This Week in Milwaukee: June 12-18
Thursday, June 12
A Century of CityCenter @ CityCenter Building, 4-10 p.m.
Designed by Daniel Burnham, the legendary architect behind Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Milwaukee’s CityCenter building at 735 N. Water St. has long been one of the city’s most distinct landmarks. This year the building commemorates its 100th anniversary with a huge party that celebrates its ties to the past. There will be three stages of music with an emphasis on swing, jazz and old-time dance, a fashion show highlighting the looks of early Milwaukee, and vintage cocktails and food. The event promises plenty of dancing, and while vintage attire isn’t mandatory, it’s recommended.
Waka Flocka Flame w/ Mayhem and Yo-Dot @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
For some, the symbol of everything that’s wrong with modern rap, Atlanta rapper Waka Flocka Flame nonetheless galvanized the genre with his 2010 debut, Flockaveli, a loud, chest-beating album that briefly made its primary producer Lex Luger one of rap’s hottest commodities. Flocka’s follow-up album Triple F Life: Fans, Friends & Family wasn’t nearly so revelatory—it made the mistakes of attempting to market the boisterous rapper as a pop artist—but his recent mixtapes have been wildly fun, returning Flocka to the rally cries and party anthems that he does best. And though the Atlanta rap scene couldn’t be more crowded right now, few of Flocka’s peers are making music quite this vital. “I turn shit up!” the rapper bragged to the Shepherd Express in an interview last year. “I could turn a church up!”
Jazz in the Park w/ Dumpstaphunk @ Cathedral Square Park, 6 p.m.
The New Orleans-based funk quintet is coming to Cathedral Square Park to deliver their authentic brand of down-and-dirty funk. Driven by guitar and keyboards and grounded by a unique double-bass attack, the group has won acclaim from national publications and has performed at some of the top music festivals in the nation, including Bonnaroo and Voodoo Fest. Their latest album Dirty Word includes collaborations with Ani Di Franco, Trombone Shorty and others, and features rock-solid rhythm, pedal-distorted guitar riffs and vintage-sounding organ lines along with overt hints of funk influences such as Sly and the Family Stone.
Friday, June 13
Polish Fest @ Summerfest Grounds
Polish Fest is America’s largest Polish festival, and like all of Milwaukee’s major ethnic festivals, it’s absolutely packed to the brim with entertainment and culture. The three-day event features pageants, folk dances, vodka tastings, a piano competition, colorful fireworks and dozens of live performances, including magic shows for kids and all of the polka you would expect. On Sunday the festival kicks off with a large Catholic Mass at 10:15 a.m. (Through Sunday, June 15.)
HartFest @ Hart Park, Wauwatosa, 4 p.m.
Wauwatosa’s HartFest in Hart Park promises two days of games including volleyball, wiffle ball, kickball and bags in Hart Park, along with plenty of music, food and drink. The festival distinguishes itself with its dog-friendliness: On Saturday the festival will run in conjunction with the neighborhood’s popular Fido Fest. Headliners include the bands Saving Savannah, The Love Monkeys, North Country Kings, Chicken Wire Empire and In Black N White. (Also Saturday, June 14, with music beginning at 1 p.m.)
MAM After Dark: Blue Rider @ Milwaukee Art Museum, 6 p.m.
The Milwaukee Art Museum’s latest MAM After Dark gala celebrates the work of Wassily Kandinsky, an artist active in early-20th-century Germany. “Blue Rider” refers to a group of largely Russian artists Kandinsky founded in Munich in order to combat what he saw as the strict and prohibitive artistic principles of the time. Active for only several years due to the outbreak of the First World War, the group promoted many of the tenets of Expressionism and focused on expressing spiritual truths in their work. Friday’s event includes a gallery talk at 8 p.m., music from Boy Blue and GGOOLLDD, and catering from Café Calatrava.
Jamey Johnson @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Jamey Johnson has a voice that perfectly evokes the music he writes. A little bit weary, a little bit ragged and filled with a lot of soul, his Southern drawl brings songs about heartbreak, hard times and bad luck taken straight from the playbooks of Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe and Waylon Jennings to life. His second LP, The Guitar Song, was an ambitious double album alternatively weary and full of hope, which reached the top of the Billboard country charts and topped many critics’ end-of-the-year lists. His latest album, Living for a Song, is a tribute to songwriter Hank Cochran featuring collaborations with an envious list of country greats who interpreted lovingly, but never strayed far from, the spirit of the originals.
Saturday, June 14
Calamity Janes and the Fratney Street Band w/ Ugly Brothers and Hello Death @
Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9 p.m.
As bluegrass has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, the genre has spawned all sorts of gimmicky offshoots, from rapid-fire “speed grass” to ultra-noodly “jam grass.” The genre is almost always at its best, though, when it regards tradition. Easier, Better, the debut album from the Milwaukee roots septet Calamity Janes and the Fratney Street Band, sounds like it could have been recorded at any point over the last 40 years. It’s a collection of 10 sweet, evocative bluegrass originals, performed with shades of The Carter Family. Every song puts the warm voices of songwriters Elizabeth Altman, Allison Gross and Krystal Kuehl front and center. For this album release show, the Calamity Janes are joined on the bill by two bands with very different takes on folk music: Ugly Brothers and Hello Death.
‘The American Road’ @ Harley-Davidson Museum
Every year, the allure of the open road draws tens of thousands of Americans on that most American of journeys: the road trip. The Harley-Davidson Museum’s summer exhibition The American Road traces the origins of the American road trip, examining how its place in pop culture has grown since the 1930s using an expanse of photographs, film clips, slide shows and travel memorabilia. And of course the exhibit will also include some of the vehicles Americans have used for these trips over the years, including a 1962 Ford Country Squire station wagon. (Through Sept. 1.)
Bay View Art in the Park @ Zillman Park, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
The Bay View event features more than 40 artists from the Milwaukee area showcasing their work in the spacious Zillman Park. Every Saturday through Sept. 6, works in such diverse media as painting, woodwork, sculpting and textile designs will be on sale, all of them at under $100. This new event is a partnership with MKEArts and is staffed by local volunteers.
Monday, June 16
Jeff Tweedy w/ The Handsome Family @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Since their 1995 studio debut, A.M., Wilco has grown from one of the defining alt-country bands into one of the most influential bands of their generation, period. With 1999’s Summerteeth, singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy indulged his studio-pop fascination, and by 2002’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and 2004’s A Ghost Is Born, he had transformed the band into avant-garde innovators of American music. From time to time Tweedy has stepped away from the band for short solo tours, but this year will mark the first time he releases a record under his own name. In anticipation of that solo debut, he’s hitting the road to preview some new material (and play plenty of old favorites) with a backing band featuring guitarist Jim Elkington, bassist Darin Gray, keyboardist Liam Cunningham and Tweedy’s son Spencer on drums.