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All Messed Up IV @ Linneman’s Riverwest Inn

Feb. 14, 2014

Feb. 17, 2014
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Conceived of as a way to help Milwaukee musicians ward off the winter doldrums, All Messed Up has, in four short years, become something of a local institution, attracting fans and eager participants alike with its charming musical chaos theory. Randomly shuffling 64 area musicians into 16 ad hoc bands, the annual project pushes participants outside their comfort zone, to find common creative ground with perfect strangers, and, within the span of a few short months, to write a small amount of material and learn a cover, to be presented at the yearly two-day finale party at Linnemans. It’s a celebratory affair, a graduation of sorts, with an atmosphere quite unlike your run-of-the-mill show, and full of joyfully unpredictable musical moments.

Spirits were already running high Friday night as Four People With No Idea What the Fuck Their Band is Called—it’s at this point that I should probably point out that bands who fail to name themselves by deadline are simply assigned something silly—began their set with an enthusiastically shambolic, sing-along version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” and spent the rest of their time unfurling an entertaining mini-space opera following the continuing adventures of Major Tom. It was a first in a series of pleasant surprises that included the weirdo hardcore of the brilliantly named Lisa Frank, fronted by event organizer Anthony Dean Schwader, and the noisy synth-worship of the colorful, cult-like Party Beefs, all of whom it would be nice to hear more from despite AMU being over for another year.

Other bands distinguished themselves by their choice of covers, as with Ghost Pope’s raucous rendition of “Common People” by Pulp (via William Shatner) and a gender-inverted take on Shellac’s vicious “Prayer to God” courtesy of Carpet City (sponsored by Carpet City). Even the acts that maybe could have used some more time in the basement—as with the shaky pop of Milverines and Pillbugs—got nothing but kind support from the crowd. That’s what makes All Messed Up so magical; it’s not about being good or being cool, but rather about taking risks and, more importantly, having a good time. Everyone who made it up onto that stage deserves a round of applause, as does All Messed Up for making winter suck a little less for the fourth year running.


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