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Sept. 18-Sept. 24

This Week in Milwaukee

Sep. 18, 2008
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Thursday, Sept. 18

The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir @ The UWM Gasthaus, 8 p.m.
Despite what their moniker promises, The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir (pictured) isn’t from Scotland; they don’t play gospel; and, for that matter, they’re not a choir. They’re a Chicago co-ed indie pop ensemble with a warm, dreamy sound and the requisite allegiance to Belle & Sebastian. To be sure, though, they’re a cut above your standard-issue indie-pop group, especially since the release of their 2007 self-titled album, which toned down some of the cutesiness that marred their 2003 debut in favor of more somber, moodier songs.

Friday, Sept. 19

Mason Jennings @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
“He has a gift for expressing big ideas with simple words,” you might hear said of Mason Jennings in those sonorous public radio spots plugging the singer-songwriter’s concert tonight. But, if anything, Jenning’s actual appeal seems to be his utter disinterest in big ideas. His ever-cute folk-pop songs are comforting in their lack of ambitions; and even when Jennings tackles lofty issues—politics, faith—he only does so by recycling meaningless conventional wisdom. With his direct, hooky little songs, he makes even his friend and label-mate Jack Johnson seem multilayered and mysterious by comparison.

George Lopez @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
George Lopez’s self-titled sitcom was often praised for doing for Hispanics what “The Cosby Show” did for African Americans, but that assessment overlooks the elephant in the room: While “The Cosby Show” was above all a great sitcom, “George Lopez” was a joyless regurgitation of the worst sitcom conventions. Don’t hold that against Lopez himself, though. Lopez is too amiable to dismiss—a decent actor, a sympathetic spokesman for kidney donations and an all-around good guy. His stand-up is better than his recently canceled show would suggest, too. It pairs the family-based humor he’s now best known for with gentle satire and frank discussions of race relations.

Prophetic w/ Tay Butler @ Stonefly Brewery, 10 p.m.
One of the few Milwaukee rappers with ties to both the alt-rap hip-hop scene of the city’s East Side and the grittier, club-rap scene of the North Side, Prophetic stakes out an agreeable middle ground, embracing both sounds without succumbing to conscious-rap moralizing or thug-rap cliches. The slick production of his new album, Mo Profit, Mo Progress, finds a sonic middle ground between laid-back alt-rap and bombastic Southern rap, leaning on lush, skittering jazz and blunted soul samples—many of them by Milwaukee producers like Haz Solo, who lends his Madlib-like touch—but breaking things up with a handful of drum-clapping, Mot-popping club cuts.

Saturday, Sept. 20

Tomato Romp @ North Avenue, 11 a.m.– 5 p.m.
One of Milwaukee’s odder new traditions, the Tomato Romp returns for a second year on Milwaukee’s East Side. Though it also promises music, arts and crafts, produce and buskers, the event is first and foremost a celebration of drinking built around a Bloody Mary competition. For $10, drinkers can sample Bloody Marys from 11 local establishments. Then, when patrons are suitably lubricated, the day culminates in a 4 p.m. rotten tomato fight—but not, of course, before all the appropriate waivers are filled out, lest someone somehow is injured by a tomato.

Art in Flux @ Flux Design, 5 p.m.– 9 p.m.
Sure, the annual Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design benefit “Art In Flux” includes the usual catered food and cash-bar you expect from an arts event, but it also features something you won’t find at the average gallery opening: a steamroller. As patrons mingle, artists will be plugging away on mixed-media sculptures inside the building, while outside a steamroller rolls out massive, woodcut prints for silent auction.

Sunday, Sept. 21

Eagles @ The Bradley Center, 8 p.m.
Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski might not have had much patience for them, but that puts the beloved Coen brothers character at odds with many Americans. After all these years, the Eagles’ 1976 greatest-hits compilation is still the best-selling record in the history of the country—a statistic that to this day confounds music fans born after, well, 1976. Buoyed by their never-ending play on classic-rock radio, the Eagles milked a fortune out of their on-again/off-again ’90s reunion tours, but it was only in 2007, after a 28-year absence, that they returned to the studio for a new album. If there was any doubt that the Eagles were comfortable with their legacy, Long Road Out of Eden eliminates it. Unlike some oldies bands—say, America—who have released youthful, guest-laden new albums in unveiled attempts to earn the band a critical reappraisal, Long Road sticks to the big, self-satisfied ’70s country-rock sound the Eagles will always be known for, frequently evoking—what else?—“Hotel California.”

Gonzo @ The Times Cinema, 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Though it takes the unusual step of acknowledging the infamous writer’s less than pro ductive final years, like just about every study of its subject Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is guilty of over-romanticizing Thompson’s quirks. Still, the documentary is one of the most comprehensive looks at Thompson’s legacy, focusing not only on his drug-addled writings but also his curious forays into politics. Assisting documentarian Alex Gibney—who keeps the quick, amusing pace of his winning film Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room—is narrator Johnny Depp, who knows a thing or two about Thompson, having depicted him in the film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Footage of Depp from that film is contrasted with footage of the actual Thompson.

Dar Williams w/ Shawn Mullins @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Of all the ’90s female folk artists who cited Joan Baez as a muse, Dar Williams had the closest ties to Baez herself, touring and dueting with and writing songs for the folk legend. Where many of Williams’ peers sang with a jagged edge, aggressively trumpeting their individuality, politics and sexuality with sing-along anger and profanity, Williams was never so subversive. Her songs were cleaner, poppier and more inclusive; her political stances hippie-ish in their good intentions. Her upcoming album, however, promises a bit of a change in direction. Produced by Smashing Pumpkins/Liz Phair producer Brad Wood, Promised Land features guest spots from Suzanne Vega and Jayhawks singer Gary Louris, as well as a cover of a Fountains of Wayne song, hinting at a push for alt-rock radio play.

Dar Williams

Monday, Sept. 22

Xavier Rudd w/ Griffin House @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
At the risk of perpetuating a silly stereotype, we’ll caution that not all musicians from Australia play the didgeridoo, but Australian Xavier Rudd happens to. Then again, this roots rock musician plays all sorts of instruments: slide guitar, harmonica, banjo, bass, the djem be hand drum, etc. Displaying more than a little Paul Simon influence (mostly in his vocals and in his affinity for world music), one-man-band Rudd has become a favorite in jam cir cles, thanks largely to his flashy live shows, which feature plenty of instrument hopping.

Xavier Rudd

Ratatat w/ E*Rock and Panther @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
It’s still just a rumor at this point, but it’s one of the most tantalizing of the year: Ratatat, the ever-hyped indie-electronic duo, may sign to The Neptunes’ Star Trak record label, where they’ll presumably be groomed for a career as hip-hop and R&B producers. In a time when Kanye West is mining emotive, Daft Punk synths for inspiration, Ratatat’s trippy, cerebral beats actually would fit right in on commercial radio if paired with a T-Pain or a Rihanna. Even if these rumors never come true and Ratatat never gets a shot at becoming the next Timbaland, fans can take solace in the duo’s experimental, decidedly un-commercial albums, the latest of which, this July’s LP3, refreshingly adds more organic percussive and keyboard-based instruments to the group’s digital template.



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