Space Raft at Crunchy Frog – 8/16/14 (Pictorial Review)
by Steven Spoerl
After The Midwestern Charm was able to secure a last-minute spot on an already stacked lineup at Green Bay, WI’s Crunchy Frog, there was no excuse not to go. All of the right ingredients were there for a memorable night: four of Wisconsin’s best bands at one of the state’s best venues. All that was really left to do was see if the show would live up to the expectations. That The Midwestern Charm, Beach Patrol, Midnight Reruns, and Space Raft exceeded those lofty expectations didn’t come as a surprise, though each of their sets packed a few. The Crunchy Frog, as always, managed to near perfection with the sound levels for each band as they tore through their sets.
The Midwestern Charm kicked things off in typically rousing fashion, with longtime drummer Ryan Gracyalny back behind the kit after a move to Florida, delivering their skewed basement pop with some subtle venom escaping through a half-grin. Bandleader Connor S. La Mue continues to be one of the more engaging stage presences in the state, managing to come across as both ragged and controlled in equal measure. Lead guitarist Ryan McCrary took a turn at the mic as well, adding a new dimension to a band that continues to evolve and impress at a stunning rate. By the end of their set, they’d set a fairly high bar for what would prove to be an outstanding night.
Beach Patrol were next to take the stage and were back to their original lineup. After several years and three fairly extraordinary records (It’s Only Greener ‘Til You Get There, Riding Dinosaurs, and Daytime Highs, respectively), the band hasn’t lost a step. On the verge of releasing their fourth, the band spread out their material fairly evenly among their discography. At one point, the band was even joined by Jordan Davis (the guitarist/vocalist of Space Raft) for a number that Davis wrote and had played with the band previously. It was a small moment of camaraderie that defined the night; this wasn’t just another night out with great music- it was a shared experience among a group of close-knit friends. That same familiarity factored heavily into Beach Patrol’s entire set, from their opening Tom Petty cover straight through to their obliging of a request for the hardest-charging song from their first record.
After Beach Patrol had run through a set that hit all the right notes while still maintaining a fairly casual (and welcoming) feel, the stage was set for Midnight Reruns. Now, what Midnight Reruns are capable of pulling off in a live show has already been covered here in some detail but, like The Midwestern Charm, they’re evolving and improving at a rapid pace. That’s no small accomplishment for a band that, one record in, is already responsible for some of the best songs to have been produced by the state of Wisconsin this decade. From an incendiary cover, to Karl Giehl’s memorable outing as a vocalist, to all of the should-be-classic set staples (“King of Pop”, “Summer Smoker”, “Basement Guy”), the band was in rare form. Best of all, though, were the new songs- among them are some of the band’s most challenging- and some of their most direct- material to date. One, in particular, is an earworm-heavy monster with a “na na na” chorus that has the potential to carry them to new levels of name recognition. As the dual-guitar fury of “Basement Guy” brought things to a stunning end, it was difficult to not want more, once again, proving that this is a band that’s got unlimited potential- and they’re only just getting started.
Space Raft has been riding a wave of acclaim since releasing their self-titled debut back in May on the consistently brilliant Dusty Medical Records and had very little to prove. Thankfully, they didn’t play their set with that mindset, laying just about everything they had on the line. Thanks to guitarist/vocalist Davis’ time in Mystery Girls, the band’s already connected to one of the more memorable post-2000’s bands and, among the four members, share a wealth of experience on the live circuit. There were no false notes, no wrong moves, and each song carried both the pace and momentum of their set, essentially becoming a masterclass in the minutiae of consistency. After they’d played a handful of songs from their record- and a few new ones- the crowd begged for an encore and the band obliged that investment by delivering one of the night’s single most blistering performances, providing a fitting end cap to a night full of good friends and great music.
Below is a photo gallery of each band that played the show. None of their live sets are worth missing. Videos are forthcoming. Enjoy.