words by Cal Roach
What? No ethnic festival down at the Summerfest grounds this weekend??? Nope, you’ll have to bide your time between African World Fest and Irish Fest, maybe by exploring a Milwaukee neighborhood you’re not familiar with? Or visiting one of the many cultural/heritage centers around town? Or, screw it: go out for Pho one night; exotic and tasty and the weather’s unseasonably chilly so it’s perfect for soup. Okay, we’re not making much sense here; let’s get down to business and discuss some of the great American-ish events coming up in Milwaukee over the next week or so…
Tonight (Friday), it’s the return of Point Fish Fry & A Flick, playing down at Discovery World starting at 5 p.m. (the movie starts around sundown). Remember when Ben Stiller used to make hilarious movies, before all that Meet The Blah Blah Blah crap got out of control? See him at his ludicrous best in the cult supermodel comedy Zoolander, which Stiller also wrote and directed. Watch him butt heads with the likes of Will Ferrell and Owen Wilson and even David Bowie as he bungles his way through a web of international intrigue that would confound even 007. And hey, while you’re down there, chow down on a Bartolotta fish fry, or choose from a variety of local food trucks! That’s not gonna happen at any indoor cinema we know of.
Remember how you used to snicker about all the third-tier 80s bands playing the Wisconsin State Fair? Not quite so funny now that it’s 90s bands making their living on nostalgia, eh? Well, maybe it is funny, but tonight’s H.O.R.D.E. Fest-revisited package might not be a total waste of time. Who has anything bad to say about Cracker, for instance? David Lowery has penned some classics in his time that still hold up today (“Euro-Trash Girl,” come on!). Also, Big Head Todd can still play a mean-ass guitar; he and his Monsters will surely be a highlight of this hippie-centric quadruple bill, which is topped by Barenaked Ladies and (naturally) Blues Traveler.
Maybe it’s been a little slow this summer in terms of local record releases, particularly given the plethora of great albums that dropped in Milwaukee this past winter and spring. Never fear! The release party for the new Catacombz album was Thursday (GO BUY IT!), and Saturday night will be your first chance to get your hands on the new Zebras album, Zebras. Sure, technically this is a Madison band, but…for one thing, that’s still pretty local. And for another thing, Zebras have been borrowing drummers with similar last names from Milwaukee for a while now; last year it was IfIHadAHifi’s DJ Hostettler, and this party at Cactus Club will be Call Me Lightning’s Shane Hochstetler’s first MKE show with the band. As most of you probably know, he is amazing. Get there early to be sure you’ll see Burning Sons and Magnetic Minds too, of course!
There’s also another big show going down at the BMO Harris Pavilion on Saturday night. You’ve clearly been on the Internet before and have some interest in music, which means you’ve probably read some music critic somewhere talking about how My Morning Jacket is the best live band in the world. Well, it doesn’t hurt to have a ton of really great songs; pretty much all of the band’s albums contain at least a handful of winners. Then there’s the spectacle of bearded longhairs thrashing around like metalheads to the tune of a triple-guitar attack, often reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Yep, MMJ is a bucket-list band, if only to see whether you think it lives up to the hype. Plus, the rising stars of Band Of Horses will attempt to upstage the headliners with a fairly similar style of music, so don’t be late!
Sunday happens to be the third anniversary of a little Bay View tavern known as Tonic, and while it’s still nice outside, you’d better start thinking about squeezing in as much time as possible on that big ol’ outdoor patio. Here’s a really good excuse: The Wildbirds’ future was and pretty much still is up in the air, but they’ve come out of the woodworks for their first show in ages to celebrate the watering hole’s birthday. They were once one of Milwaukee’s most reliable purveyors of Americana, and you’d better catch them while you have the chance. Plus, you never know when The Celebrated Workingman will go back into seclusion either, and they’ll be opening up the show around 8, so get out and see some live music on a Sunday before football season starts up again.
On Tuesday night, it’s time for another edition of Bay View’s favorite free outdoor BYOB (note that refreshments of all sorts are available for sale as well!) concert series, Chill On The Hill. It’s kind of like a very-mini Alpine Valley but without the pavilion seating and $30 beers (or whatever the parrotheads are paying these days), plus you can actually SEE the band from the lawn! This week is your chance to get primed for the famed ethnic festival looming at the Summerfest grounds with Irish/bluegrass/rock band The Gleasons. Even if you’re not all that interested in the tunes, it’s a really perfect excuse to bust out the picnic basket and an old ratty blanket and, well, chill on some actual grass and commiserate with friends. Let’s hope the weather stays tolerable until then.
Thursday night’s alright for fightin’, or so they say (or was that Saturday night? Well, whatever.), so get your butt down to the Jackalope Lounj (inside The Wicked Hop) next Thursday for the second round of the Miltown Beatdown! No, it’s not some new hokey wrestling federation; the “Beat” they’re referring to is the musical kind. The competition features DJs/producers from the area going head to head concocting beats for YOUR applause, with the most creative, best-sounding artists moving on to the next round. It’s a fantastic opportunity for lesser-known beat-makers to take hold of a sizable audience and make a name for themselves, and it all depends on the excitement they can create amongst the assembled patrons. The games begin at 10, and the event’s website suggests that the room is usually full by then, so be sure to get there early. Click here for a full schedule of performers.