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This Week in Milwaukee: Sept. 4-10

Sep. 2, 2014
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Sylvan Esso @ Pabst Theater, Sept. 5

Thursday, Sept. 4

Yellow Phone Music Conference @ multiple venues

Marketed as a more intimate and accessible alternative to mass-spectacle music conferences like South by Southwest and CMJ, Milwaukee’s Yellow Phone Music Conference will return for a fourth year this fall, with showcases at multiple venues around Downtown and the Third Ward Sept. 4-7. Keynoting the event will be one of the most influential figures in Wisconsin music history, Butch Vig. In addition to his work with his band Garbage, Vig founded Madison’s famed Smart Studios and produced blockbuster albums for Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day and many, many others. He’ll share insights on the state of the music industry today, give an update on the new Foo Fighters album he’s producing and will answer audience questions. (Through Sunday, Sept. 7.)


Jazz in the Park with Reverend Raven and the Chain Smokin’ Altar Boys @ Cathedral Square Park, 6 p.m.              

Playing 12-bar blues with the jaunty swing and howling lead guitar characteristic of the Chicago blues, Reverend Raven and his backing band carry on the spirit of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and other blues founding fathers. The Reverend’s guitar trades scorching lead duties with harmonica while keys tinkle in the background, brought together by steady percussion. For their live shows the group, which celebrates their 20th anniversary this year, mixes searing originals with the occasional cover.


Friday, Sept. 5

Indian Summer Festival @ Summerfest grounds

In 1985 Butch Roberts, a Milwaukee police officer, dreamed about adding an American Indian festival to the other ethnic festivals that were being held at the Summerfest grounds. After more than a quarter century on Milwaukee’s glittering lakefront, the Indian Summer Festival remains a staple of the city’s festival lineup, and the last major ethnic festival of each season. Annual attractions include Native American arts and craft demonstrations, storytelling demonstrations, a tribal farmers market and lacrosse games, all of which are best enjoyed while snacking on some traditional fry bread. Other popular food offerings include bison, walleye, wild rice and hominy soup. (Through Sunday, Sept. 7.)


Sylvan Esso w/ Dosh @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.                     

For years Nick Sanborn has been one of the great utilities players of the Milwaukee and North Carolina music scenes, lending his musicianship to bands like Decibully and Megafaun, while producing electronic tracks on the side. That production experience laid the ground for his latest gig as the beat-making half of the electronic-pop duo Sylvan Esso, Sanborn’s collaboration with Mountain Man singer Amelia Meath. Although Meath is a folk singer by trade, her sweet, jazzy voice provides a sly counterpoint to Sanborn’s dense, crackling beats on the duo’s widely acclaimed self-titled debut. This summer the group received even more attention when they performed the album standout “Coffee” on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” assisted by Questlove of The Roots on drums.


Saturday, Sept. 6

WMSE Backyard BBQ @ Cathedral Square Park, 4 p.m.

Each year WMSE celebrates the end of summer with a long, lazy day of grilled food and American-flavored music at the closest thing the station has to a backyard: Cathedral Square Park. The lineup for this year’s fifth annual Backyard BBQ features Lost Straitjackets, Indigenous, Split Lip Rayfield, Greatest Lakes and The Mike Benign Compulsion. The event will also be the public’s first chance to grab a copy of the Milwaukee Film Festival’s 2014 guide.


“Catch Wheel Fever” Book and Bike Event @ The Wade House, 10 a.m.

In their new book, Catch Wheel Fever: How Wisconsin Became a Great Bicycle State, authors Jesse Grant and Nicholas J. Hoffman paint a lively picture of the Badger State in the late 1800s, just as the bicycle craze was spreading across the country. That time period, they argue, laid the groundwork for the state’s relationship with bikes today. For this event, Grant and Hoffman will host a discussion about the book, sharing rare photographs of early bikes and their riders, then will host a leisurely 10-mile bike tour of historic sites in Greenbush.


Photography Weekend Milwaukee @ Pere Marquette Park, 9 a.m.                                              

Travel photographer Luke Ballard is visiting Milwaukee as a part of a national photography workshop tour. Since 2008, the Australian native has run a studio and gallery featuring photos from his travels, and expanded to teaching photography in 2009. The two-day workshop in Milwaukee includes interactive sessions covering travel photography, night photography and family photography, among others. Participants have the option to choose individual modules or attend all of them.


Tuesday, Sept. 9

The Black Keys w/ Cage the Elephant @ BMO Harris Bradley Center, 8 p.m.                     

Scuzzy garage rockers turned arena superstars The Black Keys have been a towering presence in modern rock ever since their 2010 album Brothers proved to be their commercial breakthrough. From the lo-fi ethos of their earliest albums, The Black Keys began polishing and expanding their sound, abandoning their pure-blues ethos to incorporate a broader range of influences. The Akron, Ohio, duo’s latest album Turn Blue finds them experimenting with moody ’60s psychedelia and soul, while playing up the influence of producer Danger Mouse. It’s their most varied album yet.


The Offspring w/ Bad Religion, Stiff Little Fingers and Pegboy @ The Rave, 7 p.m.

Punk veterans The Offspring have been not-so-subtly mocking the same young audiences that buy their records since their breakthrough 1994 hit “Come Out and Play (Keep ’Em Separated),” a harsh takedown of rap culture. The band took more comical digs at the kids with their 1998 novelty hit “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy),” and they returned to similar territory on their ninth and latest record, Days Go By, with the single “Cruising California (Bumpin’ in My Trunk),” a satire of Top 40-style party rock. For their current tour with onetime Epitaph labelmates Bad Religion, who have always preferred a more serious, politically minded form of punk, The Offspring will commemorate the 20th anniversary of their 1994 album Smash by playing it in its entirety.


Beonstage @ The Artery, 7 p.m.

The northern tip of the Beerline Trail was hardly anybody’s idea of a gathering spot. Trashed with litter, overgrown and unkempt, the industrial corridor screamed of neglect. That’s why the organization Beintween adopted the stretch and reclaimed it as what they call a “high-performance park,” a destination for the community and the arts scene. Every Tuesday through Sept. 16, they’ll host an open call for artists and performers called Beonstage at the Artery’s Center Stage. Each installment ends at 9 p.m. with a film screening.


Wednesday, Sept. 10

Natalie Merchant @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.

While her folky, college-rock band 10,000 Maniacs continued without her, singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant went solo, releasing in 1995 her hit debut album, Tigerlily. Her work since has alternated between sentimental easy listening for the adult contemporary set and unexpectedly experimental and ambitious. Her 1998 album Ophelia examined the Shakespeare character from a feminist perspective; 2001’s Motherland incorporated orchestral sounds and world-music undertones; and 2010’s Leave Your Sleep paid tribute to poets including Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Graves and Christina Rossetti. This spring she released her latest album, a softly folky self-titled album with subtle gospel touches.


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