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This Week in Milwaukee

NOFX, Craig Ferguson, Kings Go Forth, Harlem and Jaill

Apr. 29, 2010
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Thursday, April 29

NOFX @ The Riverside Theater, 7:30 p.m.

Although they have sold more than 6 million albums in their quarter-century together, Cali-punk institutions NOFX have made a point to stay out of the mainstream by avoiding music videos and taunting the hands that feed. Their most infamous single, “Please Play This Song on the Radio,” culminates in a torrent of profanity. The group long ago dropped pretenses of being a serious hardcore band, instead settling on a jocular skate-punk sound, but between all the silly party songs on their latest album, 2009’s Coaster, singer Fat Mike opens up for some of his most confessional lyrics ever. On “My Orphan Year” he sings of his parents’ deaths in earnest terms, then addresses addiction on “I Am an Alcoholic,” the rare NOFX song that demonizes intoxicants instead of celebrating them.

Craig Ferguson @ The Pabst Theater, 8 and 10:30 p.m.

There isn’t much room for innovation in the world of late-night talk shows, almost all of which follow the same rigid formula “The Tonight Show” laid out a half-century ago, but comedian Craig Ferguson has nonetheless managed to make CBS’s handed-down “Late Late Show” his own. Eschewing the snide, postmodernism of David Letterman, the everyman pandering of Jay Leno and the manic absurdism of Conan O’Brien, Ferguson has settled on a more low-key, conversational tone for his program. He’s gained particular attention for his monologues, which use scripted jokes as a starting point for long, off-the-cuff diatribes, some of which are unusually personal and even sentimental (Ferguson often addresses his history of alcoholism). His show isn’t flashy, and it certainly doesn’t make headlines the way some of his competitors’ programs do, but it often connects in a way few other talk shows attempt.

Chris Pureka w/ Peasant @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

A Massachusetts singer-songwriter who has often performed with Milwaukee folkie Peter Mulvey, Chris Pureka built on the stripped-down Americana of her previous solo releases for her latest album, How I Learned to See in the Dark, which she released this month. Coproduced with Merrill Garbus of the experimental pop project tUnE-yArDs, How I Learned is Pureka’s most sonically ambitious album yet, incorporating lovely strings and moody atmospherics that complement her somber songs about strained relationships and selfdestructive instincts.

Friday, April 30

Kings Go Forth w/ Chicago Stone Lightning Band @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

When Milwaukee’s retro-soul 10-piece Kings Go Forth last played a record release at Turner Hall Ballroom in July, everything went well save for the absence of an actual record to release. They had good reason for the delay, though: They’d just been signed to David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Records. The group finally released its debut, The Outsiders Are Back, on April 20. A note-perfect homage to the sweaty soul of ’60s vocal ensembles like The Esquires and The Seven Sounds, it earned immediate national accolades, including thumbs up from National Public Radio and Pitchfork.

Milwaukee Artbeat Anniversary @ The Hide House, 6:30 p.m.

The Milwaukee youth arts organization Artbeat celebrates its one-year anniversary tonight with an open house and showcase at the Hide House. Photographs, mosaics, sculptures and paintings will be on display at the Artbeat gallery beginning at 6:30 p.m., followed by a two-hour program at 8 p.m. featuring folk singer Ronnie Nyles, spoken-word artist Joshua the Scribe and reggae singer J.D. Rankin of King Solomon.

MS Benefit @ Art Bar, 9 p.m.

Art Bar hosts a diverse bill of music tonight as part of a fund-raiser for the MS Society. Performers include local rockers Take Solace and roots-pop singer-songwriter Bryan Cherry, as well as Chicago Americana troubadour Wolfgang Schaefer and MBird, the stage name for Nashville singer Megan Birdsall. On her new debut album, Over the Bones, Birdsall explores Nashville country through the lens of her background in jazz, singing sometimes sweet, sometimes pensive Americana tunes with traces of Emmylou Harris and Aimee Mann.

Saturday, May 1

Brother Ali w/ Fashawn and BK-One @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Rhymesayers rapper Brother Ali does not make happy music. His records channel the rage he felt being taunted as a kid, ridiculed for his legal blindness and albinism, and the anger he feels toward his country, frustrations he explored more bitingly on his inflammatory 2007 single “Uncle Sam Goddamn.” His 2007 album, The Undisputed Truth, detailed his painful divorce and the nasty custody battle for his son, and the rapper kept the bad times rolling on his 2009 record, Us, which examines American injustices toward minorities. Opener Fashawn built up strong word of mouth through mixtapes with Mick Boogie and the Alchemist before releasing Boy Meets World, one of 2009’s most realized debut rap albums.

Pezzettino @ The Eagle’s Nest, 7 p.m.

Armed with an upside-down accordion and a deft understanding of the power of social networking, in a few short years Pezzettino singer-songwriter Margaret Stutt charmed local media and emerged as one of the city’s most visible musicians. Now she’s saying goodbye. In advance of her upcoming third album, Stutt is packing up her squeezebox and moving to New York following tonight’s farewell show, but she has close ties to the city, so it’s a safe bet that she’ll make regular return visits. She’s already scheduled to play Summerfest’s Verge Music Festival on June 5.

Sunday, May 2

Shelby Lynne @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Ironically, Shelby Lynne received a Grammy for “Best New Artist” in 2000, 10 years after she had been writing and recording music for several labels. She spent the ’90s recording mainstream country albums that never quite seemed to suit her, but following her turn-ofthe-century comeback, the singer went on to release a string of acclaimed albums that reinvented her as a favorite of the new-Americana scene. Lynne’s latest album, Tears, Lies, and Alibis, released this month, is a summation of her strengths, touching on folk, alt-country and roots-rock while spotlighting Lynne’s tough-as-nails songwriting.

Owl City @ The Rave, 6:30 p.m.

Minnesotan wallflower and Owl City brainchild Adam Young, one of last year’s biggest music success stories, built such word of mouth through his MySpace account that Universal Republic offered him a record contract. It was a smart move: Young’s doe-eyed single “Fireflies” became one of the year’s most inescapable hits. The synth-pop tune was remarkable both for its sales (over 3 million) and its uncanny resemblance to The Postal Service, right down to Young’s Ben Gibbard-esque whine.

Monday, May 3


Harlem w/ Jaill and Worrier @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.

Austin, Texas’ garage-pop trio Harlem was signed to Matador Records before recording their new sophomore album Hippies, but you’d never guess they had any sort of significant label backing judging from the album’s no-fi production values. If Harlem had any sort of recording budget, it must have gone toward beer; Hippies is a gloriously unlabored, seriously fun rock ’n’ roll record, with peppy, traditionalist romps balanced out by weirdo tunes seemingly written in the studio (if, indeed, the album was even recorded in a studio). Harlem tops a bill tonight celebrating the first anniversary of the Milwaukee music blog Seizure Chicken, joined by a pair of local bands the blog has also championed: Jaill and Worrier.

The Apples in Stereo @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

The Apples in Stereo laid the foundation for what would become one of the defining indiepop sounds of the ’90s: upbeat tunes, sugar-coated melodies and symphonic flourishes, all wrapped into an unassuming, lo-fi package. They were the first band to record for the influential Elephant 6 Recording Company label, which singer Robert Schneider founded, and though they have never enjoyed quite the same levels of success and acclaim as some of their Elephant 6 peers, like Neutral Milk Hotel and Of Montreal, they retain a dedicated cult following. The group’s latest album, Travellers in Space and Time, is the first without founding member Hilarie Sidney (Schneider’s ex-wife), and it’s a true departure, basking in the robotic sounds of disco and electronic music.


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