What Made Milwaukee Famous | Central SAPC | 5/19/13


It’s hard to get friends to check out new bands … on a Sunday. LOL.

Years ago, a buddy of mine introduced me to a band named What Made Milwaukee Famous (“WMMFamous”). He played me a song call “Cheap Wine” and I was hooked. I tried following the band, but it didn’t seem that they were particularly active. I chalked them up as a casualty of the music industry, and figured I’d only hear their tracks when they popped up in my iTunes playlist.

I thought it was a shame, because their music was really good (I’m a huge fan of their second album “What Doesn’t Kill Us”) and it seemed that they were making good progress with getting their music out there to the masses.  After all, they were one of the few unsigned acts to ever play Austin City Limits, supported the Smashing Pumpkins and Franz Ferdinand, and they had a deal with Barsuk Records (home of Death Cab for Cutie, Ra Ra Riot, etc.).

One day, I got a notice about WMMFamous playing a local bar in Santa Monica, and I jumped at getting some tickets. Their gig was on a Sunday, so I knew it’d be a tough sell, but I tried spreading the word. Unfortunately, no one wanted to come out.  Their loss.

After running some errands during the day, I got to the venue early. Central SAPC is a lot nicer than it’s predecessor, 14 Below. I was one of the first people to get there, and relaxed on a couch in the performance room. The couches were comfy, and the music the bar was playing was good.  I could have taken a nap. Hung out with the staff for a minute, and they were very accommodating.

The first act that played was band named Only You, fronted by a singer named Rachel Fannan.  It was a refreshing sound, a kind of modernized throw back to Americana.  Kinda like Roy Orbison if his music was sung by Fiona Apple.  I enjoyed Only You and “liked” Rachel’s Facebook fan page. It’ll be interesting to watch how her band’s music develops.

After Only You, WMMFamous began setting up. I started to get anxious. The band was able to pull in a modest crowd considering it was a Sunday. It certainly wasn’t empty, but I was able to get a nice spot up front with a stool. The band started the set, and I was both happy and sad.  Happy that I was there enjoying their music, and sad that I couldn’t recruit people to the show.

People have compared WMMFamous to bands like Spoon and the Wrens, but I think those comparisons are really just based on the fact that they are all indie-rock bands. Granted, my own real perspective of WMMFamous was their album “What Doesn’t Kill Us”, but that album is musically, in my opinion, wonderfully complex. There are elements from different types of musical genres that permeate that record, and though some critics may have criticized it, I loved it. It’s high production value, catchy melodies, and general feel-good mood get my thumbs up.  Plus the lead singer (Michael Kingcaid) is solid.  If I had to describe them, I’d want to say that they were kind of like Jellyfish, if Jellyfish grew up in Austen. That’s just what I’m thinking…

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 1.18.49 AMThe set was excellent.  Musically, and vocally, the band hit all of the songs that I was a fan of.  Michael’s voice sounded as good live, as it did on the album, and that was impressive.  Because of the intimate nature of the venue, Michael was able to banter with the audience.  He told us how the band loves it in Los Angeles, and wants to head out here more often, if not permanently.  He acknowledged that there were long-time fans in audience, and dedicated some of the “oldies” to us. He told us about all of the shit that happened on the way to Los Angeles, like the tire blowing out on the highway. I yelled, “It’s rock and roll”. He replied, “It would have been rock and roll if we just left it busted,” then laughed.

IMG_1307After their set, the band hit the bar and the merchandise table.  I picked up the first, and most recent albums to round out my collection, and also picked up some very cool vinyl singles.  Each of the covers was a hand cut, glued, made and numbered, and the vinyl itself was actually not vinyl at all.IMG_1314

I spoke with Michael briefly and asked him why the band hadn’t released any music in a while, and he gave me the break down.  Not going to air it out here, and someone’s probably already written about it (And I was right … click here to read an article of the tough road Michael Kingcaid has been on), but needless to say, life can get tough. He was a real congenial dude, and he told me that the band plans on coming back out to Los Angeles for future gigs.  I sure hope so. Maybe it’ll be on a Friday or Saturday, and it’ll be an easier sell to my friends…

Michael Kingcaid. Lead Singer and founder of What Made Milwaukee Famous
Michael Kingcaid. Lead Singer and founder of What Made Milwaukee Famous

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