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This Week in Milwaukee

Billy Bragg, Save the Turf Benefit and the Mondo Lucha Variety Show

Sep. 9, 2010
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Thursday, Sept. 9

Ghostland Observatory w/ Diamonds @ The Pabst Theater, 9 p.m.

The Austin-based electro-rock duo Ghostland Observatory enjoyed a watershed 2007.

After gracing the stages of Austin City Limits and Voodoo Fest in New Orleans, they appeared on “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” that fall, and soon released the live DVD Live from Austin, TX. Months later, Austin American-Statesman named them the band of the year. National critics have been less kind. The duo’s 2008 album, Robotique Majestique, was a critical flop, though fortunately for the band it was also essentially critic-proof, as are most albums of its sort. This month the band returned with another serving of goofball dance-rock, Codename: Rondo.

Billy Bragg w/ Darren Hanlon @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

For 30 years, English songwriter Billy Bragg has recorded some of the most political folk music of his time, positioning himself as his generation’s Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie. That’s not to say he’s a folk traditionalist, though. He’s collaborated with artists as diverse as R.E.M., Natalie Merchant and Less Than Jake. Two of his best albums were born of similar collaborative efforts: On the Mermaid Avenue records, he recorded original songs based on unpublished Guthrie lyrics with Wilco as his backing band. Bragg released two versions of his latest album, Mr. Love & Justice, one with lavish, full studio arrangements, and another performed solo and acoustic.

Atmosphere w/ Blueprint, Grieves, Budo and DJ Rare Groove @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.

Around the turn of the century, Atmosphere introduced a new form of hip-hop deemed “emo-rap” for its aggressively earnest lyrics, but the group avoided falling victim to the somewhat condescending label, pushing their sound and storytelling in new directions with each album. The latest is 2008’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, a series of hardscrabble narratives about down-and-out folks that keeps heads bouncing with beats that nod to old-school hip-hop. For their “All My Friends” tour, Atmosphere is touring with artists from their Rhymesayers empire: Blueprint, Grieves, Budo and DJ Rare Groove.

Friday, Sept. 10

Save the Turf Benefit @ The Cactus Club, 10 p.m.

This summer, construction crews unearthed a piece of skateboarding history: the concrete bowls of the Greenfield skateboard park The Turf, which had been buried under a building for years. Skateboarders, including many of a certain age who once skated at The Turf, are rallying to preserve (or perhaps relocate) the park, which is one of the few remaining skateboard parks from the 1970s (it even once counted Tony Hawk among its members). Tonight three Milwaukee punk bands play a benefit for the cause: Call Me Lightning, Get Rad and No Future.

Indian Summer Festival @ Summerfest grounds

Among the youngest of Milwaukee’s ethnic festivals at the Summerfest grounds, the Indian Summer Festival marks the beginning of fall while celebrating Wisconsin’s American-Indian heritage. In addition to the expected music, dance and cultural exhibitions are lacrosse games and clinics, a large marketplace, drum circles, skateboarding demonstrations, daily pow wows and the Natural Path Herbal Area with oils and teas on display. (Through Sunday, Sept. 12.)

Saturday, Sept. 11

Mondo Lucha Variety Show @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Turner Hall Ballroom’s periodic Mondo Lucha events are among the city’s oddest entertainment bills, packaging Mexican wrestling, burlesque performances and music together. Among the dancers at the latest event are Lola van Ella, Vee Valentine and Bella Sue DeVianti. The bill will also double as the album release show for Milwaukee-bred, New York-based accordionist Pezzettino and local hip-hop producer the LMNtlyst, who she collaborated with on her latest record, Lub Dub.

Sunday, Sept. 12

Circle of Empowerment Benefit @ The Coffee House, 7 p.m.

Grafton nurse Meg Boren sacrificed all the comforts of home in 2002 to build a health care clinic in a remote area of Nicaragua. With the help of donors and a steady stream of volunteers from Wisconsin, the clinic has offered health care to villagers who had been too poor or too isolated to receive reliable, modern medical care. Boren’s outreach program, called “Circle of Empowerment,” has also opened a preschool, supported an elementary school, created economic opportunities and trained health care aides. Tonight folk artists Rich Morgan, Mary Wacker and Jerry Danks perform a benefit for the program, which Boren will speak about.

Monday, Sept. 13

Hot Hot Heat w/ 22-20s, Hey Rosetta! @ The Rave, 7 p.m.

It feels like ages since Canada’s Hot Hot Heat were one of the trendiest bands in indie-rock, combining garage-rock and dance-punk into a volatile but poppy mix that couldn’t have been cooler in 2002. The group had difficulty recreating the excitement of their breakthrough debut album, Make Up the Breakdown, though, and a fruitless stint on the major label Sire did little to help them grow their audience. This year the band returned with their first new album in three years, the self-produced Future Breeds, which actually does make good on the promise of their debut record, even if it doesn’t sound nearly as fresh as it would have six years ago.

Tuesday, Sept. 14

The Films of Bruce Conner, Program 1 @ UWM Union Theatre, 7 p.m.

Although he’s also renowned for his cross-genre work in a variety of disciplines (including assemblage, sculpture, painting and photography), Bruce Conner is most famous for his filmmaking. Particularly in the mannered 1950s, Conner’s eccentric persona made him well known throughout avantgarde circles. His films, some of which are presented tonight, explored the destruction of the individual by society, commenting on misogyny, poverty and consumerism, and often incorporated pop music in a manner that some suggest laid the groundwork for the music video (an art form for which Conner himself never had much respect).

Wednesday, Sept. 15

Big Gigantic @ Miramar Theatre, 9 p.m.

The latest project from saxophonist/producer Dominic Lalli is Big Gigantic, a duo with drummer Jeremy Salken that showcases Lalli’s talent as a DJ and an improviser. The group’s first release, Fire It Up, from May 2009 on 1320 Records, quickly swept through dance music circles. That summer Lalli’s affiliation with 1320 became more pronounced when he provided well-received remixes for STS9’s album Peaceblaster. STS9 returned the favor, appearing on the title track of Big Gigantic’s new album, A Place Behind the Moon, an even funkier outing.

Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.

Though “Monsters of Yacht Rock” might have been a more apt name, Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs have teamed up to tour as the “Dukes of September Rhythm Revue,” playing with a large band that includes horns and backing vocalists. The repertoire includes some tunes from each headliner’s songbook and is also heavy on covers of classic blues, rock and R&B classics. Previous shows have included numbers by The Band, the Grateful Dead, Chuck Berry and Ray Charles.

Jeff Daniels @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Jeff Daniels’ acting career continues to thrive, but between film roles the actor dabbles in music, performing quaint, acoustic folk songs colored with gentle humor. With no pretense of greatness, Daniels has released a couple of live albums, the latest of which is last year’s Live at the Purple Rose, which he recorded at the theater he founded in Michigan.


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