August 20 - August 26
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, Aug. 20
WMSE’s Radio Summer Camp w/ Sometime Sweet Susan @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
WMSE launches its Radio Summer Camp festival, a multi-day, multi-venue concert series, with tonight’s showcase of Milwaukee music past and present at Turner Hall Ballroom. Headliners Sometime Sweet Susan were Milwaukee’s answer to bands like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., a fuzzed-out, feedback-laden noise-pop band whose 1993 debut, Fuse, bears all the stamps of its producer, Steve Albini. The band broke up several years later, after lineup changes, bad breaks and possibly being ripped off by the Smashing Pumpkins, but re-emerged in fine form at this February’s farewell concert for Atomic Records. Sometime Sweet Susan shares tonight’s bill with two younger Milwaukee bands, Juniper Tar and The Trusty Knife, and The Dim Suns, a group that reunites members of another celebrated ’90s Milwaukee indie-rock band, Compound Red.
A La Carte @ Milwaukee County Zoo
The Milwaukee County Zoo’s popular A La Carte event celebrates 25 years of dining and animal watching this weekend. New this year are stands from Palms Bistro and Bar and the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery, which join 25 other local restaurants, including the Bonefish Grill, Sabor Brazilian Churrascaria, Thunder Bay Grille and Ultimate Confections. Other attractions include a wine tent placed near the zoo’s Giraffe Village, and the return of zany, zany meerkats to the zoo’s Small Mammal Building. (Through Aug. 23.)
Friday, Aug. 21
The Rural Alberta Advantage w/ Catfish Haven @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
The latest in a long line of great songwriters and awful vocalists inspired/emboldened by Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum, The Rural Alberta Advantage’s Nils Edenloff sings concise, boldly arranged tributes to home and heritage on the group’s brisk, catchy Hometowns. That self-released 2008 album earned enough buzz that Saddle Creek picked it up for a proper release this summer, a testament to the enduring appeal of mournful songs with chipper glockenspiels. Openers Catfish Haven polished their greasy garage-rock into a slick, high-concept tribute to ’70s glam-rock on their sophomore album, last year’s Devastator. Also playing: Frontier Folk Nebraska and Common Loon.
The Rural Alberta Advantage
Easy Rider @ Discovery World, 6 p.m.
Using the profits from a Los Angeles coke deal, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper hit the open road with their choppers in 1969’s Easy Rider, looking to experience all the freedoms America has to offer, only to encounter bigotry, murder and bad trips. An infamous graveyard scene used sound edits and film manipulation to simulate a bad acid trip, but the actors smoked real marijuana on set for its authenticity— not that Hopper probably needed an excuse to do drugs at the time. Easy Rider, which remains one of the defining countercultural movies of the 1960s, screens tonight at dusk as part of Discovery World’s free, outdoor Fish Fry & A Flick movie series.
Lucky Boys Confusion @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Though there’s been no official breakup announcement, the tellingly titled 2009 album Closing Arguments appears to be the final release from Chicago’s on-again, off-again Lucky Boys Confusion. After being dropped from Elektra in 2004 and announcing a brief hiatus in 2006, the pop-punksters have consistently played their annual “Songs From a Scene” Christmas concert series at The Metro every year in Chicago and have rallied for short tours, but have shown little interest in recording together again. After the album Closing Arguments was revealed to be a compilation of demos and rare songs, with only one new track, all but the biggest fans have given up hopes of seeing new material.
Lucky Boys Confusion
The Wood Brothers @ Miramar Theatre, 8 p.m.
Upright bassist Chris Wood has been doing double time in recent years, playing with his better-known jam-jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood while also performing with his guitarist/singer brother, Oliver, as The Wood Brothers. The brothers largely eschew jazz in favor of traditional folk and throwback blues, but the Wood apple hasn’t fallen too far from the Medeski and Martin tree: Keyboardist John Medeski produced the duo’s 2008 album, Loaded.
The Wood Brothers
Milwaukee Wine Festival @ Milwaukee Art Museum, 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
The Milwaukee Wine Festival returns for its second year to the neatly manicured lawn of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Once again there will be music, seminars, demonstrations and more than 150 fine wines available to sample. Kil@wat, the Mason Street Grill and the Capital Grille will be among the restaurants providing food, and beer lovers will be able to enjoy their beverage of choice at the Blue Moon Beer Garden. Tickets are $30 (or $20 in advance) and include a book for 10 tasting tickets, each good for a 1-ounce pour. (Also Aug. 22, 2 p.m. – 9 p.m.)
Brief Candles w/ Gospel Gossip @ Club Garibaldi, 8 p.m.
Milwaukee’s premier shoegaze band, Brief Candles, doesn’t seem to be in too much of a hurry to release a follow-up to their towering 2006 release, They Live We Sleep. They’ve been plucking away at it in the studio for some time now, with all the urgency of a young couple on a Sunday afternoon drive, but in the meantime at least they’ve played plenty of local shows. Tonight they share another show with frequent bill mates Gospel Gossip, a charming Minneapolis band that pairs its own shoegazey squall with a polite, C86 jangle and sweet, Juliana Hatfield-esque pop songs. Also playing: Ashua and Middle Distance Runner.
Saturday, Aug. 22
Dar Williams w/ Stephen Kellogg @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Of all the ’90s female folk artists who cited Joan Baez as a muse, Dar Williams had the closest ties to Baez herself, touring and dueting with and writing songs for the folk legend. Where many of Williams’ peers sang with a jagged edge, aggressively trumpeting their individuality, politics and sexuality with singalong anger and profanity, Williams was never so subversive. Her songs were cleaner, poppier and more inclusive, her political stances hippie-ish in their good intentions. Her latest album, Promised Land, sees her make more of a push for alt-rock airtime with Smashing Pumpkins/Liz Phair producer Brad Wood, but finds Williams exploring familiar themes of youth and questioning authority.
Milwaukee Masterpiece @ Veterans Park, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The Milwaukee Masterpiece is a car show that strives for something more sophisticated than the usual hodgepodge of pinstripes, product placements, B-list NASCAR drivers and a car dubiously claiming to be the original Batmobile. Instead, the Milwaukee Masterpiece celebrates the automobile as a piece of art, documenting the history and evolution of the car with more than 150 rare and extravagant vehicles drawn from all over the country, including historic Bentleys, Vespas and Duesenbergs. (Also Aug. 23.)
Monday, Aug. 24
Robert Cray Band @ Pabst Theater, 7:30 p.m.
Some blues purists never forgave Robert Cray for his 1986 breakthrough album, Strong Persuader, an ultra-smooth crossover blues record that made Cray a sex symbol (in part because he sang so much about sex). Those purists, however, have missed out on the great albums Cray has released since, discs that run the gamut from traditional blues to blues soul heavily indebted to Al Green and Hi Records. Cray’s last studio album, 2005’s Twenty, stood out for its anti-war title track. In a genre infamously averse to change, Cray has never been afraid to rock the boat.
Roadside Graves w/ Chris DeMay @ Club Garibaldi, 8 p.m.
New Jersey’s seven-piece Roadside Graves takes its obvious cues from Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg and all other folkies secure enough in their songwriting that they aren’t afraid of being upstaged by beefy, rocking accompaniments. The group’s latest album, My Son’s Home, is a collection of barroom dirges about war and death. The songs cut deep, but the rhythms keep toes tapping happily. Milwaukee folkie Chris De- May shares this bill, the final concert of WMSE’s Radio Summer Camp festival.