The Promise Ring returns
People say Milwaukee has no talent. More likely than not, it’s that we have a case of brain-drain, where talent migrates to be nurtured and supported by the great American greenback. But sometimes, talent returns home for a show of force and reckoning.
Despite an Admirals game/Dropkick Murphy’s combo show right across the street, The Promise Ring sold out Turner Hall for their first show since 2005, and it brought out all the casual sweater vest and tie combinations, beards, messy hair and beanies one gal could stand.
Pabst/Riverside/Turner Hall is packing hard punches with their indie music series, the best of which feature local musicians gone global. Sharing the stage with The Promise Ring was yet another Milwaukee act, The Celebrated Workingman. By the end of the night, the place was full of nostalgic, adrenaline-charged Gen X-ers remembering the simpler times, when everyone we knew was gonna make it.
The hometown heroes had the audience eating out of their hands, the fast and steady rock of bright guitar licks and clever lyrics calling everyone by name. The Promise Ring sound is true as it ever was: false finishes and poppy riffs driven by the very unpolished but melodic voice of frontman Davey von Bohlen are the band’s signature style. Somewhere in, von Bohlen began to lose his voice. He said the professional thing to do would be to cancel the show, but fortunately for us, “We’re not professionals.” Everyone laughed and cheered when he said, “If I get quieter, you get louder.”
Strange to think this sunny serenade is a byproduct of deep Milwaukee roots, cobbled together by these milky-eyed, rosy-cheeked Midwestern boys. The sound is warm and youthful, the undulation usually reserved for the front half of the floor has reached new heights in the balconies, and we drank it in like warm PBRs on long-forgotten summer nights.
The audience is sentimental and romantic, wondering when they traded beat-up converse and ballet flats for moccasins, leather soles and, well, ballet flats. We’re part of a larger whole of well-educated artists and English majors, recovering from a hard week of graphic design. After ten long years, we gather together in hopes of finding even the slightest bit of the innocence we’ve lost. It’s like turning 16 all over again, joyriding to the big city.
A song designed to be a slow dance for those too cool to slow dance, everyone rocks back and forth from the hip, mouthing the words silently, wrapping their arms around one another while gently cooing the chorus. We never slow danced, only hurled our youthful bodies defiantly against the night, finding our voices alongside Gibson guitars and Marshall amps. Last night, the Promise Ring gave us our slow dance, and our bodies convulsed with each rising wave of sound.