Kings Go Forth may have hit the big time with their frenetic nod to the music of the soulful '60s and '70s but getting airtime on NPR and being surrounded by references to Amy Winehouse or Sharon Jones hasn't made them forget where they came from. Before the band kicked off its first song bassist and band leader Andy Noble reminded us "We are proud to be from Milwaukee."
Behind the band video footage from classic underground films began playing -- the 1978 Hindi movie, "Don," and the live action "Lupin the Third" -- and from there the brass instruments lit up and the percussion snapped to life.
The music was tight and the backing harmonies were powerful, a testiment to the idea that many people from diverse backgrounds can come together and create something bigger than the individuals. You could feel the energy eminating from the stage but there was also a sense that the band didn't exactly know how to manage all that potential. They have some big footsteps to follow in but they seem to be ready for the challenge.
It's obvious that the band is technically solid and I was pleased to see that featured solos were few and far between, and the brief solos that did appear were used to add color to the music instead of dominating the conversation.
The setlist featured tracks from their newest release, "The Outsiders Are Back" as well as their much-sought 7 inches, and the show moved smoothly between fast-paced and downtempo cuts. But true to the band's intent each song was equally danceable in its own unique way.
KGF seems to appeal to a diverse audience, as well. Tackling universal issues helps, and featuring love songs ("High on your love") as well as the opposite ("I Don't Love You No More") kinda covers all bases. One generation is looking for less edgy, but still full bodied sound from talented musicians and the another finds it difficult to dance to the likes of Fleet Foxes and She & Him.
But even desiring that release of energy, the floor was a little static through the show. I've seen The Get Drunk DJs work the crowd into a dizzying sweat around here and Kings Go Forth were working just as hard. I get the feeling that the new fans are still digesting the music and would love see this improve at subsequent shows.
Milwaukee's art scene is pretty large, but also largely under appreciated. There are a lot of people who are striving to keep it alive despite condescending scoffs and wayward glances towards Chicago. Hopefully the quality of Kings Go Forth is a testiment to the creative environment we have and bring up questions of what we might improve.
Kings Go Forth are proud to be from Milwaukee and we should be proud of them, too.
Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.
In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.
Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.