Direct Hit! w/ The Living Statues and Midwives
April 22, 2017
On the more idealistic end of punk rock, all-ages shows are something of a central concept. After all, when it comes to spreading the DIY gospel, what more receptive audience could there be than our nation’s disaffected youth? Unfortunately for anyone who might want to put one on, however, they’re also an enormous pain in the ass, thanks to a morass of regulations and economic issues that are far too complicated to get into here. But suffice it so say that our musically inclined youth mostly end up shut out of anything interesting; sure, a teenager can go to any theater in the city and see a mid-to-big-name band, but when it comes to anything independent or underground, they’re more or less out of luck, except on rare occasions like this one.
If there was a peculiar air about the Cactus Club upon arriving for this particular bill, it was more than just the bright afternoon sunshine streaming through the windows. Without any bottles, tap handles or signage behind the bar, the space felt strangely empty and sterile, as if prohibition had just passed. Thankfully for the show’s thirstier patrons though, this is Milwaukee, where you’re never more than a stone’s throw from a certified purveyor of the high life, but obviously most people were there for the music, which began with Midwives. A blistering local outfit with a free-roaming frontman and a welcome metallic edge, the band initially had few people to play to, but they soon began to trickle in rather quickly, and the abrasive, quasi-confrontational sound worked all the better for it.
The crowd that gradually filled the club’s back room was a fascinating mix. About half of them, at times more, seemed like they’d be in danger of being carded on any ordinary night, while the remainder were old enough to be their parents, and in some cases that’s exactly what they were (shout out to the dad dispensing ear plugs to his sizable flock of small children). Whatever the demographics, though, people generally seemed to dig The Living Statues, who sport an accessibly retro sound that borrows a few licks from the golden age of garage rock, adds a dose of power pop and then rounds out any rough edges with a marketable modern rock sheen. The results are on the slick side, but generally the songwriting was there to back it up.The headliners, Direct Hit!, with another 21-and-up performance yet ahead of them, already had a busy schedule, considering they were also in the spotlight for being the featured artists of WMSE’s annual Record Store Day release, which had lined the shelves, on the most profitable day of the year, only hours before. Regardless, they still had plenty of energy, as befitting any pop-punk group. In addition to big hooks and big choruses, the band was aided for the first few songs by a small horn section, which mercifully strayed away from any third-wave ska sounds, instead adding an oddly Springsteen-esque punch to the proceedings. After the horn section departed, the tunes were no less anthemic, much to the delight of the passionate, T-shirt sporting teenage fans that finally got another chance to see them.