Photo and words by DJ Hostettler
Local artist Tom Stack loves shows in tiny, intimate rooms. Responsible for years of great shows at Circle A (perhaps you’ve seen his charmingly minimal bird-and-worm posters advertising shows by the likes of Shellac, Bear Claw and STNNNG), Stack has recently focused his attention on the back room of the Sugar Maple on Lincoln Ave. The room is the perfect setting for an 8 p.m. show on a Sunday evening—one designed to appeal to a small core audience looking for one last thrill before the start of the work week.
It’s also the perfect setting for a band playing their first show, as was the case with Stack’s new outfit Wereworm. An instrumental three-guitars-and-drums outfit, Wereworm played a brief 20-some-minute set of minimalist, instrumental post-rock (“post-rock,” of course, being rock music played by mailmen—no word on what the Wereworm members do for a living) delivered with warm, earthy guitar tones that called to mind mellower Chicago fare like Seam, Tortoise or Bottomless Pitt.
But the main attraction of the night was most definitely Minneapolis’ The Blind Shake, one of the Twin Cities’ three best bands, easy (along with The Slats and the aforementioned STNNNG). The ‘Shake play a stomping, driving, reverb-drenched brand of noisy post-punk sandwiched somewhere between Wire and the Wipers. As the Blind Shake kicked off their set, the night shifted about three gears up from “sleepy Sunday evening pleasantries” to “barn-burning punk rock asskickery.” Microphones were knocked over, high-kicks executed, and drums bashed with reckless glee. The set was heavy with hot jams from their 2007 release Carmel, a record that you need to pick up and crank at top volume yesterday.
The Blind Shake manage to get to Milwaukee roughly twice a year, so if you missed ‘em this time (and while the back room at the Sugar Maple was filled and rockin’, it is smaller than most basements in town, so chances are you missed ‘em), you’ll get another chance, so don’t blow it next time. And while Sunday night Sugar Maple shows are a welcome addition to Milwaukee’s social calendar, here’s hoping the Blind Shake gets the chance to pack a bigger room next time.