The other gigs: 6 non-Summerfest shows worth checking out
A lot of people assume that Milwaukee music clubs more or less shut down during Summerfest, allowing the sweaty masses to enjoy their Peter Framptons, their Toby Keiths, or their “Pre-Recorded Music.” But that’s only half true. While some clubs do indeed go dark, a few go out of their way to bring in compelling local and national acts. As the rough beast known as the Big Gig slouches its way toward the lakefront, here are six non-Summerfest shows we think are worth your time:
Friday, July 1
White Mystery + The Strange Boys
Frank’s Power Plant, 9:30 p.m.
Plenty of bands in the last decade have pitched in their rendition of American garage rock revival, but few do it with the enthusiasm of White Mystery—and few manage to make it feel as fresh. Bursting with energy beyond its de facto formula of fuzzy guitars cranked to maximum volume, the Chicago brother-sister duo sounds downright unhinged and fiery as its members’ shared redheaded manes. On the new Blood & Venom, Alex White’s soaring, reverb-drenched vocals steal the show, and her gutsy belting on the band’s de facto theme song, “White Mystery,” is just one of the album’s many highlights. Surprising for a band whose skuzzy R&B is at turns immediate and grating, The Strange Boys’ 2009 effort, The Strange Boys And Girls Club, was one of the year’s most rewarding listens. 2010’s Be Brave is nearly just as rollicking, a dusty romp through deep-seated and folky rock ’n’ roll. A new album, Live Music, is on the horizon, and the group’s live show is a heady mix of shout-out-loud singing and twisting bodies. Also playing: White Fence, The Fatty Acids.
Saturday, July 2
Uptown Saturday Night
Mad Planet, 9:30 p.m.
Chris “Christreater” Schulist made his name in Milwaukee music as a member of rabid R&B-laced rock ’n’ roll outfits like The Mistreaters and Skull Time, but he’s also a committed collector of late-’80s and early-’90s hip-hop records. Schulist carried over his love of the music of this period by starting up a label called Dope Folks Records with local MC John Kuester, better known behind the mic as Kid Millions. Dope Folks caters to “a core niche of record dorks,” Schulist says, specializing in rare and out-of-print releases. Dope Folks celebrates both its first birthday and a new monthly residency at Mad Planet with tonight’s special Uptown Saturday Night spin.
Cactus Club, 10 p.m.
If you can’t make it to the Elusive Parallelograms Summerfest show July 5, you’re in luck—the tireless band is playing the Cactus Club the Saturday before that show. Also playing: Sat. Nite Duets, The Fatty Acids, Astral/Subastral.
Monday, July 4
Dave Alvin And The Guilty Ones
Shank Hall, 8:00 p.m.
Dave Alvin’s work with The Blasters remains an all-time roots-rock highlight, and his brief stint in X resulted in one of its best songs, “4th Of July.” Adding credence to the theory that Alvin has some sort of musical Midas touch is his string of solid, underappreciated solo records. His solo career—which includes collaborations with groups like the X offshoot The Knitters and his new backing band The Guilty Ones—finds him continuing to build on the work of heroes like Merle Haggard, John Fogerty, and Tom Waits. Also playing: Semi-Twang.
Tuesday, July 5
Cactus Club, 9:00 p.m.
Spawned from Wisconsin’s Fox Valley back when Bill Clinton was still in the White House, IfIHadAHiFi has since gone on to become a high-volume, high-risk Milwaukee institution. Self-inflicted broken bones, chipped teeth, and flaming appendages have been the noise-rock pranksters’ hallmarks since the heady days of Y2K, not to mention hooky, dance-infused music. Never content to stand still—and never afraid to ruffle some feathers—the HiFi has been busy lately. An anti-Scott Walker protest song called “Imperial Walker” garnered considerable national attention, and the group’s upcoming EP, Nada Surf +3, is a goof on Nada Surf’s 2010 album If I Had A Hi-Fi. Also playing: Hex Machine, Gnarwhal, Stock Options.
Friday, July 8
Frank’s Power Plant, 9:30 p.m.
History’s heap of bands that combine 1950s greaser shtick with punk and rockabilly attitude rises higher than even the proudest pompadours. With its self-titled debut, Chicago’s The Stranger stands out in that ever-growing pile thanks to a rare sense of authenticity in its teeth-gnashing grit and spit-shined music. Rumbling upright bass and clean guitar lines that lean heavily on surf and boogie combine with menacingly unhinged vocals, making The Stranger seem like a group of greasers who have actually done all the sordid deeds they sing about. Also playing: The Safes, Sevenfortyseven.