Rock Roundup

The Power of Pablove

Chicago’s Sons of the Silent Age headline a rocking benefit that features four bands and great guests

By - Jan 12th, 2015 11:42 am
Sons of the Silent Age

Sons of the Silent Age. Photo from Sons of the Silent Age Facebook page

Top Show: Pablove 6 at Pabst Theater, Saturday, January 17

The story behind the Pablove Foundation is a mournful one. In 2008, Pablo Castelaz, the son of Jo Ann Thrailkill and Milwaukee native Jeff Castelaz, was diagnosed with a rare form of children’s cancer. Less than a year later, Pablo died of that cancer. He was six years old.

Thrailkill and Castelaz, both veterans of the music industry, have poured much of their grief and passion into Pablove, which in turn has funded research grants, helped educate parents and health professionals, and set up “Pablove Shutterbugs,” a photography program for children with cancer:

Although the Pablove Foundation is based in Los Angeles, Castelaz has, in the past six years, called upon his Milwaukee connections for an annual benefit concert to commemorate the Foundation’s anniversary. The connections have responded admirably: last year, for example, three local bands—Alligator Gun, the Benjamins, and Subside—reunited to play the show.

This year, the talent includes Salford Lads Club, paying tribute to the Smiths and that seminal UK band’s lead singer (and post-Smiths solo artiste), Morrissey; Pleased to Meet Me, paying tribute to the bruised-punk car crash that was the Replacements; and up-and-comers GGOOLLDD and Rebecca Hron, represented here:

The headliner is Sons of the Silent Age, a Chicago collective dedicated to playing the music of David Bowie. As usual, its lineup will feature Chris Connelly (of bands like Ministry) and Matt Walker (of bands like Smashing Pumpkins; he’s also been a sideman to the aforementioned Morrissey).

As an unusual bonus, Garbage lead singer Shirley Manson will join the Sons, adding her charisma to what is scheduled to be a 75-minute set interpreting songs from Bowie’s “Thin White Duke” period.

It appears to be a lighter tone, then, for an intrinsically heavy and dark subject. A good cause needs its celebrations.

Friday, January 16: PHOX at Pabst Theater

The Wisconsinite who listens to PHOX—and to PHOX, the band’s 2014 debut LP—might not be able to help thinking of the seven-piece act’s origins in Baraboo, a city known for the Circus World Museum. (I can even recall Barry B. Longyear’s 1980 science-fiction novel, City of Baraboo, part of his “Circus World” trilogy.)

Yet PHOX’s music, despite its indie-pop elements, seems more like a diffidently conducted sideshow than an elaborate carnival under the big top. Due credit for understatement goes to lead singer Monica Martin, although the rest of the group also contributes subtly to the kind of prettiness that manifests itself without showing off.

Saturday, January 17: Black Belt Theatre at Cactus Club

“What have you done for me lately?” is a cruel question, which doesn’t mean it is an unreasonable one to aim at musicians with impressive resumes. Nostalgia and past laurels extend just so far. Take Black Belt Theatre, whose members are alumni of other Milwaukee bands like FS Camels, Alligator Gun, and Bender.

Fortunately, BBT’s new and first LP, Hibernation Termination, backs up the band’s own identification as “power rock ‘n’ roll” (rather than power pop), and its best songs, such as the glowing “Villains in Love,” have enough riffs to satisfy the Cheap Trick (classic era) fan inside most of us.

Listen here:

Saturday, January 17: Mary Fahl at Shank Hall

The voice of Mary Fahl has been compared to that of Sandy Denny, the London-born singer who helped define English folk-rock music before her death, at the age of 31, in 1978. Certainly, Fahl has a room-filling power that makes almost all her folk-influenced contemporaries sound wan.

Just as certainly, Fahl is short on material: after a brisk 1990s stint with the October Project, her solo career has generated intriguing covers—particularly on From the Dark Side of the Moon, a magnificent rendering of the famous Pink Floyd album—and less than a handful of albums, including two circa 2014: the studio-made Love and Gravity and a live disc.

However, patience and forgiveness can be granted to a woman who sings like this:

Monday, January 19: Jukebox the Ghost at Turner Hall Ballroom

Ben Folds Five, Jack’s Mannequin, maybe Keane: all of them are or were piano-led pop-rock bands that, in my narrow estimation, never hit the sweet spot as often as Suddenly, Tammy! did on its rich second album, 1995’s We Get There When We Do. I offer this track as proof:

Jukebox the Ghost seems to be getting closer to ST!’s quality, particularly on its fourth album, last year’s cleverly titled Jukebox the Ghost. The resemblance to Fun. (what is it with punctuation in this section of the Roundup? Not my fault!) is a little too strong, but the clicking musical interplay adds tartness to sugary melodies.

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