Confession: I don’t have any opinion about Do 414. I know its tagline is “What to do in Milwaukee”, so it’s probably not geared towards people who make it their business to know what to do in Milwaukee already. It might even be a competitor of mine; I don’t really know. It was really nice of them to throw this little anniversary party at Mad Planet on Saturday night, though. It featured free music, a little bit of free Sprecher Amber, and a very pleasant setting for whatever folks happened to be feeling like doing. I would definitely have bestowed the “What to do” stamp on it.
For the most part, the crowd felt weird to me, and I couldn’t put my finger on why. I don’t hang out at Mad Planet very often, so maybe this was a typical crowd, but it didn’t feel very Riverwest. [Note: I may or may not be an expert on what Riverwest feels like.] I don’t have any buzzwords to tag the attendees with; it’s just strange showing up to a show in jeans and a concert t-shirt and feeling unfashionable. I was probably overthinking it. I will say that the crowd was incredibly chatty during the music, but all the bands cut through the babble at some point and reached people.
Worrier seemed to have the toughest time, even though its set might have been the best of the night. The band hasn’t released any new music since 2010’s Source Errors Spells (except for a few demos that were up on Facebook but not any more), but seriously, click that link and listen to that album; you might get the impression that it anticipated the current proggy spazzpop climate in Milwaukee (helmed by the likes of The Fatty Acids, etc.). Worrier has these crazily well-crafted battling guitar licks that end up being more of a pattern than a lead, and the mostly chanted vocals are reminiscent of Liars but significantly more frantic. The live set was uniformly intense, and for the last two tunes even the talkers were starting to bop around to the beat; drummer Rope (if I can trust Facebook, that is his name) is a powerful force, able to approximate electronica, tribal dance and booming heavy rock all within a single song. I really, really hope there’s a new album on the horizon. I am not holding my breath, however.
Up next was Kane Place Record Club. I saw these guys a couple times last fall and was pretty sold on their giddy, upbeat take on traditional rock and roll/rhythm and blues forms. There was nothing tight or serious about them, just a buttload of infectious energy. They’ve changed quite a bit since November, apparently. They’ve decided to get kind of serious. It doesn’t suit them. Like the Chili Peppers, they were much better back when they sucked; there were a couple of new tunes towards the end of the set that were sort of ballady and no fun at all. That's not an inherently bad condition, but it's not something this band does well at this point. I can’t blame these cats for wanting to evolve as a band, and it’s not like they’ve totally lost touch with what made them so enjoyable when they first burst onto the scene, but the maniacal spark was pretty hard to spot. Songwriting still isn’t their strong suit, either, but I’m totally willing to assume this is a transitional period for KPRC. I’ll check them out again at some point if they keep going; there were certainly some gleeful moments during this set, but they were exceptions rather than the norm like they used to be.
The main draw for me was Catacombz, the kraut/post/stoner/prog rock band that gets a lot of holy-shit first impressions out of people. Tonight’s was the most sonically minimalistic set I’ve caught from them; just when I’d gotten used to the pulsing beats and walls of guitar drone (exemplified on last year’s self-titled LP), they put out Mother Tongue 2 a few weeks ago and downshifted into more subtle, intricate stuff. This show was a pretty perfect combination of the band’s various styles, very psychedelic in tone, very powerful and certainly loud but the sheer bombardment was reined in a bit compared to other performances I’ve seen. Consequently, it was easier to concentrate on the actual melodies and such, somewhat more of a cranial exercise than being bludgeoned over the head with guitar noise (or was it?). The band’s stage presence was enigmatic; there might be a mythology emerging out of the cryptic mumbling and general oddness, and the music was ultimately not very accessible but it was intriguing as hell, like it always has been.The headliner tonight was Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt!, a New York-based collective with a confounding mixture of catchy energy and annoying gimmickry. For one thing, please don’t spend any time on any of the band’s websites if you have a low tolerance for exclamation points; if I were a jaded curmudgeon, I’d say nobody is this enthusiastic about anything. For another thing, if you’ve ever seen Dan Deacon live, it will be difficult for you to believe that TPDR’s main character, Neil Fridd, hasn’t also been to a Deacon show or two and borrowed most of his shtick, right down to his instigation of an “impromptu” conga line through the crowd. Fridd is a gregarious performer, no doubt; at first you definitely get the impression that he can’t be for real, but soon it doesn’t matter one bit. The only catch is that his over-abundance of enthusiasm seems to be purely for his own glorification rather than for the enhancement of the attendees’ good time. Unless they worship him, in which case, everybody wins. The music itself is good; super-danceable, lots of opportunities to shout along, a kinetic and eclectic mixture of computers and instruments and voices, pure fun and just what this crowd was waiting for. Despite what I’d read, there was no stuffed-animal body suit or many physical distractions other than Fridd repeatedly diving into the crowd. He knows how to get a reaction, and he loves being the center of attention, but at this show he was a bit too obnoxious to be magnetic. It would’ve been a fine set if it was just the music, but obviously, there’d be less to talk about. In the end it was so fun to dance to I couldn’t possibly come away annoyed; once again, booty trumps brain.