Sept. 11-Sept. 17
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, Sept. 11
Neil Hamburger @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
With his greasy comb-over, cheap tuxedo, poor comic timing and frequent, phlegmy coughing fits, Neil Hamburger’s sendup of bad stand-ups should be almost as tired as the bad stand-ups he’s mocking. But Hamburger’s shtick is really just a vehicle for his subversive, awkwardly delivered jabs at obvious celebrity tar gets, jokes that would be funny regardless of how they were presented. “What do you call a senior citizen who can’t refrain from exposing their genitalia in public?” Hamburger asks in one typical gag. “Madonna.”
Pezzettino @ Stonefly Brewery, 9 p.m.
In a city where accordions are used almost exclusively for celebratory purposes, singer-songwriter Margaret Stutt has the audacity to use them to make sad music. With her latest project, Pezzettino, she alternates between piano and accordion, sighing restless, lovelorn songs, touching on Tori Amos’ stark moodiness and Andrew Bird’s simple, looping, classically inspired compositions. Tonight’s show is a release party for Pezzettino’s debut album, Because I Have No Control, a no-budget disc that, although recorded on a laptop, often sounds like it was captured on a beat-up tape recorder.
Ripper @ The Alchemist Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
Because they were never solved, the Jack the Ripper murders have been a particularly ripe muse for writers for more than a century, as countless pieces of fiction have speculated who may have been the killer and—more interestingly—what his or her motives could have been. Local writer and director Jackie Benka is the latest to take a stab at the legendary serial killer, with the Alchemist Theatre’s latest offering, Ripper, which runs through Sept. 27. The production makes ample use of the theater’s small interior, converting it into the streets of 19th-century London. Theatergoers will even be “escorted” to their seats by prostitutes, most of whom will almost certainly meet a grisly fate during the play.
Friday, Sept 12Mustard Plug w/ Deal’s Gone Bad @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
No band better mastered the marriage of ska and punk in the ’90s than Michigan’s Mustard Plug. In their perky horns, dynamic pop-punk chords and fist-pumping choruses they found a winning formula they stuck to even after their brand of punchy third-wave ska fell hopelessly out of vogue, though to keep with the times they’ve leaned more on punk in recent years. Nostalgia, a reputation for festive live shows and renewed interest in ska-punk have kept they group a viable touring act. They’ll share tonight’s show with Deal’s Gone Bad, a Chicago ska band that lionizes more traditional, rocksteady-derived ska music, as well as Hired Geeks and Car Full of Midgets, two less-seasoned ska groups whose monikers tell you everything you need to know about their sense of humor.
Saturday, Sept. 13
While staying true to its roots as a modest residential neighborhood, Bay View has over the last decade emerged as one of Milwaukee’s most fashionable districts, as scores of young Milwaukeeans attracted by the affordable housing have quite literally set up shop there. The neighborhood’s signature thoroughfare, Kinnickinnic Avenue, is now filled with quirky shops, novel restaurants, trendy galleries, comfortable coffee shops and hip bars, so the annual Bay View Bash serves as something of an open house for all these businesses. Of course, the festival also draws on Bay View’s newfound reputation as a vibrant hub for the local music scene, and this year the festival’s three stages feature performances from bands like Disguised as Birds, 1956, Etiquette, The Invaders, Guido’s Racecar and Kings Go Forth.
Last Comic Standing @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
These days reality shows attempt to anoint everything from top chefs to top photographers to top interior designers, seldom achieving relevance. For obvious reasons, the best of these TV job-search contests focus on talents that are, you know, actually interesting to watch, like singing, dancing and, in the case of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” stand-up. One of the few prime-time showcases for fledging comedians, NBC’s show has a reputation for breaking legitimately worthwhile talent, and the program lends itself to a touring showcase. This year’s tour features the top five finalists from the show’s sixth season, Louis Ramey, Jim Tavare, Jeff Dye, Marcus and winner Iliza Shlesinger.
Shannon Curfman @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Every young blues performer in the late ’90s was burdened with comparisons to Jonny Lang, but Shannon Curfman got the worst of it, since not only is she from North Dakota, like Lang, but Lang even co-wrote part of her precocious 1999 debut record, Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions, which she recorded when she was just 14 years old. She’s recorded slowly and cautiously since that well-received debut, last year finally releasing her delayed, more adult follow-up, Fast Lane Addiction, a spunky collection of rootsy, blues rock with a rebellious streak. (Incidentally, Lang plays two shows at the Potawatomi Bingo Casino on Sept. 17 and 18.)
Sunday, Sept. 14
Abigail Washburn and The Sparrow Quartet @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7:30 p.m.
Banjoist Abigail Washburn has made an unlikely career by fusing seemingly incompatible musical influences: rustic old-time American music and dignified, traditional Chinese folk music. The Eastern influences are particularly pro nounced in her work with The Sparrow Quartet, the group she shares with fellow banjoist Bela Fleck, fiddler Casey Driessen and cellist Ben Sollee. Sollee’s gentle accompaniments glue Washburn and Fleck’s plucking banjos to the more restrained, classical sensibilities of Chinese compositions.
Abigail Washburn and The Sparrow Quartet
Key Sunday Cinema Club @ The Oriental Theatre, 10 a.m.
Returning for its second season this month is the Key Sunday Cinema Club, the Milwaukee chapter of a film network that meets once or twice a month on Sunday mornings to view advance screenings of upcoming films, with an emphasis on independent and art films. Club members have been among the first to view films like Persepolis, Lars and the Real Girl and The Lives of Others. Screenings are followed by discussions, which are led by members of the UW- Milwaukee cinema and media studies department, and often feature a guest lecturer. For membership information, go to keysundaycinemaclub.com.
The music of Joy Wants Eternity won’t offer many sur prises for those already acquainted with instrumental post-rock bands like Explosions in the Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Songs start off pensively before spiraling into gorgeous, controlled cacophonies. This Seattle outfit is nearly as powerful as their better known contemporaries, though, and their arrangements show a gift for brevity that some of their more epic-minded peers could learn a thing or two from. The group shares tonight’s logical bill with Milwaukee’s Lights Out Asia, an ambient-rock trio, and Brief Candles, the city’s catchiest shoegaze band.
Tuesday, Sept. 16
Set in 1946, State of the Union is the unlikely tale of a good-natured businessman who, despite his lack of political background, is picked to run as the Republican candidate for president of the United States of America. His estranged but loving wife guides him through the process, helping him stay true to his moral principles. The play’s optimistic view of human nature could have come straight out of a Frank Capra film—and, in fact, the play was even turned into a Frank Capra film in 1948—but it remains to be seen whether modern audiences, who face the very real threat of a vice presi dent with no foreign policy experience, will be able to cheer for State of the Union’s likable but almost certainly under qualified protagonist. (Through Oct. 12.)