It’s a funny feeling when you’re at a concert, watching a band you’ve never heard before, surrounded by people who are obviously a lot more familiar with the music – and more adoring of it. That’s what I felt like watching the first band at this April 17 show at the Empty Bottle. I’ve seen the name of this band, What Made Milwaukee Famous, countless times, but I’d never gotten around to checking out their music. Maybe because the band has such a dumb-ass name. Well, I can’t say I was too impressed. It was cheerful, slightly bouncy pop, dominated by keyboards. Melodic enough, I guess, but nothing about it really grabbed me. And I found myself feeling misantrhopically irked by all of the fans singing along.
The second band of the night was a similar experience for me, except that I liked it. Another band I’ve been woefully uninformed about, Aqueduct. Strangely, Aqueduct’s music was similar in some ways to What Made Milwaukee Famous – basically, pop music with keyboards and guitar – but I found it much more appealing. It helped that the lead singer (who kept reminding me of the Hurley character on “Lost”) had a great sense of humor.
The reason I was at the Empty Bottle was the Australian headliners, Youth Group, and they did not disappoint. (It was disappointing, though, to see the crowd thin out a bit as some Aqueduct and What Made Milwaukee Famous fans departed.) I was a big fan of the last Youth Group album, Skeleton Jar, and I’m just now hearing the new record, Casino Twlight Dogs. Youth Group’s songs have really strong melodies that stick in your brain. The music finds a great balance between mellow and rocking, and that came off well in concert, as Youth Group let loose during some of the instrumental passages.