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This Week in Milwaukee

Cranberries, Group of Altos, Kid Millions and The King Khan and BBQ Show

Nov. 25, 2009
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Friday, Nov. 27


The Cranberries @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.

Ireland’s The Cranberries rode the 1990s alternative boom well, with singles like the 1993 ballad “Linger” and 1994’s far-grungier “Zombie” becoming near-ubiquitous rock radio staples. Like many of their contemporaries, the band’s fame had waned by the new millennium, and after 2001’s Wake Up and Smell the Coffee they decided to call it quits and pursue new projects. To coincide with the release of lead singer Dolores O’Riordan’s latest album, No Baggage, the band has reunited for an American tour that promises a mix of O’Riordan’s solo material, classic Cranberries songs and new material.

Punx Give Thanx Benefit for Hunger Task Force @ The Borg Ward Collective, 6 p.m.

Food pantries need all the help they can get around the holidays, and thankfully the community usually rises to the challenge, helping out with donation drives big and small. Tonight’s benefit show at the Borg Ward leans toward the “small” side: Admission is just $6, or $5 with a couple cans of food. It offers great band for the buck, though: Headlining is Get Rad, the melodic hardcore supergroup comprised of members of Since By Man, Seven Days of Samsara, Party by the Slice and High on Crime.

Also playing is Dead Issue, Expire and Burning Empires.

Helen Money and Jon Mueller w/ Cages and Group of the Altos @ The Cactus Club, 10 p.m.

Although cellos aren’t completely foreign to rock music, they’re rarely played like rock instruments. Helen Money, the nom de plume of Chicago musician Alison Chesley, offers an exception. She filters her cello through an amplifier and distorts it with pedals; when she wants to, she can make the instrument sound as powerful as a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo, though she’s just as apt to keep the volume low and explore the intricacies and textures her cello offers. She performs tonight with Milwaukee’s restless percussionist/composer Jon Mueller. The bill also includes Cages, an experimental New York duo whose singer, Nola Ranallo, sings with the soaring, quivering expressiveness of Bjrk, and Group of the Altos, a 12-piece post-rock orchestra that’s emerging as one of Milwaukee’s most exciting bands.

Saturday, Nov. 28


Def Harmonic, Kid Millions, Kid Cut Up & DJ Deadbeat @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.

At the middle of the decade, Def Harmonic’s abstract, funky acid-rap was some of the most exciting music coming out of the Milwaukee hip-hop scene, but the group dissolved before it had a chance to make much of an impression outside of the city, with MC Lunaversol 9, live DJ Epicenter and MC/producer J. Todd all focusing on other projects. The group is back in action, though, picking up where they left off, playing out with a host of like-minded local peers. Opening rapper Kid Millions this fall released a breezy, confident new album, Recession Proof Rap, aided by strong local radio support for its lead single, “Victim to the Beat.”

Frank Catalano @ The Jazz Estate, 9:30 p.m.

Chicago’s Frank Catalano emerged as a teenage saxophonist in the ’90s amid great fanfare, and over the past decade has proven himself one of the few teenage prodigies to live up to the hype, earning an increased critical following and even a Grammy for his edgy bebop. His success is all the more remarkable considering that as a teenager he severed his middle finger in a mechanical accident, an injury that forced him to alter his technique. Tonight Catalano returns to the Jazz Estate for a show that will pair him with Milwaukee drummer John Sparrow, who perhaps is best known locally for his work with the rock band The Danglers.

Nick Pipitone and the Four Forces of Evil w/ The Mighty Deerlick and Ficti @ Points East Pub, 9 p.m.

It’s a transitional time for Points East Pub, the Downtown bar that for years was one of the neighborhood’s most active music venues. The bar is removing the backroom that hosted its stage to expand its kitchen, but not before one final show that will include a reunion performance from the first band ever to play that stage: Nick Pipitone and the Four Forces of Evil, the Elvis Costello-styled rock ’n’ roll ensemble, one-time regulars at Points East.

Will Durst w/ Richard Halasz, Jane Matenaer and Eno Yaw @ Paulo’s Pizza, 8 p.m.

The real winners in the 2008 presidential campaign—aside from, of course, the Democrats— were political comedians, who in the age of You- Tube and the 24-hour news cycle held nearly as much clout as traditional journalists. Milwaukee native Will Durst got in on the action by releasing a book at the start of the season—The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing—and filming his own comedic play-by-plays of the campaign for YouTube. The campaign may be over, but Sarah Palin, the tea baggers and the economic crisis should leave Durst plenty of material to work with. “They say Barack is arrogant, but at least he’s smart,” Durst observes in one typical rant. “Because we tried arrogant and stupid, and that didn’t work.”

Will Durst Photo by Jason E. Grossman

Sunday, Nov. 29


The Books @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

Paul De Jong and Nick Zammuto, the duo behind The Books, specialize in carefully crafted, thoroughly entrancing soundscapes, filled with glitchy electronics, obtuse samples and hypnotically mellow grooves. The pair has mostly been on hiatus since 2006’s Music for a French Elevator and Other Short Format Oddities (which was commissioned, as the title hints, as actual elevator music for the French Ministry of Culture), opting to focus on side projects and family, but they have been saying in interviews that a new The Books album may be just around the corner. Rumored to draw from new-age music, the upcoming release is said to weave samples culled from self-help and hypnotherapy recordings into the band’s signature cerebral sound.

Gold Watch Trio @ Woodland Pattern Book Center, 7 p.m.

Strong-willed collaborators generally don’t last long in Jeff Tweedy’s bands—he has a way of kicking out anybody who stands in his way—but one notable exception is Glenn Kotche, the dynamo drummer and multi-instrumentalist who joined the group during the recording of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and has remained a fixture of the group through their experimental (and post-experimental) years. In his time outside of Wilco, Kotche continues to be a prolific session player and restless performer, playing with a variety of jazz and experimental ensembles big and small. His latest is Gold Watch Trio, which pairs him with guitarist and turntablist John Corbett and bassist Jason Roebke.

Glenn Kotche | Photo by Michael Wilson

Monday, Nov. 30


Cactus Club Art Show @ The Cactus Club, 8 p.m.

Could the Cactus Club become Bay View’s latest part-time art gallery? The venue is testing the possibility tonight with an off-night exhibition that will spotlight the work of 13 artists.

Admission is $3 and includes the requisite snacks as well as two sets from Honey Tongue and a Way, a local rock group with reverence for Creedence Clearwater Revival. They’ll start playing around 9 p.m.

Brett Dennen w/ Grace Potter and the Nocturnals @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.

In a volatile music industry struggling with slipping album sales, illegal file sharing and general economic malaise, having a tune featured in ad campaigns and hit television shows is one of the quickest and most profitable ways for an artist to promote his or herself. It has certainly worked for Brett Dennen, whose folky guitar pop found a home on the soundtracks to shows like “Scrubs,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House” (the hospital theme is probably coincidental) and was featured in a national ad campaign for Hilton Hotels. Wisely, Dennen is not putting all of his eggs in the song-licensing basket, and is also building his audience on the road. After some high-profile opening slots on tour with John Mayer, Guster and Rodrigo y Gabriela, Dennen is headlining his own tour, letting people know about his latest album, last year’s Hope for the Hopeless, the old-fashioned way.

Tuesday, Dec. 1


The King Khan and BBQ Show w/ Those Darlins and Drugs Dragons @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.

A Canadian duo with a fondness for aliases, King Khan (aka Blacksnake, aka Arish Khan) and BBQ (aka Mark Sultan) played together in the raucous, Montreal garage punk band The Spaceshits, and each also performed solo before teaming up as their current two-piece. Playing a combustible combination of doo-wop and punk, the pair has gained notoriety not just for their recordings, but also for their unpredictable onstage antics and bizarre, exotic outfits—both of which have made them a bloggable buzz band. BBQ still resides in Montreal, but King Khan has since relocated to Berlin, which probably doesn’t bode well for the chances of seeing them in Milwaukee again anytime soon, so tonight could be your last opportunity for quite a while.

Wednesday, Dec. 2


Decibully Listening Party @ The Cactus Club, 10 p.m.

The wait is over: After long delays, Milwaukee’s kaleidoscopic indie-rock ensemble Decibully will finally release its own personal Chinese Democracy, World Travels Fast. The band has been streaming the record online for a year now, but they’re about to offer it for sale on vinyl and for pay-what-you-like download through a new local record label called Listening Party (listeningpartyrecords.com). And what better way to inaugurate Listening Party than with an actual listening party? Tonight Decibully will hold one for World Travels Fast and also premiere the music video for the single “Somewhere in the World.”


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