words by Cal Roach
The local music scene never seems to slow down around here, does it? Okay, we don’t have any release shows to report this week, amazingly enough, but you might still be catching up on a ton of great albums from November and December that you missed due to the holiday frenzy, and there are already new releases popping up in January that we’re still scrambling to catch up on. And obviously, in terms of live music, it’s virtually nonstop; we can remember last year around this time struggling to come up with stuff to report, but no such issue this year! So, here are some suggestions to fill your weekend calendar; have fun, Milwaukee!
As you may or may not know, the most legendary figure Wisconsin punk rock is ever likely to produce, Reverend Nørb, voice of Geek America and former singer of Boris The Sprinkler (a punk band you may or may not have heard of), published a book last year, The Annotated Boris, in which he painstakingly details the meanings of every song he wrote with said band, in addition to regaling the reader with anecdotes and opinions about seemingly whatever crossed his mind during the writing process, as if the whole book were one big long introductory monologue, the likes of which generally graced the beginnings of Boris The Sprinkler albums and concerts. Believe it or not, there are many sentences in his book even longer than the one preceding this one! Anyway, it’s an entertaining read, and Nørb is sure to have copies to peddle at The Down & Over Pub tonight, where he’ll be appearing with his new-ish band, The Onions, and probably whipping out “West Of The East” or some other Boris gem, in addition to the straight-up Onions rock and roll. We don’t know anyone who has ever seen Nørb perform and not been entertained, so this is a pretty safe bet for fun times. Also playing: IDFK, The Dewtons and Age Gap.
There’s another good option down in the sparkling Bay View neighborhood on Friday as well, and it happens to be (WHERE ELSE?) at Cactus Club. Okay, there are probably MULTIPLE more good options in Bay View, but we are limited to ones we know about. In this case, the snotty noise-pop stylings of Heavy Hand are definitely something you should get to know about as soon as possible if you haven’t already. They put out a killer debut EP in 2012 called Confusion Is Body Parts (note the presumable Sonic Youth reference), and since then they’ve been winning fans and influencing people with their energetic live shows. Fans of IfIHadAHifi, LLTTTD and their ilk (that means all of you, right?) should definitely be checking this band out. You also get to experience the depths of band-name depravity with Nashville’s Diarrhea Planet (don’t try to tell us you haven’t dreamed up a worse one in the shower at some point), as well as the grungy punk side project from Midnight Reruns‘ Graham Hunt, Midwives (way to hog all the band names that start with “Mid,” Graham).
Saturday brings another tough choice for Milwaukee music fans; since we’re still hot off a Cactus Club paragraph, we might as well start there, eh? We couldn’t have dreamed up a cooler bill than this one — three amazing local bands that by all rights should go perrrrfectly together. Local shoegaze standard-bearers Brief Candles are still going strong, based on the excellent Newhouse EP they released last fall. The opening track in particular, “Olympic Sleeper,” is flat out one of the best songs the band has ever put on wax, and you better believe their wall-of-sound live show will bowl you over. Then you’ve got Fahri, whose 2012 full-length Final Disconnect Notice still gets a ton of play by anybody who loves that classic 90s-influenced indie rock sound (and since we’re picking favorite tunes: “The Island Cannibal King,” absolutely amazing). And finally, The Delphines, whose name you’re probably going to be reading in this space a lot because there is no time that they’re playing live and we would ever not recommend going. Garage/post-punk for the modern world, and, um, “Careless,” for the record, was one of 2013’s best songs in the world.
Then again, you could go to Turner Hall and not only catch some other local punk legends play reunion shows, but also help fight childhood cancer at the same time. That’s right; it’s the annual Pablove Benefit Concert! If you live in or near Milwaukee you ought to be familiar with this foundation, but just in case you’re not, go here to find out what Pablove is all about, and find other ways you can help the organization and other events coming up. As for this one…Alligator Gun! We just had to blurt it out. Anyone hitting all-ages shows anywhere in Wisconsin in the 90s had to catch this band at some point. They haven’t played a show since their last reunion in 2006, but hey, it’s punk rock; how hard can it be to tune some guitars and crank those classic tunes again? Should be an absolute blast, augmented by a couple other reunions: The Benjamins (first show since 2004) and Subside (we can’t find any definitive info on when they last played!). But the night isn’t purely about nostalgia; a couple of the current local scene’s leading lights will be warming things up here. You get the irresistible indie-pop of Vic And Gab, and the music starts off at 7:30 with Chris Porterfield, who hopefully needs no further introduction at this point. Great music + great cause = no-brainer.
If that’s not enough to get your juices flowing for Saturday, or if you walk out of the Pablove event still itching for some hip hop, you are not out of luck by any means. Mad Planet has put together another killer lineup of local talent. Last year’s collaborative album by Dana Coppafeel and SPEAK Easy didn’t get quite as much press coverage as some other Milwaukee releases, but it’s definitely worth checking out, and as we’ve mentioned before, Dana in particular is one of the most all-around engaging performers in the city, especially in the freestyle department. Then there’s Klassik, who’s garnered plenty of accolades, and deservedly so; his new YRP (Young Rising Phenoms) showcases a major stylistic evolution from his also excellent 2011 debut, and he’s also known to put on a great live show. Yo-Dot‘s new follow-up to his 2012 release Red Mist is due out next week, so you can be pretty sure you’ll get a sneak peek at those new tunes at this show, and 21-year-old WebsterX came out of nowhere during that onslaught of fresh local hip hop at the end of last year with his Desperate Youth debut. If you’ve got some catching up to do, this would be a great way to start!