words by Cal Roach
It’s officially Halloween week, when lots of people get really excited and lots of people get really annoyed about how excited lots of people are getting. Hopefully if you’re a dresser-upper, you already got your sexy Big Bird costume, because they’re going to be a lot more expensive on the black market. But even if you are the curmudgeonly sort (nothing wrong with that) and wouldn‘t be caught dead in a rubber mask, Halloween always means lots of unusual events around town and interesting things to look at. In fact, it can be frustrating how many cool things you have to miss in order to do other cool things. Good luck choosing between all the great shows and parties this weekend, folks! Here’s a rundown of some sure-fire winners…
Say what you want about the jam band scene, but these cats know how to do it up properly on Halloween. Well, some of them, anyway. Ever since Phish played The White Album in October ’94, the concept of the “musical costume” has spread like crazy. Chicago prog maestros Umphrey’s McGee take the concept farther than most, if only because most bands couldn’t possibly pull it off: their yearly tradition involves live action mashups of cover tunes by a ridiculously wide spectrum of artists and genres. The musicians of Umphrey’s are some of the most technically impressive in the business, and despite the gimmicky nature of their gameplan, it’s tough not to be impressed; whereas some bands of their ilk are too eclectic for their own good, Umphrey’s manages to stir metal, funk, jazz and improvisational rock into a stew that’s unmistakably its own thing. Catch the “Milwaukee’s Beast” celebration tonight (Friday) and Saturday at the Riverside Theater, and enjoy opening sets by Talking Heads tribute act This Must Be The Band as well.
Another weekend, another banner local release party, tonight from Stacian (a.k.a. one-woman band Dania Luck) at Linneman’s. She’s been steadily pumping out tapes and digital tracks since 2010, but the new Songs For Cadets (Moniker Records) is her first full-length record. As you’ve probably noticed, synthpop has come back in a big way over the past half-decade or so, and from what we’ve heard of this new Stacian album, she’s taking the genre to new levels of spooky intensity. We’re not going to go with “gothic” but there’s a definite eerie darkness going on amidst the low-fi (by today’s standards, anyway) beats and keyboard sounds, which makes this basically the perfect show to check out on this particular weekend. Plus, it’s the long-awaited return of one of Milwaukee’s most interesting bands, The Trusty Knife; maybe you can convince them to put out another record and/or play more shows while you’re there! Also playing: Moss Folk.
Okay, can we really recommend going to The Rave on Saturday night to see Insane Clown Posse? Well, maybe not, but we can’t recommend not going, either. Could there possibly be a better time to do it? Aren’t you just a little bit curious as to what it might be like? Get creative with some black and white face paint, infiltrate this bizarro-society that ICP has created? The only way to be an outcast would be to act normal, right? What behavior could possibly be considered outrageous when there are two clowns onstage “rapping” about rainbows and magnets? Crap, we’ve almost got ourselves talked into this. Besides, for the first time that we can ever remember, GWAR isn’t playing Milwaukee at Halloween time, and in terms of everything except the actual music, ICP might be the closest thing to the blood-spewing dinosaurs you’re likely to find this weekend. If you do go, please report back to Sonic Diet and tell us what it’s like. Also playing: Zug Izland, like if ICP was a rock band…
One thing we can heartily recommend for Saturday night: going to Quarters Rock ‘N Roll Palace. How many awesome bands are playing there? Four. What kind of music do they play? Rock And Roll. Basically, if you like noisy electric guitars, missing this show would be a terrible mistake. Seattle’s Police Teeth just delivered a solid self-titled album last week; it runs the gamut between catchy indie rock and bristling noise pop. Kindred spirits (and Latest Flame labelmates) IfIHadAHifi will be there too, bashing out their electrifying brand of sci-fi sonic warfare. Elusive Parallelograms have put out two solid psych-punk EPs already this year (check ‘em out on Bandcamp), and Like Like The The The Death has gotten nothing but (deserved) praise for its recent debut Ghosts Of Dead Bros. Chances of any of these bands playing a bad set are extremely slim.
Of course, it’s not just jam bands doing the whole covers thing on Halloween, so if you’re looking for something a bit lighthearted and rockin,’ you’ve got a couple of good choices in Bay View Saturday night. At Club Garibaldi, feast your ears on tribute sets of AC/DC (Billy Bon Scott playing all of Back In Black) and The Cure (we’re not sure who this will be). Or, at Frank’s Power Plant, check out tribute sets featuring the music of Black Flag, AC/DC (again), and Against Me! As to which local bands will dress up as which rock stars, it’s a surprise, but blazing through a bunch of three-chord punk/arena rock should be a blast no matter who it is, right?
Some people cringe when they hear the term “world music,” but don’t let that affiliation scare you away from seeing Beats Antique at Turner Hall Ballroom on Halloween night. It’s more about the dancing than anything else with this outfit, and in case you need more inspiration than just the beat, you get to watch belly dancer Zoe Jakes gyrate around the stage in addition to what will most likely be a fantastic light show. The music does incorporate a wide range of styles, from Middle-Eastern and afrobeat styles to traditional jazz and hip-hop, all laced into an eclectic blend of electronic dance. It’s not exceedingly exotic, but it is…sigh…worldly; think along the lines of Thievery Corporation, plenty of organic instrumentation and percussion along with the electronics, celebratory and infectious. Also performing: LYNX.
Finally, what would Halloween be without scary movies? You’ll have to ask a Ouija board, because nobody you know has any idea what Halloween was like before horror flicks came about. So take the opportunity next Wednesday to watch a true classic of the genre, The Shining, up on the big screen at the UWM Union Theatre. Did you know that Jack Nicholson improvised that classic “HERE’S JOHNNY” line? Ever wonder why all those pages of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” are stacked face up? Wouldn’t they then be in reverse order if he was stacking them that way as he finished them? He must’ve been confused. Don’t let that ruin the story for you; we haven’t given any of the bone-chilling details away, in case you’re one of the half-dozen people who haven’t seen it. If you can believe it, there was a time when scary movies featured coherent stories and great acting!