This Week in Milwaukee: Mar. 20-26
Thursday, March 20
Art Garfunkel @ Marcus Center, 8 p.m.
Only the most insufferable contrarian would argue that Art Garfunkel was the true talent in the folk duo Simon & Garfunkel, but Paul Simon’s timeless songwriting too often overshadowed the important contributions of Garfunkel, a skilled musician in his own right. Unlike Simon, Garfunkel’s gift lay not in songwriting but in interpretation: His crystalline tenor lent depth to Simon’s commonplace prose, and has continued to breathe life into the various songs that he’s covered during his mostly low-key solo career. Garfunkel’s most recent album, the 2007 standards collection Some Enchanted Evening, features the singer’s interpretations of classics including “I’ll Remember You,” “Easy Living” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face.”
Friday, March 21
MAM After Dark: WTF?! (What the Folk?!) @ Milwaukee Art Museum, 6 p.m.
The Milwaukee Art Museum seeks to debunk the myth that art has to be stuffy with its monthly MAM After Dark parties, a goal that’s shared by the museum’s latest feature exhibit Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art, which puts the spotlight on everyday folk artists. Guests can peruse that exhibit as well as the museum’s permanent collection during this latest MAM After Dark party, which features music from DJs Romke De Haan, E-Rich, Christopher Schulist and Dori Zori, performances from Danceworks, and interactive art sessions with local artists Dena Nord, Kelli Busch, Michael Cerda and John Kowalczyk.
Childish Gambino @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Donald Glover may have been being cheeky when he titled his latest Childish Gambino album Because The Internet, but those three words are as good an explanation as any for the actor’s improbable rap career. The feverishly devoted fans Glover picked up from his cult sitcom “Community” ensured him a following no matter what path he pursued, so last year Glover announced he was leaving the show in order to focus on music full time. Featuring enough nerd-culture callbacks to please the most devoted “Community” diehards and guest appearances from similarly Internet-savvy performers Chance the Rapper and Jhené Aiko, the album pairs Glover’s jokey fish-out-of-water raps with surrealist cloud-rap production from “Community” composer Ludwig Göransson and Flying Lotus affiliate Thundercat.
Saturday, March 22
Jim Jefferies @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Angry and brash, but with a genuine sense of humility, Australian stand-up Jim Jefferies made a name for himself in England, where he was dubbed “Britain’s most offensive stand-up comic” by Q Magazine. Obscenities spew from the Aussie’s mouth as he uses virtually any controversial topic as ammunition against social decency, chivalry and any other moral philosophy he can line up in the crosshairs of his vulgarity. Jefferies’ 2009 HBO special I Swear to God proved to be his breakout; he’s since followed it up with a pair of specials and the FXX series “Legit,” a loosely autobiographical show that finds the comedian living with his alcoholic roommate Steve and Steve’s younger brother Billy, who suffers from advanced muscular dystrophy. The show has won praise for its considerate, if unflinching, depiction of the disabled.
Siegel-Schwall Band w/ Greg Koch and The Tone Controls @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
Chicago’s Siegel-Schwall Band dates back to 1966, and though the electric blues combo spent quite a few years apart, they regrouped in the ’00s and picked up right where they left off, playing heated jams for fans who have been following them for decades. Corky Siegel’s wailing harmonica remains as powerful as ever, while guitarist Jim Schwall’s guitar has only gained nuance over the years. Tonight, though, the man of the hour is drummer Sam Lay, who will be celebrating his 79th birthday.
Billy Currington w/ Brett Eldredge and Chase Rice @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Billy Currington has never hid his demons. The Georgia native scored his first country hit in 2003 with “Walk a Little Straighter,” a song about his relationship with his alcoholic stepfather, and years later he canceled tour dates and postponed an album in order to receive therapy for abuse he suffered as a child. But Currington’s laid-back latest album, We Are Tonight, sounds like his attempt to put the past behind him. Released in the wake of a bizarre incident where Currington was charged with making “terroristic threats” and abusing an elderly boat captain—he was sentenced to anger management and five years’ probation—the album casts Currington as a content, relaxed bro who doesn’t have an angry bone in his body. He even covers Jack Johnson and duets with Willie Nelson, two moves that scream “serenity now.”
Sunday, March 23
Young The Giant w/ Vance Joy @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
A band of photogenic, shaggy-haired Californians that looks as if it’s made up entirely of H&M models, Young the Giant is part of a wave of popular groups that have brought spit-shined indie-rock to alternative-rock airwaves (their breakthrough single “My Body” sounded a lot like the crossover moment that The Walkmen never had). Sales of the group’s 2010 self-titled debut were spiked by appearances on the MTV Video Music Awards and an episode of “MTV Unplugged,” and the group’s new follow-up Mind Over Matter, their first record for the pop-punk label Fueled By Ramen, reflects that success. It’s even more tuned in to today’s popular alternative sounds, drawing from the big-budget synths of Phoenix and Foster the People.
Monday, March 24
The Josh Berwanger Band w/ The Championship @ Cactus Club, 8 p.m.
For years, Josh Berwanger was the guiding light behind the unusually tuneful Kansas emo-pop band The Anniversary. Since that group disbanded in 2004, Berwanger has kicked around new songs here and there, fronting a band called The Only Children, but last year’s debut from The Josh Berwanger Band, Strange Stains, marked his first full length of new material since his Anniversary days. Recorded with Breeders drummer Jim Macpherson and markedly poppier than even The Anniversary’s catchiest output, the record plays up the janglier, more playful side of Berwanger’s songwriting. The band shares this show with Milwaukee roots-rock staples The Championship, who themselves returned from a long hiatus for 2012’s dreamy, R.E.M.-inspired High Feather.
Wednesday, March 26
Drive-By Truckers w/ Blitzen Trapper @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 6:30 p.m.
Athens, Ga., rockers the Drive-By Truckers followed up 2008’s revelatory Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, a stripped-down and largely acoustic album recorded after guitarist Jason Isbell left the band, with 2010’s The Big To-Do, one of the group’s most rocking albums, a disc that owes particular debt to the roots rock of Tom Petty. If the following year’s Go-Go Boots felt a bit tossed-off compared to the two great records it followed, even on a lesser Drive-By Truckers album the bittersweet songwriting of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley offered plenty to love. Cooley takes an even bigger role on the group’s new English Oceans, writing a full six songs and for the first time singing lead on one of Hood’s songs. Even after nearly 20 years together, the group is still finding ways to shake things up. Co-headliners Blitzen Trapper are known for dressing up their Americana in experimental flourishes on albums like 2010’s epic Destroyer of the Void, but on recent albums American Goldwing and VII they’ve played things relatively straight, letting their charming songwriting speak for itself.