This Week in Milwaukee: Aug. 31–Sept. 6, 2017
How many outdoor festivals can one city cram into a Labor Day weekend? Answer: A lot!
Thursday, Aug. 31
Milwaukee Rally @ multiple venues
Labor Day weekends are loud in Milwaukee. Once again, the city will celebrate its motorcycle heritage with a five-day rally commemorating the 114th anniversary of Harley-Davidson, with a full schedule of events at local Harley dealers and the Harley-Davidson Museum. The museum will host live entertainment daily from noon to 11 p.m., including music from arena rockers Hairball, blues-rock musician Kenny Wayne Shepherd and sludge metal band Jackyl. Other entertainment will include an all-female high-wire thrill show from Una’s Circus, trick riding at the Wall of Death, self-guided tours, a vintage car display and the annual Sunday ride-in bike show, where thousands of riders will explore the area’s beautiful terrain. Plus, attendees will be the first to see and test the new 2018 Harley-Davidson motorcycles. (Through Monday, Sept. 4.)
Strange Fruit Music Festival @ Gibraltar, 8 p.m.
Named for the iconic Billie Holiday song, the Strange Fruit Music Festival started last year as the Milwaukee music scene’s response to the unrest in Sherman Park. A year later, the city is still processing those events, while the recent violence in Charlottesville shows how far the entire country still has to go. This year’s Strange Fruit Festival opens with a performance at the Washington Park bandshell on Wednesday, Aug. 30 and continues with two nights of music at local clubs. On Thursday, Aug. 31, Gibraltar will host performances from Brit Nicole, Taj Raiden, Mikey Cody Apollo, No Seat Belts and the rap-rock duo Bo & Airo. Then on Friday, Sept. 1 at Company Brewing, there will be performances from Dasha Kelly Hamilton and the Still Waters Collective, VoodooHoney Horns, Kavon Cortez-Jones, SistaStrings, the Kevin Hayden Band, the Dave Wake Quintet and Black and Mad.
Larkin Poe w/ Trapper Schoepp @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
After the demise of their bluegrass Americana trio The Lovell Sisters in 2009, siblings Rebecca and Megan Lovell formed a gritty, harmony-driven roots rock band called Larkin Poe. The two have quite a bit of experience playing this music—they’ve backed quite a few other musicians on tour, most notably Elvis Costello, Kristian Bush of Sugarland and Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. They’re currently touring behind Larkin Poe’s sophomore album RESKINNED, an edgier follow-up to their 2014 debut.
Friday, Sept. 1
Paramount Music Festival @ Coal Dock Park, Port Washington
When most people think of the blues, they think of cities like Chicago or Memphis. Grafton, Wis., had a role in shaping the genre, too, however, through the village’s storied Depression-era Paramount recording studio, when acts such as Charley Patton and Henry Townsend were sent north from Chicago to record there. Townsend himself was honored in 2006 at the first festival commemorating the village’s eminent blues history, the Paramount Blues Festival, which continues to draw a strong lineup of blues performers from around the state and beyond. Highlights of this year’s festival include Greg Koch and the Koch Marshall Trio, Marquise Knox, Shemekia Copeland, Davy Knowles, Katz Sass, Nelson Street Revival and a Chicago Blues Legends tribute to Paramount Records that features Billy Branch, Corky Siegel, John Primer, Sam Lay and Eddy “the Chief” Clearwater. (Through Sunday, Sept. 3.)
Saturday, Sept. 2
WMSE Backyard BBQ @ Humboldt Park, noon
There’s no wrong way to celebrate Labor Day weekend, but there sure is a preferable way: with an old-fashioned grill out. Each year, local independent radio station WMSE says thank you to its listeners and supporters with a day of music and food in the park. This year’s Backyard BBQ is headlined by veteran roots-rocker Alejandro Escovedo and features The Koch-Marshall Trio, Whiskey of the Damned, Twin Brother and Diego’s Umbrello. Local restaurants will be selling food, and MKE Brewing Company beers will be on tap.
Hi Hat Lounge 20th Anniversary Block Party @ Hi Hat Lounge, 1 p.m.
In a part of the East Side where businesses seem to turn over increasingly fast, the Hi Hat Lounge has proven it has real staying power. For nearly two decades the bar has been a destination for cocktail lovers and music lovers alike. As a thank you to its patrons, the bar is throwing this block party, featuring food tents, rare beers from Lakefront Brewery, an Old Fashioned contest and music from Rusty Pelicans, Tigernite, Why B, DJ E-Rich, Kiki Champ and Negative/Positive.
Third Ward Art Festival @ Broadway Street, 10 a.m.
Clear some room on your shelves and walls, because the Third Ward Art Festival returns to Milwaukee this weekend stocked with captivating artwork from more than 140 artists of varying media. On Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., festivalgoers can shop for paintings, drawings, ceramics, jewelry, sculptures, prints, woodworks, furniture and more, get a look at the production processes through artist demonstrations, and even get their own art on by participating in various crafts throughout the weekend, such as color creations and spin art. The festival will also have live music from Parisian singer Michelet Innocent and instrumental guitar duo Patchouli. (Also Sunday, Sept. 3.)
Sunday, Sept. 3
Pierre Bensusan @ Shank Hall, 8 p.m.
Nevermind typical stress-relief techniques—Pierre Bensusan’s music is an underrated path to tranquility that soothes its listeners sonically. The French Algerian “Mozart of Guitar” laces folk with jazz in utterly unique, intricately rendered acoustic guitar compositions. Classical elements come into play with his music’s soothing melodies, while picking and plucking techniques layer the gentility with playful spunk that feels improvisational. Hi latest album, 2013’s Encore, reflects his recent live performances in its inclusion of songs spanning his decades-long career.
Monday, Sept. 4
Laborfest Milwaukee @ Summerfest Grounds, 11 a.m.
Amid all the festivities happening Labor Day weekend, the Milwaukee Area Labor Council invites guests to both celebrate and advocate for workers’ rights with them at Laborfest Milwaukee 2017. The event is an important annual tradition. President Obama attended Laborfest Milwaukee in 2010 and 2014, delivering speeches about the importance of fighting for progress—something Laborfest attendees will do with increased urgency this weekend. The theme is “Standing Together, Standing Strong: Join the Fight for Workers’ Rights.” The event will kick off with a parade starting at Zeidler Square Park going to the Summerfest grounds at 11 a.m. and continue until 5 p.m. with entertainment including a classic car show, raffle, wrestling and live music.
Wednesday, Sept. 6
Il Divo @ Riverside Theater, 8 p.m.
Cultivated by famed television personality Simon Cowell after a two-year search for members, Il Divo is a multinational vocal group comprised of American tenor David Miller, Swiss tenor Urs Buhler, French tenor Sebastien Izambard and Spanish baritone Carlos Marin. The quartet put suave, romantic spins on popular songs like Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” and Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” both of which are featured on their chart-topping debut album, Il Divo/Ancora. Fourteen years later, the group has sold 30 million records and amassed 160 gold and platinum awards in more than 30 countries. Their latest album, the fanciful Amor & Pasion, came out in 2015.