This Week in Milwaukee: July 3-9
Thursday, July 3
New Order w/ DJ Whitney Fierce @ BMO Harris Pavilion, Summerfest, 8 p.m.
New Order were born of tragedy, formed by the remaining members of the seminal post-punk band Joy Division after singer Ian Curtis committed suicide. Though they hit commercial heights Joy Division never sawâ€”their 1983 single â€śBlue Mondayâ€ť was the biggest selling 12-inch of all timeâ€”internal struggles repeatedly cut the groupâ€™s time together short, leading to long hiatuses and a pair of breakups. After feuding with singer-guitarist Bernard Sumner for years, bassist Peter Hook was left out of the bandâ€™s 2011 reunion, but that didnâ€™t stop the group from releasing a new album last year, Lost Sirens, which was compiled mostly from leftover songs from the mid-2000s.
Ziggy Marley @ Briggs and Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Performing at Summerfest just a day after his fatherâ€™s former backing band The Wailers, Ziggy Marley will bring a second night of reggae vibes to the Big Gig. From his days fronting The Melody Makers, a reggae group he formed with three of his siblings and which found success in the late 1980s, Marley has continued his familyâ€™s musical legacy. He has performed as a solo act for over a decade, releasing four albums, including 2006â€™s Grammy-winning Love is My Religion. Always open to experimenting with the conventions of reggae music, Marley uses the swaying rhythms of reggae as the bedrock of his sound while variously incorporating elements of pop, hip-hop and funk.
U.S. Bank Fireworks @ Veteranâ€™s Park, 9:30 p.m.
By far the largest fireworks display in the greater Milwaukee area, the U.S. Bank Fireworks feature hundreds of rockets shot from barges anchored in the breakwater near Veterans Park. Each year the lakefront is packed to the brim with spectators, some of whom stake out choice spots more than 24 hours in advance. The riotous display lights up the sky as soon as dusk falls, and continues for roughly half an hour, colorful rockets competing for attention as the booms and crackles bounce off of Downtown buildings and turn the lakefront into a scene of shifting light and rolling sound.
Friday, July 4
Brand New @ Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Long Island rockers Brand New have been channeling rage and disappointment into smart, ferocious punk since 2000, which isnâ€™t to say that they havenâ€™t been maturing with age. The groupâ€™s fourth and latest album, 2009â€™s Daisy, displayed a periodic softer touch, with slow passages and piano interludesâ€”though usually those sophisticated trappings foreshadowed jarring tempo shifts that snapped the group right back to noisier terrain. Recently the group has been hinting that a follow-up album may be in the works. â€śA lot has gone on the last few weeks,â€ť they posted on their website last month. â€śSome writing, some recording, some new gear, some studio building. We will update you more soon.â€ť
Fitz and the Tantrums @ Briggs and Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Fitz and the Tantrums update the spirit of Motown-era soul with thunderous organ lines, booming drums and big, echoing synths. Those huge sounds expand the Los Angeles bandâ€™s songs to giant proportions, while the vocal duels between lead singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs imbue their music with drama. Restraint is out of the question for the group, whether on relationship-ender â€śWe Donâ€™t Gotta Work It Out,â€ť or on â€śOut of my League,â€ť the lead single from their latest release More Than Just a Dream. That song layers snappy percussion and driving synths onto an upbeat piano ballad.
Saturday, July 5
Fall Out Boy and Paramore w/ New Politics @ Marcus Amphitheater, 7 p.m.
Itâ€™s safe to say that both Fall Out Boy and Paramore are feeling good after 2013. Both acts released big albums last year: Fall Out Boyâ€™s Save Rock and Roll, their first since reuniting after a brief breakup, and Paramoreâ€™s Paramore, the groupâ€™s first as a trio after losing two founding members in a highly publicized split. Both acts seized the opportunity to reinvent themselves. With their gnarly arena-rock single â€śMy Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up),â€ť Fall Out Boy found a new Top 40 audience, while Paramore similarly played with modern pop sounds on their album, a varied affair that also drew from post-punk, country and soul music. That albumâ€™s latest single â€śAinâ€™t It Funâ€ť even features a joyous gospel breakdown.
Phantogram @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Alternative rock is saturated with synth-pop bands right now, most of them offering plenty in the way of pleasant, candy-colored spectacle but little in the way of substance or originality. The New York duo Phantogram, however, offers a genuinely unique take on the sound, combining the eerie mystique of Blonde Redhead, the grand shoegaze of M83 and the sensual charge of Serge Gainsbourg with bold, kinetic hip-hop loops of the sort Pete Rock, J Dilla and Madlib pioneered. Itâ€™s that generous dose of hip-hop that distinguishes their latest album, Voices, which includes their hard-thumping single â€śFall in Love.â€ť The song begins with grand strings and builds to a thunderous climax of throbbing synths and breathy vocals courtesy of singer Sarah Barthel.
Sunday, July 6
Usher w/ Bebe Rexha @ Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
Marketed as a teen-friendly alternative to R. Kelly, R&B crooner Usher first found fame in the â€™90s, but it was his 2004 blockbuster Confessions, the second-best-selling album of the 2000s, that cemented his adult stardom. Usher remains one of the music industryâ€™s few sure-fire hit-makers, resilient in spite of the considerable changes to Top 40 radio over the last decade. When his brand of smooth R&B fell out of favor he embraced electronic pop, scoring hits with dancefloor fodder like â€śOMGâ€ť and â€śDJ Got Us Fallinâ€™ in Love,â€ť though his 2012 hit â€śClimaxâ€ť proved heâ€™s still at his best when working with soul music. With a new album in the works, Usher returns to the Marcus Amphitheater for his only headlining concert in the U.S. this summer.
Jake Bugg @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Only 20 years old, Britainâ€™s Jake Bugg has already released two studio albums, with another on the way. His first eponymously titled album spawned multiple singles, one of which, â€śLightning Bolt,â€ť saw airplay in the U.S. The songâ€™s amped-up folk suggests a British update of Bob Dylan, with energetic rhythm guitar playing off of Buggâ€™s slightly nasal vocals. Buggâ€™s second album, Shangri La, was recorded with producer Rick Rubin at his U.S. studio.
Bombino @ Johnson Controls World Sound Stage, Summerfest, 9:30 p.m.
Omara Moctar, who goes by the stage name Bombino, has trodden a unique and often dangerous path on his way to becoming an internationally recognized rock â€™nâ€™ roll musician. Borrowing a guitar from relatives fleeing regional uprisings, he taught himself to play, drawing inspiration from the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Mark Knopfler. While playing in Niger, he weathered rebellions and even bans on guitar playing which saw fellow musicians executed. His latest album Nomad was recorded with ubiquitous producer Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, and transcends the language barrier with tremendous guitar work that marries Hendrix and world music.
Monday, July 7
Paint Nite @ Theatre Unchained, 6 p.m.
Theatre Unchained is located in the Walkerâ€™s Point neighborhood, and includes an art gallery and cafĂ© in addition to plays featuring local actors. This summer the venue began hosting Paint Nite on Mondays, offering attendees an open forum to unleash their creative side. People are welcome to bring their own choice art supplies, or they can buy supplies on site. Alcoholic beverages will be served to help loosen things up and bring out the artist in everyone. Choice works will be displayed in the gallery and the gift shop.
Wednesday, July 9
Sarah McLachlan @ The Riverside Theater, 6:30 p.m.
Thereâ€™s something undeniably noble about a musician willing to lend one of their biggest hits to a campaign to end animal abuse. Thanks to its placement in commercials for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sarah McLachlanâ€™s â€śAngelâ€ť will forever be associated with trembling, half-blind kittens and battered puppies who canâ€™t figure out what theyâ€™ve done to provoke such brutality. Of course, McLachlan is no stranger to sadness. The adult contemporary songwriter specializes in aching tearjerkers, and her latest album, Shine On, has plenty of them. The album reflects on the death of her father, so fans will want to stuff their pockets with extra tissue before McLachlanâ€™s return appearance at the Riverside Theater tonight.
TAGS: New Order, DJ Whitney Fierce, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, Lost Sirens, Ziggy Marley, The Wailers, The Melody Makers, Love is My Religion, U.S. Bank Fireworks, Brand New, Daisy, Fitz and the Tantrums, Summerfest, Michael Fitzpatrick, Noelle Scaggs, We Donâ€™t Gotta Work It Out, Out of my League, More Than Just a Dream, Fall Out Boy, Paramore, New Politics, Save Rock and Roll, My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up), Ainâ€™t It Fun, Phantogram, Voices, Sarah Barthel, Usher, Bebe Rexha, Confessions, OMG, DJ Got Us Fallinâ€™ in Love, Climax, Jake Bugg, Shangri La, Bombino, Nomad, Paint Nite, Theatre Unchained, Sarah McLachlan, Riverside Theater, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Angel, Shine On