This Week in Milwaukee: Sept. 29-Oct. 5
Thursday, Sept. 29
Zoo Brew @ Milwaukee County Zoo, 7 p.m.
Beer tasting events have popped up all over the state over the last decade, but this one takes place at an especially exciting location: the Milwaukee County Zoo. This fundraiser for the zoo will feature samples of beers from more than two dozen breweries—among them 3 Sheeps, Boston Beer Company, New Glarus, Sprecher, Third Space Brewing and Big Head—as well as food from 20 Milwaukee-area restaurants. Tickets are $50 for Zoological Society members and $60 for non-members. VIP tickets that allow early, 6 p.m. entry into the event are available as well, as are discounted designated driver tickets.
Friday, Sept. 30
Branford Marsalis Quartet and Kurt Elling @ Sharon Lynne Wilson Center, 8 p.m.
The brother of one of modern jazz’s other greats, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis has carved out a long and distinguished career for himself while taking risks that many of his peers shied from. His controversial mid-’90s Buckshot LeFonque project was one of the era’s most successful attempts to pair jazz and hip-hop. Lately, however, Branford has been in a more traditional mood. His latest album is 2015’s self-explanatory Branford Marsalis Quartet: Coltrane’s A Love Supreme Live in Amsterdam. For this show, his quartet will be joined by singer Kurt Elling, for a bill that promises favorites from the American songbook along with original material.
Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
It’s unlikely you’ll ever see more people playing on their cell phones at a Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra performance than at this one. In a decision that you’ve got to imagine caused some grumbling among at least a few of the symphony’s players, MSO will pay tribute to the resurgent video-game series Pokémon at this concert, performing new arrangements alongside visuals from Pokémon video games.
Saturday, Oct. 1
China Lights @ Boerner Botantical Gardens, 5:30 p.m.
Whitnall Park’s Boerner Botanical Gardens will be aglow this month, thanks to 40 large sculptural lantern displays that will be on display for its China Lights exhibition. More than 30 artists from China will contribute to the exhibit, which includes beautifully lit flowers, peacocks, cranes, butterflies, a three-foot baby panda and a nearly 200-foot-long dragon. The festival runs Tuesday through Sunday, 5:30-10 p.m. through the end of October. Each night at around 6:15 p.m. there will be a procession to light the displays.
Milwaukee Ukulele Festival @ Sunset Playhouse, 10 a.m.
It may not be the most common instrument, but each year the ukulele gets its due at Sunset Playhouse’s annual Milwaukee Ukulele Festival. Once again the festival is divided into two parts. Beginning at 10 a.m., the venue will host a day of workshops, demonstrations and vendor displays, then at 7 p.m. the event opens to the public with a performance featuring talent from the festival. Performers this year include Bucky Halker, Guy Fiorentini, The Milwaukee Ukulele Club and Friends, Richard Ash, Lil’ Rev, Spencer & Raines, Seeso, Michael Bootzin and Danielle Ate the Sandwich.
John Mayall w/ Bill Carter @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
John Mayall’s band The Bluesbreakers claimed some of the greatest blues lineups of all time. At various points in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the band hosted guitarists including Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Mark-Almond, as well as several members of Fleetwood Mac. Mayall played on and off again with The Bluesbreakers over the decades, before putting them on permanent hiatus in 2008 to focus on new material, which hasn’t disappointed. 2009’s Tough lived up to its name, with a rocking set that found Mayall doing triple duty on guitar, harmonica and organ, while the covers of Clifton Chenier and Albert King classics on 2014’s A Special Life proved that after all of these years Mayall can still shred with the best of them.
The Lowest Pair @ The Back Room at Colectivo, 8 p.m.
The Lowest Pair is the collaboration between two distinctly different personalities: Olympia’s Kendl Winter (previously a solo artist on K Records) and Minneapolis banjoist Palmer T. Lee, a veteran of the city’s bluegrass scene. Together they make rootsy folk music shaded by Winter’s punk background. This year the duo released two new records, Fern Girl and Ice Man, a more traditional, acoustic-minded folk album, and Uncertain As It Is Uneven, a fuller, more exploratory record that takes full advantage of the studio.
Sunday, Oct. 2
Adam Ruins Everything @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
In American society, there are certain values and notions that we hold dear. Comedian Adam Conover sets out to debunk many of them in his truTV program “Adam Ruins Everything,” which offers a “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!”-esque reality check on subjects that most people would never think to question. In its first season, the show argued that freelancing is illegal; that tipping in restaurants should be abolished; contended that summer vacations are bad for kids; questioned the legitimacy of American elections; and maintained that, despite its stigma, herpes really isn’t all that bad. It should be interesting to see which conventional wisdom Conover sets out to upend at this live appearance.
Tuesday, Oct. 4
Ziggy Marley @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
From his days fronting The Melody Makers, a reggae group he formed with three of his siblings and which found success in the late 1980s, Ziggy Marley has continued his family’s musical legacy. He has performed as a solo act for more than a decade, releasing six albums, including 2006’s Grammy-winning Love is My Religion. Always open to experimenting with the conventions of reggae music, Marley uses the swaying rhythms of reggae as the bedrock of his sound while variously incorporating elements of pop, hip-hop and funk.
Wednesday, Oct. 5
Carrie Underwood w/ Easton Corbin and The Swon Brothers @ BMO Harris Bradley Center, 7 p.m.
The most successful and enduringly popular of all “American Idol” winners, Carrie Underwood took a little time off after her blockbuster fourth album Blown Away after becoming pregnant with her first child. Last fall she followed up with album number five, Storyteller, which, true to its title, features a series of narrative songs—though, as always, the focus is primarily on Underwood’s massive voice. The country singer’s tour behind the album makes its way to Milwaukee this week, and if it’s anything like recent stops on the tour, it’ll feature lots of emotional ballads, a knockout Dolly Parton cover and at least one costume change.
Glass Animals w/ Pumarosa @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
For proof of how far rock has broadened its horizons in recent years, look no further than Glass Animals. The English group is nominally a rock band, and have experienced most of their success on rock charts, but their music is far more expansive than the usual drums/bass/guitars that once defined that term. Their debut album Zaba paired hip-hop and trip-hop beats and provocative electronic atmospherics; some songs even touched on contemporary R&B. That fusion of genres sounds even more fluid on the group’s new sophomore outing How To Be a Human Being.