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Milwaukee, WI

The Beta Band

Release Date: 04.19.02
Record label:
Genre(s): Country Western

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The Music They Make is Particularly Good
by: bill aicher

"This is a song called 'Life' from our new album. It was just released two and a half years ago. It's called Hot Shots II, if you want to buy it."

This pitch was about the most lead singer, Steven Mason, had to say at the Beta Band's recent Milwaukee show. The rest of the pitch was in the music and show itself.

The show opened with a DJ set by the band themselves. Not even attempting to mix from song to song, the mood for the night was set by varied (mostly unknown) selections working as the soundtracks to a series of short films. The band finally took the stage at 9:00.

Like any Beta Band album, the show started out as a bit of a drag. Rifling through extended jams of "Human Being" and "Alleged," the band at first seemed to be going through the motions. Perhaps it was the fact that maybe 200 people showed up for their set, or perhaps it was the fact that the acoustics at the venue were mediocre at best. Regardless of the reason, it took a few songs for the band and audience to finally meet.

The slow head-nod of the crowd (ala High Fidelity) finally gave way to genuine interest at the onset of the now-classic "Dry the Rain." Dedicated to those who were denied a show in Chicago the night before due to a power failure, it was here that the night truly started to get interesting.

"Dry the Rain" gave way to "Squares," the most successful track from their current album. The Beta Band Experience finally began to set in. Behind the group was a projector screen, displaying a short film about a fake lunar landing, starring the Beta Band. Films like this continued throughout the night, making for an aural and visual extravaganza unmatched by most others in their genre.

The pre-encore set finished with "Broke," ripe with the emittance of monkey noises and chicken clucks by Mason who then went on to helm the second drum set for an extended percussion jam.

A superb extended encore including "Al Sharp," and "She's the One" followed, as well as a birthday cake for the Neil, the trumpet player, and the band's tour manager, Geoff. The night ended with an enjoyable babble-rap / scratchfest and a four-man, two-drumset percussion solo.

Overall the show was excellent. It took a bit for them to get into the flow of the moment, a problem which could have easily been avoided had the show been in a better venue. The poor acoustics and general ambience of The Rave did not lend themselves to a spectacular show. Likewise, the audience seemed scattered at best. Milwaukee, a town famous for it's hard-rocking citizens, did not lend enough support for such an innovative and entertaining group.

Luckily the Beta Band didn't let this discourage them from performing one of the better shows in my recent memory. Definitely a show worth checking out.