Fire up your Bics: Milwaukee's 12 can’t-miss concerts of the summer
Here we go, Milwaukee: After being trapped indoors for the past six months, the time has finally come to step out of your cages and experience all the wonderful things about this city that make gritting out another long winter worth it. Here at The A.V. Club, live music ranks among our favorite warm-weather activities, and thankfully, the upcoming concert calendar isn’t lacking in must-see shows. After scanning the listings we found 12 concerts your summer can’t truly shine without. Check it out, and save us a good spot on the floor.
12. The Dead Weather, July 29 at The Rave/Eagles Ballroom
Remember when Jack White was the singer and guitarist for The White Stripes? Neither does he. Since releasing Icky Thump in 2007, The White Stripes have been on the back burner as White indulges his classic-rock jones with The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather. Still, we’d rather see White touring with somebody than not at all.
11. Phish, Aug. 14-15 at Alpine Valley Music Theatre
Scoff if you want, all you virulent, kneejerk hippie-haters. But the greatest jam band ever sounded pretty damn great when it played Alpine Valley as part of its “reunion” tour last summer. Standing in the audience for this two-night stand might make you curse the day that patchouli was invented, but expect the band to be at its freeform, telepathic best.
10. Heartless Bastards, July 26 at Turner Hall
Not only was Heartless Bastards’ The Mountain among A.V. Club Milwaukee’s favorite albums of 2009, it firmly established Erika Wennerstrom’s as one of the more imposing rock singers of recent years. The band last performed in Milwaukee as an opener for The Gaslight Anthem in February 2009; here they get a much-deserved headlining showcase.
9. Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers, June 25-26 at Summerfest
It's easy to take Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers shows at Summerfest for granted. But after taking 2009 off, we're excited to see him return this year behind his strong forthcoming album, Mojo. (A quibble: If Petty’s regular tour opener Drive-By Truckers hadn’t been replaced by ZZ Top, this would easily be in our top 3.)
8. Rufus Wainwright, Aug. 10 at Pabst Theater
If you’re wondering why Wainwright is at No. 8 on our list, check out last year’s live album/DVD Milwaukee At Last!!!, which was recorded at the Pabst in 2007. Actually, don’t check it out, because you’ll be mad this show isn’t ranked higher.
7. MGMT, June 20 at Riverside Theater
Opinion is split on MGMT’s convoluted sophomore album, Congratulations, which sheds the irresistible hooks of the group’s monstrously popular debut Oracular Spectacular in favor of loopy, Elephant 6-inspired psych-pop. But judging from MGMT’s recent TV appearances, the new songs hit a lot harder in a live setting, which bodes well for this show.
6. Crooked Fingers, June 24 at Club Garibaldi
Eric Bachmann’s singer-songwriter project Crooked Fingers nearly stole the show out from under Neko Case when he opened for the feisty redhead last April at Riverside Theater. He ought to come across even more powerfully inside the far more intimate confines of Club Garibaldi.
5. Dusty Medical Records Fifth Anniversary Party, June 25-26 at Club Garibaldi
After Petty, head to Bay View for this two-night celebration in honor of one of Milwaukee’s finest independent labels. The lineup is a veritable who’s-who of the city’s finest underground rock bands of the last several years, including Call Me Lightning, The Goodnight Loving, The Midwest Beat, and Plexi 3.
4. Megafaun, June 15 at Club Garibaldi
Last year’s Gather Form & Fly by North Carolina (via Wisconsin) indie-folk outfit Megafaun is an otherworldly masterwork that pushes American roots music forward while paying tribute to the strange and twisted antecedents it sprang from. Also, the band totally rocks live.
3-2 (tie). The Hold Steady and The Roots, July 1 at Summerfest
Hey Summerfest, why oh why must the greatest live band in rock be scheduled against the greatest live band in hip-hop on your side stages this year? Deciding between The Hold Steady and The Roots is the musical equivalent of Sophie’s Choice. Don’t be surprised if you see massive groups of people splitting the difference and sprinting between the stages.
1. The National, Aug. 4 at Riverside Theater
No matter your opinion on High Violet, there’s no denying that The National’s latest album is 2010’s “must-hear” record, if only to confirm whether all the hype heaped on these guys is warranted. We say it is, and if you caught the Brooklyn band in 2007 or 2009 at the Pabst Theater, you know that’s doubly true of its galvanizing live show.