Southern Rock and Power Pop Mix At Cactus Club

A mix of Americana and Punk came together for a fun night in Bay View on Saturday.
Faux Fiction.

Genres bended at Cactus Club Saturday night as Bootleg Bessie and Faux Fiction played a full house. The Cincinnati “Americana-punk” outfit 500 Miles to Memphis, as well as a solo set from Mike Maimone of Chicago rock band Mutts, contributed to the evening’s energy as well. Although everyone played something a little different, couples enthusiastically danced all night long.

Defined as “Delta soul rock,” Bootleg Bessie consists of vocalist/guitarist Josh Rauen, bassist Mark Becker, and drummer Dicky Paul, formed in 2015 from revitalized high school friendships. The trio is a favorite of bars such as Thurman’s and Tonic Tavern, and have played Milwaukee fest staples that include Locust Street Festival, Brady Street Days, and Waukesha Rotary Bluesfest. Their EP “Here Ya Go” is available on their website.

“(Thurman’s) was our first gig,” Josh said. “We still do it periodically. Two gigs ago we did a three and a half hour set without a break. We brought on a homeless guy that happened to have an alto sax with him, and he played with us for like thirty minutes. He was pretty good too. That place is so random and anything can happen.”

The band had never played Cactus Club before. They enjoyed having more room to breathe on stage.

“We’re used to playing on a postage stamp for the most part,” Mark joked.

Bootleg Bessie hopes to have a debut record out around August-September, which contains guest contributions from Lil Rev and Susan Nicholson of Frogwater. They return to Cactus alongside Wonky Tonk and Valerie Lighthart April 8th and have an open jam at Paulie’s Pub in West Allis April 22nd.

Faux Fiction is the garage rock-power pop trio of vocalist/guitarist Gabby Papale, bassist Peter Hair, and drummer Paul Tyree. Since 2014 the band has probed nearly every venue there is in Milwaukee and have toured throughout the Midwest and East Coast. Their latest EP “Dark Matter” came out January 2018, following up their 2016 debut LP “Staring at the Sun.”

Papale weighs on in on Faux Fiction’s evolution from then to now.

“When we first starting writing music it was like, “let’s write everything that comes to mind and we’re just gonna record it all and put it onto an album.” Our first album is a mix of a lot different styles, and so after that we really honed in on our sound and we’re good at putting things out that not necessarily fit into a box but are cohesive and explorative.”

“You also get used to each other as musicians,” Tyree added. “Like, I’ve been playing with Peter for a very long time and I kinda know what he’s going to do next, especially when it comes to writing sessions and syncopating parts. I think playing with each other for as long as we have has helped with that cohesion Gabby was talking about.”

Tyree and Hair also play together in indie prog outfit NeoCaveman. Papale comes from a singer-songwriter background, and Faux Fiction is her first serious “band” fixture.

“I’ll have an idea and a lot of times not fully know to go with a chorus or a verse. Peter and Paul and both really good at helping me figure out where to take it and make it a Faux Fiction song,” Papale said.

The band finds touring to be a humbling experience, since an artist’s reception truly gets put to the test when playing to complete strangers.

“When you play a city for the very first time, you really don’t set many expectations because you have no idea who’s gonna show up or what their musical preferences are, or what they get from their normal local scene,” Papale said. “I think it’s important to go in with an open mind, and I was really surprised by the tour we did in January 2018. One of the things that really stuck with me through tour is that there’s still really good people in the world. We get caught up in the negativity the media throws at you and you get so inundated with that.”

“One of our favorites was Chattanooga, Tennessee,” Hair said. “It’s smaller than Milwaukee; it’s probably the size of Waukesha. That was probably our best show…people were so nice and receptive, especially the musicians we played with. In a nutshell it’s really good to get out of where you are and play with different people, and you realize a lot of us are really the same.”

“When you only play in Milwaukee, most of the people coming to your shows are either your friends or people you get to know because you see them a lot,” Papale added. “When you play to people that have never seen you before, it’s a really good gauge on whether what you’re doing is exciting to people. Getting positive feedback from people on the road is really good affirmation.”

Faux Fiction is deciding whether or not their next project will be an EP or a full-length, and they hope to challenge the genre they are perceived as. They play Milwaukee SunDay FunDay April 14th, X-Ray Arcade April 27th, and Bremen May 11th.

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