This Week in Milwaukee
Jim Gaffigan, Masonry, Dreamgirls and Kid Cudi
Thursday, Dec. 31Jim Gaffigan @ The Pabst Theater, 10:30 p.m.
Not since “Weird Al” Yankovic has a comedian mined more material out of food than Jim Gaffigan. On Gaffigan’s latest comedy album, King Baby, his seventh, the slow-talking Indiana standup riffs on waffles, ribs, bologna, condiments and Dunkin’ Donuts and returns to one of his most fruitful muses: bacon. The album was part of a busy 2009 that saw Gaffigan appear on “Law & Order” and “Flight of the Conchords” and act in the quirkier-than-thou Sam Mendes dramedy Away We Go. The comedian closes the year with his usual New Year’s Eve gig at the Pabst Theater.
Friday, Jan. 1Cool Fool Kite Festival @ Veterans Park, noon – 5 p.m.
Milwaukee celebrates New Year’s Day with two bold, winter-weather-defying traditions: the Polar Bear Plunge at Bradford Beach, where hundreds of lunatics shiver in Lake Michigan, and the neighboring Cool Fool Kite Festival at Veterans Park, which fills the skies with more than 50 extravagantly designed kites. The “cool” in the title, of course, refers not just to the kites but also the frigid temperatures, but free hot chocolate and coffee should help to warm the crowd.
Saturday, Jan. 2Masonry w/ Absolutely and The Naima @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
Milwaukee’s Masonry eschews some of the humorless and long-winded tendencies of other instrumental metal bands, brightening their sludgy, Black Sabbath-styled riffs with the playful, plucky tones of math-rockers like Faraquet. The group’s 2008 album Millennium at Low Tide struck an inviting balance between heaviness and hookiness, and this summer’s addition of second guitarist Max Williamson (also of the psychedelic local band Elatia) has added extra depth and texture to the band’s recent live shows.
Sunday, Jan. 3Project/Object and The Hue @ Miramar Theatre, 8 p.m.
The 1993 death of Frank Zappa has done nothing to tame the iconoclast rocker’s fanatical following, and in the years since a cottage industry of Zappa tribute bands, concerts and albums has thrived. Some of the biggest players in the Zappa tribute market are those who knew him well: Zappa’s son Dweezil tours behind a popular Zappa Plays Zappa program, and the longtime Zappa tribute act Project/Object now features a couple of Zappa’s sidemen, Ike Willis and Ray White. The ensemble draws from a songbook of more than 100 Zappa tunes, but in the restless spirit of Frank, they seldom play them straight, offering multiple arrangements of each tune.
Tuesday, Jan. 5Dreamgirls @ The Marcus Center, 7:30 p.m.
Capitalizing on the success of the hit 2006 film adaptation, in November the 1981 Henry Krieger/Tom Eyen musical Dreamgirls, the story of a very Supremes-like 1960s girl group, launched its first national tour in almost 25 years. The film version restored a tarnished Eddie Murphy to critical credibility and earned “American Idol” alum Jennifer Hudson an Oscar. The cast of this revival lacks a wayward comedian but does feature another “Idol” alum: season seven’s Syesha Mercado, who Simon Cowell presciently predicted would fare better in the world of musicals than commercial pop. Mercado will star in the Diana Ross—er, “Deena Jones”—role. The production stays in Milwaukee through Sunday, Jan. 10.
Wednesday, Jan. 6Kid Cudi and Chip Tha Ripper @ The Rave, 7 p.m.
Buoyed by the support of Kanye West, who signed the Cleveland rapper to his GOOD Music label, Kid Cudi emerged as one of 2009’s breakthrough stars when his Internet hit “Day ’n’ Nite” became a genuine hit this spring. Cudi’s debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, wasn’t the precious sung/rap album some might have expected from Cudi’s earlier singles. Instead it was an epic, hyper-conceptual, experimental mood piece that found time for lengthy instrumental tangents and featured inspired guest spots from MGMT and Ratatat. It divided critics, with some admiring its ambition and others finding it muddled, but it seems destined to become a cult classic in large part because of its weird messiness. Cudi is already working on a follow-up, eyeing a 2010 release for a potentially collaborationheavy effort called Cudder.