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Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010

This Week in Milwaukee

The Rural Alberta Advantage, Hotel Milwaukee and Sharon Van Etten

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Thursday, Jan. 14

The Rural Alberta Advantage w/ The Fatty Acids and Conrad Plymouth @ Mad Planet, 8 p.m.

The latest in a long line of great songwriters with awful voices 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 debut, Hometowns. That self-released 2008 album earned enough buzz that Saddle Creek picked it up for a proper release last summer, a testament to the enduring appeal of mournful songs with chipper glockenspiels. The Rural Alberta Advantage returns to Milwaukee this week after a wellreceived show last August at the Cactus Club.

Friday, Jan. 15

Monster Jam @ The Bradley Center, 7:30 p.m.

Monster Jam is one of the best-known monster-truck franchises, thanks to the event’s long-running television show on the Speed network. Though to most spectators Monster Jam’s live events can seem chaotic—an excuse for 12-foot-tall, tricked-out monster trucks to make loud noises and crush things—there’s an actual organized sport underneath all the engine revving. Drivers are competing in racing and freestyle contests for spots in the annual Monster Jam World Finals, held in Las Vegas in March. The monster trucks do two shows at the Bradley Center this weekend, tonight and Saturday night.

Saturday, Jan. 16

Hotel Milwaukee @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7:30 p.m.

For seven years, from 1995 to 2002, Wisconsin Public Radio’s popular “Hotel Milwaukee” variety show spotlighted Milwaukee comedians, playwrights and musicians. It was taped live at hotels across the city and eventually at the Eisner American Museum of Advertising & Design. For a fund-raiser performance tonight for the youth mentoring organization City Year Milwaukee, the cast will be reuniting at the Turner Hall Ballroom. Hotel alums including Bill Clifford, Marcie Hoffman, Jacob Mills, Rip Tenor and Jeana Stillman will reprise their roles, hotel historian John Gurda will talk about Turner Hall and singer Adekola Adedapo, the Dean Lee Trio and the jazz group Hudson will serve as the house band. In the spirit of the radio program, there will also be musical guests: singer Jeanna Salzer, guitarist Terry Coffman, harmonica legend Jim Liban and the Las Vegas tribute band 5 Card Studs, who will close out the evening.

Jayme Dawicki w/ Ari Herstand @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

Milwaukee singer-songwriter Jayme Dawicki has found a niche licensing her songs to television shows. Five songs from her 2008 album Shatter Queen, which she recorded in Seattle with Dashboard Confessional producer Daniel Mendez, have been used on MTV’s “The Real World,” and her music has also been featured on the Lifetime network. It’s easy to see why TV has taken to her songs: They recall the expressive, “Grey’s Anatomy”-styled piano-pop of adult-contemporary starlets like Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson.


Sunday, Jan. 17

Kevn Kinney and Sammy Llanas @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

Two distinguished folk-rock songwriters with Milwaukee ties share the stage and trade tunes with each other tonight at an evening billed as the Sunday Night Song Swap. Milwaukee expatriate Kevn Kinney is best known for his work with the Atlanta rock band Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, but he finds the time for a solo record every so often, collaborating with friends like R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and The Allman Brothers’ Warren Haynes. Sammy Llanas is half of the songwriting team behind Waukesha’s celebrated BoDeans. In 1998, Llanas recorded the lone album with his solo project Absinthe, a collection of darker songs titled A Good Day to Die.

Wednesday, Jan. 20

Sharon Van Etten w/ Daniel Knox @ The Cactus Club, 9 p.m.

A small but influential band of bloggers rallied around Brooklyn singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten last year, singing the praises of her harrowing album Because I Was in Love, a collection of uncomfortably intimate sad songs kissed with accents of Appalachian folk. Those accolades, along with Van Etten’s lovely guest spot on one of last year’s breakout albums, The Antlers’ Hospice, and an opening spot on tour with Kyp Malone’s new band, Rain Machine, helped the songwriter raise her profile considerably last year. [Click here for an interview with Van Etten]

Nick Jonas and The Administration w/ Diane Birch @ The Rave, 6:30 p.m.

The Jonas Brothers invite the same reflexive ire that all teenpop bands do, and that the sibling ensemble is a product of the Disney Co. has only made them that much more of a target. Youngest Jonas Brother Nick tries to distance himself from the stigma of teen-pop with his new side project, Nick Jonas and The Administration, drawing less from bubblegum and more from traditional soul and roots-rock on his upcoming album Who I Am, which he recorded with members of Prince’s New Power Generation. The album’s title track imagines Michael Jackson by way of John Cougar Mellencamp. It’s a more adult sound, to be sure, but given his ties to the Jonas Brothers franchise, expect the usual horde of screaming tweens and flustered parents tonight.

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