It’s your last chance to take in one of this city’s best live music experiences at one of its longest-running venues. On Friday, December 17 at 9 p.m., Peeper & Le Play will kick out the jams at the Cactus Club to usher in their third album, We Buy Gold (Club Fills Vol. 2).
Poet and songster Zack Pieper—whom you might recall from “Ghost-Its” and a considerable oeuvre of projects including The Trusty Knife and Farms In Trouble—will perform live with recording partner Didier Leplae under the aegis of Peeper & Le Play for the final time. Leplae is a longtime fixture of Milwaukee’s arts and music scene, a member of many legendary acts like Bamm Bamm, The Paragraphs, and The Chain. The show will occasion a tearful bon voyage to the recently expatriated-to-Portugal musical wizard.
Pieper and Leplae have been collaborating since 2014, and have released two albums of kaleidoscopic and occasionally nightmarish pop: 2015’s Mandatory Fantasies and 2019’s Find The Earth (Club Frills Vol. 1). Friday’s show will also coincide with the release of We Buy Gold. A cavalcade of perverse tales bracketed by jagged funk and audio chicanery, the album demonstrates the best possibilities of musical omnivorousness; ideas rain in from a ridiculous diversity of genres and rub against each other in new, thrilling ways. One hears just a bit of Peeper & Le Play’s post-punk fore-bearers in the giddy embrace of novel technologies and new avenues of sound, but things never come off as unoriginal. This kitchen sink approach is more like the original spirit of post-punk than any game of musical cosplay, really. Do we think Talking Heads wouldn’t have used auto-tune if it were on the menu? Come now.
In any case, it will take several listens just to parse all the ingredients in the layered and dense stew of no-wave angularity, lo-fi weirdo pop, and ambient noise, among others modes and genres. On the brilliant single “Tons Of Pics,” where a percolating electro groove battles for space with what sounds like Jimmie Rodgers lost in the metaverse, Pieper warns us of getting buried alive under the tons of pics that we inhabit everyday. What helps We Buy Gold transcend pastiche is Pieper’s poetical insight (he’s also a published and admired poet), harboring in its wordplay and absurdity a harsh critique of the dogma of self-realization through commodity fetishism.
Live, Peeper & Le Play are augmented by drummer Brock Gourlie (Scrimshaw, The Trusty Knife, Crappy Dracula), guitarist Casey Seymour (Ravi/Lola) and multi-instrumentalist Monica Bennett (Wavy V, The LOL). Together they make up the Le Players. We’ll find ourselves dancing even more furiously to the music in this live context, while the band sweats through tuxedo T-shirts and barrister wigs, and Pieper displays his performative skills—part preacher and part antic troubadour, castigating us when not seducing us, sometimes stopping to contemplate a bust of Beethoven. It is music that wants you to think and feel and move.
Joining to DJ the evening is Andy Positive—performer, yarn-spinner, and local favorite. Also appearing is Chicago/Milwaukee sound wizard Jaff Graffner, who, in 2020, released a collection of quirky novelty hits and breezy keyboard pop, Hot Salad Vol. 1.
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