A short walk from the South Shore Marina in Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood sits the Cactus Club. Featuring concerts every weekend, the venue has been a hot spot for the local music scene for 15 years running.
Separate from the concert hall by an always-closed pair of doors and featuring a u-shaped bar, a few tables, a mid-century look, and an array of microbrews and liquors, the bar area of the Cactus is a comfortable place to drink between shows or have a conversation. The concert hall is a different story, but in a good way.
A small, dark space resembling a basement capable of holding around fifty people, the concert hall is a tight space. Its walls plastered with stickers of bands that have graced its stage, most notably, Deathcab for Cutie and Interpol, and a small stage able to hold around four musicians and their equipment comfortably. The Cactus Club’s concert hall features all of the hallmarks of an underground music club where up-and-coming bands get their start.
Though four bands played the Cactus Club on Friday, February 14, the two who stood out most were Paper Holland and Estates. Featuring a self-proclaimed ‘happy pop’ style, Paper Holland entertained a sizeable crowd. Many of those who were in attendance had come exclusively to hear Paper Holland’s unique brand of melodic, progressive rock style. For those who enjoy the Beatles or David Bowie, Paper Holland is not a band to miss.
After waiting patiently in the crowd and showing their support for the night’s other acts, Milwaukee-based alternative rockers, Estates, were the last on the bill for the night. With an intensely heavy and melodic sound boosted by skillful musicianship, an expressive stage presence, and dual harmonies by drummer, Matt Tomashek, and singer/guitarist, Mike Carini, the Estates’ sound is reminiscent of emotion driven ‘90’s groups such as Third Eye Blind, Nirvana, Mineral, and Jimmy Eat World.
“We play a style that blends alternative and emo and also has elements of space rock and grunge,” said Tomashek. “Our style is also similar to the 90’s movement of slowcore/sadcore.”
Citing a do-it-yourself philosophy, the Estates carry the burden of travel and band management themselves. As a general rule, the Estates favor small shows over larger shows, with the belief that smaller shows present a better chance to meet fans. As such, Estates have purposefully avoided playing larger venues such as Summerfest and the Rave/Eagles Ballroom.
Since forming in 2012, they have performed in clubs, bars, and basements across the United States, and have released a full length album, ‘Gleam’ and are preparing to release their self-titled EP in March through music cooperative, Skeletal Lightning. When asked about possibly playing UW-Milwaukee’s annual Pantherfest, all three band members smirked.
“Only if they don’t tell us to turn down our amps,” Tomashek said with chuckle.