Sahan Jayasuriya

King Tuff at Quarters

At a sweaty, sold-out show at Quarters in Riverwest, King Tuff delivered the type of set that summer is all about. Photo gallery by Erik Ljung.

By - Jul 23rd, 2012 03:33 pm
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When I think of summer, one of the first things that comes to mind is music. It’s great when you discover a record that perfectly fits the season, but its even greater when you’re able to catch the songs played live. For the past few weeks, King Tuff’s latest album has been in heavy rotation for me, and catching them at Quarters this past Monday made me love them even more.

all photos: Erik Ljung |

For those not yet familiar with King Tuff, here’s a crash course: the group is fronted by Kyle Thomas (aka King Tuff), who also plays in the lo-fi pop trio Happy Birthday as well as stoner metal “supergroup” Witch (featuring Dinosaur Jr‘s J. Mascis on drums). Other projects aside, however, King Tuff plays a super poppy and slightly glammy brand of garage punk, heavy on the hooks and even heavier on the energy.

Tuffy and co. made their Milwaukee debut about ten dates into a three week tour, the second half with Sub Pop label-mates, Jaill. Even early on, though, they encountered some problems.

King Tuff aka Kyle Thomas

“I broke my guitar before we left for tour and got it fixed and it was fine. Then we drove through the hot desert and the heat made it come unglued.” said Thomas earlier in the evening. “Then we got to the show and it was broken again, so I had to run out and buy a cheap guitar to play. I got it fixed again in Austin, though and it’s held up since, so we’ll see.”

Prior to the set, a packed house at Quarters was treated to sets by Lazy, Bored Games, and Nashville trio Natural Child, who brought a high-energy 70s rock swagger to their set, complete with a cover of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Tumbling Dice.” By the time King Tuff took the stage, the room was hot, sweaty and literally at-capacity. It doesn’t take much to get Quarters to capacity, and with tickets available only at the door, the show sold out quickly.

King Tuff performs to a packed house at Quarters

“Let’s get fucking sweaty,” declared Thomas to begin the set, his trusty Gibson SG in hand as they ripped into the opening track of their new full length, “Anthem.” Sure, the room could barely move, but that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying themselves. The set included tracks from the new record as well as their debut, King Tuff Was Dead, with Thomas’ sassy, shifty-eyed delivery sustaining throughout the performance. The energy remained consistently high, with the audience getting especially rowdy for standout track “Bad Thing,” with audience members taking turns crowd surfing.

At the set’s end, with the shows tired and sweaty attendees dispersing to their cars or the merch tables (complete with t-shirts, buttons, vinyl, and cassettes courtesy of Burger Records), not a single “bad thing” could be said about the show. It wouldn’t have been the same at a larger or “nicer” venue, and while their next visit to Milwaukee could possibly be at one, it’ll be hard to top this set.

I’ve seen a lot of shows this year, but really, it doesn’t get much better than this. The best shows are always loud, sweaty and gnarly, and King Tuff’s set at Quarters epitomized every one one of those things.

Categories: Life & Leisure, Rock

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