Atomic Valentine at Miramar Theatre
Local bands past and present pay tribute to Atomic Records
- Bill Cosby delivers lighthearted enlightenment at Riverside Theater
- Satan for the masses: Ghost B.C. brings spooky Swedish metal to Turner Hall
- Black Rebel Motorcycle Club deliver bombastic, potent show at Turner Hall
- Joe Bonamassa falls into familiar blues groove at Riverside Theater
- Milwaukee Psych Fest delivers variations on a tripped-out theme
It sure feels like a long way from 1985, the year Milwaukee’s Atomic Records opened, to 2009, the year it will close. Much, much longer than 24 years, actually. The cultural landscape has changed so much that an independent, brick-and-mortar record store now seems like a relic. And, yet, there are people that still care, as evidenced by how jam-packed Miramar Theatre was for Saturday’s “Atomic Valentine” concert.
There was a sense from many in the audience that an era was truly coming to an end. Yet the mood was far from that of a funeral; it felt more like a riotous wake. All of the Milwaukee-based bands that participated, including those that reunited just for this show, wasted little time waxing nostalgic and instead ripped into their material with unexpected passion. (Some of these songs, after all, are now more than 20 years old). The passage of time made some bands sound stronger and more relevant, like The Lovelies, and others a bit dated, like Sometime Sweet Susan. Other bands, like Couch Flambeau and Liquid Pink, simply reminded us how much fun homegrown Milwaukee independent music has been over the years.
What was noteworthy about the bill was how eclectic it was, which makes sense considering that there’s never been a Milwaukee “sound.” These bands drew from a disparate pool of sources, and had little interest in following any set musical formula. This was really apparent during a surprise Die Kreuzen set, which had the seminal Milwaukee punk band—which actually was original singer Dan Kubinski and bassist Keith Brammer with Frogs bassist Damian Strigens on guitar and Sometime Sweet Susan's Dan Hanke on drums—quickly tearing through three cover songs: Aerosmith’s “Seasons of Wither,” Wire’s “Pink Flag”—hearing Kubinski belt out “How many dead or alive in 1955?” in his distinctive yelp was pure punk-rock bliss—and Cheap Trick’s “He’s A Whore.” You can bet that Kubinski, for one, spent countless hours scouring through the racks at Atomic, taking chances on records he never would have heard of otherwise. This has always been the best thing about independent record stores, and the biggest reason why Atomic will be missed.