“Dude, I wish you could have made it, it’s a blast back to 2002. These bands would have fit right in, but we’d have had to put this show on in a basement or Radio X put it on in the Great Lakes Rooms.”
I sent that message to Marquette Punk royalty (The Minor League), and First Aid Founding Member, Cory Phare about 20 minutes into last night’s “The Death of Moonlight Manifesto & Shipwreck Kelly w/The Cuz.” Madison, WI’s The Cuz was on stage, the first of the THREE Sam Meiss projects that would be taking the stage that night. Two of them for the last time.
Immediately, The Cuz transported me back to my Radio X days when, although Loud Rock Director and actually being lucky enough to work on the international underground heavy metal scene level outside the station, many of my days were filled with the wide array of punk being spun by the likes of, at the time pop punk guru, Mr. Phare to the grungier dirtier styles from the likes of 231House of Muses founder Dave Mattfield (ex-Fried Chinese Donalds currently of Big Night In). The Cuz pretty much straddle a fence between Pop Punk and, well, hornless Ska. As they ripped through their set of originals, the crowd pretty much ate out of Sam’s hands, and they would for the entire evening. It’s quite apparent that this band has their sights on some higher levels. Though their sound is definitely distinctly underground there are definitely some great paths for ‘em to take. Of course, I say “underground,” yet as I said previously if we tried to do this show it would have been in a basement, not at the beginning of the weekend at one of the most popular bars in Marquette.
A while back, I want to say early pandemic, Radio X had an online battle of the bands and I was asked to judge. The only band I remember is the band I voted to win, some bad punk band that sang about their dick, Shipwreck Kelly. The Cuz finished up, and the change-over the Shipwreck Kelly was quick. Now, Sam is clearly Sam all the time, but he has a certain snarl when he’s on stage as Shipwreck Kelly, and it may be that snarl, or some wild dance moves, that REALLY puts the crowd under Sam’s spell. Of course, starting the set off by absolutely ripping into Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” only to quit at a high point and star their set may also have had something to do with it Though, I have to admit, for a while I was wondering if the crowd was because of the show or just a good Thursday in Marquette (if you are unaware because of college scheduling Thursdays in Marquette are like Fridays in most towns). SK ripped through a set of wide ranging heavy rock from dirtier Danzig/Misfits sounding material to outright Psychobilly to Grunge to some pretty straight up Rock ‘n Roll, all accompanied by Meiss’ Meat Puppets-esque guitar tone, and the high brow humor this area has come to expect from Shipwreck Kelly. The crowd was enthused by songs about “self love” and sang along to “Sex While High.” There was dancing, there was skanking, there was almost a mosh pit…
…COME ON! We would have moshed in our 20’s! Heck, I considered it last night if one started and my age’s first numbers now a 4. Anyhow, not long after Sam announced they only had a couple more, any aspersion I had that this crowd was just a regular Thursday night crew was shattered. During an extended breakdown and solo, that included a little behind the head showmanship, the whole band crouched down, and the crowd followed suit. That was it, it’s a damn shame this was the end, this crowd was here for this band. As Shipwreck Kelly wrapped up the crowd was dying for one more. In what I would consider the only real misstep of the night, they didn’t get it. This sorta bummed me out, because Sam could have absolutely destroyed that crowd even if they just went out and made something up, or pulled the same kind of stunt they did with their Zeppelin “warm-up.” I mean, you want to leave the crowd wanting more, but I don’t really feel in that way. However, this crowd didn’t end the night disappointed. There was still one more project to be put to bed, Moonlight Manifesto.
Now, Moonlight Manifest isn’t a Ska band. Well, at least that’s what their marketing says, and I’d agree. Much like The Cuz they straddle a line that does include more than just a little Ska influence, but unlike The Cuz their music doesn’t quite have the same drive or variety. Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just more straight up rock combined with that brassless Ska influence. I’m going to admit that I really don’t have much more than that to say about Moonlight Manifesto except that they kept about 80% to the end of the night, and they really felt like a good way to wind down the night.
This was a great show, in a great venue on a great night. It would have been nice if food would have been available a little later (Burger Bus closing at 8?!?!? WHAT!?! You guys still rule!), and it would have been a little more fun to have this flashback to my early Radio X days with my old-cohort Cory Phare who unfortunately had to cancel last minute due to unforeseen circumstances, but folks were definitely entertained at the Ore Dock Brewing Company last night.
On a personal note, I was greatly heartened to witness this show tonight, and though I know this is what Marquette is all about, we’ve definitely all had a lot of time to (and sometimes we end up working on a little more regional level and) forget this. Niche music THRIVES in Marquette. Finally, as a promoter, I think I would have ended the night with Shipwreck Kelly, but I’m sure Sam has his reasons for that decision, but I’m going to close this article going back to their set.
As the set came to an end, Sam got a ltitle emotional as he thanked the crowd for “turning this silly basement band into something so much bigger.” Well, Sam, I think you may be in for even bigger things, but you’re never going to forget this, and it’s always going to mean a lot. Thank you for providing your little swathe to the deep music history of Marquette, and DAMN if I’m not disappointed that the first time I get to witness those cats live is, possibly, the last time they’ll play.
Sam Miess’ last show in Marquette is TONIGHT at Superior Culture on Third St, where he’ll be releasing his EP “Peace Out Michigan, It’s Been Real” at 7 pm.