Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: OH

Wheelbarrel – Feast On Sand (EP Premiere)

The third piece (and second premiere) of sprawling, snarling post-punk to go up as a feature today, Wheelbarrel’s Feast On Sand may be the most unexpectedly brilliant of the lot. It’s a formidable and incredibly self-assured from a new Columbus, OH power trio and it packs enough power in its punch to leave just about anyone reeling. Opening with “Traced”, Wheelbarrel and Feast On Sand both get a memorable introduction, the song showcasing a lethal but surprisingly pensive strain of a sound that falls somewhere between Even Hand and Buildings.

From that point forward, the trio meticulously navigates a hybrid of post-punk, grunge, hardcore, basement pop, and a handful of other sub-genres while cultivating an uneasy atmosphere, bridging a melancholic sensibility with a carefully-repressed but still lurking anger. All of those elements of the band’s identity combine into something as mesmerizing as it is urgent. Each song breathing more depth into Feast On Sand‘s display of life, adding potency to an unexpected reckoning.

“Sacred Things”, the EP’s penultimate offering, contains the most haunted experiment of this quartet of tracks, marrying spoken word to a creeping minimalist that evokes the kind of hushed-breath dread typically found in arthouse horror films. When the song breaks from that pattern, it’s incredibly unnerving, the vocal delivery tilting from being mired in gloom to coy amusement to startling effect. It’s one of several great moments on Feast On Sand that suggests Wheelbarrel are going to have a strong shot at a visible future.

The EP ends on its title track, which expertly combines everything that’s come before it into a gripping victory lap that ably demonstrates not just Wheelbarrel’s arsenal but their identity. One EP in and it’s clear that Wheelbarrel already have a strong sense of themselves and a purpose to match, hitting stratospheric heights while keeping their attention fixated on the world’s dust and dirt. Modest, spellbinding, and brilliant, Feast On Sand stands as one of the strongest debuts of 2018’s first half. Dive in and explore.

Listen to Feast On Sand below and get a copy here.

Vacation – Like Snow (Stream, Live Video)

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Now that the music videos are (very nearly) brought completely up to date, it’s time to turn the attention towards the single streams. Unsurprisingly, considering the length and breadth typically contained in the medium, this has been the most difficult format to corral into upkeep. This week’s already seen the release of YAWN’s characteristically hazy, pysch-tinged “Day Trip“, Air Waves’ compellingly insistent mid-tempo number “Milky Way“, Dirty Ghosts’ delightfully skittish “Cataracts“, and Jesse Payne’s rustic-leaning folk dirge “Ravens“.

While all of those had other platforms for introduction, today’s feature came courtesy of Don Giovanni’s quiet, generous upload of Vacation‘s forthcoming Non-Person to their soundcloud. Having recently seen (and been subsequently blown away by) the band, it’s not surprising that one of the best new songs of their live set would so easily translate into one of the best songs of the year. I have no idea whether or not Vacation intends on releasing “Like Snow” as a single or if they’re planning on relegating it to the confines of the record but it’ll likely flourish either way.

A few lineup changes in (several of which due to the success some of the members had found with their other band, Tweens) and the band’s evolved from a trio to a quartet; they’ve never sounded sharper. Emphasizing the basement pop bent that’s always been at the root of their sound (check the excellent “Party Over” for proof), they’ve managed to refine just about every angle of their attack.

As furious as ever, they’ve found a new nuance with their current iteration; one that sees Jerri Queen stepping out from behind the kit to take over on guitar/vocal duty. Queen proves to be more than capable, producing some of the band’s best work to date. “Like Snow” feels perfectly representative as it careens forward with a white-knuckle intensity after a clean, gentle open.

The now-two guitar attack seems intent on burning everything that surrounds the song while the intro- “I’m always waiting for the day/like snow, I melt away”- gets used as the song’s refrain and injects a heavy dose of dynamics into the proceedings, ensuring a drastic tempo change that lends itself to the vibrancy of both modes. Everything the band tries on “Like Snow” works to perfection and pushes a lot of doors for future prospects wide open in the process. Don’t make the mistake of letting this one pass by unnoticed.

Listen to “Like Snow” below and pre-order Non-Person from Don Giovanni here. Beneath the embed, watch a live clip of the band ripping through the song in Milwaukee, WI.

Watch This: 2015, Vol. 3

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Over the past few days, this site’s been running a campaign to get one of its most important cornerstones back. When the Watch This series was first brought into existence, it was done out of admiration- but also frustration. For whatever reason, great live footage never quite gets its due. Outside of rare exceptions (Scorsese’s The Last Waltz comes to mind), it’s an overlooked format. Reduced to miniature, it has an almost non-existent footprint. Yet, the very best of these clips hinge on the abilities of both filmmaker(s) and the central subject and are treasured fiercely by the people invested in either side. There’s a common ground between film and music that these clips manage to accentuate and exploit when they’re operating at their highest level, they represent multimedia formatting at its finest. Watch This was designed to amend the medium’s inexplicable reduction, Every Sunday, the installment would feature five of the strongest live clips of the week in some small effort to amend the egregious exclusion of a central focus for live footage.

Since 2015 started, like everything else, I’ve been amassing a list of some of the strongest entries in this category and this post marks the last of the trilogy making up the 15 or so weeks that made up 2015’s first quarter. There’s a heavy emphasis on interview-heavy clips and full sets, with healthy numbers for KEXP, BreakThruRadio, and Pitchfork. DIY culture is mostly fully embedded in Pupppy’s set at the endearingly named Dong Island and the whole playlist is bookended by two of the finest live videos of the year. Each of those two clips comes courtesy of NPR, with a full Sleater-Kinney set providing an exhilarating opening and a devastating Torres lullaby clip bringing the proceedings to a hushed, haunting close. Regular Watch This will resume on Sunday and continue weekly. Now, the video player below contains hours worth of material so it’s not something that’s probably going to be watched start-to-finish- but it can certainly be bookmarked and all of it is worth seeing (and, just as importantly, hearing). So, with all that mind, sit back, crank the volume, take a drink, settle in, and Watch This.

1. Sleater-Kinney (NPR)
2. Bully – Trying (Pitchfork)
3. Mike Pace and the Child Actors (TCGS)
4. Fred Thomas (BreakThruRadio)
5. Swervedriver – Autodidact (KEXP)
6. Menace Beach (3voor12)
7. Waxahatchee – Coast to Coast (Pitchfork)
8. Literature (BreakThruRadio)
9. Fat Supper – Mind Your Head #14 (MOWNO)
10. Francisco The Man (KEXP)
11. Nots (BreakThruRadio)
12. Title Fight – Mrahc (Pitchfork)
13. White Reaper – The Cut (BreakThruRadio)
14. GRMLN – Night Racer (Amoeba)
15. Girl Band (KEXP)
16. METZ – Nervous System (Pitchfork)
17. Popstrangers (BreakThruRadio)
18. Laura Stevenson – Bells And Whistles (Space Jam Sessions)
19. Jenny Lewis – Just One of the Guys (Jimmy Kimmel Live)
20. Strand of Oaks – For Me (Amoeba)
21. Pupppy (Dong Island)
22. Krill – Foot (WKNC)
23. Museum Mouth (WKNC)
24. La Luz – Call Me In The Day (KEXP)
25. Torres – A Proper Polish Welcome (NPR)

Pretty Pretty – Feels Like Rain (Stream)

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Once again, the past few days have provided a decent amount of material making it difficult to figure out which to feature. Most notably, two vicious post-punk numbers from the likes of Cycle Schmeichel and BODY. The former is full of a restlessness that aids Cycle Schmeichel’s wiry post-punk tendencies well, while the latter is a foreboding piece of hard-charging, rapidly-building tension characterized by nervousness before allowing an exhilarating release. Both are among the best songs to have come out of this month thus far- and September’s already seen two of the strongest weeks for new music this year. On top of both of those, Pretty Pretty finally released their Sweater Leather 7″ tracks via their bandcamp, which they’d previously teased with the sugar-coated title trackSweater Leather not only manages to live up to the promise of that initial look but occasionally surpasses it, including “Feels Like Rain”- the closing track.

While “Feels Like Rain” isn’t quite as hard-charging as the trio of tracks that come before it (including easy standout “You Say“), it does manage to act as a perfect finale piece’ it summarizes nearly everything that precede that moment while serving as a reminder of Pretty Pretty’s specific strengths. From the call-and-response vocals to the vintage 90’s crunch in the guitar tones, it’s difficult not to see “Feels Like Rain”- and Pretty Pretty, by extension- for what it is: a perfect slice of sun-splashed punk-leaning popwerpop. There’s an underlying intelligence in the song’s composition that reveals itself in the details; the light riffing before the main guitar part kicks in, the subtly clever lyrics, and the general dynamics all point towards Pretty Pretty being a band that takes their songwriting very seriously. Fortunately, their efforts pay off in full and make Sweater Weather one of the more memorable 7″ releases of the year.

Listen to “Feels Like Rain” below and keep an eye on both Let’s Pretend and Mandible for the impending release of the physical copy.

The Frankl Project – Day at the Races (Stream)

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Pop-punk has always been a deeply problematic genre. More than just about any other style of music that gained significant attention throughout the last decade and a half, pop-punk seemed to get too hung up on its own hallmarks. Elongated vowels, clichéd lyrics about love and heartbreak, a certain amount of bombast, and a total unwillingness to say- or attempt- something new. If anyone broke from the tried-and-true mold, they stuck out like a sore thumb- and became all the more interesting for it. Enter: The Frankl Project. Their most recent full-length, 2013’s excellent Standards, was one of that year’s best surprises thanks to an emphasis on grit and humility unheard elsewhere. All of the songs on that record were backed up by intelligence and conviction- and an ample amount of instrumental chops. It was an inward look at very specific types of collapse that never became overwrought or overstepped its bounds. By the time its dozen songs had played themselves out, it was fairly evident that it deserved to be embraced as either a genre classic or a very welcome step forward for a style that’d become so redundant.

Last month, during this site’s festival coverage period, the Cincinatti trio quietly released Little Wrecking Ball, an online-only two-song effort. While the title track works well as a lead-off (and on its own), it’s the second song of the pair that steals the show. Everything that made Standards so great has been pinpointed and emphasized, leaving no doubt that the band should be heading places. Furthering this theory is the fact that “Day at the Races” was recently hand-picked by Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace to  lead off the unsigned side of Xtra Mile Recordings fascinating (and absolutely vital) Smokin’ (Signed vs.  Unsigned) compilation. It’s easy to see what Grace finds so appealing here; the guitar tones are incendiary, the song structure is intelligent, the instrumental sections are uniformly excellent, the down-trodden lyrics are clever but contained, and the drop to half-time that closes everything out at the end is a thing of perfection. Moreover, when guitarist/vocalist Jacob Tippey sings, and this is key, it’s difficult not to believe everything he says. Tippey’s delivery is as purposeful as the music itself and pairing the two together makes for an explosive combination. Underneath his impassioned delivery, a menacing bassline (courtesy of Paul Schroder, who took the extraordinary shot that serves as the release’s cover) is joined by Joseph Frankl’s always-impressive drumming and Tippey’s inventive, meldoy-heavy guitarwork. All of those elements together make for a molotov cocktail of a tune that proves pop-punk can still be something worth listening to.

Listen to “Day at the Races” below and make sure to catch these guys next time they hit the road- their live act’s not one worth missing.

Perfect Pussy at Soybomb HQ – 6/21/14 (Review, Photos, Video)

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While NXNE provided a lot of the most memorable moments I’ve had so far this year, I’d be completely and totally remiss not to pay special attention to one of the non-festival shows: an absolutely stacked lineup flying under the Summer Melt banner and taking place in the middle of a halfpipe. Originally, the show (heavy on local Toronto acts) was going to be headlined by the Cleveland-based Pleasure Leftists– an incredibly casual last-minute offer allowed Perfect Pussy to step in literally hours beforehand as a secret headliner. To their credit, their secret remained a secret (unlike the Spoon debacle just a night before) and caught several attendees by surprise as they entered the venue (which had set times drawn up on a long sheet of paper and in plain sight). A late arrival meant missing a slew of talented bands including Wrong Hole, Das Rad, Toronto Homicide Squad, Petra Glynt, and Teenanger.

Even five bands in, the night was far from over. It didn’t take long for Cellphone (pictured above) to set up and it took even less time for them to impress. On record, the quartet emphasizes their roughness, eclecticism, and electronic leanings. Live? They explode with a fury worthy of the hardest-hitting bands of STT’s golden age. Hüsker Dü, Black Flag, and (especially) Dinosaur Jr. all came to mind as apparent touchstones during different parts of their set, which stayed rooted in something totally intangible and unique to them. Hardcore influences and progressions cut apart riff-heavy melodicism and the band frequently sounds like they’re on the verge of spiraling out of control. It’s a controlled mania that had more than a few people shoving and dancing as hard as they possibly could by their set’s end. It was one of a very large handful of shows the band played throughout the NXNE dates and the practice showed- the end result was the best set of the trip from a band I’d previously never heard of.

Toronto’s Ice Cream may not have had the blinding energy of Cellphone but they certainly weren’t lacking in intrigue. The band’s a very minimalist post-punk act made up of nothing more than vocals, bass, a very occasional guitar, and synth. While they were stealthily making their way through their set (and the bottom of a bottle of liquor), they ran a bubble machine to its dregs. A little more than halfway through their set, a very-probably-inebriated audience member kept trying (and partially succeeding) at getting the bubbles back up and running, as the band played on, relatively amused and unconcerned. Most of their set hinged on bright melodies and pop-leaning basslines but when they deviated away from this, especially towards the end of their set, they found new life and hit new peaks. When their set finally wound down, they’d succeeded in creating an impression while simultaneously leaving the space wide-open for Pleasure Leftists to do just about anything they wanted.

Pleasure Leftists took full advantage of what was essentially a new slate after Ice Cream wound things down. After a string of strong releases on Deranged Records, the Cleveland band was in rare form, which was likely in part to the excessive amount of touring they’ve been doing lately. They’ve sharpened their brand of brooding post-punk and the fangs  that they’ve grown along with it. While the whole band is incredibly formidable in their respective roles and fully capable of creating towering soundscapes of tension-filled dread, vocalist Haley Morris still stands out. Onstage, Morris is a force to be reckoned with; a constant- and constantly expressive- larger-than-life presence. Pouring an endless supply of nervous energy and pure feeling into her delivery, Morris commands attention so completely that it occasionally runs the risk of losing track of what’s happening around her- don’t make that mistake. Pleasure Leftists’ instrumentalists are so well-versed in post-punk that on first listen someone could easily mistake them for a long-lost 70’s UK band that split small club bills with Warsaw. Their set was everything anyone could hope for and was rousing enough to leave the audience absolutely stunned. Everything that Pleasure Leftists are currently doing is clicking so neatly into place that it’s impossible to expect their trajectory to stabilize in anything other than ascension.

Finally, at a time roughly between 3:00 and 3:30 A.M., Perfect Pussy had set up and was off with their usual intensity. It’s no secret how I feel about this band and this won’t be the last time I write about them- or come even remotely close. I have made my feelings about them very public on multiple occasions and will continue to do so- because they are firmly rooted in all of the ethos that I believe in. Morality, integrity, independence, acceptance, and a commitment to DIY are all present in both their music and their interview. Vocalist Meredith Graves, in particular, has been very vocal about things that people need to start being more vocal about (and almost all of them are extensions of basic human kindness, compassion, and empathy). I would probably know next to none of this if I hadn’t been absolutely blown away by their 2013 demo I have lost all desire for feeling and made it a point to get as close to the band, who were making music I loved so fiercely and championing ideals I so firmly believed in, as I possibly could. It’s been a downright honor to watch the public interest in them skyrocket since the release of that demo and when Say Yes to Love came out, it made them feel revelatory all over again.

As with any band experiencing success, this meant seeing the venues housing them gradually grow- and the tickets fly much faster than they used to. So, when Graves pulled me aside after their Great Hall appearance for a beer at a Toronto bar to catch up and explain the events of the previous night, I was already on a barely-contained adrenaline rush. When we were interrupted by a guy offering to add Perfect Pussy onto an already-stacked bill that was being topped by Pleasure Leftists in a halfpipe in the middle of the night, all I could do was look at a noticeably excited Graves and hope she’d say yes. After all the details got figured out, it became evident fairly quickly that this was probably going to be the show that I remembered most from the Toronto stay. A band I’d loved and been chomping at the bit to see for the longest time (Pleasure Leftists) playing in a small, DIY space with who is arguably my favorite band of the moment playing after them as a secret headliner? With local support to top everything off, it seemed fail-proof. It was. Even though the late slot meant playing to an exhausted/subdued crowd, when Perfect Pussy tore into their set, it finally felt like they were at home. It was the exact kind of space that the band has fostered mutually symbiotic relationships with- even as their stature would suggest they’ve outgrown them.

It felt like a subtle, extraordinary moment and it was a privilege to be there to witness something like that happen. Even though the band’s set was abbreviated (even for them), it still hit with the force of an all-out military strike and the band laid just about everything they had on the line. Drummer Garrett Koloski was simultaneously battling to keep his kit upright and continuing to beat the living shit out of it- bassist Greg Ambler was tapping into an inward violence- guitarist Ray McAndrew was thrashing about more spiritedly than ever- synth/noise artist Shaun Sutkus was tucked away in the back, occasionally letting the music move him into making frantic body motions- and vocalist Meredith Graves (easily one of the finest bad leaders that this generation’s produced) commanding as much attention as humanly possible without being consumed by the din around her. All of the songs they played that evening were initially written down on a sheet of paper, cut into ribbons, and placed in a hat where the setlist was drawn out of- with the exception of one, which McAndrew took it upon himself to launch into, without warning, adding an element of surprise for both the audience and his bandmates. That moment was the only sly sidestep in an otherwise pulverizing, straightforward set that re-confirmed Perfect Pussy as one of the most entertaining live bands currently playing shows. By the time “Advance Upon the Real” wound down into Sutkus’ noise epilogue, they’d provided the evening with enough punch and verve to ensure that it wouldn’t be an evening that anyone who was present for it forget about it anytime soon. It didn’t feel like they’d officially arrived; it felt like they’d arrived home.

The photo gallery of this show can be accessed by clicking the link below. Beneath that link is a video of Perfect Pussy ending their set with “Advance Upon the Real”.

Soybomb HQ (Photo Gallery)

Pretty Pretty – Leather Weather (Stream)

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Pretty Pretty has been a name that’s appearing with greater frequency in the “bands to follow” conversation. Apart from their blistering 2012 demo, the band hasn’t released any music. That’s changing soon with the release of their upcoming Leather Weather 7″. From the early sounds of it- and from the way the band’s been playing live– their band’s not going anywhere soon. They’ve upped their fidelity and tightened up their songcraft, as a result their music feels more vibrantly alive than sterile. “Leather Weather” was an easy highlight from their recent set with Swearin’ and the recorded version holds up. All sunny melodies and hard-charging punk-tinged powerpop, the song’s sharp teeth show through its disarming smile. A guitar solo cuts its way into the mix at around the halfway point and reinvigorates the whole thing just as it should be getting old. Following that, the song’s explosive second half indulges in spoken overdubs, a primal bridge, and general fierceness. By the time it plays itself out, the song feels vital enough to make this a must-buy release whenever Mandible and Let’s Pretend deem it fit for release. Keep both eyes peeled for that one- until then just play the title track as many times as possible (and revisit their demo for maximum enjoyment).

“Leather Weather” can be heard below.

Swearin’ – Live at Memorial Union Terrace – 5/30/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)

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There are very few bands that will warrant the subversion of this site’s manifest. One of the rules that this place tends to hold sacred is that the music in question is more important than an individual reaction to it (this eliminates the assumptions involved in writing from a first person perspective). That said, there are a few bands that have managed to flip that script based on the sheer reverence their music has earned. Perfect Pussy and Tenement are the most notable to have it done it so far but today Swearin’ joins their ranks. There’s just something about the band that resonates with me on a really intense personal level. It’s at the point where it’s impossible to distance or separate myself from that reaction. Taking myself out of the equation would, in some way, feel more dishonest than just trying to get across how this band affects me personally- because any time that happens it’s worth dissolving barriers for.

Some exposition: What A Dump, the band’s first demo cassette, is one of my favorite releases of all time. There’s literally nothing in my fairly expansive library that comes even remotely close to matching it for number of plays at this point. Swearin’, the band’s first full-length, is in the top ten of that particular list as well. Despite this being the case, up until last Friday night, I’d never seen the band play live. So, when the opportunity to see the band play for free on a terrace overlooking Lake Mendota came, I dropped everything and jumped at the chance. By the end of that night my enthusiasm and affection for the band and its members had only grown more emphatic. An additional bonus was the fact that the show gave me a chance to finally catch Pretty Pretty live as well, who lived up to their strong early reputation.

Both bands played shortly after the sun finally set on Madison with Pretty Pretty giving a commanding performance that emphasized their strengths as a live act. The Columbus trio”s punk-tinged powerpop never got tiresome and their set only got more impassioned as it went on, gaining a startling momentum until it finally got to a place where the only thing left to do was call it quits for the evening and let Swearin’ take over. Swearin’, for their part, commanded the hell out of their sizeable audience (it’s nice to see free music outdoors on a perfect night proving to be as big of a draw as it’s ever been) and lived up to every ridiculous, lofty expectation I’d been forming for years. A lot of their songs are practically sacred to me at this point and they only grew more vital in the live setting. When their discography spanning set came to a close, strings had been broken, feelings had been poured out, notes had been missed, beer had flowed frrely, an infinite amount of mosquitoes had been swatted, and everyone was all smiles. From “Here to Hear” to “Crashing” to “Dust in the Gold Sack” to “What A Dump” to “Kill ‘Em With Kindness” there was never a moment that felt less than incendiary. My friend Justin summed the whole thing up aptly and admiringly with a simple “Fuckin’ Swearin'”. How right he is.

A video of Swearin’ kicking off their set with “Here to Hear” can be seen below. Below that video is an extensive image gallery of the show. Take a look at both, then make sure to catch them in person whenever they’re in town. It’ll be worth it.

Tweens – Forever (Music Video)

From the top: apologies are in order for one of the longest hiatuses this place has been pushed into since it came into being last October. There were conflicts that needed resolving (and some that continue to need resolving) that forced a delay. These situations always carry a duality of good and bad with them and the former category is what will be emphasized here. Yes, there was lots of lost time- but that just means a collection of riches to post about in several long sprees. The days following this post should see multiple articles until the 1:1 day-post ratio is restored. While soundcloud is still experiencing issues from the heartbleed virus, the first batch of new content will be largely occupied by the music videos that have come out in the past week or so and Tweens‘ “Forver” may just be the best of the bunch.

Tweens is also now officially out on Frenchkiss records and slays just as hard as everyone expected it would. Filled to the brim with a glam-spiked retro sugar-rush, the trio’s debut is the fullest realization of their alluring basement pop aesthetic to date. While the whole thing is worth wearing out over the course of however long the warm weather lasts, “Forever” is one of the record’s most scorching high points- and the Joe Castrucci-directed music video captures its mood perfectly. Putting a fun twist on the prom theme, the video revels in its clever concept and offers up an endless barrage of great moments (personal favorite: a cop chases a skateboarder who eventually drops a case worth of PBR’s into a freezer and all are taken immediately). While all the low-stakes insanity unfolds on the dance floor, the band’s on stage urging everyone on and having the time of their lives.

Tweens is the feel-good record of the year and “Forever” continues its roll out campaign in grand tradition. Watch it below and pick it up as soon as possible- it’s a must-own.

Nervosas at Center Street Free Space and Quarters Rock N Roll Palace – 3/1/14 (Live Review)

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On March 1, 2014, the entirety of Milwaukee was emitting a low hum- the result of hundreds of amps coming to life. There was the East Side Music Festival, which stood as a celebration of local music (Heartbreaking Bravery favorites The Sleepwalkers, Midnight Reruns, and The Midwestern Charm were all well represented), that spanned several participating venues and featured headlining sets from Why? and POS. Beach Patrol, Jake Simmons, and Tim Schweiger & the Middlemen were the bands making up a stellar bill over at Bremen Cafe, outside of the fest. Another non-fest show that was likely worth seeing had Ringo Deathstarr headlining Mad Planet. There was a show in seemingly every venue in the city- and Nervosas played two of them.

First up was a show in the basement of DIY library collective Center Street Free Space alongside Strange Matter and Crowdpleaser. After having some trouble with a faulty mic stand that essentially just gave out before Strange Matter began (both a cinder block and a weighted bucket were used as position anchors) the show started with an incredibly impressive set from Milwaukee hardcore veterans Strange Matter. After a few lineup changes and toting a new 7″, ennui actuation dissolver, the band was in fine form throughout a rapid-fire set. Blending all kinds of influences into a fairly original sound that leans heavily on hardcore, Strange Matter have built a strong reputation for themselves by virtue of their releases. If this show was any indication, though, their live show may have surpassed their recorded output in terms of quality- and that’s saying something.

Next to bat was Crowdpleaser, another Milwaukee band toying with genre limitations in slightly unexpected ways. Pushing their volumes to dangerous heights, the band played passionately and were genuinely excited to be sharing a bill with Nervosas. Their excitement was even more justified by the similarities between the two bands. Both Crowdpleaser and Nervosas share a similarly-mined strand of goth-punk that a lot of today’s bands can’t claim. There’s also a peculiar restlessness to be found in both bands’ music. Neither band is afraid of the unsparingly bleak, either. While there are more than a few differences between Crowdpleaser and Nervosas, and while there were a fair amount of technical difficulties, Crowdpleaser’s set felt like a completely natural precursor for the perpetually anxious Nervosas.

When Nervosas finally took over they did it with a manic determination that made their set one of the most cathartic experiences imaginable. Truly looking like that went both ways (band and audience feeding into each other on a barely-controlled loop) they grew progressively more intense as the set went on. Afterwards guitarist, Mickey, would reveal that she was trying to frantically keep up with the rest of her band who purportedly never play that fast. Whether that was a false claim is anyone’s best guess but at various points throughout the set, their drummer, Nick, would lose time and recover quickly with well-timed blast beats. All the while Jeff (their bassist and vocalist) would be careening through songs from the few outstanding releases they have so far, completely caught up in the moment. The only times the weirdly hypnotic and utterly dark spell was broken came when one of them would let the song get away from them (though they all recovered incredibly quickly) and not be able to help a smile. It’s impossible to gauge how long their set was as everyone was completely caught up in the moment, watching the band teeter on the edge of total collapse and reign things in at all the right moments. Making this even more memorable was the low turnout rate for the show- the benefit being that everyone who was there clearly cared enough to make sure that they were there so they could shout along “APAB” at all the right moments and support a band they loved. By the time the band finished tearing through a particularly rousing take on “Poison Ivy” nearly everyone that was present had likely already made up their minds to make their way over to the late show to see them again.

Between the end of the Free Space show and the start of the show at Quarters, a stop was made at Bremen Cafe in hopes to catch one of the three bands playing that night- while that proved to be an impossibility it’s worth noting that Jake Simmons,  Tim Schweiger & the Middlemen, and Beach Patrol all come very highly recommended and wouldn’t have been missed any other night. By the time the short walk to Quarters was made, feedback was already ringing throughout the venue, a half circle had been formed in front of the stage, and Midwives were about to go off. Having just seen Midwives member Graham Hunt lead Midnight Reruns through another energetic set just a week prior it was nice to see him fully embracing the role of a hardcore guitarist, while it was nice to see Sahan Jayasuriya back behind a kit for a band he believes in. Both of them need the band for different reasons; for Hunt it’s the ability to cut loose and be as grimy as possible, something that fronting Midnight Reruns doesn’t afford him- and for Jayasuriya it’s both the advantage of input into creative control and the sense of connection that comes with being part of something from the ground up, instead of coming into the fold late (something he’s experienced surprisingly often).

It was evident throughout Midwives’ set how badly those points counted for them as they poured their fucking hearts into their set by attacking their instruments with the kind of brute force only found in the best hardcore bands. As both Hunt and Jayasuriya lost their respective minds on their instruments, their vocalist was stalking the hell out of the open space in front of the stage shouting for all his worth and their bassist kept everything in check by holding down his parts while furiously nodding his head along. Ripping through the songs from their vicious debut 7″ (they used the night to celebrate its physical release) and a whole lot of new songs (many of which will be appearing on the LP they’ll be recording this week), it started to feel like the band announcing a bigger kind of arrival. While their studio work is already enormously impressive (despite being only four songs), this is the kind of band that lives for a live setting- they didn’t disappoint and hopefully won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

After quite a bit of set up, take-down, and tuning, Technicolor Teeth turned up their amps to typically deafening volumes and greeted the audience with their shoegaze-heavy nightmare pop. Ever since first seeing this band a few years back and watching them evolve, it’s been clear that they’ve tapped into something inherently special. As they’ve progressed they’ve toyed with the boundaries of genre and exploited the buried aspects of a few different styles rather than settling for something as simple as revivalism. They’re pushing things in new and intriguing directions; finding a home in what was once considered a dormant style and looking forward instead of traveling back. Easily the night’s longest set, they nonetheless were as captivating as usual and likely won over anyone they hadn’t. While their set seemed to be heavy on newer material, it all clicked and felt coherent enough to keep the audience interested despite being a band who’s prone to playing up a drowsy-high aesthetic. There were a few blinding flashes of energy that helped push that along and as a collective unit, the band played close to flawlessly, wrapped up in a weird kind of power approach. A large part of the credit for this is likely due to drummer Amos Pitsch (who uses his time outside of the band to do things like front Tenement) who continues to operate on an almost obscene level of musicality (so much so that it prompted a well-intentioned and sarcastic “Thanks for drumming before me, Amos. That sucked.” from Nick) and provides the band with a considerable punch. In any case, Technicolor Teeth played like they meant it and is a must-catch prospect- they’ll be playing the Accidental Guest Recordings showcase at SXSW, don’t miss it.

After Technicolor Teeth wrapped up and everyone assessed their levels of hearing damage, Nervosas set back up for a final run. Only this time, it wasn’t to 15 people- it was to a packed bar that was threatening to close in on max capacity. As a result, the energy level of the decidedly frenetic show at Free Space somehow got kicked up a few more levels. This time, the audience wound up begging the band for an encore that they never got; and that was alright- Nervosas seemingly left every inch of themselves on that stage. Absolutely ripping through highlights from their best-of-decade worthy self-titled like “Less Than Human”, “Viva Viva”, “Extinct Species”, “Waste of Time”, and (once again) “Stellarcore”, “Poison Ivy” and “APAB” along with some deeper cuts like Rev 45 lead-off track “Junky”. All of this was performed as wild-eyed as possible, with each member being almost inhumanly committed to delivering their songs at maximum levels of impact. None of the three could stay still even between songs, feet tapping and bodies swaying back and forth, anxious to jump into whatever was next. During the songs, that restlessness was even more present as the band would literally throw themselves from side to side (and into the walls on more than one occasion), while attempting to keep themselves in control of the music. Their levels of success on these levels were improbable, as all of the things apart from the audience size were both duplicated and maximized from their set just a few hours before. By the time the calls for an encore were hitting their peak, the band was onstage, packing up, absolutely spent. They’d made their mark and knew their was nothing left to possibly be given.

As the show turned into an afterparty with the assistance of Rio Turbo, friends old and new caught up, got drinks, and found their way into dances, conversations, and the streets. Everyone buzzing on the adrenaline high that accompanies the truly great shows. Everyone that played caught up with each other and their admirers, gave their thanks to each, and bought or traded merch before heading off. Now that all the smoke’s cleared, all that’s left to do is keep both eyes peeled for the next time Nervosas show up- because if these shows were any indication, this is a band that should never be missed.

A few photographs from the shows can be found below.