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May 8 - May 14

This Week in Milwaukee

May. 8, 2008
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Thursday, May 8

The Swell Season @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m. 

   In an Academy Awards musical moment that ranks with Elliott Smith’s “Miss Misery” performance or Three 6 Mafia’s unlikely win for “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” this year’s Best Original Song award went to singer-songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, collectively known as The Swell Season. Their winning song, “Falling Slowly,” was the lovely highlight of the soundtrack to their tiny indie film Once, a romance in which the couple starred more or less as hardscrabble versions of themselves. That the song beat not one, not two, but three overwrought musical numbers from Enchanted only made the victory sweeter. Although Irglova’s microphone was cut off before she could utter so much as a “thank you” at the Oscars, host Jon Stewart brought her back onstage after a commercial break to share her modest acceptance speech, a rare moment of humanity in an otherwise rushed and predictable broadcast, and one which further endeared the underdog duo to a growing fan base.

DeVotchKa w/ Basia Bulat @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

  DeVotchKa merges the spastic desperation of late-’70s Talking Heads with the orchestral sweep of Arcade Fire’s more grandiose work. Leader Nick Urata’s vocals often recall Win Butler’s yelping vibrato, which makes the Arcade Fire comparisons even more plentiful.

  On DeVotchKa’s latest, A Mad & Faithful Telling, the band toys with even more exotic instrumentation than usual, further underscoring worldly muses that were always present. The Denver-based four-piece breaks out an impressive arsenal of instruments for its sensational live shows, including a sousaphone, an accordion, a piano, a violin, a bouzouki, an upright bass and a Theremin.


Savoy Brown featuring Kim Simmonds @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.

  Taking on lead vocals in addition to his lead guitar duties, Kim Simmonds is the only original member of what was once known as the Savoy Brown Blues Band. Since the group made its name touring in the late-’60s and ’70s as part of the British blues revival, it only makes sense that Simmonds continues to take each incarnation of the band on the road.

  Tonight’s show at Shank Hall may feature a few recognizable numbers such as “Train to Nowhere,” although with the lineup changes and new vocals, the band’s songs can sound surprisingly different.

Friday, May 9

As I Lay Dying w/ Misery Signals @ The Rave, 8 p.m. 

   As I Lay Dying: The name suggests that this popular California metalcore band is pretty badass, but the fact that their name is derived from a William Faulkner novel suggests they’re pretty smart, too. The band proves both assumptions correct on their epic latest album, An Ocean Between Us. Madison, Wis. openers Misery Signals are a similarly styled metal/hardcore band that has some fortuitous friends, among them Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, who a couple years back lent vocals to their single “One Day I’ll Stay Home.” The group’s upcoming album, Controller, is set for a July release.

As I Lay Dying

Megafaun w/ Jon Mueller @ Hotcakes Gallery, 9 p.m.

  The Durham, N.C.-via-Eau Claire, Wis., trio Megafaun creates a type of shambling folk that frequently threatens to explode, but always neatly returns to delicate three-part harmonies.

  The Band’s rustic soul was a clear influence on Megafaun’s Bury The Square, a record of alternating sparse folk tunes and sprawling, banjo-driven rockers. All three band members played in the now-defunct DeYarmond Edison with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and Megafaun’s sound is similar to Bon Iver’s serene debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, save for a few banjo fills here and there.

Saturday, May 10

A Prairie Home Companion w/ Garrison Keillor @ Milwaukee Theater, 4:45 p.m.

   For more than three decades, Garrison Keillor has played ringmaster to “A Prairie Home Companion,” a live radio broadcast built around the eclectic characters of fictional Lake Wobegon, Minn. The show usually airs from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn., but each year the whole setup is taken on tour and, thankfully, more often than not Milwaukee makes the itinerary. Regular listeners can still tune in and hear all the happenings of the tiny Minnesota town filled with splendid characters like Guy Noir: Private Detective, or they can show up and get a behind-the-scenes look at the radio institution commemorated in Robert Altman’s final film. The show may be taking place in Wisconsin rather than Minnesota, but the feel of the program’s content should be welcome and familiar to any Midwesterner.

The Secret Labs @ Discovery World, 7 p.m.

  The powers that be at Discovery World have stayed tight-lipped about the concept for their new television show, “The Secret Labs,” offering only that it takes place in subterranean labs below the city and that it promises a glimpse into the future.

  Tonight, a live audience gets to find out what the show is all about when it tapes its pilot episode. The eight-episode series is set to air on Milwaukee Public Television this fall.

The Avett Brothers w/ Jessica Lea Mayfield @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

  The Avett Brothers forged a strong reputation for their live shows after leaving a slew of broken and mangled instruments strewn across festival stages over the past few years.

  Each performance features such raw, ragged intensity and desperation that witnesses wonder how exactly the instruments remain intact for more than a few numbers (not to mention how the vocal chords of each band member aren’t torn to shreds). On 2007’s Emotionalism, the group further infused their bluegrass with elements of punk and raucous folk. On stage they somehow surpass the level of emotion in their recorded output and manage to create a stomping, acoustic mash-up, even without the aid of a percussionist.

Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s w/ Cameron McGill, The Celebrated Workingman @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.

  Indianapolis’ Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s take their name from a character in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, so it’s fitting that their debut, The Dust of Retreat, is filled with the type of maudlin chamber-pop that usually soundtracks Anderson’s films. The band has planned a follow-up to that album for later this year, but not before a spring tour and considerable summer festival dates. Warming up the bill is Milwaukee’s boisterous, bighearted indie-rock band The Celebrated Workingman.

Sunday, May 11

Flight of the Conchords @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.

   Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie’s job just got a whole lot harder. Until recently, the two were virtual unknowns depicting an unsuccessful band in HBO’s hilarious comedy series “Flight of the Conchords” (one of the channel’s few remaining commodities). With the show’s success, however, the pair now faces the acting challenge of being popular musicians playing unpopular ones. The little New Zealand comedy-music duo that could is even selling records like the pros: Last week, their self-titled album improbably debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard album charts, reportedly charting higher than any comedy album since Steve Martin’s late-’70s dominance.

Monday, May 12

Was (Not Was) w/ Todd Snider and Paul Cebar @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.

  Here’s one for the “hey, didn’t they break-up” file: The oddball ’80s funk-pop ensemble Was (Not Was) returned this year with their first album in 18 years, Boo! The Bangles may have tapped ancient times for their novelty hit “Walk Like an Egyptian,” but Was (Not Was) out time-traveled those girls, conjuring the prehistoric era for their signature song, “Walk the Dinosaur.” No doubt they’ll play that hit tonight, as well as material from the new album, a characteristically eclectic outing featuring a spoken-word piece from Kris Kristofferson as well as “Mr. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” a track originally penned by brothers Don and David Was with Bob Dylan nearly 20 years ago.

M.I.A. w/ Holy Fuck @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

  With her bold politics and penchant for confrontational interviews, British electronic/dancehall queen M.I.A. has a divisive personality. But when it comes to her music, critics aren’t divided at all. Music publications—print and online, big and small—heralded her 2007 release, Kala, as one of the year’s best albums. It’s a ferociously freewheeling album: It opens with Jonathan Richman’s infamous chant from “Roadrunner” and samples of a Tamil film, while another track pairs elements from The Clash’s “Straight to Hell” with Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker.” M.I.A. bridges the gap between underground and mainstream as aggressively as she hops genres; the album features contributions from club icons Diplo and Blaqstarr as well as the ubiquitous hit-maker Timbaland. Opening is Toronto’s minimalist electro outfit Holy Fuck, apparently a favorite of media mogul Rachael Ray, if her SXSW showcase was to be believed.

M.I.A. Photo by Janette Beckman

Wednesday, May 14

Laura Veirs w/ Liam Finn @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

  Laura Veirs writes tender songs that sway and complement her delicate voice. Often referred to as a literate, thinking-woman’s artist, she introduced herself to a wider audience with “Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then),” a heavenly duet on The Decemberists’ 2006 hit album, The Crane Wife, in advance of her 2007 album, Saltbreakers. That record, her first with a true backing band, comes from a louder, more confrontational place than much of her previous work, including 2005’s lush, gorgeous Year of Meteors. Opening is Australian singer-songwriter Liam Finn. His debut, last year’s I’ll Be Lightning, treads much of the same musical terrain as Veirs and features guest spots from Finn’s father, Neil, of Crowded House fame.



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