words by Cal Roach
The official end of summer is just around the corner, but don’t we usually get a grace period or something? Hoodie weather sprung up on us, and we hope you’ve garnered a WMSE sweatshirt at some point over the years to start showing off around town. At this rate, we’ll have snow by Halloween! If you were born and raised in Wisconsin, or if you’ve at least become acclimated to life here, you already know that we’re in store for some of the most pleasant weather imaginable for walking around town and popping into a club for a show. So get on it, ‘cause who knows how long the perfect temps will last? Here’s your weekly rundown of happenings ‘round the Brew City.
In case you weren’t aware, the prolific Catacombz have a new album available on their Bandcamp page (where you can also order the cassette format if you’re so inclined), a trippy, tribal ordeal known as Mother Tongue 2. The band recently went on a cross-country jaunt, and they’ve recently informed us that tonight’s show at the Riverwest Public House will be their last show for some time, so you should probably get over there if possible, because they are a heck of a live act. Plus, you’ll get to see Nervous Curtains as well, a band outta Dallas playing very dark post-punk-ish dirges dominated by lots and lots of keyboards. Their recent Fake Infinity is one of the more unique releases we’ve come across this year. Also playing: Stable Planets, a King’s Horses side project making its live debut tonight!
The 1960s are becoming a more and more distant memory; nowadays, most of us have never known a world where long-haired British guitar players aren’t the most famous bluesmen ever. But while Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton got all the money and groupies, the guy who probably deserves more credit for spreading the blues in England is John Mayall, who plays tonight at Potawatomi’s Northern Lights Theater. His group the Bluesbreakers boasted more stars of the U.K. blues rock scene than even The Yardbirds during their 60s heyday, and Mayall soldiers on to this day even though he retired the Bluesbreakers moniker a few years ago. Expect a set of tried-and-true blues classics from the past century of recorded history, as well as some of Mayall’s own recent original material.
Chances are good that some folks who neglected to bring hearing protection to Turner Hall last time Swans came to town suffered some permanent damage. Sure, it was a brain-shattering thrill at the time, but is that constant ringing really worth it? But forget about the volume; the most important thing is how amazing that performance was, a good indicator that Saturday’s set at Shank Hall is also likely to be amazing. We predict a few signed portraits might rattle right off the walls as Swans’ sonic assault batters the interior of the club. Opening for Swans will be Xiu Xiu, one of the most divisive and unpredictable bands on the planet. For instance, the group showed up earlier this year at the High Noon Saloon in Madison and played a full hour of nothing but tuneless noise, apparently annoyed with the intoxicated crowd’s unwillingness to pay attention to the opening act. So, y’know, don’t get too hammered until Xiu Xiu is done, also because when they are trying, they are freaky-good, live.
It seems like the media has virtually ignored Ani DiFranco for the past decade or so, even though she’s been putting out plenty of good music and touring constantly. Or, maybe she’s been shying away from media-types on purpose, since she’s got a relatively new husband and young daughter now? Whatever the case, she just released her best album in ages, ¿Which Side Are You On? in January, and even without a full band, the Ani live experience is something everyone should check out at least once. She’s not just a lefty songwriter; she’s one of the most nimble acoustic guitar pickers on the planet, and her vocals range from gruff growls to high-pitched melodic trills and everything in between, often more of an instrument than a mere conveyor of words. She hasn’t been to Milwaukee in an awfully long time, so we have to highly recommend her Saturday night show at the Pabst Theater.
Chances are there won’t be much acoustic guitar picking at Quarters Rock ‘N Roll Palace Saturday night, but ELECTRIC guitar is pretty much a guarantee. It’s the return of Vortis to Milwaukee, the Chicago punk band most widely known for being the musical outlet for drummer Jim DeRogatis when he’s not pumping out words about other bands for the Chicago Sun-Times or bantering with Greg Kot on Sound Opinions, the musical equivalent of Siskel & Ebert. Joining Vortis will be the equally old-school punks of Burning Sons, the MKE hardcore heroes who are getting ready to unleash another EP on the world next month. Also playing: Milwaukee’s Like Like The The The Death, whose debut album Ghosts Of Dead Bros we can’t get enough of lately.
If you’ve always wanted to see what goes on behind the scenes in Milwaukee’s downtown institutions, you’re in luck this weekend. Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can have that backstage pass and finally get through that “employees-only” door with Doors Open Milwaukee. This event features 43 different walking tours and access to over 125 total buildings, and it won’t cost you a red cent! You can start anywhere you like and do things at your own pace, or you can stop by City Hall for tickets to the In-Depth tours. Check here for the gigantic list of buildings participating in this event, from theaters to hotels to cathedrals to restaurants, as well as for hours of availability. And please remember: traffic could be a bear on Saturday due to a certain Commander-In-Chief stopping by the city, so be prepared.
Kind of hard to believe, but Boston post-punk luminaries Mission Of Burma are still going strong after a storied but strange history. The original run of the band only lasted a few years and one album, Vs., in the early 80s. The band’s use of tape manipulation in its live shows was a unique concept in those days, but the sheer volume of the performances took its toll on guitarist Roger Miller, who developed severe tinnitus (remember those earplugs, kids!), which basically spelled the end for MoB. Except almost 20 years later, out of the blue, the band reformed with a new live sound engineer (Bob Weston of Shellac), and has now been a vibrant, functioning band for over a decade, again. You can catch the rebooted legends at Shank Hall next Wednesday, along with mysterious local post-rock act Wereworm, who only comes out to play when there’s a full moon. Or something.