The Keystones, Whiskey & the Devil, & Bandoleer Bacall Bring Gritty Rock Energy to Cactus Club

Bandoleer Bacall.

Three of Milwaukee’s most forceful alternative rock bands played Cactus Club Tuesday evening with Twin Cities garage rockers The Smokes. The Keystones, Whiskey & the Devil, and Bandoleer Bacall all have new music coming out soon so they each played with some of the most exciting energy yet this year.

The Keystones are a blues-punk outfit based in Waukesha that come over to play Cream City frequently. They are vocalist/guitarist Jack Sherman, lead guitarist Jake Lutzke, bassist Matt Sherman, and drummer Eddie Curran. The Sherman brothers are childhood friends of Curran and met Lutzke while attending Carroll University.

“I think we had some of the best band and crowd dynamics of any set so far,” Curran said about the show.

“The couple I talked to after the show bought me two drinks and said that was the best Tuesday night they’ve had in a long time,” Jack said.

Jack explains the significance of Waukesha in music.

“It’s the place where the electric guitar was born…like, that’s where Les Paul grew up. They demolished his house but he invented the electric guitar by going down to the railroad tracks and he put his hand on the track and when trains were coming by he felt the vibrations, and he was like “how can I turn that into a more amplified guitar?” His mom told him he was too quiet at gigs, so he created it out of that. When we first came together we played Les Paul’s parents’ bar which is Club 400 now. We were trying to make alternative rock music proud because it’s kinda the roots where it all came from. Waukesha is a smaller stasis bubble, but it’s a place where decent bands branch out from and then move to Milwaukee once they’re comfortable.”

Curran adds what he feels has contributed to The Keystones’ success coming out of that scene.

“I think the negative thing about Waukesha is that it’s kinda between Madison and Milwaukee so people think of bands coming out of Waukesha as either old people bands or bands that don’t really understand the recording process. But we’re really lucky cuz we’ve got a lot of connections. Myself, I shoot music videos professionally, and I gained many connections from that and it’s taught me a ton about marketing. People may look at us and think we don’t have a shot, but we’ve got a lot of knowledge behind us.”

The band has a single out on streaming, “Different.”

“That song is trying to capture the feeling of when you’re going to a party in college and getting drunk for one of the first times and you feel distant and apart from the rest….like when you feel you’re not one of them. It sounds like a silly premise for a song but it is a very formative part of growing up,” Jack said.

The Keystones have a new single out called “2010” coming out May 31st and plan to release more singles this summer. They play Shank Hall with Lost Stars on May 24th and play Up & Under the following day, then they head to Cambria for Glacier Valley Music Fest on June 7th.

Whiskey & the Devil is a blues rock trio consisting of guitarists/vocalists/keyboardists Jake Stanzer and Ryan Doyle (both switch off on instrumental duties), and drummer Travis Walsh. They named their band after an Irish folk song and they feel their name reflects themes present in their songwriting.

Their debut album “Heavy Hitter” came out last October.

“The album is a bit of a dichotomoy because I think we have different approaches to it,” Doyle said. “There’s a lot of shit going on in life and shit just happens and we throw it into a song…that can be sex, work, drugs…and the lyrics aren’t necessarily one-hundred percent accurate – it’s just the distillation of a feeling.”

“We got everything from “my girl’s cheating on me” to “I feel good” on it.” Stanzer added.

The band’s live presentation features neon red pillars of lights on stage. Doyle explains the concept.

“We decided we wanted to have an aesthetic attached to our music, and that’s our style. We were a two-piece at first and when we were jamming in the basement we’d always turn on the red lights. It’s something about that vibe that puts us in a zone we like.”

Whiskey & the Devil is halfway done with their next album and are planning on hosting a DIY festival later this year. They play Up & Under on July 27th.

Bandoleer Bacall is an alt-rock outfit consisting of vocalist/guitarist Adam Jerome, lead guitarist Tyler Zachow, bassist Kenneth Conway, and drummer Alex Bender. They dropped two albums in 2017, “Super Technirama” and “There’s No Elevator” along with a single in 2018, “Tachyon.”

Jerome explains the process of recording both albums.

“Super Technirama was the first incarnation of Bandoleer Bacall…it was me, Ken, and a guy named JB. We recorded that album on a tape in JB’s basement and then JB and Ken did their own thing for awhile, so I recorded There’s No Elevator at my parents’ house with my dad. It was kinda just an outlet for me to do those songs. Now we have a third album that’s finished and we’re gonna be mastering it. The albums have just been a matter of who’s been around to do it.”

“One thing led to another where I really needed a songwriter and Adam was looking for a band so the timing worked out perfect about a year ago where we just joined forces,” Conway added.

“(Zachow and I) brought our own sound to Adam’s sound. Even past the songs that were recorded, seeing us live you’re not gonna get the same experience,” Bender said on that note. “We were in a punk band before this and brought a grunge 90’s aspect to the 60’s pop that was present with Adam.”

“It’s a proper group now,” Jerome said. “These guys have put their own spin on everything.”

The band’s album coming out this summer is titled “Raspberry Songs,” which Jerome describes as an ode to a deceased French actress of the silver screen. It had been written by Jerome before the current band’s lineup formed and has more of a psychedelic pop-rock flavor.

Bandoleer Bacall plays X-Ray Arcade on May 24th.

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