There’s really no sense in competing with the massive black hole that is Summerfest, which as you surely know starts this Wednesday. The bigger—and perhaps smarter— venues have learned to hold off on shows until after The Big Gig sells its final, artery clogging pizza cone, rather than face abnormally weak attendance. But, dammit, since some of the smaller, nobler clubs go ahead with their local music schedules anyway, so will we. (Stand tall, brothers!) If you’d like to stay as far away from the Summerfest Grounds as possible or just quickly tire of all the people-watching and alcohol-induced drama after a day or two, check out these (mostly free!) shows.
Monday, June 23: Free Metal Monday: Toby Wong with Gravedirt and Ahab’s Ghost at Frank’s Power Plant, 9 p.m.
Nothing breaks up Monday monotony quite like a punishing metal show. Metal tends to be overlooked in Milwaukee’s music scene, but there are numerous talented acts throughout our city. Tonight’s Frank’s Power Plant bill showcases one of the genre’s most under-appreciated bands, Ahab’s Ghost, and two other worthy contenders, as well. Make sure to bring some ear plugs. (2800 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., FranksPowerPlant.com)
Tuesday, June 24: Chill on the Hill featuring I’m Not A Pilot with Daley Debutantes Baton and Drum Corp at Humboldt Park, 6 p.m. (FREE) – (3000 S. Howell Ave., http://www.bayviewneighborhood.org/chill_on_the_hill)
Also: Devil Met Contention at Vintage, 9 p.m. (FREE) – (2203 N. Prospect Ave., VintageMilwaukee.com)
Wednesday, June 25: Surfing the Solstice: Daikaiju at Frank’s Power Plant, 9:30 p.m. (FREE)
With a Japanese moniker that roughly translates to “gigantic monster” and Kabuki-inspired face paint, the last place you’d expect Daikaiju to call home would be Huntsville, Ala. Not only is the four-piece’s hometown shocking, but these Kiss-looking guys inexplicably hammer away at surf-rock, a genre long associated with, ah, surfing and not Japanese culture. With song titles like “Attack of the Crabwomen” and “Double Fist Attack,” it’s hard to see the cartoonish Daikaiju as more than a comic-book-esque novelty act, but they do rock pretty hard. Furthermore, I would be terrified to come across them in a dark alley. (2800 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., FranksPowerPlant.com)
Thursday, June 26: Jazz in the Park featuring Paul Spencer Band at Cathedral Square Park, 5 p.m. (FREE)
For those that desire just a sip of the Summerfest spirit without going all in and shotguning its full-bodied, overly foamy texture, try Jazz in the Park. The events share many similar criteria. Outdoors? Check. Alcohol vendors? Check. Tight quarters? Check. Crowd-pleasing bands? Check. Zero free parking available? Check. The weekly Cathedral Square get-together, however, imbues a certain rarefied air that’s definitely lacking a couple miles south. That’s mainly thanks to the music. While decidedly not as highfalutin as the more avante garde compositions, the Jazz in the Park line-up often showcases more sophisticated acts than your basic 4 p.m. blues rock cover group. That’s true of the Paul Spencer Band, a sizeable jazz outfit that’s honed its hard bop sound by playing routine gigs at Caroline’s in Walkers Point. (825 N. Jefferson St., http://www.easttown.com/events/jazz-in-the-park)
Also: Travelguide with Thriftones at Riverwest Public House, 9 p.m. ($5) – (815 E. Locust St., RiverwestPublicHouse.WordPress.com)
And: Raw Nerves with The Old Northwest, Quitters and Dagorath at Quarters Rock ‘n Roll Palace, 9 p.m. ($5) – (900 E. Center St.)
Friday, June 27: Tilts with Haymartket Riot, Hot Coffin and Buildings at Cactus Club, 9:30 p.m. – (2496 S. Wentworth Ave., CactusClubMilwaukee.com)
Also: Moonstomp with The Tritonics at Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, 8 p.m. ($6) – (901 W. Juneau Ave.)
And: Mary Allen & The Percolators with Platinum Boys and Teenage Woman at Riverwest Public House, 10 p.m. ($6) – (815 E. Locust St., RiverwestPublicHouse.WordPress.com)
Saturday, June 28: Pabst Street Party: Sylvan Esso, GGOOLLDD, Collection of Colonies of Bees, Brothers By Choice and Head On Electric at Burnhearts, noon (FREE)
It's not just Music Notes that have been singing the praises of the Durham, NC-based Sylvan Esso endlessly these past few months. The heady, electronic folk duo (with Milwaukee roots!) have been riding a wave of buzz that’s earned them attention from NPR, Pitchfork and the ultimate tastemaker, late night media king Carson Daly. They’ll be headlining arguably the best single-stage block party of the summer, with opening sets from a variety of local acts including: the infectious synth poppers GGOOLLDD, the post-rock aficionados Collections of Colonies of Bees, the reunited ‘60s R&B group Brothers By Choice and the garage-rockers Head on Electric. (2599 S. Logan Ave.)
Also: King Buzzo with Emma Ruth Rundle and Mark Waldoch at Shank Hall, 8 p.m. ($15)
Roger Osbourne, colloquially known as King Buzzo, formed the seminal sludge metal band the Melvins 30 years ago, ultimately going on to influence such notable bands as Tool, Mastodon and Nirvana. Osbourne recently embarked on his first solo acoustic tour, and as is customary for any bandleader heading out on his own with acoustic guitar in hand, he’ll be performing at Shank Hall. Expect some Melvins standards and some new ones from an upcoming solo EP, This Machine Kills Artists. (1434 N. Farwell Ave., ShankHall.com)
And: Blueprint with Count Bass D, DJ Rare Groove, The Rusty P’s and Dana Coppafeel & Speakeasy at Mad Planet, 9 p.m. ($5) – (533 E. Center St, Mad-Planet.net)
And: Antler House with The Quiet Time @ Yield Bar, 10:45 p.m. (FREE) – (1932 E. Kenilworth Pl.)
Sunday, June 29: Outkast with Gary Clarke, Jr. at the Summerfest Grounds, 7:30 p.m.
Screw it. There’s nothing else today. Go see Outkast at Summerfest. Even though the reviews of Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s comeback shows have been mixed, Outkast remains one of the strongest hip hop groups of the late ‘90s, early 2000s, and they may never tour again. (200 N. Harbor Dr. Summerfest.com)