Mar. 20 - Mar. 26
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, March 20
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks w/ John Vanderslice @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Last time Stephen Malkmus stopped in Milwaukee, he gave a completely unexpected, one-off set of 18 Pavement songs played in chronological order, while his new band, The Jicks, struggled to keep up with him. Fans can almost certainly expect a very different kind of show this time around. Malkmus’ newest album, Real Emotional Trash, is the least Pavement-like album he’s ever recorded, a collection of warped guitar jams that frequently stretch past the sixminute mark. Much of the Jicks’ newfound heaviness is the result of their new, celebrity drummer. Malkmus swapped fellow Portlander John Moen, now a Decemberist, for fellow Portlander Janet Weiss, formerly a Sleater-Kinney. The big question for tonight’s show is how Malkmus will balance his ever-increasing interest in jamming with longtime fans’ desires to hear simpler, shorter pop songs—or if he’ll even attempt to. Opener John Vanderslice writes melodically rich folk songs, fleshed out with Neutral Milk Hotel arrangements and Spoon-esque sonic quirks. Though his music is breezy and light, his subject matter as of late has not been. His last two albums are steeped in Iraq-war angst.
Glorytellers @ Cactus Club, 9:30 p.m.
After spending more than a decade fronting Karate, a frequently stunning but seldom recognized indie-rock band whose great contribution to the genre was seamlessly integrating complex, jazzy guitar chords, Geoff Farina has returned with a new band, Glorytellers, and like his last one, this group looks to early American music for inspiration. Befitting the group’s name, Glorytellers’ major muse is early folk and country ballads. On their just-released self-titled debut, Farina draws from these dramatic, unsentimental stories about war and death, calmly singing them and strumming along unobtrusively, resisting the temptation to turn up the amp or do anything else that might break his yarns’ hypnotic spell.
Friday, March 21
Les Claypool @ The Rave, 8:30 p.m.
Since Primus went dark, save for the occasional tour and retrospective release, madman bassist Claypool has had a difficult time committing himself to one steady new band, and has instead played with several short-lived lineups and side projects, most notably Oysterhead with Phish’s Trey Anastasio and The Police’s Stewart Copeland. Tonight he’ll be backed by his own drums/vibraphone/saxophone trio.
Claypool first endeared himself to metalheads in the late- ’80s, then alternative-rock kids in the ’90s, but he’s since found a particular well of support in the current jam-music scene, where he fits right in with his extended, genre-defying songs and acid-fried lyrics. Claypool has become so swept up in jam culture that he even directed a loving mockumentary about it, Electric Apricot: Quest For Festeroo.
Saturday, March 22
O’Death w/ Langhorne Slim and Clementine @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.
The name says it all. This New York quintet plays rustic, old-timey American music along the lines of the traditional funeral song they’re named for, but with a darker, punky edge. Old-time revival is quickly becoming the swing revival of the 2000s, but with their sinister fiddle and snappy songs, O’Death is better than most, and they draw as much from The Pixies as they do Tom Waits and Screamin’ JayHawkins. Singer Greg Jamie howls, yowls and yelps like a young Frank Black, and the group has even been known to slip a screamy cover of “Nimrod’s Son” into its sets.
Bob Weir and Ratdog @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Perhaps more than any other Grateful Dead offshoot band, Bob Weir and Ratdog closely guard the Dead’s legacy. With a rotating cast of touring musicians, Weir makes sure to include some choice Dead songs in each set list, and peppers the rest of his sets with can’t-miss covers (often of the very, very familiar variety) to ensure he wins over the crowd each night.
This kind of unabashed fan service has made them one of the most successful touring acts on the jam circuit, a reliable draw at any city they play.
The Starting Line w/ Bayside @ The Rave, 7 p.m.
The Starting Line are among the poppiest and most agreeable of the current crop of often indistinguishable emopunk bands, and their latest album, Direction, is so studio-polished and wholesome that it could easily be mistaken for a Jonas Brothers release. Openers Bayside are much edgier, although they’ve softened with age, toning down their morose lyrics. In 2005, the group’s drummer was killed in a freak tour van accident, so it was a welcome relief when the band returned in 2007 with The Walking Wounded, an unexpectedly optimistic album that suggested the band was making amends with the tragedy.
The Starting Line w/ Bayside
Monday, March 24
Stuart Davis @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Like Moby, power-pop singer-songwriter StuartDavis has a prominent bald dome and a propensity to share his philosophical and religious musings with anyone who will listen. Go to his MySpace page and you’ll find curious videos of him debating himself. “I don’t observe Christmas, I’m a Buddhist,” he tells himself in a video titled “Zen and the Zen of Zen.” “Dude, being Buddhist doesn’t preclude participation in common social ritual,” he responds. The video continues for another 11 minutes. A one-man Waking Life, Davis requires a certain amount of open-mindedness (and patience) to appreciate, and the fact that he’s working on inventing his own language called “IS” won’t make him any more popular with the masses who just want to have a beer and hear some music.
Wednesday, March 26
Two Loons for Tea @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
For their latest tour, the chanteusefronted Seattle trip-hop duo Two Loons for Tea has recruited some regional Wisconsin players as their rhythm section: bassist William Kopecky and Far Corner drummer Craig Walkner. These area prog-rockers promise to add an interesting, extra edge to the jazzy songs from Two Loons for Tea’s latest album, 2007’s Nine Lucid Dreams.
Pink Razors @ The Borg Ward Collective, 5 p.m.
The early ’90s were a glorious time for pop-punk, an era when the only thing pop-punk bands needed to record an album was enough cash for a few hours in a budget studio. By the end of the decade, however, pop-punk had given way to expensive, overproduced and mostly reviled mallpunk, and even the small bands that still recorded on the cheap abandoned the increasingly stigmatized genre. With their up-tempo, bratty hooks and short-but-sweet songs, Richmond, Va.’s delightful Pink Razors nod to the ’90s glory days of non-commercialized pop punk. They’re the type of band Lookout Records would snatch up in a heartbeat, if Lookout Records were still scouting new talent (and could still afford to pay its bands). Tonight they’ll play as part of a crowded bill including, among others, Chinese Telephones, Lefty Loosie, Tenement and Shang-A-Lang.