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Lest We Forget Memorial Concert @ Turner Hall Ballroom

May 26, 2012

May. 28, 2012
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Considering that Lest We Forget grew out of a Facebook page designed to allow people to share memories and photos of departed members of the Milwaukee music scene, the end result was fairly astonishing. It's rare that an event comes along that has so many checks in the plus column; not only did it honor sorely missed local musical movers and shakers (including Mark Shurilla, who passed away just a few weeks before) and raise funds for the American Liver Foundation, it managed to resurrect 13 local bands from the late '70s and early '80s, among them the legendary Die Kreuzen. The chance doesn't come around too often to enjoy Milwaukee music that hasn't been heard live for decades.

You might expect groups that have been out of the game for years to be a little rusty and out of tune, but that certainly wasn't the case, whether it was the Midwestern power pop of the Blackholes or the swing- and rockabilly-inflected new wave of the Rock-A-Dials. Everyone just seemed to be falling back into old grooves, and things seemed easy and casual. It was very much like a long-overdue high-school reunion for rapidly aging punk rockers, with people posing for photos and screaming "I haven't seen you in forever!" everywhere you looked. The positivity and excitement were infectious.

After a lead-in from Sacred Order and the Tense Experts, the latter of which pulled off an impressive cover of Wire's "Ex Lion Tamer," it was time for the night's most anticipated reunion, Die Kreuzen. For how impressive their set was here, how full and dynamic and loud they sounded, it's a bit mind-boggling to think how good they must have been in their prime. Even though they had Couch Flambeau's Jay Tiller filling in on guitar (ably) and just a short time to rehearse with original drummer Erik Tunison, the group was incredibly tight. They took pains to touch on all of their diverse discography, but material from Century Days and their blazing self-titled debut seemed to come to the fore (and, yes, they played "All White," and it was awesome).

Judging by how much of the sold-out crowd seemed to vanish after they played, it's safe to say Die Kreuzen was the main draw, but by the time they finished their set, the show had also already been going on for about five hours. Organizers got the bands on and off stage with amazing efficiency and filled the minimal downtime by projecting fascinating rare footage of some of the groups that couldn't be there, like The Oil Tasters and The Haskels, but it was unavoidably a bit of an endurance contest. It wasn't too long per se, just exhausting in a satisfying sort of way. Lest We Forget didn't feel like a funeral; it felt like a celebration, an evening of remembrance that was more than memorable in its own right.


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