The day of the show, I discovered that Decibully’s as-yet unreleased album, World Travels Fast, was streaming on The Onion’s website. The group got dumped by Polyvinyl Records (is Kevin Barnes sinking the label into bankruptcy?), but they wanted fans to hear it. The future of WTF is up in the air at this point, but what really matters is that the band has all these amazing new songs to play live.
Quinn Scharber is really making a name for himself in Milwaukee--just not for his band (the name is different for every show--tonight: Quinn Scharber and the 5 Lbs of Lube). He plays what you can only call classic singer/songwriter fare, but it’s solid, catchy and well-crafted stuff. Scharber’s voice seemed a bit hoarse tonight, but he still threw himself into the performance, including some impressive guitar solos. Milwaukee needed a new young, talented bard to take the baton from Willy Porter, and I think we have him now.
For the middle set, John The Savage frontman Mike Skorcz was having the same problems he seems to frequently have with his dual-mic setup; consequently, the set took a few tunes to really gel. Make no mistake, this band is never less than interesting, but about twenty minutes in everything clicked, the mic problem was at least somewhat resolved, and we could get down to the nuthouse funk. By the time the band played “Oh, Alexandra!” the crowd was totally entranced in the ruckus. It was a fairly short set, heavy on circus ambience and light on guitar overall, sloppy at times but in an endearing sense, engrossing to the last.
This was pretty obviously a Decibully crowd; the BBC’s upper level had swelled pretty much to capacity. I know people used to call this band alt-country, but it has moved steadily away from those constraints over the years, and there was really no trace of twang in tonight’s set. William Seidel is still the working class poet he’s always been, though, but his heart-on-sleeve vocals fit the new dynamic soundscape material even better than the more straightforward Americana of years past. As if to point this out, the band is constantly in the process of updating all of its tunes as the evolution continues. “Tables Turn” particularly comes across much less precious, much more sophisticated. The timely “Child On Christmas Day” has gone from lullabye to slow-burning surge but still retains that evocative sense of loss. Of the new tunes, “I Won’t Be Without” really ended up being a show-stopper, drummer Aaron Vold showcasing a delicate finesse alongside the driving power that much of the WTF material demands. The show’s finale, “If I Don’t Work”, was a grungy, bluesy dirge, Seidel actually grinding his voice a bit (effective); it was Dave Matthews crossed with Dead Confederate and that hint of Mogwai that’s been spicing up this band’s live sets more and more. It was a statement of Decibully’s current direction, and it drove home the sense that the rest of Milwaukee’s music scene will be hard pressed to come up with a better album in 2009 than World Travels Fast…assuming it gets released somehow.