Oct. 30 - Nov. 5
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, Oct. 30Cornmeal w/ Good Gets Better @ Miramar Theatre, 8 p.m.
The Chicago ensemble Cornmeal labels itself “progressive bluegrass,” but that tag may give a misleading impression. While the group isn’t immune to occasional jammy digressions into jazz and rock territory, they stay more closely within the realm of traditional bluegrass than their tie-dyed peers, mercifully resisting banjo-driven novelty covers of Snoop Dogg raps. What sets them apart most from their authentic, mountain-band predecessors is their playing, which tends to be much flashier and faster.
Cougar Den w/ Akimbo, Novel, Call Me Lightning, Crocodiles @ The Borg Ward Collective, 7 p.m.
Among the brightest stars of Milwaukee’s formidable hardcore scene, Cougar Den play as if from the perspective of a caged animal, snarling and growling with equal parts fury and desperation. They continue their full-throttle descent into darkness on their sophomore album, keepondrifter, an austere record populated by hate crimes, abuses of power and ominous skies. Always savvy promoters, Cougar Den are supported on tonight’s CD-release show by a choice roster of punk luminaries from Milwaukee and beyond, including Akimbo, the Seattle institution touring behind its 10th anniversary, and Crocodiles (ex-Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower).
Joseph Arthur @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Singer-songwriter and one-time Peter Gabriel protege Joseph Arthur received an unlikely career boost from Hurricane Katrina. The tragedy prompted a 2006 benefit EP where his song “In The Sun” was covered six times by stars like Chris Martin and Michael Stipe. Justin Timberlake even remixed the track. After a long, mostly below-the-radar career, Arthur seemed to thrive under the spotlight, releasing the next year his sixth studio album, Let’s Just Be, and in 2008 a rapid-fire succession of four EPs culminating in his latest record, Temporary People, a fine rock ’n’ roll album.
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
News of a Conor Oberst solo album sparked innumerable quips about Oberst finally breaking free from the restrictive creative chains of his primary band, Bright Eyes—the elastic group for which Oberst, of course, is the sole constant. Unsurprisingly, then, Oberst’s first grown-up solo album is mostly indistinguishable from his recent Bright Eyes output, though it’s perhaps a little more easygoing and congenial, devoid of his fussier arrangements. It’s an album every bit as laid-back as the cover photo of Oberst snoozing in a hammock suggests. As a young songwriting savant, Oberst’s bedroom folk earned him lofty Bob Dylan comparisons, but judging from his self-titled album, now he’s gunning for James Taylor’s crown.
Friday, Oct. 31
Radio Milwaukee 88Nine and the Turner Hall Ballrooom give the costumed, music-loving masses a destination tonight with a $10 bill that pairs three dancey Milwaukee acts: the peppy electro-pop band French Horn Rebellion, boy-wonder club rapper Juiceboxxx and headliners Kings Go Forth, a prescient ensemble that feeds the demand for retro soul music and continues soul’s long tradition of male vocal harmonies. A trio of DJs rounds out the bill: The Glamour’s Diamonds, Codebreaker’s Steven Hawley and 88Nine’s Tarik.
Saturday, Nov. 1
Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s w/ Wild Sweet Orange and The Celebrated Workingman @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m. Since Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s were unable to agree with their label on a final track listing for their Epic Records debut, the album arrives in two incarnations: the small-release Animal!, the band’s preferred version, and the condescendingly titled Not Animal, the label’s market-tested, mass-release version. Although Epic’s edit is the more defanged of the two, stripping Animal! of its more atmospheric, Radiohead-esque moments, it’s not like the label painted over a Rembrandt. With its dull songs and cutesy, paint-by-numbers indie-pop arrangements, Animal! isn’t particularly feral, either.
Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s
Atmosphere w/ Abstract Rude, Blue Print and DJ Rare Groove @ Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Soliciting studio contributions from the live band with which they’ve taken to touring in recent years, Atmosphere came up with their richest, fullest sound yet for their latest album, When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. The record also finds notoriously moody rapper Slug moving away from his autobiographical diatribes toward clean, fictional narratives. Thanks in part to the booming ode to misanthropy “You,” an irresistible single that’s clocked considerable airplay on Milwaukee stations, Lemons is Atmosphere’s highest-charting record yet. (Before tonight’s show, the group will do a 1:45 p.m. meet-and-greet session at the East Side Exclusive Company.)
Tuesday, Nov. 4My Vote Performs @ Multiple Locations, 4 to 8 p.m.
The rare opportunity this week’s historic election presents hasn’t been lost on more than a dozen of Milwaukee’s performance artists, who will take to the city’s polling sites this evening to present short pieces that build on their favorite disciplines, be they music, dance, sculpture, poetry or, perhaps most intriguingly, puppetry. These performances could provide welcome entertainment for voters if the lines are as long as some pundits are predicting. (Those who miss the scene at the polls will have a second chance to see filmed and live performances from the My Vote Performs project at a Nov. 25 forum at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design.)
Girl Talk @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
It’s becoming less and less likely that record-industry stormtroopers are going to raid a Girl Talk concert, handcuff DJ Gregg Gillis and haul away his laptop as evidence. No doubt, though, Gillis would love it if that did happen. As Girl Talk, the mash-up master has milked career-creating publicity out of his brazen skirting of copyright laws, sampling liberally from countless classic and contemporary hits as if daring the music industry to come at him with a lawsuit. Realistically, though, the fear of negative publicity and the fact that the music industry has much, much bigger problems to worry about will keep Gillis out of the slammer for the foreseeable future, allowing him to continue touring behind his latest party-in-a-can, Feed the Animals.
Wednesday, Nov. 5Kings of Leon w/ We Are Scientists and The Whigs @ The Rave, 7 p.m.
By now the cycle is pretty well cemented: Kings of Leon release an album, which is then greeted with cold reviews and hot sales. Lather, rinse, repeat. The Southern rock group’s latest record, Only By the Night, is their most polarizing record yet, attracting lavish praise from established print media and particularly savage derision from online contrarians. The disc is selling like Depression-priced hotcakes thanks to its haunting lead single, “Sex On Fire,” a career-best that reverberates in the mind for hours after each listen, making it easy to see why the song is lighting up FM 102.1’s request lines. Blog favorites We Are Scientists and ’90s alternative-rock revivalists The Whigs open.
Kings of Leon
Gang Gang Dance w/ Marnie Stern @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
These days there is no shortage of indierock bands pairing their guitars with thumping, tribal percussion—TV on the Radio, Animal Collective and Yeasayer are among the most prominent—but few groove with the bombast of Gang Gang Dance, a group whose pulsating, worldly beats and whooshing, bassy synthesizers attack with the ferocity of a drive-by shooting. They’re a meaner, bolder band than just about any other in their scene—it’s impossible to imagine, for instance, any of their New York art-scene peers spitting reggaeton raps with the same cock-grabbing confidence. Like the headliners, opener Marnie Stern has been decreed an artist worth watching by just about every Internet tastemaker worth its salt. The Deerhoof-styled experimental pop songs on her brash but charming latest disc, This Is It and I Am It…, afford her plenty of opportunities to shred away on her guitar, an instrument she abuses with both lightning speed and uncanny precision.
Gang Gang Dance