words by Cal Roach
St. Patrick’s Day is a special time here at WMSE, because in addition to being an excuse to wear lots of green and drink whiskey, March 17th is also our anniversary of being a radio station (we’re 31!)! So whatever you’re doing Saturday, keep it locked on 91.7 (unless you’re seeing live music, of course!) and help us celebrate. You can bet there will be some Irish sounds coming out over the airwaves at some point; Mary Bartlein is always good for some great soothing Celtic instrumentals at the very least! In the meantime, check out all this great stuff coming up in Milwaukee over the next week or so…
Our semi-official birthday party happens tonight (Friday) at Mad Planet, which hosts its retro dance party every Friday night, but tonight they’ve got Dori Zori and Melissa at the helm! You know how every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon from noon to three the music on WMSE makes you want to kick off your work shoes and dance around your [insert workplace here]? Imagine how awesome it will be to actually DO that in a killer music club with two of the most fun-loving DJs on the planet spinning records right in front of you! Start your weekend off properly and show your love for the station at the same time.
If retro isn’t your thang, there’s a killer show happening a few blocks away at Riverwest Public House too. One of the most exciting bands to spring up in the city in the past year or so is mathy post-punk power trio Absolutely, who will be playing tonight along with Michigan-based indie rockers The Plurals, Chicago scuzz-punks Two Houses and another loud local band, Lord Brain. In case you haven’t already heard Absolutely’s debut, go immediately to the group’s Bandcamp site and check it out; it is easily one of Milwaukee’s best releases of 2011, and it will be available on vinyl at this show as well.
Then there’s this whole other thing called “opera,” which–believe it or not–isn’t necessarily performed by long-haired Italians wearing horned helmets. In fact, Americans write and perform opera as well, and the Florentine Opera Company will be presenting one of our country’s most celebrated productions of all time, Susannah, for two nights only. Susannah is Carlisle Floyd’s award-winning work based on the biblical story of Susannah and the Elders, and it’s a (surprisingly?) sordid and violent tale, made all the more dramatic by the epic music, of course. See what all the fuss is about tonight at Uihlein Hall (in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts) or catch the matinee on Sunday.
If you plan to be up and drinking at 6 a.m. (do college kids still do that?) on Saturday, be sure to get a nap in some time in the afternoon, because you’ve got lots more frolicking to do at night, and in keeping with the spirit of the holiday we’re really in luck in Milwaukee. Two of the country’s premier Celtic rock bands are in town: The Tossers at Turner Hall Ballroom and Gaelic Storm at the Pabst Theater. If you like dancing clumsily to boisterous shouted songs about drinking and fighting with lots of guitar, either show will do; if you’re more in line with traditional sounds like fiddle and pipes, go to the Pabst, but if you’re into punk rock, Turner Hall will be more your scene. Either way, you’re in for a bit of good craic.
Or maybe you’ve had just about enough tin whistle and shamrocks for one day, and you just want to hear a couple of the city’s best singers belting out some of their fantastic songs; that’s cool. Cactus Club has got the answer: The Championship, for starters. This band has been laying low lately, so we can only hope the guys are hard at work on a follow up to 2008’s fantastic Midnight Golden. Singer Joe Crockett has pulled out some new tunes at sporadic solo appearances over the past year, so that bodes well. Mark Waldoch of The Celebrated Workingman will open this show, hot on the heels of his band’s triumphant return at the Promise Ring reunion show a couple weeks ago, and you are always guaranteed a fantastic performance from Mark. Also playing: The Snowbirds, another leading light of Milwaukee’s burgeoning folk-rock scene.
Quarters Rock ‘N Roll Palace still doesn’t have a real website, but the little Riverwest music club is starting to get some good shows again, as you can find out for yourself this Tuesday. A couple of local rock bands who’ve recently put out debut albums, Midnight Reruns and Slow Walker, will be echoing down Center Street with punchy, guitar-driven pop tunes of varying degrees of noisiness. Don’t be surprised if you hear a spot-on Thin Lizzy cover at some point in the night! These groups are supporting Bare Wires, straight outta Oakland (and fresh off their own SXSW marathon) and ready to rock the Brew City.
Thursday brings a hotly anticipated show to Cactus Club with the return of Megafaun, that band whose members used to be in a band with Justin Vernon. They’re now based in Durham, NC but still have a much-deserved local following, and with last year’s self-titled album they put to rest any worries that they were just riding high on their association with a sudden hometown Grammy-winner. Think haunting, folky, spacey, but really catchy. At least as exciting: Conrad Plymouth is no more, but in its place is Field Report, the newly-minted Christopher Porterfield (get it?) project whose first area appearance is at this same show. With only a couple of EPs under his belt, Porterfield is already blowing minds with his evocative folk tales and brilliant melodies, and he’s a captivating presence onstage as well. As an added bonus, our own Erin Wolf will be spinning records between sets!