Tag Archives: music

Kacey Musgraves Has Graduated From Singer to Headlining Performer

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“So come on hitch your wagon, to the living room I’m draggin’. If I can’t bring you to my house, I’ll bring my house to you.” — My Home, Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves’ house these days is, in fact, on wheels — a sleek tour bus, carrying the songstress and her Porter Wagner-lookalike bandmates from town to town to deliver her firebrand lyrics and down-home sound to the masses.

But her home away from home last night was in Milwaukee, on the stage of the Pabst Theatre. John & Jacob opened the night, showcasing their unique brand of pop-meets-modern-country. The band from Alabama got the crowd clapping, swaying and singing along — not always an easy feat for an opener — with peppy originals and a rendition of Wake Up Little Susie. They also shared their version of The Band Perry’s anthemic breakup hit Done, which they penned.

The Follow Your Arrow singer, clad in tasseled top and big skirt, went on to perform very much like a headliner — one deserving of the industry accolades she’s been receiving. Since Musgraves’ last performance in Milwaukee at The Rave about a year ago, she’s come a long way, earning Grammys for Best Country Song for her debut single Merry Go ‘Round and Best Country Album for Same Trailer Different Park.

When Musgraves performed at The Rave, it was clear she had the talent to back up the popularity of her debut album, which went on to to be certified Gold last year, selling more than 500,000 copies. But, the Texas singer who channels the country grit and glamor of Loretta Lynn, lacked charisma and looked uncertain on stage. She failed to connect with the crowd and seemed unsure of herself at that 2013 gig.

A much more confident Musgraves emerged at the Pabst on Feb. 21. Gone were the shy-girl nerves, replaced with presence and poise worthy of filling the role of country’s next Queen — that is, if country doesn’t shun her for her sometimes unwelcome-in-the-genre opinions that both gays and pot are great.

She treated her fans to her hip-swaying melodies and refreshingly honest lyrics for nearly two hours — not bad for a gal with only one album — and charmed the crowd of mostly young women with stories that made her feel like a friend. With guitar — and sometimes tambourine — in hand, she demonstrated with ease her right to be on the stage at at venue like Pabst.

Fun covers during the night included Dolly Parton’s Hear You Come Again, Britney Spears’ Toxic and the classic Nancy Sinatra foot-stomper These Boots Were Made For Walkin’. And in addition to playing most of the tracks off of Same Trailer Different Park, she sprinkled in a couple of new tunes as well, including a diddy called Biscuits with the unforgettable signature lyric “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.” Musgraves told the audience to be on the lookout for a new album this spring.

Musgraves’ first-ever Milwaukee performance was opening for Kenny Chesney at Miller Park. Maybe one day, Musgraves will find herself headlining a place like that herself. She’s had the talent for quite some time. And now, she’s developed the showmanship for it too.

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I just made you say underwear

I probably didn’t. I probably haven’t made you say anything.

That’s actually a lyric, from the song “Pinch Me” by the Barenaked Ladies.

The band who was catapulted to ubiquitous radio airplay and stardom in the late ’90s by the song “One Week” provided the soundtrack to a Fourth of July night at BMO Harris Pavilion at Summerfest. They joked about the irony of a Canadian band being a part of Milwaukee’s Independence Day festivities, but somehow it seemed like just the right band at just the right time.

From the bleachers, flanked by Lake Michigan on the left, I was treated to a show from a band I’ve been a fan of for about 15 years. It was one of those moments that reminds me why being a music fan is truly the best kind of fan to be. I’ve always argued that little compares to the energy and the reward of a live show. When that live show is more than a decade in the making – and the band delivers more than expected – the reward is truly sweet.

BNL opened with a couple of new tunes, which initially felt like a bit of a letdown. I would’ve loved for them to launch right into “Brian Wilson” or “If I Had $1,000,000.” My disappointment, however, was short-lived. I enjoyed the new stuff and then was all the more excited when they launched into “Pinch Me.” Over the course of the night, they sang the aforementioned hits, along with “Be My Yoko Ono” and the Big Bang Theory Theme song.

Though “One Week” is nowhere near their best tune, it was quite fun to hear live. With its rapid-fire lyrics about pop culture, it’s so delightfully annoying, overplayed and kind of wonderful. Singer Ed Robertson impressively delivers the wonderfully weird, rhyming lyrics, spewing them like buckshot.

The band is known for being quirky and a bit off-kilter. Which might be part of the reason I’ve loved them so much over the years. Their stage show was in keeping with that beloved oddball-ness. Robertson did a fantastic freestyle rap about Summerfest, and there was quite a bit of banter among band mates between songs. And then there were the good-hearted jokes about Rush. “This is the first time we’ve ever played a show with absolutely zero Rush fans,” Robertson joked with the crowd, alluding to the night’s main-stage headliners Rush, performing just next door at Marcus Amphitheater. The band played a few bars of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” at one point and even said they attended the warming-up of the other band before going onstage themselves.

Aside from the joy of hearing songs I’ve loved for years and their comedic repartee in between, I really enjoyed when the band did a few of their new tunes, huddled at the front of the stage, showing their prowess on the upright bass, the banjo and even bongo drums.

At the end of the show, after people had already started filing out, the band did a hilariously-awesome medley of pop songs that included Rihanna, Taylor Swift, and yes, Macklemore. It was worth sticking around for. For the encore, Robertson switched places with the band’s drummer Tyler Stewart, who performed their humorous ode to adult beverages, the diddy “Alcohol.”

Thanks, Ladies, for a superb Canadian-infused, music-filled Fourth. You rocked it.

The band Leagues: a review. A solid B+ performance.

On a Thursday night, I ditched my usual, go-to-bed-early, old-lady routine and went to Shank Hall to check out Leagues. It was only the second time I’d been to the tiny venue tucked away on Farwell Avenue. The other time had been for Will Hoge, who, like Leagues, calls Nashville home.

I was a bit disappointed in the turnout at this show, but maybe people are still finding out about Leagues. Their tune Spotlight is getting some airplay these days, but the band is far from mainstream at this point.

While I enjoyed a Spotted Cow (For those of you not from Wisconsin, this is, in fact, a beer and not a farm animal.), Wausau’s Windsor Drive did a great job of getting the show started. I toe-tapped along to their pop rock melodies.

Leagues took the stage decked out in dark denim and facial hair, and rocked it out for more than an hour (Exactly how long they rocked it out, I have to be honest and admit I’m not quite sure. My alarm clock, which I knew was set for 5 a.m., pulled me away after an hour of their set.)

Leagues is rock with a bit of  soulful, bluesy country and pop thrown in. Their guitar sounds offer up a welcomed ’70s vibe. While no band likes comparisons, it’s impossible not to draw them. Their sound is infused with indie/pop/rocker sounds like those of Black Keys, Imagine Dragons, Arcade Fire, MGMT, OK Go.

I like their single Spotlight, and my other favorites are Mind Games and Magic. I enjoyed Leagues’ performance, although it felt a little lackluster at times, like they were holding back and not throwing their everything onto the stage. I expect a band to offer up their heart and soul, no matter the stage or venue size, and leave me wanting more. I left feeling glad to have seen them but not necessarily hungry for more.