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Aug. 7 - Aug. 13

This Week in Milwaukee

Aug. 6, 2008
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This Week in Milwaukee

Thursday, Aug. 7

This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb w/ Hidden Spots, Future Virgins @ Borg Ward, 7 p.m.
Though sonically removed from each other, the soft acoustic stylings of Pensacola, Fla.’s This Bike Is a Pipe Bomb actually share a great deal in common with the aggressively political punk of forefathers like the Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat. Like the Kennedys’ country staple “Take This Job and Shove It,” This Bike’s songs are anti-establishment rants disguised as agreeable, grassroots romps. Their hard-edged messages of classic protest and resistance (including a peppy take on “We Shall Not Be Moved”) often come disguised in simple, non-threatening melodic song structures, much like the incon spicuous bike of their namesake.

Friday, Aug. 8

Sheryl Crow w/ James Blunt and Toots and the Maytals @ Bradley Center, 7 p.m.
Sheryl Crow has come a long way since she sang backup for Michael Jackson on his 1987 “Bad” tour. Resisting early offers to record as a dance-pop artist, she waited until the ’90s to release her first album, which established her as a something-for-everyone singer-song writer. Her singles have found her straddling the line between Lilith Fair troubadour (“If It Makes You Happy,” “Strong Enough”), pop starlet (“Soak Up the Sun,” “All I Wanna Do”) and covert country-crossover singer (“Picture,” “The First Cut is the Deepest”), frequently to great commercial success. She shares tonight’s bill with James Blunt—who’s still looking for a follow-up hit for “You’re Beautiful”—and, curiously, reggae pioneers Toots and the Maytals.

Alice Cooper w/ Tat @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Especially for younger listeners who weren’t around to hear “School’s Out” upon its original release, it’s difficult to think of Alice Cooper without remembering his cameo appearance as the benevolent American history teacher in Wayne’s World. That scene, in which Cooper eloquently explains the Algonquin origins of “mill-e-wah-que,” perfectly reflects Cooper’s savvy dual nature: There’s Alice Cooper the over-the-top musical demigod, whose shocking stage performance influenced the likes of GWAR and Marilyn Manson, and there’s Alice Cooper the likable born-again Christian and VH1 television personality.

That’s not to say that Cooper has gone soft with age; rather, it’s a testament that, like so many enigmatic rockers who followed him, Cooper has always had uncanny con trol over his public persona. Cooper is touring with his recently released 25th studio album, the critically vexed Along Came a Spider.

National Poetry Slam 2008 @ Madison, Wis. (various venues)
Seventy-six teams of spoken-word poets from cities all over the world, including Paris, Toronto and New York, traveled to Madison this week to compete in the sport’s biggest event, the National Poetry Slam, which builds to the semifinals showdown on Friday before a Saturday night finals showcase. Hoping to make the cut is Milwaukee’s seasoned team, which is made up of winners of this spring’s 2008 Milwaukee City Slam, including Karl Iglesias, Niki Janzen and Dan Vaughn. All performances are open to the public. For more information on competition times and locations, visit nps2008.com.

Boyz II Men w/ Midnight Star @ Wisconsin State Fair, 8 p.m.
Thanks to a steady succession of powerhouse hits in the ’90s, most memorably “I’ll Make Love to You” and “End of the Road,” Boyz II Men still hold claim to being the most com mercially successful R&B act of all time, even if recent albums haven’t sold as well as their Clinton-era blockbusters. Since the 2003 departure of Michael McCary (the bassy one) left them a trio, the group has continued to record steadily, releasing a couple of covers albums (the latest of which, Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA, was produced by Randy Jackson) and eying a possible 2008 release for their upcoming 10th studio album.

Saturday, Aug. 9

Rockerbox Motorcycle Show & Street Party @ Center Street, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In just a few weeks the city will be overrun by graying bikers blasting Steppenwolf and grumbling about their old ladies, but the annual Rockerbox Motorcycle Show in Riverwest attracts a different, more youthful kind of biker counterculture—in particular, those side-burned, rockabilly throwback types who reside in the bars of Riverwest and Bay View. Between all the throwback sport bikes, street fighters, choppers, supermotos and sidecars, the vintage bike show is novel enough for non-enthusiasts to enjoy, as is the music lineup, which includes Call Me Lightning, Juniper Tar, Protestant and The Response—local bands as far removed from the Molly Hatchet/George Thorogood school of biker-rock as you can get.

Kid Cut Up @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.
Mixing backpacker hip-hop with a smattering of popular club rap doesn’t sound like such a revolutionary idea, but until just a half-decade ago, few Milwaukee DJs had flirted with that simple combination, leaving a giant niche for Kid Cut Up and his fellow No Request DJs to fill. Cut Up is now one of the most prolific, successful DJs in the city, and this year he furthered his profile by inheriting WMSE’s Tuesday night “Late Night Hype Show” time slot, along with DJ Madhatter. Cut Up typically DJs several times a week, so he’s lined up a special bill to build particular interest in tonight’s CD release party behind his new release Club Soda No Ice, Vol. 2. Milwaukee hip-hop staples J Todd, Oneself and members of the Rusty Ps and King Hell Bastard will turn in guest performances.

Sunday, Aug. 10

Joshua Radin w/ Alexa Wilkinson and Vanessa Carlton @ The Pabst Theater, 7:30 p.m.

Let’s get this out of the way: The Shins do not owe their career to Zach Braff. They’d be doing just fine without the Garden State exposure. But Joshua Radin? Now there’s a guy who owes his career to Zach Braff. Braff used his clout to put his longtime friend’s song, “Winter,” on his popular-ish dramedy “Scrubs,” which provided enough of a profile boost to get Radin a recording contract. Since then, Radin’s Elliott Smith-without-the-demons songs have been regularly featured on “Grey’s Anatomy.” Radin shares this bill with singer-songwriter Alexa Wilkinson and, interestingly, Vanessa Carlton, the piano-pop songstress who five years ago seemed poised for a promising career, thanks to her dramatic pause mega-hit “A Thousand Miles.” For unclear reasons, her label pulled the promotional rug out from under her, and she’s been largely below the radar every since.

Tuesday, Aug. 12

Keb’ Mo’ w/ Robert Cray @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino, 8 p.m.
Keb’ Mo’ has won three Grammys for Best Contemporary Blues Album, which is ironic, since there’s nothing remotely contemporary about Mo’s blues. He performs antique backwoods blues fashioned after legends like Robert Johnson, a man he emulates so precisely that he even depicted him in the 1998 documentary Can’t You Hear the Wind Howl? Some blues purists never forgave tonight’s co-headliner Robert Cray for his 1986 breakthrough album, Strong Persuader, an ultra-smooth crossover blues record that made Cray a sex symbol (in part because he sang so much about sex). Those purists, however, have missed out on the great albums Cray has released since, discs that run the gamut from traditional blues to blues soul heavily indebted to Al Green and Hi Records. In a genre infamously averse to change, Cray has never been afraid to rock the boat.


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