Review: Joe Jack Talcum of The Dead Milkmen performs an intimate acoustic set at WOW Hall

Joe Jack Talcum is the former guitarist and vocalist for The Dead Milkmen (Ryan Johnson/Flickr).

Joe Jack Talcum — a founding member of the cult punk rock outfit the Dead Milkmen — performed an acoustic solo set at the WOW Hall on Monday. The venue was less than halfway full, with only about fifty people in the audience, but Talcum gave a more than worthwhile performance for the fans that were willing to show up on cold weekday night.

The night started around 8:30 p.m. with a half-hour set from the local Eugene band Not A Part Of It. There was only about 20 people in the audience as the band hopped up on stage. Some people sat off to the side while others came in close. Talcum himself wandered around the venue while the band performed.

Not A Part Of It’s set — which ended up being the noisiest of the night — remained somewhere in between hardcore punk and early pop punk bands, at some points reminiscent of bay area groups such as Green Day and Operation Ivy.

Nerdcore hip-hop artist Coolzey was next to perform, after the stage was reduced to just a microphone, a stool and an electric guitar. Coolzey’s set featured an absurd mix of hip-hop and humorous alternative rock. He switched between playing guitar and triggering his own hip-hop backing track. Sometimes he mixed the two.

It was often hard to distinguish between the irony and sincerity in Coolzey’s performance. On the punk song “The Ballad of Marshall Mathers,” Coolzey complimented and encouraged the hip-hop artist Eminem, offering an alternative view to the people who claim that “he sucks.”

Coolzey wore a suit jacket over a t-shirt and he danced around on stage. It was all thoroughly entertaining. At the end of his set, he stepped down to dance among the audience members, performing his own version of the Frank Sinatra tune “Come Fly With Me.”

Joe Jack Talcum took the stage at 10 p.m. with an acoustic guitar and a set of harmonicas. The Dead Milkmen songs that he performed kept all of their original energy, as the band’s cowpunk aesthetic transitioned perfectly to Talcum’s acoustic guitar. The bare-bones performance even added a personal feel to the often sardonic and satirical Milkmen songs.

Talcum performed a slightly reworked version of “Dean’s Dream” off of the first Dead Milkmen album as well as the popular “Punk Rock Girl” from “Beelzebubba,” replacing the guitar solo with a solo on the harmonica. Coolzey even came back on stage to play tambourine on the song “If I Had A Gun” from the album “Soul Rotation.”

A few songs from Talcum’s lo-fi “home recordings” series were worked into the set in addition to some folk songs that Talcum said were older than the historic WOW Hall.

Talcum made the already intimate show even more personal by sharing brief comments about his songs during the breaks in the set. Towards the end of the night he asked the audience if there was anything they wanted to hear and then paused to listen as fans shouted their favorite tracks. He clearly was not using a setlist, but none of it felt unprofessional or lazy — just casual and endearing.

During the last few songs, Talcum performed “Life is Shit,” with shouts from the audience on the chorus. He also threw in a respectable cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In the End.”

The Milkmen song “Stuart,” an audience request, also made its way into the setlist, but only after a fan agreed to come up on stage and read the lyrics. Talcum claimed it was too difficult for him play the guitar while performing his bandmate’s original spoken word part.

By this point, the show felt a lot less formal than a typical concert, but it only added to the experience as Chris, the audience member, laughed his way through the lyrics to “Stuart” up on stage with his phone in hand.

The concert closed with a song about throwing up in your bed and sleeping in your own vomit, “The Puking Song.” It was fun, great music from a performer that didn’t take himself too seriously, the type of concert any Dead Milkmen fan would be happy to see.

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