This Week in Milwaukee
Rodrigo y Gabriela, Ceremony and Cults
Thursday, April 12
Rickie Lee Jones @ The Pabst Theater, 7 p.m.
Decades into a career of recording everything from jazz to pop to R&B, Rickie Lee Jones continues to throw curveballs to her fans. Her 1997 record Ghostyhead experimented with drum-heavy trip-hop, and 2007's The Sermon on Exposition Boulevard—a tough, rock 'n' roll-minded treatise on religion—was one of the most intimate albums of her career. Her most recent work, 2009's Balm in Gilead, retains that intimacy even as it finds Jones in a more collaborative mood. It contains contributions from Ben Harper, Alison Krauss, Jon Brion and the late Vic Chesnutt.
Friday, April 13
Rodrigo y Gabriela w/ C.U.B.A. and Bobby Long @ The Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.
The virtuosic Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela was versatile enough to be tapped for a Robert Rodriguez soundtrack and a Nightmare Before Christmas tribute album, all before recording what might be the only worthwhile cover of "Stairway to Heaven." That cover made the duo a hot act in world-music circles, which they continued to charm with subsequent covers of Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix and John McLaughlin. The duo recorded its latest album, Area 52, with the 13-piece Cuban orchestra C.U.B.A., which will back the band at this concert.
Rupa & The April Fishes @ South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m.
Singer Rupa Marya and her ensemble Rupa & The April Fishes hail from San Francisco, but their music takes cues from all around the world, drawing from seductive French pop, Latin tango, Gypsy swing and, on one song from the 2009 album Este Mundo, American hip-hop (it features a guest rap from The Coup's Boots Riley). The music is festive, even as the songs themselves are grounded in loss and suffering—two experiences that Marya witnesses on a nearly daily basis at her day job as a doctor at a San Francisco hospital.
Asleep at the Wheel @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 9 p.m.
Since their inception in the '70s, Austin's Asleep at the Wheel have been the most devout torchbearers of the Western swing style of country music popularized by the late Bob Wills. Throughout the decades, the ensemble has frequently crossed paths with one of Wills' most famous fans, Willie Nelson, with whom they recorded the 2009 collaboration Willie and The Wheel, which included guests Vince Gill and Paul Shaffer. The next year they teamed up with Leon Rausch, the longtime singer in Wills' band The Texas Playboys, for the album It's a Good Day.
Saturday, April 14
Ceremony w/ Get Rad, Shock Value and Pretty Wounds @ Borg Ward, 7 p.m.
Most hardcore bands would rather flame out than grow up, but those that keep going after they've exhausted their initial, youthful muse can often stumble upon great things. That's the case with the Northern California group Ceremony, which began as a purebred hardcore band in the mid-'00s before signing to the respectable indie label Matador, where they released this year's John Goodmanson-produced full-length Zoo. The rage of the band's early work is gone, replaced by '60s garage-rock riffage and moody traces of '80s post-punk, but make no mistake about it, the band still rips: Zoo is one of this spring's most rousing rock 'n' roll albums.
The English Beat w/ The Invaders @ The Pabst Theater, 7 p.m.
It's an unwritten rule that if a band exists on- and off-again long enough without making any new music, eventually it will splinter into two bands touring under the same name. At least the crossover '80s ska band The Beat was well positioned for the split, since the group had two vocalists: Dave Wakeling, the Brit-pop frontman, and Ranking Roger, the toasting reggae singer. Wakeling now fronts the American version of The Beat, called The English Beat, while Roger has carried the Beat torch in the United Kingdom. Neither camp has released a new album.
The Cave Singers w/ Absolutely, Greatest Lakes, Icarus Himself and Slow Walker @ Cactus Club, 7 p.m.
Neither Pretty Girls Make Graves nor Hint Hint were known for restraint or subtlety, so it was a surprise when members of those wild-eyed indie-rock bands formed The Cave Singers, a trio that prefers terse folk-rock and bluesy dirges. While nobody will mistake them for Fleet Foxes—their songs are sparse and raw, often leaning on a primal, percussive thump—this Seattle group has emerged as an unlikely but welcome addition to the crowded indie-folk scene. The group filled their 2009 album for Matador Records, Welcome Joy, with elemental images of death, nature and baptism, and the group's 2011 follow-up, No Witch, was even moodier.
Blue October w/ Girl in a Coma and Justin Furstenfeld @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
The Texas modern-rock quintet Blue October draws from the lighter sounds of late-'90s alternative rock. With their swooning choruses and post-grunge angst, the band's breakout 2006 singles "Hate Me" and "Into the Ocean" played like relics from the MTV Buzz Bin circa 1997, so it's not surprising that they were embraced by alternative-radio formats that have never moved beyond that era. One of the group's most unexpected breaks came when Twilight scribe Stephenie Meyer heartily endorsed the band, introducing them to her massive fan base. Last year the group released its sixth studio album, the synth-drenched Any Man in America, which documents singer/guitarist Justin Furstenfeld's bitter divorce and the custody battle for his daughter.
Sunday, April 15
Death Cab for Cutie w/ Magik*Magik Orchestra and Low @ The Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.
Death Cab for Cutie's 1998 studio debut, Something About Airplanes, introduced yet another charming little Pacific Northwest band infinitely indebted to Built to Spill's wobbly, heartsick guitar-pop. With its nasally cries, clumsy guitars and careening stabs of cello, the album seldom deviated from There's Nothing Wrong With Love's reliable playbook, but on subsequent releases the band would begin to distinguish itself from its regional peers, crafting a tightly woven, achingly romantic strain of indie-rock that's made them the darlings of both college- and alternative-radio stations. The group's dreamy 2011 album, Codes and Keys, featured strings from the Magik*Magik Orchestra, a San Francisco ensemble that's backed artists including Third Eye Blind, How to Dress Well, Sting and The Dodos. They'll be joined by that string section for this show.
Tuesday, April 17
Best of Milwaukee Web Awards Party @ The Wherehouse, 6 p.m.
This winter, the Shepherd Express and expressmilwaukee.com asked readers to vote for their favorite Milwaukee-area websites, blogs, Twitter personalities and tech-savvy businesses for the second annual Best of Milwaukee Web Awards. The winners of those awards will be printed in next week's issue of the Shepherd, but first they'll be announced at tonight's awards party and networking event at the Wherehouse. There will be a build-your-own-burger bar from Sobelman's, cupcakes from the Milwaukee Cupcake Co., drink specials and door prizes, including an iPad. Doors open at 6 p.m., the awards will be announced at 8 and Milwaukee's hip-hop band Fresh Cut Collective will keep the party going after the awards with a live performance.
Wednesday, April 18
Cults w/ Mrs. Magician and Spectrals @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
The Manhattan indie-pop duo Cults charmed music blogs with their 2010 debut single "Go Outside," a sunshine-soaked tower of double-dipped cotton candy heavily indebted to '60s girl groups. On the strength of that perfect summer pop song, the band landed a deal with Lily Allen's Sony-backed label In the Name Of, where they released last year's self-titled full length. The album rarely matches the gleeful heights of "Go Outside," but it conveys the same sense of euphoria throughout. It brims with twinkling glockenspiels, joyous handclaps and wistful doo-wop melodies.