This Week in Milwaukee
Passion Pit, Crooked Fingers, Public Enemy, Cypress Hill and Usher
Thursday, June 24
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.
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.
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.
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
Monday, June 28
Clapton w/ Roger Daltrey @ The Marcus Amphitheater, Summerfest, 7:30
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.
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.
Usher @ The Marcus Amphitheater, Summerfest, 7:30
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
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
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’
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.