May 14 - May 20
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, May 14
Keyshia Cole w/ The-Dream, Keri Hilson and Bobby Valentino @ The Milwaukee Theatre, 8 p.m.
This remarkable concert brings more major contemporary R&B singers to Milwaukee than the city usually hosts in an entire season. At the top of the bill is Keyshia Cole, who offsets her urbane, adult-contemporary friendly sound with a streetwise attitude that made her 2007 album Just Like You one of the year’s biggest sellers. Though The-Dream is better known for the songs he’s written for others, among them Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” he’s quickly emerging as one of R&B’s most groundbreaking recording artists, releasing a stunningly ambitious, irresistibly infectious masterpiece this year with Love vs. Money. After years of paying dues, longtime Timbaland protege Keri Hilson can finally claim to her name a debut album (this year’s In a Perfect World…) and a genuine hit single (the chart-climbing “Knock You Down,” which makes good use of dueling Ne-Yo and Kanye West guest spots). And though R&B singer Bobby Valentino’s career hasn’t been as distinguished as those of his bill-mates, he’ll forever be fondly remembered in the pop history books for his good-humored “wee-ohwee-oh-wee” chorus on Lil Wayne’s excellent “Mrs. Officer.”
Friday, May 15
The Big Wu @ The Miramar Theatre, 9 p.m.
Among The Big Wu’s more memorable accomplishments: They were the very first group ever to take the stage at Bonnaroo. Their storied set opening that Tennessee music festival in front of tens of thousands of eager attendees helped make them rising stars in the jam scene and one of the Midwest’s most popular jam acts. These days the Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers-inspired group curates a music festival of its own, the Big Wu Family Reunion, which, while not as gigantic as Bonnaroo, has become one of the region’s most celebrated jam festivals.
The Big Wu
Smoking Popes w/ Maritime and The Heligoats @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 7:30 p.m.
Picking up in the ’90s where bands like The Replacements and Dead Milkmen left off in the ’80s, the Smoking Popes played bold, punk-influenced pop music and fraternized with some of the era’s prominent punk and alternative bands (most notably Green Day). When frontman Josh Caterer tried to bring his newfound Christianity into the band’s secular oeuvre, however, the group defaulted in 1999, breaking up before they had their own chance to conquer the radio. Their reputation grew posthumously, as bands like Alkaline Trio and Fall Out Boy sang their praises, until 2005 finally brought a wellreceived reunion. Last year, the band released their first studio album in more than a decade, Stay Down.
Lady Sovereign w/ Chester French @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
In 2006, Lady Sovereign was set to be what M.I.A. would eventually become, a club rap superstar, but for all the early hype, her Def Jam debut, Public Warning, met with only lukewarm reviews and interest. The label booted her shortly after its release, which may have been a smart decision, given the downright frosty reviews of Sovereign’s latest, Jigsaw. So far the similarly hyped Chester French has avoided that kind of backlash. The hip-pop duo, which includes one-time Milwaukeean D.A. Wallach, reportedly incited a bidding war between rap moguls before being signed to Pharrell Williams’ Star Trak label, where they delivered with a strong showing of their debut album’s first single, “She Loves Everybody.”
Saturday, May 16
Jimmy Fallon @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
Jimmy Fallon brought young women viewers to “Saturday Night Live” when he joined the iconic sketch comedy show in the late-’90s, but developed an unflattering reputation in comedy circles for his incessant giggling and inability to stay in character. That made him an odd choice to succeed on “Late Night” the beloved Conan O’Brien, a towering figure with far greater cachet in comedy circles, but so far Fallon has filled the role amiably, albeit with a desperate, eager-to-please presence that puts some viewers on edge. We can only imagine that tonight’s stand-up appearance was conceived as part of an effort to help the guy build up a little extra confidence on stage.
Fall Out Boy @ The Rave, 6:30 p.m.
Unfairly derided for the crimes of their imitators, Fall Out Boy has been cast as the poster child for what’s wrong with alternative radio, though they could just as easily be considered one of the beleaguered format’s few saving graces. At a time when modern-rock was treading toward humorless post-grunge, Fall Out Boy enlivened the format with a theatrical flash of deft, power-pop-inspired emo. As their fame has grown, so has their sound, which swells to arena-rock sizes on the band’s latest record, Folie a Deux. In an effort to bridge the gap between the music of the ’70s and the Top 40 hits of today, that album welcomes guests as disparate as Elvis Costello and Lil Wayne. Tonight’s sold-out concert pairs Fall Out Boy with a quartet of like-minded emo-rock acts: Cobra Starship, All Time Low, Metro Station and Hey Monday.
Mucca Pazza w/ Ruby Isle and Big Fun 4Ever @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.
From their political beginnings as the 80-piece group the All-American Anti-War Marching Band, Mucca Pazza has evolved into the biggest party act in the Midwest, playing sets that unfold as full-fledged halftime shows. The ensemble, now pruned to a still impressive 30-or-so members, dresses in marching-band uniforms, complete with cheerleaders, and has earned gigs on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” and Lollapalooza, as well as a memorable role in Andrew Bird’s recent “Fitz and the Dizzyspells” video, where the group marches into Chicago’s iconic venue The Hideout, their early stomping ground.
William Elliot Whitmore w/ John the Savage @ The Stonefly Brewery, 10 p.m.
Iowa-native William Elliot Whitmore delves into the dark crevices of a poor-man’s soul, singing that he ought to burn in hell on his latest album, Animals in the Dark, which doubles as an indictment of America’s political system. Its opening track, “Mutiny,” tells of a drunken captain who’s lost control of his ship, a likely attack on former President George W. Bush. Openers John the Savage also evoke ships, albeit ships of a more literal sort. The Milwaukee ensemble composes rickety, noisy dirges that conjure images of pirates and old-time circuses.
Sunday, May 17
Todd Barry @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Many comedians not so secretly hope for careers in television or even film, but Todd Barry’s everyman looks and slow, dry-as-toast delivery leaves the stage his only real outlet, though he has lent his unmistakable, sardonic voice to cartoons like “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” and “Home Movies” and made an unforgettable, one-off cameo on “Flight of the Conchords” as a cocky, would-be Conchord. There’s nothing loud, showy or pretentious about Barry’s stand-up act; instead, Barry relies on his quiet charm and good-natured leeriness, quipping back and forth with the audience and chuckling gently as if trying to contain his laughter when one of his own retorts strikes him as particularly amusing.
Tuesday, May 19
Animal Collective @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
This January, Baltimore’s Animal Collective released what will almost certainly be remembered as the landmark album of 2009, Merriweather Post Pavilion, an album that joins Radiohead’s Kid A and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot among the most storied experimental records of the decade. With its throbbing, flowering melodies, Merriweather has attracted nothing but accolades from every critical source of note, with nary a contrarian rising to challenge its phenomenon. It’s certainly a hard record to dismiss. Since Animal Collective craft their trance-like carols with so much empty space for listeners to fill in, Merriweather emerged as something of a blank slate on which anything could be projected. Some saw it as the most wondrous acid trip; others the successor to the Beach Boys’ legacy—but most everyone heard greatness.