This Week in Milwaukee
New Edition and Locust Street Festival
Thursday, June 7
Jazz in the Park w/ Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys @ Cathedral Square Park, 6 p.m.
Milwaukee's classiest free concert series, Jazz in the Park, begins its 2012 season with an evening of music from one of the city's most prominent blues combos: Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys. The group plays searing, harmonica-laced electric blues in the spirit of Junior Wells and Jimmy Rogers, mixing originals with the occasional cover song. The music begins at 6 p.m., but the festivities get started at 5 p.m. with happy-hour specials. Patrons will have to buy their wine on site, though; once again, no carry-in alcohol is allowed.
Air Sex World Championships @ Stonefly Brewery, 9 p.m.
A racier cousin of the already-esoteric Air Guitar contests that tour the country, the Austin-based Air Sex World Championships invite challengers to act out making sweet, sweet love to the music of their choice. Each contestant has two minutes to wow the judges. There are only two rules: No nudity is allowed, and all orgasms must be simulated. Aside from that, all bets are off.
Packer Fans from Outer Space @ Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, 7:30 p.m.
As the production's name suggests, Packer Fans from Outer Space doesn't shy away from camp. Written and rewritten over six years by Lee Becker and Frederick "Doc" Heide, the musical takes place in Juddville, Wis., where fictional fruit farmer Harvey Keister must save a group of Packer aliens from the enemy Space Bears. Harvey's wife, Marge, however, is a Bears fan and thinks her husband has gone crazy. The play, which includes several reputable Milwaukee actors, was inspired by UFO reports from the Door County Advocate in 1952, along with an unusual Packers/Bears match in November 1953.
Friday, June 8
The Pines @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
The men of The Pines have a humble appearance and hushed sound: The wavering vocals of Benson Ramsey and David Huckfelt dance with melancholy banjo and slide guitar melodies, while a subtle synth or cello often haunts the background. However, the band can take pride in their rare beginnings. Ramsey and Huckfelt, both from Iowa, began playing together while staying in the same neighborhood in Arizona. After settling down in Minneapolis, they added Ramsey's brother Alex on keyboards, drummer J.T. Bates, bassist James Buckley and banjo player Michael Rossetto. The group quickly gained acclaim and was signed to Red House Records in 2007. That year, they released their debut album, Sparrows in the Bell. The group's latest, the dusky Dark So Gold, arrived this winter.
New Edition @ U.S. Cellular Arena, 8 p.m.
New Edition began in the late '70s as a bubblegum teen-pop group in the vein of The Jackson 5, but as the '80s progressed, the group kept up with the trends better than most of their peers. They became early innovators of a fusion of hip-hop and R&B called new jack swing, and an inspiration for countless contemporary R&B singers and boy bands. Though New Edition has existed in an off-and-on state for the last couple of decades, this reunion tour commemorating the 30th anniversary of their debut album, Candy Girl, includes all original members, including Bell Biv DeVoe singers Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe, and troubled icon Bobby Brown, who sat out the group's 2004 album for Diddy's Bad Boy label, One Love.
Okka Fest @ Sugar Maple, 9 p.m.
Sugar Maple and Palm Tavern owner Bruno Johnson is passionate about two things: beer and free jazz. For the fourth year in a row, he'll host an assortment of free jazz and improvisational music by artists signed to or affiliated with his long-running Okka Disk record label at Okka Fest, a three-day run of performances at his bars. Among the players who will be performing at the fest, either solo or in ensembles, are Paal Nilssen-Love, Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark, Nate McBride, Tim Daisy and Dave Rempis, who will play with his percussion quartet. (Through Sunday, June 10.)
Saturday, June 9
Mechanical Kids @ The Miramar Theatre, 7 p.m.
Similar to many emo-leaning dance-rock groups attempting to grow an audience without label support, Mechanical Kids got their start through social networking sites, namely Myspace and PureVolume. Their hooks were enough to get their friends and early fans to vote them into Alternative Press magazine as one of the "Top 10 Hometown Heroes" in 2010; they earned further exposure from a write-up in Amp magazine. Last year they released a full-length called The Deluxe EP; they'll have a new EP to celebrate at this show, which they'll share with a host of acts including Chris V, James Dece, Vocks Magic, Take the Day and Challenger.
Modern Echo w/ Clock a Clay and Lucrezio @ Club Garibaldi, 9 p.m.
Though the band is still in the early stages of its career, Milwaukee's melodic hard-rock outfit Modern Echo has a sound that strives for stadiums. Jonathan Schweiger's voice soars among heavy drums and distorted, warp-speed guitar solos. Modern Echo's unexpected chord progressions, tempo shifts and occasional key changes create a level of dynamics that sets them apart from the likes of recycled rock groups. The band recently released its first full-length album, Spirit in the Machine, which it spent two years writing and perfecting. The album was recorded by Skillet guitarist Ben Kasica at his studio, Skies Fall.
Sunday, June 10
Locust Street Festival @ Locust Street, 11 a.m.
From its modest beginnings as a neighborhood festival with an understated bohemian streak, the annual Locust Street Festival, which this year marks its 36th anniversary, has blossomed into one of the city's most crowded outdoor gatherings without losing the friendly, oversized-block-party feel that made it so charming. Drum circles, arts and crafts and street food abound, but the biggest draw is still the music, of which the festival offers a whopping seven stages, including a new one this year, the Wisconsin Veterans Stage, which will raise money for several veteran-minded nonprofits. This year's music lineup may be the festival's best ever, with performances from Juniper Tar, Lova Nova, Sat. Nite Duets, The Midwest Beat, Canopies, The Fatty Acids, Matt Hendricks, Absolutely, Frogwater and Scrimshaw, among many others. As usual, the festival begins with the Riverwest Beer Run/Walk, a 1.8-mile trek with four beer stops.