I just got home from yet another fantastic live music experience at the hands of Milwaukee’s own 91.7 WMSE. It was the warm up show to the first annual Radio Summer Camp, a festival that is bringing great music to some of Milwaukee’s best venues from tonight (August 19) thru Monday August 24. Tonight’s preview was a religious experience followed by rocking throwdown at Shank Hall that featured my friend and favorite new songwriter Tim Showalter/Strand of Oaks opening for the amazing Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit.
Now I know that I have written and gushed over Tim’s work before but his songs and personality continue to blow me away and introduce my slightly coffee stained chompers to whoever’s around. He impressed me even more tonight by showing up with nothing but his beautiful voice, guitar, and some effects pedals that enhanced the already pleasant atmosphere. It’s so unbelievable that one man can produce the sound and explosiveness of songs that were recorded with a full band. After the show I thanked him for playing “New Paris,” my personal favorite, and he smiled with appreciation but said “Aw, they sound so much better with a full band.” I say they sound great any way we get to hear them. We got a touch of some new material in the form a lyrically funny but sweet sounding song about post Blues Brothers Dan Akoroyd and his closing number that he wrote after a dream he had about his grandfather. Obviously, I loved both. Can’t wait to hear more and see a lot more of Mr. Showalter.
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit followed and blew the roof off. Being familiar with his work with the Drive-by Truckers and his two post Truckers albums, I’d say I was a casual fan. But after tonight there isn’t an album I won’t cop or a show that I won’t see that has Jason on the bill. They tore through some of his Truckers’ work and dominated newer songs to make them sound like they’d been playing them for decades. Super tight playing all around. If you’ve never heard him before I strongly suggest getting a hold of anything with his name on it if you enjoy good rocking accompanied by down home storytelling lyrics. Highlights of the night for me came from “Outfit,” “7 Mile Island,” “Decoration Day,” Chicago Promenade,” and a lengthy and rocked out “Never Gonna Change” that featured the facemelting riff from “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”.
Big thanks to WMSE for throwing this whole thing together! If tonight is any indication of how the next couple of days are going to be, Milwaukee’s in for a real treat!