REVIEW: Chevy Metal at Miller’s “Cheers To Milwaukee” at the Riverside Theater

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When Miller announced last week that they would be holding a surprise concert at the Riverside Theater on Friday night, with a mystery band, Milwaukee collectively got excited and curious at the same time. We’ve been down the “surprise headliner” route before, infamously with Elton John entertaining a crowd of bikers at Harley’s 100th Anniversary Celebration. While wild speculations flew about who MillerCoors might bring out to headline their mystery show, it was revealed on Friday that Chevy Metal, the cover band side project of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, were our surprise guests.

While some were pessimistic about Miller’s choice, when you look at it in context, the band makes tons of sense. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is a free concert, announced and promoted in under a week’s time, with expectations of filling a nearly 2,500 seat venue (which distributing a reported 5-7,000 tickets will do easily). There’s a universal appeal to Chevy Metal though; if you’re a younger alternative rock fan, you’ll identify the band with the Foo Fighters. If you’re older, the band’s barrage of classic rock hits will resonate with you more. It might not be exactly what you were looking for, but you’re still getting something that you will appreciate. Plus, it’s free, so shut up.

Whatever you’re reaction is, it’s undeniable that Chevy Metal brought the party to life on Friday night. With the venue full by around 8:30, including a line of eager Milwaukeeans stretched down the Riverwalk, there was a buzz surrounding the venue. Most in attendance knew who they were there to see, while a small percentage were left in the dark about the band. When the lights hit, Chevy Metal came out, guns blazing to an enthusiastic roar. As Taylor Hawkins would later describe, Milwaukee was attending “one giant keg party”, and that they did.

While bassist Wiley Hogden and Hawkins traded vocal duties for most of the night, Hawkins was clearly the start of the show, entertaining the crowd between their covers of artists like Black Sabbath, AC/DC, and Motley Crue. He had all the right words to get the Riverside Theater to pop; they were cheap pops, but they responded nonetheless. The band played the music that they grew up on, with the occasional curveball spliced in. Yes, there was enough stadium metal to please the slightly older crowd, but there were also covers of The Faces’ “Stay With Me”, as well as Queen’s “Keep Yourself Alive” and “Dragon Attack” to make things interesting. The band flew through songs from the 60’s-80’s with ease, often skipping the mega hits that everyone knows for slightly deeper cuts. Despite Hawkins’ emphasis that Chevy Metal weren’t giving a history lesson, they were showing the world the songs that made them who they really are. And the crowd, very much likeminded, ate it up correspondingly.

Here’s the craziest caveat of the night, however. Most of the set featured the trio, along with a fourth microphone vacant at center stage, with rumors of an added special guest coming into the mix. Essentially, everyone assumed Dave Grohl, who makes frequent cameos with Chevy Metal, would be in Milwaukee. Then, sheepishly, the band introduced a guest drummer, local musician and Trapper Schoepp drummer Justin Krol. However, because Justin and Dave Grohl look kind of similar at a distance, the crowd had some of their loudest reactions of the night, believing that “Justin Krol” was a clever way of introducing Dave Grohl without saying his name. (Super shout out to Joe Kirschling of Sin Bad, who pointed out Justin is definitely not Dave Grohl by tagging him on our Instagram post). The crowd stayed fully in tact afterwards for an encore starting with Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” and culminating in The Vapors’ “Turning Japanese”.

All in all, though there was potential for disaster, Chevy Metal as a surprise act at the Cheers To Milwaukee concert worked out for everyone. Perhaps I’m pessimistic of Milwaukee, a city that loves cover bands, being alluded to something more and not receiving it. It wasn’t the big names that the internet suggested, it wasn’t even a band with an album out, but it was music that was appreciated by all, being played by very skilled musicians. While some people did visibly Google “Chevy Metal” on their smartphones initially, nobody left overwhelmingly disappointed. Cheers, Milwaukee. Miller threw a party and we all celebrated together in a way that only we know how to.

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