words by Cal Roach
With the sudden departure of the Bucks’ head coach and the embarrassment of the Packers in last weekend’s playoff debacle, sports around here is pretty much done until spring; isn’t it kind of a relief? There’s no reason to think, “Well, I might be able to make it out to a show on Saturday, but I have this football game to watch that probably won’t be over with until after ten…” And who knows what kind of shape you’d be in by that time, right? Now you can free up your evenings, maybe step out for a nice dinner, forget about the agony of defeat and just have fun. There’ll be plenty of opportunities for vicarious disappointment through overpaid athletes soon enough; music has a much higher reward percentage, especially if you pay attention to our weekly recommendations…
We here at Linky HQ love nothing better than to start the weekend with a Milwaukee artist’s record release party; luckily those seem to happen more Fridays than not lately! This week you can head to Linneman’s and snatch up the debut EP from Myles Coyne & The Rusty Nickel Band. You thought all our local folk-rock bands put out their albums last year, eh? Think again! Coyne has been gigging around with a bunch of different bands for the past couple years, but this is obviously the current focus. You’ll also get to catch a rare performance by Old Earth, a guy who never stops dreaming up new music and new styles of music–his stuff goes way beyond folk-rock, but if we had to lump him into a scene, he’d be a shining example for our town in that one, and that’s saying something! Also playing: Lady Cannon.
If you’d prefer to get your funk/jazz/prog groove on, head to Fire On Water for one of Milwaukee’s leading lights in what could conceivably be termed its jam band scene. Alpha Transit only really fits that bill because they feature heavy doses of improvisation when they play live; you won’t hear any cheesy, drugged-out lyrics (there’s no singing) nor pseudo-techno beats or directionless spacey wanking. If anything, Alpha Transit leans toward the fusion spectrum, which only succeeds when you have terrific kernels of songs and top-notch musicians, and this band has both of those. The band doesn’t get out to play live very often these days, but either they continue to rehearse like crazy or they’ve played together for so long that it’s second nature for them to slip into the proper mode, because they always manage to pull out one or two jams per show that will blow your mind, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Saturday night, one of the city’s best live bands emerges from the cocoon it’s been hibernating within for its first show [at Stonefly] since August. That’s right, it’s The Celebrated Workingman, and if you’ve seen the band before we probably don’t need to tell you that once you’ve heard and seen Mark Waldoch sing, you won’t soon forget it. The band plays melodramatic indie rock with progressive tendencies, but things never get so complicated that they obscure the powerful pop hooks nestled in the songs. Check out their excellent 2011 album Content Content for a taste of what to expect, although they have plenty of new material in its arsenal since then. Joining them will be Shoot Down The Moon, a local band whose latest album, last year’s Meetings And Greetings, sounds like it could serve as a great launchpad for fruitful embellishment in the live setting. Also playing: Ikarus Down.
It’s too bad about that whole neo-swing fad that happened in the late 90s; MTV and the radio got so glutted so suddenly with these awful super-polished bandwagon-jumpers that the old-school rhythm-n-blues beat and jazzy blaring brass (not to mention the, um, period costumes) got nauseating in a hurry, and now even originals like Brian Setzer are still trying to live it down. But if you can shake those bad memories (or if you weren’t paying attention/alive at the time), you can have a whale of a good time seeing an Uptown Savages show. This is the gritty, greasy, back-alley old time rock and roll that most bands of their ilk try to manufacture but are generally easy to see through. They outlived the trend, but with their eclectic combination of blues, jazz and rockabilly, they’re honed into styles that never really went out of style. Check ‘em out Saturday night at Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall.
Milwaukee’s Hello Death is gearing up for the release of its debut album; you may have heard the new single “Good Luck” on the WMSE airwaves recently. The band’s music could possibly be described as a mixture of folk and chamber pop, much of it defined by the low bass vocals of Nathaniel Heuer and the contrasting high registers of Marielle Alleschwang and Erin Wolf. The accompaniment spans guitars, double bass, violin and keyboards to create delicate tunes and haunting soundscapes that don’t sound much like any other band in town. You can check it out for yourself on Sunday at Linneman’s, where the band will be joined by Brooklyn’s Plume Giant, also folky but decidedly more upbeat, and Madison singer/songwriter Anna Vogelzang.
Next Thursday, Turner Hall Ballroom will play host to the five-piece acoustic phenomenon known as Punch Brothers. If you look at them, you’ll instantly figure they’re bluegrass, with all the banjos and mandolins and fiddles and such, and certainly that’s the backbone of their style but there’s so much more going on. Great, now you’re thinking they’re one of these modern hippie hybrid bands that play a sloppy bastardization of bluegrass and bad covers of your least favorite rock and roll tunes; wrong! If anything, Punch Brothers are steeped more in a classical tradition, although many of their originals could be considered pop. The bottom line is that these guys will stun you with their instrumental prowess and tight vocal harmonies, ranging from good-timey to moody and atmospheric at the drop of a hat. They will make believers out of the staunchest bluegrass-haters around. Also playing: Anais Mitchell.
Also on Thursday, Linneman’s could be your destination yet again, as Riverwest’s chosen home of folk and its offshoots welcomes Milwaukee experimental troubadour Jay Flash. His latest full length, last year’s Collapsing, juxtaposed his fairly familiar atmospheric folk with some moody, stomping electronic beats bordering on industrial. It’s all anchored by Flash’s echo-drenched vocals, and it will be interesting to see how he pulls this stuff off live. You don’t get a whole lot of chances to see him play out, so if you’re curious you’d best take this opportunity. Joining Jay will be Jack Tell, a guy you might recognize as a guitarist/singer in local upstarts Animals In Human Attire, and local singer/songwriter Bryon Cherry.