Wednesday, April 4, 2012

"Reptar Takes Us To Outer Space": Reptar: Live at The Cactus Club

Athens, GA native act Reptar is on the verge of exploding on to the indie rock scene, with a much-anticipated full length, Body Faucet, due out in the beginning of May. The band is currently on the road promoting the album, and on Monday, they brought their talents to Milwaukee, WI.

Despite living in Milwaukee for over two years now, I had never been to The Cactus Club, despite always hearing of its appeal. The venue lived up to all of the hype, basically made up of two rooms, a bar and a stage (each about the size of my studio apartment). On the walls, you could see the immense amount of talent that has been featured there, highlighted by posters and prints from shows passed. Cactus Club's set up is ideal for bands like Reptar to come through, and even better for their fans. The venue features great sound and the bar is small enough that if you're on your toes, you can grab a drink and have a conversation with the members of the band(s) you are about to enjoy, something my friends and I took advantage of.

First off, let me just say that Reptar's set was absolutely incredible. But they brought some friends with them, that shall not go ignored.

I caught the end of Canopies' set, a local Milwaukee group who provided a very fun, powerful, pop sound. A group, unfamiliar to myself, called Quiet Hooves was next, and their act made it impossible for them not to overshadow Canopies, no matter how well the local group played.

Quiet Hooves, also from Georgia, featured eight (yes, 8!) members, three of which were scattered throughout the stage playing keyboards (one of the keyboard players actually plays with Reptar full-time), the drummer standing in the center of the stage, and a saxophonist and trumpet player on the sides, in addition to the bass and guitar players. The set-up time for their set was a little uncalled for, but it all became quite clear what we were waiting for.

Laughter was interwoven with cheering from the crowd, as we all watched in awe at the beautiful train wreck that was Quiet Hooves' set. The lead singer and drummer often talked over each other, but no matter which you selected to listen to talk in between songs, you were probably laughing. The music was incredibly fun and their stage presence was uncanny, no matter how scattered each of these elements were. Like I said, their set was a train wreck, but even the occasional mis-timed breaks and drops didn't affect the positive reaction the crowd had. There was even a little bit of a "twist" at the end of their set, dealing with the wardrobe of lead singer/keyboardist Julian, but I won't spoil that for you.

Reptar took the stage next, and you could tell the crowd was anxious. Their set opened with "Blast Off" from their debut EP Oblangle Fizz, Y'all and the massive amounts of reverb and echo effects the band featured for the song made it feel as close to being in a space shuttle launch as the walls of Cactus Club could allow. Everything about the group's live show is entertaining, from the keyboardist's wild locks flying to-and-fro while rocking out, to the singer's annunciation and vocal styles.

The group then featured a couple of new songs from the upcoming Body Faucet, both felt familiar and not a single member of the crowd was uninterested.

What was evident in this particular Reptar show, compared to when I saw them last October, was how incredible the band "GELLED." It was clear they were up there having fun, playing along with the crowd's shouting (including my favorite, "Ginger Beard" towards the band's red-headed-and-bearded bassist, Ryan).

Another amazing aspect to this show was that us, as the crowd, got a preview of almost the entire tracklist of Body Faucet, and it was remarkable how little the crowd seemed to lose enthusiasm. I've been to countless shows where a band will be promoting new material, and will feature it in a live set, often losing the interest of many show goers. Even a slower-tempoed song lead singer Graham mentioned was about "Travelling to space" had the audience anxiously waiting on the next words and chord progression.

My favorite parts of Reptar's set came with the glorious performances of "Sebastian" and "Stuck In My Id" each for semi-different reasons. Upon hearing the intro to "Sebastian," the crowd immediately went nuts, and the song provided the best sing-along opportunity for the crowd, which was going berserk with gyration and dancing. The crowd almost seemed relieved when "Stuck In My Id" was introduced, as it was much later in the set than was anticipated. Nevertheless, the crowd gobbled it up.

Upon talking to Graham and other members of the band throughout the night, they remarked how much they loved playing Milwaukee and The Cactus Club, and it was pretty clear why. The sound of the venue was pitch perfect for their set, and the crowd response had to have made them feel as if they were back at home in Athens. Ever grateful, upon my approaching a couple of band members to commend them on a job well done, they seemed even more appreciative of how much fun they had connecting with the adoring crowd that night. And that is the sign of a rising power in the music scene.

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