Why Nick Cave is Hated — and Loved
Cave provides the dark side of a week also featuring Nikki Lane, The Features and the Old 97s.
Top Show: at Milwaukee Theatre Friday, June 20
Sometimes, I feel the same way about Nick Cave as I do about Heath Ledger’s particular, peculiar Joker: I consider him immensely charming, immensely intelligent and immensely talented…and I would kick through a priceless stained-glass window to keep from being in any room with him for more than five minutes.
Of course I know that Cave is playing a part just as much as Ledger was, but in both cases I find it very difficult to shake the sense of an artist using a role to discover the elemental and true in himself.
With the Bad Seeds and occasionally with side gigs like Grinderman, Cave has believably carried himself as if he were an itinerant preacher torn between the unshakeable extremes of saving the damned forever and damning the saved forever. On just one album, 1996’s Murder Ballads,he managed to both corrupt Kylie Minogue and made “Stagger Lee” filthier than it ever was before.
He’s also been a novelist and screenwriter (2005’s The Proposition deserves a sit-down), but ultimately and always his talents rest best, if not easily, with his musical muse. While no one can agree about his high and low points—and I have nearly come to blows over albums like 2003’s Nocturama—no one can debate the intensity of his output.
The most recent evidence of that, his Bad Seeds-assisted album Push the Sky Away, came out over a year ago, providing him an opportunity to get out of the house. Memory does not cough up the date of the last time he played Milwaukee, but my fearful spirit knows it has been a bad long time.
Wednesday, June 18: Nikki Lane at Cactus Club
It won’t ever be written in stone—who does that anymore?—and it’s no more than a rule of thumb, but music fans keeping an ear tilted toward Nashville should know that the best musicians near Music Row usually don’t spend much time employed by said row. Nikki Lane, for example.
Rambling from and to various places, including South Carolina and L.A., Lane eventually settled in Nashville and turned a bad breakup into a songwriting interest, followed by EPs and a 2011 debut LP, Walk of Shame. Working with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach on this year’s follow-up, All or Nothin’, Lane isn’t quite Neko Case or her pal Kelly Hogan…yet.
But she’s getting there:
Friday, June 20: We Are Hex at Cactus Club
Someone, somewhere, sometime has uttered the phrase “Indianapolis is a great rock ‘n’ roll town.” It doesn’t seem very likely, however, unless that someone was standing in front of a We Are Hex show at the time.
Fronted by Jilly Weiss and extant since roughly 2007, this band has lately been rolling throughout the Midwest (upper, mainly) and wowing intense, if relatively small, crowds. We Are Hex turns rock ‘n’ roll into a fairground’s haunted house, except scary, and Nick Cave fans might want to make this an afterparty for his show.
Taste the rainbow:
Friday, June 20: The Features at Shank Hall
Perhaps even before the first goober hipster claimed that Gene Vincent represented the “real” rock ‘n’ roll and that Elvis Presley was nothing but a poseur (two views not entirely without merit), music fans have divided the supposedly true and false.
I do not think anyone could argue against the indie-rock status of the Features, not only because they emerged from the heretofore-unpromising locale of Sparta, Tennessee but also because they ate dirt on a major-label deal in the early 21st century and have returned with albums like last year’s softly clever and self-titled re-emergence.
Pity they’re showing up in Milwaukee on a packed night for indie rockers:
Sunday, June 22: Old 97’s at Turner Hall Ballroom
To gauge the dullness of The Break-Up, a 2006 “romantic” “comedy” featuring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, consider that the promise and presence of the following things didn’t help its box-office showing: (a) Aniston’s well-shaped caboose; (b) Jason Bateman; and (c) the Old 97’s.
Originated in Dallas, the 97’s once (around the mid- to late 1990s) seemed as though they’d be the alt-country Beatles. That illusion didn’t materialize into reality, however, and they’ve since settled for a long, honorable career that includes the excellent recent album Most Messed Up.
No need for Vaughn and Aniston here: