words by Cal Roach
Two festivals this weekend, Milwaukee. This is how we will summer into happening. The fest that’s named after that season is only three weeks away, which doesn’t seem possible. As usual, the stage sponsored by WMSE has announced a killer lineup of pure local talent, all day, every Summerfest. Click here to start strategizing which days to sneak out of work early or play hooky. And then, read on for some suggestions on what to do for the next week or so!
Tonight (Friday) marks the beginning of PrideFest, Milwaukee’s annual celebration of LGBT culture, and the de facto first outdoor festival of the warmer season (Hey, remember RiverSplash!? It even has a Wikipedia page.). The event seems to attract better music with each passing year, and there are some promising options this year for sure. Head to the Summerfest grounds tonight to catch Andy Bell belting out all your favorite Erasure tunes, as well as Sophie B. Hawkins (of “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” fame!) and earlier in the evening, Esh. Tomorrow night’s headliners are perennial favorites The Indigo Girls, and on Sunday, it’s Amanda Palmer, plus local talent earlier in the day such as Lisa Ridgely and Vic & Gab. There are TONS of other attractions as well; check here for all the info.
Saturday night, the Pabst Theater welcomes the world’s most famous ambassadors of what is often referred to as gypsy punk, Gogol Bordello. Now, some fans of underground music will instantly get a chip on their shoulder about the term “punk” or this band’s reputation for CRAZY live shows, and yes, these guys are pretty tame and not very punk compared to lots of stylistically similar acts. They’re still very entertaining as a live band, with a cornily engaging frontman in Eugene Hütz and a pretty terrific balance of the accessible and the exotic. Their high-energy blend of Eastern European folk and pop music (among other influences) is a blast to dance to, no matter your background or scene. Also playing: Bombino.
Riverwest Public House will host a night of experimental psychedelic sounds Saturday night. Chicago’s Invisible Things is an offshoot of now-defunct noise rock legends Parts And Labor and U.S. Maple; the noise influence remains, but this is a more varied, post-rock-ish, less harshly abrasive project; maybe we’ll call it chaotic ambient? That sounds like a cool genre. Minnesota band Crimes also has one foot in ambient; the other limbs are in the surf/garage realm, which sounds impossible but they probably said the same thing about pineapple and ham the first time someone suggested it. You’ll also get a set by Milwaukee’s Moss Folk, heroes of the Psych Fest a few weeks back, and Speakerdust; what more could you possibly desire? Well, maybe a little more? Tune into WMSE on Saturday at 4 p.m. before it all goes down and get an additional sneak peak from Crimes on Paul Host’s program as he chats with the band about the show.
Sunday marks the Nth annual Locust Street Festival, which claims to be the city’s best neighborhood festival and it’s hard to argue against that claim with a lineup like this. Any attempt to list a handful of the best local artists playing the many different stages of this event throughout the day would mean unfairly neglecting a whole bunch of equally awesome bands, so we’ll leave it up to you reader(s) to click here and see the full schedule in all its glory. Even if it rains, there’s music indoors at several taverns along the five-block path of the fest, so there’s no good reason not to get down and show some love for the plethora of homegrown talent.
If you’ve got any energy left over after a full day of Riverwest revelry, there’s a different kind of dance party Sunday night at Turner Hall. Mount Kimbie is suddenly one of the hottest names in EDM, and if you check out the brand new Cold Fault Less Youth, you’ll quickly understand why. Few electronic acts this side of Burial do minimalism so well, but Mount Kimbie definitely flirts with the more upbeat, poppy side, and the results are predictably infectious, making this show already one of the most exciting dance parties of the year, especially considering Milwaukee generally gets the shaft when the best DJs go on tour. Also performing: Holy Other and Vinyl Williams.
Tuesday night is your next chance to catch arguably the best songwriter currently operating in Milwaukee, Todd Umhoefer, a.k.a. Old Earth. The songs on his latest album, Small Hours, as well as last year’s A Low Place At The Old Place, might strike you as odd at first; Umhoefer strings together sounds and ideas in very unorthodox fashion, but his inventive guitar riffs and succinct, stunning lyrics will cut right through you once he’s got your full attention. He’ll perform at Cactus Club along with a couple of Baltimore bands, guitar folk/ambient group Peals (whose new album Walking Field is superb), and Small Sur (love that band name!).