Wednesday, August 17, 2011

CONCERT REVIEW: Squidbotz, Super Swamper & Busybodies (Quarters Rock 'N' Roll Palace, Milwaukee)

The transformation of Riverwest's Quarter's from an occasionally troublesome nightclub into a more traditional bar/venue space has been an incredible boon to the local music scene. In short time, the venerable tavern has once again become the "Rock 'n' Roll Palace" its signage has always purported it to be (assuming your definition of "palace" jibes with such a pleasantly dingy place), consistently booking a wide variety of local acts. In a very real way, it's just what the neighborhood needs, a reliable and accepting place for bands to play close to home, where even a meager turnout is good for the bar's business; in other words, it's mutually beneficial to both the owners and the groups. No one gets cheated, no one goes home angry. It lends a rather positive, productive vibe to shows and last night was no exception, although the energy level would probably have been significantly higher had the two touring groups, BEES and 2 Ton Bug, not both had van trouble and not been able to make it.

It was still a killer lineup. Opening the show was Squidbotz, a guitar and drums duo drenched in weird effects courtesy of a vocoder, a plethora of pedals and, I'm sure, a few things that are beyond my limited technical understanding. It's hard to tell what they'd sound like without all those twisted layers, but given the near perfect pop construction of the songs, it would still be pretty damn catchy. As it is, their sound is an impressive blend of sticky electro-funk and heavy rock riffage, all effortlessly delivered with a self-deprecating sense of humor.

Super Swamper (until recently known as Shamanic Vacation), is a heavy, somewhat trippy trio with strong overtones of classic rock. Imagine a muscled up version of the jammier side of Creedence Clearwater Revival. They're a tight unit, despite not playing out all that much, and a large part of their appeal can be traced back to their powerhouse drummer. There is some fat though; the vocals are a bit superfluous and could probably be dropped completely with out diluting their impact in the least.

De facto headliners Busybodies make a habit of pushing psychedelic instrumentals to their breaking point and beyond, resulting in epic jams that are often as hypnotic as they are rocking. For some listeners, they may take a bit of patience to get into live, given the fact that the songs are lengthy and unfold in sometimes subtle phases, but it's most certainly worth it (and it most certainly wouldn't hurt to be a little out of your head).

Even though it wasn't intended as such, the night turned into a well attended showcase for three of the more interesting bands in the city, and thanks to Quarter's there's no doubt that something similar will be happening again before too long.

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