The fall can be a glorious season in these parts. That is, until the remnants of a hurricane spin up from the Gulf of Mexico and drop two or three inches over a couple hours. Or the north wind blows a taste of winter our way a day or two after the autumnal equinox has put an official end to summer. Which makes the ever-expanding schedule of touring acts booked at area clubs, theaters and sports arenas such an essential amenity. After a week of cold, gray, wet weather, a night out with Ryan Adams & the Cardinals or MURS or Carrie Underwood can brighten the gloomiest mood.
What follows here is a sampling of some of the best concerts that are already confirmed. Undoubtedly, area promoters will keep adding major dates throughout the fall season. For up-to-the-minute listings of all the artists coming through town, click on TheDailyPage.com.
Forward Music Festival
Sept. 19 & 20, various locations on the isthmus
Neko Case, Killdozer, Bob Mould, the indie-friendly hip-hop duo Yea Big & Kid Static, and Midwestern troubadour Mason Jennings are just a few of the dozens of local, regional and national acts that bulk up the Forward Fest's debut edition. For $40, a general admission bracelet allows access to all events (well, until they're at capacity). Such a deal.
Sept. 19, UW Memorial Union Terrace
Indian singer Dya Singh has a definite spiritual purpose. But he's used a mix of blues, jazz and other Western styles to expand the possibilities of Sikh and Punjabi spiritual, folk and classical music. He's as powerful a voice as you're likely to hear during the UW's marvelous World Music Festival.
Sept. 27, UW Memorial Union Terrace
Veteran Chicago-based post-rockers Tortoise created a new brand of instrumental music in the '90s by combining prog, dub, ambient electronic music and jazz. Even at their mellowest, they challenge expectations of what pop and rock should be. Their rare performance here in longtime member Dan Bitney's hometown is part of WSUM's free music festival, "Snake on the Lake."
Friday, Oct. 3
Apparently, the Maine-based singer-songwriter with the impossibly plaintive, quavering pipes gives a long shout out to Meg White, of all people, on his soon-to-be-released new CD, Gossip in the Grain. He plays here with a full band about a week prior to its official release.
Ryan Adams & the Cardinals
Oct. 5, Overture Hall
Adams isn't the enfant terrible of alt-country anymore, but the ex-Whiskeytown front dude still has plenty to say. Promo material for the Cardinals (who just played a string of dates supporting Oasis) downplays his celebrity status, but there's no mistaking who's the boss on their introspective, pedal steel-enhanced folk, twang, and rock.
Ivan Neville & Dumpstaphunk
Oct. 7, High Noon Saloon
Neville's troops hit their New Orleans funk hard, and they'll do the same to you. If you're not shaking booty by the end of the first song, you're in need of antidepressants. The show won't be nothin'-but-a-party, though. To their credit, Dumpstaphunk are also a politically minded groove machine.
Oct. 9, Barrymore Theatre
Vigorously strummed acoustic guitar and bouncy rhythms form the backdrop for youthful Kooks front man Luke Pritchard's hooky pop songs about love and lust. Are they the second coming of Britpop? Some critics say so, and they've been million sellers in the U.K. for a couple years. But "America," as the Brits prefer to call our country, is always a tough nut to crack.
Oct. 11, Overture Center's Capitol Theater
Stephin Merritt's public expression of his distaste for hip-hop and love of "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" won't ever be forgotten. But the gay, showtune-loving singer appears to have moved on. These days, the controversial rock 'n' roll wit has his band/personal music project, the Magnetic Fields, making noisy, cleverly produced pop that's anything but cuddly.
Broken Social Scene
Sat., Oct. 11, Wisconsin Union Theater
The other major Canada-related show of the season (see Wolf Parade, below) hosts more than a half-dozen members of the amorphous Canadian rockers Broken Social Scene, a group that, at one time or another, has included Leslie Feist and Metric's Emily Haines in its sprawling ranks. Will this appearance feature grandiose arrangements, horns, multiple drummers, special guests? All of the above? Figuring out Jason Collett and company's next move is half the fun.
Oct. 20, High Noon Saloon
L.A. underground rapper MURS has an almost conversational delivery that makes his candid, at times humorous rhymes hard to resist. For years, the antic stage performer was indie to the core, and managed to mount continent-hopping tours and rack up respectable sales without hitching his wagon to a major. His seventh solo effort, MURS for President, comes out on Warner Bros. at the end of September.
Nov. 12, Majestic Theatre
The much-blogged-about Canadians scored kudos galore for their unpredictable, '80s-influenced guitar-keyboard attack on 2005's Apologies to the Queen Mary. Three years on they've finally delivered its expansive, at times muddled follow-up, At Mount Zoomer.
James Hunter/Susan Tedeschi
Nov. 22, Barrymore Theatre
Soulful U.K. singer-guitarist Hunter (whose re-creation of classic '50s and '60s sounds is remarkable) and American blues mainstay Tedeschi team up for a rootsy twofer that gives fans of poignant, R&B-friendly vocals and febrile blues-rock guitar solos plenty to cheer about.
Dec. 4, Alliant Energy Center Coliseum
Who'd have thought that American Idol would spit up Nashville's preeminent young female pop-country singer? Okay, maybe that's a rhetorical question. In any case, her fractured liaison with pro football heartthrob Tony Romo makes her two-fisted mega-hit "Before He Cheats" more interesting than it ought to be.