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This Week In Milwaukee

Lyle Lovett , Fish Fry & A Flick and Rufus Wainwright

Aug. 5, 2010
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Thursday, Aug. 5

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band w/ Asleep at the Wheel @ Wisconsin State Fair, 7:30 p.m.

The Wisconsin State Fair kicks off its annual 11-day run of carnival rides, cream puffs, livestock and foods on a stick today. On the festival’s Potawatomi Bingo Casino Main Stage is headliner Lyle Lovett, who will play his usual mélange of country, folk, pop and jazz with his Large Band orchestra. Lovett is paired with an inspired opening act: the long-running country-swing outfit Asleep at the Wheel, which last year released a collaborative record with Willie Nelson, Willie and the Wheel.

Cornmeal w/ SweetGrass @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

From their humble beginnings as a house band in Chicago, the progressive-bluegrass ensemble Cornmeal grew an audience that allowed them to play high-profile festivals like Bonnaroo with some of the legends of traditional bluegrass, including David Grisman, John Hartford and The Del McCoury Band. After releasing three studio albums (the latest and most accomplished of which is 2006’s Feet First), this year the band released its first live album, Live in Chicago, IL, Vol. 1. Tonight’s show is presented as part of Smoke-Free Sounds, a concert series celebrating the state’s recent smoking ban.

Robert Cray @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.

Some blues purists never forgave Robert Cray for his 1986 breakthrough album, Strong Persuader, an ultra-smooth crossover blues record that briefly made Cray a sex symbol. Those purists, however, have missed out on the great albums Cray has released since, discs that run the gamut from traditional blues to blues-soul heavily indebted to Al Green and Hi Records. Cray’s 2005 album, Twenty, stood out for its reggae-accented, anti-war title track, but Cray’s most recent disc, 2009’s This Time, was a more traditional, blues-based affair that put renewed emphasis on Cray’s showy guitar work. Many of those new songs are featured on Cray’s new live CD/DVD, Cookin’ in Mobile.

Ray Nitti w/ C-Piepz, Young Major, Kimberlee and Sheba Baby @The Miramar Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

Ray Nitti discovered rap music after he was transplanted to Milwaukee from the Virgin Islands as a teenager in the late-’90s. Last year the rapper achieved his first real taste of success when his feisty, good-natured club single “Bow!” began clocking radio play around the country, a feat that positions him as one of the city’s most commercially successful rappers in a decade. This spring, ss “Bow!” continued to receive strong airplay on local stations V100.7 and 103.7 KISS-FM, Nitti released a harder, more street-minded mixtape, April Showers. Tonight Nitti shares a bill with a host of artists from Milwaukee’s club-rap scene.

Friday, Aug. 6

Fish Fry & A Flick: The Hangover @ Discovery World, 5 p.m.

Todd Phillips’ Las Vegas comedy The Hangover made a killing at the box office upon its summer 2009 release, becoming the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time, making a star of underground comic Zach Galifianakis and spawning a sequel scheduled for release in 2011. It’s the rare blockbuster comedy that maintains the goofy, ramshackle feel of a cult comedy, making it a perfect fit for the Discovery World’s outdoor Fish Fry & A Flick movie series. The fish hits the fryer around 5 p.m.; the movie begins at dusk.

Trevor Hall w/ The Tom Fuller Band @ The Rave, 8 p.m.

Opportunity came early in life for acoustic pop songwriter Trevor Hall. With the encouragement of his father, he inked a deal with Geffen Records as a high-school senior, and moved to Los Angeles to work with producers like John Alagia. After self-releasing a handful of records without an audience, he pressed on until “Other Ways” made it on the soundtrack of Shrek the Third in 2007. In 2008, he released the breezy disc This Is Blue and a live album, Alive & On the Road, followed last year by a self-titled album, his most reggae-infused yet.

Saturday, Aug. 7

Primus w/ The Dead Kenny Gs @ The Rave, 8:30 p.m.

In the decade since the demented funk-metal band Primus last recorded an album, frontman Les Claypool has kept busy as a lauded player in the jam-rock scene, sharing stages with Trey Anastasio, Gov’t Mule, Matisyahu and Buckethead, while recording his own typically off-kilter albums with assorted ensembles. He’s played off and on with Primus, too, but until now he hadn’t shown much interest in returning to the studio with that group. It looks like that’s about to change: Primus recently reunited with original drummer Jay Lane and has been teasing a possible new album. Lane had last played with Primus in 1988, but tellingly he shares Claypool’s jam-scene ties. Most recently he was a member of the post- Grateful Dead group Furthur, with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir.

Johnny Winter w/ The Delta Jets @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

After more than 40 years on the road and a career colored by both hard knocks and critical accolades, Johnny Winter is considered a vintage blues artist—one short step away from the status of personal idols such as Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. Winter, along with his brother, fellow musician Edgar Winter, knocked around east Texas during the mid-1960s in a variety of different bands before two writers from Rolling Stone introduced the guitarist to readers as part of a 1968 article on the Texas music scene. Fame, a six-figure Columbia Records deal and critical acclaim followed. Winter soon found himself jamming with contemporaries such as Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison and performing with idols Freddie King and Muddy Waters, who themselves benefited from the blues revival Winter helped spearhead. Drug abuse, ill health and fiscal mismanagement dogged his career, but these days Winter is performing regularly again.

Tuesday, Aug. 10

Steve Miller Band w/ Dave Mason @ Wisconsin State Fair, 7:30 p.m.

Steve Miller is one of the most successful musicians ever to come out of Milwaukee, an esteemed blues guitarist who crossed over into pop-rock stardom with his 1973 album, The Joker. Singles came easily to him for the rest of the decade and into the ’80s, with classic-rock standards like “Rock’n Me,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” “Take the Money and Run” and “Abracadabra.” When Miller plays the Wisconsin State Fair’s main stage tonight, he’ll have some new music to perform. This year he released his first studio record in 17 years, Bingo!, and it’s the taut return to electric blues that many of Miller’s oldest fans were hoping for. It features covers of songs by B.B. King, Jimmie Vaughan, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed and Otis Rush.

Keane w/ Ingrid Michaelson and Fran Healy @ The Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.

It comes as no surprise that this English alt-rock outfit was discovered by Simon Williams, who also found Coldplay—a band that Keane frontman Tim Rice-Oxley was once asked to join. After years in the London pub circuit, Keane’s 2004 debut, Hopes & Fears, proved to be their breakthrough, emerging as one of the best-selling British albums of the year. Though it was slower to catch on in America, their slightly distorted 2006 follow-up, Under the Iron Sea, quickly topped the U.K. album charts and won a Grammy nomination for lead single “Is It Any Wonder?” The formula seemed to be working so well that it was a bit of a shock when the group overhauled its sound for 2008’s Perfect Symmetry, dropping the adult-contemporary balladry in favor of brisk, ’80s synth-pop. The group’s new Night Train EP is even more daring, exploring funk and electronic pop and featuring a guest appearance from Somali rapper K’Naan.

Tuesday, Aug. 10

Rufus Wainwright w/ Martha Wainwright @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

In  2007, singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright gave a spectacular concert at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theater, making good use of the theater’s acoustics to sing an a cappella Irish traditional, and performing a quick song-and-dance routine in drag as part of his tribute to Judy Garland. That concert was recorded for a live DVD and album that was released last year, Milwaukee at Last!!! Sharing a bill with his sister, folk-rocker Martha Wainwright, Rufus returns to Milwaukee tonight performing behind his stark new album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu, which he recorded alone on piano, without his usual backing orchestra.

Wednesday, Aug. 11

Jeremy Messersmith @ The Cactus Club, 9 p.m.

Twin Cities chamber-folk singer-songwriter Jeremy Messersmith sings in the dulcet tones of Sufjan Stevens and composes orchestral pop in the spirit of the Beach Boys. He’s also been making very impressive records: 2008’s The Silver City, produced by Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic’s Dan Wilson, was a welcome throwback to ’60s pop records, and his latest, The Reluctant Graveyard, is even more realized. It’s a tuneful set of songs about death that’s much more chipper than its subject matter suggests. All three of Messersmith’s records are available for pay-what-you-like download through his website. Jeremy Messersmith


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