Local/Live – Favorites From 2018

POSTED:: January 1, 2019

FILED UNDER:: In-Studio Performances, Interviews, Local/Live, Special Programming

words by Erin Wolf and Cal Roach


Every year, Local/Live provides WMSE with the chance to welcome Milwaukee (and Wisconsin)-based musicians into both our studio home (and also Club Garibaldi’s) to spend one, full hour with us. We get to know the musicians more in-depth and hear their creative output in a wonderfully-mixed live experience, enhanced by WMSE’s longtime audio engineer, Billy Cicerelli. We hope that you enjoyed this past year of Local/Live as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you and invite you to join us in going over some of our favorite moments of 2018. It was a big year for us – introducing video footage from Moleskin Productions in late-February – so, we also invite you to view the available videos to recapture the magic that was created!

Nickel & Rose (January 30)

Johanna Rose and Carl Nichols have been working hard, high and low around the Milwaukee music scene for quite some time in various projects, but the true magic began to happen once they joined musical forces as Nickel & Rose. Rose’s tenacious yet soft spirit and Nichols’ simple and strong words (and amazing guitar playing) on “Americana” made it one of the best Milwaukee-penned songs of the year.  Nichols’ voice is a revelation. In addition, Rose and Nichols’ ‘Guthrie Uncovered’ event at Turner Hall last winter was phenomenal and passionate and really elevated the two into the well-deserved spotlight. They stopped by the WMSE studios just before that event and it was clear that ‘Guthrie Uncovered’ would be a resounding success from their performance with us.

Xposed 4Heads (February 6)

The Xposed 4Heads visited us for Local/Live at Club Garibaldi’s and we really couldn’t imagine them playing anywhere else, honestly – a venue is the best fit to what Xposed 4Heads are capable of rather than a straightforward studio session where there is no live studio audience to play to. The band channels the spirit of DEVO and does not spare any notion of fun, enlisting their “Star Girls” to dance it up and assist in a very galactic and slightly goofy interview. New Wave and synth pop may not entirely be en vogue right now, but none of that matters one iota – Xposed 4Heads are just so dang fun that they can run with whatever their little space-y hearts desire.  Having them perform was a total treat.

Pleasure Thief (February 27)

Whatever project she’s focusing on, Cat Reis is one of the city’s most versatile and creative visionaries. This solo electronic project of hers hasn’t released a ton of recordings, but she always puts on a mesmerizing live show. If you found her captivating on Local/Live, be sure to keep an eye out for live dates; there’s always a much more stimulating visual aspect to what Cat does than what we can accommodate in our studios!

Field Report (March 20)

It was a special treat to have the duo of Christopher Porterfield and Barry Clark performing stripped-down versions of songs off of their newest album, Summertime Songs, which was still unreleased when we had them on. While Field Report’s sound has continued to evolve over time, this performance revealed what fans already know: that no matter how expansive the arrangements, Chris’s songs stand tall simply based on melodies and words. And it’s always a pleasure having the opportunity to pick Chris’s brain regarding his creative process

Duckling (April 10)

Although the band is now on light duty due to founding member Jordan Moreno’s relocation out of Milwaukee, Duckling has made a unique impression on the local scene in its two years or so of existence. We’re just glad they haven’t actually called it quits, because the new material they played on our show was the best stuff we’ve heard from them yet. Here’s hoping they can find time to put out a full album some time in 2019!

Klassik (April 24)

Kellen “Klassik” Abston has certainly made his mark on Milwaukee music over the past few years, showing his multifaceted skills as a singer, rapper, beat-maker, pianist and saxophone player. He is not afraid to stretch his vocal cords and swoop and screech into vocal ranges that leave the listener breathless. To listen to Klassik is to ride a sonic rollercoaster – the mellow lows and the breathless highs are all pretty thrilling. His performance of “This Land Is Your Land” for ‘Guthrie Uncovered’ in February had us anxious to get him back in the studio to unleash some of his own, new material. “Basilica Sunsets” showcased Klassik’s natural flow and his humorous and beautiful way of meandering through a soulful story that grooves and grows alongside its creator. 

Shle Berry (May 29)

For our preview of Riverwest FemFest, we managed to snag one of the city’s most up-and-coming rappers in Shle Berry. She had wowed us at Arte Para Todos in 2017, and has only gotten better in the ensuing year and a half, as evidenced by her fantastic newest EP, Parallels. Showcasing an evolution in style that’s both more aggressive and more mature, few if any local releases so distinctly captured the essence of life in 2018 and Shle does it with humor, with authenticity, with an all-consuming positivity.

SistaStrings (June 19)

Although they’re perhaps known primarily for their collaborations with other artists around the city, Monique and Chauntee Ross are amazing in their own right. If you caught them at ‘MJ Uncovered’ or with Klassik at Arte Para Todos or with Nickel & Rose, you know what we’re talking about. They haven’t released any music yet, so it was particularly exciting to have them on our show, showcasing a variety of different styles that they’re fluent in and that most of our listeners had probably never heard before.

Lyric Advisory Board (June 26)

This was one of those shows that made me revisit the band’s album in a new light. Cal really liked The Great American Novelty when he first heard it, but hearing the stories behind the band and Allen Coté’s songs really enriched the listening experience, as did hearing their raucous live takes. Allen has brought quite the who’s-who of Milwaukee Americana to the table for this project, but as the band’s name suggests, you need to pay attention to his words for full impact.

Genesis Renji (July 3)

One of the unfairly overlooked local releases of 2018 was Genesis Renji’s S.I.N.S: Stories I Never Shared, unmistakably classic Renji but also a significant stylistic departure/expansion for the rapper. He mastered shout-along hooks years ago; S.I.N.S showcases a more personal lyrical approach and a more sophisticated album concept than we’re used to from him. He appeared on our show well in advance of that release and didn’t play any of the material from it (!), so between the EP and Local/Live, you can get a pretty comprehensive overview of Renji’s year.

Social Caterpillar (July 10)

Erin got the chance to see Social Caterpillar play at Cactus Club before she knew much about them and was instantly drawn into the band’s quiet intensity and musical kinship to Elliott Smith. It was like seeing a whisper of Smith backed by an orchestra… maybe Thee Silver Mt. Zion and the Tra La La Orchstra? They were Social Caterpillar’s “This Is Your Song” pick, so they undoubtedly take some cues from them. At this particular Cactus show, they imprinted themselves as something super cool and out of the ordinary (especially for their age group) and we couldn’t wait to have them at the WMSE studios nearly a year later to hear more. Their set didn’t disappoint! 

Collections of Colonies of Bees (July 17)

All jokes aside, to say that Collections of Colonies of Bees is a new animal is completely true. The post-rock collective that has always had guitarist Chris Rosenau at the helm has morphed into various forms and flight patterns but has never before run with vocalists in the pack. Was there an unspoken rule? We’ll never know but we’re glad the Bees added another layer for an exciting return to a new form – the same bubbling guitar-work is there, the same strong bass and percussion and the same joyful air that the Bees are so adept at creating is highlighted…everything is simply amplified to a new level, focused and enriched by splicing in vocal layers and snippets of stories from Marielle Allschwang and Daniel Spack.

Amanda Huff (August 21)

Amanda Huff has had a non-stop, on-fire year. Her notoriety has come into focus with her work in jazz ensemble, Strangelander, with her Bjork tribute show and finally with the unleashing of her debut album, Hemiptera. Huff shines brightly and fully in that album, her vocals glinting amidst the glossy tendrils of production work and brassy and playful jazz elements that suit her voice just so. For this performance, Huff leaned on her standby, understated instrument – the ukulele – for the first round and put the focus on her hallmark/main instrument (that voice), honing in on vocal dynamics and leanings. To close out her set, she offered a new direction, inviting her band to join her in building up her most recent spooky and satisfying single, “Gravetalking”.

Vinz Clortho (September 11)

Victor Buell IV has been quietly racking up credits on some of the best records to come out of Milwaukee over the past several years, yet he hasn’t quite attained household-name status. We’re still puzzled as to why his 2015 album as VBIV, Control, didn’t create more of a stir! While we’ve still only seen a handful of Bandcamp singles from this newest project of his (that we’re aware of), Vinz Clortho’s Local/Live set got us very excited to hear more.

Immortal Girlfriend (October 2)

The Bush brothers – Will and Kevin – are adept at creating natural, joyful grooves that they tag as “retro”. They admit that those retro sounds first inspired them to create their own music – listening to the Depeche Mode, the Police, the Cure as well as starting out with their own emo band as youngsters. Once they discovered contemporary electronic bands like M83, Washed Out and The Naked and Famous, they saw that as an enticing nod to go ahead and get their groove on. Their well-crafted compositions are fluid and enveloping and when the two brothers are on stage, they share an ease that heightens the effect. We can’t wait to to hear more new grooves in 2019.

Jeff Mitchell (October 9)

Jeff Mitchell’s style of raw honesty and beauty put him in the quiet spotlight when he started out playing guitar with Conrad Plymouth (now Field Report). Mitchell was always a presence, giving his all and adding layers of just-so guitars. Now, Mitchell spends his time with instrumental rockers, Dryhouse Ruins (featuring Damian Strigens and Jim Warchol) and has really come into his own, gaining a small but fervent band of followers with his own material, especially when he teams up with his bluegrass pal, Charlie Parr, who compliments Mitchell’s heartfelt and homespun style very well. Mitchell’s solo work is obviously influenced by old folk tunes but follow those roots further and they dip into straight-up punk. With this steering his work, you can hear a little Gillian Welch, a little Eric Bachmann and a little Aimee Mann, even. His lyricism is interesting and a bit quaint but once Mitchell has invited you into his world, there’s no other place you’d rather be.

Black Eagle Child (October 23)

Michael Jantz is an understated, playful and warm musical storyteller who works with books for his day job;  he translates that constant environment of storytelling into some pretty lovely guitar meanderings, when he’s up for some creative brainwork of his own. Black Eagle Child gained notoriety via a positive Pitchfork review a few years back but since, he’s had scant output in recent years. When he does release things (such as October’s Six Lugubrious Airs), it is satisfying in its stasis in style and slow growth – mellow soundscapes and guitar work of the William Tyler variety, with found sounds thrown in. Jantz never strays from its original source and beginnings. This modern folk music rewards once the listener opens their mind to letting Jantz take them on a small journey – loops, reverb and those found sounds (mostly lifted from his young daughter) are all little gems to pick up along the way.

Red Stuff (November 6)

Red Stuff’s unassuming and ramshackle lightheartedness has been captivating the Milwaukee music scene for a few years, now, starting out as the duo of husband and wife Tom Wanderer and Kelly Buros. Surf-y elements, sonic freakouts, psych influences and oddball instrumentation (autoharp, slide guitar and melodica, anyone?) has guaranteed a fun and unique listen, both on vinyl and for live shows. Now, with a full-time drummer (Steve Tiber) enlisted, Red Stuff has been even more productive recently, releasing a full-length, Saccharine Underground and playing excellent shows this year with Shilpa Ray and at Milwaukee’s annual Psych Fest. These shows and release primed the trio for a really solid and really fun Local/Live performance where songs slid into sounds-like moments of Blue Cheer meets Nirvana meets Sonic Youth meets the Cramps. It’s always a wild ride but an exhilarating, adventurous one where Red Stuff clearly has their chops in place but still never bothers to take themselves too seriously.

Sleepersound (November 20)

Atmospheric post-rock has been a little scarce in Milwaukee since the demise (or at least hibernation) of beloved bands like Canyons Of Static and Wereworm, so we welcomed the retro-but-fresh sound of Sleepersound with open arms. Combining vintage emo sounds with a loose, almost improvisational compositional style, the band’s new album, In Medias Res, could end up being one of the sleeper hits of the local scene for the last quarter of 2018—don’t sleep on this one! (Sorry…)

Cairns (November 27)

This band’s highly anticipated debut full-length, Entanglement, is everything fans could’ve hoped for and more. Eclectic indie-rock enhanced with horns, found sounds, and other low-key additives help to make Cairns one of Milwaukee’s most unusual bands, and on Entanglement, they brought all the disparate elements of their previous EPs into a glorious conceptual whole. It’s been amazing watching this band progress in such a short span; we’ve been privileged at WMSE to be a part of the whole ride, and that goes for countless other local artists as well. From the bottom of our hearts, to all of you who’ve taken the time to be guests on our show, and to all of you who’ve tuned in: Thank you for an incredible 2018, and here’s to an even better 2019!

POSTED BY:: Erin Wolf

TAGGED::Best Of 2018, Local/Live