This Week in Milwaukee
JJ Grey & Mofro, Ghost Hunters Live and Kool Keith
THURSDAY, JAN. 19
JJ Grey & Mofro w/ JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound and Daryl Hance @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
From their humble, late-'90s beginnings in the swamplands of northern Florida, the blues-funk group Mofro quickly rose through word of mouth in the receptive jam band circuit. The band's 2001 Fog City debut, Blackwater, paid homage to bandleader JJ Grey's blues and rock influences, including Muddy Waters and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Subsequent albums have been funkier, broadening Mofro's audience and opening new doors, allowing Grey to share stages with one of his icons, Booker T. Jones. The group's latest record is 2010's Georgia Warhorse, its third for the blues label Alligator Records.
FRIDAY, JAN. 20
Grease Sing-A-Long @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 6:30 p.m.
Released in 1978, near the height of 1950s nostalgia, and anchored by an iconic performance from John Travolta, Grease became the most commercially successful musical film of its time and the third-highest-grossing film of the '70s. More than three decades later, the film still commands a cult following, so much so that Paramount recently released a sing-along version of the film, inviting audiences to sing along with lyrics printed on the screen. To make sure the crowd really belts out “You're the One That I Want,” the Turner Hall Ballroom will offer ample happy-hour specials at this screening, including a $10 all-you-can-drink special from when the doors open until the movie begins. Tickets are $5, or free for college students or anybody wearing a costume.
Ghost Hunters Live @ The Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.
Not since Mario and Luigi has a pair of plumbers made such a name for themselves outside of their field as Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson. After years of investigating paranormal activity on the side, the former Roto-Rooter co-workers turned their hobby into “Ghost Hunters,” the top-rated Syfy network reality hit that has spawned countless spinoffs and knockoffs. At this live appearance, the two will discuss their methods, share stories about all the objects they swore they saw move across a dark room, and take questions from the audience.
SATURDAY, JAN. 21
Kool Keith w/ DJ Proppa Bear, Fortune and DJ Syquest @ Mad Planet, 8 p.m.
Kool Keith may or may not have actually been institutionalized for mental illness, but regardless of its veracity, that story became one of hip-hop's most powerful rumors. It's easy to see why so many people believe it: Years before Lil Wayne made lunatic rhymes fashionable, Keith was rapping in dense, manic and utterly off-the-wall imagery, first as the engine behind the goldenage Bronx rap crew the Ultramagnetic MC's, and then as the demented mind behind Dr. Octagon, his gynecologist-in-space epic with producer Dan the Automator. Keith has bounced between myriad personas since that career-defining project, among them Black Elvis, Dr. Dooom, Reverand Tom, Mr. Nogatco and Tashan Dorrsett. He's not much for quality control, but even his shakiest albums occasionally recapture the bizarre spark that made Dr. Octagon such an instant underground phenomenon.
Glen Campbell @ The Pabst Theater, 7 p.m.
After spending years as a sideman to acts including Elvis, Dean Martin and The Beach Boys, Glen Campbell became one of the biggest crossover country artists of the late '60s and early '70s, scoring the hits “Gentle on My Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Galveston.” Campbell, 75, announced last summer that he has Alzheimer's disease and will be retiring from music after one last tour. Last August he released his final album, Ghost on the Canvas, a sentimental, occasionally melancholy affair that can't help but invite comparisons to Johnny Cash's fatalistic late-period records. It features new songs written by Paul Westerberg, Jakob Dylan and Robert Pollard.
John Mueller's Winter Dance Party @ South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, 8 p.m.
On Feb. 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson died in rock 'n' roll's first great tragedy, when their chartered plane crashed in an Iowa cornfield during a massive blizzard. The three legends have spawned countless impersonators and tribute shows, the most regarded of which is currently John Mueller's Winter Dance Party, “the only show endorsed by the Holly, Valens and Richardson estates.” The Richardson estate is particularly vested: The Big Bopper's son, Jay P. Richardson Jr., who was born two months after the Day the Music Died, performs as his father in the show.
Frank Caliendo @ The Riverside Theater, 7:30 p.m.
Frank Caliendo takes a quantity-over-quality approach to celebrity impersonations, doling out dozens of them with wildly mixed results. Never mind that his Bill Clinton isn't even in the same league as Darrell Hammond's, or that the average man on the street could do a better Jerry Seinfeld; it didn't take much talent to rise to the top of “MADtv,” and Caliendo's game enthusiasm and good-natured screen presence made him that show's breakout star. In 2000, the Waukesha native's John Madden imitation earned him a spot on Fox's “NFL Sunday,” where he's since become a regular, doing impressions of the show's panelists and sharing picks in character as celebrities like Donald Trump.
MONDAY, JAN. 23
Jack's Mannequin w/ Jukebox the Ghost and Allen Stone@ The Rave, 7 p.m.
After three albums with the Orange County pop-punk institution Something Corporate, heartthrob singer-pianist Andrew McMahon put that group on hiatus to focus on the band that would become his primary musical outlet: Jack's Mannequin, a group that took his emo-leaning songwriting in poppier directions. Something Corporate reunited in 2010 to tour behind a greatest-hits album, but Jack's Mannequin remains McMahon's focus. In the fall, the group released its third album of heart-on-sleeve piano-rock, People and Things. Like the Ben Folds Five before them, the Philadelphia trio Jukebox the Ghost plays a mix of irreverent, quirky piano-pop and sincere ballads, with ample nods to Billy Joel and The Beatles. That's not to say that they're bound by those influences, though. On their hyperactive, hook-a-minute sophomore album, Everything Under the Sun, the trio began to shake those Ben Folds comparisons, dialing up the energy for a peppy set that often plays more like The Dismemberment Plan's Emergency & I than Folds' Rockin' the Suburbs.
TUESDAY, JAN. 24
Kathleen Edwards w/ Hannah Georgas @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
Kathleen Edwards' first three albums, including her 2003 debut Failer and 2008's Asking for Flowers, a harsh indictment of the Bush administration's hubris, made the Canadian singersongwriter a favorite of the “World Café” set. Her latest album, though, seems likely to introduce her to a much larger audience. Recorded with and co-produced by her in-demand beau, Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, Voyageur also features contributions from Norah Jones, John Roderick and Megafaun's Phil Cook. Vernon's fingerprints are all over the album, but they never take the focus away from Edwards' sweet voice and personal songwriting.