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July 2 - July 8

This Week in Milwaukee

Jul. 2, 2009
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Thursday, July 2

Femi Kuti @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino Rock Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.

Afro-beat might sound like an obscure style of music (particularly for those who haven’t recently lived on college campuses, where it’s becoming especially popular), but it’s actually quite accessible. It’s a horn-fueled blend of African rhythms and up-tempo Femi Kuti funk, marked by political undertones but mainly known for its party-friendly grooves. One of today’s leading Afro-beat artists is Femi Kuti, the son of the man credited for inventing the genre, Fela Kuti. The elder musician was notorious for his dangerous opposition to Nigeria’s military regime, and Femi has followed in his father’s footsteps both musically and politically, speaking out against governments that others are too frightened to challenge.

No Doubt w/ Paramore and Bedouin Soundclash @ Marcus Amphitheater, 7 p.m.
In the video for No Doubt’s biggest hit, “Don’t Speak,” the guys in the band silently snub singer Gwen Stefani, resentful over the disproportionate attention she’s receiving from the press. If that video spoke to real tensions, it’s hard to imagine they’ve eased any during the past half-decade, given how Stefani’s solo career has established her as one of the world’s biggest pop stars, yet No Doubt returned this year seemingly unchanged by Stefani’s pop successes. At recent reunion performances, Stefani’s even shelved her high-fashion wardrobes in favor of her old trademark white tank top. Incidentally, openers Paramore have earned No Doubt comparisons for how their charismatic frontwoman Hayley Williams has garnered more coverage than her male band mates. The group’s sound is marked by a harder, more emo edge than No Doubt’s, though, and a younger lyrical focus, with Williams singing of clique politics, high-school crushes and other matters of adolescence.

The Paper Chase @ The Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
John Congleton’s brooding, gut-punching production has made him an in-demand studio guru for artists like Modest Mouse, The Thermals and The Mountain Goats, but he saves his darkest, most claustrophobic ideas for his own avant-indie ensemble, The Paper Chase. The Dallas band’s latest, Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1, is their most high-concept yet, an album themed around things that can kill you—from fire to lightning, blizzards, tornados, floods and epidemics, the clatter on each song loosely mirrors that of a different natural disaster. The Paper Chase shares this bill with Call Me Lightning and Red Knife Lottery, the Milwaukee band whose upcoming album, Soiled Soul and Rapture, was produced by Congleton.

Matisyahu @ Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest,
10 p.m.

In a success story that reads like a script for a bad Ben Stiller comedy, an Orthodox Jew named Matthew Paul Miller reinvented himself as Matisyahu, a crossover reggae superstar. That this white boy with ties to the feel-good jam circuit gravitated toward rough-edged dancehall reggae over more generically feel-good roots-rock reggae is interesting in itself, but much more ink has been spilled over the incongruity between Miller’s religion (which forbids marijuana use) and reggae tradition (which encourages it). Without apologizing for his beliefs—or exploiting them for the novelty value—Miller has carved out his own unique niche in the genre.

Friday, July 3

The Roots @ Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Has any talk-show host ever had an odder rapport with his house band than newly minted “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon? The Roots not only soundtrack Fallon’s show, they also serve as a sort of surrogate for the viewer, silently staring at the host with thinly disguised bemusement whenever he makes a trite or failed joke, which is pretty often. Fallon seems uncomfortable with his band, at best, and on particularly bad nights he appears almost afraid of them. The show is the most unexpected chapter yet in the career of hip-hop’s most celebrated live band, who in between rehearsing with Conan O’Brien’s replacement have found time to record yet another album. How I Got Over, The Roots’ 11th album, is scheduled for a fall release, and promises a more carefree sound than their last record, Rising Down. That means they probably won’t film a music video of them beating a bound and gagged white dude this time around, so maybe Fallon can exhale a little bit.

U.S. Bank Fireworks @ Veterans Park, dusk
Although Milwaukee’s largest fireworks display rings in the holiday a day early, no other local Fourth of July display outshines this nearly hour-long annual spectacle hosted by U.S. Bank. Using a combination of hand lighting and a pyrotechnics software package, Jeff Bartolotta and his team of two dozen professionals detonate up to 10,000 fireworks ($400,000 value) from three various points during the extravaganza, drawing crowds of around 500,000 people to the lakefront. Make sure the show is actually over before you begin heading back to your car, since Bartolotta and his crew like to tease the audience with multiple encores.

Gallery Opening @ Gallery on Greenfield
With a barbershop and hair salon as bookends, the Gallery on Greenfield is an unlikely oasis for local art on Milwaukee’s West Side. After a few months’ restoration, owner and curator John Cork reopens this community gallery at 5304 W. Greenfield Ave. this weekend. Featuring giclee work by David Harrison, drawings and photographs by Grace Matson, and paintings by Carl Barak, David Thekan, Christine Neuman, Ron Grennier and Curt Schroeder, the Gallery will provide respite from holiday fireworks displays and family picnics with extended weekend hours from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Saturday, July 4

Red, White and Pabst Blue Ribbon w/ Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks @ Kinnickinnic and Potter, 1 p.m.
Last year’s Pabst Blue Ribbon block-party celebration outside of Burnhearts in Bay View was a small but pleasant affair, a day of music and cheap PBR capped by a performance from the Detroit Cobras. This year’s follow-up event promises to be a much bigger bacchanal, though, since the party’s been moved to the Fourth of July and padded with bigger headliners, including Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, the increasingly proggy band from the guitar-melting former Pavement frontman, whose following now includes Relix readers in addition to old-school Pavement diehards. The Jicks’ 7 p.m. set concludes the day’s lineup, which also features Chicago guitar-poppers Maps & Atlases, Milwaukee favorites Maritime and Canadian indie-rockers Rock Plaza Central.

Jet @ Briggs & Stratton Big Backyard, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Australians snapped up by the majors at the peak of the mainstream garage-rock revival, Jet belatedly topped the American charts in 2004 with “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” a thin rewrite of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” spiced with a hint of The Jam’s “A Town Called Malice.” Any rock band that lifts from other rock songs is begging for a critical backlash—a decade earlier Elastica had been subjected to the same uproar—but given the extent of Jet’s “borrowing,” their backlash has been particularly harsh. In the space allotted for a review of Jet’s last album, for instance, Pitchforkmedia instead posted a short YouTube video of a chimpanzee urinating in its own mouth. The band hopes to make a more favorable impression with its upcoming album, Shaka Rock, which is set for release next month.


Sunday, July 5

G. Love & Special Sauce at U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Though to some ears G. Love’s appropriation of music forms traditionally associated with African Americans can seem a little off-putting, to word it mildly, the rapping, bluesy singer-songwriter’s upbeat, idealistic songs about peace, love and unity make it clear that he means no offense. The jammy Philadelphia songwriter and his band are touring behind last year’s Superhero Brother, their third album on Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records, which they filled with homages to reggae and ’70s rock, as well as a requisite ode to marijuana, “Who’s Got the Weed.”

Anthony Hamilton @ Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, Summerfest, 9:30 p.m.
He’s never been as enigmatic as some of neosoul’s more eccentric acts, like the ambitious Erykah Badu or the disappearing D’Angelo, for whom he once sung backup, but Anthony Hamilton has for years been one of the genre’s most reliable artists, evoking the organic spirit of Bill Withers and the Southern soul singers of the ’70s without completely denying hip-hop’s influence (he’s not immune to the occasional drum loop, for instance). Hamilton’s latest album, The Point of It All, showcases his aching, seemingly limitless voice over a series of organic, slow-burning jams.


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