This Week in Milwaukee
Sage Francis, Mono, Twilight Sad, Mucca Pazza, John the Savage, Midlake and The Tallest Man on Earth
Thursday, May 20
Sage Francis and Free Moral Agents w/ B. Dolan @ Turner Hall
Ballroom, 8 p.m.
On Sage Francis’ new album Li(f)e, the former slam
poet’s fire-andbrimstone raps are virtually unchanged from past records,
but the music couldn’t be much different. Francis eschewed his usual
hip-hop beats for the record, and instead solicited musical
contributions from Modest Mouse/Iron and Wine producer Brian Deck and
members of Califone, Calexico and Death Cab for Cutie, so this time
around his usual tales of youthful alienation and overzealous authority
figures are set to spiraling indie-rock guitars and rustic, back-porch
twang. For this tour, the rapper will be backed by the band Free Moral
Friday, May 21
Nickelback w/ Breaking
Benjamin, Shinedown and Sick Puppies @ The Bradley Center, 6:15 p.m.
Outside of perhaps the
Black Eyed Peas, no other band illustrates the divide between critics
and the masses better than Nickelback. Though they are unequivocally one
of the best-selling bands of their time, the Canadian hard-rock group
attracts scathing reviews that seem to grow more vicious with each year.
Some of the objections from critics are principled. Writers scorn the
band not only for their recycled riffs and for Chad Kroeger’s ugly
vocals, but also for the band’s reckless mix of misogyny and masculine
anger. In song after song, Kroeger pines for slutty women while
simultaneously deriding them for their loose morals, in an authoritative
growl that suggests he might raise a fist to them. Critics’ hatred of
the band isn’t purely moral, though. In truth, there are other, far more
misogynistic post-grunge bands than Nickelback—the leaders of Seether
and Theory of a Deadman, for instance, make Kroeger seem like the type
of guy you’d let date your daughter by comparison—yet critics single out
Nickelback in particular because, as the most successful of their
breed, they are the poster-children for this brand of
testosterone-slimed, radio-polished commercial rock, one of the most
reviled sounds of its time.
Mono w/ The Twilight
Sad @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Modern Japanese music isn’t
known for being understated, especially since the exports from that
country that tend to attract the most attention in America play
over-sugared pop or combustible noise-rock. Japan’s instrumental
post-rock quartet takes a much more delicate approach than that. The
group recorded its ambitious latest album with Steve Albini and a
25-piece orchestra, lending an epic sweep to composer Takaakira Goto’s
breathtaking compositions. Mono shares a bill tonight with a markedly
different group: The Twilight Sad, a decidedly not-instrumental Scottish
indie-rock band led by singer James Graham and his proud Glaswegian
Midwest Metalfest @ The Rave, 6 p.m.
third annual Midwest Metalfest docks at the Rave for three nights of
crushingly heavy riffs and from-the-grave imagery. Among the army of
noisemakers playing this weekend are Common Grave, Face of Ruin, Call
the Paramedics, Putrid Pile, Sexual Atrocities, Festerfuck, Without
Remorse, Annotations of an Autopsy, Conducting from the Grave,
Sexcrement, Human Infection, Gonzo Violence, and Dying Fetus. Call it
truth in advertising, because the imagery in these bands’ lyrics is
every bit as tortured as that of their band names. (Through Sunday, May
Mucca Pazza w/ John the Savage and DJ Marcus Garvey @ Stonefly Brewery, 9 p.m.
From their political
beginnings as the 80-piece group the All-American Anti-War Marching
Band, Mucca Pazza has evolved into the biggest party act in the Midwest,
playing sets that unfold as full-fledged halftime shows. The ensemble,
now pruned to a still impressive 30-or-so members, dresses in
marching-band uniforms, complete with cheerleaders, and has earned gigs
on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and at Lollapalooza, as well as a
memorable role in Andrew Bird’s “Fitz and the Dizzyspells” video, where
the group marches into Chicago’s iconic venue The Hideout, their early
stomping ground. Tonight’s bill smartly pairs the group with John the
Savage, who create their own drunken, circus sound using far fewer
Sunday, May 23
Test Dummies @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
“Most Awesomely Bad Song Ever” according to VH1—or, according to a less
affectionate Rolling Stone ranking, the 15th most just-plainannoying
song—“Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” isn’t all that representative of Crash Test
Dummies’ baroque folk-pop sound, but for better or worse it’s the hit
single for which the band is best known. As label funds dried up at the
end of the decade, the group went independent, struggling to turn a
profi t on selfreleased albums, but this spring they returned with an
ambitious and typically experimental new record, their fi rst in six
years: Oooh La La, which bandleader Brad Roberts composed around vintage
toy instruments, including the Optigan and the Omnichord.
Monday, May 24
Midlake w/ Jason Lytle, John Grant and Heidi Spencer @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Tuesday, May 25
Tallest Man on Earth w/ Nathaniel Rateliff @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
voice so reedy it makes Bob Dylan sound like Pavarotti by comparison,
Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson fi nger-picked his way
through his 2008 debut album as The Tallest Man on Earth, Shallow Grave,
catching the ear of some infl uential bloggers. Matsson’s new The Wild
Hunt is similarly stripped-down, supplementing his voice and guitar with
the faintest accents of banjo and piano on a set that evokes the
Appalachian spirit of Mississippi John Hurt. Matsson shares this bill
with Missouri singer-songwriter Nathaniel Rateliff, who last month wowed
a modest crowd at the Turner Hall Ballroom with a commanding set that
showcased his powerful, battered voice.
Toots and The Maytals w/ The Invaders @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Throughout the ’60s
and ’70s, Toots and The Maytals recorded a slew of ska, rocksteady and
reggae hits that remain mainstays of the Jamaican songbook, including
“Pressure Drop,” “54-46 That’s My Number,” “Bam Bam,” “Monkey Man,”
“Sweet and Dandy,” and “Do the Reggay,” a 1968 single that is often
credited for naming the then-burgeoning genre. The original Maytals
dissolved ages ago, but leader Frederick “Toots” Hibbert continues to
tour heavily, his soulful croon untouched by age. On the 2005 album True
Love, he teamed with a host of guests like Willie Nelson, Keith
Richards and The Roots to revisit the Maytals’ biggest hits. This year
he released an album of new material, Flip & Twist.
Toots and The Maytals | Photo by Lee Abel