A Cold Ending to 2017 with Warm Music

OK, OK, I'm out the door, the garage is opened, I'm in the car..the engine actually turns over. OK, I'm committed to going out, I thought to myself Friday night. The Lovelies get together once in a blue moon to play the hits, and I've missed too many Xposed 4 Heads shows to blow this chance. Despite the frigid temperatures, I went out Friday night, and like everybody else at Club Garibaldi, I'm glad I did. I walked up to the door, and there was lovely Liv herself, in her White Leather boots, catching some air before going on. "There's lots of good people here" she said, and she was right. The cabin fever must have hit lots of people, because the room was full. I paid my $8 (the website said it was $10, which I would have gladly paid for two great bands) and found a seat in the back of the room.
The Star Girls almost upstage the 4Heads

The 4Heads started the night off, and comparing them to Devo is already the low-hanging fruit of music journalism: it's so obvious (never mind they're happy to drop names like Ivan Stang) it's almost embarrassing, especially with the double fisted attack of the two synthesizers and the snappy red/blue uniforms emblazoned with their logo. But there's plenty of other new wave and punk influences -- at times you could hear that these guys listened to the B-52s (they are a party band, after all) and I'm sure they've all heard of the Residents as well. The Star Girls (special guest stars) aren't just window dressing for "Hot Aliens" anymore  -- in fact, I don't think they even played "Hot Aliens" that night -- they are true blue background/chorus singers that add to the party atmosphere while frontman Mark G.E. subverts the whole thing with songs about devolution, revolution, and a rage against ex machina.  As much as their fans (including me) will miss Bob Jorin on guitar, I'm liking this new guy named Greg Barta whose X4 uniform fits well. He's much more spacey on this, which cranks the 4 Heads sound a little more off world. In the meantime, the Star Girls passed out plenty of light up antennae to give the whole night a New Years Eve feel, since it was the right weekend to do it.

The Lovelies had always been categorized as pop, or alternative pop, or whatEVER, but having listened to Liv Mueller's latest work, it's suddenly obvious that the country influences that Mueller has embraced head on the past dozen or so years were always in her heart: underneath those perfect pop tunes are those wistful lyrics and melodies that she's a master at. The opened the set with "Catalina" and away they went -- riffing through their hits ("Constellation" was always a favorite of mine) and riffing through drummers -- both original drummer Damien Strigens (who also strapped on a guitar) and Bill Backes took turns behind the trap set. But it was Mueller and bassist Barbara Endes  (who flew in from New York to ring in the Milwaukee New Year) that the crowd came to see, and they did not disappoint. The perfect harmonizing is still there, and the makes-it-look-easy delivery was too.

Two nights later I'm reminding myself, if I could brave the cold Friday, I can brave the cold New Years' Eve. To be honest, I hate New Year's Eve. Yeah, yeah yeah, people call it amateur night, and yeah, I admit turning in early because I didn't want to share the road with a bunch of drunks. But I really hate it because either everything's ridiculously expensive, or there's too many band I *do* want to see, and they're all booked the same night. So I chose Circle A for a couple of reasons. One, it's a traditional gig for Aluminum Knot Eye, who were as loud and rambunctious as can be expected. On the surface, they're punk, but the songwriting and music is too complex to be written off as ramones-style three chord jams. You need earplugs for them, not just because they're loud, but it's worth actually hearing what the instruments are playing, and when frontman Keith Vercauteren hollers and growls, it's worth listening to what he has to say.

And the night -- and the year -- ended, warmly, with an unofficial band on the bill (with this guy I know)  called "Code Purple," who played a lot of Nuggets-style garage covers, some Rolling Stones, some Zappa, and a few songs by this local band that's going to be disbanding for a while. Here's Secret Agent Circle A Proprietor Man toasting the new year.


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