All Messed Up @ Linneman's Riverwest Inn
Feb. 18, 2017
While there’s been some uncertainty surrounding the event the last couple of years, due to the gradually reduced role of founder and longtime organizer Anthony Schwader, All Messed Up is one of those ideas that are too good to ever really fall by the wayside. Over the past seven years “Milwaukee’s randomized musical experiment,” which turns total strangers into bandmates and tasks them with composing a short set of original music, has gone from a scrappy, conceptual underdog to a yearly fixture on the local concert calendar, and if that’s going to be sustainable, it’s only natural to need more people helping out behind the scenes. That now includes new festival head Charlie Shields, and if Saturday night’s installment of their annual two-day showcase, tellingly subtitled “Regeneration,” is any indication, All Messed Up is still in safe hands.
Cramming eight bands onto a single bill, Saturday’s showcase represented only half of All Messed Up’s annual participants, who range from professional musicians to total novices, and while it’s likely few of these decidedly ad hoc groups will ever grace a stage together again, there’s a kind of magic to watching what people have managed to come up with over the course of just a couple of months. For starters, and in stark contrast to every other show outside of an elementary school, absolutely nobody cares if you suck or not. It’s not about being great or making money, but stepping beyond your usual comfort zone and, as usual, the sizable audience at Linneman’s showed nothing but their full support, whether it be for the mathy post-punk of N.M.N.F.K.L. or the throwback flute solos of “macarena 2” (in quotes).
Sure, bum notes abound and the stylistic compromises are obvious, but for the most part it all results in some genuinely decent music, such as Ancient Fumes’ epic suite, “Stigmata,” or Not What I Expected’s homey ode to drinking in Milwaukee. Oftentimes though, the cover version each group is required to have turned out to be their most memorable moment, a list including Afroman’s stoner anthem “Because I Got High” courtesy of the superbly named duo I’m in a Band with a Fucking Cop, Surreal Cloud Party’s rendition of “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” (à la William Shatner), That’s a Horse to Him’s hardcore sendup of the “America’s Funniest Home Videos” tune and Bluto’s fest-closing go at Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” Who knows what All Messed Up will result in next year, but it’ll surely be entertaining.