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This Week in Milwaukee

Air Guitar Showdown, Semi-Twang, La Dispute and Big Head Todd and The Monsters

Dec. 23, 2009
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Friday, Dec. 25

Danny Price and The Loose Change

@ Circle-A Café, 8 p.m. Danny Price looks and sings like a sailor who just received leave from a ship of the damned. When he sings, his face expresses intense concern, as if he is feeling all of the pain of those he sings about. He writes morose tales about alcoholics, sinking ships and luckless crewmen, but his jaunty songs are more Pogues

than Modest Mouse, and his band, The Loose Change, brightens them with peppy, brassy arrangements and hopeful accents of heartland Americana. The band plays an early show tonight before a 10 p.m. DJ set from Miss LaFontaine.

Saturday, Dec. 26

Air Guitar Showdown @ Stonefly Brewery, 10 p.m.

Goofy as it may sound, the popularity of the U.S. Air Guitar Championships has led to competitions like the Milwaukee Air Guitar Showdown, now in its third year, popping up all over the country. It’s easy enough to understand the appeal: They let contestants feel like a rock star without actually having to master that pesky “rock” part. Plus, they’re kind of funny to watch. The act may be silly, but the contest isn’t a joke. The organizers have laid out strict rules: Each contestant has 60 seconds to wow. No real instruments or backing players are allowed, though contestants can use an air roadie, provided he or she isn’t on stage for the performance. At this point, it’s only a matter of time until some ESPN channel begins broadcasting these competitions.

Sunday, Dec. 27

Bob Jennings Benefit @ Shank Hall, 7 p.m.

Any musician who’s ever toured long enough understands what a pain it is to have your gear stolen, so it’s no wonder that so many local musicians have rallied to support local vet Bob Jennings—a multi-instrumentalist for bands like Paul Cebar and The Milwaukeeans, Semi-Twang and Blue in the Face—after many of his instruments were recently ripped off.

Semi-Twang and Blue in the Face will be on tonight’s bill, along with The Subcontinentals, The Lackloves and Tom Schwark’s Trio du Monde. Many of those bands don’t gig much these days, so this is a rare chance to see some of Milwaukee’s deep-rooted alternative and alt-country acts.

Monday, Dec. 28

La Dispute w/ Native, Sleep Serapis Sleep, Northless, et al @ The Miramar Theatre, 1 p.m.

What better way to spend the sleepy, winter-break Monday after Christmas than at an utterly insane, marathon bill packed with excellent punk, hardcore and metal bands? La Dispute, from Grand Rapids, Mich., and Indiana’s Native headline this show, but the rest of the bill is mostly made up of locals, including Sleep Serapis Sleep, Northless, Red Knife Lottery, The Felix Culpa, Cougar Den, The Reptilian, Former Thieves, Maidens, Hail Archer, The Dynasty and others. Cover is $12, which works out to less than a dollar a band— and best of all, the show is all-ages. Let’s hope this becomes a local after-Christmas tradition.

Tuesday, Dec. 29

Rusted Root w/ Tom Fuller @ The Rave, 8 p.m.

Part of a crop of positive, feel-good jam bands to cross over to mainstream radio in the ’90s, when the current jam scene was just beginning to emerge, Rusted Root melded Grateful Dead-styled folk and Paul Simon’s ear for world music on their hit “Send Me On My Way.” That song is where the Pittsburgh band’s greater fame begins and ends, but they continue to support themselves as a popular live band, where their fusion of bluegrass, rock and world music fills a unique niche. This spring they released their sixth studio album,Stereo Rodeo.

Wednesday, Dec. 30

Big Head Todd and The Monsters @ The Rave, 8 p.m.

Like the Spin Doctors and Rusted Root, Big Head Todd and The Monsters were a jam band before their was an organized jam scene, a band that came into its own when instead of Bonnaroo there was only the H.O.R.D.E. Festival. The band still has a loyal following around their native Colorado, though, and their early-’90s hits “Bittersweet” and “Broken Hearted Savior” continue to draw faithful old fans to their live shows. The band got a boost last year when Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign adopted one of their newer tracks, “Blue Sky,” as a campaign song. The song was almost certainly selected because of its distinctly Barack Obama-ish chorus: “Yes, you can change the world.”



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