Rock Roundup

The Return of Sam Llanas

He’s quit the BoDeans, his music has gotten darker and he's ready to rock at Shank Hall.

By - Dec 22nd, 2014 02:30 pm
Sam Llanas. Photo from facebook.

Sam Llanas. Photo from facebook.

Top Show: Sam Llanas and the Delta Routine, Shank Hall, Saturday, December 27

In August 2011, Sam Llanas departed the BoDeans with startling abruptness. He had founded the band with Kurt Neumann in Waukesha during the 1980s, and the two had been the group’s most (or only) consistent members in the years to follow.

So his departure was probably less an inexplicable retirement of some kind than the cork finally popping from years of stoppered dissatisfaction. And if BoDeans lost momentum before continuing without him, Llanas already had a solo album, 4 A.M.(The Way Home) ready to go.

That album and its follow-up, 2014’s The Whole Night Thru, contain elements not dramatically different from the contributions Llanas made to BoDeans: the earthiness of the roots in the band’s roots-rock approach and, of course, the curious voice that time and delivery have changed from an adenoidal quack to an enduring quirk.

Solo, Llanas has set that voice inside music rawer and darker than most of his former band’s material, and on Whole Night he is particularly focused on establishing murky moods from which the songs can emerge. He’s not entirely unlike an upper-Midwest Alejandro Escovedo now.

The Delta Routine, opening for Llanas, is not entirely unlike an upper-Midwest version of the Strokes (when the Strokes were good) or a Britpop band (one of the good ones), although the Milwaukee quartet upends the expectations of such influences with Southern-rock grease and British Invasion cheek.

In July, the DR got a nod from USA Today for a new song, “Home With You,” and a fourth full-length, You and Your Lion, which was originally scheduled for October release, but is now awaiting a release next year.

The band plans to feature the aforementioned new song and many other Lion tracks at its gigs, which means that neither the Delta Routine nor Sam Llanas will be riding entirely on past glories at this show.


Friday, December 26: Copper Box at Shank Hall

On a list ranking musical instruments by coolness, the accordion would be near the bottom, just above or below the bagpipes. Before accordion aficionados (or bagpipe boosters) get huffy, I will add that I’m fond of such a physically eccentric piece of equipment and the sounds it manages to make.

Danny Jerabek must agree, because he often plays accordion while co-fronting Oshkosh band Copper Box with his wife Michelle, who can regularly be seen wearing her washboard. Both play many other instruments, but there is something about Copper Box’s bar- and festival-ready pop-rock music that sounds better when it ain’t cool.


Saturday, December 27: Liquid Stranger at Miramar Theatre

Because a lot of what passes for electronic dance music (EDM)—at or near the mainstream, that is—seems to consist of not much more than samples (so people can be drawn in by the familiar) and looped beats (so people can dance), you wouldn’t be blamed for dismissing the entire genre.

A guy like Martin Stääf, the Swedish-born gentleman behind Liquid Stranger, makes EDM that virtually holds up a hand and urges you to reconsider. As good at chill-out grooves as at booty-shaking rhythms, he also draws upon enough geographic and musical styles to be as enlightening as he is entertaining.

Here’s a deceptively relaxed track from his last LP, 2012’s Cryogenic Encounters:


Saturday, December 27: Henhouse Prowlers at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn

The Grand Theft Auto franchise long ago (by video-game standards) made it common practice to have in-game cars come with radios a player could listen to, and the Rock Star and Guitar Hero series have provided other avenues of exposure and revenue for bands. Still, odd to hear this—

—in Watch Dogs, a next-gen game.

Good for Henhouse Prowlers, a Chicago foursome that picks and strums bluegrass our grandparents would recognize, apart from the many pop, soul, and rock songs—“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Helter Skelter”—they manfully try to convert into hoedown fodder. Through a TV speaker or live, they’re most enjoyable when they stick to tradition.


Saturday, December 27: Chief with Asatta and Volcanos at Cactus Club

Whether its music could be classified as hard rock or heavy metal, Chief is definitely a band that likes volume and electricity. Its members have trod stages as part of 5 Card Studs and Animal Magnets, but it’s always a hedonistic pleasure when they reassemble for some old-fashioned noisy sleaziness (and, reportedly, some new music too):

Chief is one of three shots of loud local flavor here: Asatta handles the middle slot with bracing doom-and-gloom metal, while Volcanos—a band featuring alumni of Magnetic Minds and Hand of Doom—plays its very first live gig. Just on its own, this rehearsal take of a Volcanos track burns off that holiday malaise:

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