by Jason Hart, photo Karina Schafer   “A modern gypsy curse,” says Paul Setser, a founding member of Milwaukee Cabaret band Eat the Mystery, “would be something like — ‘May you wake up to find that Mitt Romney has been elected president.’” Setser is talking about a song he wrote. Many Eat the Mystery songs are like this – amalgamations of old themes and modern politics. These connections cross over to their stage shows. During one song about proposed legislation to ban smoking indoors, Angie Livermore, the other founding member, cavorts on stage with a giant cigarette. Eat the Mystery places itself in the cabaret tradition, an art form that originated in 19th century Paris. A distinguishing characteristic of cabaret was always its informalness – audience members sat at tables instead of in seats, and were able to wear street clothes instead of evening wear. The entertainment took place in cheap venues where the crowd was as entertaining as the stage. Eat the Mystery continues the tradition by encouraging audience participation. Members of the group are prone to enter the audience to throw out candy or engage them in conversation. When drinking songs are played, the band gets everyone to sing along. The band grew out of late night jam sessions two years and has expanded to seven members. Instruments played include accordions, drums, guitar, and horns. “We don’t ever pretend to be a rock band,” says Setser, “We’re more like a Broadway musical.” Members of the group will break into character to inhabit the songs they play. When they perform Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds version of the folk song Stagger Lee, which tells the tale of a murder committed in 1895, each of them will sing as one of the people involved in the story. Other performances are less dark – for one show Livermore dressed as a chicken and squawked at the audience for several songs, and others have featured fire-breathing and readings of bizarre newspaper articles. Eat the Mystery will be performing at the Astor Theatre, Brady & Astor on Friday, June 20, at 8PM, and Setser says that this will be one of their most theatrical shows yet. He won’t reveal exactly what mystery the audience will eat, but it will contain, “Ladders, mattresses, lots of props.” Ladders and mattresses? Mystery, indeed