S.S. WEB Plays Solo Set at Cactus
The prolific “dark roots” Americana-country-punk duo Steering Ships With Empty Bottles only had Henry Berger onstage at Cactus Club Monday night, where he performed to an intimate yet enthusiastic crowd. Following him had been Texas “hillbilly swing” trio Urban Pioneers.
Cris Bissell, the other half of S.S. WEB, had been out of town for a prior engagement.
“It happens here and there,” Berger said about solo sets. “Cris lives up in Madison…he actually just got back from a trip overseas and had a family wedding.”
In 2018 the duo released their latest LP “This Cold Soul,” a far darker and punished follow-up to their 2015 album “Revenge, When It Matters Most.” The songs largely deal with interpersonal relationships between friends, families, and significant others.
“Even from our first album to the second, it’s gotten progressively darker. (This Cold Soul) is definitely our darkest, lyrically. There’s more instrumentation; we did a lot of stuff with keys and full drum sets, and there’s only three songs with washboard on them. We had a guest musician play cello on a couple tracks…some violin, viola as well…we had some timpani too. We spent more time than ever preparing for the recording sessions on this one.”
Berger says Cleveland, OH is S.S. WEB’s favorite place to play.
“It’s weird visiting there because it’s so much like Milwaukee. It’s a town right on the lake with big bar culture. We’ve been going there for twelve years and just fell in with the right people right away. I’d say we go there the most out of all spots we’ve been.”
It has been well over a decade since S.S. WEB has been a fixture playing shows in Milwaukee. Berger says the band focuses more on songwriting and less on touring these days.
“We don’t tour as much as we used to; I’d say in the past year and a half we’ve cut it back significantly. We used to be on the road eight to ten months out of the year and now we do a couple short two to three week runs a year. We’ll play stuff if we can make it happen; we play around Milwaukee a lot more now too. We’re trying to do Europe every other year..they’re fun trips but they’re tough.”
S.S. WEB is embarking on a tour to Colorado and back in June. They are in songwriting mode as well.