By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jul 01, 2016 at 3:06 AM

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The Johnson Controls World Sound Stage was the place to be Thursday night during a soggy second evening at Summerfest – and not just because the venue is one of the few on the grounds that comes with a roof.

Though there was a storm raging outside the venue, there was an even greater storm thundering under its canopy thanks to The Record Company. While everyone outside the World Sound Stage was getting soaked, those enjoying Milwaukee native Chris Vos and his up-and-coming band left the grounds quite the opposite: happily scorched and blistered by the blazing heat of some truly rocking dirt roads rock music.

Despite its simple moniker, The Record Company isn’t a household rock ‘n’ roll name quite yet. Considering the trio’s 2016 so far, however, they’re well on their way. The band – led by Vos, who moved out to Los Angeles from the Cream City with his wife in 2010 and, while out there, met his fellow rockers thanks to the mystical unifying powers of Craigslist – released its debut album "Give It Back To You" this past year, with its lead single "Off The Ground" receiving solid radio play, climbing the Billboard charts and earning glowing write-ups from the likes of Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly.

And judging by the band’s handiwork Thursday night, that should just be the beginning for The Record Company, as they are the real rockin’ deal.

Vos opened the headliner set by introducing the band and proclaiming, "We play rock ‘n’ roll," and no one probably within a mile radius of the World Sound Stage for their opening number could disagree with that sentiment, as the group erupted into its opener "On The Move." Somehow, "erupt" doesn’t give the opening tune credit, as Vos and company absolutely blasted the excitable crowd with loud harmonica solos and vocals from seemingly a crackling trucker CB radio.

As criminal as this is to say about a rock show, it was borderline too loud – the harmonica’s volume especially was cranked ear-searingly high, especially for one of the less open-air grounds stages at the Big Gig – but not too much to blare out the band’s driving bass grooves and rollicking bluesy guitar licks.

It didn’t take long, however, for The Record Company to tune slightly down to the right volume while keeping the on-stage electricity vigorously high. The second tune, "Hard Day Coming Down," was already an improvement, with all of its parts – namely its harmonica riffs – pitched at the right level.

For just three guys, they sure as hell still made a lot of noise, but it was easier to appreciate both the roaring fun and the roots rock craft and actual music in something like the third song, the punchy, growing "Baby, I’m Broken."

After conquering most volume issues, The Record Company never looked back, locking into a real rockin’ groove that never ceased and only seemed to get better over the course of their 75-minute set. The borderline funky "Rita Mae Young" brought out the group’s vocal harmonies and, most notably, the first sighting of Vos’ lap steel guitar, a peculiar instrument – it looks more like a plank of wood played sitting down than a typical guitar – which he strummed and slid around on like a champion, while "Turn Me Loose" added a little slinkiness to their roots rock roar.

After a few more scorching, ferociously driving tunes, The Record Company dialed it back just for a brief moment with a slightly slower song, led by Vos’ acoustic guitar rather than electric or lap steel. However, it was no lazy ballad, still carrying that bluesy-rock energy.

Still, if anybody was caught dazing, they were quickly snapped back to attention with the following track, the band’s slinky, sulky and snarly big hit "Off The Ground" complete with a great grooving bass line from bassist Alex Stiff.

The Record Company then wrapped up the evening with "Feels So Good," which seemed to incorporate everything about the band and its Thursday night performance into one final rockabilly-esque outburst. There were the awesome furious bluesy-rock riffs, the blasting harmonica solos, the return of the crackling CB trucker mic and raging guitar licks played both standing up and on Vos’ lap. Even though they came out for a quick, very deserved encore afterward, this tune seemed to sum up everything you’d want to know about The Record Company. And if you’re a rock fan, you most certainly DO want to know about them.

Even Vos’ stage presence during "Feels So Good" felt like the epitome of his performance that night, a combination of contagious bouncing around the stage with his guitar during riffs and some nice, authentic storytelling, opening the song up with a tribute to the first musician he saw perform live: Don Vos (a story he said he’d retire that night).

He spent the whole set like that: very personable and energetic, as you’d hope for a hometown show, joking early on that, "It’s good to be home, good to be dry," and later killing some dead air talking about his true greatest contribution to Los Angeles culture: bringing the brat into a local grocer.

He’s definitely a tinkerer on stage, sometimes taking some extra time before a song to mess with the tuning or some switches for his guitars, but it never came at the cost of a good show.

Before he fired up the encore, Vos told the Summerfest audience that they will return to Milwaukee soon – in fact, in October at Turner Hall. If The Record Company keeps up the propulsive, authentic rock sound they brought to the Big Gig, there will be another, probably even bigger crowd there to join them ­– rain or shine. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.