Mystery Girls w/ The Hussy and Trent Fox and the Tenants @ Linneman’s Riverwest Inn
April 12, 2013
The night began with two representatives from Milwaukee, but I was regrettably too late to catch openers Rumble. Second act and Kind Turkey signees Trent Fox and the Tenants got off to a rough start with technical difficulties concerning their bass amp. “We’re Trent Fox and the Tenants,” said the disgruntled guitarist, “and we’re not playing tonight.” Of course, the Milwaukee four-piece did play, although they struggled to win over an audience that, even at 11:30, was still trickling in. The band’s scraggly power pop was enjoyable but a little half-baked. By the last song, when the lead singer slid to his knees with the best of rock ’n’ roll intentions, it was hard not to root for them.
The Hussy, a faux-brother-and-sister garage rock duo riding a recent wave of press from Spin and Pitchfork, played a short set that was never less than white-hot. And as most successful duos must, the pair made a lot out of a little. Bobby Hussy did the work of two guitarists, cramming digit-wrenching licks between gritty major-chord salvos. Drummer Heather Hussy played with solid, fundamental force while also managing to carry impressive vocal duties. Bobby Hussy was particularly fun to watch. With a curtain of hair covering his face and clad in a too-small T-shirt that read “Who the Fuck is Mick Jagger?,” he dipped, yanked, and at one point dropped his guitar in apparent attempts to wrench the nastiest possible sound from it.
But in the glow of The Hussy’s garage rock pyrotechnics, the crowd seemed surprisingly subdued. In retrospect it was probably just saving its energy, because it roared to life for the night’s marquee act, a simultaneous reunion and farewell performance for Green Bay’s beloved Mystery Girls. They were playing the second of three reunion shows across Wisconsin last weekend to celebrate In the Meantime, the In Between Time, a cassette of demos and rarities released on Hussy’s Kind Turkey. Having never seen them before, it was immediately clear what the excitement was about as the band unleashed a surge of guitars and lead vocalist Casey Grajek crowed like a psychotic Jagger (who the fuck is Mick Jagger?) in between rude drags from a harmonica. This was not novelty rock or half-assed garage drivel, but gritty, swaggering, necessary music that seemed to have arrived from a time before iPods, Bandcamp and “Best New Music.” (Actually, the band’s last gig was in 2005.) As they ripped through the crowd-pleasing “Autumn Turns To Fall,” I imagined these guys in an unfinished basement somewhere up north, a case of High Life sitting on an amp next to a smoldering ashtray, hammering out incredible blues-rock riffs by the light of a naked bulb, and felt sorry that I was only just now hearing them, and probably for the last time.