Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: WI

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 2

Girlpool I

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

2015: A Visual Retrospective, Vol. 1

Radioactivity

Throughout the course of 2015 I’ve been fortunate enough to attend upwards of 100 shows, festivals big and small, and spend approximately half a year living in a city that hosted a mind-boggling amount of quality shows on a nightly basis. To that end, it’s probably unsurprising that I wound up taking over 10,000 photos this year alone. Over the course of the next few days, this site will be running seven volumes of the shots that stood out as personal favorites, whether that was due to their composition, sentimental attachment, or an intangible emotional or intellectual response. It’s been an honor to be able to take even the smallest part in the ongoing sagas of the artists in the photographs below and an additional thanks is due to the venues that allowed me to shoot (as well as the people who encouraged me to keep shooting).

Enjoy the gallery.

A Short Review (Live Video Compilation)

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Ever since relocating back to central Wisconsin from Brooklyn, this place has been playing catch-up in a variety of fields (look at the preceding 15 posts for overwhelming proof), which left live coverage staggering over to the wayside. To partially amend that fact, I’ve compiled a collection of live videos from that rough time frame. Beginning with Krill‘s second-to-last show (an extremely memorable set at DBTS, which ended with literal crowdsurfing) and working to a reprisal of the Bad Wig footage that was contained in the recent review of their EP, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Included in that range are the videos from the first set from The Glow and the second set from Museum of Recycling, an extraordinary full set from site favorites Young Jesus, PWR BTTM and Mitski taking over Wisconsin, Midnight Reruns proving their worth with a powerhouse set in Green Bay, and LVL UP tearing into an inspired rendition of “DBTS” on hallowed ground. All of that and a whole lot more can be seen in the videos below. Enjoy.

CENDE

LVL UP

KRILL

MUSEUM OF RECYCLING

THE GLOW

SLIGHT

NORMAL PERSON

HEAVY LOOKS

YOUNG JESUS

HUE BLANC’S JOYLESS ONES

SOUL LOW

MIDNIGHT RERUNS

SPACE RAFT

PWR BTTM

PALEHOUND

MITSKI

BAD WIG

Midnight Reruns – Canadian Summer (Music Video, Live Video)

Midnight Reruns IV

2015’s made a habit out of producing incredibly strong weeks for new material and these past five days have proven to be no different. There were strong new songs from Pill, Dead Stars, Car Seat Headrest, Day Wave, Dressy Bessy, Hand of Dust, and Courtney Barnett’s excellent Boys Next Door cover. Winstons and Alex G both unveiled formidable releases and a trio of tantalizing clips from Greys, Braids, and Doe. While each of those titles are worth several glances, it was site favorites Midnight Reruns‘ latest music video to earn this post’s feature spot.

Fresh off the release of Force of Nurture‘s brilliant lead-off number “There’s An Animal Upstairs“, the band returns to their hangout mode in an endearing new clip for “Canadian Summer”. Previously, the band had all but perfected that approach with their memorably freewheeling “King of Pop” music video just over two years ago. This time around, instead of focusing on their friends and their current environment, they celebrate their roots- and drummer Sam Reitman’s father.

Guitarist/vocalist (and principal songwriter) Graham Hunt and Reitman used to practice in Reitman’s father’s home in a variety of projects and crafted the “Canadian Summer” clip as a loving homage to his influence (and his love of boats). Utilizing a meaningful place as the location for the shoot pays massive dividends, lending “Canadian Summer” an immediate, distinctly Midwestern, heart-on-sleeve feel that perfectly complements their musical sensibilities.

The song itself is an absolute monster, whose chorus hasn’t left my head since hearing it over a year ago (it’s become a rightful staple of the band’s live sets). Tempos switch, the song builds momentum, and the footage surrounding it drives home the earnest simplicity of it all. Midnight Reruns aren’t just a band that’s defined by their influences, they’re defined by their commitment to producing material that would make those influences proud. “Canadian Summer” is just the latest example of how well they’re succeeding.

Watch “Canadian Summer” below and pre-order a copy of Force of Nurture here. Beneath the music video, watch a clip of the band performing the song at the sorely missed Crunchy Frog in Green Bay, WI.

Tenement – Tenement (EP Stream, Review)

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Between the end of last week and the start of this one, this site hasn’t ran a lot of material. A lot of this is due to some upcoming live coverage and the editing that live coverage entails. As is always the case, though, an eye was kept on the emerging content and everything that registered as great was compiled into a list for future reference. Of those lists, the full streams may have been the most stacked, featuring no less than three year-end contenders, including Tenement, this post’s featured EP. For full-lengths, it’d be hard to do much better than the staggering 1-2 punch of the full-length debuts from site favorites All Dogs (Kicking Every Day) and Dogs On Acid (Dogs On Acid) though that didn’t detract from the great new records that started streaming from Frog Eyes, Willis Earl Beal, Fake Palms, i tried to run away when i was 6, Sea Lion, and Tamaryn. Then, of course, there was the re-release of the extremely limited run self-titled tour tape that was released earlier this year by a band that played a crucial role in the development of this site’s functionality, aim, and preference: Tenement.

Following a pattern that emerged around the time Napalm Dream was released, the band’s been ushering in new music with an impressive recklessness. While this time around the band opted to release a behemoth of a double album in Predatory Headlights, rather than opting for the individual split as they did with Napalm Dream and The Blind Wink, they’ve still got material to spare. After kicking this year off with their outstanding early career compilation Bruised Music, Volume 1 (a collection I had the distinct privilege of contributing a piece to for the zine insert that served as the record’s liner notes), they’re restlessly pushing forward with an appropriately ragged five-song collection that they recorded back in February. As mentioned earlier, the tape was held to a run of between 50-60 copies and only made available for their tour with Priests and Vacation.

Tenement’s always been characterized by their steadfast adherence to a DIY ethos but that aspect of their identity has never been so fully reflected by any of their releases than it is here, which is likely why the band opted to make it a self-titled. As the collection plays out, there’s a very real sense that these songs were crafted in a manner where the band felt unburdened by any lingering expectations. Of course, it’s still a Tenement record so the level of songwriting is exceedingly impressive and more than a little indicative of what makes the band one of today’s absolute best.

In a sense (or a few, rather), Tenement‘s actually more attuned to the sensibilities of guitarist/vocalist Amos Pitsch’s Dusk side project. The playing- and feel- from song to song is a lot more loose than Tenement songs tend to wind up being upon their official release and carry on with an easygoing naturalism that renders Tenement an endlessly listenable EP that’s as perfectly suited for open roads as it is a quiet night in. Curiously, all the songs are also titled after a line from the respective choruses or refrains, which is something the band’s generally avoided in the past, which also seems to solidify the fact that this is one of the most direct releases the band’s ever issued. While Pitsch still writes with the flair of a classic Americana novelist, he’s substituted a lot of his more obtuse looks with an emphasis on his lyrics’ more earnest aspects and it suits these songs to perfection. Bassist Jesse Ponkamo and drummer Eric Mayer, as ever, continue to prove their worth as one of today’s most valuable rhythm sections, keeping these songs grounded while still managing to lend them a widescreen appeal, some light menace, a wide-eyed sense of wonder, or an air of gritty determination.

Taken as a whole, Tenement is one of the more unexpected entries in the band’s catalog but it also may be its most quietly rewarding. Favoring understatement over exhilarating moments of power almost exclusively throughout its sub-14 minute run time, Tenement puts a microscope up to one of the band’s more under-utilized modes and results in an unlikely, willing EP that seemed fated to drop off into obscurity just a few short weeks ago. Thankfully, that’s not the case and now anyone who cares has access to “Everyone To Love You”, “Underworld Hotel”, “Witches In A Ritual”, “The Strangest Couple In Love”, and “Roads To Home”. Easily one of the band’s more enigmatic moments, Tenement‘s also one of 2015’s finest releases. Now that it’s finally here, don’t let this one fade into a footnote; turn it up and hit repeat when it’s done.

Listen to Tenement below and pray that it eventually gets repressed in some format. In the meantime, revisit the rest of the band’s unbelievable discography at their bandcamp and watch this site’s own collection of live Tenement videos below the stream.

Phylums – Go Home (Stream)

phylums

Another day’s come and gone and another glut of excellent new releases has been left for exploration. Between Albert Hammond Jr.’s Momentary Masters and Seapony’s A Vision, the full stream category was richly represented. An impressive roster leaning more heavily on big names than usual comprised a strong showing for music videos with acts as varied as Major Lazer (ft. Ellie Goulding & Tarrus Riley), Elbow, Samantha Crain, and Jason Isbell all making intriguing contributions.

The day’s single streams leaned fairly heavily on fiery punk-tinged numbers but did make room for one glitchy ambient outlier; Fine Print’s moody “Can’t Lie“. Womps’ gloriously ragged “Live A Little Less” offered no shortage of pure exhilaration and Ghetto Ghouls’ “Hezbollah” maximized lo-fi grit and manic energy to great effect. While each of the linked items is worthy of a click (and of passing along to your friends), today’s feature spot goes to the WI-based Phylums.

Normally, I do my best not to use any type of identifier for the artists that get covered in here unless it plays a special function in their art because music is a universal craft that can (and should) be defined by so much more than gender and/or location. “Go Home” will be a rare exception to this rule just because it adds a bit of a personal punch for someone that recently moved halfway across the country from the state Phylums call home.

Phylums also boast an impressive pedigree through their members’ respective back catalogs (any band that has any ties to The Goodnight Loving– one of the best bands to ever come out of WI- will always have my attention) and that’s guaranteed them the attention of anyone even tangentially aware of what’s happening in that state’s DIY punk scene. “Go Home” is the first look at their first full-length, affirming just about every suspicion that’s been leveled at the band since forming; this is genuinely great music.

Taking a handful of cues from Nuggets and blending in the slapdash approach of the members’ various other projects and past experience (including- but not limited to- Holy Shit!, WI’s finest hardcore band), the quartet have wound up settling into a jangly psych-tinged basement pop groove and are- probably unsurprising- already far outstripping most bands kicking around that genre.

What’s more, “Go Home” carries with it a genuine sense of place; “Go Home” sounds like a loving homage to the environment where Phylums create. There’s a feeling it evokes that’s indescribably familiar- a visual suggestion of sprawling expanses of some light urban decay, rolling, tree-lined highways, and a lot of dairy farms. I’ve played through “Go Home” more than a dozen times already and on each subsequent listen I’m a little more tempted to take the song up on its title’s command- then I just close my eyes and as the song washes over everything, I’m practically back in the throes of the state that raised me- and that’s about as meaningful as praise gets.

Listen to “Go Home” below and keep an eye on the always-remarkable Dirtnap for pre-orders (and another on this site for more updates).

Heartbreaking Bravery Presents, Vol. 1: Meat Wave, Mumblr, Geronimo! (Videos)

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Time to get unnecessarily personal, starting with a number. 365. 365 days, more accurately. It’s a long time to dedicate to anything and it’s the mark that this site hits today, with it’s 365th post. It’s been an insane (and insanely rewarding year), one that’s helped define the past year of my life. I owe this place a lot and it’s given me more than I’d ever hoped for- from one of my closest friends (and patron saint of Heartbreaking Bravery) to an overwhelming amount of support from the labels I genuinely love (especially in the cases of Double Double Whammy and Exploding in Sound) as well as more than a few artists- and guaranteed that this site wouldn’t be relegated to a passing interest. The reason I own a nice camera, the reason I flew out of the country, and a whole arsenal of reasons for my decisions to continue pursuing music journalism by any means possible can all be traced directly back to this site. It’s been humbling to watch it grow (in both size and scope) and it will be fascinating to look back on this very post a year from now as its constant evolution has the potential to open several intriguing doors. Even comparing yesterday’s Halloween post to the very first thing to be published here, there are more than a few noticeable differences.

With a wide set of rules for the site now firmly in place, from the every-50 post Mixtape to the every-Sunday Watch This, this site has kept me on my toes. Gender identifiers don’t get used, ethnicity doesn’t get specified, orientation and preferences are given a deep amount of respect, and everything is treated with empathy because music’s simply that: music. It’s a universal act of artistry that I built this site to support in the best way I could see fit: by shining spotlights on the emerging artists that truly deserved the attention. Granted, their have been a few names to get written up over the year- but that’s only because they either produced something masterful or remained true to a DIY ethos.

Keeping all of that in mind, I was fortunate enough to be gifted an opportunity to celebrate this year-in-existence mark with a showcase. Everything came together at the right time and I wound up putting together the first-ever Heartbreaking Bravery Presents showcase, featuring three bands that had earned positive reviews from this site. Meat Wave and Geronimo! were the first two bands to sign on, as they were touring from their home town of Chicago up to New York for CMJ as a predecessor to Geronimo!’s bittersweet goodbye, then- by some weird miracle- Mumblr wound up with a free night and an open tour slot and became a late addition. A Blue Harbor, a band that started off as a solo project and then turned into a band (full disclosure: I play bass in the full band version), provided the local support. Everyone piled into a basement venue called The Powerstrip and all three touring bands played their hearts out to a rotating cast of people that exceeded 100 by some margin. After playing a quick set, I set up camp and filmed the majority of Meat Wave, Mumblr, and Geronimo!‘s sets, which can now be seen below. I’ve played a lot of shows and I’ve seen quite a few more than I’ve played- but none have meant as much as this one. So, thanks to the bands for coming out and playing this, thanks to the readers for reading, thanks to the artists and labels for caring, thanks to the writers who have expressed interest in contributing content, and thanks to literally anyone else that has even been a tangential part of making this site’s continued existence possible. I will always be in your debt and you will always have my gratitude. Thank you. Here’s to another year of growth and positive change.

Without further ado: here’s the footage from this site’s first showcase. Enjoy.

MEAT WAVE

MUMBLR

GERONIMO!

Meat Wave – Brother (Music Video)

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: Apologies for the delay on this post, it was held up pending a confirmation. That confirmation just came through and a regular daily wrap-up of today’s releases will be posted later on in the evening. This post has been edited to reflect its current standing.]

Tuesday was a much quieter today for great new releases than Monday’s mind-boggling output- but the few things that were released managed to hold their ground. Menace Beach’s “Come On Give Up” gave the day a swift kick and got things moving with fuzzed-out basement pop. Happy Diving teased their upcoming full-length Big World with another attention-ensuring track, “Sad Planet“, which provides a glimpse of what’s turning out to be a fairly enviable range (and is one of the year’s better songs). AV Club also contributed to today’s haul with the full stream of the record that’s earned quite a few mentions on this site over the past few weeks: Little Big League’s Tropical Jinx, which emphatically capitalizes on its early promise and is more than good enough to be listened to on a regular basis well into 2015.

Now, admittedly, there’s more than one reason that Meat Wave’s first music video, “Brother”, earned today’s feature spot. Before getting to the auxiliary aspects, two things are worth noting: 1. Meat Wave is a band that’s been on this site’s radar for a long while. 2. “Brother” is one of the more perfect visual representations of a band’s style this year. Those two facts alone would have given it today’s feature spot, with the rest just acting as a sizable bonus. “Brother” is an all-out blitz of a song, reveling in an off-the-rails aggression that’s always guaranteed the band was a serious force to be reckoned with- something the video taps into expertly.

Made up entirely of jagged quick-cuts and stop motion shots, “Brother” is as deliriously frenetic as it is disorienting and ferocious. What makes it stand out is a peculiar sense of humor that the band brings to the clip. It’s also worth mentioning that this is a video for a song that was released two years ago, from a record that’s still holding up impossibly well. With the video providing a reminder that this music is as immediate (and feral) as it’s ever been, Meat Wave’s also managed to bring across a very subtle message in the visual medium: the knives are out and the band’s no longer content to stay still. This is likely part of the reasons as to why the band will be joining site favorites Geronimo! (whose Cheap Trick is one of this year’s best records) on their farewell tour- which is a topic that brings up something else entirely.

Heartbreaking Bravery will be presenting a stop on the tour.

On October 18, both bands will be stopping at a house venue (The Powerstrip) in Stevens Point, WI. Sweetening the deal is the fact that they’ll be joined by Mumblr, a Philadelphia-based band whose recently released Full of Snakes  is full of highlights (“Sober” being one of 2014’s finest songs) and exists in the exact space that this site most frequently celebrates; the perfect marriage of basement punk and basement pop. It’ll be the first of what will hopefully be many forays into live shows (and subsequent documentation). Cameras will be rolling and footage will certainly be appearing at some point in the future. So, stay tuned and try to make it out- this should be a celebration to remember.

Watch “Brother” below, download Meat Wave from the band’s bandcamp, and check out the flyer for the show below the video (as well as all of Meat Wave’s other tour dates).

hbbpres

10-14- Beachland Ballroom- Cleveland, OH^
10-17- Kryptonite – Rockford, IL*
10-18- Powerstrip- Stevens Point, WI*
10-20- Township- Chicago, IL*&
10-21- Mahall’s- Cleveland, OH*
10-22- Sharkweek- Pittsburgh, PA*
10-23- Philamoca- Philadelphia, PA*
10-24- Shea Stadium- Brooklyn, NY
10-25- Silent Barn- Brooklyn, NY*

* = w/ Geronimo!
^ = w/ The Lemons, Lasers and Fast and Shit
& = w/ Dope Body, High Priests


Tenement at Mickey’s Tavern – 9/9/14 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

Tenement II

To get this out of the way at the top: there are very few bands that mean as much to me as Tenement. Without the support of that band when I was starting to do things like book and play shows, I probably wouldn’t have been affected as much by the DIY-centric artists and spaces that Heartbreaking Bravery was designed to bring into focus and celebrate. They’re a band that I’ve been filming fairly consistently over the course of the last six and a half years with an increasing amount of admiration. I’d book them to play shows in my city; they’d return the favor and invite the band I was playing in at the time to drive an hour to play their basement (The BFG) and, in doing so, opened a cultural door that allowed me to invest in the community shared by the other bands that played there. A few of the bands that wound up playing The BFG had a massive effect on my musical growth and now regularly snag features on this site- Swearin’, Screaming Females, The Hussy, Sundials, Delay, and an impressive selection of other bands that now populate labels like Don Giovanni, Dead Broke, and Salinas. Whether I was just fortunate enough to be at (or play on) the right shows, I’ll never know, but the amount of support and easy camaraderie surrounding the bulk of those shows was something that made me feel like I’d found a home.

Over the course of those early years- and on the back of playing host to consistently strong bills and relentless touring- Tenement began to build their reputation as one of the Midwest’s best bands. Amos Pitsch, the band’s guitarist and vocalist, had spent more time behind a kit as the drummer for Social Classics, than writing songs in front of it. While at that point, it was already clear Pitsch was a preternaturally gifted musician, it was likely difficult to know what to expect. Unsurprisingly, the most visible role in a band was one that felt naturally suited to Pitsch- and, importantly, allowed him to more fully demonstrate his music’s personality. Lyricists who are characterized more by novelists than other songwriters tend to be the ones that feel the most worthy of acclaim and Pitsch falls squarely into that category. Utilizing a wealth of musical knowledge and integrating it into stanzas and vignettes with a literary grounding, Pitsch has been able to create a sound that’s as influenced by John Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner as it is Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., Hickey, and The Figgs (who once played a very memorable set in The BFG’s living room).

There’s an additional allowance for the abstract that helps further differentiate Tenement from other bands that are attempting to play their hands at similar combinations, which has caused both emphatic celebration from some sets and scathing derision from others (the latter usually tends towards the genre-specific). After years of touring and playing host (before The BFG was forced to cease their venue operations), word started to spread pretty quickly and the band was able to leave with another fiercely-loved WI act, Holy Shit!, for a fairly lengthy tour in Japan. During their time spent in Japan, they played with two of Japan’s finest basement pop acts: Sanhose and Your Pest Band. Fortunately, both of those bands wound up finding their way Stateside not too long after that tour ended, allowing the possibility of all three bands playing a show on Tuesday night at Mickey’s Tavern in Madison, WI.

Mickey’s has long been a staple of Madison’s live music scene, consistently booking shows that would have made sense at a place like The BFG. The fact that it’s small plays well to the bands that have a fondness for eardrum-shattering volume levels and to the people who actively seek out more intimate settings. It’s essentially a 21+ basement venue with proper business licensing. All of which meant that it was a perfect fit for the night’s bill. Riff-happy trio Sanhose played first, going full-speed from the outset and only pausing to adjust or add extra weight to the cinder block positioned in front of the bass drum to prevent the whole thing from toppling over. While that issue was eventually solved by having a friend leave a foot planted firmly into the block while they played, Sanhose couldn’t bother to be too distracted by it. All throughout their set, there was a very palpable sense that the band loved to simply play their music- which wound up being a great reminder that earnestness in punk-leaning music isn’t completely dead. From 20-second blitzes to three-minute anthems, Sanhose left just about everything they had at Mickey’s and got the night off to an excellent start.

Considering Your Pest Band has most of their discography available at any major punk distro worth their salt, it’s a relatively safe bet to say that they’ve built themselves a strong following and a considerable reputation. Their music is frequently celebrated on both sides of the ocean and frequently featured in blogs, zines, and publications. Nearly all of their releases over the past few years have been heavily anticipated by very specific communities and subsequently met with acclaim- so, their live show had a fair bit to live up to. Any doubt those elements cast on high expectations were thoroughly obliterated by the end of their first song. It doesn’t matter what mode this band is in, whether it’s the unabashed 50’s pop stylings of “Time to Go” or the ferocious basement punk onslaught of “Dice“, they always tear into their songs with manic glee. Those efforts are doubled live. Every member of Your Pest Band was constantly in motion during their songs, working themselves into a sweat as they grew more frenzied. Towards the end of a set that was graciously spread throughout their seriously impressive discography, it seemed like they were practically jumping out of their own skin, totally alive and incredibly impassioned before ending it all with one of the strongest performances of the evening (which can be seen below).

Tenement played last (likely to ensure as many people as possible were there for Sanhose and Your Pest Band) and tore through a set of songs that they’ve now been playing for about two years. Not that it mattered or worked to their detriment- the songs that they’ve been playing are some of the best songs in any genre of those past few years and Tenement’s consistently been one of the best live bands that today’s music has had to offer. Any opportunity to see them play any song should be jumped at whenever possible and their set at Mickey’s wound up being yet another one that wound up giving additional weight to that opinion. Playing with the knowledge that this set would be one of the last they play before a scant few others (at least before their upcoming record’s released) may have pushed them to play with even more gusto than usual- or maybe they knew they had to be in their rarest form to follow Your Pest Band’s stunner of a set- but their short set found them hit a near-perfect stride. Blazing through material from their last two records with next to no pauses and a laser-sharp focus and intensity, they left absolutely no doubt that they are one of the best bands of the moment (for further proof of this, watch the supercharged set-ending take on “Stupid Werld” below). Factor in the fact they have a few records on the horizon (including their debut for Don Giovanni, which is projected for a Spring 2015 release) and will have a new set under their belt shortly after those releases and the set they offered up at Mickey’s instantly becomes one worth remembering. Tenement are nearing the end of a chapter in their career before bigger doors start opening for them- and they’re making sure that it ends on the right notes.

Sanhose, Your Pest Band, and Tenement will all be playing in Milwaukee (along with So Cow, Holy Shit!, and a handful of others) on Sunday, September 14. If at all possible, don’t miss it.

A photo gallery of all three bands can be seen below and videos from each band’s set can be viewed below that.

Enjoy.

 


Radiator Hospital at Cocoon Room – 9/8/14 (Pictorial Review, Video)

Radiator Hospital II

When Radiator Hospital announced Milwaukee as a stop on their tour, not going wasn’t an option. After all, Torch Song has had more plays this year than just about any other record from 2014 so far. “Cut Your Bangs” was a personal pick for “song of the summer” and more than earned it’s inclusion in this site’s summer songs mixtape. They’re a band that embodies next to everything that’s worth celebrating about the DIY ethos in punk-leaning independent music (something that was touched on by the band directly with their attached note in The Media premiere of  their “Bedtime Stories” music video). As if that wasn’t enough, Radiator Hospital also gets to claim Jeff Bolt (who also drums in site favorites Swearin’ and runs Stupid Bag Records– also a site favorite) as a member.

After the two and a half hour drive down to Milwaukee, it didn’t take too long for the night’s plans to be set into motion. While Radiator Hospital was the priority, there was a late show happening across town at Boone & Crockett featuring an Ian Olvera solo set and semi-recent Watch This honorees Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires. Having never been to Cocoon Room or Boone & Crockett it was difficult to know what to expect but both proved to be intriguing venues that’ll likely warrant repeat visits. Cocoon Room came across as a small DIY art gallery and had already set their bill into motion with a welcoming set from King Courteen shortly after the projected start time. Due to a late arrival, there were only a few King Courteen songs that managed to be taken in but from those alone, it was easy to see a very distinct, considerable talent- one that’ll likely be around a while.

During the last moments of King Courteen’s gripping set another thing became abundantly clear: thanks to how dimly-lit Cocoon Room was, it was going to be very difficult to shoot the bands playing. King Courteen proved impossible and it didn’t seem like that’d be changing for any of the following acts. Radiator Hospital wound up playing second, allowing Lousy Trouts the final slot and it didn’t take them long to lament the lack of light, either. After bluffing her way through a guitar solo while laughing to herself, Cynthia Schemmer smiled and offered up the fact the band usually plays in more light- which probably should have been seen as a subtle plea to get a few additional bulbs turned on- but things stayed the same. Not that it detracted from much of anything as Radiator Hospital blazed through a 9-song set that leaned heavily on the best moments of Torch Song (“Cut Your Bangs”, “Five & Dime”, “Leather & Lace”, etc) while still making room for the deserves-to-be-considered-classic “Our Song”.

If the lack of light didn’t affect them too much outside of Schemmer’s ridiculously fun solo, it was a little bit disheartening to hear that Cocoon Room was dealing with a shot speaker cable, forcing the mix to one side- which meant sacrificing a fair bit of bandleader Sam Cook-Parrott’s vocals. Even with that factored in, Radiator Hospital played with more conviction than most bands manage in perfect circumstances. Bolt was as on point as ever, Schemmer and Cook-Parrott both put next to everything they had into their playing and singing, and bassist Jon Rybicki (whose recent record as Attendant earned a lot of love here) played as emphatically as possible, providing the songs with an extra bit of punch. Both the audience and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves, which isn’t always the case- but that night everyone operated under the understanding that great music deserves attention, applause, and praise. Even with the dim lights and PA issues, it was a memorable experience and an impressive set- one that ensured Radiator Hospital a position on the “can’t-miss” list for live acts.

After Radiator Hospital wrapped up, the venue got a little too crowded a little too quickly and the heat became too much, so (after some time spent catching up with the members of Radiator Hospital outside the venue), it was off to Boone & Crockett for Sub Pop signees Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires. While arriving late meant having to miss Ian Olvera (who also fronts The Sleepwalkers), it’s a safe bet that he put on a great set that probably shouldn’t have been missed- and if Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires’ first half of their set was as incendiary as the back stretch, then the same can definitely be said for them. Bains and his band play a ferocious strand of southern rock that embraces a manic punk energy, allowing each individual member to fly off the handle at will. It took less than two seconds of being in the venue to see Bains jump off the stage and barrel his way into the audience before jumping back up and taking a perch on the bass drum- before falling to the floor and punching a malfunctioning pedal. That string of actions set the tone for what was to follow, as the band tore through song after song and ripped through a wide-reaching selection of riffs and solos while working themselves into an intense sweat. There were no sections where they lost pace or momentum and by the time they finished, it felt like the room (a small bar that specializes in mixology) had just sustained an atomic blast… and the band was only playing with their “little” amps. It wouldn’t have been surprising if the following night saw them burning Green Bay’s Lyric Room to the ground. Currently, they’re getting set to embark on a tour with Southern stalwarts Drive-By Truckers and that’s a bill that needs to be taken advantage of, if at all possible. Keep it in mind.

All in all, it was a night of great music and impressive lyricism (especially in the case of Radiator Hospital, whose Torch Song boasts some of the strongest writing of the year) that showcased how vital Milwaukee is to fostering independent-minded music. King Courteen displayed promise, Radiator Hospital solidified their on-the-rise position with a vicious authoritativeness, and Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires proved that they weren’t an act to be trifled with using as much wild-eyed intensity as humanly possible. And, on nights like those- especially when they’re spent with good friends- it’s impossible not to fall in love with music all over again.

Due to the lighting at each venue being very limited, there weren’t a lot of photos worth posting but a small handful is better than nothing. View those below and videos of Radiator Hospital and Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires beneath the gallery.