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This Week in Milwaukee

Neil Young, Happy Birthday, Phosphorescent and The National

Jul. 29, 2010
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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.

Cary 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 alternative pop.

Vans Warped Tour @ Marcus Amphitheater, 11 a.m.

Punk’s 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.

Few 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.

When 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.

Lithic 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 Broken.

Melissa Czarnik w/ The Eric Mire Band @ Stonefly Brewing Co., 9 p.m.

Milwaukee 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.

A 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.

Maybe 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.

Though 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.

Before 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.

For 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.


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