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This Week in Milwaukee: Oct. 20-26

Oct. 18, 2016
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Photo by PamelaLittky
Thursday, Oct. 20

Tegan and Sara w/ Torres @ The Pabst Theater, 8 p.m.
In some circles, “going pop” carries a stigma. But what if performers were born to do pop music? From their beginnings as a folk-pop duo through their mid-period indie-rock albums, Tegan and Sara had been progressing poppier with each record before they fully embraced the synth-heavy spirit of modern Top-40 music with their 2013 reinvention, Heartthrob. It was a natural fit: The more danceable sounds didn’t come at the expense of the insightful lyrics and dry wit that the sisters have brought to all of their records. This year, the Quin sisters released a similarly infectious sequel to that album, Love You to Death. They share this show with opener Torres, a brooding indie rock singer whose last release, Sprinter, tapped the visceral intensity of ’90s alternative fixtures like Nirvana and PJ Harvey.

Busdriver w/ Jaill and Metasota @ Mad Planet, 9 p.m.
Los Angeles rapper Busdriver may not be the most successful rapper from his city, but among his followers he’s one of hip-hop’s most deeply respected innovators (Milwaukee rapper Milo has called Busdriver his favorite rapper). Over the years, Busdriver had honed his own style of abstract, psychedelic hip-hop on albums like 2012’s Beaus$Eros and 2014’s Perfect Hair, which featured guest spots from Danny Brown and Aesop Rock. His most recent released was last year’s fantastic mixtape Thumbs, which, in typical fashion, found him doing a little bit of everything, and did the world the favor of putting Milo and Anderson.Paak on the same track, “Worlds to Run.”

Harold López-Nussa @ Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 7:30 p.m.
Among the many advantages of America finally lifting the Cuban embargo: Cuban musicians are now free to tour the United States. That’s good news for American audiences who want to witness some of the most thrilling Latin jazz artists in the world, including Harold López-Nussa, a veteran of the National Symphony and Matanzas Symphony Orchestras. A veteran of the López-Nussa family, a musical family that has been compared to the Marsalis family, this year the pianist released his latest album, El Viaje, which includes originals as well as unique takes on compositions by Thelonious Monk, Miguel Nuñez and his uncle, Ernán López-Nussa.

Dean Ween Group w/ Meat Puppets @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Ween lives. In 2012, the eclectic alternative duo went their separate ways, in part because co-founder Gene Ween thought it best for his sobriety. This year, to fans’ delight, the band reunited for a series of shows, but both members seem determined not to let their Ween commitments get in the way of their respective solo projects. Hence this month Dean Ween released the debut album with his Dean Ween Group, a characteristically quirky, wide-ranging effort called The Deaner Album. For this show, the group will be joined by proto-grunge heroes The Meat Puppets.

Friday, Oct. 21

Widespread Panic @ The Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Ranking right behind the Grateful Dead and Phish in the pantheon of influential jam bands, Athens, Ga., rockers Widespread Panic have been playing together since the mid-’80s—well before the jam scene was the organized network it is today. Nonetheless, they found their audience quickly, the same way that today’s younger jam bands do: through relentless touring. After nearly 30 years together, the band is still recording new music—last year, they released their 12th album, Street Dogs, which comes about as close to capturing the electricity of their live show as any they’ve released—but their heart still lies on the road. They return to Milwaukee for another three-night marathon of sold-out shows at the Riverside Theater this weekend.

Saturday, Oct. 22

Brand New w/ The Front Bottoms and Modern Baseball @ The Eagles Ballroom, 7:30 p.m.
Long Island rockers Brand New have been channeling rage and disappointment into smart, ferocious punk since 2000, which isn’t to say that they haven’t been maturing with age. The group’s fourth and latest album, 2009’s Daisy, displayed a periodic softer touch, with slow passages and piano interludes—though usually those sophisticated trappings foreshadowed jarring tempo shifts that snapped the group right back to noisier terrain. In the years since, the band has been slow to commit to a follow-up album and faced continual rumors that they may be breaking up, rumors that they confirmed after releasing the exhilarating new single “I Am a Nightmare” this year: They plan on calling it quits in 2018, so this could be one of your last chances to see them in Milwaukee.

A Conversation with Bryan Cranston @ The Pabst Theater, 8:30 p.m.
The greatest legacy of “Breaking Bad”—and the show can claim a lot of them—may have been demonstrating to the world that, man, the dad from “Malcolm in the Middle” can really act. Since his career-defining role as a chemistry teacher turned evil drug lord, Cranston landed one prestigious role after another, including a prime role in Argo, a (misleading) lead billing in the 2014 Godzilla reboot, and a starring role in the biopic Trumbo, for which he earned his first Oscar nomination. Cranston appears at the Pabst Theater for a conversation and audience Q&A in support of his new memoir, A Life in Parts, which details his decades of working odd jobs and some of his earliest gigs. “Breaking Bad” fans won’t be disappointed by it: It includes plenty of behind-the-scenes insights.

Monday, Oct. 24

Esperanza Spalding @ Turner Hall Ballroom, 8 p.m.
Jazz might not hold the cultural sway it did a half century ago, but don’t tell that to Esperanza Spalding, the virtuoso singer, songwriter, bassist and cellist who has done more to introduce her generation to jazz than just about any performer of her generation. Since claiming the Grammy Award for best new artist at the 2011 Grammys—becoming the first jazz artist ever to take home that statue—Spalding has branched out, recording with Janelle Monae, Bruno Mars and Stevie Wonder. Recorded with David Bowie producer Tony Visconti, her fifth and latest record, Emily’s D+Evolution, is her most expansive yet, highlighting her gifts as a songwriter on a guitar-heavy concept album that touches on soul and prog rock.

Wednesday, Oct. 26

Little Scream w/ Nightgown @ Cactus Club, 9 p.m.
Since releasing her debut at Little Scream in 2011, a collection of quirky indie-pop called The Golden Record, Montreal songwriter Laura Sprengelmeyer has proven herself to be a musician’s musician, earning some prominent fans from across the American and Canadian indie-rock scenes. She calls in a few of those friends on her latest album, the aptly titled Cult Following, which features contributions from Sufjan Stevens and Sharon Van Etten (both of whom she’s opened for in Milwaukee), as well as Owen Pallett and members of TV on the Radio and The National. It’s a looser, freer, weirder effort than her debut, taking particular cues from Prince’s funkiest, artiest records.

Head For The Hills @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
With their galloping strings, spirited four-part harmonies and pseudo-yodeling, Head for the Hills invites instant comparisons to fellow Colorado natives the Yonder Mountain String Band. Like that group, the band updates acoustic bluegrass for the jam scene. Formed in a Colorado State University dorm, Head for the Hills released its debut album, Robbers Roost, in 2007 and has toured aggressively in the years since, following it up with a pair of studio albums and a live record.

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