Essential Viewing 

Nobody doubts the attraction of Arab World Fest’s camel rides and plates of baba ghanoug. But Milwaukee’s celebration of Arabic culture delves into deeper waters, too, particularly within its film festival. Atop this year’s marquee might be Omar, a 2014 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Film. The title character is a young Palestinian baker forced to become an Israeli informant, a plot that weaves him through a star-crossed love story. Of a more uplifting nature, there’s Flying Papers, a documentary following kids who try to break a Guinness World Record by flying kites on a Gaza beach. Those films and others should give your entourage plenty to discuss later around the hookah. (Howie Magner)
Arab World Fest’s Film Festival (Aug. 8-10). Henry Maier Festival Park. 200 N. Harbor Dr., 888-912-2722,

A Singular Experience

Timothy Showalter, the heavily bearded and slightly bedraggled crooner and guitarist better known as Strand of Oaks, released his latest LP Heal in late June to much fanfare from the likes of NPR, Grantland, Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. The latter called his sometimes-folk, occasionally grunge and always masterfully strummed material about heartbreak “gorgeous,” and it’s easy to see why. Showalter is the rare combination of a great songwriter and a talented multi-genre guitarist. Your 10 bucks won’t be better spent this month than at Showalter’s Pabst performance, which will surely be a night filled with his soulful, memoir-esque lyrics, and a side of shredding. (Claire Hanan)

Strand of Oaks (Aug. 18). Turner Hall Ballroom. 1034 N 4th St., 414-286-3205,

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.

An Artful Pairing 

Homebrewers and designers may make an odd couple. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have similar interests or complementary talents. Those talents are being harnessed for the second Home Brewed competition, which pairs a designer with one homebrewer, the former using typography, images and illustrations to craft an artful bottle label for the latter. Imagine a Milwaukee-brewed beer with a label looking like a Frank Lloyd Wright-styled glass windowpane, or labels that incorporate Cream City brick, whales, dogs and other furry creatures. Nothing is a better home for these wacky images than bottles of equally imaginative suds. (Claire Hanan)
Home Brewed (Aug. 7). Brenner Brewing Co. 706 S. Fifth St.,

 Portrait Sessions

Two shows at the Marshall Building’s Portrait Society Gallery deserve serious contemplation this month. Romano Johnson and Skully Gustafson bring their portraits in separate exhibits. To call them colorful is an understatement. Both use their own bodies in a selection of pieces, but their styles diverge from there. Johnson shaves patterns into his hair – an accent to the painting that surrounds his body, while Gustafson assumes bird-like poses in an art-filled box that’s been described as “Pee Wee Herman meets Jean-Michel Basquiat meets My Little Pony.” The artists explore the dimensions of their practice in plain view, and their art allows the viewer to come along for the ride. We recommend buckling up. (Claire Hanan)
Johnson’s “Silver Art Bible” (July 18-Sept. 13). Gustafson’s “The Juice” (July 18-Sept. 13). Portrait Society Gallery. 207 E. Buffalo St., 414-870-9930,

Photo by Josh Withers/Shutterstock.

The Road Runner

When Willie Nelson arrives for a two-night stay at Potawatomi’s Northern Lights Theater, he’ll have already played 80 concerts in 2014, at venues ranging from small Oklahoma casinos to Radio City Music Hall. At 81, he still can’t wait to get on the road, to the point of sometimes sleeping on his tour bus when it’s parked outside his Texas home. He’s country music’s long-haired answer to Tony Bennett, a revered scion who long ago transcended his genre and won’t go gently into retirement. Expect to hear Nelson’s familiar nasal twang blending old favorites with work from Band of Brothers, his June album of mostly new material and his largest release of original songs since 1996. Then he’ll be on the road again. (Howie Magner)
Willie Nelson & Family (Aug. 13-14). Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. Northern Lights Theater. 1721 W. Canal St., 414-847-7922,

‘Events Best Bets: August’ appears in the August, 2014, issue of Milwaukee Magazine. Click here to subscribe.