This Week in Milwaukee: May 1-7
Friday, May 2
Leon Russell w/ Riley Etheridge Jr. @ The Pabst Theater, 7 p.m.
For fans, Leon Russell’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had always been a question of when, not if. The Oklahoma-born singer and piano player, who was inducted in 2011, has enjoyed a long career playing rock ’n’ roll, blues and gospel, both on his own and accompanying some of popular music’s leading lights. As a session musician, he has accompanied everyone from Doris Day, Frank Sinatra and Glen Campbell to Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones. Russell’s “Delta Lady” was a 1969 hit for British bluesman Joe Cocker, and Russell was the organizer of Cocker’s 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, and a performer at George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. Though Russell has slowed down considerably over the last decade, he garnered renewed interest with 2010’s The Union, a double-album he recorded with fellow keyboard artist Elton John. John returned to executive produce the songwriter’s poignant latest album, Life Journey, which he released in April.
Saturday, May 3
Big Sean w/ Yo-Dot @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
When Big Sean signed with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label in 2007, the young rapper seemed like a weak link in West’s otherwise impressive talent pool. But while Sean’s 2011 debut Finally Famous didn’t do much to prove the Michigan rapper as a lyricist, it delivered some solid hits, including the West-assisted “Marvin & Chardonnay” and the utterly ridiculous club clapper “Dance (A$$).” In recent years Sean has sounded sharper than ever, though, refining his punchline-heavy style on a series of solid guest spots that found him upstaging formidable collaborators like Lil Wayne, Drake and Meek Mill. That improved rapping made his sophomore album Hall of Fame one of last year’s low-key pleasant surprises, a quirky, catchy hip-hop album that never took itself too seriously.
Celtic Woman @ The Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.
Don’t let the name fool you; Celtic Woman is actually a quartet of women whose nine studio albums range from classic ballads (“You Raise Me Up”) to Celtic favorites (“Danny Boy”). Onstage, the women sizzle and shine in perfect harmony, united by the lively fiddling of Máiréad Nesbitt. For their radiant live shows, the group has been dubbed “Riverdance for the voice.” In 2012 the group released their first album with newest member Lisa Lambe, Believe, as well as a Christmas album, which they followed up this February with a new record, Emerald–Musical Gems, which featured re-recorded versions of some of their most popular songs.
French Horn Rebellion w/ Hollow & Akimbo and Kiings @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.
How does the Milwaukee-bred, Brooklyn-based duo French Horn Rebellion differentiate itself from the hundreds of other colorful electro-pop bands with an affinity for disco grooves, new wave hooks and all things falsetto? Well, for one thing, they actually use a French horn, though it takes a back seat to synthesizers, of course. This brother-brother duo has also shown a real knack for concise, candied pop hooks, well displayed on their full-length, The Infinite Music of French Horn Rebellion. Their latest single, “Beaches and Friends (Hey Champ Remix),” is a joyous disco jam with shades of MGMT and Passion Pit.
Sunday, May 4
Third Annual Milwaukee Museum Mile Day @ multiple locations, 11 a.m.
Milwaukee’s shoreline doesn’t just boast some of the city’s best views. It’s also home to many of the city’s most unique museums. Three years ago five museums all within a mile of each other—the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, The Charles Allis Art Museum, Museum of Wisconsin Art at St. John’s On The Lake, The Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum and the North Point Lighthouse at Lake Park—teamed up to brand themselves the Milwaukee Museum Mile. This Sunday, those museums celebrate the third anniversary of that partnership by offering free or reduced admission from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as free docent-led tours and children’s activities, including a scavenger hunt. A free shuttle bus will make it extra easy for patrons to hop from one museum to the next.
Monday, May 5
Uh Huh Her w/ DJ Kim Anh @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m.
The Los Angeles duo Uh Huh Her has covered a lot of ground since singers Camila Grey and Leisha Hailey first started writing together in 2007, spanning both sheik electro-pop and more experimental, avant garde territory. On their third and latest album Future Souls they temper their experimental leanings, crafting their lightest, most accessible electro-pop songs yet, including the deliriously danceable single “Innocence.” A lifelong Whitney Houston fan, Grey said she practiced singing along to The Bodyguard soundtrack while working on the album in hopes of making the new material sound as soulful as possible.
Wednesday, May 7
Queens of the Stone Age w/ Chelsea Wolfe @ The Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.
The most successful offshoot of the pioneering ’90s stoner-rock group Kyruss, Queens of the Stone Age have avoided Milwaukee on their last few tours, but they’re making good this time around as they travel the country in support of their latest album, 2013’s ...Like Clockwork. Contrary to its title, Clockwork was the result of strained recording sessions that saw the group split with longtime drummer Joey Castillo. To fill in, singer-guitarist Josh Homme brought in his old friend Dave Grohl, an early supporter of the group, to drum on about half the album. Grohl isn’t the only guest, either: Trent Reznor, Mark Lanegan, Jake Shears of the Scissor Sisters and Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys all contribute as well, along with Elton John, perhaps the most unlikely collaborator Homme has ever worked with.
Tech N9ne w/ Freddie Gibbs, Krizz Kaliko, Jarren Benton, Psych Ward Druggies and Dark Half @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Until his double-disc eighth album, Killer, went platinum in 2008, Kansas City hardcore rapper Tech N9ne struggled for recognition outside of underground circles, even as he claimed the kind of loyal cult following that many bigger-name acts could only dream about. N9ne’s commercial success only further catalyzed the already prolific rapper’s output, and he now records and releases albums at a near maniacal clip. His recent works have been collaboration-heavy, with 2013’s Something Else giving time to features from Kendrick Lamar, B.o.B, T-Pain, Cee-Lo, Wiz Khalifa, Serj Tankian from System of a Down and, oddly enough, The Doors. His upcoming latest album, Strangeulation—his fourteenth, due May 6—downplays big name guests in favor of rappers from Tech N9ne’s Strange Music circle, including the label’s latest signee, Murs.
Peaking Lights w/ Rio Turbo and Dancing Silks @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
Since their earliest recordings, there’s been a
psychedelic undercurrent to Peaking Lights’ trippy, synth-heavy dream pop.
Increasingly, though, those psychedelic sounds have taken a back seat to a
different influence: dub reggae. The Los Angeles group’s most recent studio
album, Lucifer, was so drenched in
reverby dub tones that just months after its release the group issued a sequel
EP, Lucifer in Dub, which gave six of
the album’s tracks a heavy, heady dub-rock makeover. Like everything the group
records, it’s still plenty dreamy, but it’s also harder and edgier than their
proper studio albums, lending their songs an energy that hopefully carries over
to their live show.