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This Week in Milwaukee

Found Footage Festival, Drugs Dragons, he Dutchess and the Duke w/ Jaill, Call Me Lightning and Father Phoenix

Dec. 17, 2009
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Thursday, Dec. 17

FM 102/1’s Big Snow Show w/ Breaking Benjamin @ The Eagles Ballroom, 7 p.m.

FM 102/1’s fourth annual Big Snow Show concert celebrates the harder end of the Milwaukee alternative radio station’s spectrum. There’s no Death Cab for Cutie this year; instead, the headliners are Breaking Benjamin, the hard-edged post-grunge mainstays from Pennsylvania who this summer released their fourth album, Dear Agony. They’ll be supported by Jared Leto’s band 30 Seconds to Mars. Leto’s group modernized their bloodcurdling screamo-grunge on their just-released new album, This Is War, drawing from Killers-esque new wave and U2’s skyscraping anthems. Down bill are Sick Puppies, the Australian post-grunge act responsible for one of YouTube’s first viral hits, the “Free Hugs” video, and After Midnight Project, a Los Angeles hard-rock act.

Found Footage Festival @ Oriental Theatre, 7:30 p.m.

Wisconsin natives Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett began the Found Footage Festival five years ago, touring behind a compilation of VHS clips culled from garage sales, thrift stores and garbage cans, offering their own “Mystery Science Theater 3000”-styled quips and commentary. This year’s festival promises enough kitschy footage to fuel YouTube for an entire week, with clips of bizarre cartoons, unfortunate instructional videos, wacky animals and way too many people in form-fitting spandex of the sort in vogue during the heyday of the VHS camcorder.

Thursday, Dec. 17

The Figureheads w/ Antler Antennas @ Jazz Estate, 9:30 p.m.

The Figureheads claim that tonight they’ll become the first rap act ever to perform at the Jazz Estate, and while we can’t fully verify that assertion, we can’t think of any examples of other rappers who have played there, either. During the day, The Figureheads make educational hip-hop for children—they’re even a registered nonprofit group—but they also double as an adult rap act. This year they released Fire in the Soul, a collection of cerebral hip-hop that suggests a less angry, much more positive-minded Atmosphere or, given its abstract, electronic undertones, a more uptempo Sonic Sum.

Friday, Dec. 18

Drugs Dragons w/ Bzybodies, Death Dream and Cry Coyote @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.

Luke Chappelle should be a familiar face, if not necessarily name, to anybody who’s regularly attended rock ’n’ roll concerts over the past five years. He’s one half of The Get Drunk DJs, the duo that spins dirty garage-rock records between rock sets at some of the city’s finer, smaller clubs. This year he formed his own band with members of the likeminded garage outfit Night Terrors, called Drugs Dragons. The group hasn’t released any material yet, save for two skuzzy demos on its MySpace page that suggest Bauhaus, Stiff Little Fingers and The Ponys, but they’ve won fast buzz for their wiry, spirited live shows.

Prestige Atlantic Impulse @ Sugar Maple, 8 p.m.

Affirming Victor DeLorenzo’s status as perhaps the most musically adventurous of all the Violent Femmes, the drummer’s new project, Prestige Atlantic Impulse, is an experimental jazz trio worlds removed from the Femmes’ signature folk-punk. Though that “experimental” tag may alienate those already disinclined to jazz, Prestige Atlantic Impulse’s concoctions are direct and immediate, with the curiously gritty bass sounds of Jason Wietlispach (the host of a modern classical music show on WMSE) juxtaposing against the frantic, Grant- Green-on-uppers guitar work of Alex Stewart. Tonight the trio plays one of its free monthly gigs at the Sugar Maple.

Annie @ The Milwaukee Theatre, 8 p.m.

In 1977, a musical adaptation of Harold Gray’s comic strip about a bright-eyed (but pupilless) orphan debuted on Broadway and became an instant hit with audiences looking for a dose of optimism in the face of a nasty recession. Annie won seven Tony Awards and became one of Broadway’s longest-running shows. Thirty-plus years later, as the country battles an even nastier recession, it’s no surprise that the musical-comedy, which includes standards like “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard-Knock Life,” is still a popular touring draw. It’s proven so popular, in fact, that this current 30th anniversary touring production is entering its fifth year. (Also Dec. 19, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.)

Saturday, Dec. 19

Truth in Fiction @ BBC Bar and Grill, 9 p.m.

Truth in Fiction’s “Brown Sweater” is one of the catchiest pieces of sugarcoated pop-punk to arrive since the great Jimmy Eat World boom of 2001, and the Milwaukee band’s debut album, Fireflies, is filled with similarly hooky, All-American Rejects-esque emo-pop, deftly produced by bassist Kristian Riley, formerly of Citizen King. It’s one of the most radio-friendly records Milwaukee has yielded in years, and though the band hasn’t made much of a dent on the radio yet, they’ve been building a following with shows on the Warped Tour and opening for Fall Out Boy.

The Dutchess and the Duke w/ Jaill, Greg Ashley and Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor @ Club Garibaldi, 9 p.m.

Seattle’s girl-boy duo The Dutchess and The Duke earned enthusiastic accolades for the ’60s-era Rolling Stones throwbacks on their 2008 debut She’s the Dutchess, He’s the Duke, and they’ve evolved into an impressive touring act (they play with a full band), but the real excitement at this show comes from one of their opening acts, the Milwaukee garage-pop ensemble Jaill. The group, which has been playing in some form since 2002, raised their profile this year with the release of an easygoing, jangle-happy rock ’n’ roll album, There’s No Sky (Oh My My), which caught the ears not only of bloggers, but also the heads at Sub Pop Records. This winter the revered indie-rock label inked a deal with the group, in one of the most high-profile signings of a Milwaukee band this decade. Jaill’s Sub Pop debut is expected next year. Tonight, the group plays its first show with the extra “L” tacked onto the end of its name (they added it to prevent a lawsuit from a barely known ’70s rock band also called Jail).

Monday, Dec. 21

The Sleighriders @ Shank Hall, 7 p.m.

Every year, Shank Hall’s annual Sleighriders benefit concert for the SafeZone Community Art Center brings out a couple dozen luminaries from the Milwaukee music scene, who come together to form the city’s largest jam band for an evening. This year’s Sleighriders roster features Greg Koch, Eddie Butts, Sigmund Snopek, Mark Krueger, Annie Denison, Bobby Griffin, Connie Grauer, Chris Hanson and Sue DaBaco, among many, many others. The SafeZone Community Art Center uses the money raised to give students musical instruments and instruction.

Wednesday, Dec. 23

Call Me Lightning and Father Phoenix @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.

Now that Decibully has finally released their Chinese Democracy, World Travels Fast, Milwaukee’s rock scene can turn to another local album held up in label purgatory: Call Me Lightning’s When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free, the third album from the Minutemen/ Undertones-styled punk trio with a taste for Who-sized classic rock (they even take their name from a Who song). Call Me Lightning shares this pre-Christmas show with Father Phoenix, another Milwaukee punk band that each year seems less interested in arty, punk noodling and more enamored with boisterous, meat-and-potatoes hard-rock.


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