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Freaks Come Out Fest

Three days of under-the-radar music

May. 19, 2010
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Lately, the folks who book shows at the Pabst Theater, the Riverside, and the Turner Hall Ballroom have been getting some much-deserved praise for the job they are doing in getting quality bands to play in Milwaukee. No longer just a city to skip on the way from Chicago to Minneapolis, Milwaukee will see, in the next few months, such acts as Holy Fuck, The New Pornographers, Liars and The National play at these three venues.

Yet a city must measure the health of its music scene by more than its ability to attract nationally known acts. There must be places for up-and-coming bands to play, to push and refine their sound before supportive audiences. Without such places to nurture and cultivate homegrown talent, scenes tend to stagnate and bands simply stop developing, or even forming in the first place. And small venues remain the best—and sometimes the only—places to hear bands before they make a name for themselves on a national stage.

Thankfully, Milwaukee is lucky enough to have the Borg Ward, an all-ages space on the city’s South Side that continues to put on wonderfully eclectic shows featuring a mix of local and nonlocal talent. From May 20-22, the Borg Ward will host its second Freaks Come Out Fest, three days of shows featuring more than 20 bands, all for the low, low prices of $7 for one day or $15 for all three days (take that Pitchfork festival!). Among the performers are Absolutely, Dear Astronaut, Terrior Bute, Fahri and Owlscry. While there may not be a lot of familiar names playing the fest, the three shows will undoubtedly reward music fans ready to take a chance or two on acts they haven’t heard of yet.

Two bands that I’m excited to see at the fest are a couple of Milwaukee-based acts: Holy Shit! and Bzybodies. Holy Shit!, playing May 20, specializes in feedback-laden bursts of punk-rock speed that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Touch and Go 7-inch from 1982. The pure energy of songs like “I Shot Brock,” “JumpingIntoAGoddamnedWaterfall” and “Last Road Trip” is absolutely infectious, as Holy Shit! captures an uninhibited, off-the-cuff energy that most punk bands simply cannot capture in the studio. If they can match this exuberance on stage, they should soon become a can’t-miss Milwaukee act. Their performance at the fest will celebrate the release of a new 10-inch record.

Bzybodies’ May 21 performance at the Freaks Come Out Fest will mark the release of a cassette tape of new material. The band describes itself as “Kraut Rock,” and I definitely hear a Kraftwerk influence in the group’s songs. Yet the band doesn’t perfectly fit within this genre, which is often marked by clean—some might say sterile—odes to technology. There is genuine warmth in the band’s surprisingly accessible songs, as the group’s woozy, spacey instrumentals also seem to owe a debt to such D.C. acts as Happy Go Licky and Trans Am. In fact, songs such as “Haardphonics” are actually quite straightforward and catchy, and the band has been known to put on a raucous, engaging live show (you will not see any dour Germans hiding behind computers here). It’s a new take on an old sound, but one that pushes the aesthetic in rewarding directions.

Photo: BzyBodies


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