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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014

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You don't see a keytar every day!
You don't see a keytar every day!
Drummer Jeremy Keith.
Drummer Jeremy Keith.
Liz Ofte.
Liz Ofte.
On the first clear, hot afternoon of summer, Pet Tigers was a real treat.
On the first clear, hot afternoon of summer, Pet Tigers was a real treat.

Two's enough for synth pop duo Pet Tigers

"When’s the last time you saw a keytar?" asked Liz Ofte, in the middle of her set at Summerfest on Saturday afternoon.

That’s a good question, and even though the keytar is one only two of the instruments (along with drums) in the two-person Pet Tiger, Ofte and Jeremy Keith don’t really need more to produce a big sound.

As we previewed on Friday, today’s Summerfest show was a breakout gig for the New Wave garage punk band out of Las Vegas. Ofte grew up on a farm in Western Wisconsin: "I try not get emotional, but this was a dream of mine since I was a little girl," she told a small but excited crowd at the Harley Roadhouse.

Her nerves weren’t evident, though, as the band powered through its debut album, sounding a lot like No Doubt, Blondie, and even Toni Basil when it covered "Mickey."

Clearly, a little of the music was pre-recorded, but the stripped-down sound was almost all keytar, drums and Ofte’s strong vocals. Keith did a little backup, but oddly, it wasn’t needed – two people were just enough, and Keith sounded great on drum. Hey, it works for the White Stripes and Black Keys. Why not Pet Tigers?

Of course, the keytar can be made to sound like anything, so Ofte turned it into synth guitar for "Big Bad Wolf" and "Run This City." The former made use of a little rapping and almost reminded me of Debbie Harry in "Rapture."

Pet Tigers closed their roughly 40-minute set with their newest song, "You’re My Favorite Flavor," "Shake Baby" and "Go Go Girl," and surely made a few Milwaukee fans today.

How far can a retro, dance punk band go with just two members? Who knows. Their sound is full enough, but a third or fourth member might make Pet Tigers even better. On covers like "Mickey," they did sound a bit too stripped down – but not on their own tunes, which is exactly what matter.

On the first clear, hot afternoon of summer, Pet Tigers was a real treat. Something tells me their first Summerfest show won’t be their last.

Set list:


"Our live show is super exciting and very dance-y," says Liz Ofte.
"Our live show is super exciting and very dance-y," says Liz Ofte.

7 questions for Las Vegas' band Pet Tigers

Vegas-based garage punk band Pet Tigers has a pretty strong Wisconsin connection. One half of the band, Liz Ofte, is from tiny Westby near LaCrosse, an actual farmer's daughter.

While Ofte and her bandmate Jeremy Keith are well-known in Las Vegas music scene, Saturday marks their first trip to Summerfest. They play at 4 p.m. at the Harley Roadhouse.

The duo, which is touring in support of its first album, spoke to by phone, minutes before hopping on a plane to Milwaukee. Are you ready for Pet Tigers’ first Milwaukee performance?

Liz Ofte: We are extremely excited, and it's great to coming back home. And for Jeremy and I, it's our first tour.

OMC: What a Pet Tigers live show like?

LO: Our live show is super exciting and very dance-y. We've had a lot of people who are like, "Man, you guys are like a party band. It's so fun to watch you guys, so much energy on stage."

Jeremy Keith: Yeah. There's definitely a little bit of punk in there, too. Just a little hint of that here and there.

OMC: And there's keytar?

LO: It’s just keytar, and then we have drums and then bass.

OMC: Did you really grow up on a farm, Liz?

LO: I’ve been in Las Vegas for seven years. But I grew up on a farm.

OMC: Do you draw on your time in rural western Wisconsin for your music

LO: All of that was helpful. I was in everything, jazz band, show choir, marching band. For me, I wouldn't be where I am musically if I wouldn't have had that background.

OMC: What is the Vegas life music scene like right now? Obviously, there's so much casino-driven stuff. Is there a good local live music scene?

JK: Yeah, it's pretty good out here. Bands come through here and get together with local bands and play downtown.

OMC: Obviously, Summerfest is the biggest music festival in the world, but do you think this is the biggest individual gig you've ever played?

LO: Definitely, yeah. People from Wisconsin know how to have fun and love new music, and we're excited to …

New Order takes the stage on July 3.
New Order takes the stage on July 3.

Summerfest picks: Andy Tarnoff

There are years when Summerfest’s lineup seems like it was made just for me. Then there are years, like this one, when the Big Gig just doesn’t flip my trigger. It’s not their fault, of course – the world’s largest musical has to make a lot of people happy. And this year, I’m just not one of them.

But I won’t sit around and complain. There’s still plenty to recommend.

Rather than do the traditional daily list of shows I’d recommend, I’ll present you with a simple list of shows I’d see if I had all the time in the world. Starting with the ones I want to see the most, here are the few shows that will make 2014’s Summerfest a good one for me:

New Order – This is the one I’m super-excited for. One of my favorite bands of the ‘80s, I expect this to be the highlight of the Big Gig. (July 3, 8 p.m. at the BMO Harris Pavilion)

Arctic Monkeys – I saw these Brits at the House of Blues in Chicago and was really surprised at how good they were. They rock. (June 25, 10 p.m. at the Miller Lite Oasis)

Bruno Mars – I won’t be at this Marcus show on June 25, because it’s sold out. But I have to admit, I like this guy. He reminds me of Sting with a swagger. (7:30 p.m. at the Amp)

Taj Mahal – Both my parents really like Taj Mahal, which is good enough for me. I’m going with my dad. (June 27, 10 p.m. at the Johnson Controls World Sound Stage)

Lady Gaga – I’m not really a fan of her work, although I don’t deny how catchy LG’s music is. Still, this is a Summerfest spectacle worth seeing. Maybe. (June 26, 7:30 pm. at the Amp)

Nineteen Thirteen – Any chance to see Victor Delorenzo, even if it’s without the Femmes, is a good one. (July 2, 6 p.m. at the Harley Roadhouse)

Berlin featuring Terri Nunn – Well, this is a surprise. Why is Berlin playing at 3 p.m. at the Uline Warehouse on July 2? I don’t know, but I hope they play "Sex (I'm A…)."

Fitz and The Tantrums – I know one song by this indie band. I hope the others inv…

The Juice was on the loose.
The Juice was on the loose.

Where were you during the O.J. chase?

I remember exactly where I was 20 years ago today, the night O.J. Simpson captivated the entire nation with his slow-speed chase through Los Angeles.

I was at Hooters.

It was a few weeks after I returned to Milwaukee for the summer after my sophomore year in college. I had just started working as an intern in the corporate communications department at Johnson Controls. My friend, Eron Laber, and I decided to drive to Chicago to watch game five of the NBA finals.

Being 20 and underage, and with just one fake ID between the two of us, we settled on Hooters as a possible place to sneak in. It was the first and last time, actually, I’ve been to a Hooters. They didn’t even card us.

Before the O.J. shenanigans, I remember mostly the tension in the air from the World Cup, which was being held in Chicago. On one side of the bar, drunken Germans chanted loudly, while confused Bolivian fans were raising a ruckus of their own on the other side. It felt weird that few people were interested in the NBA Game, which of course, was interrupted by O.J. and the slow white Bronco.

I remember sipping a Miller Lite and eating some fried food, watching the scene play out in a dreamlike state. Eron and I expected O.J. to shoot himself in the head on live TV, or a European soccer fight to break out. Neither happened.

I also remember the ride back. I was staying with my grandma that summer, and our freeway exit was Brown Deer Road. We ran out of gas on the off ramp, and coasted into the gas station on Brown Deer and Port Road. It seemed like a fitting end to a surreal night.

Where were you when O.J. took off?