Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Connor S La Mue

2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 5

Speedy Ortiz III

One thing that this site has strived to maintain is its own visual aesthetic. While it’d be impossible to find a photo in the archives for every given band that headlines a post, an original photo will be posted anytime the opportunity presents itself. Upgrading cameras halfway through the year provided a bevvy of new opportunities and the subsequent implementation of a more photo-centric presence. That’s not by mistake. Photography (especially event photography) has always been an important crux of multimedia journalism. It can be a way to implicitly (or explicitly) convey some of the more minute details of a singular moment to a reader- or it can simply act as an intriguing supplement.

Those were just a few of reasons that went into the decision behind a headfirst dive into photography investment (on both a personal and public level) and factored into why one camera or another was brought along to every show this site covered in the past year. Now, with 2015 just around the corner, seemed like as good a time as any to showcase a few photographs from the past 12 months that stood out as personal favorites. Since there are a few too many to go up all at once, they’ll be posted at random as part of installments that will run from now to the start of January. Most of these shots have been published on the site before (or on The Media), though there are a few that will be appearing for the first time.

Pt. 5 will be the final installment of this series and the preceding galleries can be accessed via the links directly below. Enjoy!

2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 1
2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 2
2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 3
2014: A Pictorial Review, Pt. 4

 

Space Raft at Crunchy Frog – 8/16/14 (Pictorial Review)

Space Raft VIII

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 ThereRiding 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.

The Midwestern Charm – Bloodbath (Stream)

tmc

Over the past few years Milwaukee-via-Oshkosh act The Midwestern Charm have gone through their fair share of changes. Most immediately evident, though, is the fierceness that characterizes their just-released sophomore full-length, Growing Pains, that was almost entirely absent from their self-titled debut. Trading a prominent Ryan Adams influence in for a sound more indebted to The Lemonheads was a move that paid off, as Growing Pains is easily the band’s finest material to date. While the whole record’s worth several spins, it’s the lead-off track that really stands out.

“Bloodbath”, more than any other song on Growing Pains, is indicative of what the band’s like in a live setting; relatively unhinged, not afraid of feedback, and unashamedly ragged. All of it’s anchored by an emphatic vocal performance from bandleader Connor S. La Mue, whose frequently trenchant lyrics help elevate The Midwestern Charm past a lot of their would-be peers. While it did take La Mue years to settle on finalized lyrics for “Bloodbath”, there was never a bad version of the song. As the band evolved over time, so did “Bloodbath”, with special attention being paid to Ryan McCrary’s searing lead guitar work. Ultimately, the song wound up not just being a personal best for the band but one of the best songs to come out of WI this year (incidentally, a few members of The Midwestern Charm are also directly responsible for a few other truly great WI-based songs from this year thanks to their status as members of The Sleepwalkers). “Bloodbath” is basement pop at its finest.

Listen to “Bloodbath” below and make sure to catch The Midwestern Charm live as soon as humanly possible (a list of tour dates can be found here).