Home / Music / Concert Reviews / Cave w/ Absolutely, Trophy Wives, Running and Catacombz @ Riverwest Public House

Cave w/ Absolutely, Trophy Wives, Running and Catacombz @ Riverwest Public House

Nov. 5, 2011

Nov. 7, 2011
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It's amazing how quickly we can fall into routines, and the things which once seemed so unique and special can lose a bit of their luster. For the last year or two, if you saw Cave or Catacombz on a bill in Milwaukee, you could reasonably assume that the show was at the Cactus Club which, beyond having a certain alliterative elegance, was also a reliably good time. Both groups seem incapable of disappointing, usually have more good bands in tow and the room always sounds fantastic, but from time to time it pays to mix things up, try out the energy someplace new, and so it was that, for tonight at least, the bands traded in Bay View for Riverwest, specifically the Public House on Center Street.

Local hard-psych mavens Catacombz got things going, and were good as per usual, mixing in some exciting new material alongside trustworthy cuts from their latest, self-titled album. Following them was Chicago's Running, who sound something like a swarm of bees covering Misfits songs (that may sound ambiguous, but is meant as the highest praise).

And then, somewhat confusingly, Cave was on, which is odd, since the roiling Chicago psych outfit (and Running's Permanent Records label mates) would seem to be natural closers, specializing in extended, mind-bending jams which never seem to lose their keen focus, even as they wind their way to complex crescendos. The group seems to have taken on more of a harder-edged funk sound lately, adding a flavorful syncopation to their encompassing drones. Unlike the Cactus Club, the Public House doesn't have an actual stage, which turned out to be something of a double edged sword. The lack of division between performers and audience generated an excited, communal atmosphere, but had the drawback making the band hard to see, which is a shame, since it's a pleasure to watch them work, especially their hard-hitting drummer Rex McMurry.

Cave would also seem to be ideal headliners since it quickly became clear, judging from the rapid exodus from the bar at the end of their set, that they were who most of the people had shown up to see. Many of those curious enough to stick around were driven off by Louisville, Kentucky's Trophy Wives, who's reheating and rehashing of stale grunge ideas had the unfortunate side effect of clearing out much the room before the rock solid local math-rock group Absolutely had a chance to play.

Despite the perplexing sequencing choices, the show was invigorating and fun, only in part because of the appeal of seeing familiar faces in an unfamiliar setting. The Riverwest Public House's ambience and sound system is warm and inviting, and there's no doubt the change of venue brought some new fans into the fold. It's not really a question of it being better or worse than the Cactus Club, as far as I'm concerned, Cave and company could play both on a regular basis; call it a mini-tour and they could probably get my money twice. I guess it's true what they say, a change will do you good.


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