The Lovelies Rock On; Matt Hendricks Debuts

by Thomas Durkin

Unlike that traffic jam waiting to happen 100 miles south, music is not the talk of the town. But while Milwaukee is not considered a music hotbed, there are local musicians producing great stuff. In Riverwest, there is a music resurgence taking place. With venues like Linneman’s, Mad Planet, Onopa, Quarter’s, the list goes on, there is music everywhere. You might see a clunker of a band or two, but wouldn’t you rather see a band before they’re gobbled up by the mainstream, even if it’s just mainstream Milwaukee? If you’re not convinced you should shell out $5 (two beers) to see a live act, maybe you’ll pony up $10 for a CD you can play again and again. whiteleather.jpgRecently The Lovelies have been compared to The Strokes. From a P.R. perspective this is huge, as The Strokes are the purported saviors of garage rock. But garage rock? This overused term is more aptly (and correctly) applied to bands like The Replacements or, more recently, Sleater-Kinney. Garage rock is about disillusionment and distortion. It’s about raw power and not at all about radio-friendly hooks. The Strokes? Sure they play their own instruments and they act moody, but I’m thinking boy band in different costumes. Comparing The Lovelies to The Strokes fails because The Lovelies know who and what they are. White Leather, their first release under new label Force MP, is Midwestern guitar-rock with pop sensibilities. The Lovelies have radio-friendly lyrics and a polished sound. And more importantly, The Lovelies forego the brooding rock star image. Hell, they actually enjoy performing. Liv Lovely’s vocals alternate between straight-laced power and beautiful, almost bashful melodies and harmonies. Barb Lovely’s onslaught on the bass drives the music, while Bill Backes’s drums tend to take a backseat in this guitar-driven band. The Lovelies are at their best when they’re not focusing on catchy hooks. In “Boulevard” and “I Want Your Love,” The Lovelies avoid cliches and produce some of the best songs on the CD. As a whole, White Leather is a good indication that we will be hearing plenty more of The Lovelies in the future. Catch them at local venues when they’re not touring. Find out more about The Lovelies at mhendricks.jpg

With a limited budget and a rented room in an east side hotel serving as his studio, Matt Hendricks recorded his first CD, Ghetto Hotel Blues. Now ain’t that the blues? With a voice that belies his age and his upbringing (born and reared in Green Bay), Hendricks conjures up the image of the mythical old bluesman. By no means is Hendricks’ musical style groundbreaking — it never pretends to be. More than anything, Ghetto Hotel Blues indicates that Hendricks understands the origins of American music. As many a wise person has said, sometimes we need to look to the past in order to understand the future. Ghetto Hotel Blues is stripped down music at its best. It’s Hendricks, with his trusty guitar collection, playing simple songs, positively ignoring all the glitz and the glam. Whether covering Blind Willie Johnson’s “Motherless Children,” memorializing his uncle in “Big Bad Bill is Sweet William Now,” or serenading our city in “Ol’ Milwaukee,” Hendricks’s finger picking and bluesy vocals hit the spot. Put the CD on, crack open a beer, put your feet up, and listen to some good music. Find out more about Matt Hendricks at