You've got to hand it to Ryan Matteson. Thanks to his day job promoting gigs at The Pabst, Riverside and Turner Hall Ballroom, he is the man behind the best concerts in Milwaukee these days. As the Muzzle of Bees music guru, Matteson -- along with WMSE and the station's Ryan Schleicher -- also books gigs at venues like Club Garibaldi.
This week, he's helping get Brooklyn singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten to town for her Milwaukee debut.
Van Etten and Daniel Knox play the Cactus Club at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20.
Van Etten describes her work as "sad, prairie-folk music" and if you add that you often have lean into the speaker to hear it, then that description is spot on.
She toured with Great Lake Swimmers last year after releasing her debut full-length disc, "Because I Was In Love," which drew great reviews from the likes of Pitchfork -- not always an easy feat.
Matteson says he was drawn to Van Etten's simplicity, but also her depth.
"It does a lot with a little," he says of her music. "Sometimes the best music is when it's broken down to just guitar and voice. She manages to be quite moving by being minimalistic."
Back in October, Van Etten told fans via her Web site that she's working on a new record, due out by spring. So, can we expect to hear some new music at the Cactus?
"I have some new songs that I have been testing out, but I haven't been to the studio yet," says Van Etten. "(I'm) just going through and demo-ing songs right now. Yes, you can expect to hear some new stuff at the show!"
As for that next record ...
"I am hoping to take some time off in March/April to get my songs together and start recording a new album ... we will see what time allows."
Springfield, Ill., native Knox will help make Wednesday's show an interesting one, too. Knox has collaborated with an eclectic group of artists, including opera diva Jessye Norman, filmmaker David Lynch (see a video of Knox accompanying Lynch on organ on Myspace), former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker and Rufus Wainwright, to name a few. --Bobby Tanzilo
Phil Vassar's high-energy shows at the Briggs and Stratton Big Backyard have become a Summerfest staple. The atmosphere will be a bit different this week, when the country star tries a more intimate setting at the Northern Lights Theater inside Potawatomi Casino. --Drew Olson
Milwaukee's Red Knife Lottery released its highly anticipated full-length, "Soiled Soul & Rapture," this past August and after a brief tour is back home and ready to jam. The band is headlining at the Cactus Club this Friday, Jan. 22. And as an added bonus, back-in-the-day band Bosio returns to the stage for its first show in what feels like a very long time. Welcome back, boys. Show time is 10 p.m. -- Julie Lawrence
A music gig? Well, not quite, but Anthony Bourdain at the Riverside is sure to be entertainment. Chef, writer and host of the Travel Channel's "No Reservations," Bourdain comes to Milwaukee with tales of culinary travels and eye opening truths of the restaurant industry. He's candid and hilarious. Don't miss him Friday, Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. -- Maureen Post
Once a member of the band Habitat, Ryan Magner left the music scene for a few years but returned with a solo album entitled "The Light." Magner visits Shank Hall for a show Saturday night with The Backbeat and Silent Anthem. Tickets are $10. -- D.O.