.357 String Band says farewell at Turner Hall
Milwaukee’s rowdy and righteous gathered at Turner Hall Ballroom Friday night to give thanks and goodbyes to the .357 String Band, playing one last pair of shows in their hometown.
No traveling band fills Turner in the way the .357 String Band and their two home-grown openers did. Crusty punks, rockabillies, and bluegrass fans all turned out for a raucous evening of genre-bending performances, and even though we were there to see .357, I doubt anyone had complaints about either opener.
Trapper Schoepp & The Shades started off the affair with a heady blend of alt-country sounded like it came from a group aged well beyond their 20-somethings. Schoepp’s coming-of-age-in-love lyrics filled the hall with the joys and pains of everyday living. Electric and classic guitars, piercing fiddle and a whole lot of harmony kept us clamoring for more.
The gothic country sound of Those Poor Bastards was quite a contrast. The Bastards brought the dark, glorious sound of a doomsday revival meeting — without the fear of poisonous snake bites. Lead singer Lonesome Wyatt howled and moaned the woes of the working poor, all the while blaspheming against the church of capitalism. It was pretty rad.
The crowd went wild when the .357 boys themselves took the stage. In spite of some ups and downs, including the departure of Jayke Orvis from the band, the years have treated .357 well. Having played together for the better part of 7 years, the band has made a name for themselves internationally with a mind-bending uniqueness. Hank Williams III once summed up their music as “raw, real, and dirty.” Their performance at Turner fit the bill.
Guitarist Derek Dunn, banjo player Joe Huber, bassist Rick Ness, and multi-instrumentalist Billy Cook delivered an unforgettable performance filled with gratitude and humility. Emotions were palpable as they thanked longtime supporters and friends individually, and a backwoods-warmth filled us all.
Sentimentality aside, .357 hammered out their tight harmonies and impressive showmanship at the stage’s very edge as fans hooted, hollered and stomped only a few feet away. “Milwaukee Here I Come” swelled especially large, and half of the time, you couldn’t distinguish if the band or the crowd was the star of the show.
Even though I’m sad that this is the end, I’m grateful to have been at one of the last .357 shows. The energy and community behind this incredible local band has been overwhelming. I think I speak for the fans when I say it’s been a wild, wonderful ride.