MKE Day at Club Garibaldi

Tue Apr 17 2012

I realize that Milwaukee Day is barely three years old, but checking my records, I’m certain that 2012 was the best one yet, at least in terms of live music.  You know it was a good night when you think about it the next day and you can’t decide which of three bands was the best.  Also, when the back of your neck kills with the slightest movement of your head.  Not a typical result from a Sat. Nite Duets show, but this was no ordinary 4/14.

Admittedly, it was kind of a bummer, skipping out on Youphoric’s birthday party minutes after eating possibly the best carrot cake ever, but Across Tundras doesn’t make it to Milwaukee very often.  The prospect of hearing tunes from last year’s magnificent Sage album live was the only real reason we’d chosen Club Garibaldi over the other fantastic shows going on Saturday night.  It was a sweet idea offering the $15 wristband to cover both Club G and Cactus Club; the lineup across the street was killer too, but we decided to camp out in one joint for the night.

Every time Tanner Olson goes on tour, he’s already got a handful of new unreleased tunes to road-test.  Tonight’s selections were easily the highlights of Across Tundras’ set, leaning back toward the heavy side of the band’s style, but immediately, distinctly Olson style: sweeping, desolate, crushing.  Nobody else writes songs or plays guitar quite like Tanner.  New drummer Casey Perry seemed like a perfect fit for the Tundras vision.  I didn’t exactly have high hopes of hearing “Buried Arrows”, but there it was, in all its glory; possibly my favorite song of last year.  Proof that requests in Facebook comments work!  But probably only with this band.  So that was that; money’s-worth by 9 p.m.

The birthday party eventually reconvened at Garibaldi’s, so despite the fact that Moon Curse was sounding great, I spent most of that set commiserating.  Northless was up next, and…WOW.  I’ve seen ‘em live before, listened to Clandestine Abuse a bunch, but this was still a revelatory performance by the city’s best metal band, one of the most intense sets of metal I’ve seen this decade.  Some day I’ll have those complex rhythms down pat in my head; for now I’ll just flail and thrash around violently like a madman.  Northless channels its bile and aggression into amazing music, and on this night it turned me into a convulsive freak.

So yeah, it was frikkin weird having Sat. Nite Duets top this bill, not because they’re any less amazing, but um, up until 11:30 or so this was a metal show, and then it turned into something else completely.  You go to a S.ND show expecting some jokes, some instrument-swapping, a ramshackle folky proggy rocky good time, but that’s not really what happened either.  It was like the heaviness of the evening had infected the band, and their latent punk tendencies came to the fore, guitars blazing.  Maybe it was the intrinsic grungy sound of the dingy club, or the large bottles of Lakefront brews I’d consumed, but somehow this totally inappropriate booking worked.

Maybe it only worked for me, though.  This is a young-ass band, playing songs about and for young people, not many of whom were here.  Did they give a shit that some 35-year-old headbanger was rocking the fuck out?  This was not their crowd, and I have no idea if more than a dozen people in the room were even paying attention, but Sat. Nite Duets got up there and rocked harder than I’d ever seen ‘em do.  It was probably a bit surreal from the stage, and it could‘ve been totally silly after a punishing night of heavy music, but instead the band dispensed with silliness and just attacked their songs.  We’re pretty fortunate in this town that we don’t have to pick a sound to hang our name on, but if we did have to, this band would demand serious consideration.  I know there were equally killer shows all over town, but I’m really glad I spent Milwaukee Day night here.

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