Last weekend, I had a chance to go up to Milwaukee for some good food and a music. I try not to pass up a chance to go to Wisconsin since there are so many cool places all throughout the state. As for the states largest city, it had been over two decades. The last time I was in the city for GenCon before it moved to Indy.
Arriving relatively early, we stopped first at the Pabst Brewery. The building was very well kept in an area in the mist of revitalization. It being Sunday, we missed the last tour.
Going with out any plan in mind expect taking the tour. We drove around a bit and decided to eat at the Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery siting besides the Milwaukee River. This small chain is known for brewing their own beers on site. I tried their excellent malty Octoberfest that went down smooth despite the high ABV. I paired it we Wisconsin Cheese balls that were similar to what the Pub II in Normal offers, but these were much larger with a higher quality of cheese. This was a great pairing because the cheeseballs we some of the best I have ever eaten.
After eating, to kill some time before the concert, we headed the Old German Beer Hall, which is a close rendition of a beer hall in Munich. It was an interesting experience. For one, they only served Hofbräu. Fortunately, there were at least a dozen version on tap including Root Beer of one of the best German beers around. Their lightly carbonated Oktoberfest went down too smoothly. I could see getting lost in a stein of this brew.
The Rave/Eagle Club
The was my first time going to The Rave and it is a place that I will not soon forget. Built in the 1920s in a more prosperous era, it contains at least four stages on five floors. The concert itself was on the lowest level and each time you went up a floor, there was another stage with the upper floor being an open air lounge.
This loft which contained a bar full of microbrews such as those from the decent New Glarus Brewing Company. The lounge itself was heated by large columns of fire offered and offered a decent view of the north side of the city as well as the night’s “Super Moon.” Being a decent, if cold night, the area was well populated by people waiting for the main act to start. I sort of felt sorry for the smokers who had to climb 5 flights of steps to light up.
Upon entry to the venue, everyone received this PSA. Really…In a punk rock concert? It took about two songs from Useless ID before the mass of people near the stage started throwing themselves at one another. It was sort of an odd sight. Unlike Bassnectar I attended earlier, the crowd was much older. There were a lot of younger Gen Xers and older Gen Y people in the crowd. This shows that even people in their 30s and 40s can get thrashing (and then pay for it for the next week.)
I never of heard of Useless ID before tonight. The group is a standard punk band hailing from Israel. Overall, their music was fast, loose, and very polished. Given how long they have been around, it was little surprise they played a quality set. I’ll be use to add them to my Spotify list to check out some more of their music.
The PEARS, well they sucked. The lead singer came out wearing little more than shorts. Channeling his inner Scott Weiland, he bounced around the stage like ADD child off his meds. There music was speed punk that was loud and boisterous but rather boing. While the moshers seemed the like it, after listening to a few songs, I headed for the roof to wait out the band.
Nofx is a acquired taste. On stage, they are known for their variability of the shows they put on. Because they are on their own label, the band members do pretty much what they want both in the studio and during shows. You’ll never know if you’ll get a sober set or some lousy drunken attempt at music.
While technically punk, they dabble in SKA and have a habit of bantering with each other and the crowd between songs. Some of this can be heard on their excellent first live album, I Heard the Suck Live. During this show, the audience cursed and shouted out songs they wanted to hear as well as threw drinks and articles of clothing at the band. They retorted and seemed to change up their songs according to the mood of the night.
Initially, I didn’t like their newest album, First Ditch Effort. It is a dark and moody album that explores middle age problems such as razing children, going sober, and dealing with ex-wives. After the concert I gave it a relisten. It is better than my initial assessment once you get past the odd intros to the longs and long, awkward pauses. However, it is still nothing like the awesome albums Coaster, Wolves in Wolves Clothing, or Punk in Drublic.
When they took to the stage, I sort of understand why their music has been weak recently. They didn’t have a focus on their anger for the last few years. Upon coming on stage via a karaoke cover song, they started blaming the crowd for losing the presidential election (Wisconsin went for THE Trump.)
Fat Mike went on a tirade about how he wanted to kill him and complained bitterly about having him has our soon to be president. This fired up the crowd and once they started to play the pit went wild. Beer and bodies flying everywhere. Even being three rows from the mayhem was no protection against hyped up punk rockers and flying boozy projectiles.
The intro song Six Years on Dope from their newest album and they went on to play a mixture of protest songs from the Bush era like The Man I Killed and Franko Un-American. During the middle, they change to playing songs off their newest album. It didn’t fit the mood and the somber music left me feeling cold.
Fortunately, because this is punk with most song lasting between one and three minutes, it was only a matter of time before they switch it up again when they started playing Seeing Double at the Triple Rock and Bob. As the show progressed, the band member started switched instruments with each other, playing trumpets, trombones, and finally the accordion, which closed out the show.
Overall, it was a great concert with lots of energy in one of coolest venues around.