Photo: Marina Chavez
A Real Woman
A deadly slide guitar player and an even deadlier singer, Bonnie Raitt
built a slow-burning career out of other songwriters’ songs. Her most recent album, 2012’s Slipstream
, won the 2013 Grammy for Best Americana Album, and was a leisurely showcase of the sneaky-good guitar work and singing she’s known for. The words “return to form” come to mind, especially when she’s playing an acoustic, a la “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” and covering songs from Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind
album, which marked the beginning of his own resurrection. For a Summerfest crowd, “Something to Talk About” and “Angel from Montgomery” will be inevitable, bittersweet and like meeting up with an old friend.
➞ (July 2). BMO Harris Pavilion with Miller Lite.
Photo: Paul Mobley
Fiddler on the Radio
These are rather good times for the Zac Brown Band, those juggernauts of heartache and forlorn fiddling, and we mean that in the best way. The country band (which runs a fan club called the “Zamily”) has recorded in recent times with Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band. Hot stuff that they are, Z.B.B. will be headlining the Marcus Amphitheater, meaning plenty of company for those who tune the radio to country while driving alone. You know who you are. Somewhere between “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and Mumford and Sons, that’s where your rugged heart lies.
➞ (July 3). Marcus Amphitheater.
Photo courtesy of Summerfest
It’s going to be a very loud summer for Outkast. The experimental hip-hop project, led by fire-and-ice, windstorm-and-thunder contrasts Big Boi and André 3000, will be headlining both Lollapalooza and a Marcus Amphitheater show at Summerfest. Poppy and unpredictable, they’ve gone from Atlanta rappers to theatrical, international hit-makers and remained there, last releasing a record as a duo in 2006, when Idlewild, a proper album, coincided with a film of the same name. Summerfest’s famously disparate crowds should be a fine match for Outkast, which has been, in our time, one of the acts on everyone’s playlist, at some point. Just like CeeLo Green.
➞ (June 29). Marcus Amphitheater.
Photo: Jay Blakesberg
One of the great also-rans of blues history, few guitar players or singers have carried the genre as far abroad as Taj Mahal. After releasing a couple of conventional – but underappreciated – blues albums in 1968, he embarked on a tour of world and rural music that has yet to end. Henry Saint Clair Fredericks received his earliest cultural imprints from the stories his parents told about the Harlem Renaissance, and his interest in genealogy has only deepened since. He’s spent some 50 years traveling the inroads between African music and the blues, a trip he’ll continue at Summerfest as leader of the Taj Mahal Trio.
➞ (June 27). Johnson Controls World Sound Stage with Blue Moon and 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.
Photo: David Black
Many of Bethany Consentino’s melodic tics are back on 2013’s Fade Away, and the album is better for it. Nobody does the sixth note of the major scale as well as Best Coast. Perched just beyond the fifth – the interval that sends you swinging back to home base – the sixth leaves you hanging, not sure if you want to remain suspended or move on. Fade Away, about the underwhelming nature of adulthood, revels in this lurch, and it’s the band’s best since 2010’s Crazy for You. Romance is over, disillusionment is in season, and the songs are as genuine as ever.
➞ (June 26). U.S. Cellular Stage with Leinenkugel’s and FM102/1.
This article appears in the 2014 City Guide in the June 2014 issue of