Who Says You Need St. Patrick’s Day?
Not much Irish music in the weekly round-up, but plenty of other great stuff.
Not to borrow too much from Lewis Black’s infamous “Drinking in Wisconsin” routine, but…does St. Patrick’s Day seem at all necessary in the greater metropolitan Milwaukee area? And, in this city, isn’t green beer a hue that represents sacrilege?
So, when considering the options for the holiday-ish weekend, this buckaroo rounded up just one Irish/Celtic/drinking-music act, and a local one at that. The rest are not seasonal. Milwaukee’s gonna get sauced anyway — as Mr. Black rightly notes here:
Caroline Smith at Club Garibaldi
If a singer-songwriter decides to make an album reminiscent of her favorite neo-soul artistes from the 1990s—D’Angelo, Erykah Badu et al—does that make her own effort “retro-neo-soul,” or does that make the poser of the question a pseudo-clever, genuinely pretentious putz?
Whatever the answer, Minneapolis resident Caroline Smith’s third and most recent studio LP, 2013’s Half About Being a Woman, deliberately moves her onward from 2008’s folky Backyard Tent Set and 2011’s relatively rockin’ Little Wind.
Smith retains her solid voice—less Joni Mitchell than Carole King anyway—and her aptitude for a tune, so old-school fans ought to be able to handle her new lesson plan.
Friday, March 14
The Melismatics at Cactus Club
Two guitars, one bass, one drum kit: the setup is among the most dog-eared blueprints in rock ‘n’ roll, but any band that’s as sharp as the Melismatics can make that particular plan come together.
Hailing from Minneapolis (still a very musical city—see previous entry on Caroline Smith), the ‘Matics spin on the axis of husband-and-wife singers and guitarists Ryan and “Pony” Hixon-Smith, the latter of whom adds Gwen Stefani-like playfulness to the former’s Beatlesque yearnings.
The quartet’s latest album, “Rising Tide,” came out last year and, from the shiny production (split between Ryan Smith and Posies co-founder Jon Auer) to the Cars-reminiscent keyboard swirls, it and the ‘Matics themselves simultaneously augment and recharge the hoary setup of the four-piece pop-rock band.
Saturday, March 15
Collections of Colonies of Bees at Cactus Club
Anyone wrong-footed by the direction Justin Vernon took from 2010 onward—both with his beloved Bon Iver and with his proliferation of other gigs—should’ve consulted Unmap, the 2009 album he made as part of Volcano Choir, which was basically a side band with Collections of Colonies of Bees.
Unmap was a hit, in other words.
Since 1998, CoCoBees have represented the curiously genteel side of experimental rock in Milwaukee: endowed with strong melodies, fairly straight through-lines and good humor, the collective has rarely been inaccessible and has almost always been intriguing.
Also popular in Japan.
Sunday, March 16
Experience Hendrix 2014 Tour at Riverside Theater
Yes, this one is sold out, but it’s worth noting, because a second show has been booked for April 4 at the same venue, so Jimi Hendrix fans who couldn’t score tickets this time can at least ask luckier fans how the first show was and act accordingly.
Anyway, the eighth edition of the traveling circus for the late rock-guitar god (now portrayed in a motion picture by the prettier member of Outkast!) has a typically impressive talent list, including Texas shredders like Eric Johnson, aging tyros like Kenny Wayne Shepherd, rock veterans like David Hildalgo from Los Lobos, blues veterans like Buddy Guy and Hendrix sideman Billy Cox.
Monday, March 17
Whiskey of the Damned at Turner Hall Ballroom
The Chieftains deserve a great deal of respect for longevity, for upholding traditional music to an international audience and for collaborating with an incredibly wide range of fellow musicians, from Emmylou Harris to the aforementioned Justin Vernon.
However, they can’t possibly play all the gig requests they must get this time of year, and not everyone wants to hear old-fashioned tunes while reacquainting themselves with the side effects of Jameson.
So, here’s a nod to MKE’s own Whiskey of the Damned, not only for a first-rate punk name and for having an Irish native (Eoin McCarthy) in the band but also—and not unlike Black 47, Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys, etc.—for telling the tradition to go hang if it gets in the way of a good time.
This show marks an album release, as is only right and natural, considering the date.