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This Week in Milwaukee

Will Hoge, Decibully and Heidi Spencer

Mar. 31, 2011
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Will Hoge @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

Nashville songwriter Will Hoge set out to become a history teacher, but he left Western Kentucky University to pursue music. The rustic, soulful roots-rock sound of his independently released album Live at the Exit/In drew attention from Atlantic Records, which signed him in 2002 and produced his first studio album, Carousel. Though the stint with Atlantic was short-lived, Hoge went on to carve a niche in the Southern country-rock genre and release six more records, including 2009's The Wreckage, a record inspired by a car crash that nearly killed him in 2008.

Jack Oblivian w/ John Paul Keith and The Midwest Beat @ Cactus Club, 9:30 p.m.

Jack Oblivian has been involved with more than a dozen bands and solo projects over the course of his career, including The Compulsive Gamblers and The Tennessee Tearjerkers, but the most celebrated of them remains the Oblivians, the Memphis group that helped lay the groundwork for many of the bluesy, garage-punk acts that would emerge after their 1998 breakup. Though that group has reformed for scattered reunion shows in recent years, Oblivian continues to focus most of his energy toward his solo projects.


Dennis DeYoung @ The Pabst Theater, 8:30 p.m.

As a founding member of Styx, Dennis DeYoung used his showy synth-keyboard style and commanding lead vocals to distinguish the group's progressive rock during its 1970s and early-'80s heyday. Creative differences began to divide the band after 1981's theatrical concept album, Paradise Theater, and 1983's "Mr. Roboto"-yielding concept album, Kilroy Was Here, leading to a five-year hiatus starting in 1984 that began DeYoung's solo career. DeYoung split from Styx permanently in 1999, but he continues to tour behind the band's songbook. At tonight's acoustic concert he will perform many of the band's hits on a grand piano.

The English Beat w/ The Invaders @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

It's an unwritten rule that if a band exists on- and off-again long enough without making any new music, eventually that band will splinter off into two bands touring under the same name. At least the '80s British ska-pop band The Beat were well positioned for that split, since the group had two vocalists: Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger. Wakeling now fronts the American version of The Beat, called The English Beat, which continues to tour the nostalgia circuit, much to the delight of young ska fans, while Roger has carried The Beat torch in the United Kingdom.


Decibully w/ Joe Crockett @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.

After a four-year lapse between records brought on in part by a split from the record label Polyvinyl, the Milwaukee indie-rock septet Decibully released their third album, 2009's World Travels Fast, on band members Andy Menchal and Nick Sanborn's own Listening Party label on vinyl and as a pay-what-you-like-download. It's the best album yet from the group, a collection of spectral, widescreen folk songs charged by cascades of huge, crashing guitars. The band is finishing its follow-up for a near-future release, though tonight's show could be the band's last for a while since guitarist Ryan Weber is beginning a stint in the Peace Corps this spring.

Heidi Spencer and the Rare Birds @ Linneman's Riverwest Inn, 8 p.m.

Milwaukee songwriter Heidi Spencer touched on some dark places on her first two albums, but her latest release, Under Streetlight Glow, lets in a good deal of brightness while retaining the cozy, late-night feel of those earlier efforts. Guided by Spencer's pretty voice, a lovely quiver indebted to Dolly Parton, Glow is a more hopeful collection of songs about creature comforts and the quiet satisfaction of realized dreams. That more optimistic outlook is fitting, given that the record is Spencer's first for the esteemed independent folk and alt-country label Bella Union. Tonight Spencer plays her first local show since that album's release at the same venue where she played her very first shows, Linneman's Riverwest Inn. Jeremiah Nelson and 4th Street Elevator open.

Railroad Earth @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 9 p.m.

Taking their name from a Jack Kerouac short story, Railroad Earth fuses bluegrass, rock 'n' roll and occasional hints of jazz into their Grateful Dead-styled vision of Americana. Formed in Stillwater, N.J., Railroad Earth is more studio-minded than some of their jamscene peers, having recorded six albums since their 2001 beginnings (including two for the String Cheese Incident's SCI Fidelity label), but they're also known for their improvisation-heavy live performances.


The Edible Book Show @ Woodland Pattern Book Center, 1 p.m.

In one of Woodland Pattern Book Center's quirkiest annual traditions, now in its fifth year, audiences show up to marvel at the beauty of homemade books—and then eat them. The edible books will be judged by the audience for their creativity, difficulty and, of course, tastiness.

Participants can enter their books into one of three divisions: youth (age 17 and under), adult (age 18 and up) or business (for bakeries, restaurants and caterers).

Cody Canada and the Departed @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

For 15 years, Yukon, Okla.-born Cody Canada fronted the band Cross Canadian Ragweed, melding the red dirt music influences he gleaned from his experiences in Oklahoma with alternative rock sensibilities. The band's breakup occurred shortly after the release of their 2009 album, Happiness and All the Other Things, but their sound lives on through Canada's new group, Cody Canada and the Departed. Slated for release this June, the band's debut album, This Is Indian Land, will feature a combination of covers and originals saturated with Okie flavor.

Bright Eyes w/ Titus Andronicus @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.

By 2008, singer-songwriter Conor Oberst seemed to have outgrown the Bright Eyes moniker he had been recording under since he had been a teenager. So he moved on, recording an Americana-minded 2008 self-titled solo album and a 2009 follow-up that spotlighted his backing Mystic Valley Band, as well as an album with M. Ward and My Morning Jacket's Jim James as Monsters of Folk. He made good on his promise to revisit Bright Eyes one last time before retiring the project, though, releasing this year's possible swan song The People's Key, a keyboard-heavy pop album far removed from his recent forays into country. New Jersey openers Titus Andronicus, who owe an obvious debt to Bright Eyes' early recordings, made an impressive statement with last year's album The Monitor, an utterly audacious Civil War-themed punk-rock opera.


Three Days Grace w/ My Darkest Days @ The Rave, 8 p.m.

After the Canadian hard-rock band Groundswell broke up in 1997, they reformed as Three Days Grace and eventually attracted the attention of Jive Records with their seething single "I Hate Everything About You," which became the breakout single of their self-titled album. In 2009 the Nickelback-esque quartet dropped their third and most recent album, the typically cathartic Life Starts Now, another collection of toxic rock anthems that brim with aggressive, alt-metal guitar riffs and hammering percussion.

The Ready Set @ The Rave, 7 p.m.

Building on the foundation of emotive pop-rock of contemporaries Never Shout Never and Boys Like Girls, Jordan Witzigreuter's one-man band The Ready Set adds electronics to the formula, incorporating the drum machines and Auto-Tuned warbling of Top 40 radio. Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz heard promise in Witzigreuter, signing The Ready Set to his Decaydance Records and releasing its first studio album, I'm Alive, I'm Dreaming. The saccharine, cheery pop single "Love Like Woe" emerged as a summer hit. The Ready Set plays tonight supported by openers Allstar Weekend, The Downtown Fiction, We Are The In Crowd and You, Me, And Everyone We Know.


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