Wussy at Bucktown Arts Fest

Is Wussy “the best band in America,” as the “Dean of Rock Critics,” Robert Christgau, recently proclaimed? Well, not quite, in my opinion. But Wussy is a pretty terrific band, with a string of four great records since 2005 (or five, if you count a limited-edition acoustic record). And this is exactly the sort of band that deserves some hyperbolic praise from a famous rock critic. So if Robert Christgau wants to kick the rest of the world in the pants for not paying attention to a little Cincinnati band he loves, who can blame him?

Wussy’s been flying under most people’s radar for the past seven years. Their excellent 2011 record, Strawberry, was barely noticed by critics and music websites. Wussy has played in Chicago a few times, but the gigs have always been low-profile and low-publicity. I’d never seen Wussy (though I did see the Ass Ponys, a previous band featuring Wussy’s Chuck Cleaver, once at Lounge Ax), and I was starting to wonder when I’d ever get a chance. After Strawberry came out, the band failed to make a Chicago appearance in 2011. And then most of 2012 passed by without a gig here. Finally… the Wussy website listed an Aug. 25 show at the Bucktown Arts Fest. This is not one of Chicago’s more prominent street festivals, but hey, at least Wussy was finally coming to my city. Like previous Wussy shows here, this one happened without much publicity, though Chicagoist ran a nice preview.

And so it was that Wussy at last took the stage Saturday afternoon, in front of a small bunch of appreciative fans as well as a bunch of festivalgoers who probably had no idea who they were. Such is the nature of small street festivals. Who knows what all of the bystanders thought, but the hard-core fans seemed to love it. Playing songs stretching from the first Wussy album up to the most recent, the band captured that loose and occasionally ragged spirit that makes its records sound so real. Cleaver and the band’s other singer-guitarist, Lisa Walker, were in good spirits, with self-deprecating jokes. After audience members shouted out some requests, they departed from their set list to give the fans what they wanted. Thanks, Wussy.

Wussy’s coming back to Chicago in October, but this time, the band will be opening for the Afghan Whigs at Metro. Later, they’re playing some dates elsewhere in the U.S. as the opening act for Heartless Bastards. I’m hoping they win some new fans in the process. In the meantime, all of Wussy’s records are streaming and available for sale at the band’s Bandcamp page. You can also buy these records from Wussy’s local Cincinnati label, Shake It Records.

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