Midwest by Southwest flashes regional muscle of Daredevils and Wussys
Published: March 7, 2012
Every year, hundreds of bands shoot down interstates toward Austin's week-long finish line. Every tour might just as easily be called Southwest or Bust. But branding's everything, and Midwest By Southwest's bill is a particularly canny combination of spirited regional appetizers and the sonic feast provided by Cincinnati's Wussy, playing at the Korova with three other bands from the Midwest on Monday, March 12.
Pooling their efforts in a series of pre and post SXSW shows, MWXSW offers a peek at three of Ohio's finest bands. Even though Cleveland's Whiskey Daredevils (basement stage, 12:30 a.m.) are the lowest of the three Buckeyes on the bill (which also includes Lexington, Ky., opener Oh My Me playing inside at 7:30 p.m.), their combustible punkabilly possess twangy country-punk fervor reminiscent of the Supersuckers. The quartet has honed its skills not just during their collective eight years together, but for nine years prior frontman Glenn Miller and bassist brother Ken excelled with the Cowslingers. During that time the Millers have presided over more than 15 discs, half of them by the Daredevils, including 2007's terrific hardcore covers disc, Old Favorites, and November's eponymous full-length. Their catalog exudes honky-tonk fury and smart-ass wit.
"Hundred dollar jeans, faded shirt and soft white hands, even though you live uptown, you're a friend of the working man…" sings Miller in "Ironic Trucker Hat." "Your friend with the Atari cap he bummed a couple smokes, didn't he go to boarding school with the one guy from the Strokes?" Though Ken Miller's departed, he's been replaced by the fetching (and appropriately titled) Sugar Wildman who rides her upright like it's Secretariat.
The Daredevils are joined by Cincinnati's the Sundresses (8:30 p.m. outdoors), another long-standing act whose profile trails the blood, sweat, and tears they've invested. The garageabilly power trio's penned three full-lengths with a healthy Sun Records-inflected rumble. Though they're grittier than an Appalachian Shell station bathroom, the Sundresses possess plenty of swerve and slinky late-night swagger. Their 2008 full-length Barkinghaus is an indictment of Bush-era morality highlighted by tracks like the backwoods boogie "Bullshit Motherfucker," the jazzy piano-torch rave "King Killer of Murder Town," and "Into the Arms of Dogs," which channels Tom Waits and King Missile. In 2010 they released Sundresses Off, a live disc with a number of newer tracks as well.
Wussy (7 p.m. outdoors) is the evening's main course. The quartet's keyed by the interplay of co-writers/guitarists/married couple Lisa Walker and Chuck Cleaver, who met after the demise of Cleaver's 15-year toiling with the country-tinged alt-rocking Ass Ponys. Since their fortuitous meeting they've recruited friends to fill out the roster and released four full-lengths, the latest, Strawberry, in November. True to Cleaver's pedigree, Wussy rocks, slathering on the power chords during the muscular "Fly Fly Fly" and mashing slashing Wire-inspired post-punk with '60s garage rock organ on "Pulverized." But they're also capable of delicate beauty on Walker's tracks like the shimmery watercolor "Waiting Room," or the lilting college rock "Magnolia."
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