words by Erin Wolf
True to the nature of the cold weather warrior, Wisconsinites sure like to pack a lot of good times into their sunnier months. This weekend kicks it into high gear, right out of the gate, and for all you weekday counter-downers, this Friday (today) should be enough to either satiate you or completely blow your mind. Here goes (everything):
It’s year number four for Milwaukee’s Okka Fest and this year’s looks to be the usual solid representation of some of the finest in modern jazz and avant garde music. Parceled between the Sugar Maple and the Palm Tavern (two establishments owned by Okka Fest organizer and Okka Disk label owner, Bruno Johnson), tonight’s installment takes place at Sugar Maple at 9 p.m., featuring two sets with The Paal Nilssen Love/Joe McPhee Trio and Wheelhouse featuring Jason Adasiewicz, Nate McBride and Dave Rempis. If those names are recognizable to you, you know you’re in for something very awesome indeed. McPhee (saxophone, trumpet, etc.) and Adasiewicz (vibraphone), especially, are tried and true, live. The rest of the weekend features the acclaimed Ken Vandermark, Nate McBride & Tim Daisy Trio, Mats Gustafsson and more. Lineup and show info is all laid out here and here.
If blues music makes you boogie, venture up to the Cedarburg Cultural Center tonight as they welcome Chicago’s charismatic Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials for the band’s release of Jump Start on Alligator Records. The label explains Lil’ Ed in simple terms, “From working at Chicago’s Red Carpet Car Wash to appearing on national television, from gigging at the smallest ghetto blues bars to performing on the biggest international concert stages, master bluesman Lil’ Ed Williams has come a long way. Mixing smoking slide guitar boogies and raw-boned Chicago shuffles with the deepest slow-burners, Lil’ Ed and his blistering Blues Imperials – bassist James “Pookie” Young, guitarist Mike Garrett and drummer Kelly Littleton – deliver the blues, from gloriously riotous and rollicking to intensely emotional and moving. Not since the heyday of Hound Dog Taylor & The HouseRockers has a blues band made such a consistently joyful noise. Currently celebrating 24 rip-roaring years together, Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials ply their musical talents with skills that have been honed to a razor’s edge…they continue to make blues history with each and every performance and new recording.” Their latest is much of the same and they plan to herald it with energy, starting out in Wisconsin tonight and finishing up at the Chicago Blues Festival on Sunday. Tune into WMSE today at 3:30 p.m. CST as Sonia checks in with Lil’ Ed about the new release and the weekend’s shows on the afternoon Blues Drive.
If spoken word(s) are more your speed, tonight welcomes the All-Star edition of Milwaukee favorite, Ex Fabula at another Milwaukee favorite, the Turner Hall Ballroom. Tonight’s event will be a showcase of each winner of the entire third season of monthly story slams and the theme will be “Saves the Day” (no, not the emo band). Expect harrowing stories of near-misses, jubilant stories of triumphs and everything in between. You know you’ve got the cream of the crop regarding storytellers right in front of you, so just sit back, relax (as much as one can listening to near-miss stories) and let the magic run the evening.
The rest of Friday is devoted to the diverse — like bowling (and tacos)? Visit Bay View Bowl tonight for local psych-pop band Jaill’s album release show for Traps, their latest on Sub Pop Records, which includes glo-bowling and a taco truck within steps of the venue. Like boats? Catch Milwaukee Boat Line’s premiere concert cruise for the season as the Celebrated Workingman takes the boat’s stage with Heavy Hand as the Milwaukee skyline envelops you amidst the waters of the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan. Want to absorb sounds that are both unique and thought-provoking? Head to Borg Ward tonight for Milwaukee legends, Boy Dirt Car. For over thirty years, BDC has twisted ears in the best way possible, sharing shows with Einsturzende Neubauten, Psycic tv, Sonic Youth and Big Black. Wow. Enough said. Easygoing sound better to your ears? Linnemans will bring it in the most sparkling shades of dark and soulful as Heidi Spencer returns to own of her favorite spots to perform a show with her Rare Birds and longtime musical compatriot, Jonathan Burks.
And. On to Saturday.
WMSE favorite Fahri will be releasing the much-awaited LP, Final Disconnect Notice. We’ve been spinning these songs for a bit now, but the band made the means to press this collection of songs to vinyl and it’s ready for public consumption. Between the boy-girl tradeoff vocals (and guitars) of Sarah Long and Miles Murray, the trio (including drummer Joe Huber), wrenches tightly a sound that resonated in the 90′s with bands such as Superchunk, Unwound, Polvo and Yo La Tengo at their rocking-est. The resonance still holds a candle to many modern rockers in the current Milwaukee scene. Final Disconnect Notice is a sweet sonic punch and you can find it at the Riverwest Public House on Saturday and beyond.
Sunday will again find Milwaukee at the feet of one of the most beloved street festivals in the city — Locust Street Festival. Tired out we all might be from Friday (and maybe Saturday), but Sunday should be a pretty great reason to find that extra store of energy and revel in a huge round of local music in the best venue a Wisconsinite gets to be an attendee at one quarter of the year — the Great Outdoors. Set up between Humboldt and Holton streets on Locust in Riverwest, this festival (thirty-six years in the running), hosts a slew of stages and in turn, a bevy of bands that will offer a little somethin’ somethin’ for everyone. Drift from one stage to another, soak in the sunshine and the sounds and thank the organizers for doing another bang-up job on the 2012 lineup.
Plan on spending the end of your weekend at home, relaxing (after this monster of a list, we certainly wouldn’t blame you)? Tune into 91.7 FM WMSE, where Modern Chamber host, Jason Wietlispach has a special program lined up to soothe your ears while you rest your feet. The Modern Chamber is one of the only places you’ll hear modern classically composed, primarily chamber music from the late 1800′s to today and Sunday’s show will be a special one, featuring all gay or lesbian composers in celebration of Milwaukee’s Pridefest this weekend. Wietlispach gives away that David Diamond, Benjamin Britten, Jennifer Higdon and John Cage will all be featured. Listen in from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. CST at WMSE.org or 91.7 FM on your radio dial.