Wisconsin needs a band like Ian Olvera and the Sleepwalkers. Acoustic singer-songwriters, self-serious alt-country bands that aren’t as good as the Championship -- thanks, but no, we’re at capacity. I hear Michigan is lovely this time of year.
We don’t get a lot of hooky power-pop in these parts, and that’s where Olvera comes in. Here’s a guy who knows how to package his disappointments and discouragements in big, catchy Fountains of Wayne-sy melodies, a boot-stomp or two of honkey tonk, even an unabashed power ballad.
The most recent reshuffling of Olvera’s band played at Mad Planet on Saturday, a line-up featuring Connor Lamue on bass and … well, according to Olvera’s Facebook, “um...er...uh..yeah” is on drums. Myspace says it’s Nikolas Davidson. But … wasn’t that Sahan Jaysuriya banging away back there? Didn’t he once hold a limited edition pressing of Deerhunter’s “Microcastle” for me at Atomic Records? As the Facebook and Myspace confusion suggests, these guys aren’t entirely relaxed together yet, but some goofy joy shone on the music’s unassailable polish too: during “Derailed,” a cut from Olvera’s 2007 debut EP “Some of Us Dream,” Jaysuriya took his sticks to the air, the stage, and his lead singer, while Lamue sandwiched his bass against a speaker and rode the feedback.
Band hi-jinx aside, the star of the set was “The Reckless Kind,” a full-length summer 2K10 release that goes ten for ten on catchy tunes and smart songwriting. My favorite track, the gate-crashing comedy “Sophie Lives Here,” didn’t make the cut this night, which is a credit to how many really great songs Olvera has at his disposal -- songs like “I Won’t Let You Down,” in which an ex-lover wishes Olvera the worst and he spits her digs back as spiteful promises .. because, you see, he’s the reliable one! The hint of a whine in Olvera’s voice can get downright punky on a kiss-off like “Don’t Wanna Talk About It,” or lonely and exasperated on the break-up anthem “Laundry and Cigarettes.” Olvera has the talent, the songs, and -- finally? maybe? -- the band. All his live songbook needs is a little more singer-drumming and feedback-riding. It’ll come.
Joey Tayler is the lead writer on Rocksposure.com. Based out of Milwaukee, WI, he is always looking for a new show to see. If there is something you think he should be listening to, send him an email at JoeyT@Rocksposure.com