Archive for May, 2008

Stumblur Fest THIS WEEKEND!

May 30, 2008

Words by Dan Agacki

Another weekend in Milwaukee is upon us, packed to the gills with potential fun. Dusty Medical Records, along with Search and Annoy fanzine, have upped the ante this weekend with their assembling of Stumblur Fest. They’ve packed two bills full with some of today’s finer garage punk specimens. With nine bands in two days it may seem a bit of a blur, so here is a quick rundown of what we’re in for:

Friday, May 30 at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn

Cheater Slicks – After over 20 years of consistently great garage punk wallop, the Slicks are setting foot on Milwaukee soil for the first time. Let’s give them the warm welcome they deserve.

Aluminum Knot Eye – Local stalwarts who recently logged their 10-year anniversary. Beers are spilled and the ghosts of The Pagans and Electric Eels pummel your eardrums.

The Reverse – Another local mainstay, bringing you fuzzed out rock and roll since 2001.

Goibbledoimbs – Milwaukee’s kings (and queen) of knuckledragging punk. For more info, check out this previous Fan-Belt entry.

Saturday, May 31 at
Frank’s Power Plant

The Spits – One chord wonders from Kalamazoo/Seattle.

Live Fast Die – New Hampshire’s dumb punk counterparts of the Spits.

The Pets – The pride of Oakland, CA. Penning catchy punk rock songs is their craft.

Plexi 3 – The lone local band on this show. Milwaukee’s answer to L.A. circa 1977.

The Real Numbers – Former Milwaukeean fronting a Minneapolis power trio.

On both nights before/between/after the bands, The Get Drunk DJs will be spinning tasty jams from their enviable record collections.

For more information, visit co-sponsor 91.7 FM WMSE’s events page.

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John Sieger CD Release Party This Saturday

May 30, 2008

MP3 Download:
Semi-Twang – Salty Tears
Semi-Twang – Takes All Kinds
John Sieger – Warm Welcome in a Cold Town
John Sieger – Nashville 2-Pt. Tragedy

Yesterday, I was handed a history lesson. The subject? John Sieger: a singer/songwriter/helluvaguitarplayer from right here in Milwaukee.

The lesson came in two parts.

The first:
Semi-Twang’s debut album, Salty Tears. Sieger was not only a member of the band, but had a heavy hand in writing its songs.

The second:
Sieger’s brand new solo album, The Shaming of the True, to be celebrated (and released) this Saturday, May 31 at Shank Hall.

What I learned about Sieger: In 1988, John Sieger and his band, Semi-Twang, helped put Milwaukee on the map by gaining so much critical acclaim for their debut (Salty Tears), even Rolling Stone magazine’s David Wild lauded them as “a promising new entry in the American Rock Sweepstakes.” Keep in mind, too, this was back when Rolling Stone was still a highly respected music magazine– before it found itself abandoning credibilty in hopes of competing with Maxim and the countless other skin-heavy men’s magazines outselling it.

It’s the kind of album iTunes would categorize as “alt-country,” though neither iTunes, nor “alt-country” existed when this album hit airwaves. If you’ve never heard it, think: more ’80s-era Los Lobos than John Cougar Mellencamp. (FYI: I’m an enormous Los Lobos fan.) Only with less Mexican music influence. And the crazy thing? It was technically a side-project.

In the 20 years since, Sieger’s been hard at work, writing, performing and recording. Songs he penned have been recorded by everyone from Etta James to Dwight Yoakam. He’s performed (or still perorms) in bands such as El Supremo, Big Nick and the Cydecoes, and The Subcontinentals (featuring his brother Mike on bass and vocals). He even somehow finds the time to conduct a songwriting clinic at Cascio Music in New Berlin.

What I learned from this new album: The Shaming of the True doesn’t take long to remind you exactly how much Sieger molded Semi-Twang’s sound. Ever-present is the same healthy mix of Nashville heartache and R & B good-time, giving the album a vibe and spirit similar to that of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. Especially on album opener “Warm Welcome in a Cold Town” and second-to-closer “Goodbye For Good.”And despite my affinity for the literary reference in “Goodbye For Good,” my overall favorite has to be “Nashville 2-Pt. Tragedy.” Sieger is joined by sweet-as-honey vocalist Rosie Flores for an outright Country duet as good as any I grew up listening to.

So, a reminder: If you’re looking for something to do this Saturday (and Lord knows there’s a lot going on), head over to Shank Hall to watch Sieger perform songs from this, and the countless other records he’s been a part of. He’ll be backed by his bandmates in the Subcontinentals. Tickets are only $10. And the show’s smoke-free.

For more information:
– John Sieger’s MySpace page

– The Subcontinentals’ MySpace page
– Shank Hall’s Web site
– Click here to order The Shaming of the True

John Sieger on Fox 6

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Jackraasch: Live at Stonefly Tonight!

May 29, 2008

photo courtesy of the band

Most of the best things in life are pairs — it’s an equal distribution of mind bouncing off mind, the whole Newtonian theory that every action has an equal, but opposite reaction and the live-action ‘we approve!’ testimony of Batman and Robin.

Jackraasch seems to agree. Comprised of Sean Raasch and Tyler Nelson, Jackraasch tests these ‘duo theories’ — a perfect example of how bands don’t necessarily need to be a whole orchestra to hold validity, nor even possess the formulaic standby of guitar, bass, drums. Raasch pointed out why.

“To be honest, [the music] felt so full and right from the start. Usually bass is in your mind when you start a band, but I guess bands like the White Stripes and the Black Keys make us feel OK about it. I mean, they’re pretty much giants compared to us, but if they can do it, so can we…and we get paid more at shows…” he adds with a sly smile.

JackRaasch has been getting plenty of practice playing numerous shows live with everyone from John the Savage, Fable & the World Flat and Fly Neurotic, since their first stints at playing out three years ago. Their guitar/drums combo is ultimately stripped-down, but nothing short of exciting, live. “We love the songs to be stripped down and exposed, but real loud…we have one pedal. That’s all we want. [And] we’ve been playing for about three years together, so I’d like to think we’ve become pretty alright at it…” Raasch muses.

Gaining inspiration from everyone from Issac Brock (which is evident) to Bob Dylan (song crafstmanship-wise) to Elvis Presley (“I think if you sound too good, it’s fake. Otherwise, it’d be that rocker guy who won American Idol a couple years ago…”), Raasch’s sincerely-styled vocals, bare-bones guitar and Nelson’s solid percussion comes off both as genuine and genuinely good.

So good, they’re all set to hit up one of the most major summer festivals in their hometown…that, which is known as Summerfest. “This will be our first yet, so that’s pretty exciting,” Raasch says. “We [also] have a CD release show on June 20th with Fly Neurotic and a vinyl release in July at Mad Planet with bands TBA…maybe a couple Amtrak trips around the country….I will never stop writing songs. That’s my favorite part of music. The writing. As long as we have money, we’ll be recording.” Jackraasch definitely has that whole Newtonian action/reaction thing down.

Jackraasch will be at Stonefly at 9 p.m. tonight with Javelins and Saebra. Stonefly is located at 735 E. Center Street. Catch them again at Stonefly on June 7th as they play with Fable & the World Flat and Yourself and the Air.

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One More Song (or, Places To Make/Hear A Racket in Milwaukee)

May 28, 2008

By Brian Whitney

Before I even get into any of this, I feel obliged to put forth the following piece of information: I am a refugee of the New Brunswick, New Jersey music scene. It’s a city where your ability to sound like Thursday and/or preach like Earth Crisis is valued over any kind of originality, and most of the venues in town have been razed to make room for either more college buildings or new hospitals. I feel it’s important to note this because, since moving to Milwaukee a year ago, I have tended to look through a pair of rose-colored specs with regards to the independent music scene here. Where others might say “Bread and water?” I would say “Bread and water!” To continue:

Milwaukee has a number of excellent places for bands to play, be they starry-eyed youngsters or experienced vets. Much like in any scene, the venues can be sorted into two different groups: conventional venues, bars or rock clubs such as Cactus Club or, on a larger scale, The Rave/Eagles Ballroom, or unconventional venues, such as the Borg Ward art gallery or basements like The Vault. While traditionally the unconventional venue may have less prestige and may seem less “legitimate”, the energy and dedication of those who show up to these shows make them superior.

I had a conversation with some friends about the recent M.I.A. show at Turner Hall. The general consensus seemed to be that, while M.I.A. had an excellent show and was very entertaining, the impersonal nature of the venue made it difficult to really enjoy it on the same level as even a small club. Now, M.I.A. is a popular artist and obviously it makes sense for her to play at a bigger venue, and as bigger venues go Turner Hall is probably the best around. That being said, it’s difficult to capture a performer’s energy in a large room. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but as a musician, it’s not something you ever really think about until you’re confronted with it, and as a spectator, it’s not something you’re ever really going to have to worry about.

Unconventional shows such as last night’s Truthdealer/We March show can be more entertaining for both bands and audience. The show, held at a basement in Riverwest, could have easily turned into a house party while bands played downstairs. Despite the fact that the show featured two out of town bands who were not known in the Milwaukee area, those who came watched and enjoyed, and those who were able were willing to give an optional donation to said touring bands to help pay for their gas/food/other tour expenses. The basement was packed to the gills and gave off the sort of “anything is possible” vibe. The smiles were what really got to me. Almost everyone seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves on some level, and the attitude was contagious.

Given the disorganized nature of the age group involved with unconventional venues, it’s surprising how many quality bands have played Milwaukee basements, and how far they’ve traveled to get here. One prominent current example is the Monotonix, an Israeli punk outfit who have been solidly touring the underground circuit for the better part of two years: their wildly entertaining shows have earned them respect from many different corners of the rock world, including the opportunity to open for the Silver Jews in San Francisco and back in Israel.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal taste. While some may enjoy seeing “Big Rock Band X” at the Rave/Pabst/Turner Hall/etc. (and certainly these venues do put on quality events) these shows often lack the charm of seeing a band of people you work with/go to school with/otherwise know on a first name basis playing in a sweaty graffiti-and-beer-coated basement. While it is often harder to find out about these shows because they are not advertised as well as the larger ones, making the extra effort to find out what’s going on will pay off. If you haven’t been to a quality unconventional venue yet, I suggest you check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

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Have a Banana and a Dance Party at the Same Time!

May 27, 2008

The Tuff Bananas’ Adam Klarner has just announced that as of today, there’s a new batch of songs to sample that will inspire ‘non-stop dancing’. Find Milwaukee’s newest tasty garage-pop treats on their page, here. More keyboards, upbeats and sing-along choruses than you can shake an, ‘er, banana at.

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