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This Week in Milwaukee

Festa Italiana, Band of Horses and WMSE’s Backyard BBQ

Jul. 15, 2010
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Thursday, July 15

Festa Italiana @ Summerfest Grounds

Festa Italiana is consistently among the most highly attended of Milwaukee’s summer ethnic festivals, in large part because of the food, but this year’s fest also features a particularly rich entertainment lineup, with performances from Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, celebrity jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, former Monkee Micky Dolenz and watermelon-smasher Gallagher. Other attractions include an Italian piazza, chef demonstrations, an 18-foot-tall sand sculpture of Pinocchio, carnival rides and nightly fireworks. (Through July 18.)

Liars w/ Fol Chen @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Liars emerged at the start of the decade as one of the top draws of New York’s burgeoning dance-punk scene, before reinventing themselves as one of the most unpredictable art-rock bands of their time. Each album since 2004’s haunting, witch-themed They Were Wrong, So We Drowned has twisted their sound in unexpected directions. Their latest, Sisterworld, is typically unsettling, a claustrophobic record that hints at existential angst and sexual violence. An expanded version of the record features remixes from Thom Yorke, Devendra Banhart and members of Deerhunter, Blonde Redhead, Melvins and TV on the Radio. (This concert is the kickoff show for WMSE’s Radio Summer Camp music festival.)

Russian Circles w/ Sweet Cobra and Death Dream @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.

Drawing at times from the crushing math-rock of Don Caballero as their better-documented metal influences, Chicago’s instrumental trio Russian Circles grows more nuanced with each release. The group’s latest, 2009’s Geneva, dramatically tones down the bruising riffs of their 2006 debut, Enter, and its 2008 follow-up, Station, instead emphasizing softer, post-rock passages that only heighten the songs’ almost unbearable tension.

Old 97’s w/ David Wax Museum @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.

They’ll always be best known as an alt-country band, but on recent efforts the Old 97’s have covered more territory than that restrictive label suggests. Their latest album, 2008’s Blame It On Gravity, is their flashiest yet, a pointed set of bombastic rock and sly pop that keeps its eyes locked on the pop charts. The album’s sizzling, Latin-spiced “Dance With Me,” for instance, bears more than a little resemblance to a certain smooth Rob Thomas/Carlos Santana collaboration.

Friday, July 16

Band of Horses w/ Bryan Cates @ The Rave, 8 p.m.

Band of Horses’ new Infinite Arms is their first major label record since they left indie springboard Sub Pop, but it certainly doesn’t sound like it. No efforts were made to glitz up the indie-Americana band’s sound; in fact, if anything Infinite Arms is actually a more modest, intimate record than their breakthrough 2006 debut, Everything All the Time. That album yielded the soundtrack-friendly, lighters-up single “The Funeral,” but the new disc is unabashedly small-scale by comparison, channeling the simple charms of the ’70s folk-rock records that singer Ben Bridwell’s parents probably owned, garnished with a few direct rockers that should keep the group’s concerts lively.

Scott Lucas and The Married Men @ Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9 p.m.

Scott Lucas has spent the last two decades fronting the alt-rock duo Local H, scoring the 1996 hit “Bound for the Floor” and in recent years some critical successes that haven’t sold nearly as well. For his latest solo project, though, Lucas expands on the simple guitar/drums setup of Local H. His new backing band, The Married Men, features accordion and violin, but retains Lucas’ trademark grungy angst (Lucas wrote this set of songs to try to win back an ex-girlfriend). Opening acts tonight are Tim Schweiger and the Middlemen, Trapper Schoepp and the Shades and Surgeons in Heat.

Saturday, July 17

John Doe w/ Robbie Fulks and Nora O’Connor @ Shank Hall, 9 p.m.

John Doe was among the first and most prominent of what’s now one of music’s most common archetypes: the punk gone country. Doe still keeps his feet in both worlds, performing with his seminal Los Angeles punk band X and its country-folk offshoot The Knitters, but he does most of his recording these days under his solo alias. His latest release is last year’s Country Club, which he recorded with Canada’s go-to alt-country backing band The Sadies. Doe shares tonight’s bill with Chicago country-folk singersongwriter Robbie Fulks, who continues his iconoclastic ways on his latest album, Happy, a timely collection of Michael Jackson covers.

Eastside Jazzfest @ Miramar Theatre, 6 p.m.

With hopes of becoming an annual tradition, the inaugural Eastside Jazzfest rounds up seven acts from very different corners of the Milwaukee-area jazz scene: progressive-jazz multi-instrumentalist Isaiah Joshua; the Latin-funk combo Clamnation; the traditionalist Davis/Peplin Quartet; the fusionleaning Kevin Hayden Band; the genre-hopping Jamie Breiwick & Choir Fight; the studied The Phases Trio (with featured alto saxophonist Godwin Louis); and the Afro-beat group Tristan Royalty Squad. The bill closes with a 1 a.m. jam session that promises to pull all these varying sounds together.

Zola Jesus w/ Signaldrift and Faux Fir @ Stonefly Brewing Co., 10 p.m.

Recording under the nom de plume Zola Jesus, Madison’s burgeoning goth icon Nika Roza Danilova has been on a tear over the last couple of years, recording a slew of albums, EPs, 7-inches and side projects, all of which have been eagerly hunted down by enamored bloggers and followers. The best and most accessible of the batch is this year’s revelatory Stridulum EP, six self-produced songs of steely, cinematic pop with shades of Bjrk, Bat for Lashes and Siouxsie Sioux.

Sunday, July 18

Twin Sister w/ Mountain Man and Made of Oak @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.

Brooklyn’s Twin Sister crafts rousing, experimental pop symphonies from samples and found sounds, which can at times make them feel like a second coming of The Avalanches, though their scope is never quite as busy as that group. With her soft, awe-struck voice, singer Andrea Estella gives the band’s watercolor soundscapes a sympathetic, human focal point. The group’s latest release is this spring’s gorgeous Color Your Life EP, which, like their 2008 EP, Vampires With Dreaming Kids, is available for free through the band’s website.

WMSE’s Backyard BBQ @ Cathedral Square Park, 11 a.m.

WMSE caps its Radio Summer Camp music festival with its second annual Backyard BBQ, a free concert and grill-out in the closest thing the WMSE studios have to a back yard: Cathedral Square Park. The music is a celebration of the rural. Headliners Southern Culture on the Skids close the event at 7:15 p.m. with their rowdy countryrock, and supporting acts the .357 String Band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Eric Lindell, The Jonathan Burks Band and The Ragadors touch on similar country, blues and honky-tonk forms. Restaurants including Maxie’s Southern Comfort and the Palomino will be serving dishes like jambalaya, pulled pork, barbecue chicken, turkey legs, burgers, brats, vegan Sloppy Joes, cornbread and hand-shaken lemonade.

Tuesday, July 20

Rasputina w/ Larkin Grimm @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

Melora Creager is one of alternative-rock’s go-to cellists, having performed with Nirvana on their In Utero tour, as well as with Belle & Sebastian, The Pixies and, most extensively, Marilyn Manson. With a rotating lineup, Creager has recorded her own songs since the mid-’90s in Rasputina, a cabaret-rock band that typically pairs her with a second cellist and percussionist. The group’s sixth and latest album, Sister Kinderhook, is grounded in steampunk culture and historical fiction, with songs about Colonial Federalism and the New York Anti-Rent Wars of the 1800s. Opener Larkin Grimm records Wicca-influenced freak-folk with producer Michael Gira for his Young God record label.


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