This Week in Milwaukee: April 27-May 3, 2017
Arte Para Todos brings an incredible four-night lineup of local music to five neighborhoods, while Marc Maron and The xx prepare to return to Milwaukee.
Thursday, April 27
Arte Para Todos @ multiple venues
Even in a city brimming with ambitious festivals, the annual Arte Para Todos (Art For Everyone) fundraiser is a head-turner: nearly 100 acts playing at 25 venues spread across five neighborhoods and four days—all to raise money for youth arts education. In its first two years, the festival has raised nearly $40,000 for Milwaukee Public School arts programs, and this year’s absolutely massive lineup ensures another great haul. The festival kicks off with an opening night in Walker’s Point featuring performances from Tigernite, Siren, NO/NO, Tontine Ensemble, Rusty Pelicans, Klassik and more at venues including Anodyne Coffee, The Var Gallery, Gibraltar and The Local. From there, the schedule doesn’t slow any: Friday night’s Bay View showcases include acts like Strangelander, Sista Strings, Painted Caves, Soul Love, Mortgage Freeman, Zed Kenzo and Surgeons in Heat, while a dozen venues across Riverwest and Harambee will host shows on Saturday night, before closing shows at The Jazz Estate and the Back Room at Colectivo wrap things up on Sunday night. Tickets are cheap: A $20 pass gets you admission to all four nights of shows while an individual day pass is just $13. For more information visit arteparatodos.me.
Marc Maron @ The Pabst Theater, 7 p.m.
Marc Maron has had a long and distinguished comedy career: appearing on Comedy Central countless times, hosting the channel’s “Short Attention Span Theater,” performing regularly on other late-night staples and enjoying the hard-earned respect of many of his contemporaries. But it wasn’t until he began podcasting in ’09, after being laid off from a tumultuous gig at Air America, that his name began to spread outside of diehard comedy circles. A sometimes uncomfortably intimate mix of interviews and personal reflection, “WTF with Marc Maron” is one of the top-rated and most influential comedy podcasts of its time—and the model for the countless podcasts that other comedians now launch weekly; even former President Barack Obama appeared on it. That podcast was also the springboard for “Maron,” his autobiographical TV series for IFC. For this live appearance, though, Maron will return to his stand-up roots.
Friday, April 28
Zach Pietrini w/ Doghouse Flowers @ Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 8 p.m.
Milwaukee Americana singer Zach Pietrini has never shied away from dark territory (he used to call his backing band The Broken Bones), but on his latest album, Holding Onto Ghosts, he embraces the darkness even more overtly. It’s filled with tales of loneliness, despair and regret that cast the ghostly spell promised by its title. He’ll celebrate the belated vinyl release of that record at this show, which he’ll share with Milwaukee roots-rock veterans Doghouse Flowers.
Saturday, April 29
The xx w/ Sampha @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
How about that: The xx finally made an album that sounds better loud. After two gorgeous, glorious albums of intimate, R&B-inflected indie-rock that played like whispered conversations between lovers, the British trio cranked up the volume a bit on their third and latest album, I See You. It’s a gambit that could have destroyed the fragile chemistry of the group’s first two records, but it paid off: The music retains its dreaminess, while producer Jamie xx, a rising solo star in his own right, is given more freedom than ever to leave his mark. For this tour, they’ll be joined by another British artist with a gift for conveying room-silencing vulnerability: Sampha, a Drake collaborator who released his debut album, Process, this winter on the Young Turks label.
Tobin Sprout @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
To most casual Guided By Voices fans, the insanely prolific indie rock group is synonymous with founder Robert Pollard, who continues to lead the group (they just released a new double album, August by Cake, this month). It’s not uncommon to hear more loyal fans argue, however, that the true talent of the group was guitarist Tobin Sprout, a secondary frontman of sorts who contributed some truly great songs to the group’s heyday records in the early-to-mid ’90s, including “Islands (She Talks In Rainbows)” and “Awful Bliss.” Sprout is sitting out the latest Guided By Voices reunion, but this winter he released a new solo album on Burger Records, The Universe And Me. It’s his first in seven years, and its Beatles-y melodies should please GBV fans who always preferred the group’s more tuneful tracks to the chaotic stuff. Those looking to check out Sprout’s old ’90s solo records are in luck, too. Burger Records will be re-releasing those soon.
Peter Mulvey w/ Sista Strings @ The Back Room at Colectivo, 8 p.m.
Milwaukee native Peter Mulvey has found a huge fan in the form of folk legend Ani DiFranco, who has praised his ability to “play some badass guitar, sing to touch your heart and write a song that will knock you down.” She’s not just talking the talk, either: She walks the walk by producing Mulvey’s latest album, Are You Listening, at her New Orleans studio and releasing it through her Righteous Babe label. The record tackles a bevy of subjects, including police violence, human kindness and the ways the modern world chips away at our attention spans. Mulvey will share this local release show with the Milwaukee classical-soul fusion duo Sista Strings.
Sunday, April 30
Aimee Mann w/ Jonathan Coulton @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Aimee Mann had already enjoyed a career’s worth of critical adoration before her 1999 soundtrack for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia put her in the public eye, garnering her nominations for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and three Grammys. If Mann was eager to capitalize on that attention, she sure didn’t show it. The albums that followed were mostly low-key and literate; wonderfully refined but hardly the type of music that does blockbuster business. There were some exceptions. On her lively 2008 album @#%&*! Smilers, she played up the easygoing, ’70s-FM poppiness that’s always been inherent in her songs, and on 2012’s Charmer, she nodded to her long-downplayed new-wave roots, adorning her catchy tunes with bright synthesizers. Her latest album, Mental Illness, however, returns her to the somber songs she does best. She’s called it her “saddest, slowest and most acoustic” album yet, which is saying something.
Tuesday, May 2
Kinky Freidman @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Singer, novelist, satirist and would-be politician Richard “Kinky” Friedman doesn’t like to limit himself when it comes to his career options. After playing music with his first band, King Arthur and the Carrots, at the University of Texas at Austin, Friedman served two years in the Peace Corps, where he met his road manager, Dylan Ferrero. Since then, he has refined his sardonic country rock as a solo act and with various backing band lineups, producing controversial numbers like “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore” and comedic songs such as “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed.” After a lull in his music career, Friedman took up writing and running for office, placing fourth in the 2006 Texas gubernatorial race. But these days, he’s back on the road again.
Wednesday, May 3
Desiigner w/ 16YROLD @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
If there’s a song you probably never need to hear again, it’s “Panda,” Desiigner’s breakout smash. The track seemed to sit on top of the rap and pop charts forever. It was one of those songs almost too successful for its own good, as inescapable last year as jokes about Donald Trump’s hair and Hillary Clinton’s emails, but it remains to be seen whether the 19-year-old, Kanye West-signed rapper will be able to repeat its success. Desiigner saw some traction with his follow-up single, a surrealist space odyssey called “Timmy Turner,” but so far for no other track from his forthcoming debut album, The Life of Desiigner, has stuck to the charts, and the album still doesn’t have a release date. Attendees at this show can decide for themselves whether he’s a one-hit wonder or if he has real staying power.