words by Cal Roach
In case you didn’t get your fill of accordions at Festa Italiana, Milwaukee, rest assured you can get your fix this weekend at German Fest, along with schnitzel, sausages and of course, beer! It’s probably the most beer-centric of the ethnic festivals besides Irish Fest, which isn’t far off either, but unless you’re a huge baked potato fan, the food will probably be better at the German one. We can’t believe July is almost over and pretty soon we’ll have to find other ways to celebrate our heritage other than going to the Summerfest grounds again; get it while you can, folks! Also, read on for a bunch more options for this weekend and next week.
Tonight (Friday) marks the beginning of the Riverwest 24, the quirky lil’ neighborhood’s yearly round-the-clock bike ride. They always hold registration for this event on some weekday morning, so basically if you have a 9-5 job you’re not allowed to ride, because this thing fills up about as fast as a Justin Bieber concert sells out; your best option at this point is to chill on somebody’s front porch and cheer on the riders as they bike by. OR, you can get the party started as early as you like by heading over by the Art Bar for Mish Mash Fest, the yearly musical shindig that coincides with the RW24! It starts at 3 p.m. with unofficial Grand Marshall Sigmund Snopek and continues on into the evening with performances by Faux Fir, Sat. Nite Duets, Calliope and The Invaders. The event actually continues tomorrow night as well, indoors and a couple hours after the race finishes up, with performances by Marilyn Mellor, Roxie Beane and Jude Kinnear.
It’s been kind of a big year for The Sugar Stems, Milwaukee’s great power-punk-pop hope. Besides cultivating a growing fan-base in Japan, the group officially released its new album, Can’t Wait, to pretty much universal acclaim, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s not easy to write super catchy melodies and guitar hooks that don’t sound exactly like some other song, but they’ve done it. It’s also not easy to hide dubious emotional intentions and heartache inside peppy pop songs, but this happens to be one of Sugar Stems’ fortes; just listen to the amazing “Love You To Pieces” (for starters) and you’ll see what we mean. The band plays Shank Hall tonight, opening for Zion, Illinois’ most famous export, 70s power-pop stars Shoes.
It may not be Earth-shattering news these days, but in case you hadn’t heard, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony is officially back together with its full five-piece lineup; as of this writing, nobody’s in jail and nobody’s been kicked out since like 2011. This could change before this piece gets published so don’t hold us to it! But as old and possibly irrelevant as Bone Thugs are these days (although their 2010 album Uni5: The World’s Enemy wasn’t terrible), you owe it to yourself to grab this chance to see Bizzy, Layzie, Krayzie, Wish and Flesh all on the same stage if you never have, because they have a whole bunch of timeless songs from back in the day that they’ll surely rap for you tonight at The Rave, and as we keep hinting, there’s a good chance that you won’t get another chance to see this again.
Hey, whaddaya know, there’s another Milwaukee record release party going on this weekend!
Now, the term “supergroup” gets tossed around quite a bit, but really, Buffalo Gospel fits the bill; it’s got Ryan Necci and Kyle Keegan from local jam-band stalwart (currently on the broken-up-but-occasionally-reuniting kick) Fat Maw Rooney, Allen Coté (The Championship, Quinn Scharber, etc., etc.), Ryan Ogburn (Stealin’ Strings) and Heidi Spencer (she needs no further introduction, right?), which should all get you pretty excited right off the bat. The band celebrates the release of its LP, We Can Be Horses, at Linneman’s on Saturday night, with a little help from one of our favorite local singer/songwriters, Jonathan Burks. The generally prolific Burks hasn’t put out anything new since last year’s How I Roll, but if you haven’t heard that one yet, get on it!
There’s also a good show brewing a few blocks away at Riverwest Public House on Saturday night; we’re not thinking this is a record release party per se, but Cousins did just put out their debut full-length, Bathhouse, and it’s a barnburner of noisy, effects-laden guitars, pummeling drums and droning vocals that you’ve probably heard on a WMSE Local Lunchbox segment or three in recent weeks; if you liked that new Centipedes album, this would definitely be something to check out. They’ll be joined by Lamb’s Legs, another loud, abrasive but somewhat less straight-faced local group (you won’t forget your earplugs, right?). They put out a new EP, Drinks Bats Milk, a few months ago that you should definitely at least give a listen to over at Bandcamp. Also playing: Cloakroom and Chicago’s Den.
Save room for a wee bit of nostalgia mixed with new as veteran power pop legend, Matthew Sweet returns to Milwaukee’s Shank Hall for a show with a fresh album and with one of Milwaukee’s burgeoning solo legends in her own right, Liv Mueller — Mueller’s band days gone-by are a happy, but fading memory as her solo work steps more vividly into the spotlight with echoes of Nancy Sinatra and the mindset of David Lynch.
Despite what you may have heard, Foxygen actually has played in Milwaukee before; the loopy, psych-folk band opened up for of Montreal last December, and it was a really mind-bending set, much weirder than the band’s well-received new album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. We’re not sure if Sunday’s show at Turner Hall will be a more straightforward, laid-back affair like the new album or a trippy, kaleidoscopic freak-out, but one thing we can say is that if you want to catch the band live, now would probably be the time; former touring member Elizabeth Fey posted a blog earlier this week detailing some intra-band tension that suggests a pretty tenuous situation for the band–although, as the band tweeted shortly afterwards: “ALWAYS, DEFINITELY, BELIEVE THE INTERNET.” Also playing: Twin Peaks.
Next Thursday, also at Turner Hall, Wisconsin’s most successful musician of recent years, Justin Vernon, has a homecoming of sorts, but it’s not with Bon Iver (a moniker which may very well be retired, but we’ll see…). Eschewing the falsetto for the most part and going with a more gritty, bluesy sound, Vernon has returned to a more simplistic rock sound with his new/old band The Shouting Matches, and perhaps unsurprisingly, their new album Grownass Man is refreshingly free of pretension and invigorating even though it breaks no new ground, proving that Vernon doesn’t need Auto-tune or any other gimmick to make good music. We’d say it’s even better than his Bon Iver stuff, but we’re not on the Grammy panel…Also playing: Alpha Consumer.