This Week in Milwaukee
My Morning Jacket, Summer Soulstice and Demetri Martin
Thursday, June 16
My Morning Jacket My Morning Jacket w/ Daniel Martin Moore @ The Riverside Theater, 8:30 p.m.
My Morning Jacket has evolved rapidly since the psychedelic Southern rock of their early albums, pushing themselves in more grandiose, experimental directions for 2005's tight, masterful Z and 2008's all-over-the-place Evil Urges, an album that divided critics but certainly didn't slow their rise. The band nicely corrects the overreaching of Evil Urges on their new Circuital, a more tuneful album that nonetheless packs a whole lot of thrilling experimentation into its 45-minute run time. In concert, the band is more of a traditional, Southern-flavored jam guitar band than their studio-minded records let on, playing sets that often run longer than the average football game for a crowd heavy on tape-traders and Relix subscribers.
Jazz in the Park w/ King Solomon @ Cathedral Square Park, 6 p.m.
After 10 years of gigging, King Solomon bills itself as "Milwaukee's Premier Reggae Band." They may have some competition for that title, but with their fluid rocksteady grooves, they're certainly in the top seed. Most of the group is firmly rooted in Milwaukee—band members have done time in such local acts as Citizen King and Those XCleavers—but singer JD Ranken hails from Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and brings a Caribbean flavor to the group, toasting with an authenticity few from the Midwest could replicate.
Friday, June 17
IfIHadAHiFi w/ Police Teeth, Waxeater and Absolutely @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
Milwaukee's IfIHadAHiFi churned out feverish hooks and pile-driving noise in equal measure on Fame by Proxy, the 2008 album they recorded with Faraquet's Devin Ocampo and Paper Chase's John Congleton. In advance of their upcoming Nada Surf EP, the group shares a show tonight with their Latest Flame label-mates Police Teeth. On their latest album, Awesomer Than the Devil, the Seattle group plays Fugazi-styled anthems that never feign Fugazi-styled austerity. Instead, Police Teeth let their screeds roar amicably, with the boozy vigor of Future of the Left and the peppy tempos of The Thermals.
Lakefront Festival of Arts @ Milwaukee Art Museum, noon
One of the nation's premier juried art festivals, Milwaukee's Lakefront Festival of Arts has been going strong for nearly five decades, drawing thousands of people every year. The tented, outdoor festival has expanded in recent years to include additional artist booths inside the Milwaukee Art Museum, in Windhover Hall. This year's event features more than 180 artists from around the country—as well as five from China, in conjunction with the museum's "Summer of CHINA" exhibitions—and includes live music, children's entertainment and a wine garden. (Through Sunday, June 19.)
Saturday, June 18
Summer Soulstice Music Festival @ North Avenue, noon
Where the East Side's Summer Soulstice Music Festival has featured national headliners in years past, including such acts as Sponge and Local H, for 2011 the event wisely reserves most of its lineup for big-draw local bands. This year the festival's two stages of music will feature Kings Go Forth, Fever Marlene, The Wildbirds, Call Me Lightning, The Scarring Party, The Twang Dragons and, on a shared time slot, Evan Christian and the Rusty Ps. There will also be a dodge-ball tournament, a Qdoba burrito eating contest and BMX bike demonstrations.
Demetri Martin @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Styled much younger than his 38 years, the boyish Demetri Martin has emerged as one of Comedy Central's house comedians, having contributed to "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and released three stand-up albums through the station's label before starring in a program of his own, "Important Things With Demetri Martin," a loosely themed half-hour of stand-up, prop and sketch comedy. "I wonder if there were any Goths in Gothic times," Martin ponders in a typical joke, with a delivery that suggests a youthful, less depressive Steven Wright.
Eric Benet and Kem @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Milwaukee-born R&B singer Eric Benet returned to his hometown to record his fifth album, Lost in Time, collaborating with local musicians and the string section of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. Featuring duets with Chrisette Michele, Ledisi and Faith Evans, among others, the album is a return to form for Benet, whose career had been on a slow commercial decline since the smash 1999 album A Day in the Life and its hit "Spend My Life With You." It's also Benet's most direct homage yet to the easy soul music of the '70s, rich with nods to Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
Dale Watson @ The Uptowner, 9 p.m.
Austin country purist Dale Watson often sang of tragedy even before he experienced it firsthand, but after his fiancée's death in a car accident in 2000, his songwriting took a turn toward even more emotionally pained territory. The singer's struggles coping with her death were captured in Zalman King's 2006 documentary Crazy Again, which details Watson's subsequent nervous breakdown and the period of his life he spent convinced the devil was speaking to him. Watson's recent albums have chronicled his attempts to move on and reconcile his own mortality, including 2008's To Terri With Love, which he dedicated to his fiancée, and last year's Carryin' On, a particularly vintage-minded set that Watson recorded with country-music session players from the '50s and '60s.
Slinger Rocks @ Slinger Speedway, 3 p.m.
Former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley hasn't worn his Spaceman makeup since 2002, when he left the band after what was supposed to be its farewell tour (it wasn't), but he has continued making music, releasing the 2009 solo album Anomaly, a generous helping of rowdy hard-rock and pop-metal. Frehley headlines the Slinger Rocks music festival with Blind Melon, the psychedelic alt-rock band that in 2008 released For My Friends, its first album recorded with new singer Travis Warren, who replaced deceased founding singer Shannon Hoon. Also performing: Lovehammers, Daisy Chain, The Last Vegas and The Black Saints.
Present Music @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7:30 p.m.
Present Music ends its latest season with a return performance from Amy X Neuburg, the self-described "avant-cabaret" artist whose songs fuse elements of classical and experimental pop music with a distinctly theatrical mindset. The program will also feature a performance of composer Kamran Ince's new Far Variations, an emotionally eclectic piece that fuses Eastern and Western musical traditions.
Wednesday, June 22
John Statz @ Art Bar, 9 p.m.
For his 2010 album Ghost Towns, Denver songwriter and Wisconsin native John Statz took inspiration from the more discouraging sights witnessed while touring America and traveling through foreign locales, including Bosnia and Herzegovina and Hungary, documenting the universality of urban decay. Recorded with many Madison, Wis., musicians, including members of the alt-country group Blueheels, it's a hard-chugging roots-rock record in the tradition of Neil Young and Tom Petty.
David Dondero w/ Greatest Lakes and Blessed Feathers @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
Among those who were inspired by David Dondero's shambolic, lo-fi folk was Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst, a longtime fan of Dondero (and Dondero's one-time folk-punk band This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb) who signed him to his Team Love label in 2005. Dondero's latest album, A Pre-Existing Condition, is his first since leaving Team Love, and it removes the relative bells and whistles of his three records for that label, returning the quavering singer to the allacoustic, live-from-a-cardboard-box sound of his early recordings.