The Whigs/Wildbirds/Invade Rome; April 20, 2010; Mill Creek, Appleton
No matter how carefully I pick dates for my house concerts there is inevitably some sort of conflict, this time it was Athens Georgia’s fantastic Whigs at the Rathskellar on campus the same night as the Jon Langford show at the house. I’d seen the Whigs open for the Toadies a few years back and was charmed by their addictive rock and seemingly limitless energy, not to mention lead singer Parker Gispert’s fantastic dance moves that require he wear his guitar cinched up high under his arm to keep it out of the way. Once I realized I was going to miss them in Madison, I wanted to figure out where I could see them. They were playing at Mill Creek the Tuesday before, while Appleton seemed a strange stop for their first headlining tour in the Midwest, it was certainly doable on a Tuesday night. We arrived a half hour after the posted start time, hoping one of the three bands would have started already, they hadn’t, it was going to be a late night.
Milwaukee band Invade Rome used to be Freshwater Collins, a band I’d seen a couple times before. At least I think I did, I remembered them as being a bluesy jam band, but nothing about their fairly generic rock tonight seemed very familiar. Lead singer Chris Vos confounded me by switching between a deep devil voice and an impressive wail, I was unsure which was more real, maybe neither. Also hailing from Milwaukee, second openers the Wildbirds were much more memorable with their infectious rock that combined Tom Petty’s gift for a catchy melody with the Stones’ dirty blues. Other than the bass player, who could have been Kyle Motor’s little brother, I’ll admit that the boys themselves also looked pretty dirty, and lead singer Nicholas Stuart’s pencil-thin mustache didn’t help. Despite his V-neck T-shirt (not a fan), I was hypnotized as he writhed his way through a set of captivating tunes. I’ll be watching for the next time they come to town because I definitely want to see them again.
The Whigs mean business, other than a few mumbled thank you’s, they barely spoke as the burned through a set that didn’t pull any punches. It wasn’t because they couldn’t think of anything to say. “Your girlfriend wants to fuck my guitar?” lead singer repeated skeptically to one of the very vocal audience members as he set down the guitar and moved to the keyboard for a song, “well, that’s not going to do either of us any good.” I’ll be the first to admit his black Epiphone was sexy, fingerprint smudges and all, but he’s absolutely right. I recognized many of the songs from their ridiculously good recent release In the Dark, but every one of their anthemic tunes was memorable. Gisbert and super hot bass player Julian Dorio covered much of Mill Creek’s roomy stage never missing a note during a very physical set that left me exhausted, as much from smiling nonstop as from anything else. By the end I was kicking myself for having missed their two Madison appearances since the Toadies show. That won’t happen again.