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Last Night: The Whigs, What Made Milwaukee Famous, The Dead Trees and Collin Herring

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The Whigs, What Made Milwaukee Famous, The Dead Trees and Collin Herring The Loft May 9, 2008

Better Than: Well...the record, in The Whigs' case.

You know, for a town than supposedly views Austin with disdain, Dallas sure supports Austin musicians...

It's fairly well known that both The Black Angels and Bob Schneider are big draws around these parts (albeit with different crowds), and at The Loft on Friday, that love extended to wholeheartedly embrace the Austin-based What Made Milwaukee Famous.

For the 45 minutes, as WMMF played to a three-quarter-filled Loft crowd, the audience ate it up. Not too difficult to see why: The band's got an easily accessible indie pop-rock sound (despite what a certain area tattoo artist might think), and lead singer Michael Kingcaid's got himself an enviable set o' pipes, which are just as impressive live as they are on record.

But what was most surprising about this night wasn't the love shown for WMMF. It was the lack of support the audience showed The Whigs.

Granted, the time between WMMF and The Whigs' sets was a few minutes longer than most people likely anticipated, but by the time the Athens, Georgia, garage rock trio took the stage, at least two-thirds of the audience had taken off for the night.

What those early leavers missed was an impressive display of something I, for one, didn't anticipate: a more garage punk than garage rock sound, with slightly faster-paced songs and raspier lead vocals than The Whigs have shown on their recorded outputs. Yeah, the changes were minor, but they made a huge difference, morphing The Whigs from a pleasing--but not groundbreaking--act to a kinda Stooges-meets-Strokes punch in the face.

Maybe it was just how hard the trio wailed away on their instruments. As drummer Julian Dorio pounded away complicated beats and lead vocalist Parker Gispert (who kinda has a Thurston Moore look to him) whipped his body back and forth across the stage, bouncing into amplifiers and thrashing about like he hadn't noticed the drop-off in attendance, it was tough not to be somewhat inspired. This wasn't The Whigs I'd expected to see. It was The Whigs on HGH. Turned up to 11.

And the 40 or so people in the crowd sure seemed to enjoy it. I know I did. The hundred or so people who left The Loft after What Made Milwaukee Famous' set sure missed the boat on this one.

Critic's Notebook: Personal Bias: If anything, I was a little sick of WMMF's "Sultan" heading into this show, thanks to a couple WMMF posts on our blog this week. But, even so, I was looking forward to that band's set. And, like I said, I hadn't really been that blown away by The Whigs previously (tonight, though, I bought the band's new record, Mission Control--and given the sheer volume of free discs that come our office's way, that's a resounding endorsement, folks).

Random Note: We've written a bit about Collin Herring in the paper, but I'd never really listened to his stuff seriously before tonight. And, turns out, it was pretty good. Very Doug Burr-like.

By The Way: Portland, Oregon, indie rockers The Dead Trees played a nice set, but what was most remarkable about it was the fact that the five young fans in attendance seemed to come to this show just for them. The Dead Trees' lead vocalist noticed, dubbing these fans "The Dallas Five" about halfway into his band's set. And yes, "The Dallas Five" did leave shortly after The Dead Trees' performance--but not before giddily chatting it up the members of their favorite band. --Pete Freedman

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