10 post-Summerfest shows worth leaving the house for
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Even if you spent exactly zero seconds at this year’s rockin’, rollin’, and picnic-table-dancin’ Summerfest, you’re probably shot. The Big Gig has a strange way of exhausting nearly every resident in the greater Milwaukee area, regardless of whether or not they schlepped out every afternoon to see random cover bands from Oshkosh play “All The Small Things.” It’s safe to say that as the dust settles on Henry Maier Festival Park and the surly goth kids who roam the grounds are put back into storage, the last thing on anyone’s mind is more shows.
Oh, but there are always more shows. Here are 10 that will give you an excuse to leave the comforts of your darkened, air-conditioned apartment, and that will hopefully wipe away any lingering sweat- and cigar-stained Summerfest memories.
1. R. Ring at Cactus Club (July 10)
Kim Deal may be currently swimming in Pixies-reunion cash, Scrooge McDuck-style, but twin sister Kelley apparently needs to keep plugging away on the smallish rock club circuit. The former Breeder and Kelley Deal 6000 mastermind is now one half of R. Ring, a sparse, moody outfit that includes musician Mike Montgomery. The group doesn’t have an album to its name (yet), but that shouldn’t stop the curious from digging Deal’s loopy songwriting and cracked, haunting vocals. Also playing: Night Animals.
2. Burial Hex at Borg Ward (July 13)
As a noise journeyman whose name never meant much outside of his home town, Madison’s Clay Ruby has finally started receiving the attention he deserves under the moniker Burial Hex (due in large part to a number of European tours). Ruby’s sound is one rooted in industrial history, relishing in the rumble of speakers pushed to the breaking point, but more often paying careful attention to the quieter side of things, carefully crafting highly atmospheric and unsettling drone pieces that build to a raucous climax almost undetectably. The project will be coming to a close soon, so make sure to catch him one more time before the next project starts up. Also playing: Venowl, Sun Splitter, Reptile Worship, Samantha Glass, Blessed Sacrifist, Glavsercxad.
3. The Coathangers at Cactus Club (July 15)
The Coathangers pitch shrill-voiced, whiny post-punk songs that, despite bad lyrical posturing, are surprisingly catchy. The Atlanta-bred babes have managed to take raw, crunchy guitar tunes and turn them into danceable fits of bitchy mayhem. The band’s 2009 album, Scramble on Suicide Squeeze, is antagonistic and feminine, and the four members—guitarist-vocalist Julia Kugel, drummer-vocalist Stephanie Luke, bassist-vocalist Meredith Franco, and keyboardist-vocalist Candice Jones—don’t make apologies for it. The band’s shambolic splay of sounds was corralled and concentrated on its third full-length, last year’s Larceny & Old Lace. All the same elements are in place: no-wave slash, riot-grrrl grit, and the occasional dollop of girl-group pop. But where the band’s previous output strove hard to avoid self-seriousness, that sense of humor has been supplanted by a venomous intensity. Also playing: The Psychic Paramount, Heavy Cream.
4. Canopies at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn (July 15)
Since bursting out of the gate with a terrific self-titled EP in 2011, Milwaukee’s Canopies have established themselves as the city’s première synth slingers. The album is clearly indebted to a proto-new-wave past full of murky ’80s dance clubs, but still shot through with a spirit of post-millennial dance parties. John Marston and Nolan Treolo form the band’s core and, along with drummer Craig Leren, already seem to be a notch above the current chillwave high-water mark. The group’s songs are anything but gauzy, unfocused psychedelia. Lead-off track “Rebels” is effortlessly stuffed with dreamy, straight-up pop hooks, and “Strangers Glare” does well by a driving, insidiously catchy chorus. Also playing: Night Moves, Faux Fir.
5. King Tuff at Quarters Rock ’N Roll Palace (July 16)
King Tuff is Vermont native Kyle Thomas, better known as the frontman of Happy Birthday and vocalist for J. Mascis’ band Witch. His 2008 debut as King Tuff, Was Dead, preferred garage rock over Witch’s heavy metal, and in 2010 he moved in an even lighter direction with Happy Birthday’s lo-fi fuzz pop, but Thomas returns to classic-rock territory for King Tuff’s self-titled follow-up. With a bluesy swagger and thick reverb gloss, Thomas pays loving homage to T. Rex and retro glam bands. King Tuff bops and boogies to simple, raw melodies, a throwback to a time when people actually danced to guitar-driven songs. It’s a record that would play equally well in an arena or blasted out the back of a parked station wagon with a cheap six-pack. Also playing: Natural Child, Lazy, Bored Games.
6. The Blind Shake at Frank’s Power Plant (July 17)
Minneapolis’ The Blind Shake first discovered its compact, nasty power as a noisy post-punk band, but got pulled in another direction when it began collaborating with obscure psychedelic-rock experimenter Michael Yonkers. The trio made one album as Yonkers’ backing band (Carbohydrates Hydrocarbons), then went on to record the second proper Blind Shake record, 2007’s Carmel. Noise-rock and trippy garage-blues find a lot of common ground in the band’s squealing, droning cheap guitars and viciously good live sets. Yonkers re-teamed with the band on 2009’s Cold Town, Soft Zodiac, on which its creative affinity blazes undimmed. The band’s latest, Seriousness, contains a surf-rock influence that feels like a natural evolution, since it’s one of only musical genres outside of speed metal that can satisfy the band’s craving for constant, rapid forward motion. The record only lasts for about 30 minutes, but the bruises it leaves take days to heal. Also playing: The Mallard, Wereworm.
7. Liars at Mad Planet (July 18)
Few bands pursue a sense of creeping unease as doggedly as Liars, who smartly turned their back on the faddish promises of disco-punk to follow their own warped muse, one more in line with late-’70s devotees of dissonance like This Heat and Pop Group than those groups’ dance-happy contemporaries. The new WIXIW taps into several elements of past Liars records that should already be familiar to longtime listeners. An uneasy pop sensibility makes the album appear relatively straightforward—at least by Liars standards—on first listen. But WIXIW eventually opens to reveal cunning depths. Based heavily in electronics, be it the swooping ambience of “The Exact Colour Of Doubt” or the stretched-elastic low end in “His And Mine Sensations,” WIXIW settles into a sweet spot between the misanthropic avant-rock of 2010’s Sisterworld and hypnotic ’90s trip-hop. Also playing: Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
8. Maps And Atlases at Cactus Club (July 20)
Between a pair of late-’00s EPs—Tree, Swallows, Houses, and You And Me And The Mountains—Maps & Atlases moved from dizzying displays of noodly post-rock to a poppier, more playful sound. A pair of recent LPs—2010’s Perch Patchwork and the new Beware And Be Grateful—finds the Chicago quartet continuing that transition, its impulse to relax and let the songs sprawl out naturally seemingly a result of the band’s new Barsuk Records surroundings. There’s still some knotty, carefully considered virtuosity to be found, but there’s never been less doubt that it’s the product of human hands—which only serves to make the whole enterprise artfully weirder. Also playing: A Lull, Canopies.
9. Counting Crows at BMO Harris Pavilion (July 25)
When is a Summerfest show not a Summerfest show? When it takes place on the festival grounds after the Big Gig has come and gone. That’s just the case for Counting Crows, who will headline the stage July 25, and will be joined by Milwaukee’s own Field Report. Also playing: We Are Augustines, Kasey Anderson And The Honkies.
10. Neil Hamburger and Tim Heidecker at Shank Hall (July 29)
Now here’s a comedy gig we can get behind: Neil Hamburger and Tim Heidecker (the Tim in Tim And Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!) are co-headlining a show at Shank Hall. DJ Douggpound and Kenny “K-Strass” Strasser’s Yo-Yo Extravaganza are also on the bill. Somehow, this pants-poopingly fantastic lineup will only set you back $20 a pop.