Home / Concert Reviews / Cosmonauts w/ Sleepcomesdown and Red Stuff @ Cactus Club
Monday, April 14, 2014

Cosmonauts w/ Sleepcomesdown and Red Stuff @ Cactus Club

April 12, 2014

cosmonauts
Cosmonauts
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Unable to be contained by the jam-packed four-day lineup at the Cactus Club later this month, the 2014 Milwaukee Psych Fest sports so much psychedelic music that it’s now spilled over into a few other satellite shows dotted across April and into May, including Saturday night’s official pre-fest opening party. It’s a smart strategy, to get people talking in advance of the event itself, but also a potentially risky one, since it sets the tone, for better or for worse, for everything that follows. In this case though, the gamble paid off handsomely, with every band on the well-balanced bill bringing their A-game.

Getting things underway was local openers Red Stuff, a power trio featuring Tom Wanderer, eponymous host of the eclectic WMSE program The Tom Wanderer Radio Experience, on guitar and lead vocal. The band’s sound is an impressively organic synthesis of those he plays over the airwaves each week, wedding the familiar, well-worn pleasures of bluesy, riff-centric classic rock and the punchy appeal of modern garage pop while making room for some pleasant digressions into a heady array of other styles. All together it’s a likable, eminently accessible amalgamation of influences, one expertly rounded out by some rumbling drums courtesy of Steve Tiber and Kelly Buros’ scratchy lap steel guitar.

Following them was another Milwaukee group, Sleepcomesdown, who are still riding high from the well-received release of their latest album, Cured by the Blur, late last year, making it no surprise that a number of its best tracks popped up in their setlist tonight, slotted alongside some even newer material. They’re a band that’s best experienced live, in part because their blend of dark, dreamy psychedelia and more aggressive, almost post-punk rhythms is a lot freer than on the recordings, which can feel a little too airtight, but also because they go all out on the trippy visual effects, combining strobe lights and distorted projections to delirious effect.

Headliners Cosmonauts, hailing from Orange County, Calif., have quickly emerged as standouts among Burger Records’ crowded roster, most recently with 2013’s Persona Non Grata. The band’s fuzzed-out take on SoCal stoner garage rock, propelled by surf guitar lines slathered in shoegaze levels of reverb and distortion, practically demands to be heard at top volume, and Cactus Club is the perfect place for that. The band themselves shined, seemingly effortlessly, throughout a set that covered plenty of the new material, memorably “Wear Your Hair Like a Weapon”, before ending with a with a noisy free-for-all on the Velvet Underground’s “Run Run Run,” wrapping up a fun evening that bodes well for the rest of the fest.