Feb. 19 - Feb. 25
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, Feb. 19
Larkin Grimm @ Stonefly Brewery, 10 p.m.
Like so many artists on Michael Gira’s Young God label, Larkin Grimm blurs the line between spirituality and pretension, filling her faintly Wiccan gypsy folk with all manner of accidental sounds, foreign accents and loopy instruments (she’s also a devoted member of the ever-growing Cult of the Glockenspiel). Unlike some of her freak-folk peers she has a reason to be genuinely freaky—she was raised on a religious hippie commune, never a harbinger of future stability—but although her music has a certain restless, adventurous charm, most casual listeners won’t find the spell she casts on her 2008 album Parplar particularly enticing.
Friday, Feb. 20
Little Blue Crunchy Things w/ Snake and Rusty Ps @ Shank Hall, 9 p.m.
If they debuted today, Little Blue Crunchy Things’ electric fusion of hip-hop, funk and jazz would likely be dismissed as more jam music, but during their mid-’90s heyday, Little Blue was as vibrant and vital as any band the city had to offer, likely candidates along with Citizen King for greater commercial success. Like “The Jenny Jones Show,” the talk show on which the group occasionally performed, Little Blue was a distinctly ’90s phenomenon, but their frenzied live shows at Shank Hall—which invariably saw crowd-surfers pull down the venue’s drop ceiling—remain the stuff of local legend. The band continues to play reunion shows every year or two.
Cheech & Chong @ The Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 7 and 10 p.m.
Any plans that stoner-comedy team Cheech & Chong had to reunite at the turn of the century went up in smoke (sorry) when Tommy Chong was sentenced to nine months in prison for selling not drugs but “drug-related paraphernalia.” Tensions again shelved reunion plans for another four years after Chong’s 2004 release from prison, but the weight of their respective alimony and legal bills was enough for the duo to finally take to the road last fall, performing mainly old skits about countercultures that no longer exist, at least as the pair remembers them. Cheech & Chong still talk about making a new movie together, though at this point we’re more likely to see that rumored new Pee-wee Herman adventure than we are an Up in Smoke sequel.
Cheech & Chong
The Vega Star w/ Sleep Out, Moon High and Pezzettino @ Cactus Club, 9:30 p.m.
Milwaukee’s Vega Star has been playing off and on since 2002, periodically re-emerging after periods of quiet. This time, they’ve brought a new record with them: The Night, as fitting a title as any for the band’s after-dark Americana, which recalls at times Neko Case (who the group occasionally covers live) or Bill Callahan on codeine—or, for that matter, the band Codeine. They share tonight’s bill with Milwaukee accordionist Pezzettino and a couple of out-of-towners, Sleep Out (Chicago) and Moon High (Columbus).
William Cepeda and Antonio Martorell @ Latino Arts, 5 p.m.
Latino Arts ushers in the annual Carnaval celebration tonight with a 5 p.m. opening of its gallery’s new exhibition by politicized tapestry artist Antonio Martorell followed by a 7:30 p.m. performance by composer and trombonist William Cepeda. The youngest of a long lineage of Puerto Rican musicians, Cepeda is perhaps the most internationally successful member of his family, having honed his brand of African-spiked jazz by working with legends like Celia Cruz, Donald Byrd and Tito Puente. He’s toured as a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra, but tonight Cepeda plays with his own group, an 11-piece bomba ensemble, complete with dancers.
Saturday, Feb. 21
The Milwaukee Admirals w/ The BoDeans @ Bradley Center, 7:30 p.m.
The Milwaukee Admirals offer fans perhaps the biggest carrot of the season tonight with a post-game concert from The BoDeans, the beloved Milwaukee band and perennial Summerfest headliners. That group is riding high from last year’s Still, an album that reunited them with producer T-Bone Burnett and delivers plenty of their signature, upbeat roots-rock. It’s arguably the group’s best album in 15 years. The game itself offers plenty of reason to head out, too. The Milwaukee Admirals are in the middle of a strong season, and tonight they face off against the awesomely mascotted Manitoba Moose, their division rivals.
Sunday, Feb. 22
The Kodo Drummers @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
The taiko, a stocky Japanese drum that can be played alone or with an ensemble, is the centerpiece for rhythmic Asian percussionists the Kodo Drummers. The troupe’s name can be translated as “heartbeat,” which is an apt comparison for their sound, though anybody with a heartbeat this manically fast should probably look into lowering their blood pressure. Along with various flutes, cymbals and the thunderous odaiko, a giant drum, the stoic Kodo Drummers blend their pulsing beats with artful Japanese melodies, but can also kick up enough clatter to drown out anything Throbbing Gristle ever recorded.
Monday, Feb. 23
Bigelf w/ Invade Rome @ Stonefly Brewery, 10 p.m.
Songwriter to the stars and former 4 Non Blondes brunette Linda Perry has penned monster hits for Pink, Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera, and though she’s branched out to mentor artists like Ben Jelen and James Blunt, her latest project is a little outside her comfort zone: Bigelf, a Los Angeles prog-rock quartet that slathers crushing, Black Sabbath riffs with spacey dispatches a la Pink Floyd. Bigelf travels with a light show, but that’s about all they have in common with the typical Perry protege. They perform tonight behind last year’s Cheat the Gallows, released on Perry’s Custard Records.
Tuesday, Feb. 24
Brett Dennen @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Twenty-nine-year-old Californian singer-songwriter Brett Dennen, whose prepubescent voice matches his baby-face and childish shocks of red hair, has spent years touring as second fiddle to similarly subdued alt-contemporary performers like John Mayer, Missy Higgins and Jason Mraz, but this year he finally accumulated enough notoriety to launch his own headlining tour—guess all those “Grey’s Anatomy” soundtrack contributions finally paid off. Later this spring, though, he’ll slide Candy Land-style back down to the opening slot he’s so often held when he tours the United Kingdom with The Fray.
Taste of Chaos @ The Rave, 5:30 p.m.
In half a decade and three compilations since Taste of Chaos’ inception, festival creator (and Warped Tour founder) Kevin Lyman seems to have learned a thing or two. Back in 2006, the lineup consisted of more than 20 bands and spanned two stages, but lately they’ve condensed the roster for a more personal feel. This year’s lineup is the smallest yet, with just four national acts— Bring Me the Horizon, Four Year Strong, Pierce the Veil and Cancer Bats—opening for headliners Thursday. Quality over quantity? Well, that depends on your definition of quality. This year’s lineup hasn’t inspired much excitement, but at least Thursday arrives with a bit of good buzz. In punk circles, the screamo veterans’ just-released album, Common Existence, is being heralded as a return-to-form, the group’s hungriest album in years.