Top Ten Picks for March 2016

There’s a whole lot of nostalgia — “Full House,” The Boss, “Jazzy Jeff,” to name a few — in our March Milwaukee music scene countdown. Plus: Direct Hit!, Living Statues, Reyna, Myles Coyne, and more.

What with Salt-N-Pepa, Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Full House, Bruce Springsteen and DJ Jazzy Jeff all mentioned in these month’s top picks, it would have only been appropriate if this March was the month we turned the clock back not forward. But, no, we still had to lose an hour of sleep because of Daylight Savings Time, even though we still seemed fascinated with pop culture figures from the distant past. Anyway, here’s another edition of the monthly Top Picks series:

10. Salt-N-Pepa announces Wisconsin State Fair stop on ‘I Love the ‘90s’ tour

Do you love the ‘90s? If you answered yes, you’ll want to check out the Wisconsin State Fair on Friday, August 12 when Salt-N-Pepa, Color Me Badd, Coolio and Rob Base perform at the Main Stage presented by Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

9. Summerfest releases long list of ground stage performers

While it’s all over in a short burst, I prefer this strategy of releasing the Summerfest ground stage headliners in one fell swoop rather than slowly over a few weeks, which the festival has done in the past. Nothing beats the anxiety-ridden search for bands that fit your preference. You know, skimming through the ‘80s vanity and pop country muck to find a nugget like Ryan Adams or Passion Pit. And the instant decisions that are almost always improperly calculated (“Sure, I’ll go see Sir-Mix-A-Lot” or “I really can’t miss Nelly”). But really the best part of the Summerfest line-up being released is that, holy crap, summer is close to being here.

8. Carly Rae Jepsen and Bob Saget sing duet of Full House theme

Many people may only recognize her for 2011’s ubiquitous hit single “Call Me Maybe,” even though she reinvented herself on one of 2015’s best albums, Emotion, just as many see him as the dad from Full House and host of America’s Funniest Home Videos, not the lewd stand-up comic. But true artistry be damned, here’s a video of Bob Saget, who had just finished his show at The Riverside Theater, and Carly Rae Jepsen singing the opening credits theme from Full House at Turner Hall Ballroom.

7. The River flows through Milwaukee

I’m a sucker for big arena shows, and while it depends on the record, I’m also a fan of classic albums played front-to-back. So, Bruce Springsteen’s revisiting 1980’s incredible double album The River at the BMO Harris Bradley Center hit both those pleasure buttons. It didn’t hurt that it was a marathon performance—there were essentially no breaks over the three hours.

6. The Living Statues premiere new music video

This month we got another pristine-looking music video from director Cody LaPlant, who also directed Lex Allen’s “Cream and Sugar” video earlier this year. “Valicity” marked his first foray into indie-rock, but he really showed no apprehension in the new genre. At just under three minutes, the video brings out the best characteristics of its source material—crisp, clean and efficient.

5. Myles Coyne switches things up

The omnipresent Milwaukee folk troubadour Myles Coyne discovered a harsher alt-rock edge this month on his four-song Mouse Corn EP. Coyne mines some familiar territory—song titles include “Slender-Man” and “Stoop Kid”—but he’s still able to find a new space that’s all his own.

4. Inaugural Tasty Fest set for June

The barely one-year-old local record label Tasty Tapes announced a brand spanking new festival this summer called Tasty Fest, which contrary to its name is not a food festival. Instead, the four-day event (June 2-June 5) in the Riverwest neighborhood celebrates some of the city’s best musical artists, a 23-band bill including The Rashita Joneses, NO/NO, Klassik and Slow Walker. For the full line-up and show times, check out the Tasty Tapes website.

3. Paper Holland conjure some ‘90s nostalgia

No strangers to mining television shows for song titles, Paper Holland return from an extended break with new single “Jazzy Jeff.” Certainly more a nod to the closing saxophone solo than the DJ and Fresh Prince actor, the song, which marks the band’s first release since 2012’s Happy Belated, will be on the forthcoming five-song EP Fast Food.

2. Vic and Gab reemerge as Reyna

A sonic alteration from indie-pop towards a more dance-friendly, synthesizer-based sound prompted Vic and Gab to change their moniker, as well. At a sold-out Cactus Club show this March, the band returned to the stage as Reyna. The new group is already off to a great start. “Only two of the seven Reyna songs performed Saturday have been released,” Journal Sentinel music critic Piet Levy wrote in his show recap, “but I can’t recall a time when a crowd was so consistently riveted by a set largely consisting of unheard material.”

No. 1. Direct Hit! signs to Fat Wreck Chords

Scrappy pop punk group Direct Hit! scored a record label deal with the scrappy pop punk label Fat Wreck Chords this month. The label, which was started by NOFX lead singer Michael Burkett in the early ‘90s, will put out the band’s next album sometime this summer. “For those of you not in the know, [Direct Hit! is] pretty much the best thing to come out of Milwaukee since Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, or beer,” reads an announcement on the Fat Wreck Chords’ blog.

Sounds like someone hasn’t heard of a little known product called cheese. But instead of just listing Milwaukee-area things that are better than Direct Hit! (kringle, Mittenfest, The Big “O” at Oscar’s), let’s focus on what’s important. The additional exposure is truly deserved (The Get Down, Bloody Mary chasers, Harley-Davidson); the band’s 2013 concept album Brainless God is an overlooked pop punk gem (Friday night fish fries, Vanguard’s Thee Dirty Burger, Sprecher root beer). So, here’s to Direct Hit! being one of the top 10 (brats, cream puffs, the Calatrava, custard, brandy Old Fashioneds, Anodyne Coffee, secret stadium sauce) okay, maybe top 20 things to come out of Milwaukee.



Kevin is a freelance writer residing in Milwaukee. He’s contributed to The Shepherd Express, Third Coast Daily, Pop Matters and the sadly now-defunct A.V. Club Milwaukee. He looks forward to forging a deeper connection with the city’s impressive music scene during his gig as a Music Notes blogger. His talents include music criticism, riding a bicycle, drinking tasty beers and a crafty croquet swing. His weaknesses comprise Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, professional wrestling and his ever-growing record collection. He’s in desperate need to find more physical (and hard drive) space for the exceptional albums Milwaukee musicians keep churning out.