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Brief Candles, Golden Birthday and Catacombz @ Cactus Club

March 4, 2011

Mar. 7, 2011
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Though it probably can't compete with dance music for sheer volume of incredibly specific sub-scenes, modern rock has become a puzzlingly fractured musical universe. Indeed, the term "rock" has become all but meaningless when presented without a qualifier (indie-, math-, psych-, and so on, ad infinitum), so generic that any two self-described rock fans could have absolutely no crossover in taste. While the Internet has certainly played a big part in encouraging niche fandom, its cornucopia of endless musical options has also fostered a breed of listener for whom purism is just a waste of time. Locally, diverse bills like Friday night's Cactus Club show seem to becoming more and more common, which is a good sign for adventurous listeners.

The night began with Catacombz, a local band of which there is no shortage of things to wax poetic about (the top-notch musicianship, the tight-as-a-fist sound, their near ideal distillation of krautrock, psychedelia and hardcore), but the one phrase which persistently returns to mind is "heavy shit"—which in its own simple, inelegant way conveys just about everything you need to know.

Following Catacombz was the Chicago trio Golden Birthday, which coaxed a pleasantly dreamy pop sound from a bass, a few synths and bunch of effects pedals. Though rooted in a bed of gauzy shoegaze, the trio's sound sported a lot of ingratiating, New Order-esque overtones that serve to keep things from slipping into mere navel-gazing.

Headliners Brief Candles, another Milwaukee outfit, play a style of indie rock that shouldn't sound foreign to any fan of My Bloody Valentine (or for that matter, any of that band's many imitators). It's hard to find fault with any particular aspect of their sound or performance; in fact, they're technically adept and polished, so much so that all the shimmering surfaces and familiar indie tropes can at times feel a little toothless. Whatever they lack in immediate impact, however, they more than make up for with cerebral songcraft that highlights the graceful interplay between the musicians.

The bill would have been all the more eclectic if not for the disappointing, last-minute cancellation of local minimal electro artist Stacian, but as it stands, the lineup, and the enthusiastic reception every act received, demonstrated the healthy audience for shows that emphasize variety over strict convention. Hopefully, that scope will continue to widen, since the more local acts share ideas (and fans) the richer the city's music scene becomes.


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