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Phylums w/ The Hussy, No Bueno and Towers @ Cactus Club

May 17, 2014

May. 18, 2014
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It was an evening in two acts at the Cactus Club on Saturday night. With four bands on the bill, there was a clear divide in crowd attention, though not in musical quality. As the premiere show for new Milwaukee band Towers, the bill heavily favored local garage rock, and the many forms of the genre were well represented.

Local shows can sometimes feel like part of a routine, particularly on the weekends. The trouble with a Saturday night hometown show is that the hometown has often expended their reserve of enthusiasm as of Friday around midnight. Since bands and crowds feed off of each other, it was at points difficult to feel energized.

Towers opened the show, displaying little to none of the rough edges that so often trouble bands’ first performances. Milwaukee seems to teem with bands that don’t manage to find an identity of their own, but Towers presented an immediate unified sound, favoring pop-inflected rock full of unexpected riffs and pleasingly dark turns. Best when playing to the group's grittier, quasi-punk strengths, Towers’ first show was promising.

The separated rooms of the Cactus Club did no favors for No Bueno, who were neglected in attendance and seemed to feel it. They deserved a bigger crowd. Garage rock can be predictable, but No Bueno bring a charm and freshness to the genre, at times reminiscent of a more normal B-52s. No Bueno is the sort of band that could convincingly soundtrack a beach party movie, if such films were still produced, though Saturday’s show might not have been the best example of their ability to play with spirit and enliven a crowd.

If things seemed to have taken a lackadaisical turn, Madison’s The Hussy were ready to launch their particularly effective brand of noisy garage rock. As a male-female duo, their most obvious comparison is The White Stripes, which is unfairly reductive. The Hussy are infinitely more unnerving, which makes them all the more interesting. It’s always invigorating to see a band move around, and even more so when the music is a squalling, spiraling, feedback-fueled blitz. The Hussy played with a tightness that does them credit, and seemed utterly un-phased by the crowd (or lack thereof).

The room filled up for Milwaukee’s Phylums, a band that is incredibly tight for one that plays so infrequently. With huge, early Kinks-style leads, Phylums are (unsurprisingly) reminiscent of the now-defunct Goodnight Loving, a band that perfected raucous, rollicking pop-rock songs that tended to take off in the last minute. Pairing straight-ahead lyricism with infectious back and forth chord progressions, Phylums were worth the wait. Just as The Kinks were able to evolve beyond the simplistic (though still pleasing) sounds of “You Really Got Me,” Phylums have taken the classic garage recipe and stirred it up. Closing with a cover of the Beach Boys “You’re So Good To Me,” the band managed to pull of a sweet, energetic ending to an oddly uneven night.


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