Apollo Vermouth | Jazz Gallery Center For The Arts | 1/13

also Nurse Julie, Alternative Birthing Center, and...THE NAIMA

Tue Jan 16 2024

It had to be 15 years ago or more that I first became aware of The Naima. The exact circumstances are currently inaccessible to my conscious memory; did I hear them on WMSE? Did someone hand me a disc at a show? MYSPACE?? All I know is I came into possession of a CD-R in a paper sleeve with virtually no adornment except most of the band’s name and the letters “S” and “P” above it. The music was heavy, just a bunch of sick mathy metal stripped of its typical distractions (i.e. vocals, bass) with brief skronk interludes. However it was audio ripped from a VHS of muddy live (sans audience) takes and thus not unlike THE RAGING WRATH OF THE EASTER BUNNY it became sort of a mythical what-if in my collection.

You can (and should!) get this album on The Naima’s bandcamp page now. (https://thenaima.bandcamp.com/) It wasn’t always so easy, though. In fact, information I could gather about this band had until recently been sporadic and fleeting. I never once saw them listed on a show flyer. New music seemed to appear and disappear randomly; sometimes it was pure impenetrable noise. They did occasionally participate in social media, posts that tended to make about as much sense as their song titles. All in all, a presentation deliberately confounding enough to be right up my alley.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered they were playing on a bill with Apollo Vermouth a few blocks from my house last Saturday. Now, they’ve probably played plenty of shows before unbeknownst to me (at least one show appears to have occurred last year); still, seeing this opportunity arise to finally see a band live that I only half believed in, it seems likely that I subconsciously caused that ridiculous weekend weather nosedive in order to make our out-of-town plans infeasible so I had no choice but to go to the Jazz Gallery and I apologize for that.

We walked in at the very end of Alternative Birthing Center’s performance so I regret that I can’t give any kind of report except to say it was intriguing. The Naima were next and turned out to be a real band that exists! The duo consisting of Stephen Gallam on drums and Mike Hodzinski on guitar proceeded to shred and thrash away, though not at ear-splitting volume nor in the form of guitar solos, just off-kilter chugs and grooves galore. It may only have been momentous for me personally but after all these years it lived up to all my hopes. I’m glad to know I haven’t been imagining The Naima.

Next up was the debut public performance of Nurse Julie, a new Fox Lake, IL/MKE band featuring Eli Smith on drums as well as John Larkin on trumpet for a few songs, provoking just a slight pang of regret for having missed the final Gauss show just up the road a couple months ago. The music chilled and swelled in the vein of old-school Mogwai or Altos, albeit via more concise compositions and an emphasis on the meditative over the hectic. Everyone agreed it was an auspicious first outing.

Writing about her latest album, I pondered whether fans of Apollo Vermouth’s pure drone style would still get their fill as she broadened the sonic boundaries of the project. Those fans can rest easy; Saturday’s headlining set was a huge fix of whatever drew you to her music in the first place, the drowning out of the world, the submersion into sadangrybliss. It was cool seeing the chairs filled up and then some on such an intolerable winter night, kids of all ages coming out for a bunch of odd, confrontational music without much of a stylistic thread even tying the four acts together. The neighborhood felt so alive; Bar Centro was boppin’ when we walked by, Company Brewing had four bands going, and that was just within a once-block radius. I couldn’t have hoped for a better first show of 2024.

Cal Roach

Cal Roach is a word whore currently being pimped sporadically by Milwaukee Record and the Journal Sentinel, and giving it away for nothing right here at you-phoria.com. He also co-hosts the Local/Live program on 91.7 WMSE FM every Tuesday at 6 p.m. and spouts nonsense on twitter as @roachcraft.

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