Recap: Lover! w/John Barrett’s Bass Drum of Death, Midwest Beat & Death Dream, Cactus Club, 11.5.09

Video of Death Dream courtesy Dusty Medical

Words by Anthony Schwader

I had my night all planned out: Truthdealer practice, a low carb meal, a mouthful of frosty Snus, and Netflix DVDs. But then my friend Sanam called and wanted to go to Bayview to see this show. After a quick check on the Milwaukee Shows page to find out the price (Six bucks!), I decided that tonight I toss my plans and go see what the big show with horrid band names was all about.

We arrive and Door Bro tells me eight bucks. Sonofabitch, I knew it was too good to be true! The two touring bands must be asking for a bit of cash. The grimy ugly ducklings of the night, (the unfortunately named) Death Dream climbed on stage and started. The five piece immediately conditioned the air with stampeding sound. Comparable to a ketamine fueled Jesus Lizard, their simple riffs pounded repeatedly. It seemed like they were trying to stop time. The song structure was top notch, crashing and melting hypnotic verses with choruses that peeled paint. The vocalist (Brian Rogers of White Problems and formerly Freight) was snaking and slumping from stage to knees to floor to monitor screaming and yelping. Too much reverb followed him—it seemed like he was running from it. The icing on the tension cupcake was provided by Chris Van Gompel (also a guitarist in IfIHadAHiFi). With what seemed like 10 effects pedals, he chirped, echoed and squealed all over the caveman-esque compositions, forcing them to evolve. Mid-set it seemed like too much when they would start another dirge, but every time they’d squeeze themselves into making sense. Wondrous. In the future, I would like to hear more tempo changes and less reverb, but for their second show, I can’t help but place them on high.

Speaking of on high, (winner of the best generic name) The Midwest Beat have gotten better each time I have seen them. I love that they can cram everything into a sub-three minute span. Tonight the four piece looked in great spirits and proved it by churning the energetic, dense pop butter. The songs were bright and upbeat, possibly the fault of the spot-on dual melodic vocals that twisted into incredible harmonies, or maybe the almost countryish feel of the bass and guitars. People were feeling the good time, dancing and bobbing their heads. They even threw in a couple of grab-yer-girl-and-hold-her-tight selections for the lovebirds near the end. Of course, traditional dancing is almost taboo round these parts, because we’re not ALL OLD AND MARRIED AND BORING YET!

More Snus. MORE! These Camel guys may as well give me the box full of it when they enter the bar. New total? 50! What the fuck. And then John Barrett’s Bass Drum of Death uh, changed their name. Okay, maybe not, but fortunately, this twosome’s music was much better than their name. Making like The Ramones, the guitarist and drummer ripped through rapidfire songs, making me feel like I was in an Ipod commercial (the songs and the vocals reminded me of the Strokes). They flawlessly rocked and didn’t miss a note, each song topped to the hilt with what a two-piece can do together. I know ripping a group with two people is easy, but a talented bass player/vocalist would make a real difference here. The drumming also seemed too stripped down at times, but the people didn’t seem to care much as everyone I looked at seemed satisfied. I would check ’em out again. They’re fun.

The headliner was Lover! (Sigh…don’t, just don’t). They chanted about vodka and cocaine and then started in on the rock that defines what a little Memphis influence can give. They scored by playing after the Bass Drum of Death, because they sounded full and booming. The group was well rehearsed, and even through guitarist Rich Crook (now THERE’S a great name!) had a guitar issue on the first song, they didn’t skip a beat. But these guys were hard to pin down. Each song seemed a little too similar to the previous, and I became bored by their polished sound. I kept feeling like I was watching a band that would play the (deceased Green Bay all-ages club) Concert Cafe in the late nineties. The vocals were almost hurting the live sound. I wanted the other guitar player to sing too. Hell, I wanted something other than the delivery I heard. I hear backups in the recordings—where were they tonight? The set ended with Crook’s second guitar following the first and playing possum, forcing him into the crowd and out of the bar while the band brought down the final song. Not my pint of Milwaukee’s Best Ice, you might say, but I can see why they have the following they do.

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5 Responses to “Recap: Lover! w/John Barrett’s Bass Drum of Death, Midwest Beat & Death Dream, Cactus Club, 11.5.09”

  1. Anthony Schwader Says:

    I also wanted to point kudos to the soundman Alex. He was constantly checking on the sound going from booth to all points in the club to check on his accuracy. I also want to say that it’s damn hard to point out flaws in any band when it sounds so fucking good. Go Alex!

  2. Chris Van Gompel Says:

    What seemed like 10 guitar pedals is 10 guitar pedals, I own a bunch more though…

  3. Anthony Schwader Says:

    Don’t you have some homemade pedals as well?

  4. Chris Van Gompel Says:

    No, the stuff I use is all stock these days. My sound these days has much more to do with knowing how to use what I have, and getting combos of effects boxes to work together. Unfortunately homemade and boutique effects boxes break too much, and just got tired of it, everything on my board you can get at guitar center, some of it is stuff a lot of people thing are crap, but they work for me.

  5. puke shitsmell Says:

    i think death dream is an awesome name, like the movie itself… apparently there’s a bunch of other bands with that name, but we can’t all be blessed with a cool name like anthony schwader now can we?

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