words by Cal Roach
A couple times a year, perhaps not coincidentally right around pledge drive time, we like to remind anyone reading this lil’ roundup of stuff to do around town that a lot of these great shows and events wouldn’t be possible without this lil’ radio station. WMSE works to bring a lot of these national and international acts to town, as well as playing way more local music than anybody else to help keep the Milwaukee scene vibrant and get the word out. So, if you care about the work that the station does like we do, help keep it alive! Go here to become a member or renew your support, and only then should you read on for your weekly roundup of stuff to do…
Hey, remember 1956? No, we’re not talking about the year (you probably figured that out, eh?); we’re talking about the Milwaukee band. Not too long after 2010’s short but interesting Lowtide album, the band went on hiatus with any future at all up in the air, but tonight (Friday) will finally see the drought come to an end, as 1956 will play its first show in two years at Frank’s Power Plant. The term “grunge” gets tossed around a lot when referring to these guys, and it’s not inaccurate; think of the accessible crossroads between punk and metal, a bit dirge-y and emo-y but certainly not without its heavy breakdowns, and very bass-driven when it comes to the live show. See the triumphant return, along with well-dressed Chicago indie rock outfit Vaudevilleins.
By now, you should all be aware, but just in case you aren’t: The new album by Sat. Nite Duets, Electric Manland, is awesome. They’ve always been a rousing live act, but this might be the first studio album that has captured the frenzied unpredictability of their shows. It’s packed with all the humor and randomness and raw energy of a show, complete with several ridiculously infectious choruses that are bound to become drunken anthem singalongs by the time you’ve heard them once. If you haven’t already, it’s high time you give yourself over to the Big Worm mythology and surrender to the fun times. This is rock and roll music for the masses, and the celebration happens Saturday night at (naturally) Falcon Bowl, along with another of the city’s best straight-up rock bands, Jaill. This is one record release party you won’t want to miss!
In the dance-party district of Riverwest (i.e., the south side of Center Street), there’s a musical act that’s been developing quite the buzz this year and showing up on numerous Riverwest Confessions and Missed Connections posts: Rio Turbo. Life’s not meant to be taken too seriously, which might be Rio Turbo’s motto; we’re talking about very lo-fi electronic dance pop, but that doesn’t mean it sacrifices anything in indelible melodies and catchy hooks. You don’t need high production values or expensive equipment to make people dance, and these guys do just fine boiling down cheesy pop nuggets to their simple, goofy essence and cranking it. They have a new album, iSH iSH, coming out soon; check out the advance track from it here, and go check them out at Quarters on Saturday to hear more new stuff.
Halloween night, as you’d expect, features a whole slew of interesting things to do, so expect plenty of real-life zombies wandering aimlessly around the office on Friday. As far as Thursday goes, you could get the holiday started at Milwaukee’s smallest punk rock bar, Circle-A Café, and participate in the club’s 12th anniversary party, which is spooky enough right there, ain’a? Musical entertainment will be provided by Crappy Dracula, naturally, although the chances that the band will be sporting fangs or capes are probably slim. Instead, it’ll be a belligerently confusing mixture of comedic banter and songs that begin and end abruptly–i.e., a thoroughly hilarious and enjoyable show. If you’ve never seen this band live and are at all a fan of spastic guitar-based music, all we can say is you really should make this a priority; these guys really are one of the city’s most unique and entertaining bands. The classic Riverwest bill also includes Floor Model and Dr. Chow’s Love Medicine.
Also in Riverwest, the most eclectic dance party possible will take place at (where else??) Mad Planet, as Fable & The World Flat bring their loopy, funky pop to the stage (backed up by co-conspirators/band mates Fresh Cut Collective). After a lengthy stretch between albums, the band released not one but two albums this year (both of which can be heard on Bandcamp), and they basically picked up right where 2009’s Ladies & Gentlemen… left off, except the playing is a little more polished and a little more intermittently light-hearted and goofy, but the best tracks are as irresistible as ever. Plus, they’ll be joined for this show by one of the rockinest (yes, that is a word!) live bands in the city, Midwest Death Rattle. You can check out their debut album from last year on Bandcamp as well, although it only hints at how potent they are as a live act. Also playing: Whips.
For something on a slightly larger scale, Milwaukee should be very pleased that Umphrey’s McGee has decided to bring its annual Halloween mashup gala back to town for the second straight year. We’re not talking Girl Talk style here; Umphrey’s does its mashing up in the here and now with actual instruments and voices, and if last year’s shows were any indication, you’re going to be impressed. The band is proficient at everything from metal to jazz to disco to…well, it would be easier to list the genres they don’t do well, so when they splice seemingly disparate tunes together, it may be somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but the musicianship is serious. The band’s official mashup show is Thursday at the Riverside, and if you want the full experience, you may want to follow the band’s lead and dream up a mashup costume of your own (last year’s highlights included Salvadore Dali Parton and Jay ZZ Top…get the idea?). The party continues Friday and Saturday nights as well.
Finally, there’s another great option for costumed (or not) celebration on Thursday: Poliça will return to Turner Hall, hot on the heels of its brand spankin’ new album, Shulamith, which is already getting rave reviews. Last year’s Give You The Ghost debut caught quite a bit of airplay, but it hardly prepared folks for the dynamic live show that Milwaukee got to experience last May. Auto-Tune notwithstanding, Channy Leaneagh is a captivating presence onstage and a terrific singer, and the percussion attack of her band in the live setting makes Poliça sound a lot less like an electronic pop act and more like a dynamic tribal-rock thing.