uniforms while promoting their 2007 album The Fragile Army, and their latest record, Yes, Itâ€™s True, offers some of their heaviest, most percussive sounds yet, without abandoning the radiant pop that will always be their calling card.
Wednesday, Aug. 20
Supersuckers w/ Beggars and A Couple of Cocksmiths @ Mad Planet, 8 p.m.
For a quarter-century, Arizonaâ€™s Supersuckers have served as punkâ€™s answer to cowboy hat-wearing, meat-and-potatoes American rock â€™nâ€™ roll. Like a lot of bands that had comfortable label homes in the â€™90s, the one-time Sub Pop group has taken the independent route in recent years; they started their own label, Mid-Fi Records, in 2001. During their career, they formed an unlikely creative partnership with one of countryâ€™s greats: Willie Nelson, who they once backed on â€śThe Tonight Show with Jay Leno.â€ť In turn, Nelson did a guest stint on the title track of the Supersuckersâ€™ Mustâ€™ve Been High, the bandâ€™s purest country record. On recent albums, though, including their new Get The Hell, the group has played down those country accents in favor of a purer, punk-influenced hard rock sound.