This Week in Milwaukee
Chuck Berry, Sound Opinions, Muzzle of Bees and Patton Oswalt
Thursday, Feb. 18
Chuck Berry @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.
Without a doubt the most influential of the early rock ’n’ roll figures and the man most responsible for popularizing the genre’s signature guitar sound and 4/4 beat, Chuck Berry penned hits that created the template for The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones, with songs like “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Maybellene.” As the decades wore on, Berry became more famous for his legal problems than his new output, and in 1979 he released his final studio LP, a respectable effort called Rockit. In the 30 years since, Berry, now 83, has continued to perform, but shows outside his native St. Louis have become increasingly rare, so tonight could be one of your few chances to catch this legend.
Trey Anastasio @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
During his five-year hiatus from Phish, guitarist Trey Anastasio was typically prolific, creating a couple of new bands, 70 Volt Parade and SerialPod, collaborating with the Benevento/Russo Duo, composing a classical music work for a 60-piece orchestra, and jamming with pretty much whatever legend would have him onstage. Phish’s lauded reunion understandably ate up most of the guitarist’s 2009, but Anastasio remains as musically polygamous as ever. Unable to commit to just one band, he’s reunited his on-again/offagain backing group, Classic TAB (an abbreviation for Trey Anastasio Band), which has expanded its brass section this tour for a fuller, funkier sound.
Friday, Feb. 19Sound Opinions @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Chicago music writers Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis, of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, respectively, make an odd pair. Kot is the likable everyman, while DeRogatis is a more divisive figure, an opinionated curmudgeon that younger critics, like the esteemed Kelefa Sanneh, have derisively tagged a “rockist” for his flagrant dismissal of most rap music (or at least rap music that doesn’t stem from his native Chicago). In truth, DeRogatis is not quite as bad as all that, but he makes an easy straw man for the anti-rockist movement, and his reliable grumpiness spices up the pair’s weekly music talk show “Sound Opinions,” which Radio Milwaukee broadcasts locally on Sundays. For the live version of their show tonight, Kot and DeRogatis have chosen a topic with a nice visual component: their favorite rock movies.
Michael Jackson LaserSpectacular @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
The Riverside Theater’s schedule this weekend looks like some sort of horrible, dystopian vision of entertainment in the future, with machine replacing man in not one but two “LaserSpectacular” tributes to performers now defunct. Tonight a program tries to fill the void left behind by this summer’s death of the King of Pop with a light and hologram display set to Michael Jackson’s music. The show charts Jackson’s life in reverse chronology and includes an appearance from an M.J. impersonator. Saturday night the laser entertainment world returns to its loud and trippy comfort zone with a time-tested tribute to Pink Floyd.
The Melismatics w/ Disaster March and Revolush @ Club Garibaldi, 9 p.m.
It’s a safe bet that The Melismatics, a Minneapolis alt-rock band with tagteam husband/wife vocals, spent a fair portion of their youth glued to the TV set, watching “120 Minutes.” The group’s latest album, 2008’s The Acid Test, revives hooky Jesus and Mary Chain guitars and bombastic, Elasticaesque sonics, though with the record’s flashy New Wave undertones and hyper-slick production that beckons modern-rock radio with all the subtlety of a flare gun, listeners could be forgiven for mistaking the group for Shiny Toy Guns.
Saturday, Feb. 20Muzzle of Bees Fifth Anniversary Show @ The Cactus Club, 8 p.m.
For five years Ryan Matteson, now the director of public relations for the Pabst Theater and its sister venues, has run the influential regional music blog Muzzle of Bees, where he’s been an early advocate for artists like Bon Iver and countless other roots-leaning songwriters and bands. For a show celebrating the blog’s fifth anniversary, Matteson has assembled a generous bill with some of his current favorites, including the Eau Claire chamber-pop ensemble The Daredevil Christopher Wright, Champaign, Ill., indie-rockers Common Loon, Milwaukee songwriter Conrad Plymouth, Pennsylvania folk revivalist Strand of Oaks, Brooklyn’s similarly bucolic White Pines and St. Paul folk-rockers The Small Cities.
Little Blue Crunchy Things w/ On a Sun @ 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.
Patton Oswalt @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
It’s somewhat remarkable that Patton Oswalt has maintained a reputation as one of the most praised alternative/independent comics of his time, given his involvement in such reviled commercial institutions as “MADtv” and “King of Queens,” the CBS sitcom on which Oswalt served nine humorless seasons as one of Kevin James’ sidekicks. Between paychecks, though, Oswalt was touring rock venues with his surprisingly incisive, confrontational stand-up comedy—criticizing the same vapid American culture that from a distance he appeared to be a part of. In the past half-decade in particular, Oswalt has upped his cachet with a string of wellchosen supporting roles in cult comedy and sci-fi programs that further deepened his support among fans. He also wowed critics with a violent starring role in the 2009 drama Big Fan.
Sunday, Feb. 21Sondre Lerche w/ JBM @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Norwegian singer-songwriter Sondre Lerche is a restless sort, reinventing himself from album to album. He first charmed critics at the start of the century with a pair of candyflavored chamber-pop records indebted to The Beach Boys and Van Morrison, before turning the volume way down on 2006’s jazz-pop effort Duper Sessions, then way up on the following year’s rockier Phantom Punch. Lerche is less inclined toward extremes on his fifth album, last year’s Heartbeat Radio, a more even-tempered record that touches on a wide variety of sounds in the spirit of one of Lerche’s primary muses, Elvis Costello. This tour finds Lerche playing solo with an electric guitar.
Tuesday, Feb. 23Pecha Kucha @ The Sugar Maple, 8 p.m.
After a half-year hiatus, the Pecha Kucha series returns to Milwaukee for its sixth event. The format is more or less the same: Ten presenters give quick, informative lectures on idiosyncratic topics of their choice, backed by 20 slides that automatically change every 20 seconds, leaving them a scant six-anda-half-minute window to share their knowledge. Presenters include a slew of familiar faces from the local arts scene, and the topics this time are particularly eclectic, including lectures on green homes, sausage, beards and beer brewing. Unlike past Pecha Kuchas, there will be no cover for tonight’s talks.