The “All Messed Up Again” experience
Every band I’ve played in has been comprised of friends, or at the very least, close acquaintances. The music was on our own terms and we didn’t have to do anything until we felt ready to do it. So when I heard about “All Messed Up Again,” Milwaukee’s “two day musical experiment,” I was very much intrigued. The entire premise of it seemed to take everything I knew about being in a band and turn it upside down.
Members are randomly chosen from a group of 64, after which they have two months to practice and come up with 20 minutes of original music and one cover song. At the end of two months, the bands would perform their sets, spread out over two days at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn. The catch? With the assembly being completely randomized, there was nothing stopping the possibility of a band with four bass players or four drummers. The event was also open to all applicants, so even those with no prior musical experience could join.
The possibility of having to deal with obstacles like these both excited and worried me, but ultimately, I decided to look at it as an exercise in being a musician. I signed up, and at the beginning of December, I met my new bandmates. I was fortunate enough to get paired with some great musicians who were incredibly kind and cooperative. We all came from varying musical backgrounds, with some of the other members having played in bands such as The Goodnight Loving and Crime & Judy. After some discussion we decided to play ‘60s-inspired surf rock, but instead of two guitarists we altered the formula to include two drummers, one of which was me.
We met that following week to start practicing at the Sonic building on Layton (whose hallways bear an eerie resemblance to the The Shining’s Overlook Hotel). Despite some initial shyness, we were eventually able to get a good feel for each other as players and, as a result, the songs became easier to write. Two months later, we had our set: a cover version of the Pixies’ “Cecilia Ann” (which itself was also a cover), and five original surf tunes.
Two months passed much more quickly than any of us anticipated, and before we knew it, it was already showtime. The two nights were extremely enjoyable, and it was interesting to see people outside their usual musical settings, like members of Group of the Altos playing pop punk, or members of the Sugar Stems in a hardcore band. Variety was to be expected, and our washed-out surf jams were welcomed by the audience with open ears. During our final song I realized just how much fun I had had playing music with three complete strangers. If there are plans for an “All Messed Up Again (and Again),” just tell me where to sign up.