Garage rock was alive and kickin' Thursday night at The Mad Planet in Milwaukee.
A mixed crowd of drunks, pill-poppers, rockers and feminists turned out for a night of debauchery and rock 'n' roll. I arrived midway through the set of the neo-psychedelic Willowz, the long-haired retro rockers with an obvious affection for Led Zeppelin and all things '60s. The Willowz were a suitable enough opener, setting the tone for an energetic show. The brightest member was the drummer, who clearly would die to be John Bonham but managed to greatly impress this drummer of eight years.
Although The Willowz set-ending jam-session began wearing out its welcome in the end, the band did manage to leave the crowd amped for the next opener. The stage was set for Dan Sartain, the tripped-out troubadour once described by NME magazine as "Johnny Cash but not dead."
Sartain is a one-man surf-rock mastermind, with enough manic energy and guitar chops to fill a stage on his own. Backed by only a drummer playing simplistic punk rhythms, Dan Sartain took over the room full of listeners who had never heard of him before he took the stage.
His playing was phenomenally on-point, never missing a chord. Sartain has a guitar style similar to that of Dick Dale, with an arsenal of tunes ready to fill the next three Tarantino flicks. The performance was worth price of admission on its own, and then some. Sartain deserves to be known and loved by a devoted following. Maybe it exists, just not in Milwaukee. Nevertheless, the crowd was won over and left wanting more by the time he left the stage.
After Sartain cleared the stage, and crew brought in the next set of amps, the crowd became anxious. The Detroit Cobras' gear was ready and waiting, and so were the audience. We stood among the smoke and the sweat, for far too long between sets, just hoping the Cobras would appear.
People were chanting, "come on, already" with dwindling patience, to the point where I thought the crowd would start to clear out. By the time they took the stage, some of the members of the audience even booed to show their disapproval. But that died down quickly, and energy again grew to a high.
Everyone cheered them on, quickly forgetting the wait they had just endured, and showed approval of the female-led garage rock that is The Detroit Cobras. Two heads down from me was a mesh tank-top wearing scenester with a faux-hawk and a head full of ecstacy, who never stopped dancing the entire show, proving how far the Cobras' appeal has spread since their last visit.
While not everyone seemed quite as excited as him, the rest of the crowd didn't stray too far. The Cobras have a style that makes people who don't normally dance start to dance.
This author was a bit too claustrophobic to stay in the midst of it, but still enjoyed the show from outside the deranged dancing. My eyes are still bloodshot from the smoky scene that was the Mad Planet. My eardrums are shot for at least another day as well. But, truly, who cares? Isn't this what rock 'n' roll is all about?