This Week in Milwaukee
Rachel Yamagata, Paul Simon and The Game
THURSDAY, NOV. 10
Rachael Yamagata w/ Mike Viola @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
In the two years following her popular debut record, singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata broke with her label, floundered in love and suffered the loss of her stepmother. She retreated to the wooded mountains outside of Woodstock, N.Y., to channel her woes into what turned out to be a whole lot of songs, resulting in her 2008 double-album, Elephants... Teeth Sinking Into Heart. The two discs split the songs by emotion. Elephants was sad, filled with the piano-accompanied heartache that made Yamagata's music a staple of melodramas like "Grey's Anatomy." Teeth Sinking Into Heart was angry, built around Yamagata's first forays into defiant guitar rock. Funded by fan donations and released through her own label, the songstress' latest album, Chesapeake, is less turbulent and features a more hopeful lyrical bent
Cornmeal @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
From their humble beginnings as a house band in Chicago, the progressive-bluegrass ensemble Cornmeal grew an audience that allowed them to play high-profile festivals like Bonnaroo with some of the legends of traditional bluegrass, including David Grisman, John Hartford and The Del McCoury Band. After releasing three studio albums (the latest and most accomplished of which is 2006's Feet First), last year the band released its first live album, Live in Chicago, IL, Vol. 1.
FRIDAY, NOV. 11
Paul Simon w/ Punch Brothers @ The Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.
Plenty of graying folkies from the '60s are still releasing new music, but few can match the vitality of folk-pop luminary Paul Simon. The singer-songwriter is touring behind this April's So Beautiful or So What, one of his best-reviewed albums since his landmark 1986 world-fusion album, Graceland. It's the work of a musician who sounds far younger than his 70 years, a fearless set of textured, polyrhythmic tracks built from guitars and loops. Simon is joined on the tour by a full band of multi-instrumentalists, so expect plenty of saxophone, keyboards and African guitars and percussion. The opening act Punch Brothers is the primary creative outlet for former Nickel Creek mandolinist Chris Thile.
Ace Frehley w/ The Last Vegas and Black Box @ The Rave, 8 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, obviously), but he has continued making music, releasing the 2009 solo album Anomaly, a generous helping of rowdy hard-rock and popmetal. Those songs should make for a rousing show on their own, but the guitarist also throws plenty of KISS favorites into his set for good measure.
Kneel to Neil Benefit @ Linneman's Riverwest Inn, 7:30 p.m.
For the seventh year in a row, area musicians with a shared love of Neil Young's songbook are gathering at Linneman's Riverwest Inn on a bill to raise money for the Bridge School for handicapped children and WMSE 91.7. Performers include The Aimless Blades, The Carolinas, Carrie Melton, Vic & Gab, Will Phalen, The WhiskeyBelles, Edward Burch, The Viper and His Famous Orchestra, Paul Cebar, Juniper Tar and Chris DeMay.
Game w/ DJ Dummy @ The Rave, 7 p.m.
Just as quickly as the Compton rapper formerly known as The Game (he's just Game now) injected new life into West Coast rap, proving to the world how great Cali G-funk could sound in the new millennium, he wore out his welcome with comically indiscriminate beefs and albums that increasingly exhausted their muse (notably 2008's star-studded but tired LAX). This summer's The R.E.D. Album picks up where that record left off, surrounding the querulous rapper with all the top-tier producers and guests money can buy, including Lil Wayne, Drake, Rick Ross, Young Jeezy, Chris Brown, Nelly Furtado, Snoop Dogg and Game's great muse, Dr. Dre.
SATURDAY, NOV. 12
Christopher Paolini@ The Pabst Theater, 1 p.m.
Selling 25 million books is a massive achievement for any author, but for Christopher Paolini, author of the best-selling Inheritance Cycle fantasy series, the feat is made even more impressive by his age. He was just a teenager when he wrote the series' inaugural installment, Eragon, in 2002, and he now holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for youngest best-selling author. This week Paolini released the fourth and final installment in the series, Inheritance, which is sure to be one of the year's biggest literary blockbusters. Paolini's appearance this afternoon includes a book signing, meet-and-greet, lecture and Q&A session, so have all of your dragon-related questions ready.
In the two years following her popular debut record, singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata broke with her label, floundered in love and suffered the loss of her stepmother. She retreated to the wooded mountains outside of Woodstock, N.Y., to channel her woes into what turned out to be a whole lot of songs, resulting in her 2008 double-album, Elephants... Teeth Sinking Into Heart. The two discs split the songs by emotion. Elephants was sad, filled with the piano-accompanied heartache that made Yamagata's music a staple of melodramas like "Grey's Anatomy."
Teeth Sinking Into Heart was angry, built around Yamagata's first forays into defiant guitar rock. Funded by fan donations and released through her own label, the songstress' latest album, Chesapeake, is less turbulent and features a more hopeful lyrical bent.
Crooked Fingers w/ Strand of Oaks and Testa Rosa@ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
Following the breakup of influential North Carolina indie-rock band Archers of Loaf in 1998, vocalist Eric Bachmann launched Crooked Fingers as his de facto solo project. Distancing himself from his previous group's drunken wallowing, Bachmann has used Crooked Fingers as an opportunity to paint with lighter musical shades and showcase his skills as a singer-songwriter. The band followed 2008's Forfeit/ Fortune, which featured guest vocals from Neko Case, with last year's Reservoir Songs II, a sequel to Crooked Fingers' 2002 covers EP, and this year's full-length Breaks in the Armor, which masterfully balances hard-grooving rock songs with unsettling, quieter moments.
Awolnation w/ Middle Class Rut and Twin Atlantic @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Musician Aaron Bruno thinks in big ideas. With his electro-rock band Under the Influence of Giants, he paid homage to the big names of classic rock and funk. His solo project Awolnation is less cheeky, but no less ambitious. The band's debut album, Megalithic Symphony, is as big as its title suggests, a dance-rock album so audacious that its single "Sail," a moderate alternative-radio hit, pays homage to the classic Styx anthem "Come Sail Away."
Rally to Recall Scott Walker @ Club Garibaldi, 9 p.m.
The Scott Walker recall effort has begun, and United Wisconsin is looking to raise money for the cause with this fund-raising concert. The $5 show (Walker-related trivia begins at 7 p.m.) features performances from indie-rockers Fahri, the electro-pop group Canopies, Ssssnake (a band featuring former members of Little Blue Crunchy Things and Chicago's Mucca Pazza), and Surgeons in Heat's Johnathon Mayer.
Local Love: The Milwaukee Music Scene Photography Exhibit @ BYO Studio Lounge, 6 p.m.
The latest exhibit at Bay View's BYO Studio Lounge puts the spotlight on Milwaukee's music scene by showcasing the images of three photographers, Peggy Howe, Anita Burgermeister and Jennifer Schoenholtz. Among the musicians they've photographed for the exhibit are Into Arcadia, Burning Sons, Paul Cebar, Willy Porter, Fever Marlene, Scott Berendt, Semi-Twang, Chris Tishler and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The exhibit opens with this Saturday night reception and runs through Dec. 4.
TUESDAY, NOV. 15
Found vs. Found@ Oriental Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
Two organizations that take endless joy from discarded artifacts, FOUND Magazine and the Found Footage Festival, have teamed up for a 15-date tour celebrating all things found. FOUND Magazine compiles each issue from notes and letters discovered on the ground, while the Found Footage Festival screens some impossibly bizarre videos dug up at thrift stores and garage sales. This live show will present generous samples of found items and promises an evening of "music, comedy and blood." Tickets are $13, and $1 from each ticket benefits the local nonprofit Artists Working in Education.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 16
John Mellencamp @ The Riverside Theater, 6:30 p.m.
Like that other small-town-romanticizing heartland-rocker, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp balances pop prowess with bighearted, populist ambitions. Even his flagwaving Chevrolet-selling love letter to the working class, "Our Country," was anchored by a progressive message of tolerance. If that song, with its triumphant accompaniment from country titans Little Big Town, felt a bit like a bid for the radio, there's nothing remotely commercial about Mellencamp's T Bone Burnett-produced latest album, No Better Than This, as straight of a folk album as he's ever made.
Ex Fabula @ Stonefly Brewery, 7:30 p.m.The Ex Fabula storytelling slam invites Milwaukeeans of all stripes to share comedic or dramatic five-minute stories in front of a live audience. The catch:
No notes are allowed. At the end of the night, the audience votes for its favorite story. Each month's event is built around a theme, and this month's choice, "Close Call," promises an especially exciting John Mellencamp batch of stories.