The Rutabega et al.: Cactus Club 2/19
Posted 02/24/2014 by cal
You could say this show was highly anticipated. Traveling bands Victory And Associates and the rutabega have some vocal local cheerleaders, and the bizarre lineup was rounded out by bare-bones thrashcore outfit Skategoat and the crunchy goth-pop of The Revenge Society, who wound up playing last. Things in common between all of these bands: guitars, drums. Hodgepodge needn't be a recipe for failure, though, especially at Cactus Club (Who could forget Celebrated Workingman/IfIHadAHifi/Canyons Of Static? And could all those bands please start playing again some day?).
Skategoat started things off in pretty badass fashion, as if musical showoffsmanship and slick production values hadn't obscured all semblance of "core" in grindcore. Bolstered by a brutal two-man, beer-spilling circle pit, Skategoat managed to not send every rutabega fan scurrying (in fact, the rutabegans were some of the most enthusiastic headbangers in the room), and the music was tight, particularly considering that most underground extreme metal drummers are glaringly incompetent.
The onslaught took nothing away from the polar opposite mood that was the rutabega's set. With nothing but one guitar, drums and vocals (okay, and some incidental accessories), the South Bend trio bashed out a dynamic set of shimmery, jangly slow-burners. Truthfully, I think this band needs to play a somewhat longer set in order to achieve full potency, but the hopeful intensity of "Turn On The Summer" and cathartic closer "Out Of The Woods And Into The Light" (the best song on the band's 2013 album brother the lights don't work) were the peak moments of the night.
The Oakland glam/sleaze punk of V&A at first made little sense. The playing was barely competent--which needn't be an insult in rock and roll, get me? The mishmash Cali fashion sense on display was somewhat grotesque and sort of clashed with frontman Conan Neutron's affable banter, but it all combined into something that was impossible to dislike, thanks to memorable nuggets of songs and the enthusiastic wastoid rockstar performance aesthetic. By the end of the set it felt like they should be anointed as honorary Milwaukeeans.
Revenge Society managed to retain a decent crowd, although you could sense some kind of attitude-haze that suggested this band hasn't been accepted into the cool kids club. Or, maybe it was just the usual drunk-and-distracted crowd conditions for whoever gets stuck playing last; what do I know? But if you normally like catchy, dark post-punk and meaty guitar riffs and this band doesn't impress you, I'm guessing it's due to some sort of preconceived notions about image or social status that are the actual hangup. Yep, this was the most polished and radio-friendly set of the night, and it was damn good. I wouldn't put any of these bands on the same bill again, but although the night was disjointed, every bit of it was worthwhile.