Rock Roundup

Five Wildly Different Concerts

From the great Wilco to folk rocker Shakey Graves to Dillon Francis’s electric dance music, it’s a crazy week.

By - Dec 1st, 2014 11:33 am
Shakey Graves. Photo from facebook.

Shakey Graves. Photo from facebook.

Top Show: Shakey Graves, Turner Hall Ballroom, Thursday, December 4

It must be stated that Alejandro Rose-Garcia makes excellent music as Shakey Graves. It must be stated because his other entertainment career, in acting, is so far not impressive, apart from his recurring role as “Swede” on the Friday Night Lights TV series. Movies like Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For are not resume standouts.

Rose-Garcia has spoken of Shakey Graves as though it’s another role, albeit one that is a darker aspect of his own personality. Fortunately, the music on And the War Came, his second full-length spent occupying that darker aspect, doesn’t come across as the result of Method acting exercises.

That makes him a man of potential in the folk-music realm, where seasoned practitioners like Ray LaMontagne and Marcus Mumford (of Mumford & Sons) can sometimes look and sound as if they’re dressing up in vintage clothes and pretending to be, say, Cat Stevens or Robbie Robertson.

Graves/Rose-Garcia has also gently moved away from the one-man-band approach that got him noticed in Austin circa 2011, the year he issued his debut disc, Roll the Bones. He can still play solo, but he recognizes that three years on, the charm of the busker can curdle on larger stages.

So he sings with Esmé Patterson—an illuminating accompanist and a fine singer-songwriter all on her own, as she’ll prove as an opening act for Graves/Rose-Garcia. He also lets in electric and eclectic instruments, and displays a knack for old-time country, blues, rock and pop.

The “old-time” modifier is one way of hinting at how unlikely it is that Graves/Rose-Garcia will find a place on contemporary playlists or move beyond the World Café environment (see video below) that helps sustain his kind of musician.

Nevertheless, if the Lumineers and the aforementioned Mumford can find (fleeting and temporary) spotlights in the mainstream, the darker aspect of Rose-Garcia can as well.

Wednesday, December 3: Wilco, Riverside Theater

Although I am not above mentioning sold-out shows in this column, I think telling music lovers in the Milwaukee area that Wilco is fantastic is akin to telling stein hoisters in the Milwaukee area that Sprecher Amber is delicious. The Chicago-based band has obviously found a large and receptive audience here.

This particular appearance is part of a series of shows commemorating Wilco’s 20th anniversary; follows upon a two-disc best-of compilation and a four-disc rarities collection; and will take in every part of a worthy career, from Wilco’s origins as an Uncle Tupelo splinter group to its latter-day status as a band removed from all genre or commercial classifications.

Wednesday, December 3: Whitey Morgan and the 78’s,  Shank Hall

The long moan about modern country music’s soullessness has lowered in volume since the prime of alternative or insurgent country, but even the best modern country—mainly by women like Miranda Lambert—never quite drowns out the keening. A recently released Garth Brooks comeback album is of no assistance.

Eric David Allen, the Flint, Michigan native who performs as “Whitey Morgan,” turns the moan into the twang of outlaw country, the kind of stuff Waylon and Willie and the boys started playing (again) in the 1970s. On his latest album, the just-issued Born, Raised & LIVE From Flint, he and his band the 78’s stomp, weep, and two-step. They sure as hell don’t scoot boots.

Saturday, December 6: The 4onthefloor,  Club Garibaldi

Four guys with four kick drums, playing in 4/4 time: it could be said that the 4onthefloor has a quadrilateral gimmick. The gimmick works very well for rock ‘n’ roll, a form not only rooted in simplicity but also revitalized by “beat” groups, punk, indie, and other back-to-basics movements.

Hailing from Minneapolis, the quartet has found boosters there and in Wisconsin: its red-meat-and-russet-potatoes rock goes especially well with whatever beers are brewed in state. The 4onthefloor’s latest album, last year’s Spirit of Minneapolis, could easily be called Spirit of Milwaukee or Spirit of Midwest without anyone objecting.

Monday, December 8: Dillon Francis, Turner Hall Ballroom

To those who argue that electronic dance music (EDM) is a generally witless and repugnant genre, Dillon Francis offers a vaudeville wink and a Borscht Belt raspberry. The L.A. producer and DJ revels in the dumber, shallower pleasures of EDM as if Katy Perry’s whipped-cream brassiere represents the zenith of modern pop culture.

After many EPs, remixes and singles, Francis at last issued his debut long-player, Money Sucks, Friends Rule, in October. With guests ranging from Panic! at the Disco frontman Brandon Urie to Diplo’s side project Major Lazer, Francis hedges with nearly thoughtful pop confections, but remains at his best when partying as if he doesn’t know what tomorrow is.

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