words by Cal Roach
Hmmm, no music festivals this weekend, Halloween’s still another week off (if you observe the holiday the weekend prior, that is), middle of October; probably a dead one, right? Oof, you know us better than that by now, don’t you? Until our town is reduced to nothing but polka and mud wrestling, we’ll manage to dig up a handful of enticing options for you to get out and enjoy in the Brew City. As usual, we didn’t have to look too hard…
In case you missed semi-legendary Chicago pop-punks Smoking Popes at Summerfest this year, let’s just say they were pretty bitchin,’ if you like that sort of thing. But that was kind of a short set, as punk shows are wont to be; perhaps you’d be more inclined to check them out if they, oh, let’s see, were gonna play their 1994 gem of an album Born To Quit in its entirety? You’re in luck! Plus, what with Janesville being all in the news and stuff for some reason lately, maybe if you yell really loud you can get them to play their more modern-day classic “Welcome To Janesville” too. At Club Garibaldi‘s tonight, the Popes will be joined by Milwaukee’s own Vic And Gab, the sisterly duo who released a pretty terrific little folk-pop album, Bridges And Guns, earlier this year. Also playing: Roll The Tanks.
In a more northerly part of town, you can get a different fix of folk-pop in a decidedly punk rock setting: Circle-A Café will host a solo set by Lisa Ridgely (she of The Fainting Room fame), whose EP from earlier this year, Wine In Bed, is definitely one of the essential local releases of the year; pick that up immediately if possible. She’ll be joined tonight by a sometime-collaborator, WMSE’s own Chris Demay, one of the most versatile musicians in town, what with his successful solo career, playing guitar and keys and singing in Juniper Tar, and lending his many talents to countless other projects we couldn’t possibly keep up with all of. It’s always a treat when these two singers get together, and you won’t find a more intimate setting than the smallest rock club in town.
If you’re still feeling pangs of sadness that the Milwaukee Film Festival is all over with, don’t pass up your next opportunity for checking out a bunch of independent films at the Oriental Theatre (as well as the UWM Union Theatre). Yep, it’s the Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival, and judging by the way film seems to be taking off in this town lately, something tells us this will be another rousing success. The festival runs Thursday through Sunday and features a veritable crapload of award-winning flicks; click here to check out the brochure for the full lineup of movies and events.
For all the infectious beats and lasers without the meat-market atmosphere, there’s a stellar alternative to sweaty dance clubs Saturday night: Future Rock is playing at the Miramar Theatre. The band’s chosen name may not be exactly prescient, nor is its sound very close to what anybody would call “rock,” but if the prediction was about the increasing popularity of electronic-style music in this country, Future Rock hit that one on the head. The twist here is that these guys play all their stuff on actual instruments instead of employing DJs, producing a sound that’s almost pure EDM by traditional rock-band means. The band has built a following in the jam band community, but don’t expect goofy lyrics and meandering guitar noodles; the atmosphere is more like a mid-90s rave than a Phish show, and you can expect tight, catchy songs and a massive amount of energy. If you have a pulse, this is a band that will make you dance, end of story. Also playing: Undercover Organism.
It seems like pop music doesn’t allow for many quirky folky singer-songwriter chicks in this millennium; kinda makes you wonder if the whole Lilith Fair movement in the 90s did more harm than good, relegating most of those performers to the where-are-they-now category soon after the fad was over, while glittery wacko divas continue to thrive. All the more reason to support Regina Spektor, whose slightly peculiar piano pop has managed to sneak onto the airwaves without pandering to any recognizable trends. In fact, her latest album, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, is one of her weirder and more engaging collections yet, and as evidenced on 2010’s Live In London, she’s a fierce, charismatic performer as well. Catch her Saturday night at the Riverside Theater, along with her husband, Jack Dishel, former Moldy Peaches guitarist and currently performing as Only Son.
“Less is more” isn’t exactly the traditional formula for international popular fame, but the xx have managed to parlay exceedingly minimalistic melancholy pop songs into a pretty massive success story. The group’s self-titled 2009 debut came out of nowhere and landed on a ton of best-of lists for the year, and it’s just a guy and a girl from London singing together over barely-there beats and instrumentation. The new Coexist somehow manages to be even mellower, although the music is slightly more eclectic even if it’s still mercilessly subdued. This stuff shouldn’t be tough to pull off live; the trick will be whether the onstage chemistry between Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim is compelling enough to wrap up an audience for a whole set. Find out Sunday night at the Pabst Theater. Also playing: John Talabot.
Back in the 90s when grunge was king, ex-Pussy Galore frontman Jon Spencer bucked the sullen rock star trend with the dirty punk blues of the Blues Explosion. Having a sense of humor was utterly out of fashion in those days unless you were Beck, possibly the only explanation for why Spencer never got as huge as his angst-ridden contemporaries. He may not have had a huge impact now, but echoes of his greasy rock and roll reverberated into the massive success of the garage revival of the 00’s; it’s hard to listen to Jack White’s bluesy guitar heroics without hearing the Spencer influence. After some years of inactivity, Blues Explosion is back on the scene, having just released a killer new album Bag Of Bones and appearing Tuesday at Turner Hall Ballroom. Also playing: Bloodshot Bill.