words by Cal Roach
January is over, almost always the slowest month of the year, and it’s almost crazy how much things instantly pick up in Milwaukee on this first day of February. You’d be crazy to stay holed up in your house for the next two days (despite the frigid temps); it’s one of those weekends where no matter what kind of music you happen to like, there’s something going on that ought to be perfect. With some events starting and ending earlier than others, you might be tempted to hit multiple shows on Saturday, especially if you’re like the typical WMSE listener and you like a lot of different kinds of music. We haven’t even come close to mentioning everything worthwhile going on this weekend, but here’s a sampling of some sure-fire winners.
One of Milwaukee’s most unique events is happening tonight (Friday) and tomorrow night at Linneman’s. It’s called All Messed Up III: No Return Possible, the “III” indicating that this is the third annual installment and “No Return Possible” meaning…you can’t get your money back once you pay the cover? Anyway, what the event amounts to is 64 different artists, all local, of varying skill and experience levels, shuffled randomly into four-piece bands, each asked to put together a twenty-minute set. Other than that, pretty much anything goes! Sounds just crazy enough to work, doesn’t it? Go here for a look at set times and wild one-off band names, as well as lists of who’s in which bands.
Another great option for Friday night is the ever-reliable Cactus Club, where you can get your hip-hop groove on with the demented sounds of The Hollowz. There’s no denying a strong Eminem influence on MC Logic in this particular incarnation; his exceptionally NSFW tales of debauchery as well as his smartass delivery are right out of the Marshall Mathers school of rap, but as most any hip-hop fan in this town knows, Logic is one of the most gifted lyricists and vocalists around, so it’s pointless to dodge the comparison. In fact, he may be the slickest dude he knows. Logic does double duty tonight, performing as a duo with Raze as well (y’all definitely need to pick up their 2011 album …Still Untitled if you haven’t already), and they may well be doing some new material from a hinted-at forthcoming new record. They’ll be joined by Up North and Mad Static as well, so get to Bay View early if ya can.
Saturday, it’s almost like you’re at a festival: it’s hard to enjoy whatever you choose to go see knowing all the great stuff you have to miss, so you just have to go with your gut and live with it. In addition to the aforementioned All Messed Up shindig, there’s an Alverno Presents event at the Pitman Theatre called Beautiful Dreamer: The Foster Project. Curated by Juniper Tar, this is a celebration of the music of Stephen Foster, touted as the “father of American music;” the honor never paid much, but a legacy can’t get much better than that, eh? Trust us, you’ll know lots of these old, old songs, and contributors like Chris Porterfield (Field Report), Jon Langford (The Mekons, The Waco Brothers), Robbie Fulks, Blueprint (Rhymesayers) and lots more are sure to bring a fresh spirit to the old songs and their own material as well.
Of course, probably the highest-profile show of Saturday is Yo La Tengo at Turner Hall. This is a band whose albums are the opposite of instant gratification; they can float right by you the first couple listens, which might be why YLT has always been more popular with critics than with the masses. But in the current era of music, the terms of popularity are different than in the 80s and 90s when YLT started out; with the rise of Pitchfork and the indie blogosphere, it almost seems like YLT is huge nowadays. It’s all relative of course but one thing most music fans will agree on is that you won’t walk away from a YLT live show disappointed, and judging by the greatness of the just-released Fade album, this oughtta be a killer show.
But let’s say Saturday night rolls around and it turns out you’re more in the mood to bang your head while having your eardrums bludgeoned. This weekend has everything, and the cure for your metal craving is at Cactus Club, where Northless will be playing (they have a new EP out that comes in a wooden sleeve!). Generally categorized as sludge but a bit more complex and aggressive than that genre suggests, Northless is simply one of the heaviest bands on the Earth and if you’re into that sort of thing you owe it to yourself to see ’em live. Joining in the fun will be likeminded local groups Moon Curse and Drumlins plus Chicago’s Neverender.
Last but not least, Brady Street revelers would be wise to make their way into the Up And Under Pub Saturday night to check out Elusive Parallelograms. The most prolific band in the city just put out a new EP, Fragments, and holy cow, it is awesome. Over the past five years or so this band has really carved out a distinctive sound that straddles the punk/psych-rock border like nobody else. It’s true they’ve been known to put on the occasional sub-par live show, but with songs this good it’s definitely worth the risk, and when they’re on, they are incredible. Also playing: Favorite Shape Triangle and Beaker.
Skipping ahead to next Thursday, one of the first jam bands to take the now-widespread step of incorporating electronic beats into their sets, Lotus, will be stopping by Turner Hall for a dance party of epic proportions–hey, it’s a ballroom, after all! The band has weathered apt comparisons to titans of the hybrid scene like STS9 without missing a beat, and has built up its own sizable fan-base with showcase performances on the festival circuit and relentless touring besides. The band is set to release a new album, Build, later this year, so fans can expect plenty of fresh material at this show. Also playing: Moon Hooch.