I despaired when St Louis’s Theodore broke up. Even though no one ever came to see them at the house, those were three of my favorite house concerts ever. Luckily Theodore’s lead singer Justin Kinkle-Schuster immediately formed the Water Liars with friend Andrew Bryant. They’d been a band for three records already but I hadn’t had them at the house yet. I owe Appleton’s Mile of Music Fest a thank you, because it brought them (and the Baseball Project a few days later) to Wisconsin with some schedule holes to fill. The Water Liars were touring with three strong albums and a ton of great press under their belts, resulting in a crowd that equaled all three Theodore crowds combined. Some of that thanks has to go to openers the Midwest Beat, who suggested themselves as openers when I wasn’t sure who to ask, and then did a great job promoting it.
With three lead singers, there’s something for everyone to like in Midwest Beat. Tim Schweiger brings the power pop swagger, while Matt Joyce does the alt country rock to perfection. Meanwhile bassist Kyle Denton (who I found out is also one of Trapper Schoepp’s Shades) is the right amount of rock and roll, and probably a little bit of trouble too. They played a tightly economical forty minute set that left everyone wanting more. All the more reason to go to Orton Park a few weeks later for their mid-afternoon set.
The Water Liars also left a lot of broken hearts behind. Where the Midwest Beat specializes in the catchy, three minute pop song, the Liars believe in gut-wrenching beauty. Kinkel-Schuster’s voice continues to amaze me. Not content to just play album versions of the songs, they’ve reinvented some of them even better than before. Wyoming’s stand-out track “Linens” was, improbably, even better tonight than on record. Something that didn’t escape Bill Swan’s notice, “Wasn’t that the song from your Best Of compilation?” he asked. “Wow, it sounds even better live.” The band which started as a guitar/drums duo became a trio a couple years ago with the addition of bassist GR. Despite the power trio appearance they can still keep it quiet, and relished the chance to do so tonight. They were happy to play seated after playing so many “rock shows” recently.
It might have been the reason they played a little longer than usual too. They always end too soon, but tonight’s set was almost an hour, and the truth is I could listen to them all night. After a relatively rocking song, Bryant and GR stood up as Justin thanked everyone for coming and announced there would be one more song. The basement fell silent as he picked out the melody of “Let It Breathe.” “There’s a room inside my heart where no one ever goes, it’s been boarded up and locked for years and everything is gone. Then you came along and cut yourself a key, swept the floors and opened all the windows, said baby let it breathe.” It was slower than the album version, more reverb and more emotion. And it was breathtaking. They could have played more, but that was the perfect, final, amazing note. Swoon.
The Midwest Beat
The Water Liars