This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, Jan. 6
Straight to Hell @ Times Cinema, 7 p.m.
Idiosyncratic even by director Alex Cox’s standards, the 1987 absurdist spaghetti Western Straight to Hell was scripted and filmed quickly—when a planned Nicaraguan concert tour with Joe Strummer, Elvis Costello and The Pogues was scrapped, Cox cast the musicians as cowboys, bank robbers and the like in this over-the-top, comedic homage to Sergio Leone’s epics. Unsurprisingly, critics loathed the film, but with its punk-rock mentality, ramshackle plot seemingly pieced together from bits and pieces of Clash lyrics, and lunatic performances from counterculture heroes like Dennis Hopper and a pre-fame Courtney Love, the movie quickly found the cult audience for which it was always intended. The Times Cinema screens a remastered version of the movie through Saturday.
Friday, Jan. 7
Kip Winger @ Smokin’ Joes, 8 p.m.
Among the hair-metal bands whose commercial heyday was cut short by the early-’90s alternative-nation rise was Winger, the glossy, hardsexing group that scored pre-Nirvana hits with songs like “Headed for a Heartbreak” and “Can’t Get Enuff.” Frontman Kip Winger, a one-time member of Alice Cooper’s band, reunited his eponymous band in the middle of the 2000s, picking up where they left off with albums like 2009’s Karma, but he’s also branched off in some unlikely directions, scoring a 30-minute piece for the San Francisco Ballet. Expect him to stick to more traditional fare when he performs solo acoustic for this show.
Ian & the Dream w/ The Color Truth and Revision Text @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Milwaukee trio Ian & The Dream, who cut their teeth at local talent searches and battle of the bands competitions before leaping into the local club circuit, plays brisk, summer-day poprock with ample nods to The Beatles, as well as ’90s alt-pop staples like Weezer and Third Eye Blind. They share tonight’s bill with The Color Truth, whose brand of pop-rock draws from heartstring-tuggers like the Goo Goo Dolls and Semisonic, and the West Allis guitar-pop band Revision Text.
Saturday, Jan. 8
Brewcity Bruisers @ U.S. Cellular Arena, 8 p.m.
For its fifth season, Milwaukee’s all-women roller derby league Brewcity Bruisers has set a fairly ambitious goal: to have the most attendees ever at a U.S. roller-derby bout. They’re well on their way: After consistently selling out the Milwaukee County Sports Complex last season, this year the girls have moved their bouts to the U.S. Cellular Arena. This season-opener pits the Rushin’ Rollettes against the Shevil Knevils, and the Crazy 8s against Maiden Milwaukee.
Margaret Leng Tan @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7:30 p.m.
Singapore-born, Juilliard-trained classical pianist Margaret Leng Tan spent more than a decade collaborating with experimental composer John Cage, working closely with him until his 1992 death.
Shortly after, Tan found a new muse: toy pianos, an instrument that Cage had also been fond of.
Last year Tan followed her 1997 album The Art of the Toy Piano with She Herself Alone: The Art of the Toy Piano 2. Tonight she’ll be performing a different piece, Ge Gan-ru’s Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!, joined by a 17-piece toy orchestra.
Sunday, Jan. 9
The Bad Plus @ The Marcus Center, 7 p.m.
The acoustic New York jazz trio The Bad Plus earned crossover attention for their deconstructed covers of unlikely rock songs, most famously Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but that attention has too often overshadowed their reputation as genuine jazz virtuosos, players with a knack for blurring the line between composition and improvisation. It’s probably for the best, then, that The Bad Plus eschewed covers altogether on their latest album, last fall’s Never Stop, opting instead for clever pianobased originals. This is great jazz music without the novelty factor.
The Bad Plus | Photo by Cameron Wittig