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This Week in Milwaukee: Jan. 5-11

Jan. 3, 2017
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Thursday, Jan. 5
Sonny Knight and the Lakers @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
The death of the great Sharon Jones last year came as a blow to music fans everywhere, but she leaves behind one hell of a legacy. She’ll be remembered not only for the many great records she released, but also for the renewed interest in classic soul music that she helped generate. Jones opened the door for many other soul artists of a certain age to enjoy a second shot at stardom, including Sonny Knight, an old-school Twin Cities soul man and retired truck driver who, in his late 60s, finally found the chance to live out his dream of touring around the country. On the singer’s sophomore album, Sooner or Later, Knight wails with the conviction of a man a quarter his age, accompanied by the tight licks and brassy grooves of his backing band, the Lakers.

Friday, Jan. 6
Leonard Cohen Tribute @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Of the many legends that 2016 took away from us, perhaps none was more prepared for the grave than Leonard Cohen, the iconic songwriter who, for decades, had been singing about his own mortality. Cohen did some of his best work late in life—his final album, You Want it Darker, stands alongside his very best—so the Milwaukee musicians at this tribute concert should have no shortage of material to work with. The lineup brings together artists pulled from various corners of the city’s rock, alternative and jazz scenes, including Bill Camplin, Liars Trial, Chris Hanson with Robin Pluer, Liv Mueller, Panalure, Mood Vertigo and Mrs. Fun. All proceeds will go to the American Red Cross.

21 Savage w/ Reggie Bonds @ The Eight Nightclub, 10 p.m.
Like so many rappers who came up in the modern Atlanta rap scene, 21 Savage never downplays his debt to Gucci Mane—he even titled his breakout mixtape Free Guwop in tribute to the then-jailed icon. 21 Savage’s cold, minimalist delivery owes more to the nihilistic moodiness of Future’s recent output than it does to Gucci’s punchline-heavy trap, though. The young rapper paired with one of Future’s chief producers, Metro Boomin, for his latest release, Savage Mode, which earned him a pair of charting singles (including the Future-featuring “X”) and a cover appearance on Fader magazine last fall.

Saturday, Jan. 7
Reel Big Fish w/ Anti-Flag, Ballyhoo! and Direct Hit! @ The Rave, 8 p.m.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Reel Big Fish landed one of the peppiest hits of the ’90s ska revival with “Sell Out,” and the band would be the first to tell you they haven’t all been good ones. After the ska bubble burst, the band channeled their gripes about the record industry on 2005’s We’re Not Happy ’Til You’re Not Happy, a bitter rumination on their unceremonious fall from stardom. In recent years the band has kept things lighter, though. They offered some cartoony, punked-out covers of Tom Petty and John Mellencamp songs on their 2009 covers album, Fame, Fortune and Fornication, and brought their usual, comical sensibility to their 2012 album, Candy Coated Fury.

The Flat Five @ The Back Room at Colectivo, 8 p.m.
What The Flat Five lack in star power they make up for in experience. Outside of member Kelly Hogan (who is herself better known in some circles for her work with Neko Case than her own solo records), the players in the band don’t have much name recognition, but they’ve performed with artists as wide-ranging as The Mekons, The Decemberists, Jakob Dylan, Andrew Bird, NRBQ and Alejandro Escovedo. The Chicago quintet released an endearingly low-key album of sunny pop last year called It’s a World of Love and Hope for Bloodshot Records.
 
Sunday, Jan. 8
David Dondero
w/ Adam Helwin and King Courteen, 9 p.m.
A musician whose reach far exceeded his sales, David Dondero has inspired plenty of political songwriters over the last 15 years, first as a member of the political folk-punk band This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, then as a solo folk songwriter. Among those who were moved by Dondero’s shambolic, lo-fi folk was Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, who signed Dondero to his Team Love label in 2005. Since leaving Team Love, Dondero has scaled back the relative bells and whistles of his three records for that label, returning to the all-acoustic and live-from-a-cardboard-box sound of his early recordings. In 2013 he released the career retrospective Golden Hits Vol. 1 and an album of elegant new material, This Guitar, which he funded through Kickstarter.

Ava Cherry @ Saloon on Calhoun, Brookfield, 8 p.m.
In the wake of David Bowie’s death last January, just two days after his birthday and the release of a sensational final album, numerous tribute acts sprung up, including a few spearheaded by musicians who had worked with Bowie. The latest to swing through town is Ava Cherry, a one-time back-up singer and girlfriend of Bowie who is credited with inspiring him to record his soul-minded Young Americans album (more salaciously, she also re-stirred famous rumors of a tryst between Bowie and Mick Jagger). Cherry went on to perform as a solo artist and a backup singer for Luther Vandross (who also sang backup on Young Americans), but for this show she’ll perform some of Bowie’s biggest hits.

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