DJ Hostettler

Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band @ Circle A

By - Jun 1st, 2010 10:52 pm
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File photo of Nato Coles from MySpace

Nato Coles has used many surnames during his career in punk rock songwriting—he was “Nate Disgusting” and later “Nato Paisano” during his run with the late, lamented Milwaukee punks Modern Machines. The shift to “Coles” happened sometime between his move from Milwaukee to Brooklyn and his forming the Used Kids with fellow MoMac’er Danny K. These days, Nato’s natural restlessness sees him living in Minneapolis with yet another ensemble—Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band. Perhaps etching his current surname into the band is a sign that he’s finally putting down roots; after all, “Nato Coles and the Blue Diamond Band” evokes images of ragged, earth-toned Midwesterners playing no-frills rock and roll, rather than the wine-and-coffee-fueled, no-brakes punk rock debauchery the Modern Machines championed. Then again, the two are barely a redshift apart on the electrorocknetic spectrum, and anyone who’s seen the Blue Diamond band can attest to how little Nato’s Springsteen-via-HuskerMats songwriting has changed over the years. And despite all the moving and all the bands, it just takes 10 seconds of talking to Nato to realize he hasn’t changed that much either, thank god.

Nato and the BDB(DBD, wanna dance, Buck?) were in Milwaukee this past Friday at Circle A in scenic Riverwest. The venue suits the band—like Nato, the tiny corner bar goes through its bouts of transience (it’s currently enjoying a flurry of open hours after a long period of sporadic near-inactivity at the hands of its owner, Warwick Seay) but can always be counted on to deliver the goods consistently and with its own humble, working-class style. A friendly crowd of 20 or so gathered to watch Nato start the “Alive at 8” proceedings (at about 9:15) with a solo set consisting of selections from his Modern Machines and Used Kids songbooks. The mood was light and casual (as befitted the start time…I know Circle A is built into a house, but that doesn’t mean the shows need to operate on house show time) as Nato bantered with his friends (i.e. most of the audience) and introduced each song by explaining which band it came from. In an inspired bit of improvisation, he responded to a split poll result (“what should I play last—‘Headlights’ or ‘Radio Tower?’) by saying “fuck it, I’ll do both” and combining them in a surprisingly near-seamless medley.

The jovial mood continued into the Blue Diamond Band set, which was short but action-packed. According to the band’s MySpace, the sets consist of favorites from Nato’s old bands (sense a theme?) plus new tunes, but there were few I recognized (save the closing “I’m Your Coffee Cup” from yet another ex-band, the Radio Faces). Still whether the individual songs are recognized or not, it rarely matters with Nato, because you know what to expect every time: clever lyrical wordplay and catchy, poppy blues riffage from the Westerberg/Springsteen school. The Blue Diamond Band backs him up admirably—guitarist Ross Fellrath proved himself to be Nato’s equal as they traded lead lines and well-composed, busily melodic riffs, and bassist Kyle Sando handled “secret weapon” status like a punk rock Michael Anthony, chiming in with harmonized vocals precisely when needed.

A last-minute basement show on Sunday at Ground Zero proved a welcome reprise of what transpired on Friday, sending Nato’s Milwaukee pals into Memorial Day on a high and his band home with a successful road trip under their belts. As I said to Mr. Coles (if that is his real name) after his show on Friday—it’s good to have our boy back in the Midwest. It’s a cliché, but it’s nice to know that as Disgusting turns to Coles, some things will stay the same for another celebrated summer.

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