This Week in Milwaukee
Neil Young, Happy Birthday, Phosphorescent and The National
Thursday, July 29
Greg Laswell and Cary Brothers w/ Harper Blynn @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
The songwriters on this double-bill are united by the self-released nature of their music and the appearance of their songs on programs like “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Greg Laswell fronted the short-lived rock band Shillglen before breaking out with his selffinanced Good Movie in 2003. His audience mushroomed with 2008’s Three Flights from Alto Nido and the subsequent placement of his songs on television shows, so it’s fitting that his latest album, Take a Bow, is his brightest, most hopeful yet, perhaps reflecting his recent successes.
Brothers’ big break came in 2004, when the Nashville songwriter’s
“Blue Eyes” was featured on the Garden State soundtrack, whetting
appetites for his 2007 debut record, Who You Are. This April’s Under
Control features more similarly soundtrack-friendly acoustic
Vans Warped Tour @ Marcus Amphitheater, 11 a.m.
most loaded tour continues its 16th year with its annual stop at the
Marcus Amphitheater. In recent years in particular, the Vans Warped Tour
has become a melting pot for disparate (and sometimes even warring)
genres of punk—from screamo to Christian to metalcore to
electro-punk—and this year’s bill reflects that diversity. Headlining
attractions include The Dillinger Escape Plan, The All-American Rejects,
Bouncing Souls, Motion City Soundtrack, Breathe Carolina and Hey
Monday, who share the bill with smaller draws like Fake Problems, Never
Shout Never, The Rocket Summer and I See Stars. Among the oddities on
the bill: Sum 41, mall-punks from another era; Pretty Reckless, the
alternative rock band fronted by “Gossip Girl” star Taylor Momsen; and
Andrew W.K., the hard-rock party guru (and perhaps the only act on the
bill less conventionally “punk” than Pretty Reckless).
Friday, July 30
Neil Young w/ Bert Jansch @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
songwriters have a richer legacy than Neil Young. After springing to
countercultural superstardom with the folk-rock groups Buffalo
Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Young launched an
enormously successful solo career, trademarking his ragged, melancholy
folk-rock in the early ’70s, then paving the way for grunge and ’90s
alternative-rock with his feedback-heavy ’80s records. He’s remained
prolific in the past decade, releasing politically and environmentally
charged albums like 2003’s Greendale, 2006’s Living With War and last
year’s Fork in the Road. In May, Young embarked on a North American solo
tour to promote his upcoming Twisted Road, playing a mix of older
songs and new material on both acoustic and electric instruments.
Saturday, July 31
Happy Birthday w/ Residual Echoes and The Jaill DJs @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
Happy Birthday frontman Kyle Thomas was too scared to play his own
songs in November 2008, he recruited guitarist Chris Weisman and drummer
Ruth Garbus (of Feathers, a band on Devendra Banhart’s Gnomonsong
label) to help him perform at a punk venue near his hometown of
Brattleboro, Vt. Ever since, Weisman and Garbus have helped Thomas
arrange his subsequent melodic guitar-pop songs. Less than a year later,
they were snatched up by Sub Pop, and their shaggy self-titled debut
arrived this March. They share this bill with Los Angeles indie-rockers
Residual Echoes. Austin Dutmer and Vinnie Kircher from the Milwaukee Sub
Pop band Jaill will DJ between sets.
Lithic w/ 20 Reasons Taken and Silence Is Broken @ BBC Bar and Grill, 9 p.m.
has been kicking around the Milwaukee hard-rock scene for a decade, but
with the release of their new EP Drowning, they’re redoubling their
efforts to make a name for themselves outside the Midwest. Produced by
Eric Greedy (Alice in Chains, Staind), the EP grinds with the focused
ferocity of Helmet and System of a Down. The band is giving it away as a
free download at lithicmusic.com. Tonight the group shares a bill with
similarly hard-edged area rockers 20 Reasons Taken and Silence Is
Melissa Czarnik w/ The Eric Mire Band @ Stonefly Brewing Co., 9 p.m.
rapper Melissa Czarnik records the type of albums that Lauryn Hill
might if Lauryn Hill were still capable of making albums: deeply
personal treatises on politics and the state of hip-hop, with
chilled-out, spoken-word undertones. Tonight Czarnik plays a release
party for her sophomore album, Raspberry Jesus, which features
collaborations with gospel-music director Maurice Cotton, members of
Kings Go Forth and the Eric Mire Band, the five-piece hip-hop/soul group
that will back her at tonight’s performance and serve as the evening’s
openers. The $10 cover includes a copy of the new album.
Saturday, July 31
Tift Merritt w/ Dawn Landes and the Hounds @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
pair of albums for Lost Highway Records at the beginning of the decade
established Texas singer-songwriter Tift Merritt as one of the most
promising of the new class of alt-country artists, but recent albums
have taken the songwriter in some unexpected directions. Her aptly
titled 2008 album, Another Country, was recorded after a long holiday in
Paris and introduced a leaner sound, and her new See You on the Moon is
even more stripped down and direct. Recorded with The
Decemberists/Sufjan Stevens producer Tucker Martine and featuring My
Morning Jacket’s Jim James, it is her most folk-oriented album yet. Tift Merritt
Tuesday, Aug. 3
Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.
if the “American Idol” Season One movie cash-in From Justin to Kelly
had not rightly bombed at the box office, the world would have been
treated to a much more interesting film about the show’s Season Two
finalists, Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken. The soft-spoken, heavyset
R&B singer and the fey, wide-eyed theater kid forged a seemingly
genuine friendship during the show and, despite their demographic
differences, their bromance has continued off-screen. The two are now
sharing a tour that promises plenty of duets.
Skyline Music: Midnight Groove @ Kadish Park, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
it doesn’t have the profile of Jazz in the Park, River Rhythms or the
competing Tuesday night concert series Chill on the Hill, the free
Skyline Music concert series in Kadish Park (in Riverwest, on North
Avenue across from the reservoir) draws one of the city’s most diverse
crowds from both the East and North sides. Tonight’s event is of special
significance: It’s a fund-raiser to help kids in Skyline’s Riverwest
youth development program take a bus tour of prominent black
universities next month. The kids will be selling food and drinks while
the funk and R&B ensemble Midnight Groove performs.
Wednesday, Aug. 4
Phosphorescent w/ J. Tillman and Mark Waldoch @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.
recording under the pseudonym Phosphorescent, Brooklyn-based musician
Matthew Houck traveled the world playing under the moniker Fillup Shack,
releasing the album Hipolit in 2000. Houck soon changed his recording
name to Phosphorescent, an exploratory alt-country guise under which he
released A Hundred Times or More in 2003. Several albums later, Houck
paid homage to one of his most enduring influences on the 2008 Willie
Nelson tribute To Willie, which he followed up with a batch of outlaw
country originals this May on Here’s to Taking It Easy. Opener J.
Tillman had already released a slew of folky solo albums before he
joined the Sub Pop indie-folk ensemble Fleet Foxes in 2008, and that
band hasn’t slowed down his solo output any. His Steve Albini-produced
seventh solo album, Singing Ax, is scheduled for a September release.
The National w/ The Antlers @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
years The National was one of indie-rock’s most infamous also-rans, the
band that slipped under the radar of critics and listeners alike, but
by 2007, when the group released its acclaimed album Boxer, the masses
had begun to take notice. This year’s follow-up, High Violet, arrived
amid a flurry of loving press that put the band on the cover of almost
every magazine of note, and the record lived up to the buzz: It’s
another lovingly crafted slab of headphone-friendly melancholy. This
bill pairs The National with another powerfully sad Brooklyn band, The
Antlers, whose album Hospice was one of last year’s most widely
acclaimed debut records.