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This Week in Milwaukee

Passion Pit, Crooked Fingers, Public Enemy, Cypress Hill and Usher

Jun. 24, 2010
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Thursday, June 24

Passion Pit @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.

Though Michael Angelakos began Passion Pit as a solo project, writing songs for his girlfriend in his dorm room at Boston’s Emerson College, a lineup of Berklee College of Music students formed around him, and within a year the enthused synth-pop group’s Chunk of Change EP was charming all the right music blogs. Manners, the group’s 2009 full-length debut, proved the band’s broader commercial appeal, becoming an unexpected hit on the alternative-rock charts. Tonight’s show is the group’s second of three in Milwaukee this year, following a sold-out show at the Riverside Theater in spring and preceding an opening slot for Muse at the Bradley Center in the fall.

Crooked Fingers @ Club Garibaldi, 9 p.m.

Following the breakup of influential North Carolina indie-rock band Archers of Loaf in 1998, vocalist Eric Bachmann launched Crooked Fingers as his de facto solo project. By distancing himself from his previous group’s drunken wallowing, Bachmann has used Crooked Fingers as an opportunity to paint with lighter musical shades and showcase his skills as a singer-songwriter. Following 2008’s Forfeit/Fortune, which featured guest vocals from Neko Case, next month Bachmann will release Reservoir Songs II, a sequel to Crooked Fingers’ 2002 covers EP.

Friday, June 25

Public Enemy @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.

Twenty years ago, the militantly political rap band Public Enemy would have been a controversial booking for a music festival like Summerfest, but the group has softened its image over the years. Leader Chuck D has embraced his role as a hip-hop elder statesman and commentator, while hype-man Flavor Flav and his unorthodox love life became the basis for a franchise of VH1 reality shows.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers w/ ZZ Top @ Marcus Amphitheater, Summerfest, 7:30 p.m.

It took Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers eight years to follow up their last album, but it’s easy to see why the group was in no rush: Their 2002 record The Last DJ documented Petty’s frustrations with the record industry. The group’s new Mojo is much less jaded, though not necessarily any more commercial. It may be the band’s most bluesy album yet, prioritizing long, winding jams over radio-friendly hooks. (Also Saturday, June 26.)

Sleepy Sun w/ Red Knife Lottery and We Are Your Father @ The Cactus Club, 10 p.m.

Perhaps motivated by encouraging reviews of their 2009 debut, Embrace, San Francisco freak-rockers Sleepy Sun pushed their druggy, psychedelic rock into even more extreme directions on their new Fever, a claustrophobic record that exaggerates the darker, bluesy undercurrents that ran through bands like Cream, Iron Butterfly and Jefferson Airplane.

Saturday, June 26

Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band @ Alpine Valley, 8 p.m.

Jimmy Buffett, the world’s richest beach bum, is an alchemist capable of transforming innocuous novelty songs into lucrative restaurant franchises. And while most songwriters of his era have become nostalgia acts, Buffett remains a bona fide cultural phenomenon and one of the biggest touring draws in the world. His latest record is encores, a double-disc live compilation of rarities and covers he performed during his 2008 and 2009 tours.

The Wood Brothers @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

Upright bassist Chris Wood has been doing double duty in recent years, playing with his jam-jazz trio Medeski Martin & Wood while moonlighting with his guitarist/singer brother, Oliver, as The Wood Brothers. The brothers, who have an earthier, rootsier sound than Medeski Martin & Wood, have been particularly busy in recent years. This summer they followed up their 2008 album, Loaded, with Up Above My Head, an eight-song EP that includes covers of The Beatles and Steve Earle, as they finished recording an upcoming full-length album with producer Jim Scott.

Sunday, June 27

Robert Randolph and The Family Band @ Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest, 9:30 p.m.

Drawing from his religious and musical education at the House of God Church in New Jersey, Robert Randolph plays what many African-American Pentecostal churches refer to as “Sacred Steel,” the steel guitar. Though informed by gospel, his music also draws heavily from the electric blues of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton.

This month, Randolph released his latest album, We Walk This Road, which he recorded with producer T-Bone Burnett.

Monday, June 28

Eric Clapton w/ Roger Daltrey @ The Marcus Amphitheater, Summerfest, 7:30 p.m.

With his legacy as one of the greatest blues and rock guitarists cemented decades ago, Eric Clapton has slowed down his stream of new studio output to a trickle this decade—his last album was 2005’s subdued Back Home—but he remains a force in concert, as demonstrated by Live from Madison Square Garden, his 2009 concert album with former Blind Faith band mate Steve Winwood. Clapton’s bill at the Marcus Amphitheater pairs him with a different rock legend: Roger Daltrey, The Who singer who last released a solo album in 1992.

Tuesday, June 29

Cypress Hill @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.

Those who remember the groundbreaking Latino rap group Cypress Hill for the weed-fueled paranoia of early hits like “How I Could Just Kill a Man” and “Hand on the Pump” may be surprised by the directions the group has taken in recent albums. The cloud of marijuana smoke remains, but this year’s Rise Up is marked by a friendlier party vibe and more pronounced Latin pop and reggaeton influences, most notably on the single “Armada Latina,” which features singer Marc Anthony and Cuban rapper Pitbull.

Wednesday, June 30

Usher @ The Marcus Amphitheater, Summerfest, 7:30 p.m.

R&B crooner Usher flirted with fame throughout the ’90s, marketed as a teen-friendly alternative to R. Kelly, but it was his 2004 blockbuster Confessions, the second-best-selling album of the 2000s, that cemented his adult stardom. Usher remains one of the music industry’s few sure-fire hit-makers. His newest record, Raymond v. Raymond, has already placed a whopping five Top 40 singles on the Billboard charts, including the arena-sized club cut “OMG,” one of many songs that should allow Usher to flaunt his Michael Jackson-esque footwork live.

Steve Hackett Band & Renaissance @ South Milwaukee PAC, 8 p.m.

Guitarist Steve Hackett played with Genesis during the band’s proggiest period, from 1970 to 1977, and became the first member of the group to record a solo album (1975’s Usher

Voyage of the Acolyte, which thanks in part to its contributions from Phil Collins and Michael Rutherford, is regarded as a lost Genesis album). Hackett has been particularly prolific late in his career, releasing six solo albums over the last decade, the latest of which, 2009’s Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth, summons a rich, symphonic sound (a shock, considering that it was recorded not in a studio but in Hackett’s living room). This bill pairs him with another English prog band of Genesis’ vintage, Renaissance.

The Moody Blues @ M&I Classic Rock Stage, Summerfest, 9 p.m.

An R&B-leaning British invasion rock band that took a turn toward the proggy in the late-’60s, when success afforded them the opportunity to begin recording symphonic opuses, The Moody Blues celebrated their 45th anniversary last year. Though the band hasn’t been immune to lineup changes—founding flautist Ray Thomas retired in 2002—the core of their classic lineup has stayed intact, and guitarist Justin Hayward’s clear voice remains the focal point of the group’s sound.


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