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The Sugar Stems and Jeff Bridges
It's an eclectic week in Milwaukee music.

Monday, August 18: Strand of Oaks with Christopher Denny at Turner Hall Ballroom, 7 p.m. ($10)

Whether bowling with mythical giants or devising a revenge fantasy for Dan Aykroyd against John Belushi’s drug dealer, the earlier lyrical narratives of Timothy Showalter, frontman behind Strand of Oaks, created a distance between himself and the subjects in his songs. His new record, entitled HEAL, however, drops those self-imposed masks and delivers Showalter’s most personal material to date. The album opens up the band’s sound, as well, losing the weepy acoustic guitar for bigger power pop sounds. (1032 N. Fourth St., PabstTheater.org)

Also: Ahleuchatistas at The Sugar Maple, 9 p.m. – (441 E. Lincoln Ave., MySugarMaple.com)

Tuesday, August 19: Chill on the Hill featuring Paul Cebar & Tomorrow Sound with John Stano at Humboldt Park, 6 p.m. (FREE)

Paul Cebar remains one of Milwaukee’s true sonic treasures and perhaps the city’s most reliable performer. The opportunities to catch the veteran troubadour seem boundless, but nevertheless each performance achieves an ephemeral quality that’s difficult to duplicate. Tonight marks your last chance to stake out a spot at the weekly Chill on the Hill series until next year. (3000 S. Howell Ave., BayViewNeighborhood.org/Chill_On_The_Hill)

Also: Skyline Music Series featuring Urbanites at Kadish Park, 5 p.m. (FREE) – (308 E. Lloyd St.)

Wednesday, August 20: Supersuckers with Beggars and A Couple of Cocksmiths at Mad Planet, 8 p.m. ($12 advance, $15 door) – (533 E. Center St, Mad-Planet.net)

Thursday, August 21: Howler with Sat. Nite Duets and Mortgage Freeman at Mad Planet, 9 p.m. ($8 advance, $10 door)

I managed to catch the Minneapolis four-piece Howler at South By Southwest twice in 2012, my interest piqued after listening to the band’s debut record, The Strokes-indebted America Give Up. Even though the heavy pastiche put off many listeners at first (me included), the energy and infectiousness of the group’s live show immediately turned me around. I planned to see Howler on its stop through Milwaukee, but no tour date was ever booked. Fortunately, the band’s back with a new album, World of Joy, and finally makes the trip across I-94. (533 E. Center St, Mad-Planet.net)

Also: White Gold with Ghost Notes and Rio Turbo at Riverwest Public House, 8 p.m. ($5) – (815 E. Locust St., RiverwestPublicHouse.WordPress.com)

And: Micah Olsan (EP release) with Lisa Ridgely and the Fainting Room at The Jazz Estate, 9:30 p.m. – (2423 N. Murray Ave., JazzEstate.com)

Friday, August 22: Sugar Stems (album release) with The Grovelers and Winter Bear at Cactus Club, 10 p.m.

The heartache swells on the Sugar Stems’ third full-length, Only Come Out At Night, but the ‘60s girl group and bubblegum pop influences help the band from delving too deeply into melancholy and depression. Even a song about mental illness (“Some Might Say”) resembles a cheery, sun-blistered tune that Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino would write (though, it would probably be about her bummed-out cat). The Sugar Stems have been receiving acclaim nationwide (some say more so than locally) and their infectious, unstoppable power pop record should raise their national spotlight even wider. (2496 S. Wentworth Ave., CactusClubMilwaukee.com)

Also: Alejandro Escovedo and Joe Ely at Potawatomi’s Northern Lights Theater, 8 p.m. ($15-$25) – (1721 W. Canal St., PaysBig.com)

And: Obnox with Platinum Boys and Drugs Dragons at Circle A Café, 8 p.m. – (932 E. Chambers St., Circle-A-Café.org)

Saturday, August 23: Jeff Bridges & The Abiders at The Pabst Theater, 7 p.m. ($45.50-$55.50)

To call The Big Lewbowski a cult film seems a bit disingenuous these days. With festivals dedicated to the movie across the country (including Milwaukee), it’s more appropriate to consider the Coen Brothers’ film a pop culture phenomenon. The universal adulation for the chilled-out main character, The Dude, perhaps gives its well-adored actor, Jeff Bridges, some leeway when using the most famous Dude-ism to name his backing band, The Abiders. The inspiration to record a folk album actually came from another film, Crazy Heart, where Bridges played the gruff singer-songwriter Bad Blake. This marks Bridges’ first tour through the Midwest, where he plans to play songs from 2011’s self-titled album debut. (144 E. Wells St., PabstTheater.org)

Also: Slow Walker (album release) with Midnight Reruns and Static Eyes at Riverwest Public House, 9 p.m. ($5) – (815 E. Locust St., RiverwestPublicHouse.WordPress.com)

And: Heavy Hand with The Amino Acids, Burn Permits and Sin Bad at Cactus Club, 9 p.m. – (2496 S. Wentworth Ave., CactusClubMilwaukee.com)

And: Rusty P’s (album release) with Evan Christian, the Stinkies, Kinghellbastard, Dana Coppa and Speakeasy at Mad Planet, 9 p.m. ($5) – (533 E. Center St, Mad-Planet.net)

Sunday, August 24: The Midwestern Charm (album release) with The Midwest Beat and Dinny Bulca at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, 9 p.m. ($3)

Connor La Mue garnered some unwanted comparisons to the sentimental folk singer Connor Oberst on The Midwestern Charm’s rootsy debut. On the band’s follow-up, Growing Pains, gone are the acoustic guitars with louder power pop guitars taking its place. La Mue remains as moody a lyricist as ever, but his angst cuts deeper than before. (1001 E. Locust St., Linnemans.com)

Also: Grouplove with Portugal. The Man at The Rave, 7:30 p.m. ($32-$37) – (2401 W. Wisconsin Ave., TheRave.com)

And: Chris Isaak at Potawatomi’s Northern Lights Theater, 8 p.m. (SOLD OUT) – (1721 W. Canal St., PaysBig.com)


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