Jun. 26 - Jul. 2
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, June 26
Gnarls Barkley @ Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest, 11 p.m.
Summerfest schedules tend to repeat themselves, with the same bands invited back year after year, regardless of how far they descend down the C-list (case in point, Plain White T’s are returning this year, well after their 15 minutes have expired). That makes fresh meat at Summerfest all the more exciting, though, and Gnarls Barkley is this year’s prime rib, a relevant, widely popular band that normally plays much bigger gigs than the Big Gig.
The group’s second collection of manic, churchy soul-pop, The Odd Couple, might not harbor any singles on the magnitude of their 2006 tsunami “Crazy,” but from start to finish it’s every bit as strong as its hit predecessor.
Stevie Wonder @ Marcus Amphitheater, 7 p.m.
Even during his ’70s prime, Stevie Wonder was never much of a road-warrior, and these days, with his stardom well cemented, the perennially smiling soul singer prefers to do quick television appearances instead of laborious tour dates. This year, however, the happy one mercifully made space in his selective schedule for an ultra-rare Milwaukee appearance, so catch him now, because he likely won’t be back for a very long time.
Friday, June 27
John Hiatt @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
In the early ‘80s, Hiatt’s songwriting prowess earned him the title “the American Elvis Costello.” Unlike Costello, however, Hiatt had trouble writing hits—at least for himself. Three Dog Night and Bonnie Raitt performed his songs to great success, but Hiatt never became the star critics predicted. No matter. In roots-rock circles, he’s a hero. The prematurely haggard Hiatt released his 18th album, Same Old Man, in May.
Flobots @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
They can ride a bike with no handlebars, no handlebars…
Saturday, June 28
Old 97’s @ Zippo Rock Stage, Summerfest, 8 p.m,
They’re best known as an alt-country band, but Old 97’s cover more territory than that restrictive label suggests. Their newest album, this May’s Blame It On Gravity, is their flashiest yet, a pointed set of bombastic rock and sly pop that keeps its eyes locked on the pop charts. The album’s sizzling, Latin-spiced “Dance With Me,” for instance, bears more than a little resemblance to a certain smooth Rob Thomas/Carlos Santana collaboration.
Brief Candles @ Cascio Interstate Music Groove Garage, Summerfest, 4:15 p.m.
As Summerfest has grown, top-tier local acts have increasingly been shut out of the schedule by midlevel touring acts. Thankfully, this year the Cascio Groove Garage has picked up much of the slack, giving a home to some of Milwaukee’s finest bands. Yeah, we at the Shepherd Express are a little biased because we’re sponsoring the stage, but we stand by our recommendation—the lineup is genuinely great. For instance, Milwaukee’s Brief Candles could be the best band you see at 4 in the afternoon at Summerfest this year. They play sweeping, sugarcoated shoegaze with lovely, Cocteau Twins melodies and a disarmingly agreeable jangle.
Sunday, June 29
Plexi 3 w/ The Coathangers Frank’s Power Plant, 9 p.m.
Sounding like a more popish Joan Jett backed by the same retro energy that propelled The 188.8.131.52s to brief but ubiquitous commercial exposure, Plexi 3 are returning home from a busy tour of the Eastern states. Theirs is a lively booking for a Sunday night, and a pleasant reminder that although Summerfest steals the spotlight for the next weeks, there are still hardworking local acts giving it their all just around the corner. MySpace their song “Perfect Stranger” and just yourself to not bounce around in your seat a bit.
Galactic featuring Boots Riley (of The Coup) Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
New Orleans’ Galactic is one of the few bands in the jam scene to attempt hip-hop without embarrassing themselves. Unlike all the bands that condescend with snot-nosed, novelty covers of rap hits or time with monotone raps, Galactic challenges themselves with more thoughtful, complex hip-hop rhythms. Of course, it helps that instead of relying on a dreadlocked novice rapper, they outsource established emcees to do the rapping for them. At their last Milwaukee appearance they brought along Chali 2na of the Jurassic this time around they’re touring with militant funkmonger Boots Riley of The Coup.
Monday, June 30
Sean Kingston @ Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest, 9 p.m.
“We can go to the tropics, sip pina coladas,” Sean Kingston suggests on his hit “Take You There,” “or we can go to the slums, where killas get hung.” To no one’s surprise, Kingston opts for the feel-good former option. His is a modern, MTV spring-break update on Jimmy Buffett’s tried-and-true escapist retreat, although the 18-year-old pop singer sometimes hints at a gritty, Akon-esque back-story, there’s really no need for him to dwell on the gunplay. The Jamaican export is loved precisely because his breezy, girl-chasing jams are so dissonance free.
Paramore @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Separating themselves from legions of other Warped Tour/Alternative Press-approved pop-punkers, Paramore is fronted spunky starlet Hayley Williams, a 19-year-old who, refreshingly, like a real 19-year-old. The group’s charmingly overproduced 2007 album, Riot!, is an emo-rific depiction of high-school hallways as sexually charged battlefields, where relationships are fleeting and romantic rivals are plentiful.
Tuesday, July 1
Alicia Keys w/ Stephen Marley @ Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
She’ll probably always be best known as a neo-soul songstress, but with last year’s tuba-mutilating, larger-than-life synthesized hit “No One,” Alicia Keyes proved that she can do big-beat pop ballads every bit as deftly as the Rihannas and Leona Lewises of the world.
Filter @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Industrial rockers Filter may have had only one song, but man, what a song. A shamelessly exploitative hit about suicide, “Hey Man Nice Shot” suggested gory, crime-scene details where Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” demurred. Tasteless? Sure, especially with Kurt Cobain’s gunshot-heard-round-the-world still ringing in audiences’ ears, but the song was as visceral as anything else on alt-rock radio at the time. For better or worse, it’s one of the ’90s’ defining songs.
Wednesday, July 2
Alkaline Trio @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Punk fans are notoriously fickle about bands selling out, but Alkaline Trio’s ascension from small-time macabre punk band to Killers-sized modern-rock band was so gradual and so natural that many fans might not even have noticed that their favorite group is now appearing on “The Hills.”