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David Wax Museum does the Back Room, Studio Milwaukee double

A black-and-white photo of six people smiling on stage at a concert with their arms around each others' shoulders.
Steve Benoit
David Wax Museum / Facebook

Milwaukee’s concert scene has a lot going on, so we look at the shows coming up to find the ones you’ll look back on and be glad you went. Then we add them to our weekly Milwaukee Concert Picks.

“I could walk away from everything / but I could never walk from you,” David Wax vows on his band’s peppy, heart-eyed song, “Luanne.” He said this particular song is “the apex of love,” and if you’ve been paying attention to the 88Nine airwaves for the past couple of months, you’ve definitely heard it a few times.

“Luanne” is the most dynamic single from David Wax Museum’s new album, You Must Change Your Life. On the LP, the band gets back to their neo-folk roots, kicking up their heels even higher after 16 years of throwing down. This Thursday, they put every moment of those 16 years into not one but two Milwaukee appearances — a nighttime slot in the Back Room @ Colectivo with special guest Jacob Slade and a noon Studio Milwaukee Session at Radio Milwaukee HQ.

Both shows will undoubtedly feature plenty from the new album, which Wax waxed eloquently about thusly:

This record is our mission statement. It is a super-danceable amalgamation of American and Mexican music that seamlessly weaves together the warm, earthy folk instruments and rhythms at the heart of this band, and pushes to the outer edges of sonic adventurousness, while maintaining a pop veneer, sensibility and accessibility. 

We ran the hand-carved Mexican folk instruments (the jaranas and huapanguera), plus Suz’s fiddle, an out-of-tune marimba and the bass clarinet through the wildest-sounding filters and pedals, pitch-shifted horn sections several octaves to create other-worldly soundscapes, and layered the grooves of a slamming rock band with drum machines and loops. We made bold moves — heaping synths upon synths, encouraging our electric guitarist to let loose, running vocals through fuzzed-out amps pumped into other rooms — but the beating heart of the band, the humanness and frailty of real voices and emotions, never got lost in the process.

It’s our missive of love to all those who have inspired us and the heroes that we’re toured with — Los Lobos and Buena Vista Social Club. And it’s our letter to the future, showing how the lines blur and dissolve between musical cultures and eras. In doing so, we managed to pack in everything we love about music: the pure joy of it, the swagger and exhilaration of the British Invasion, the 6/8 syncopation and sway of the Mexican fandango, the belting piano rockers of the ’70s from Elton John and the sly ones from Harry Nilsson, paired with the experimentation of Fleetwood Mac and moody balladry of Nick Drake. 

At the heart of all these songs is desire — taming it, grappling with it, coaxing it, reminiscing on it, allowing it to upend one’s life, being swept down to Mexico by it.

More shows worth a go

88Nine Music Director / On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee