June 25 - July 1
This Week in Milwaukee
Thursday, June 25
Rise Against w/ Rancid and The Riverboat Gamblers @ Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, Summerfest, 6:30 p.m.
As with previous Rise Against albums, the band’s latest record, Appeal To Reason, mixes hard-charging punk tracks with more traditional rock songs. It’s the most diverse and tuneful effort yet from a band that has shown little difficulty balancing their leftist political leanings with their ever-growing commercial appeal. Rise Against’s 10 p.m. headlining set tonight is preceded by two well-selected openers: Rancid, at 8 p.m., are touring behind their first album in six years, Let the Dominos Fall, which finds their ska-tinted punk little changed for the hiatus; and The Riverboat Gamblers, at 6:30 p.m., are snot-nosed Texas punks who took an unlikely turn toward party-punk irreverence on their latest, Underneath the Owl.
Bon Jovi w/ Soraia @ The Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
Bon Jovi’s sold-out show tonight at the Marcus Amphitheater, one of only two scheduled appearances for the arena-rock survivors this summer, marks the fifth time the New Jersey rockers have played Summerfest. Their first appearance dates back to 1985. Expect them to indulge the baby-boomer constituency with hits like “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name,” but also work in songs from their latest album Lost Highway, an unexpectedly satisfying turn away from hard-rock and toward roots music.
Summerfest Big Bang Fireworks @ The Lakefront, 9:30 p.m.
While the summer solstice on June 21 may be the official first day of summer, most Milwaukeeans don’t acknowledge the change of seasons until the Big Bang Fireworks usher in yet another year of Summerfest activities. Bartolotta Fireworks, which has sponsored the event since 1991, will once again keep the collective “oohs” and “aahs” emanating from Lake Michigan tonight. If you can’t make it Downtown to find a spot, no worries, this year WISN-TV (Channel 12) will be broadcasting the Big Bang live in HD with a preview show starting at 9 p.m.
Friday, June 26
Dropkick Murphys @ Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, Summerfest, 9:30 p.m.
From their early days of practicing in barbershop basements to sharing the stage with Aerosmith for a cover of Dirty Water at the Comcast Center last week, Dropkick Murphys have been able to reach out to a mainstream audience without alienating their punk base. They saw the Boston Red Sox adopt “Tessie” as their World Series anthem during the 2004 season, and offered “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” as the opening theme for Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. After selling out The Eagles Ballroom back in April, this Boston septet looks to turn Summerfest into a belated St. Patrick’s Day celebration tonight.
Shellac w/ Three Second Kiss and Bear Claw @ Club Garibaldi, 10 p.m.
The great Chicago noise-rock trio Shellac has always been overshadowed by the involvement of singer-guitarist Steve Albini, the hands-off visionary who produced dozens of essential albums from artists like The Pixies, The Breeders, Nirvana, Slint, Low, Joanna Newsom and Jawbreaker, but for their part, the band does nothing to combat the perception that they’re just a side project. They don’t do publicity, they tour infrequently and barely ever record, releasing just four albums over the past 17 years. But when they do make it into the studio, it’s glorious, as they proved on their gut-punching 2007 album Excellent Italian Greyhound. Rarely do bands hear this, but maybe the guys in Shellac actually should quit their day jobs.
Saturday, June 27
KISS w/ Chevelle @ The Marcus Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
Although KISS purists would argue this current incarnation of the band is not legitimate KISS, since founding members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss are sitting this one out, to the untrained eye it may be hard to spot the difference, since their ringers will be hidden under masks of make-up. Aside from their surprise performance with Adam Lambert on the “American Idol” finale, and, of course, Gene Simmons’ grotesquely titled reality TV show “Family Jewels,” things have remained fairly quiet in the KISS camp lately, with the veteran band playing just a handful of shows this summer. That could be because the band is working on material for the new album they promised last year, which still has no release date.
Sunday, June 28
Stevie Wonder w/ John Legend @ The Marcus Amphitheater, 7 p.m.
Stevie Wonder’s headlining performance at the Marcus Amphitheater last year came during a time when the pop composer wasn’t touring much, so his prompt return this year is a welcome surprise that may be indicative of the singer’s renewed prolificacy. Wonder has certainly seemed reinvigorated in recent years, and according to reports he’s working on a slew of new material, including a gospel album and a performance piece about his blindness. Smart money is on him sticking mostly to the hits tonight, though. Another welcome surprise: the addition of John Legend to this bill, since it’s the only announced concert that Wonder will share with the acclaimed 30-year-old neo-soul crooner. Legend’s most recent, dance-floor friendly album, Evolver, is a sharp departure from the debonair ballads of Legend’s ivory-tickling first records, but it’s spawned one of his biggest hits, “Green Light,” a collaboration with OutKast’s Andre 3000.
Monday, June 29
Spoon @ Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Like an empty cardboard box in the hands of an imaginative child, a simple rhythm opens up a world of possibilities for Spoon. Over a herky-jerk pulse that changes remarkably little from song to song (or album to album), the indie-rock foursome can evoke just about any genre it wants through just the slightest shifts. Add a punchy groove and you have the brittle funk of “I Turn My Camera On.” Play up the piano and you get the cocky swagger of “The Way We Get By.” Swap the piano for an electric guitar and you get a power-pop charmer like “Fitted Shirt.” Murk up the mix and you get a moodier rocker like “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case.” They play loose and sloppy, making it look effortless even though it takes sweat aplenty to keep their shows from descending into tuneless clatter. Part of the thrill of a Spoon show is seeing whether they can pull it all off, since sometimes they don’t.
Lupe Fiasco @ Miller Lite Oasis, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Though Lupe Fiasco’s dexterous flow and brain-twisting lyricism were undeniable, with its cutesy songs about skateboarding and robots, Fiasco’s 2006 debut Food & Liquor threatened novelty. Thankfully, the Chicago rapper laid to rest any doubts that he was more interested in being a personality than an artist, though, with his late-2007 follow-up, Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool, a dark-as-the-night concept record saturated in death and violence and executed with a mix of satire and intrigue. Never mind that the mythology Fiasco spins is borderline nonsensical, the album proved that Fiasco was able to record an album smart enough to live up to his own considerable intelligence, establishing him not only as one of hip-hop’s most charming figures, but also one of its more ambitious visionaries.
Tuesday, June 30
Public Enemies Advance Screening @ Marcus Majestic Cinema, Brookfield, 8:30 p.m.
Film Wisconsin, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a thriving film industry in the state, enjoyed a highprofile victory when Michael Mann filmed parts of his new gangster epic Public Enemies around the region. The likely blockbuster, which stars Johnny Depp as the sexy criminal John Dillinger and Christian Bale as the sexy FBI agent who tries to thwart him, will screen tonight as part of a fund-raiser for Film Wisconsin and the Milwaukee County Historical Center, where one of the movie’s most elaborate bank-robbery scenes was filmed. Tickets are $25 for the screening, or $125 to $200 for admission to the film as well as a 5 p.m. period-themed red carpet gala at the Historical Center.
Wednesday, July 1
Asher Roth @ U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
As if Asher Roth didn’t love college enough, the upstart frat-rapper now owes his fortune to his hit novelty song about higher education—which puts the emphasis on the higher. If that’s the type of pun you can’t get enough of, then you’ll love Roth’s blunt-smoking, skank-banging, “Mario Kart”-playing persona, which has made him one of 2009’s most braying flavors of the month. On his debut album, Asleep in the Bread Aisle, Roth denounces the very Eminem comparisons he so obviously attempts to invite, but with his clunky, obvious flow, Roth’s not even in the league of Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, let alone Eminem. At best he’s this year’s answer to The Flowbots, but even those one-hit wonders could claim an earnest charm. All Asher Roth can boast of is one giant silver spoon.