Feb. 12 - Feb. 18
This Week in Milwaukee
Buckwheat Zydeco @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Perhaps the most popular modern accordionist outside of Weird Al Yankovic, Stanley Dural Jr., better known as Buckwheat Zydeco, returns to Milwaukee to give the city an early taste of Mardi Gras. The Louisianan Creole blues master first cut his teeth with a conventional Southern funk band, Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers, before he left to back up the legendary zydeco pioneer Clifton Chenier. Dural eventually eclipsed his mentor in popularity, becoming the first zydeco performer to be signed to a major label and, in the summer of 1996, also the first to perform for a worldwide audience at the Olympics.
Michael Winslow @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.
That guy who makes all the funny noises from the Police Academy movies? He has a name, and it’s Michael Winslow. Cashing in on a wave of ’80s nostalgia, Winslow has been hitting the comedy club circuit hard lately, imitating squishy wet-shoe noises and the sound of a cork popping for audiences all over the country. Incisive social commentary it’s not, but the shtick is more versatile than, say, that of the one Police Academy cadet who always spoke really meekly until the end of the film when she inevitably ended up yelling—or Steve Guttenberg’s.
Friday, Feb. 13
Antony and the Johnsons @ Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Antony Hegarty’s 2005 breakthrough album with the Johnsons, I Am a Bird Now, rose to prominence in part because of its novel subject matter—with chilling bluntness, Antony mused on the harrowing identity crisis that results from being transgendered. Antony’s new follow-up album, The Crying Light, addresses themes more universal than gender fluidity—namely mortality and how to come to terms with it—but Antony finds unexpected comfort from his morose muse (even a trip to his mother’s grave on the album opener yields a flower). Backed by radiant melodies that suggest far grander arrangements than his simple compositions actually conjure, Antony sings of finding peace on the other side, summoning strength from his baleful piano.
World of Wheels @ Wisconsin State Fair Park, 5 p.m.
Much as you can judge whether a monster truck rally is worth its salt or not depending on whether it features some form of Truckosaurus-like car-eating dinosaur, all car shows should be judged on whether or not they feature the Batmobile. World of Wheels, which runs this weekend at Wisconsin State Fair Park, does. Hell, it even goes one further and features Batman himself—Adam West, part of a generation of more “professional” Batmen. Other car-related ephemera include the “Knight Rider” car and Grandpa Munster’s pimped-out Drag-U-La. The oddest appearance, though, belongs to Jason Earles, who makes the rounds Saturday. Earles is the Dorian Gray-ish, 30-something actor who masquerades as Miley Cyrus’ goofball brother on “Hannah Montana.”
Saturday, Feb. 14
Jeff Coffin @ Cascio Interstate Music, 11 a.m.
The Dave Matthews Band guys take their day job seriously. It had been a full 15 years since a member missed a gig with the band when saxophonist LeRoi Moore was injured in an ATV accident that he ultimately succumbed to last year. Moore was an integral part of the band, assisting not only on the sax but also on song arrangements, but Matthews found an apt replacement in jazz musician Jeff Coffin, a technically dazzling player who has also been a member of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones for more than a decade. Coffin performs today as part of a free performance clinic at Cascio Interstate Music, which runs through 4 p.m.
Poi Dog Pondering @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
At a time when most bands are recording digitally, Poi Dog Pondering is moving in the opposite direction. The gregarious ensemble began in the ’80s in Hawaii before moving to Chicago, where they grew an enormous local fan base. Through the years the eclectic band immersed itself in different genres, spanning world beat, folk, alternative rock and, increasingly, electronica, but eventually recreating these electronic sounds live became nearly impossible for the group, so on its latest release, 2008’s 7, Poi Dog took an old-school approach, recording every track on analog tape. Despite what their moniker promises, opening act the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir isn’t from Scotland; they don’t play gospel; and, for that matter, they’re not a choir. They’re a Chicago co-ed indie pop ensemble with a warm, dreamy sound and the requisite allegiance to Belle & Sebastian.
Sunday, Feb. 15
The Eagles of Death Metal @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Guns N’ Roses fans and The Eagles of Death Metal don’t get along. The tension dates back to November 2006, when the Eagles of Death Metal were booed off the stage during their first gig of a tour with the notorious hard-rock band. Axl Rose took the stage after their set, slinging some harsh words at his garage-rock openers, who would be booted from the tour before its scheduled Milwaukee stop the next night (which Axl just canceled anyway). The band’s singer Jesse Hughes, who splits creative duties with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, apparently took Rose’s insults in stride, though. He would later even get one of them tattooed on his forearm, which now reads: “Pigeons of Shit Metal.”
Tuesday, Feb. 17
The Pretenders @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.
At 57, Chrissie Hynde is as cutthroat as ever, as fiercely protective of The Pretenders’ brand as a lioness is a newborn cub. She can be quite brash: For last year’s Break Up the Concrete, she benched Pretenders drummer Martin Chambers—the only other remaining original member of the band—in favor of a sturdier session drummer, Jim Keltner (Chambers still tours with the group, though). She makes tough decisions, but she still gets results: Break Up the Concrete is one of The Pretenders’ best albums in decades, in part because it sounds so little like the classic debut they usually try so hard to replicate. Concrete introduces a new, countrified version of the rock band, laying down galloping, rockabilly grooves to tango with Hynde’s ageless voice. (Also Wednesday.)
Wednesday, Feb. 18
Ben Kweller w/ The Watson Twins @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
As a teenage prodigy with a proficiency in grunge and an ear for alt-pop hooks, Ben Kweller drew considerable acclaim, but he’s had difficulty finding his footing since turning drinking age. His 2004 sophomore album, On My Way, cut back some of the quirk, but also much of the fun, while 2006’s self-titled effort, for which he played all the instruments, was even more stiflingly earnest. On Kweller’s new album, Changing Horses—hey, look, a pun—the boyish singer’s quest to be taken seriously brings him to that old singer-songwriter fallback: country. Openers The Watson Twins, a pair of harmonizing identical sisters, came to attention backing indie princess Jenny Lewis before they released their Ben Kweller own graceful Americana album, Fire Songs, last year.
The Andalusians w/ IfIHadAHiFi and White Wrench Conservatory @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
The Andalusians are a new band on Dischord Records, though at this point “new band” is a relative term for the iconic D.C. label. Like so many Dischord groups, Andalusians offers a new permutation of veteran players from the label, this time putting Beauty Pill side player Basla Andolsun in the driver’s seat. She’s supported by a rotating cast of familiar faces—which sometimes includes members of Faraquet, The Medications and El Guapo—but her songwriting shares more in common with the sweet and loopy, “120 Minutes”-era alt-pop of The Lemonheads and Throwing Muses than the brain-twisting rock her peers are better known for.
The Daredevil Christopher Wright w/ Juniper Tar @ Y-Not III, 8 p.m.
We’ll admit it stings. While Milwaukee’s deserving scene sat off the radar last year, tiny, tiny Eau Claire scored one of the year’s hottest breakthrough acts, Bon Iver. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has done his part to keep his city in the spotlight, trumpeting it in the press and also bolstering a young indie-rock outfit called The Daredevil Christopher Wright, mixing their upcoming debut full-length. The group’s bombastically orchestrated baroque folk invites immediate comparisons to The Decemberists, though perhaps Page France comparisons are more apt—not only because Christopher Wright evokes a similar vulnerability, but also because their songs are so saturated in Christian scripture and folklore that they make Sufjan Stevens look agnostic by comparison.