This Week in Milwaukee: Sept. 22-28
Thursday, Sept. 22
Milwaukee Film Festival Opening Night Party @ UWM Peck School of the Arts, 9 p.m.
It’s that time of the year again: The Milwaukee Film Festival is back, with a stacked schedule of screenings of hundreds of film from all over the world at theaters around the city now through Oct. 6. And to kick things off, the festival hosts this opening night party featuring food, drinks, a red carpet and music from New Age Narcissism. The party is free to festival pass holders and ticket holders of the festival’s opening night film (a 7 p.m. Oriental Theatre screening of Life, Animated, a well-reviewed movie about how Disney films gave a father a way to communicate with his autistic child), or $13 for Milwaukee Film members and $15 for the general public.
Big Thief w/ Haley Bonar @ Summerfest, 7 p.m.
As Milwaukee continues to enjoy nearly perfect September weather, the Summerfest grounds have taken advantage by squeezing in one more outdoor concert with this free bill presented as part of its Tap Thursday concert series, featuring two fantastic indie-rock acts. Brooklyn’s Big Thief released one of the sleeper LPs of the year with their audaciously titled debut Masterpiece, an emotive collection of grungy folk-rock driven by singer Adrianne Lenker’s powerful voice. They’ll be joined on the bill by Minnesota native Haley Bonar, who after a series of catchy folk albums has headed toward poppier, guitar- and synth-driven territory on her recent albums, including this summer’s Impossible Dream. Sweetening the deal, Leinenkugel’s will offer a complimentary Oktoberfest to every attendee 21 and over who arrives on the grounds between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 23
Jazzmatazz 414: Hip-Hop to Be-Bop Jazz Supper Club @ Company Brewing, 9 p.m.
It’s been more than two decades since the late Guru of Gangstarr assembled some of the top names in jazz for a project called Jazzmatazz, one of the first credible attempts to fuse hip-hop with live jazz music. Now a group of Milwaukee musicians are picking up where the late MC left off. For this bill inspired by his work, a cast of Milwaukee musicians and rappers (including Klassik, Mike Regal and AR Wesley) will perform jazzy versions of hip-hop standards from acts like Outkast, Nas and Tu-Pac. And since Sept. 23 is John Coltrane’s birthday, they’ll pay homage to some of his work, too. The soul/jazz group Boom Boom Klapp opens.
Saturday, Sept. 24
Fromm Petfest @ Summerfest Grounds, 10 a.m.
The Summerfest grounds are typically off limits to dogs, but one day a year they’re invited to join the festivities at Fromm PetFest, a free, animal-driven gathering featuring a pet marketplace, training clinics, dock diving, grooming sessions and agility courses, in addition to live music and children’s activities. Don’t have a pet to bring? You could end up taking one home from the event’s Adoption Avenue, where more than a dozen rescue organizations will be looking to pair cats and dogs with worthwhile owners. Animal headliners this year include Noodles the Wonder Dog, who’s been featured on “Good Morning America,” and Manny the Frenchie, who lays claim to being the most powerful bulldog on social media, with more than 2.7 million followers on Facebook and Instagram.
Danny Brown w/ Maxo Kream and ZeeloperZ @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
Detroit’s Danny Brown had been rapping for about a decade before finally breaking through with his 2011 Internet album XXX, a druggy, debauched and outlandishly fun listen that kept pace with Brown’s wild, nasally delivery. Since then, Brown has flirted more aggressively with electronic and grime influences, and those sounds helped propel his critically acclaimed 2013 album Old, a propulsive but also deeply haunting record about the darker side of the party lifestyle. He’ll finally release his follow-up, Atrocity Exhibition, on Sept. 30.
International Food and Art Walk @ National Avenue, noon
Not all of the city’s great ethnic festivals take place at the Summerfest grounds. Case in point: Silver City’s International Food and Art Walk, which takes place on one of the most ethnically diverse and culturally rich stretches of Milwaukee, National Avenue. From noon to 5 p.m., National Avenue from South 33rd and 35th streets will host an array of live music, dance performances, kids activities and displays from neighboring businesses. Come hungry: Food vendors will be offering a variety of cuisines from all over the globe.
Tacocat w/ Dude York @ Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
Few bands do more to dismiss the offensive stereotype of the “angry feminist” more than Seattle’s Tacocat. They’re proudly feminist, yes, but there’s nothing angry about them. Drawing from the chiming guitars of so many K Records releases and the peppy spirit of so many riot grrrl bands, they play songs about male gaze, gender inequality and their periods with peppy tempos and good humor. Their third and latest record Lost Time, their hookiest yet, arrives this spring on Hardly Art.
Sunday, Sept. 25
Chvrches @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Literally hundreds, if not thousands, of electro-pop bands have sprung up over the last half decade, but few are doing the music with anywhere near the same shimmering grandiosity as Chvrches, the Scottish trio behind two of the most addictive electro-pop LPs in recent memories, 2013’s The Bones of What You Believe (which included their breakout hit “Recover”) and last year’s spirited follow-up Every Eye Open. On a deluxe edition of that album released this year, Paramore’s Hayley Williams joined the group for a remix of the single “Bury It.”
Tuesday, Sept. 27
Bill Callahan w/ Jon Mueller @ The Back Room at Colectivo Coffee, 8 p.m.
Bill Callahan will always be synonymous with Smog, the pseudonym under which he released a dozen captivating records of lo-fi country dating back to the early ’90s, but for the last decade or so he’s been releasing music under his given name—which is fitting for somebody who’s music has always been first and foremost about candor. The new billing seemed to have reinvigorated him: In 2009 he released one of his very best records, Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle, and that ones that followed have been quite good as well. His most recent is 2014’s Have Fun with God, an unusual dub-reggae reimagining of his 2013 effort Dream River.
Local Natives w/ Charlotte Day Wilson @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Local Natives may not have reinvented indie-rock with their 2010 debut Gorilla Manor, which paired the then-ubiquitous folk-isms of Fleet Foxes with the swirling patter of Grizzly Bear, but it was hard to deny the group’s craftsmanship. The album oozed gorgeous three-part harmonies and lovely lyrical turns. A follow-up album recorded with The National’s Aaron Dessner, Hummingbird, was nearly as good, but the group’s latest might be their best yet. Released this summer, Fountain of Youth features some of the group’s biggest, catchiest songs yet, as well as some unexpected currents of electro-pop.
The Mountain Goats w/ Oh Pep! @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
The Mountain Goats is the long-running project of songwriter John Darnielle, who for much of the ’90s self-recorded his baleful songs on a boombox, releasing them through cassettes and 7-inches. The band has come a long way from those lo-fi roots. Darnielle, the group’s lone constant, has worked with a variety of collaborators, including bassist Peter Hughes, singer-songwriter/producer John Vanderslice, guitarist Kaki King and St. Vincent’s Annie Clark, while his records have grown more polished and thematically ambitious. 2012’s Transcendental Youth contrasted tales of junkies, delinquents and depressed everymen against incongruously bright chamber-pop arrangements, while last year’s unusual Beat the Champ was a concept album about wrestling.