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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008

Woolton Parrish Revisited

Alt-rockers take a final bow

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For a rock group navigating Milwaukee’s music scene in the late- ’80s, a time when venues gave cover bands preference over original bands, adaptability was key, and Woolton Parrish quickly learned to blend in with any surrounding. Their songs could chime like ’60s pop or thunder like contemporary hard rock, so the group was as comfortable playing alternative rock clubs as they were heavy metal bills.

Perhaps as a result of this cross-mingling, Woolton Parrish grew heavier with age, evolving from U2 and Dramarama-esque modern rock toward a beefier, guitarbased sound coincidentally in sync with early ’90s grunge bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains.

Despite the sonic similarities, however, frontman Stacy Maloney says he always felt removed from the grunge movement. “We never considered ourselves a grunge thing,” he says. “We just weren’t angsty enough. I liked bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden, but grunge revolved around just one emotion, and I think a person is made up of a huge myriad of emotions, not just angst.

There’s also frustration, and joy and longing, and we wanted our music to manifest all these things.” During the ’90s alt-rock boom, major labels signed up droves of new bands, striking gold frequently but also losing plenty of bands in the shuffle. A subdivision of Warner Bros. Records set its eyes on Woolton Parrish and talked of flying the group out to California, but dropped those plans to sign a different group instead. The disappointment was too much for the already strained trio, and after half a decade as a reliable local club draw, Woolton Parrish disbanded in the mid-’90s.

The band members fell out of touch over the years as they focused on their careers and families, but news that bassist Keith Whitcomb planned to move away from Milwaukee this year sparked talks of performing one last show together while they still had the chance.

“The band ended on rough terms, but I think time really helped enhance our appreciation for each other,” Maloney says. “We always had a real interesting chemistry, because even though we were friends, there was always this friction in the band. There was something that just worked when we played together, so it was a thrill when we got back together again after all those years and discovered that it was still there.”

After six months of nostalgic rehearsals, Woolton Parrish will play their final show on Saturday, Feb. 2, a benefit for the Make-A-Wish Foundation at Shank Hall.
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