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Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011

A Farewell to The Mistreaters

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Huddled around the bar at the Cactus Club, the members of The Mistreaters are remarkably humble about their place in the history of Milwaukee underground music. In fact, vocalist Christreater notes, with a laugh, that the process of looking back on his band's legacy makes him "uneasy." When pressed, Christreater will go as far as to admit that "I feel like we were a good band."

As the band gears up to play what they promise is going to be their final show and release a double LP singles collection (on guitarist Kevin Mistreater's Dusty Medical record label), the argument could be made that there are very few bands more important to the development of the city's music scene over the past 15 years than The Mistreaters. Since their inception in 1999, the band has released a slew of excellent records, toured the world, and worked diligently to make sure that Milwaukee was something more than a city that bands skipped on the way from Chicago to Minneapolis.

"It was mostly Kevin who was the driving force behind hooking us up with bands that were on tour or bands that we were fans of and trying to bring them here," explains bassist David John Henry Mistreater. "And he's still doing that." In November 1999, the band's guitarist placed a call to Jack White of The White Stripes, convincing the band to play the record release show for The Mistreaters' Stranded EP at the Cactus Club. "I felt like we were one of the only people in town into this type of music," continues David John Henry Mistreater—and the band made it their mission to help the city grow its own version of what was then happening in Detroit.

The White Stripes gig, along with a host of other early Mistreaters shows, solidified the relationship between band and venue. While the group played in various spaces across town, there was something special about a Mistreaters show at the Cactus Club. The club, remembers Christreater, was "small enough and big enough ... Our shows were always super-fun here, and it's here where we started a family." And The Mistreaters strove to make that family as inclusive as possible: The record release shows for 2003's Playa Hated to the Fullest (Estrus Records) at the Cactus Club featured such disparate acts as hardcore stalwarts Since by Man and hip-hop favorites the Rusty Ps. Such an appreciation of all the city had to offer undoubtedly helped pave the way for the diverse music scene Milwaukee has today.

More than anything else, the members of The Mistreaters want to go out with a bang and measure up to the expectations set by past live shows (quite a tall order!). Thankfully, the band has little need for the nostalgia that a final show can produce, and all band members seem at peace with the decision to call it a day. "This is it. This is the last show," explains drummer Christian Mistreater. "We did pretty much everything we wanted to do. So where do you go from there?" At the moment, no one in the band is in a rush to answer such a huge question. For now, let's just be thankful we had them around for so many years.

The Mistreaters play the Cactus Club on Friday, Dec. 30, at 10 p.m. with Guilty Pleasures, Catholic Boys and Static Eyes.
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