The last time I saw the Brooklyn-based indie alternative band Bear Hands, they opened for Passion Pit at the Riverside Theater in April of 2010. They were newcomers to the indie scene at that point, with their debut EP titled "Golden" under their belt, and their debut full-length album, "Burning Bush Supper Club" in 2010, an album in which made a tiny splash at the time.
Before they took the stage that night at the Riverside Theater, I remember thinking quietly to myself, "What kind of band name is Bear Hands? They’re probably going to be awful." Oh, how I was such a naïve and clueless teenager. I actually remember them being an impressive, electro-influenced rock quartet that at least got the crowd energetic before Passion Pit took the stage. Ever since that night, however, I haven’t heard much from them since, beyond the songs on "Golden" and "Burning Bush Supper Club," of course.
Finally, four years later, they released their sophomore full-length album, "Distraction," this past February. This time, they’re making a bigger splash than they did before with the hit single, "Giants." Now that they’ve broken away from being openers and have transitioned into headliners, they made a stop at Summerfest last night as part of their summer tour to promote the new album.
As I practiced my balancing skills by standing on the bleacher seating near the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage, it was 10 minutes to 10 p.m., the time that Bear Hands was scheduled to start, and the crowd was small, really small. I think I’ve honestly seen more people attend a Wednesday matinee at the local four-screen movie theater in my hometown. The few dozen people made their way as close as they can to the front, myself included, and mostly everyone packed in the first five or six rows, with a few interested bystanders scattered far throughout the remaining rows.
If I were to make an educated guess, the other rows behind me were probably left vacant by people who were eager to bust a move to Fitz and The Tantrums or rock out to Brand New, both of which were performing at the same exact time as Bear Hands. Maybe I should’ve expected this, because Bear Hands isn’t extremely popular yet. Even though they’ve been around for a few years, they’re just now gaining momentum in popularity.
Through a smoky haze, Bear Hands took the stage right on the dot and the crowd erupted in cheers and whistles.
"We’re Bear Hands. Thanks for being with us," said lead singer Dylan Rau.
They opened with the older hit, "What A Drag," from the album, "Burning Bush Supper Club," they then performed a string of songs without any breaks including "Bad Friend," "Belongings," and "What I’ve Learned" among others old and new.
"What’s up? Are you having a good f*cking day? Are you sure you have nowhere else to go?" joked guitarist Ted Feldman. Nope. I had nowhere else to go. Sure, I could’ve been at Fitz and the Tantrums, embarrassing myself with my dance moves. But I chose to stay and jam out to a band that may not be as popular, but deserves as much praise, nonetheless.
They then performed "I Can’t Stick ‘Em" and then transitioned immediately into "Crime Pays," "Blood and Treasure," and "Bone Digger."
"Are you bummed that you’re not watching Fitz and the Tantrums or Brand New right now?" Feldman asked. At this point, I didn’t even care that I would miss out on Fitz and the Tantrums or Brand New. At this point, I was so impressed with their performance so far that it automatically trumped all other possible experiences that I could’ve had.
They followed "Bone Digger" with "Bullsh*t Saviour Complex" and then "Peacekeeper," which I think has the most punk sound that got the crowd moving as if the song was some sort of energy source. Some started to head bang and the sloppy drunk dancing became even sloppier.
"Happy birthday, America. Happy Fourth of July! Thanks for being with us again," said Rau. Once he said this, the crowd showed their drunken patriotism by chanting "USA! USA! USA!" until the band started playing "Moment of Silence." The crowd went crazy as they closed out the show with "Giants," a song that undoubtedly received the biggest reaction and deservedly so as I think it’s the best song from "Destruction."
As soon as "Giants" finished, the band bid farewell and the crowd left – actually they ran – to catch whatever was left to probably see the remainder of Fitz and the Tantrums or Brand New. Some waited for a brief minute, myself included, to see if they would come back out for an encore, but I should've known better. The crew started taking down equipment: a universal signal that the show is indeed over and everyone should leave.
"Have you heard of Bad Suns? You probably haven’t. They’re not mainstream." This is probably what a hipster would say somewhere, but the fact is that a lot of people haven’t heard of the Bad Suns yet and that’s not okay. The indie pop rock band, which hails from sun-soaked Los Angeles, are just getting their start, and their Summerfest gig as an opening act of sorts for Bear Hands last night marks their first in Milwaukee.
The band released a breakout EP, "Transpose," this past January and they quickly followed it up with their first full-length album, "Language & Perspective," which was just released on iTunes on June 24 and in stores on July 3. The band is quickly on the rise, having performed "Cardiac Arrest," their first single off their new album, on "Conan" and touring with a breakout band – the always impressive The 1975 – earlier this year.
It’s not at all surprising that they toured with The 1975, as both bands have a similar aesthetic sound that’s undoubtedly catchy and will bring anyone up to their feet. And that’s exactly what they did. They brought a dose of catchy indie pop, which itself sounds like songs you’d hear as you walk through any Urban Outfitters or Hollister. That doesn’t take away from the fact, however, that each song that they performed was very, very catchy.
As Bad Suns took the stage, the girls swooned over lead singer Christo Bowman, who looks like a punk rock version of Jesse McCartney, but with a way cooler edge. They opened with "We Move Like The Ocean," a song that, much like every one of their other songs throughout the set, was energetic. Before he belts out the final chorus, he asks the crowd, "What’s up Summerfest?" They then performed "Transpose," followed by "Matthew James," "Dancing on Quicksand," "20 Years," and "Pretend."
Lead singer gave a hearty "Thank you very much. I can’t remember when I had this much fun on the Fourth of July. Let’s have a f*cking good time tonight, yeah?" which was met with an enthusiastic response from the crowd, who surprisingly filled most of the bleachers (but let’s get real, people were probably killing time before other headliners that started at 10 p.m. This was most obvious by how quickly the crowd scattered away from the bleachers after their final song, it was as if a fire broke out or something.)
Bowman really found his groove about halfway through the set as he began to circle on stage as if he was trying his best to impersonate Mick Jagger, or at least a similar onstage swagger. He became much more loose and confident in his performance, and it was most obvious that he was in his own zone of comfort as he was on stage performing to the Milwaukee crowd. This energy was infectious and got the crowd moving.
The band then performed "Take My Love" before Bowman proclaimed, "We’ll come back real soon. We promise you that." I hope he doesn’t break that promise. They performed three more songs following "Take My Love," including "Rearview," "Cardiac Arrest," which the crowd went absolute bananas over, and the closer "Salt."
Bear Hands and Bad Suns are two indie pop rock bands that are on the rise and hopefully will continue to find success, one catchy tune at a time.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Colton Dunham
Published Nov. 13, 2014
UW-Milwaukee's Klotsche Center has banned sleeveless shirts because toned college students wearing them intimidate students who are new to college fitness.
Published Nov. 7, 2014
For fans of anything popular culture -- from comics, movies, games, television and celebrities -- Awesome Con is a place to embrace the potpourri of geeky awesomeness. The convention, which touts itself as an up-and-coming Comic-Con of sorts, was set to take place in Milwaukee at the Wisconsin Center from Nov. 21-23, but faced with a set of logistical challenges, the con was cancelled this past Wednesday, just weeks away.
Published Nov. 6, 2014
I've accepted the fact that people love to hate Lena Dunham. Now, to add to this ever-so-growing list of relentlessness, you might've read this online in the past couple of days: Dunham is a sex offender. Yes, rub those eyes and read again. But, come on, is she really? Nope.
Published Nov. 3, 2014
Last spring, Martin Kaszubowski and Scott Cary graduated from UW-Milwaukee's highly regarded film program with a load of ambition. They've made the leap that most students don't dare to take immediately following college: co-writing, directing and producing a feature-length film with little to no money to back them up. Recently, they launched a Kickstarter campaign for the film, titled "Christopher Darling."
Published Oct. 31, 2014
After many rewrites, "The Surface" moved into production last summer that was made up almost entirely of a Milwaukee-based crew and a cast who have certainly seen better gigs. The film, as it turns out, is one that should sink because of its absurdly inept screenplay that could've used a few more rewrites (and by rewrites, I don't mean a few kinks to sort out. I mean an entirely new screenplay altogether).
Published Oct. 27, 2014
Milwaukee's Altered Five is a quintet that knows a few a things about the blues -- a genre that, despite its name, often makes people feel good thanks to its soulful vibe. Over the last year, the band often put a little groove to its step when treading familiar turf with its own soulful, lyrical twist, especially on its latest album, "Cryin' Mercy."
Published Oct. 25, 2014
As I walked through the large wooden door entrance, the aroma inside of Pizza Man on 2597 N. Downer Ave. was so intoxicating that it made my stomach quiver. This smell of Italian bliss, of course, stayed with me throughout my visit. Near the bar stood Tony Menzel, a waiter who has worked at Pizza Man since it re-opened in the summer of 2013 following a devastating fire.
Published Oct. 25, 2014
Two nights this month, Paranormal Investigators Milwaukee hosts two guided investigation tours for the general public at the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear, which is located on 839 N. 11th St. in Milwaukee and at the Brumder Mansion, 3046 W. Wisconsin Ave., on Friday, Oct. 31.
Published Oct. 11, 2014
It's a tough act to balance comedy and drama ... especially if you're balancing themes of suicide and familial estrangement with humor and heart. Director Craig Johnson ("True Adolescents") finds just the right balance for the dramedy "The Skeleton Twins," mixing heartache with hilarity, and giving "Saturday Night Live" alums Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader time to flex their dramatic muscles as estranged suicidal siblings who reunite and find commonality.
Published Oct. 10, 2014
School by school, 4th through 6th grade students, teachers and chaperones filed into the theatre and took their seats in the main house of the Oriental Theatre, waiting to be taken away by the beautifully crafted Spanish-language animated film "AninA." The screening was held as part of Milwaukee Film's education screenings during the film festival.