Home / Concert Reviews / Bare Mutants w/ Moss Folk and Red Stuff @ Cactus Club
Monday, Jan. 14, 2013

Bare Mutants w/ Moss Folk and Red Stuff @ Cactus Club

Jan. 12, 2013

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A robust local scene is a plus year round, but January is when you really feel thankful for it. Big names and national touring acts are, quite literally, like fair-weather friends. They seem almost omnipresent in the summer months, but as soon as things get a bit inclement, they’re nowhere to be found (I’m convinced Seasonal Affective Disorder is caused not by a lack of sunlight, but by a lack of rock). Quality local bands, on the other hand, are always there to get you through the lean times, when even the esteemed Pabst Theater Foundation is booking things like midget wrestling.

Getting things started Saturday night at the Cactus Club was the trio Red Stuff, who boast swampy, southern-fried rock, replete with stoner-friendly riffs turned up to 11. The group also possesses a sharp modern edge, however, which keeps things from slipping too far into backward looking, record-collection rock. Listeners may recognize the guitarist and lead singer as Tom Wanderer, host of WMSE’s vinyl-centric Thursday Blues Drive show, one of the best programs on the station (which is really saying something). Red Stuff puts on an impressive set, right through to the closing number, a wah-wah drenched rendition of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates’ “Shakin’ All Over.” This is a band with legs.

Next up was Moss Folk, a droning experimental psych outfit who performed here as a duo, but are actually a sprawling collective (or “cult” to use their word) of collaborators and co-conspirators. The group began by building an ominous soundscape from bowed, treated guitar and simmering cymbals, all while illuminated by trippy visual projections. The tension finally broke, giving way to the driving, tribal-motorik rhythm that powered the rest of their set. With this kind of music, a little generally goes a long way live, and Moss Folk got the timing right by limiting themselves to three or four longish jams, which culminated in a final thunderous flurry of floor toms, loops and gongs.

But while having our own hometown talent is great, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Milwaukee is situated so close to a massive metropolitan area like Chicago, hometown of the show’s headliners, Bare Mutants, although given the thick sleet that covered everything while they were playing, it might not have been a fun drive home. They’re not as extreme as their name makes them sound, occupying a space somewhere between the more jangly end of power pop and sentimental alt-country. The group also wields a curiously English sensibility (in that slightly retro, slightly twee sort of way), which came through clearest on the charming boy-girl harmonies and Farfisa organ parts.

With the lead singer quipping his way through the set, they provided a fun, simple ending to what had counter-intuitively turned out to be a rather low-key show. That was no doubt due, at least in part, to the Packers’ demoralizing loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Hopeful fans, knowing they had had their last touchdown shots of the season, stumbled out into the night instead of waiting for the bands to start, which couldn’t happen until the Cactus Club’s special stadium seating was disassembled. Plenty stuck around too, though there was still an air of defeat hanging over the whole affair. Which seems like a waste; these days you’ve got to enjoy a good show wherever you can find one.