This Week in Milwaukee: March 17-23, 2017
Friday, March 17
Vince Staples w/ Kilo Kish @ The Rave, 9 p.m.
Long Beach rapper Vince Staples came up alongside Odd Future and was featured heavily on some of Earl Sweatshirts’ best projects, but by 2015 he was starting to outshine almost everything else coming out of that collective. Entirely produced by No ID, who never sounded better, his mixtape, Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2, turned heads with its vivid, dead-eyed storytelling, but it was nothing compared to his 2016 double album Def Jam debut, Summer ’06, a complicated, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City-esque account of growing up amid the backdrop of drugs, gangs and violence. Despite its thematic gravity, it’s never heavy handed—Staples’ dry, callous humor assures that it’s always a brisk listen.
Greensky Bluegrass w/ Cris Jacobs @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Helping meet the demand of young audiences weaned on jam music and now hungry for a more authentic tastes of roots music, Greensky Bluegrass, a five-member, banjo-strumming, dobro- and mandolin-playing bluegrass group from Michigan, spends much of its time on the dusty tour trail. Along the way, they’ve shared stages with acts like Phil Lesh, The Hackensaw Boys, The String Cheese Incident, Railroad Earth and DJ Logic. They’ve been known to play more than 170 shows in a year, but they do get into the studio from time to time, too. Last year, they released their sixth album, Shouted, Written Down & Quoted, which they recorded with Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.
Gaelic Storm @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Over the years, Gaelic Storm have established themselves as one of Milwaukee’s most enduring St. Patrick’s Day traditions, packing the Pabst Theater each year with their worldly brand of Celtic rock. Between these shows and their usual Irish Fest gigs, it seems they have a soft spot for the city, and to their credit, they never play the same show twice, in part because they always have new material to play behind. Their 12th and latest album is called Matching Sweaters and features a mix of traditionals and originals, including one that should go over particularly well here in Wisconsin: “The Narwhaling Cheesehead.” The band’s discography bursts with narrative stories that are just as good to dance to as they are to drink to—and in concert, the band encourages crowds to do plenty of both.
Saturday, March 18
Juicy J w/ Belly, Project Pat and Supa BWE @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
With the rap group Three 6 Mafia, Juicy J made history twice, most infamously as part of the first hip-hop group to win an Academy Award (for the song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” from the Hustle and Flow soundtrack), but more importantly for helping popularize many of the Southern sounds that would reshape rap music in the 2000s. It makes sense, then, that an old veteran like Juicy J would fit in so well in today’s radio climate—after all, he was making bruising, tripped-out, strip-club music well before the rest of the country caught on. With Three 6 Mafia on an unofficial hiatus, Juicy J scored the biggest solo hit of his career in 2012 with the Mike Will-produced “Bandz A Make Her Dance,” from his smash solo record, Stay Trippy. Despite the rapper’s near-constant radio presence, his follow-up album, Rubba Band Business, has fallen victim to the usual label delays, but he’s hoping it’ll come out sooner rather than later.
Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express w/ The Bottle Rockets @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
California guitarist and songwriter Chuck Prophet spent much of his career as a sideman, working with artists as disparate as Aimee Mann, Warren Zevon, Jonathan Richman, Cake, Lucinda Williams and Alejandro Escodevo, co-writing every song on that last artist’s phenomenal 2008 album, Real Animal. He’s also a prolific solo artist, though, with a vast discography that dates back to 1990 and includes solid releases on respected Americana labels like Cooking Vinyl, New West and, since 2007, Yep Rock. His latest record for that label, the just-released Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins, draws heavy inspiration from the volatile rock ’n’ roll of its namesake. He’s joined on this bill by cultishly beloved alt-country mainstays The Bottle Rockets.
Laughing Liberally Milwaukee @ Comedy Sportz, 8 p.m.
You know how that old adage goes: When you can’t cry you might as well laugh. And if nothing else, the terrifying first months of the Donald Trump administration have given us much to laugh about. A mainstay of the progressive blogosphere whose work has been featured on NPR, Salon, the New York Times and the Huffington Post, comedian and talk radio host Matthew Filipowicz hosts this night of left-leaning comedy which will also feature comedians Ton Johnson, Marisa Lange, Chastity Washington, Greg Bach, Bekah Crosgrove and sketch comedy group The Accountants Of Homeland Security. Each installment of Laughing Liberally includes an interview with a local politician or activist. This month, the guest will be Luz Soda of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, an expert on economic inequality in Latino communities.
Sunday, March 19
AR Wesley w/ Stay Spinnin, Grizzly DonLife and EDBJ @ Miramar Theatre, 7 p.m.
For the last couple of years, AR Wesley has been one of the acts to keep a close eye on in Milwaukee’s booming rap scene, commanding stages with his laid-back charisma and releasing a series of sharp mixtapes that nodded back to the genre’s jazzy, early ’90s golden age. His latest mixtape, The Self Portrait, is his most engrossing yet, but unfortunately Milwaukee won’t be seeing much of him in the near future: He’s relocating to Las Vegas next month. Before he goes, though, he’ll play this farewell show.
Deafhaven w/ This Wil Destroy You and Emma Ruth Rundle @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
There aren’t many modern metal records these days that crossover. As a general rule, metal is a pretty isolated genre, uninterested in winning over the non-converted. A rare exception arrived in 2013, though, when the San Francisco ensemble Deafhaven released their sophomore album, Sunbather, one of the most acclaimed metal albums of the last decade. The record is sprawling and beautiful, seeped in the crash-and-bang dynamics of post-rock. No doubt in part because of that crossover appeal, the record placed highly on year-end lists from dozens of publications, including Spin, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and even NPR, an outlet not usually known for its metal coverage. They followed the record in 2015 with an even bigger, more sprawling third album, New Bermuda. They’re joined here by a couple interesting openers: This Will Destroy You, a Texas act with a similar post-rock lean, and Emma Ruth Rundle, a singer-songwriter who strikes an unusual balance between folk and metal on her incredible latest record, Marked for Death. This is definitely a show you’ll want to arrive early for.
Strand of Oaks w/ Twin Limb @ The Back Room at Colectivo, 8 p.m.
As Strand of Oaks, Timothy Showalter has been making vivid, compelling folk albums for years. But he’d never made one as loud as his 2014 reinvention, Heal. For the new record, Showalter looked back at his life growing up in Goshen, Ind., and listening to bands like The Smashing Pumpkins and realized he needed to hit the reset button to get back to music he was supposed to make. “I love folk music and love the sounds and feeling you get when you play it, but I was done with it,” Showalter told the Shepherd at the time. “I needed to embrace the inner head-bang kid that I was and just make that kind of record.” Some of that heaviness carries through his latest album, Hard Love, a druggier, trippier record than its predecessor, but one that features some of his most personal songwriting yet (which is saying something).
Wednesday, March 22
Sleigh Bells w/ Tunde Olaniran @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
The Brooklyn , N.Y., duo Sleigh Bells took the noise-pop genre to literal extremes on their highly buzzed 2010 debut album Treats, allaying the sting of Derek Miller’s blisteringly loud, distorted guitars with the sweet cooing of singer Alexis Krauss and a persistent rhythmic clap. Drawing heavily from the bombast of rap, it was music that sounded like a riot but plays out like a party. Their similarly raucous follow-up albums, Reign of Terror and Bitter Rivals, looked to the rowdier sounds of arena rock to freshen things up, but on their latest album, Jessica Rabbit, they turn their attention toward modern pop, giving Krauss the opportunity to sing like the pop star she might have been in another life. Its best songs feel a lot like something you might hear on Top 40 radio—only, of course, louder. Much louder.