Mono Pazza Milwaukee
Evidence of an epic weekend in Milwaukee: the review is published two days late due to fatigue. Hey, it’s what you get when you read a music blog where none of the contributors are on any sort of livable payroll. We do this for the love of the game, y’all. But man, after a weekend featuring two excellent shows in one night as well as nearly 24 hours of jam-packed roller derby action at the Midwest Brewhaha, a dude just wants to hibernate and recharge.
But enough of that! We are MUSIC JOURNALISTS (actually, that’s false; we’re music bloggers), and we have a job to do. My job right now, specifically, is to recap last Friday night in Milwaukee—one of those Friday nights where I went to bed at 3 AM with a fresh reminder that sometimes, this city frakkin’ rules.
As an instrumental band, bad vocal monitors were no issue for Mono, who treated the sparse Turner Hall crowd to a nearly 90-minute set of the most dynamic, dramatic, navel-gazing noise traveling the interstate highway system today. Composition after composition (because that’s what these are; they’re not “songs”) started at a volume that demanded whispering from the fools in the audience that still felt like talking was necessary, only to slowly crescendo over a span of several minutes to ear-piercing, feedback-drenched zeniths. There was no issue with lethargy here—even when guitarists Yoda and Takaakira Goto were perched on stools, they attacked their instruments like they had dishonored their families. The epic hour and a half was marked by climactic moments like Yoda’s bashing of his effects pedals with his hands (after kicking over his stool, eliciting a fist pump from yours truly), or any time drummer Yasunori Takada smashed his gong (which was like twice, but still). Each time, my friends and I thought “oh, set must be ending,” only to be treated to another lesson in dynamic range.
By the end of the set, it had turned into date night at Turner Hall. While no one seemed irritated that the band went nearly 90 minutes, large chunks of the audience began to tire out and took seats near the back of the room. Apparently Mono is a date band because nearly everyone had paired off into cute, snuggly couples. I grinned to myself as I finally left the venue and made a beeline for Stonefly to catch Chicago’s punk rock marching band extravaganza, Conan O’Brien vets Mucca Pazza. I had been stressing over my chances of seeing both Mono and MP all week; being assured by Mucca Pazza poster artist dwellephant that MP wouldn’t go on until around 11:30. God bless Turner Hall for refusing to play the “punk time” game—when they say they’re starting at 8 PM, they mean business. As a result, I wandered into Stonefly just as John the Savage were wrapping up. Perfect timing.
Weird fact: I have actually heard arguments from friends who make the case that Mucca Pazza are a bad novelty band—all hip style, no substance. I suppose I can see someone thinking that if they’re the type of person who hates fun. However, if you’re like me (and I know I am), and you are a fan of fun, Mucca Pazza fucking delivers. The band started their set dispersed amongst the capacity Stonefly crowd (pretty sure I hadn’t been to a Stonefly show that packed since the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players were there back when it was still Onopa); even the guitarists strayed from the stage thanks to little amplifiers strapped to helmets. And once they got started, it was nonstop partytime.
Apparently this was a “scaled down” Mucca Pazza show, featuring only(!) 18 musicians instead of their usual 30-some-odd. Oh, gee, what a ripoff. Even with their lean, mean, dozen and a half-person lineup, it was nearly impossible to keep up with everything happening. All style, no substance? Nuts to that—if you took away the sillyass-grin-inducing spectacle and were left with a bunch of boring clods on a stage, you’d still have some pretty interesting compositional themes. Guitarists, accordion, and violin layered gypsy-punk Gogol-esque leads and riffs between a cadence of snare and marching bass drum and a layer of horns, horns, horns. What’s more rad than a trombone section clad in mismatched marching attire invading your personal space with a series of authoritative blasts of BWAAAAAAAA!? Well, probably a few things, but none that matter when it’s happening right in front of you with the urgency of an ambulance ride and a nerdy-hot bespectacled cheerleader off to the left dancing over the soundguy.
I don’t think I’d want to be the person who is immune to Mucca Pazza’s charms—I doubt there’s one person who left Stonefly on Friday not grinning like an idiot and in love with life itself. This is my challenge to you—if you see Mucca Pazza and don’t have fun, end yourself. You’re hopeless.
As for me? I drove home on Friday night (on my way to the computer to research the teams I’d be calling the action for at the Midwest Brewhaha) not only floating on the high of a ridiculous spectacle, but bolstered by the knowledge that I live in a town where I could see 90 minutes of Japanese shoegaze before the marching band madness. Milwaukee, sometimes you are a whole lotta Rosie. Keep on keepin’ on.