This Week in Milwaukee: April 3 - 9
Thursday, April 3
Third Annual SoundBites @ The Iron Horse Hotel, 5:30 p.m.
Food and wine tastings are a dime a dozen around the city, as are food and beer tastings. For its annual SoundBites fundraiser, though, 88Nine RadioMilwaukee has come up with a far more novel pairing: food and music. The station recruits top chefs from around the city to create pairings with songs selected by station DJs. This year’s participants include chefs from Balzac, Braise, Lake Park Bistro, Pastiche and the Rumpus Room, among many others. The event will also feature a DJ spin, music from Evan Christian, a champagne reception and samples of beer, wine, coffee, craft spirits and cheese, as well as a silent auction. Tickets are $125 each and on sale at radiomilwaukee.org/soundbites.
Reckless Kelly w/ Jim Hoehn @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Reckless Kelly isn’t an alternative country band in the Uncle Tupelo/No Depression sense of the term, but they’re alt-country by default, since commercial country music these days has little interest in hard-rocking, modern outlaw country-rock. That’s just as well, since the Texas band has thrived underneath commercial country’s radar—Waylon Jennings enthusiasts in a Brooks & Dunn world. Their independence has afforded them a freedom that many major-label country acts don’t have: the ability to convey political leanings at odds with country music’s red-state constituency. Last year the group released Long Night Moon, their follow-up to 2011’s Grammy nominated Good Luck & True Love.
Friday, April 4
Freddie McGregor w/ Chino and the Big Ship Band @ Club Timbuktu, 9 p.m.
Freddie McGregor’s roots in reggae date all the way back to the ’60s, when he was a pre-teen singing backup for the legendary Studio One label, but he really came into his own as an artist in the early ’80s, when hit singles like “Big Ship” and “Push Come to Shove” helped him fill the stardom gap left behind in the wake of Bob Marley’s death. McGregor’s pop-leaning crossover albums during that decade helped introduce reggae to a new audience, but in recent years he’s returned to more traditional roots reggae sounds. His latest album, 2013’s Di Captain, features forays into dancehall, but it’s grounded in the warm, soulful reggae that McGregor does best.
St. Vincent w/ Noveller @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
After beefing up her credentials through time on the road with The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, two acts whose expansive arrangements she doubtlessly studied, Annie Clark went solo as St. Vincent in 2007, releasing Marry Me, an album coated with layers of baroque pop, classical flourishes and mannered quirk. St. Vincent’s subsequent albums have been even more striking, with 2009’s Actor resurrecting the frilly woodwinds and whimsical sounds of old Disney records, and 2011’s Strange Mercy indulging in heavier, impulsive rock. After spending a chunk of time on the road promoting her 2012 collaborative album with David Byrne, Love This Giant, Clark reteamed with producer John Congleton for this year’s triumphant St. Vincent, which she recorded with Dap-Kings drummer Homer Steinweiss and Midlake’s McKenzie Smith.
The Used and Taking Back Sunday w/ Tonight Alive and Sleepwave @ The Rave, 7 p.m.
Setting out in 2002 from the gallows of poverty and substance abuse, the screamy emo band The Used has now amassed a huge discography of music all dedicated to suffering. The group’s 2009 record Artwork was its most brutal yet, but recent albums Vulnerable and the new Imaginary Enemy have dialed back some of that intensity in favor of slicker hooks. The Used co-headline this bill with emo stalwarts Taking Back Sunday, who earned a fast following with their charged 2002 full-length debut, Tell All Your Friends. That response wasn’t enough to keep the feuding band members together, though: A year later, bassist Shaun Cooper and guitarist John Nolan left on bitter terms. To the surprise of fans who had assumed that a reunion of the Tell All Your Friends-era lineup was all but impossible, Cooper and Nolan rejoined the group in 2010. That reunion has resulted in two solid new albums, 2011’s Taking Back Sunday and this year’s Happiness Is.
Saturday, April 5
The Head and the Heart w/ Basia Bulat @ The Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.
Another bleeding-heart indie-pop band with shades of Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons, Seattle’s The Head and Heart are enjoying the fruits of having the right sound at the right time. Their 2011 self-titled debut was a grassroots hit, earning the group a big rerelease on Sub Pop Records, and their latest album, last year’s Let’s Be Still, is even more delicately pretty and brazenly sentimental. Every song is filtered through romanticized, Instagrammed production.
Sunday, April 6
Switchfoot w/ The Royal Concept @ The Rave, 7 p.m.
Switchfoot’s name derives from surfing jargon, but that’s about where their relationship to The Beach Boys or Jack Johnson ends. The San Diego group has been knocking about since 1997, growing from a three-person lineup with a rawer sound to its current quintet format and a more sonically layered approach to tuneful, often anthemic, sometimes-aggressive alt-rock. Since 2003’s The Beautiful Letdown and its pop-radio hits “Dare You to Move” and “Meant to Live,” the band has amassed a large audience. Switchfoot’s vocal associations with charities for sufferers of natural disasters, poverty and other misfortunes affirm their do-unto-others bona fides, too. On their latest album, Fading West, the group accompanies its usual guitars with a broader instrumental palette that includes plenty of saxophone.
Tuesday, April 8
Don Rickles @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.
The days of Don Rickles rolling with the Rat Pack and presiding over celebrity roasts are long over, but that doesn’t mean Rickles has lost his snarky touch. The venerable insult comic is as audacious as he was in his heyday. Now 87, Rickles still manages to slot in some television appearances—on a memorable “Late Show” appearance, he tore into David Letterman and fellow guest Denzel Washington for 20 minutes, much to their delight—and the occasional film role (Casino, Dirty Work). Try not to call too much attention to yourself if you go to one of Rickles’ performances, or he will single you out and ridicule you. For that matter, don’t try too hard to not call attention to yourself, or he will also single you out and ridicule you. (Also Wednesday, April 9.)
Wednesday, April 9
Ask Me Another w/ Aimee Mann and Ted Leo @ The Pabst Theater, 6:30 p.m.
A less topical, even more irreverent alternative to NPR’s news quiz “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!,” “Ask Me Another” is the station’s very funny weekly program of trivia, word games and brainteasers, hosted by comedian Ophira Eisenberg and one-man house band Jonathan Coulton. The two are bringing the show to the Pabst Theater for this live taping, which will feature a performance from musicians Aimee Mann and Ted Leo, who this year debuted their new indie-rock band, The Both. Odds are good they’ll participate in some puzzles, too.