Jul. 17 - Jul. 23
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, July 17
HEALTH @ The Borg Ward Collective, 7 p.m.
Partnered with the Canadian electronic duo Crystal Castles, HEALTH recorded one of last year’s sharpest singles, the disorienting, Orwellian “Crimewave.” Left to their own devices, though, the Los Angeles group is more of a conventional noise-rock band than that dark dance track suggests, heavy on rusty guitars and cacophonous drums. Still, the cold, mechanical nature of their music does lend itself to electronic remixes, so much so that the band maintains two separate MySpace pages: myspace.com/healthmusic for their traditional songs, and myspace.com/healthdisco for the blippy, spliced and diced remakes. With Sleepcomesdown, Terrior Bute and We’rewolves.
Festa Italiana @ Summerfest Grounds
One of the most consistently popular of Milwaukee’s summer ethnic festivals—thanks, in no small part, to all the Italian cuisine it offers—Festa Italiana returns for its 31st year this weekend. Among the draws are chef demonstrations, a Sunday mass and procession, a 43-foot-tall replica of St. Mark’s Bell Tower, nightly fireworks dis plays and daily performances from Deana Martin, daughter of the celebrated Rat Packer.
Friday, July 18
A distinctly Madison band, alt-country rockers Blueheels have won accolades from that city’s weekly paper, Isthmus, as well as Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Lead singer Robby Schiller’s vocals even bear the stamp of his Wisconsin upbringing. Nagging and snide, they ring with the unmistakable stridency of upper-Midwest accents. The group plays tonight’s show behind its new album, Lessons in Sunday Driving.
Tarbox Ramblers @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
With lead singer Michael Tarbox wavering between Jim Morrison at his most delirious and Johnny Cash at his most matter-of-fact, the Cambridge, Mass., group Tarbox Ramblers farm the same haunting and underutilized Appalachian folk influence as the likes of 16 Horsepower. Their 2004 disc, A Fix Back East, parlays a similarly unsettling yet entertaining snake-handler spirituality, com plete with frantic violin strumming and grainy, sparse blues guitar.
Saturday, July 19
The Garfield Avenue Blues, Jazz, Gospel & Arts Festival @ Garfield Avenue, 12 – 8 p.m.
Since 1998, the Garfield Avenue Festival has shined a spotlight on local music while dishing out some of the best soul food in the city. After modest beginnings as a blues festival, the free event has grown each year, adding more food vendors, more street perform ers, more visual artists, more activities and demonstrations for young children and, above all, more music. New this year is a DJ stage, but the focus is still on tradition al, blues- and jazz-derived American music, so it’s only fitting that this year’s event honors Harvey Scales (pictured), for years a fixture of the local R&B scene with his group, the Seven Sounds. Scales, who takes home the festi val’s Lifetime Achievement Award, co-wrote Johnnie Taylor’s hit single “Disco Lady” as well as tracks for artists like the O’Jays and The Dramatics and, in more recent years has been an influence on rap artists like M.C. Hammer, Pete Rock and Beanie Sigel. He’ll per form with members of the Seven Sounds tonight.
Boris @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Breaking from a decade’s worth of precedent, Japanese metal group Boris recently stopped sounding like they’re trying to scare off listeners. Sure, the group still uses thick, droning progressive metal with ample whiffs of The Melvins and Tool as a foundation, but they’ve cut back on the epic bouts of noise and the flatly intoned (or viciously screamed) vocals. Their 2006 disc, Pink, hinted at the change, incorporating lush, shoe-gazing tones, but their newest record, Smile, runs with it, embracing melody and abandoning their once instrumental-heavy ways in favor of a new found emphasis on vocals.
M. Ward w/ The Watson Twins @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
A young Leonard Cohen for the degree-holding, NPR-listening, Portland-fetishizing set, singer songwriter M. Ward has spent much of this year promoting his recent album with actress Zooey Deschanel as the duo She & Him. Ward will kick off a short tour with that project later this month, but not before tonight’s solo gig at the Pabst Theater and a Sunday performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. Where She & Him’s record pays homage to soft and sprightly, ’70s AM pop, Ward’s last solo album, Post-War, romanticized another era past, the 1940s and 1950s, a time of world-weary, acoustic blues and folk music.
Sunday, July 20
For years an outsider in traditional country music and Nashville songwriting circles, Steve Earle has seen his fan base boom over the past decade, as an inclusive alt-country movement, nostalgia for out law country and demand for populist troubadours created a more obvious market for the renowned singer-songwriter. Produced by the Dust Brothers’ John King, the former Texan’s latest album, Washington Square Serenade, is one of his most personal. It contains a duet with his recent wife, Allison Moorer, plenty of odes to his adoptive home city, New York, and a chugging version of the Tom Waits-penned theme to “The Wire.” On that HBO program, Earle, once infamous for his own drug problems, touchingly portrayed a bot tomed-out, recovering drug addict.
Teddy Presberg @ The Jazz Estate, 9:30 p.m.
Drawing frequent comparisons to Medeski Martin and Wood, St. Louis’ Teddy Presberg comfortably infuses jazz guitar jams with rou tine funk refrains. Playing with his backing band, the Red Note Revivalists, the St. Louis musician should bring a large and vibrant sound to the cramped Estate stage. With its avid fusion of vaguely psychedelic guitar, funky bass and ’70s soul motifs, Presberg’s 2006 album, Blueprint of Soul, is a hodgepodge celebrating jazz’s eclectic spirit.
Tuesday, July 22Cory Chisel @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons’ humble beginnings in Appleton, Wis., only add an element of authenticity to their North Woods blend of progressive country-folk. In conjunction with the release of the Cabin Ghosts EP, Chisel will join fellow dreary modern folksters Joshua James and Amber Rubarth for tonight’s show. Cabin Ghosts doesn’t quite aim for the heart-wrenchingly bleak testimonies of Springsteen’s Nebraska protagonists, but its somber tales are set in similar cold and rainy, down-and-out corners of the country.