Outside of a bona fide music festival, pretty tough to top the eclectic stew of music I was treated to last night. Maidens>Phantom Family Halo>My Disco>Young Widows>Future Rock. Pant, pant. It definitely left me with that festy-exhausted but immensely happy and satisfied feeling.
at The Borg Ward was
Milwaukee's own Maidens, who seem to have no internet portal
whatsoever, but who were evidently in charge for the night. The Borg
Ward doesn't exactly have a "staff" per se. The band played some solid,
eardrum-ravaging hardcore, exactly what you'd expect for the opening
act at a Young Widows
Next act was not at all what you'd expect. Louisville's The Phantom Family Halo started its set with a pulsing electronic loop and the drummer and bassist gutterally whisper-singing some sort of spooky chant, and from there things kept getting weirder. At times reminiscent of Liars' tribalism, heavy doses of scattered post-rockisms, all filtered through a heavy psychedelic lens. They'd take grooves almost to their breaking point, then they'd bust into a killer riff and abandon it after just a taste, really leaving you wanting more. Overall a fascinating blending of the ghostly and the triumphant.
Australian noise merchants MY DISCO came out and immediately tested the patience (and earplug resilience) of the audience with an interminable high-speed noise jam that made me wonder if there was actually a song at its root at all. But in the end, the intriguing combination of finesse and abandon displayed by drummer Rohan Rebeiro won me over, and after this first piece, guitarist Ben Andrews began to systematically demolish the room. He plays with the oblivious frenzy of Kurt Cobain during a set-ending demolition barrage, definitely bringing to mind Thurston Moore and Neil Young but with a particular adhesion to rhythmic stabs of feedback and rich bluesy rock riffs acting as punctuation rather than the meat of the songs. Exhilarating stuff, worthy of their namesake (a Big Black tune).
When Young Widows came out, they insisted that all lights be turned off; some acrobatic audience members succeeded in unscrewing the single red bulb after accidentally turning on the ceiling fan, and the Widows played behind a stark white blaze at their feet. There were definitely some new tunes from the recently-released string of split 6" records that were almost instantly impossible to get ahold of, and as expected, they were brilliant. Pretty much every song was a highlight, although I suppose I particularly enjoyed what they did with "Swamped And Agitated" (from Old Wounds, my pick for best album of 2008). Drummer Jeremy McMonigle is quickly becoming a next-generation Dale Crover. The whole band operates with a frightening efficiency, yet they're not afraid to stretch out, and the power they kick out is off the gauge, even though they don't feel the need to pummel you with quite the volume level of the two noisier bands of the night. This is seriously one of the best bands in the country, here in the dingy confines of our beloved Brew City punk rock club, rocking the faces off maybe forty people who are in on the secret. Forty minutes, no encore, absolute perfection.
From what I understand, I missed another incredible up-and-comer, Papadosio, who opened the night's festivities at The Miramar. Reports from those in attendance were dazzling, so I'm gung-ho on catching the group next time. I imagine Future Rock was beginning its set right about the time I walked out of the Borg Ward and hopped in my car; I only missed the first two songs of the set in transit. The room was packed with googly-eyed, glow-sticked kids, and I took a good ten minutes to decompress out of punk rock mode. At first I wasn't sure if I could make the transition, honestly. But the energy in that room was impossible to resist.
I saw Future Rock once before, a daytime slot at Summer Camp last year, and it was a fun romp, high energy for an early festival set but kinda sloppy, with nothing to really set it apart from the basic electrojam formula. Here at the Miramar we had the band in its natural habitat, after midnight in a dry ice factory and frickin' lasers, and they killed it.
For one thing, either bassist Felix Moreno was super hung over (or still hammered) at Summer Camp, or he has just been practicing his ass off for the past ten months, because he was amazing. There's no guitar player up there, so he's got to handle the entire string load, and while most bass players in this genre are content to drive the beat along, Moreno incorporates Claypool-style picking and slapping, melodic runs that are propulsive but can also stand out as spotlight leads. He has really tightened up; it's not just the speed or complexity of his playing, but the stamina of keeping up a percussive lead the way he does for a long section of a jam is just impressive in its own right.
The show was exactly what you'd hope: nonstop dance party, well-executed builds and peaks over and over again. I felt like I was back at a mid-90s rave (um, sorry, party; that word's just not specific enough, though) and the DJ was on fire. Light show was not extravagant but it was tasteful, well-synched, and it augmented the music very well. Ending the show with their glitch-punk cover of Nirvana's "Breed" was delicious; aaaah, yeah, this I remember being my favorite part of that Summer Camp set. I can't name any of FR's songs, can't even find a setlist online, so all I can say is there wasn't really a dull moment, and "Breed" wasn't even my favorite part. I just went from "yeah, that band has potential, might check them out next time they come around" to "holy crap, can't wait to get in on that explosion of energy again". Then again, there's always something to be said for catching the tour-closer; whatever the case, they made some new fanatics at this show.