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Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012

WMSE Backyard BBQ

Sept. 8, 2012

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Though it’s only been part of WMSE’s busy calendar for four years, the WMSE Backyard BBQ has quickly become one of the radio station’s most anticipated events, bringing some of the most notable names in local music to Cathedral Square Park, just a stone’s throw from the station’s studios (hence the “Backyard”). That this year’s installment also served as the program book launch for the 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival—which boasts an impressive list of music movies, including docs about Bad Brains, Andrew Bird and the Sugarhill Gang—only sweetened what was already an appealing proposition.

Getting the entertainment started at 3 p.m. was Honky Tonkitis, though their ingratiating sound, a return to country’s down and dirty roots of hard times and bad decisions, is probably better suited to after dark, once the beer’s been flowing for a while. Hot on their heels was venerable Milwaukee reggae institution King Solomon, who, if you’ve somehow managed to avoid seeing them, more than do justice to the classic-roots sound while also making room for some of the squealing synths and lovably cheesy keys of perky dancehall.

Next up was the Extra Crispy Brass Band, who channel the spirit of vintage New Orleans jazz on such timeless standards as “St. James Infirmary Blues” and, um, the “Sanford and Son” theme song. For the record, both are fine pieces of music, but only one was stuck in my head the rest of the night. Following them was Trapper Schoepp & The Shades, and it’s easy to see why they are often tapped as one of the current Milwaukee bands most likely to make it big. They’ve got that highly marketable brand of shaggy yet non-threatening good looks, and their sound—glossy pop-rock with a heaping helping of light alt-country—is hooky and accessible. It’s also overtly, sometimes cloyingly sentimental (their set featured not one but two numbers introduced as being about a car inherited from a grandfather) and more than a little unimaginative.

Then came Latin jazz local favorites De La Buena, whose funky, hip-shaking concoction is as big as the 10-piece orchestra itself. They’re obviously very, very good at what they do, but once you’ve mastered something to that degree, it’s time to start pushing the boundaries, which would turn a lively band into a truly exciting one (and while their mambo reworking of that one Bollywood reworking of the “Knight Rider” theme is fun, it doesn’t really count). After their set, the clouds, which had threatened rain but until then only mustered a persistent drizzle, finally let loose, causing some delay to the performance of upbeat Canadian global-fusion outfit Delhi 2 Dublin. But after some time, and some clever tent rearranging, they wiped off their tablas, fiddles and sitars and got down to business. And, in defiance of good sense and countless mothers’ warnings about catching cold, there were still people there to watch them, eagerly taking in every minute, which should speak volumes about the reputation the band has built up on their frequent visits to the city. Guess it takes more than a little rain to keep a good BBQ down, at least as far as WMSE is concerned.

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