Muzzle Of Bees 5th anniversary show
The local music blog celebrates five years in sensitive style
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In a world where giant, faceless corporations are granted many of the same rights as people—apparently, they'll be driving cars and raising our children in a few short years—is it really all that strange for a blog to celebrate a birthday? That was the question raised by Saturday's Muzzle Of Bees showcase at the Cactus Club, a night that marked the local music blog's fifth anniversary. Created by Ryan Matteson, MOB is a nationally adored site that promotes the kind of quiet, hushed music best suited to those who find Bon Iver a little too heavy and danceable. Saturday's capacity show featured six groups hand-picked by Matteson that exemplified this sensitive-dude genre: White Pines, Small Cities, Strand Of Oaks, Conrad Plymouth, Common Loon, and The Daredevil Christopher Wright. While there were zero traces of rock to be found in the venerable Bay View rock club, the night nonetheless proved a triumph for both bands and blog alike.
Milwaukee's Conrad Plymouth distinguished itself from the crowded lineup by serving up a wintry collection of songs about flowers, trees, and the 1969 Native American occupation of Alcatraz on the excellent "Taking Alcatraz.” Common Loon, a two-piece outfit from Urbana, Illinois, played an all-too-brief set topped by a pensive, muted take on "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker." Headliners The Daredevil Christopher Wright were perhaps the most accomplished group on the bill, effortlessly employing the kind of three-part harmonies that would bring most bands to their knees. In fact, a few of their songs were nothing but three-part harmonies—an a cappella number was greeted with the most rapturous applause of the night. Though veering dangerously close to Vampire Weekend territory at times, DCW acquitted themselves nicely with a rousing performance that relied heavily on crowd participation. A late-set song featuring a chant of "Everybody shout 'blood!'" gave the night a much-needed jolt.
But the night's most riveting performance belonged to Strand Of Oaks, the nom de plume of Philadelphia's Timothy Showalter. An elementary school teacher by day, an acoustic troubadour with the voice of M. Ward by night, Showalter's haunting songs of loss and love kept the crowd utterly transfixed. Also in fine form was the Cactus Club itself. Though the sounds of an impromptu ’90s hip-hop dance party occasionally overpowered the music in the main room, the Bay View club was thick with a sense of goodwill for the bands and Muzzle Of Bees. All 5-year-olds should be so lucky.