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Jun. 12 - Jun. 18

This Week in Milwaukee

Jun. 11, 2008
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Thursday, June 12

MadiSalsa @ Jazz in the Park, 6:30 p.m.
Although their appearance will do little to satisfy the jazz purists who grumble about the lack of pure, traditional jazz at Jazz in the Park, Madison’s logically named 10-piece ensemble MadiSalsa will certainly please the masses who just want to rumba (or mambo, or merengue, as the case may be). A staple at Latin-themed festivities, especially of the outdoor, summer variety, the group specializes in traditionals from Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, but they also whip up their own Latin-jazz compositions.

Friday, June 13

Heidi Spencer w/ Chris Dorman @ Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 10 p.m.
Rootsy songstress Heidi Spencer’s voice may be one of Riverwest’s most precious resources. Sweet in all the right spots, but counterbalanced by a quivering intensity, Spencer’s vocals hint at Dolly Parton’s, only they seethe with anger, betrayal, sadness and other feel-bad emotions that Parton is reluctant to tap these days. Paired against a hard-strummed acoustic guitar and a sparse, acoustic bass accompaniment, Spencer’s voice sounds especially dreamy.

Dark Side of the Oz @ Times Cinema, 11:50 p.m.
As just about everyone involved with the recording has made clear time and time again, Dark Side of the Moon was never intended to sync up with the 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz—and 1973 studio technology would have made it nearly impossible to pull off even if Pink Floyd had wanted to. Dark Side of the Moon is filled with so many open-ended lyrics and fleeting sounds that it’s easy to see why fans have volunteered the album as the film’s unofficial second soundtrack, but the truth is you can run the album during just about any film—or TV show, sports game, political debate; anything, really—and it’s bound to seemingly sync up at some point. The Times Cinema screens the film with its stoner-approved soundtrack at midnight showings tonight and tomorrow night.

Aimee Mann @ Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Still best known for her moody contributions to the Magnolia soundtrack, Aimee Mann is a singer-songwriter in the dignified spirit of late-period Elvis Costello, writing deeply considered songs that never pander with overblown hooks or gimmicks.

The refined nature of her albums accounts for much of her critical acclaim, but it can also make it a bit difficult for them to reach audiences outside of the coffee-shop scene, so for her lively, latest album, @#%&*! Smilers, Mann tossed casual listeners a bone, playing up the easygoing, ’70s- FM poppiness inherent in her songs and fleshing them out with bright, borderline-vaudevillian arrangements that show she picked up a couple of tricks working with producer Jon Brion all those years ago.

Saturday, June 14
Type O Negative w/ Hatebreed, 3 Inches Of Blood and Dirge @ The Rave, 7:30 p.m.
Type O Negative all but invented their own sub-genre of metal—goth metal—by fusing the charcoaled riffs of Black Sabbath with the graveyard grumble of Sisters of Mercy. The band was never above cheap shocks or blatant publicity efforts—they named their second album The Origin of Feces, and initially placed a photograph of an anus on its cover; and in the mid-’90s frontman Peter Steele posed naked for Playgirl magazine—but they were always more fascinating than many of their peers, in part because their obsession with death and mortality felt grounded more in real human insecurities than overplayed genre conventions. Last year’s Dead Again, which reflected longtime atheist Steele’s unlikely conversion to Catholicism, was the band’s highestcharting album yet.

Juniper Tar w/ Sleep Tight Co. and The Broken Letters @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
Without the superfluous twang that bogs down so many alt-country bands, Juniper Tar writes mellowed-out, lived-in Americana songs in the spirit of Neil Young’s most cherished records. On their winning new album, To The Trees, reassuring melodies and lovely multi-part vocal harmonies give way to winding, indie-rock left turns and heated exchanges between dueling guitars. Milwaukee’s heavenly indie-pop ensemble Sleep Tight Co. and Birmingham, Ala.’s, Southern-rock duo The Broken Letters open for their show tonight.

Sunday, June 15
The Birthday Massacre @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Although The Birthday Massacre too often falls back on the chainsaw guitars and exaggerated loud/soft dynamic of goth bands like Evanescence, this Toronto band has a self-awareness and a sense of goth history that the Evanescences of the world don’t. They temper their brutal, industrial riffage with smart nods to Depeche Mode and Siouxsie & the Banshees, and they have some fun with their stylishly dark image, filming creepy videos that nod to classic Italian horror movies and modern Jhorror conventions (while cleverly presenting the opportunity to dress their slinky singer in costumes like a Japanese schoolgirl outfit).

Wednesday, June 18
The Whigs @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Athens, Ga., guitar-rockers The Whigs cover a lot of territory with their simple, three-man setup, evoking at different times The Replacements, My Morning Jacket and Superchunk. After inauspicious beginnings as garage-rock revivalists with dreams of modern-rock radio play, the band has loosened up and instead focused on the loose, sloppy and melodic guitar of early ’90s alternative. The band seems to understand that the real money these days is in the jam-band circuit, however. Their latest album, this January’s Mission Control, was released on Dave Matthews’ ATO Records and, sure enough, its alt-rock dirges incorporate just enough of an agreeable, rootsy jangle for the Bonnaroo contingent to twirl along with.

Wednesday, June 18

Big Fun w/ Juiceboxxx @ The Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
Nothing about Milwaukee’s Big Fun sounds organic at first listen, from the band’s choppy, whirling beats to the omnipresent, blippy synths. Repeated listens, however, reveal that there’s a big, human heart powering this robot, and it comes across especially in the sweet, lovelorn vocals, which recall a friendlier, de-punked version of Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein or X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene. At its core, this is happy music, albeit happy music as filtered through a 386 processor.

The Strawbs w/ Judith Owen @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
The Strawbs, a Dylan-inspired, British folk-rock group that plugged in the giant synthesizers in the early 1970s and found prog-rock success, have gone through many incarnations over their 44 years together. Although recent acoustic releases have returned the band to their folky roots, they also felt like solo records for frontman David Cousins. This tour, however, reunites Cousins with the band’s grayed, 1974 lineup, with which The Strawbs recorded one of their most popular albums (at least for American audiences), Hero and Heroine. That album was heavier, darker and more electric than anything the band had recorded at that point, and the lineup’s 1975 follow-up, Ghosts, was even more charged, so expect the band to be in full-on rock-show mode tonight.


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