words by Cal Roach
They don’t call Milwaukee the “City of Festivals” for nothing, eh? From now until October, there will probably be a festival of some sort almost every weekend in Milwaukee, which is just fine by us. Some people rip on the festival experience–the short sets, the crowds, the…hmmm, there must be other things, but for folks who like to pack as much music (or movies, as the case may be!) as possible into a single day and night and get the most bang for their buck, festivals are tough to beat. The best artists tend to rise to the occasion and sometimes put on legendary performances at these things, too. So anyway, read on for the lowdown on a couple of festivals going on this weekend, as well as stuff to keep you busy for the coming week.
We hope you have the opportunity to get your leisurely activities underway early today (Friday), because the Milwaukee Underground Film Festival starts at 3 p.m., which is, well, kinda early. Hopefully bolstered by the boost in film fanaticism brought on by our city’s ever-more-prestigious above-ground festival, the MUFF is your chance to see the kinds of avant-garde and off-the-wall material you’ll never see anywhere else. The student-run event begins in UWM’s Fine Arts Theater (located in Mitchell Hall) and runs through Sunday, and you can check out the tantalizing full program of screenings and features here.
As we told you last week, Foster Fest started yesterday, and it runs through Sunday. The first (annual?) celebration of The Hotel Foster‘s celebrated first two years in business (got that?) continues tonight with Har Mar Superstar, a concept that sounds godawful but at the same time potentially really fun: scantily-clad chubby dude sings smooth R&B. We’ll let your imagination take it from there (or, there’s always YouTube!), but one thing’s for sure: you can count on the local support acts to make this worth your while. Sat. Nite Duets know a thing or two about tongue-in-cheek frivolity, but they also flat-out rock when they want to. This also serves as the EP release party for pop-punk band The Saltshakers. Also playing: Kiings.
Tonight is also the finale for the current season of the Miltown Beat Down DJ competition, and it will surely go down as one of the most spectacular ones ever. Not only will you get to see some of Milwaukee’s top turntable talents tussle for the crown (note: no actual violence expected); the competition will feature a special guest judge by the name of DJ Shadow–maybe you’ve heard of him? Yeah, the guy that turned the REST of the world onto electronic music and instrumental hip hop with his 1996 classic Endtroducing… Shadow will perform a DJ set of his own in addition to judging, which will undoubtedly be worth the cost of admission right there. This only happens once a year, folks; if you want to see the amazing DJ talent this city has to offer, Turner Hall is the only place to be tonight.
Foster Fest continues on Saturday with one of our most high-profile hometown bands, Jaill, topping the bill. When these Sub Popsters aren’t touring the country they’re liable to be upstaging more famous indie rock bands that come to town. Hey, have we ever told you how great last year’s Traps album is? Oh yeah, probably, but it’s been a while! You also get the unpredictable spazz rock stylings of The Fatty Acids, a band that’s about as much fun as Milwaukee music gets on its best nights. Also playing: Colleen Green, Rio Turbo and Precious Metal DJs.
If you made it out to Alverno last November to witness the full multi-sensory production known as Death Blues, you know you will certainly never forget it as long as you live. For Saturday’s Death Blues performance at Cactus Club, mastermind Jon Mueller will strip away all but a bare-bones musical trio and rely purely on the hypnotic, pummeling drone of the music to amaze you. It’s guaranteed to be a cathartic experience; check out the digital album on Bandcamp and imagine the intensity ratcheted up tenfold if only by virtue of being able to watch Mueller ferociously pounding those skins. Also playing: Olivia Block, Cages and Peter J. Woods.
There’s yet another album release show going on Saturday, this one at Riverwest Public House. We’re talking about the debut from proggy sludgy metal outfit Space Collector, who turned some heads at last year’s Riverwest Fest. The band’s got the massive riffs, psychedelic moods and unexpected twists and turns to draw fans from across several different genres of undergroud music. Plus, well-established local stoner rock crew Ahab’s Ghost (who also just released a new EP, Scavengers, last month), will play as well, along with Romero and Vega, so you’ve got a full night of glacial guitar music ahead of you.
Sunday night brings another full night of Wisconsin-based music, as Sean Carey, drummer for Bon Iver, brings his solo show (imaginatively monikered S. Carey) to Turner Hall. Expect a similarly pastoral, folky style also featuring layered vocal harmonies, with perhaps a bit more of an atmospheric ambient bent. Plus, this show will also be your first chance to get ahold of a brand new 10″ record by Altos, who’ll be opening the show as well. Y’all know Altos by now, right? The biggest band (in the literal sense) in Milwaukee, and unquestionably one of the best? They don’t have a whole lot of shows scheduled at this point, so you’d best not miss this opportunity to see ‘em.
Next Wednesday, prepare yourself for what is likely to be a brain-melting onslaught of percussion-based noise, as the drummer from Lightning Bolt, calling himself Black Pus, plays at Club Timbuktu (of all places??). To be fair, this is the more accessible alter ego of Brian Chippendale, but it’s still not “pop” by any conventional definition. Joining him will be Milwaukee’s Catacombz, who just played one of the most powerful sets of the weekend at Milwaukee Psych Fest a couple weeks ago and whose psych/kraut/jam rock style seems to evolve a little more with every show. Whatever you call their style, they’re undeniably one of the city’s must-see bands. Also playing: Dogs In Ecstasy.