Last Thursday, the Whigs came to town. They promised to be a worthy show, but I was there for the opening act - Austin-based band What Made Milwaukee Famous. WMMF have recently released their sophomore album What Doesn't Kill Us.
Front-man Michael Kingcaid regaled the story of WMMF's last trip to Boise when their show at the Neurolux was interrupted by a pint glass shattering on the brick wall behind the stage, lobbed into the air by an inebriated fan. During the song "Cheap Wine," Kingcaid sang, "I come into your town and all it ever does is bring me down" to which he added, "but that's only because you throw shit at me."
When listening to them, it's a wonder that they can't seem to write a bad song. Lyrics are cerebral and satirical. Kingcaid has a caustic sense of humor that bites at the objects of his songs and playfully lashed out at the crowd in the Bouquet. Their music is a treat of unusual juxtapositions: the epic and the trivial, quippy sayings and philosophical maxims, bouncy melodies with melancholy meanings.
With recent addition, guitarist Jason Davis, WMMF proved that the guitar work on the album did not come from brilliant producers but from specific understanding of the relationship between a Telecaster and enough pedals to fill a used-car lot. Live, Davis' impressive vocal range replaced all the harmonies done by a female vocalist on the album with falsetto ease. And an added element of grit and intuition highlighted the instrumental breaks. Whether or not each move was rehearsed to perfection, they managed to make the audience in the less-than-packed bar feel as if they had witnessed something inspired.
WMMF have a familiar friendliness that doesn't resemble the polished veneers of some bands and is miles away from the fan-eating, devil-may-care egoism of others. There's an element of careless genius to their live show that suggests they aren't aware of how good they are. It makes them very easy to like.
What was missing from this show? Keyboardist Drew Patrizi's microphone. Come on, man! We know you can sing.