by Ben Schultz
The odds for a good turnout at The Blaqks’ first headlining show didn’t look promising. The local sextet faced some serious competition in the form of New Wave legend Peter Murphy, who was set to play the Visual Arts Collective the same night.
Yet when the willfully decadent hard-rockers took the stage at Neurolux July 18, more than 70 people were there. About 20 stayed on the patio, but that still made for an uncommonly large audience for a Thursday night.
The Blaqks deserved it. The band proved itself worthy of a headliner slot with well-crafted songs, fiery musicianship and an engaging stage presence.
This marked the latest milestone in an already busy year for The Blaqks. The band followed up an impressive live debut opening for What Made Milwaukee Famous with a set at Treefort Music Fest. Though original lead singer Jayne Blaqk quit soon after Treefort, strong performances at the Red Room and Neurolux in May, as well as an opening set for The Grizzled Mighty in June, further established an upward trajectory for the band.
The lewd, substance-abusing lyrics and stage banter—“Everyone knows the best cocaine’s in Ketchum,” joked Jeremy Coverdale, a.k.a. Jonny Blaqk, at one point—left no doubt as to where The Blaqks fell along the Beatles-Stones divide. Thankfully, the music was powerful enough to overcome any misgivings. Not that the crowd seemed to have many; the stomping beats, grinding riffs and ripping guitar solos earned roars of applause throughout. Sporting a red- and white-striped ascot and a pencil mustache, Cary Judd, a.k.a. Danny Blaqk, strutted around the stage and sang in a smooth, confident howl.
Two other local acts rounded out the bill at Neurolux. The first was young indie-rock quintet A Sea of Glass, which combined intricate, propulsive rhythms with winsome melodies, angelic vocals and soothing drones. The second was Storie Grubb and the Holy Wars, whose sardonic, absurdist lyrics were counterbalanced by consistently catchy tunes. Their jangling guitar, fluid bass lines and muscular drums called to mind at various times The Pixies, The Violent Femmes and The B-52s.
“This is a song for the folks outside,” Sean Kelly, a.k.a. Storie Grubb, said to introduce a bouncy, surf-tinged number. Judging from the cheers, the folks inside liked it fine, too.