words by Cal Roach
Holy crap, it doesn’t exactly seem like almost Christmas, does it? Even though we’ve barely had any weather requiring more than a hoodie, those extra couple days off work are right around the corner. Do we just remember having lots of snow this time of year when we were kids because those were the more memorable years? Was it actually in the upper 30s and sunny most Decembers? Although we do feature some junior meteorology on the airwaves, we’re not really into predicting weather much, but a white Christmas seems like a long shot at this point. Of course, these temperatures are more conducive to walking around your neighborhood and checking out some great shows, so if you’ve got the itch (as we hope you do), here are some possibilities for you in the coming days…
Hey, remember Braid? Come on now, of course you do! Remember when “emo” was just a shortened term for the concept of “emotional punk”? You don’t recall anyone from The Promise Ring wearing eyeliner, right? Wait, where were we? Oh yeah, Braid, who came up right along with Promise Ring as one of the most influential acts of that early emo movement, as evidenced by the 1998 pinnacle (and final album so far as a fully-functioning unit) Frame & Canvas which, by the way, the band happens to be playing in its entirety tonight (Friday) at Turner Hall Ballroom. Even if your memory (or life) doesn’t stretch back to the early 90s, you still should recall that the band played its 600th show in this very same venue last December, and actually, not a heck of a lot of shows since then, so that should tell you that Milwaukee means a lot to these guys (yeah, they’re known as an Illinois band officially, but the Brew City was always their second home). Plus, there’s supposed to be a new album in the works, so whether you’re there for the history or the future, it’ll be worth checking out. Also playing: Into It Over It, Diamond Youth and Cut Teeth.
In the realm of what the kids are calling Americana these days, Milwaukee has been kind of kicking butt lately; add to the success stories of 2012 the debut EP by Lisa Ridgely & The Fainting Room, a sharp little burst of attitude called Wine In Bed. From moody twang to mellow ballad to badass folk-pop, it’s got everything you could want. Ridgely’s band contains a few veteran scenesters from the area (full disclosure: our very own Shape-of-Rock host Craig Mertes plays drums), and they pull this stuff off quite well in the live setting, especially those killer vocal harmonies. Joining Ridgely tonight at Linneman’s will be Testa Rosa, one of the few awesome local bands that didn’t put out an album in 2012, but we certainly hope you’ve checked out the 2011 album Testa Rosa II; if not, off to Bandcamp with you! Sweet, pristine, dramatic pop music is what you’re in for. Also playing: Good Night Gold Dust
Saturday night would not be a good night to stay in, folks. It’s almost like Riverwest Fest came early, except it’s citywide. Your first option is garagey/psychedelic rock at the Riverwest Public House, topped off by Elusive Parallelograms. These guys put out two amazing EPs this year (Bandcamp!), and from what we can glean they’ve basically been in and out of the studio year round, so get ready for another batch of fresh tunes soon from one of the most prolific bands in the city. Joining them will be the up-and-coming local act known as Young Holidays (a.k.a. a dude named Max Holiday), who managed to grab some notice by handing out CD-Rs at bars (Yep, it can happen! Only if you’re good though!). He’s only one scrappy homemade EP into his music career at this point, but it’s a heck of a start (Bandcamp!); should be interesting to see what he brings to the live show besides those four tunes. Also playing: Cains And Abels.
Also in Riverwest: Mad Planet will be hosting, you guessed it, an all-out dance party, but with live bands! It’s everybody’s favorite local spazzpop/garageprog/psychdancerock band The Fatty Acids, fresh off making this epic video for the choice tune they contributed to this most excellent 7”, Torrential Zen. This is one of those bands with the frantic energy of a half-dozen Pee-Wee Hermans all thinking about how big their foil ball is today; you sometimes feel like the music is going to implode at any second but somehow these guys hold it together with rubber bands. Warming things up will be the more straightforward but no less catchy Surgeons In Heat, as well as one of last year’s biggest spontaneous success stories, Canopies (okay, they’re not exactly touring the world; we’re just saying their debut EP is awesome). Also playing: Phox.
We continue geographically west and south ever so slightly, down North Avenue to Hotel Foster, where you could catch moody synth-rock crew Into Arcadia, one of the unsung (or at least lesser-sung) bands around town that put out yet another of the coolest local records of the year, Escaper. To invoke another band you’ve probably never heard of, this album sounds kind of like what MuteMath might have sounded like if they’d evolved that slightly dark, eclectic indie pop sound from their first album instead of…whatever they’re doing now. So many different rhythms and ambient sounds underlying very heartfelt and dynamic songs, we’re pretty confident this should be a really good live show, especially because Hotel Foster rocks. Get there early for Midwest Death Rattle, basically a revamped and revitalized edition of Revision Text, who never quite got off the ground; MDR already has an album out (where could it be??), and you should definitely check it out.
Head farther south into sunny Bay View for the first Milwaukee show in a while by Altos. The beastly twelve-headed monster rears its…um, heads in the cozy confines of the Cactus Club, where the band has played some remarkable shows in the past. In case you’re not familiar, the easiest tag is post-rock, but only a hack would leave it at that; it’s basically massive dynamic swells of sound as produced by percussion, guitars and other strings, horns, and human voices, at times so subdued you’ll hear every conversation in the next room, at times so full and powerful you can’t make out individual instruments, just a single sonic entity. They’ll be playing with Brokeback, a.k.a. Doug McCombs of Chicago Thrill Jockey family titans Tortoise, so you can bet these two acts will go very well together. McCombs is set to release the first Brokeback record in nearly ten years in January, so we’ve no idea what exactly to expect but we’re pretty sure you’d rather be surprised than find out later that you missed something incredible.
Next Wednesday is your chance to satisfy that Milwaukee Film Festival withdrawal you’re going through…sort of. Been too long since you’ve seen a film that was under five minutes long? Come to the Found Footage Festival at Turner Hall Ballroom! We like their tagline: “Champions of VHS since 1994!” Imagine you’re up at 3 a.m. some time in 1998 and some infomercials are on one of the three channels you get on your tiny black-and-white TV in your dorm room. If only you’d had the foresight to record some of that inane BS onto one of those blank video tapes instead of endless reruns of Seinfeld! Then you, too, could be contributing hilarious bits of absurd and otherwise useless footage to this weird freak-show phenomenon. Okay, maybe you don’t remember infomercials so fondly; we’re pretty confident the folks who put this show together have a way of splicing bizarre clips together in a way that makes them much funnier than your local community radio station blogger might. But you’ll never know unless you go.