New Earplugs for some new bands

More energy in three minutes: Windpipe
So I finally decided that the high end filters I've had for years and years and years are lost forever and picked up a pair of these, and they get the job done. They don't stop me from having a conversation, and they don't sound any less loud, but they do block that damaging high end and make it possible to actually hear loud music. Believe it, the test was this past weekend.

I was all set to stay on the South Side and go see the Six Wives of Richard at Frank's Power Plant when I looked in my "events" portion and remembered at the last minute that Aluminum Knot Eye was playing at the Circle A. they're a favorite, and I haven't seen them in YEARS. I though I could hit the Circle A show, and then be down to the South Side in time to catch the Six Wives. I'd had a very stressful week at work and I wanted -- make that NEEDED - to hear three badass broads belt out the Ace of Spades, but I didn't want to miss Aluminum Knot Eye, either. Oh, what to do?

Well, I tried both. At the Circle A, there was an opening band, a quartet out of Green Bay called Windpipe that, at first, I was annoyed at existing, because the Six Wives were going on 930/10ish and if Aluminum Knot Eye wasn't even going to go on until 9ish, there's a conflict. Three songs in, (as well as those aforementioned high end filters) and all my conflict melted away. Since they were opening for Aluminum Knot Eye, I didn't know what to expect: were they going to be dissonant? Were they going to be punk? Were they going to be secretly amazing musicians that obviously listened up in high school jazz band (or the equivalent) and blow me away musically? I ask because you can ask these same questions in the form of "Which Aluminum Knot Eye are we going to get tonight."

Aluminum Knot Eye
And the answer was: all three. My companion for the evening, Mary Jo, summed it up in her FB post: Windpipe, a punk band from Green Bay, has more energy in 3 minutes than I expend in a day." That's saying a lot, because Mary Jo is one of the most energetic people I know. Plus, these guys were tight.  starts and stops, quick changes in tempo or even time signature, and by the third song, that dissonance gave way to melody: they had hooks for cryin out loud. But not one note out of place. Yeah, the lead singer was a screamo guy and yeah that first song was just an onslaught that might have driven me out the door after ten more minutes of that, but by song two I was shaking my head saying, "well, they're pretty damn tight" and within a half hour I was clapping along and shaking my head saying "well, they're pretty damn good, too." Mary Jo, who grew up in Fond du Lac, laughed along with their overall diss of the Fox River Valley, and I was reminded that great punk doesn't come from places where people are content and happy.
As it was, Aluminum Knot Eye didn't get on stage until something like 920, which meant I was good for three songs. They were on top of their game, and this night's version (at least the part I heard) was less about destruction and more about cynical rage. Like Windpipe, that punk veneer belies the fact that underneath the volume and the rage, there's tight, controlled musicianship driving this outfit. As I've only seen Windpipe once, I can't say if the Green Bay band can match AKE for versatility in approach-- it's like I've never seen the same "version" of AKE twice. It's the same guys in the band, they play the same songs, but how they're going to come off is always the 64,000 dollar question. And, that's why I'm a fan. 
Six Wives of Richard
We jumped into the car, flew over the Hoan, and got an amazingly good parking place right in Front of Frank's Power Plant. the Six Wives were only about four songs into their set, so we got in time for a  earful of some Bowie tunes, the Plasmatics, and a glorious woman frosted version of the Ace of Spades. I remember the first time I saw them: they ambled onto the stage at TrashFest last year. They turned out to be one of those Trash Fest bands that were both trashy and great. And as regular readers know, that's a compliment from me: the trashy component is part of their charm. As if to punctuate this observation, they were joined by Lucy the Sex Doll, who was at the back of the stage until halfway through the set. 

The last band for the evening, Remod, began setting up and I saw them wheel four cabinets and three amplifiers on stage, but noticed that there was only one instrument -- a bass -- being plugged into the stack. "It's going to be loud," one of the guys mentioned to the sound man and that was a gentle reminder to break out the earplugs again. Drums were the only other instrument, but I was ready for an onslaught anyway from this band from the Quad Cities.  
Honestly, it wasn't as loud as four full cabinets and three amplifiers in a small club would suggest. As I'd noted that night, the overall effect was that of living next to a train yard, and hearing that sub sub sub bass rumbling as the locomotive engines idled. Except bass player Aaron Wells plays a lot faster than a train waiting for decoupling. Like Windpipe, they were tight, but these guys were more obviously punk, from the near-constant shit eating grin on drummer's Derrick Cook's face to the equally animated stage presence of Wells. They were less rage and more outrage (and both were great.) Remod actually had quiet moments, and despite the lack of a higher ranged instrument, had plenty of melody and hooks to keep one interested for an entire set. Actually, I wouldn't have minded more than their 40 minutes. They sang, they screamed, they even switched instruments for a bit, and Wells turned that sub sub sub bass sound into a lead instrument that even had me humming along. 
Both the out-of-towners were happy additions to a full night of music and reminded me that I have to quit just going to see tried and true acts like AKE and the Six Wives. Both Remod and Windpipe have that midwestern punk ethos that pushes them to keep playing and drive four hours to play a 40 minute set for maybe 50 bucks at the door. I don't know how they do it, but I'm glad they came to Milwaukee, and I hope they'll both be back, and I'm glad I had my new earplugs with me. 


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