Tag Archives: Shank Hall

The Living Statues


If you’re looking for a new, local band to give that push to, consider trying out The Living Statues. Cooked up by a trio of Milwaukeeans in 2012, the group’s been rocking ever since, releasing their first EP, Knockin’, last year and performing on stages as far off as LA with artists as established as Tokyo Police Club and Walk the Moon. Not convinced? Consider this: The band describes themselves as a mix between the Beatles circa Hard Day’s Night and Jack White. At least show up to see if they’re right.

At Shank Hall in Milwaukee. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at shankhall.com.

9 p.m. May 8 

Roches’ mother-daughter harmonies to fill Shank Hall

To their many fans, the surnames Roche and Wainwright imply musical royalty. Their intertwined family tree has created two generations of accomplished folk musicians connected by blood and marriage.

Two key members of the family join together in concert on Nov. 19 at Milwaukee’s Shank Hall. Suzzy Roche and her daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche are appearing to support their joint 2013 album Fairytale and Myth

Suzzy (rhymes with “fuzzy”) Roche is the youngest of the sister trio The Roches. After the release of the group’s self-titled 1979 album, The Roches were invited by Paul Simon to perform on Saturday Night Live, giving the group national exposure. But despite glowing critical reviews and the support of such acclaimed musicians as Robert Fripp, The Roches never achieved a major commercial breakthrough. One of their most enduring recordings is the 1990 Christmas collection We Three Kings.

In 1997, with The Roches on hiatus, Suzzy Roche released her first solo album Holy Smokes, and followed it with the outstanding Songs From an Unmarried Housewife and Mother, Greenwich Village, USA in 2000. In addition to featuring guest vocals by Lucy Wainwright Roche, Suzzy Roche included her daughter’s father, ex-husband Loudon Wainwright III. He and folk singer Kate McGarrigle are the parents of musicians Rufus and Martha Wainwright.

Lucy Wainwright Roche initially rejected the family career path and became an elementary school teacher. She once told NPR, “I had no interest in being a musician, because I was surrounded by them. It seemed like a terrible plan.”

In 2005, however, she joined half-brother Rufus Wainwright on tour as a backup vocalist. By 2007, she’d released a collection of eight songs, and her debut full-length album Lucy appeared in 2010.

In addition to her 2013 album There’s a Last Time For Everything, Lucy Wainwright Roche has sung backup with Neko Case and toured with Amos Lee. She’s drawn comparisons to artists like Joni Mitchell.

Despite their penchant for singing about family strife, the Roche and Wainwright families’ albums and concert tours are often family affairs. Fairytale and Myth is no different.

“I spent some of the warmest hours of my life making this album. It was one of the most magical musical moments of my life,” Suzzy Roche says of working with her daughter.

The close vocal harmonies between mother and daughter will be familiar to anyone who’s followed The Roches through the years. The subject matter of the album’s songs includes the numerous ways in which people generate myths out of reality. Tracks on the album include a touching cover of the Beatles’ “For No One”; “Lily,” a song inspired by Edith Wharton’s classic novel House of Mirth and its lead character Lily Bart; and long-time family-concert favorite “When I’m at Your House,” featuring Loudon Wainwright III on guest vocals.

The closing song, “When a Heart Breaks Down,” perhaps best encapsulates the spirit of the album. It celebrates those who come to your rescue in dark times; the song ends with the advice, “Return that love with a newfound heart.”

Lucy Wainwright Roche has described touring with her mother as comfortable — reminiscent of the time she spent with her mother on the road with The Roches as a child. The tour gives her the opportunity to sing songs featuring vocal harmonies, which is obviously not possible as a solo artist.

Both daughter and mother are known for the rapport that they develop with audiences in concert appearances. Suzzy Wainwright Roche often tells quirky stories and makes wry commentary on everyday life, while her daughter exhibits a quiet but moving sense of humor.

The Nov. 19 show at Shank Hall is guaranteed to be memorable. Whether you are a fan from The Roche’s first album release in 1979, a long-term follower of the Wainwright family, or simply looking for some of the finest, intimate, live folk-pop music available, this is a not-to-miss show. 

On stage

Suzzy Roche and her daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche appear at Milwaukee’s Shank Hall, 1434 N. Farwell Ave., on Nov. 19. For showtimes and ticket information, visit shankhall.com or phone 414-276-7288.

The Mike Benign Compulsion confronts life at a certain age on ‘Here’s How It Works’

Few of us anticipate the realities of life at a certain age. But one day we awake, and there we are — totally unprepared.

That’s the experience at the heart of the third album by Milwaukee’s The Mike Benign Compulsion. Here’s How It Works is scheduled for release on March 8.

“The album is about middle age,” Benign says. “The whole album is about that in one way or another.”

The album’s title refers to the realization that life turns out a certain way, and that’s just “how it works,” Benign explains.

The Mike Benign Compulsion consists of guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Mike Benign, drummer Michael Koch, organist and guitarist Joe Vent, and bass player Brian Wooldridge. They’re are all veterans of previous top Milwaukee bands, including Blue in The Face, The Wooldridge Brothers, The Yell Leaders, Arms & Legs & Feet, and The Joker’s Henchmen.

All of the group’s members have known each other for a very long time and none of them performs music as a primary career. Benign says they all share the experience of having a point where music was “really what we wanted to do with our lives.” But that’s never happened.

Here’s How It Works is the third album that the group has worked on together as The Mike Benign Compulsion.

After my first listen to the album — and after viewing the music video for the single “Haley Daley” (check it out on YouTube) — the work of a young Elvis Costello came to mind. The comparison was deepened by the inclusion of the song “Imperial Bedroom,” which references Elvis Costello’s 1982 album of the same name in exploring feelings of unfulfilled youthful dreams.

Benign confirms that Imperial Bedroom is one of his all-time personal favorite albums. Certainly Costello’s expressions of loss and resignation haunt many of the songs on Here’s How It Works.

Benign says that he and his bandmates realize that the potential of getting a “big break” is gone. But what continues, he says, is the desire to create songs and expose local fans to them in a way that will touch them and make them think while providing them with an enjoyable, quality pop-rock experience. Getting the most people to hear the music is now the key goal.

When you pick up a vinyl copy of Here’s How It Works, the first thing you notice is a photo of Milwaukee philanthropist and longtime LGBT supporter Joseph Pabst on the cover. It’s a riveting photo that fits per- fectly with the message of the album.

In it, Pabst is barefoot and wearing a rumpled suit while bearing an expression that looks as if he has barely survived what came before and yet is resigned to what the future might hold. Ken Hanson of Hanson Dodge Creative in Milwaukee conducted the photo shoot.

Benign says the original idea was to have someone middle-aged, nude and in a fetal position. The intention was to present a partial homage to Annie Lebovitz’s image of John Lennon curled up next to Yoko Ono that was published on the cover of Rolling Stone after his untimely death.

But when the photo shoots were completed, the band decided that the original idea was too dark for what the band wanted to convey. The original fetal position image is used on the insert of the vinyl version of Here’s How It Works, while the suited image is more appropriate for the The Mike Benign Compulsion at this point in the group’s development.

Benign says peak moments for the band have included the opportunities to open for musical veterans and idols such as Squeeze, Bob Mould, Black Francis of the Pixies and Marshall Crenshaw.

The band is not experimental or avant garde. “It’s straight-ahead pop rock ’n’ roll, and there’s an alternative aspect to it,” Benign says of the group’s music. If you are a fan of power pop, the more

rock-oriented edge of new wave, or simply solid, intelligent song craft, then The Mike Benign Compulsion is well worth an evening’s investment. You can hear The Mike Benign Compulsion live at the band’s album release party on March 8 at Shank Hall. The evening also features Milwaukee group Testa Rosa.

Here’s How It Works will be sold on vinyl in Milwaukee and will be available for digital download through the usual outlets, including iTunes and Amazon.


The Mike Benign Compulsion appears live at Shank Hall, 1434 N. Farwell Ave., in Milwaukee at 8 p.m. on March 8. Call 414-276-7288 or go to www.shankhall.com.

Local bands appearing at Shank Hall to benefit Community Shares

Determining which nonprofit to support isn’t easy, especially when you have limited financial capabilities.

That’s what Community Shares Milwaukee is for. The organization is a nonprofit for nonprofits, helping 50 affiliated member groups get funding and donations to promote their missions. On Feb. 7, Community Shares is looking for contributions in a brand-new way: the Concert for Community Shares, a benefit at Shank Hall featuring the local bands MidCoast, the Rumskis and Burgundy Ties.

Staging a benefit concert isn’t a new idea, but it’s new for the 33-year-old nonprofit, says executive director John Jansen, who’s been with the organization since 2001. He says the concept originated with board president Mary Hintz, an audit manager at Scribner, Cohen & Company. Her husband Jon Hintz fronts one of the bands — the Rumskis. He and other board members were able to recruit two additional groups to round out the show.

In addition to serving as a fundraiser, the concert will also function as a promotional campaign for the organization, which Jansen says has been raising its profile in recent years through traditional marketing and social media. Proceeds from the show will go to Community Shares to be distributed among the social justice, animal welfare and environmental charities Community Shares supports.

Community Shares’ major source of funding is workplace giving. Public and private sector employees select charities from Community Shares affiliates and donate a portion of their paycheck to them each week.

“It would be impossible for our 50 member organizations to go to 50-plus workplaces and run an employee giving campaign,” Jansen says. “So we give them the entree into the workplace and represent and advocate for them.”

Affiliates are appreciative of Community Shares’ contributions because they can be used to fund general operations. Funds provided through grants usually are designated for specific projects.

Community Shares also provides additional value for donors. The charities supported are screened and vetted to ensure they’re operated according to best practices and have a record of results.

It’s a virtuous cycle, so to speak — one Jansen hopes the Concert for Community Shares can keep on spinning.

Listen up!

A benefit concert’s nothing without its musical acts, and the Concert for Community Shares has brought together three varied acts offering a little something for everyone. To give you a sense of what’s on tap for the evening, we spoke with representatives from the bands performing.

The Rumskis

Members: Jon Hintz, vocals/guitar; Matt Hintz, guitar; Tim Mercier, bass; Lyle Brotkowski, drums.

Sound: Alternative rock, with splashes of classic rock, hard rock, blues, psychedelic and folk rock.

Sample track: “Five Broken Hearts,” from the self-titled EP.

Origin story: “Two brothers, their co-worker and a bearded bass player all drank just enough rum and whiskey.”

Most memorable Milwaukee show: “Our EP release party at Fire and Water, April 20, 2013.”

Reason for supporting Community Shares: “Jon Hintz’s wife Mary is the president of the board at Community Shares. Because of her love for music and charitable organizations, she reached out to us to see if we wanted to do a benefit concert along with local bands we admire. We want to be involved in our local communities, and that involvement aligns perfectly with Community Shares’ mission.”


Members: Eric Zyla, rhythm guitar/vocals; Mike Serverson, percussion/vocals; Matt “Gunner” Gundersen, rhythm and lead guitar/Hammond organ; Jake Razbornik, lead guitar/vocals; Andy Riding, bass.

Sound: Indie/alternative rock.

Sample track: “Bring,” off upcoming EP.

Origin story: “Mike and I (Eric) started jammin’ together about two years ago, sharing each other’s original material and unique cover renditions. With aspirations of putting together a full band, we kept learning covers and playing out as a two-piece. Finally, about two months ago, I invited Mike over to Gunner’s place to jam some material he and I had been working on and things started to take off. Next, we invited Jake over, and his ability to fit the mood of the song gave us a great mix in sound. Andy jumped aboard in early January after he responded to our Craigslist post and turned out to be a great fit.” 

Most memorable Milwaukee show: “Any show we play at Fire and Water — we’ve played at Fire and Water more than we’ve played at any other venue. Plus any time you get the chance to open a set for a great local band like the Rumskis you appreciate the experience even more.”

Reason for supporting Community Shares: “We have recently been introduced to Community Shares and their mission, and we’re honored to be a part of an event that will help bring awareness to the organization.”

Burgundy Ties

Members: Pat Dermody, guitars/vocals; Geoff Felsher, lap steel/guitar; Nate Grey, keyboards/piano; Peyton Lencho, bass; Jacob Miller, drums/percussion/vocals.

Sound: Singer-songwriter rock ’n’ roll.

Sample track: “Homeward,” from the album of the same name.

Origin story: “Burgundy Ties originally formed back in 2003 and our name means “blood brothers.” Over the years we’ve released four albums and played over 1,000 shows. We’ve grown into the five-piece we are today with everyone joining the group organically. Music is the backbone, but humor is the glue that keeps us together as a band.”

Most memorable Milwaukee show: “Our sold-out Homeward CD Release Concert last summer on the Vista King (tour boat) in Milwaukee. We got to share our new music and a beautiful evening on Lake Michigan with 200 of our closest fans and friends.”

Reason for supporting Community Shares: “(We’ve) been involved directly with Community Shares in the past, (and we’ve) known board member Mary Hintz for a number of years.”

On stage

The Concert for Community Shares begins at Shank Hall at 7 p.m. Feb. 7. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Order tickets online at communitysharesmke.org.