Our fat-free, dolphin-safe Milwaukee events calendar is chock-full of things to do, but only a handful of events are worthy of the lofty honor of “Record Recommended” (patent pending). Here are our recommendations for February 3-9.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 4
Peel Dream Magazine + J Fernandez, Operations, Large Print @ Cactus Club
There’s something totally unique about the mood created in the interplay between Grace Mitchell’s deadpan vocals and the rest of Large Print’s subdued yet askew indie rock. Without ever getting loud, the band knows how to create palpable tension with minimal dissonance on tracks like “Chew,” “Chimney,” and “Thread,” but each of these songs is also beautiful in its way. Last year’s End Scenery carries on in basically the same vein as 2018’s Strength VIII, but it plays almost like a single extended thought, as songs fade into one another with barely a pause, particularly the mini-suite of “Black Ice” and “Dirt Cheap” that closes the album with a sentiment that feels somehow both heartfelt and blasé.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5
Sessa + Mariell Allschwang & The Visitations @ Cactus Club (all ages)
The first thing to hit you when cueing up Marielle Allschwang & The Visitation’s IV is the noise. A distorted guitar. A rat-a-tat snare. A solitary cymbal. Could this possibly be the same Marielle Allschwang whose 2015 album Dead Not Done rarely rose above a whisper? IV isn’t exactly a complete sonic overhaul, but it is a record that demonstrates just how much Allschwang and her band have coalesced and solidified in the past few years. It’s also a record of echoes: The new “312: Year Of The Optical Fire” recalls the melody and sway of Dead Not Done‘s title track, and “Be The Dirt” digs into the same old, weird, and elemental concerns that populated the previous album. This time around, however, the full band provide each track with a sturdy framework that recalls Allschwang’s other post-rock-minded projects: the shuttered Group Of The Altos and the ever-changing Collections Of Colonies Of Bees. And yet the highlight of the record is, once again, Allschwang herself. Her voice, forever haunting, remains a wonder.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 6
Juliana Hatfield + Sunshine Boys @ Shank Hall
What is ’90s legend Juliana Hatfield up to these days? Well, along with releasing her 17th (!) studio album, Weird, in 2019, she’s been dropping some delightful cover albums: Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John, and Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police. Here the former Blake Baby sing it all at this intimate Shank Hall show.
Grace Potter + Devon Gilfillian @ The Pabst Theater
You know Grace Potter. You love Grace Potter. You should see Grace Potter play songs from her recently released record, Daylight, and all other corners of her catalog when she takes the stage at Pabst Theater.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 7
Abby Jeanne + Retoro @ Turner Hall Ballroom
Was there an early-2019 record more long-awaited than Abby Jeanne’s Music Box Dancer? No, no there was not. Tracks like the scorching “Cosmic Beings” and the jazzy “Be In The Sun” had seemingly been kicking around forever before being collected on this nine-song album. (“Cosmic Beings” was featured in the Milwaukee Film Festival sponsor trailer—in 2017.) Happily, songs this timeless don’t have expiration dates. Ditto for the rest of the album: The title track is a dreamy take on ’50s soda-shop pop, “Pleasures Pain” is a chugging rocker, and “Die Easy” is a heartbreakingly dreamy take on a 2016 Devil Met Contention song. The fact that Jeanne has already moved on to a more new wave sound with recent single “Get You High” only proves that we haven’t heard the last from this restless and formidable talent.
Telethon + Fox Face, Devon Kay & The Solutions @ X-Ray Arcade
In 2017, Telethon called into local consciousness with its ambitious and apocalyptic 30-song, 90-minute concept album, The Grand Spontanean: A Tale Told In Five Acts. They quickly followed that with last year’s Modern Abrasive EP that, while frustratingly short, ultimately did an admirable job holding a now-captivate audience in Milwaukee (and far beyond) over as they awaited the band’s next big creative step. Hard Popis more than just the next step: it’s leaps and bounds beyond their rock opera from two years prior. Better yet, it manages to do so with only a third of the tracks. The 10-song effort is packed with the same winning blend of bouncing instrumentation, thoughtful composition, infectious and insightful lyrics, and, yes, “hard pop” that made Grand Spontanean so special—best stressed with the lively “(I Guess You’d Call It) An Undertone” and the artful angst that poignantly permeates “Time To Lean (The Whole Building Runs On Windows 98).”
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8
JJ Grey & Mofro + Freddy & Francine @ Turner Hall Ballroom
If you haven’t seen JJ Grey live before, you better…well, you better already have tickets to this show, because it’s sold out.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 9
Riff Raff + Platinum Boys @ The Cooperage
In these troubled and tumultuous times, the city of Milwaukee—nay, the entire world—needs the Platinum Boys. The hard-rocking, hard-partying group has been a fixture of the local scene since 2013, preaching the virtues of, well, hard-rocking and hard-partying. Every time a can of High Life or PBR cracks open, the Platinum Boys will be there. Every time someone steps out in a cowboy hat and cutoff shorts, the Platinum Boys will approve. Every time your week needs a shot of good-natured mischief, the Platinum Boys will do their thing. And so it goes with 2019’s Raw Romance, a speed- and weed-fueled barn-burner that alternates between manic highs (“Happens All The Time,” “Ain’t It Great? Ain’t It Crazy?”) and lighter-hoisting power ballads (the one-two punch of “I Will Get You High” and “Darlin”). The fact that the album was recorded during the Milwaukee Brewers’ run in the 2018 NLCS only adds to the fun.