April 23 - April 29
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, April 23
Indigo Girls @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have come a long way since their 1987 debut Strange Fire yielded the hit “Closer to Fine.” The Indigo Girls have remained one of the most popular folk-rock duos over the last two decades, releasing 11 studio albums, including this year’s Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, the group’s first independent release since Strange Fire. Though they’ve updated their sound through the years, building it up and stripping it back down, they’ve always maintained their commitment to human rights and social change. Opener Jennifer O’Connor is a young singer-songwriter who, speaking to the renewed interest in independent folk, has found a home on the prestigious Matador Records, a label historically dominated by bohemian indie-rockers.
Friday, April 24
Little Shop of Horrors @ The Times Cinema, 11:50 p.m.
Every city worth its salt has a group that acts out the Rocky Horror Picture Show on occasional weekends, but the players of Milwaukee’s Warped Cast have specialized in giving a similar midnight treatment to other camp classics, including Cannibal! The Musical, Clue and Little Shop of Horrors, the 1986 Rick Moranis musical adapted from the 1960 Roger Corman farce. The Warped Cast shadows that film tonight with ample costumes and, of course, a giant plant puppet. (Also Saturday, 11:50 p.m.)
New Found Glory @ The Rave, 7 p.m.
If it worked once, it ought to work again. That’s the ideology Los Angeles-based quintet New Found Glory took into recording its sixth record, Not Without a Fight. And it worked. The band didn’t have a label supporting them, but they decided to start anyway with Blink-182’s Mark Hoppus behind the switchboard. Eventually, Epitaph signed the band, gladly distributing the record. The story vaguely resembles their modest beginnings when the start-up pop-punk group paid for their debut, Nothing Gold Can Stay, out of their own pockets. That album propelled them to pop-punk popularity, but their latest is garnering the best reviews of the band’s career.
Saturday, April 25
Llysa Spencer w/ MatriXotica @ Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9 p.m.
Like a more experimental Lucinda Williams, Milwaukee’s Llysa Spencer sings in a crystalline voice about perseverance and inner strength. Tonight she plays behind the release of her latest album, Lost Language, which features contributions from local music staples John Price, Brian Ritchie and her sister, Heidi Spencer. The album is a fairly traditional singer-songwriter affair, but the band she’ll be playing with for part of tonight, MatriXotica, is anything but traditional, fusing jazz, classical, Latin and spoken-word accents into Spencer’s restless Americana.
Mondo Lucha Wrestling/Variety Show @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Between the bevy of circus-costumed wrestlers and a face-painted magician/ stuntman who goes by the name Clownvis Presley, the Mondo Lucha Wrestling/Variety Show might be the scariest thing for coulrophobics since Stephen King’s It. Offsetting the violence/clowniness of the Mexican wrestling, though, is plenty of burlesque, including routines from strip-entertainers Lola Van Ella and Tomahawk Tassels as well as the poleclimbing burlesque duo Gravity Plays Favorites. Some of the Brewcity Bruisers roller-derby girls will step into the ring as well, and one of Milwaukee’s favorite indie-rock bands, Maritime, will also perform. They’ll probably be the only act on the lineup not wearing some sort of mask or make-up.
The Constellations w/ Kingdom Nada and DJ Tarik @ Stonefly Brewery, 10 p.m.
The Constellations’ debut album Southern Gothic has struggled to gain traction around much of the country, even in the band’s native Atlanta, but this nine-piece ensemble has found a powerful ally here in 88.9 RadioMilwaukee, which has given their hooky, disco-rock single “Love Is a Murder” steady rotation—airplay earned, in large part, by a slick guest spot for Gnarls Barkley’s Cee-Lo, who gets to rap a few bars about one of his favorite subjects, suicide. It could be another guest spot that earns Southern Gothic a second look from critics: the dubby “We’re Here to Save the Day” features a verse from the white-hot rapper—well, kind of rapper—of the moment, Asher Roth.
The Constellations | Photo by Eric De Fino
Neko Case @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Despite her confident stage presence and camera-friendly genes, Neko Case hates having her picture taken. That’s why the steel-voiced singer decided to have a little fun with the cover of her fifth solo studio album, Middle Cyclone. Case thought to make the idyllic 9-year-old boy record cover, a cartoonishly designed picture of her balancing on one knee, sword in hand, atop her 1967 Mercury Cougar. Don’t let the cover fool you, though; Cyclone isn’t child’s play. It’s a typically pastoral, mournful affair that finds Case further fleshing out the reverb-soaked, late-night country of 2002’s Blacklisted. Opening act Crooked Fingers has never fully escaped the shadow of Eric Bachmann’s long-departed former band, Archers of Loaf, but 2008’s Forfeit/Fortune, which features guest vocals from Case, makes a valiant attempt.
Wizard of Cause w/ Fres Thao and Sunshine Harrison @ The Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
The latest project from prolific Milwaukee beat-maker J Todd and cohorts from his electro-pop band Leo Minor, Wizard of Cause just played its first show this March at Mad Planet, but the band has already queued up an album for release this summer, with many of its tracks streaming on the band’s MySpace page. These tracks show not only the requisite love for ’80s synth-pop—the same one that drives Cut Copy’s best work—but also for the lo-fi underground rock and shoegaze of the era, with fuzzed-out hooks at the heart of many of these songs.
Sunday, April 26
The Night Marchers @ Club Garibaldi, 9 p.m.
Veteran singer/guitarist John Reis already has an impressive legacy, having helped form bands like Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes. The singer’s latest project is the rock quartet The Night Marchers, and though its 2008 debut See You in Magic doesn’t quite conjure the ferocity of his past groups, you can’t accuse Reis of slowing down as he approaches 40. The pulsing rock ’n’ roll rhythms of “Bad Bloods” and the rapid strumming of “Whose Lady R U?” tap the same youthfully rebellious spirit that’s marked his best work.
Monday, April 27
WAMI Awards @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 6:30 p.m.
Maritime, Bon Iver, Cory Chisel, Ronnie Nyles, Verona Grove and Fever Marlene compete for Artist of the Year honors at this year’s WAMIs, the annual Wisconsin Area Music Industry awards. This year’s nominees are heavy on familiar names from Milwaukee, including Kings Go Forth (New Artist of the Year) and Danny Gokey (Best Christian/Gospel Artist, of course), while Butch Vig and Harvey Scales will be inducted into the WAMI’s Hall of Fame. Scales, who co-wrote Johnnie Taylor’s hit single “Disco Lady” as well as tracks for artists like the O’Jays and The Dramatics, will give an increasingly rare hometown performance. Also performing are Spiral Trance, The Buskers and The Figureheads.
Tuesday, April 28
Pato Banton @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
With his toasting skills, pop sensibilities and early understanding of the role hip-hop would play in reggae, Pato Banton became a reggae star in the ’80s, releasing humorous songs like “Don’t Sniff Coke,” a track that found him affably advocating ganja as a healthy alternative to harder drugs. Collaborations with the English Beat, UB40, Mad Professor, Sting and Steel Pulse only furthered his profile. After a half-decade spent largely out of the spotlight, Banton has been touring hard recently, pushing a comeback.
Wednesday, April 29
Franz Ferdinand @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
It was the right album at the right time. In 2004, at the height of the post-punk/’80s-pop/dance-rock revivals, Scots Franz Ferdinand released their self-titled debut album, an instant hit thanks to the ubiquitous single “Take Me Out.” A quick follow up, You Could Have It So Much Better, capitalized on the group’s popularity, scoring a hit with the single “Do You Want To,” then the band laid low for a while. In the four years between the release of So Much Better and their new album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, some of the band’s star-power has worn off, as has some of their critical good will, but that could be because, unlike the one-two punch of their first albums, Tonight is a slow-grower, a richer, more mellow album that finds the band riding heavy bass instead of manically jerky dance-rock riffs.