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This Week in Milwaukee

Sage Francis, Mono, Twilight Sad, Mucca Pazza, John the Savage, Midlake and The Tallest Man on Earth

May. 20, 2010
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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 Agents.

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 accent.

Midwest Metalfest @ The Rave, 6 p.m.

The 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 23)

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 members.

Sunday, May 23

Crash Test Dummies @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

The 15th “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.

For their lauded 2006 record The Trials of Van Occupanther, the Denton, Texas, folk-rock group Midlake refined their sound, forming an astute homage to the dramatics of ’70s AM rock, right down to the analog synthesizers. The group’s new Courage of Others further softens their sound to recreate the flute-laced, naturalistic meditations of ’60s British folk, paying particular homage to groups like the Strawbs and Fairport Convention. With its Renaissance Faire aesthetic, it’s a record that’s invited strong opinions. Some critics have hailed its stark vision and understated beauty, while others have denounced it as overly affected and borderline goofy. Tonight’s bill pairs Midlake with one of their earliest influences, former Grandaddy singer-songwriter Jason Lytle.

Tuesday, May 25

The Tallest Man on Earth w/ Nathaniel Rateliff @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.

With a 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.

Wednesday, May 26

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


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