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Dec. 4 - Dec. 10

This Week in Milwaukee

Dec. 3, 2008
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Thursday, Dec. 4

Tay Butler @ Stonefly Brewery, 10 p.m.
This summer the Royal Family camp announced itself as a promising force in the Milwaukee rap scene with the release of its first record, Prophetic’s Mo Profit, Mo Progress. Tonight another member of the collective, Tay Butler, celebrates the release of his own debut album, Tay’s Anatomy. The record hews closely to the winning production formula laid by Mo Profit, Mo Progress, a mix of Rawkus Records’ elbow-throwing, underground swagger and Roc-A-Fella Records’ highpolish floss, glued together by buoyant samples of lush, vintage soul.

Maritime @ The UWM Gasthaus, 9 p.m.
Few bands were burdened with as lofty a task as Maritime. Born under the long shadow cast by The Promise Ring, the seminal Milwaukee emo band that to this day inspires cultish devotion and utter revulsion but seldom anything in between, Maritime fought a sometimes losing battle to overcome both the huge expectations and crippling stigmas inherent in their lineage. With their recent albums, however, particularly last year’s phenomenal Heresy and the Hotel Choir, Maritime has emerged as the crown jewel of the Milwaukee rock scene, seasoned purveyors of the fuzzy, hooky guitar-pop that was abundant in the ’90s but has grown scarce over the past half-decade as indie-rock forgot such creature comforts.

Friday, Dec. 5

The Cheetah Girls @ U.S. Cellular Arena, 7 p.m.
While a handful of Disney stars—the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus, in particular—have found widespread stardom and notoriety, the mouse also harbors legions of lesser acts unable to survive outside the nurturing womb of Radio Disney. The Cheetah Girls, a trio of life-sized Bratz dolls initially conceived as a vehicle for Raven-Symone, are among the most popular of these acts, and though you’ll likely never hear singles like “Cheetah-licious Christmas” on adult radio, the girls are bona fide stars with the preteen set. The trio has announced its intentions to break up after this tour ends—which is likely a necessity, given how they’ve aged beyond their demographic—but two of the three already have plans for solo albums, and racyphotos of singer Adrienne Bailon have leaked online (a curious rite of passage that’s become a sure-fire indicator that a tween icon is making a play for adult stardom).

Reckless Hearts @ The Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
The Reckless Hearts is the latest band from most of the guys who used to make up The Danger, who for years were among the youngest of Milwaukee’s glam-rock revivalists. The name is new but the sound is much the same: The band still conjures T. Rex at their most down to earth and The Buzzcocks at their sweetest, with ample traces of The Only Ones’ sunny power-pop harmonies.

Jack Grassel and Jill Jensen @ Tommasino Italia, 8:30 p.m.

The jazz duo of renowned Milwaukee guitarist Jack Grassel and vocalist Jill Jensen makes its debut tonight at Tommasino Italia (7335 W. Greenfield Ave.), an Italian bar and restaurant in West Allis. The venue normally features recorded music by Frank Sinatra and other jazz-oriented vocalists and its ambiance is perfect for Grassel and Jensen’s mellifluous and soft-spoken performances. A prolific recording artist, Grassel will release a new CD early next year recorded with Argentine guitarist Guillermo Espinasse.

Saturday, Dec. 6

Hot Buttered Rum @ Miramar Theatre, 9 p.m.
Though they’re inspired more by The Grateful Dead’s twangy, jammy tributes to Americana than bluegrass’ Appalachian forefathers, Hot Buttered Rum is nonetheless one of the more traditional of the modern bluegrass (“newgrass”) acts, a San Francisco quintet that may exaggerate the genre’s sharp tones, but never plays them for novelty. Of course, the group brings its own ideology to the music. It’s doubtful, for instance, that Bill Monroe would have written a jam about bio-fuel, as Hot Buttered Rum did for the title track of their 2006 disc, Well-Oiled Machine. “What the restaurant kitchens dump, I want to pump,” Nat Keefe sings about the band’s tour bus, which has been retrofitted to run on both biodiesel and second-hand vegetable oil.

Hot Buttered Rum

Sunday, Dec. 7

Alex Chilton @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7:30 p.m.
By age 17 Alex Chilton was already a star, thanks to “The Letter,” one of the most muscular blue-eyed soul hits of the 1960s, which he sang with his early band The Box Tops. In the early 1970s, Chilton joined the far less successful but infinitely more influential band, Big Star, and went on to record three of the most beloved power-pop albums of all time. Trading in his prematurely ragged croon, Chilton honed a heartbreaking whimper that would later be adopted by Matthew Sweet, Elliott Smith and countless other followers, singing vulnerable confessionals that would be cherished by future generations of college- and alternative-rockers. Ironically, it seems that one of the few music lovers on Earth who doesn’t understand the significance of Alex Chilton is, of all people, Alex Chilton. Remarkably unsentimental about his own songbook, Chilton has stayed active (but not too active) with a series of humble, uneven solo albums, often filled with no-frills covers of R&B obscurities that he just so happens to enjoy. That Chilton has remained more or less visible for all these years has only made him that much more of an enigma.

The Black Crowes w/ Vetiver @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Last winter Maxim magazine infamously ran a review of The Black Crowes’ new album, Warpaint (the band’s first studio effort in seven years, and also their first with North Mississippi Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson added to their line-up) without actually hearing the album. “They sound pretty much like they always have,” the magazine decreed, “boozy, competent, and in slavish debt to the Stones, the Allmans, and the Faces.” Though the magazine was condemned from all corners, nobody actually took issue with the content of the review, which proved prescient. While Dickinson’s licks do add some richness and depth to the Crowes’ time-worn boogie hard-rock, they still sound pretty much like they always have.

Monday, Dec. 8

King’s X @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
One of the most notoriously unlucky bands in metal, King’s X was never quite able to find the stardom their followers believed they deserved. A could-have-been breakthrough single in 1989, “Over My Head,” was inexplicably ignored by MTV and radio, while the even catchier 1990 follow-up single “It’s Love” only ignited as management issues sidelined the band. In 1994, when grunge was finishing off the remnants of ’80s hard-rock, King’s X received a rare pardon from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, who plugged the band full-heartedly, but even that endorsement didn’t translate into sales. Despite the indignities, King’s X has aged gracefully and continues to churn out strong albums pairing prog-metal artiness with power-metal hooks, as on this year’s fine XV, as good an introduction to the group as any.

Tuesday, Dec. 9

DragonForce w/ Turisas and Powerglove @ The Rave, 7:30 p.m.
Though video games have proved an enduring muse for all manner of electronic musicians, England’s DragonForce is one of only a handful of metal outfits that draws extensively from video-game aesthetics. Named for the acclaimed 1996 war game, the group rips through its power-metal opuses with near unrivaled speed, mirroring those final moments of a timed video-game level when the soundtrack’s tempo accelerates forebodingly. In fact, everything about the band’s sound is so fast, from the blitzing guitar solos to the high-pitched vocals, that the band has fought off accusations of speeding up their recordings in the studio, claims that they happily disprove during their breakneck live performances.

Wednesday, Dec. 10

Brief Candles @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
Has there ever been a subgenre of alternative rock more proudly stagnant than shoegaze? The genre hit its apex in 1991 with My Bloody Valentine’s masterwork, Loveless, and although bands like Slowdive and Swervedriver applied the tenets of shoegazey dreampop to sludgy alt-rock in the mid-’90s, the genre soon ceased to evolve. Modern shoegaze artists have done little to reinvent the wheel—it seems they’re too transfixed watching it spin to even consider it—but they’ve nonetheless struck gold mining My Bloody Valentine’s durable template of sighing rhythms and roaring guitars. Like Asobi Seksu, Serena Maneesh and other young masters of the craft, Milwaukee’s Brief Candles are proud torch carriers of the shoegaze tradition that do justice to their forefathers. They deftly evoke beauty and turbulence in the same stroke on their melody-drenched 2006 album, They Live We Sleep.


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