Oct. 23 - Oct. 29
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, Oct. 23
Local H w/ The Cocksmiths @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Mostly unchanged since their minor hit “Bound for the Floor” in the ’90s, Local H’s music still crashes and thrashes in deference to the glory days of grunge-rock, but a steady stream of respectable new material and a road-tested two-man show has prevented the band from falling into the nostalgia-act trap like many of their peers. The group is touring behind this May’s 12 Angry Months, the best calendar-themed breakup record since The Good Life’s Album of the Year. The disc finds shouting frontman Scott Lucas in fine, typically cynical form.
The Roots w/ Gym Class Heroes and Estelle @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
After years of being a non-threatening gateway group for green hip-hop listeners who were comforted by the band’s live jazz and rock instrumentation, The Roots have emerged as a take-no-prisoners force on recent albums, throwing down angry, terse, minor-key rap baked in political and racial discontentment. Their loaded new disc, Rising Down, is their most militant yet, but the band’s outrage hasn’t tainted their live shows, which still aim for the masses that just want to have a good time. The openers on this current tour suggest a particularly unaffected evening: Gym Class Heroes keep their emo-rap novelty songs as featherweight as possible, while R&B singer Estelle, every bit the talent you’d expect from a protege of John Legend and Kanye West, has an ear for tropical-tinged, escapist pop.
David Seebach’s Illusions in the Night @ The Modjeska Theatre, 7:30 p.m.
Since 1991, David Seebach has hosted one of Milwaukee’s longest-running Halloween traditions, his moody “Illusions in the Night” show. In past years, the local magician has examined Jack the Ripper, conversed with a mummy and summoned ghosts in addition to requisite tricks like stabbing a woman in a box. This year’s show promises levitation, cremation, a live tiger and other freaky tricks, with a focus on witches and spiders. It’s an allages production, so scarier than the actual show may be the venue: The Modjeska has long been purported to be one of Milwaukee’s most haunted locales. (Through Nov. 1.)
Though its disarming title suggests the geeky little brothers of the electronic-music scene, the indie label IHEARTCOMIX has distinguished itself as a trend-setting force, bridging the gap between the bohemian, increasingly dancey tendencies of indie-rock and the patrician excesses of club culture. It’s a label for scenesters who pop Andre, not Cristal. This tour pairs two IHEARTCOMIX acts: The Toxic Avenger, an oft-masked DJ whose bloopy, grinding video-game noises most closely evoke the comics the label’s name suggests, and label owner Franki Chan, whose fidgety, jubilant mixes sum up the label’s celebratory mentality.
Friday, Oct. 24Lotus w/ Family Groove Company @ Miramar Theatre, 9 p.m.
At its worst, so-called “jam-tronica,” that small subset of improvisational music spun around electronic and dance sounds, can be every bit as meandering as the worst guitarbased jam music, but Philadelphia’s Lotus has increasingly fine-tuned its niche genre. The group’s affable new disc, Hammerstrike, released this month on the String Cheese Incident’s SCI Fidelity label, has grooves to spare, and though the group stretches these funky, cowbell-laden jams to the breaking point, they never draw them out to the point of boredom. It’s like Tortoise decided to drop their art-rock pretenses and just invite The Rapture over for a dance party.
Gary Louris w/ Ike Reilly @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
As the guitarist and eventual frontman for the Minneapolis alt-country institution The Jayhawks, at the turn of the century Gary Louris pushed the band’s sound into the realm of slick, classic pop, mirroring Wilco’s direction at the time. By 2005, though, Wilco had become the biggest band in alt-country, while The Jayhawks still hadn’t translated their cult following and critical adulation into mass success. They’ve been on hiatus ever since. Jayhawks fans holding out hope for a reunion will be thrilled to hear that Louris is readying an album with his former band mate Mark Olson, but in the meantime Louris is touring behind his own singer-songwriter disc, Vagabonds, a fine showcase for his rich guitar-work. Tonight’s show is sponsored by radio station 89.7, so tickets are $8.97.
Saturday, Oct. 25
The Junior League Band
The Alley Cat Revue w/ The Junior League Band @ Stonefly Brewery, 10 p.m.
The appeal of modern burlesque troupes—aside, of course, from the breasts—is that they simultaneously feed audiences’ appetites for something not only risqu but also old-fashioned and, in its own way, almost innocent. With their lighthearted comedy routines and implicit feminist values, these coquettish dancers may show some skin, but they otherwise eschew the vulgarity inherent in most contemporary displays of sexuality— that’s why Milwaukee is increasingly seeing performances by troupes like The Alley Cat Revue, a local, adorable neo-burlesque troop. Tonight the girls perform a Halloween-themed “boolesque show,” assisted by openers The Junior League Band, a bluegrass ensemble from Washington, D.C.
Sunday, Oct. 26
Of Montreal @ Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Of Montreal had a landmark 2007, riding a wave of praise for their stellar Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, a vibrant fusion of modern electro-pop and classic glam-rock that gave a stylized, poignantly understated account of singer Kevin Barnes’ battle with depression. The band returned this year with a divisive follow-up record, Skeletal Lamping, either a manic mind-fuck or a nonstop headache depending on your disposition, while they continued to build word of mouth for their theatrical, high-budget live spectacles. Already infamous for onstage full-frontal nudity, Barnes one-upped himself in New York this month by riding into the Roseland Ballroom on a towering white stallion. How he acquired a real, live horse is anyone’s guess.
Tuesday, Oct. 28Vampir Cuadecuc @ UWM Union Theatre, 7 p.m.
Spanish experimental filmmaker Pere Portabella’s Vampir Cuadecuc is a parasitic horror film, a movie shot on the set of someone else’s movie. Portabella sat in on the set of Jesus Franco’s 1970 adaptation of Count Dracula and captured his own harshly shot footage, then pieced together a nonlinear film that also works as both a vampire film and a documentary about making a vampire film. At every turn, Portabella undercuts Franco’s host film by depicting the behind-the-scenes levity that preceded Franco’s “scary” footage. Portabella films actors between takes as they joke around, smoke, flirt and apply makeup, neutering Franco’s film of much of its shock and magic, but creating its own creepy, subversive spell.
Wednesday, Oct. 29
Yeasayer w/ Chairlift @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
It’s easy to see why Yeasayer has invited so many TV on the Radio and Arcade Fire comparisons. All three groups share an undisguised veneration for Talking Heads and how that band grew uneasy little songs into massive, pan-ethnic sing-alongs. But unlike even their most ambitious peers in New York City’s experimental rock scene, Yeasayer doesn’t unduly ground their worldy songs in Western-rock conventions. Their songs follow their own globe-spanning map, without preference for whether they land in the jungles of Africa or the deserts of the Middle East. Band members put their well-stamped passports to good use on their worldly 2007 debut, All Hour Cymbals.