This Week in Milwaukee: June 29-July 5, 2017
Car Seat Headrest, T-Pain, Paul Simon and Ludacris give Summerfest attendees plenty of reason to head down to the lake.
Thursday. June 29
The Church @ Uline Warehouse, Summerfest, 5 p.m.
If The Church were coasting on past accomplishments nobody would blame them. The Australian group was one of the great guitar-pop bands of the ’80s, making good on the promise of their catchy early singles on albums like 1988’s gorgeously psychedelic Starfish, which included their biggest hit, “Under the Milky Way.” More than 25 years later, though, they still haven’t run out of ideas. Their proggy, deliciously mysterious 2009 album, Untitled #23, is as good as anything from their heyday, and their latest record, 2014’s Further/Deeper, is a fine follow-up; the work of a band that never seems to age.
Soul Asylum @ Miller Lite Oasis, Summerfest, 5:30 p.m.
After a decade spent largely in the shadows of another Minneapolis band, The Replacements, Soul Asylum surpassed that lionized band in commercial success in 1992, when Grave Dancers Union and its sentimental single, “Runaway Train,” made them one of the biggest bands in alternative rock. The band struggled to balance the rawness of their early material with their newly found super-star expectations, but, by the end of the decade, had squandered much of their critical goodwill. They returned strong, however, in 2005 with The Silver Lining. That record was born of tragedy, with the band working with bassist Karl Mueller one last time before his death from throat cancer. Replacements’ bassist Tommy Stinson took over playing bass for a stretch—joining the band for their ’12 album, Delayed Reaction, but left before their latest: 2016’s unexpectedly funky Change of Fortune.
Steve Aoki @ Miller Lite Oasis, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
A club promoter, record producer and founder of Dim Mak Records, Steve Aoki injects tricked-out trance beats into even the tamest tracks to create thumping house music that’s virtually impossible to listen to while standing still. Aoki found fame by adding layers of scratches and dubs to hits like Drake’s “Forever” and Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness,” reinventing them for the dance floor, but it was his own hard-hitting solo output that made him one of EDM’s top-grossing touring DJs. His latest album, 2015’s Neon Future II, was another star-studded affair, featuring collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Linkin Park, Walk Off the Earth and Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo. A follow-up album is expected later this year.
Friday, June 30
Paul Simon @ American Family Insurance Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
Unlike some of his fellow aging ’60s icons, Paul Simon has shown little interest in reliving past glories. Much as the folk icon reinvented himself as a world-music enthusiast on his landmark 1986 album, Graceland, on his recent albums So Beautiful or So What and last year’s Stranger to Stranger, he’s dabbled in more experimental electronic sounds, creating textured, polyrhythmic tracks built from guitars and loops. Last year, he also contributed the theme song to Louis C.K.’s TV series “Horace and Pete” and guest-starred as a customer of the bar.
Saturday, July 1
Burnhearts Pabst Street Party @ Burnhearts, noon
It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years already. For the last decade, Bay View’s cozy beer-lover’s bar, Burnhearts, has celebrated the summer with an annual block party sponsored by Pabst. This year’s event sticks to the winning formula, with a day of local music, local food (from Goodkind, Classic Slice and Honeypie), art and cold drinks (the Korbel brandy slushes are well worth waiting in line for). Joseph Huber, Queen Hilma, Collections of Colonies of Bees, Rx Drugs, AUTOMatic and Static Eyes make up this year’s music lineup.
The Isley Brothers @ BMO Harris Pavilion, Summerfest, 9:45 p.m.
One of the longest-running bands in the history of modern music, the Isley Brothers have been playing together in some form or another since the 1950s. Unlike most of their peers, who gradually faded from popularity by the mid-’70s, the Isleys had an unusually long shelf life on the radio, thanks to some savvy moves. They made their best album, 1973’s 3 3, by reinventing themselves as a wild funk-fusion band and scored a series of late-career R&B hits in the late ’90s and early ’00s with the help of their longtime fan, R. Kelly, whose Midas touch helped their 2003 album, Body Kiss, debut on top of the charts. Their commercial resurgence was cut short by leader Ron Isley’s prison sentence for tax evasion, but since his release, the 76-year-old icon has continued touring.
Sunday, July 2
Ludacris @ Miller Lite Oasis, Summerfest, 10:15 p.m.
Few rap stars of the ’00s were more over-the-top, entertaining and ubiquitous than Ludacris, who for nearly a decade was the go-to guest rapper for nearly every R&B star in the industry. Nothing lasts forever, though, so maybe it was wise that Ludacris opted to focus on acting once his music career started showing signs of slowing (in the last six years he’s released only one album, 2015’s forgettable Ludaversal, but appeared in four Fast & Furious movies). He may not have many new hits to share, but his huge back catalogue of boisterous pop-rap hits should be more than enough to keep the crowd fired up when he returns once again to Summerfest.
Car Seat Headrest @ Johnson Controls World Sound Stage, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
Guitar-based indie rock doesn’t carry the same cultural clout that it did a decade ago, but that didn’t stop Car Seat Headrest from breaking out in a big way last year with their album Teens of Denial, one of the year’s big critical hits. That record placed singer/songwriter Will Toledo’s dry prose against some of his catchiest, brightest hooks yet, and revealed ambitions his earliest self-recorded material only hinted at, with songs that routinely broke the six- or seven-minute mark (including the 12-minute “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia.”) It’s the rare epic album that feels as brisk as an EP.
Wednesday, July 5
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers w/ Chris Stapleton @ American Family
Insurance Amphitheater, 7:30 p.m.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have only released two albums over the last 15 years, but it’s easy enough to see why: Petty has never been one to bite his tongue about his frustrations with the record industry. That may also explain why Petty has sounded so completely unconcerned with scoring another “I Won’t Back Down”-sized hit. 2010’s Mojo and 2014’s Hypnotic Eye are two of his bluesiest records yet, but both pack a punch: With its edging, psychedelic trappings, Hypnotic Eye in particular sounds like the work of a man with something to prove. It earned Petty a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Album. No stranger to Summerfest, Petty returns to the former Marcus Amphitheater for another pair of headlining shows, with outlaw country enthusiast Chris Stapleton opening each night. (Also Thursday, July 6.)
T-Pain @ Uline Warehouse, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
No singer embodied the sound of late-’00s R&B more than T-Pain, the gregarious, good-humored party animal who popularized the most divisive sound in music: Auto-Tune. Despite popular perception, T-Pain could sing just fine without the effect: For his viral NPR Tiny Desk Concert performance, he delivered his hits “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” and “Up Down (Do This All Day)” al naturale, sans pitch correction, and rarely sounded better. T-Pain hasn’t released an album since his disappointing 2011 effort Revolver, but has continued lending his voice to other people’s tracks, appearing on recent projects from Chance The Rapper, Bruno Mars, Chris Brown and many others.
Girl Talk @ Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, Summerfest, 10 p.m.
On his breakthrough album as Girl Talk, 2006’s Night Ripper, Pittsburgh DJ Gregg Gillis compiled the most epic mash-up ever produced, a 42-minute collage built from hundreds of samples of pop, rock, rap and R&B, some recognizable, some chopped into bits too tiny to place. Gillis further refined that technique on 2008’s Feed the Animals, before tweaking his approach on 2010’s All Day, which he released as a free download. Gillis dropped as many samples as ever on All Day—372 of them, to be exact—but this time they lasted longer and shifted less frequently. Those same dynamics carried through Broken Ankles, the producer’s 2014 EP with the rapper Freeway.