The Celebrated Workingman @ The Cactus Club, Dec. 20, 2008

Dec. 21, 2008
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Itís hard to think of a more logical group to celebrate Christmas with than The Celebrated Workingman, the hard-gigging Milwaukee indie-rock band whose default setting is ďmerryĒ even without the holidays. True to form, for their ďCactmasĒ performance at the Cactus Club on Saturday the group was particularly generous with the fairy dust, decking out the barís backroom in Christmas lights and tinsel. A mechanical Santa Claus doll clung to the rafters, waving to the crowd with his glowing candle, while a poker-faced Jean Claude Van Damme flashed his considerable guns from a life-sized poster behind the stage.

Celebrated Workingman frontman Mark Waldoch writes almost exclusively passages heíd want to sing along with even if he were on the other side of the microphone, and thereís a disarming quality to his uninhibited, from-the-gut bellows. Even when heís hollowing a flubbed note with the self-assurance of an obtuse ďAmerican IdolĒ hopeful, itís in the inclusive spirit of mirth and good cheer, and his coarsest ticks are invariably sweetened by his bandís chiming, effervescent melodies. Combined, they paint an inviting, unpretentious picture of life in blue-collar Milwaukee, where ambitions arenít grand but simple pleasures are abundant.

Opening acts included All Tiny Creatures, a Madison outfit headed by Thomas Wincek from Collections of Colonies of Bees, but marked by a far-tighter focus than that expansive ensemble.¬† With Rhys Chathamís minimalism and accents of Tortoiseís neo-krautrock, the band coaxed swollen, hypnotic rhythms that threatened to break under the weight of the grinding electronics hurtled atop them.

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