NO!: BLACK FRANCIS (#506, JUL 11 2009).
It's sort of fitting that this podcast should end with Frank Black playing an early Pixies song, since seeing the Pixies in late 2004 was what prompted me to get a small digital camera I could take into shows. This show provided as much excitement as that Pixies show, surprisingly, with so many songs I really wanted to hear ("Cactus" and "Bullet" were the highlights).
Now I'm on sort of a permanent holiday. I hope to get back to something like this in the near future, but it'll be more irregular and a bit thicker. I'm thinking about getting into the show-booking business, and it might be tied to that. We'll see. Until then, it's been fun.
NO!: BLACK FRANCIS (#505, JUL 11 2009).
It was an odd coincidence that our last two High Noon shows were of the intimate, semi-acoustic variety. Opening for Frank Black was Mark Waldoch of Milwaukee's Celebrated Working Man, kind of the mirror-image of Jon Auer. While playing he was supremely confident and poised, but between songs he seemed a little overwhelmed by opening for a legend and playing to a legend's crowd. He actually complimented the audience for their kindness and the weird thing was he was right -- it was the nicest High Noon crowd I've ever seen.
But then I got to thinking, I've never heard of this supposed Milwaukee-based Celebrated Working Man, and I've never seen this guy before. He's kind of a big guy and his material is not terribly different from Frank Black's recent work. What if Mark Waldoch doesn't exist, but is a persona Frank takes on -- a wig, some make-up, an outfit just the negative of what he wears for his set -- and identifies as from a band in a nearby city? It would be like the time U2 opened for themselves way back when. Maybe Frank's next album would be called The Celebrated Working Man and include the songs he played as Waldoch, etc.
Well, I just imagined it. Waldoch was in the audience during Frank's set, while Frank was clearly onstage. But still, I think this is something to think about for his next tour.
NO!: BLACK FRANCIS (#504, JUL 11 2009).
I never would've guessed this show would be such a blast, especially considering how little I know of Frank Black's solo material (and yet, he'll always be Frank Black to me for some reason). Opening his bottle of wine and launching the show with this medley got the crowd going quick, and was a surprising burst of energy from the nearly empty stage.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#503, JUL 10 2009).
One nice thing about Hold Steady is that they frequently pull out deep cuts from their first two albums, which were a little under the radar. Last time we saw them I recorded "Modesto Is Not That Sweet," an Australian bonus track from their first record; this time the highlight was probably this rollicking meditation on age from Separation Sunday, which they followed immediately with "Multitude of Casualties" and later with "How a Resurrection Really Feels." The showcase of older songs was certainly appreciated by the sell-out crowd, many of whom were probably also at last year's sold-out Stay Positive tour stop.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#502, JUL 10 2009).
If I'd ever gotten around to writing up my top albums of 2008, the Hold Steady's Stay Positive would've been their second-straight #1. Though not as instantly enthralling and masterwork-level as their previous effort, it was a hugely engaging, progressive step for the band and a victory lap of sorts after the success of Boys and Girls in America. The opener, "Constructive Summer," is the most viscerally inspiring song I've heard in years, while the title track is the band's salute to its scene and its fans, and the positive rage that fuels them both. Elsewhere they add some new flourishes to their sound, particularly on "Navy Sheets."
This song is very much in the classic Hold Steady mold, launching with competing guitar and piano lines and giving Craig Finn's poetry some room to stretch; "If I cross myself when I cum/would you maybe receive me?" is one of those lines that implicates love, lust, religion and insecurity the way few other songwriters ever have. I was particularly excited to catch it live because it's one of the songs from Stay Positive that I didn't react strongly to at first, but that's grown on me a lot since the record came out and we saw them last.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#501, JUL 10 2009).
I hate the Majestic and I love the Hold Steady, and love always wins. I'd wanted to shoot video from the main floor for this show, but for a variety of reasons (mainly the woman in front of us who kept whipping her arm back into my face) it didn't happen. But no matter, the show was great as always. It was the second time in the last three shows that they played this somewhat obscure tune -- a bonus track from the Australian and iTunes releases of Boys and Girls in America. Oddly, I think I still haven't seen them do "Ask Her For Adderall" live.
NO!: FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE (#500, JUL 8 2009).
What do you do when you bring people up out of the audience to play incidental percussion parts, but then one of them starts singing unsolicited back-up vocals? Apparently, you just go with it. The guy on the right sang, I think, the entire song, and I don't think the band actually noticed. Meanwhile, the scarf-wearer on the left was on stage for the second time of the night -- he was also picked to come up and play a piano line during Jon Auer's solo opening set.
About that set: wow, so weird. Auer is best known as the guy from the Posies, and there were a handful of Posies fans in the otherwise inattentive crowd. This is pretty par for the course at the High Noon -- openers get talked over, and that goes double for solo acoustic openers. This makes Auer's decision to play a song unamplified, from the middle of the floor, and facing the stage, all the more inexplicable. He stopped during the song twice to shout at the crowd to shut up (it didn't work, obviously), and even standing right behind him I couldn't hear any of it. He ended his set by covering Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him," which he mocked repeatedly. The whole thing was quite a big fail, which is why the headliners got episode #500 and he didn't.
NO!: FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE (#499, JUL 8 2009).
I liked this one the best of the new songs that they played, and everything seemed to get a positive response from the crowd. The only one that was really a miss to my ears was the last one they played, "A Road Song," which, despite name-checking Wisconsin, felt really forced and seemed to borrow a lot lyrically and musically from "Valley Winter Song." Their last album was their first I didn't like, so hopefully the new one draws more from this song than the other -- or maybe the new songs are totally different in their regular versions, and all my speculation is for naught.
NO!: FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE (#498, JUL 8 2009).
I wondered before this show if Fountains of Wayne had ever played Madison before -- I knew they hadn't since I've been here -- and Chris Collingwood remarked during the set that he thought they hadn't. So it's kind of odd that their first visit, a decade and a half into their career, would be a stripped-down, semi-acoustic set. Making it even a little odder, they played several new songs, which could sound totally different when they're released on the next FoW record sometime in the near-ish future.
The new stuff was mostly enjoyable but not especially great. This one really drove home what a bougie band this is, and I kept hearing it all of a sudden in other songs throughout the set. It got me re-evaluating songs like "Hackensack" and "Valley Winter Song," and even "Stacy's Mom," which got a really nice, slow rendition in the encore that belied its "Just What I Needed"-ganking origins.
NO!: WHITE RABBITS (#497, JUN 30 2009).
This is a song where you can really hear the difference the band's two albums. Fort Nightly didn't have anything this stripped-down -- even the slow, ballad-y stuff was deeply layered. It's actually kind of odd to see, because on stage there are still six guys, but they're doubling each other, or doing nothing but tapping a tambourine and generally not adding much to the sound.
NO!: WHITE RABBITS (#496, JUN 30 2009).
After seeing Spoon and coming away with a greater appreciation for their later material, I wondered if a live White Rabbits show could get me to like their somewhat-disappointing new album a bit more. It's a weird record, in that it sounds so much more stripped-down than their debut; it doesn't sound like an album made by a band with six members.
And, well, it didn't -- it still sounds pretty much the same on record. But, the performance on stage was really great. Check out Stephen Patterson's face -- this isn't even that intense a song! The mark of a great live band is one that makes a great show out of lesser material, and these guys sure are great live.
NO!: CANASTA (#495, JUN 30 2009).
Another solid new one from a too-short set -- sadly, I missed recording any of the trombone numbers. This is one of the Chicago bands that I could imagine making a stop in Carbondale at some point, and I hope they do. They seemed to impress the crowd at this show and I think they may be on the verge of big success with their new album.
NO!: CANASTA (#494, JUN 30 2009).
Way back around the time I started doing this podcast, I went to see Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. At the time, I only had a little over six minutes of recording time available with my 128MB memory stick, which meant I could only recording opening bands if I was there specifically to see them. That was a bad show for such a limitation, since I liked both openers -- Madison's the Super Eights and Chicago's Canasta -- much better than the headliners. I didn't get to see the Super Eights again until their farewell show about a year later, and I didn't get to see Canasta again until a couple weeks ago, nearly four years later.
They were worth the wait, to be sure. We got to the show a little late but walked in just as they were starting into "Slow Down Chicago," one of the best tunes of the past five years and the best Chicago-related song of 2005 (take that, Sufjan Stevens and the Hold Steady). Most of the rest of the set was comprised of material from their in-progress new album, which hopefully will be out later this year.
NO!: SPOON (#493, JUN 29 2009).
When a recent hit single is missing from the set, you can generally bet it's in the encore. And there it was! Closing out probably our last Summerfest for at least a while, this show was a terrific way to leave things. We nearly got stampeded trying to make our way through the Lupe Fiasco crowd to the exit, but that's the way of the 'Fest.
NO!: SPOON (#492, JUN 29 2009).
We got a treat in this set with this new song, and I'm glad I searched for it online before listening through the Spoon back catalog trying to find it. They also played their newly released single, "Got Nuffin," which has a couple of new b-sides. Hopefully, now that I'm back on the Spoon bandwagon, this means they've got a new album coming together soon.
NO!: SPOON (#491, JUN 29 2009).
This is one of those new songs I've come around on. After the show I found myself thinking I hadn't really changed my mind about the last two Spoon records -- the stuff I liked I liked maybe a little more, but the stuff I didn't like I still didn't like. But I didn't realize that this was one of the ones I thought I didn't like! When I pulled it up on my iPod later in the week I saw that I had it at two stars, which made me generally re-evaluate how I feel about late-model Spoon.
NO!: SPOON (#490, JUN 29 2009).
So I'm 30 now, as of this show. And even though the last two Spoon records had disappointed me, I found myself liking a lot of that material at this show. Maybe it's because I'm entering my middle-age rock phase, but I hope not. It could be because they threw this Girls Can Tell album cut out as the second song of the set, getting my "hey, I love this song!" vibe going early. This is still my favorite Spoon album and I think any song from it would've perked me up at the beginning of the set.
NO!: ARCHIE POWELL & THE EXPORTS (#489, JUN 24 2009).
This is the lead track off the Exports' debut EP, which is available for free download at Bandcamp (and since I'll probably not get the chance to feature them before the podcast ends, you can get Direct Hit! there as well). The band had a set at this year's Summerfest and should be putting together a full-length album pretty soon, to go with upcoming shows around the midwest.
NO!: ARCHIE POWELL & THE EXPORTS (#488, JUN 24 2009).
This is another late-model Box Social holdover, and it's one where you can really hear the difference between the two bands. Last time I heard this song it was a lot more raucous and careening (also it was in Madison's loudest venue), now it's got a distinct, new tone. In fact, if you take this band and the other post-Box Social band (the Nick Woods-fronted Direct Hit!) and combine them, you'll get something that sounds a lot like the Box Social. Which sort of seems obvious, but trying combining Angels and Airwaves with (+44) and see if you get Blink-182.
NO!: ARCHIE POWELL & THE EXPORTS (#487, JUN 24 2009).
I believe this is the first instance of someone's new band being in the podcast, when that someone's previous band had also been featured. Indeed, I even recorded this song as performed by the Box Social (well, two of the Box Social in an acoustic set) last fall. So hey, milestone!
This is actually a pretty old Box Social song -- it was originally on their 2004 EP, then they started revamping it as they prepped new material last year. Much of that new stuff has transitioned into the Exports' set, in slightly modified form as keyboards have replaced the second guitar in the previous arrangements.
NO!: PALE YOUNG GENTLEMEN (#486, JUN 14 2009).
Even though, to be frank, we never went to a lot of Madison's many summer festivals, I was always really glad that they were there and will miss them when we move. They're great outlets for local music and give bands a chance to get in front of different audiences than they see in clubs. If anything I think this one might be growing -- it's the first time I've seen such a big-time stage setup for the Marquette Waterfront Festival.
NO!: PALE YOUNG GENTLEMEN (#485, JUN 14 2009).
This one provides a nice opening to the PYGs most recent album, and apparently it's also great to dance and spin around to. A section of newer stuff came up in the set starting with this song, but overall the set seemed to be mostly first-album stuff that maybe works a little better live.
NO!: PALE YOUNG GENTLEMEN (#484, JUN 14 2009).
OK, Pale Young Gentlemen, I give up. My iPod has your two albums and your cover of "Paper Planes." If you have some stock of secret other songs that includes this one, I don't know about it. I do like this one, though.
NO!: PALE YOUNG GENTLEMEN (#483, JUN 14 2009).
Experiment time! Since the Marquette Waterfront Festival is an outdoor event, I decided to try out shooting a clip with my Nikon D90, knowing the dissipated sound wouldn't overwhelm its little mic. The potential advantages to this: 1) it shoots in HD, though I realized later that I hadn't actually set it to HD, and 2) I get the visual benefits of shooting through a nice SLR lens, with all the options that implies. But the disadvantages were many: 1) it's a lot heavier than my camcorder, 2) autofocus doesn't work for video, which limits my ability to alter the zoom angle very much, 3) can't really fiddle with any of the other options while shooting, either, 4) no image stabilization. But that said, I really like how the picture came out -- the detail's good enough to get a sense of how many little gnats were swarming around the lakeside -- and I think if I'd brought a tripod and thought about how I wanted to shoot in advance the weaknesses could've been overcome.
NO!: LOCKSLEY (#482, JUN 13 2009).
Thanks again to my tipster, I've got the name of this one and now know that yesterday's song is, in fact, called "21st Century." Just in time to correct them for YouTube!
As I noted previously, I was kind of surprised by the low-ish turnout for this show. The balcony was closed off, which I've never seen at the Majestic before, and I assume it's because they didn't need the room -- a few people wound up sitting up there during the Locksley set, but no more than half a dozen. But meanwhile, those people who were down on the floor went crazy pretty much the whole time. And for almost exclusively new material! I'm actually really excited for the new album (due this fall, supposedly), as there have been a number of follow-up albums lately that haven't really done much for me.
NO!: LOCKSLEY (#481, JUN 13 2009).
Turns out I was wrong about that song title I was so sure of. A reader (Viewer? What do you call a member of a video podcast/blog audience?) e-mailed me with correct names for the first three new songs I posted -- the first is "Down For Too Long" and yesterday's "kind of a title track" is actually called "Days of Youth." I was right about "One More Minute," though!
Today's and tomorrow's I won't even guess on since the band didn't mention any titles, but the phrase "21st century" is pretty prominent in this tune. It's another good display of just how much they can get a crowd going, even one that seemed a little smaller than it should've been, as this one did. It was definitely a smaller group than at last fall's Barrymore show, which I'm guessing is down to UW students being gone.
NO!: LOCKSLEY (#480, JUN 13 2009).
Of all these new tunes, this is the only one whose title I'm sure of -- probably because "title track" is easier to understand from the echoey Majestic floor than any of the actual titles. More rotating singing duties on this one, and a harmonized ballad style that they didn't really do much of on their first album but that fits well with their overall sound.
NO!: LOCKSLEY (#479, JUN 13 2009).
I'm a bit more sure about the name of this one, going by what the lyrics sound like; could still be wrong, though. It's also a good example of how the new material continues to spread singing and songwriting duties around in the band. This one is a big call-and-response number from bassist Jordan Laz who, like the rest of the band, has really figured out how to sell a tune like this on stage.
NO!: LOCKSLEY (#478, JUN 13 2009).
The prodigal sons of Madison power pop returned home last weekend with a whole new album's worth of material. Be in Love doesn't have a release date yet, but I'm pretty sure they played the whole thing, along with all the best stuff from their debut. Now, owing to the acoustics of the Majestic, I'm wildly guessing on what Jesse Laz said most of these songs were called; I think this one is "That's True Love" based on what the lyrics sound like, but it could also be "That's Too Rough" or "That's What You Are" or maybe there's no "That's" in the title at all. Judge for yourself.
NO!: THE THERMALS (#477, APR 28 2009).
So things were kind of raucous throughout the show. Towards the end of the set this mellow tune brought out moshing and crowd-surfing from the band's devotees -- not a common sight in the compact stagefront area at High Noon. Even frontman Hutch Harris seemed surprised by it, and that energy makes me want to see them in a slighter bigger room. Maybe my new basement in Carbondale will be big enough to hold 500 people...
NO!: THE THERMALS (#476, APR 28 2009).
Following straight along from "A Passing Feeling" is the song that follows it on the band's debut album, this one pulls things back a little bit and shows them moving their garage sound toward 60s-vintage power pop. Good solid piece of stuff in the live setting, especially with a strongly appreciative crowd going crazy.
NO!: THE THERMALS (#475, APR 28 2009).
This quick, rollicking tune is one of the archetypes from the first Thermals record and represents a lot of what this show was about. It was nice to hear this outside the extremely lo-fi confines of that first album; like a lot of their later stuff, it's got some body to it, but that comes through a lot more onstage than on record.
NO!: THE THERMALS (#474, APR 28 2009).
The Thermals have had kind of a weird career progression, and I'm not sure anyone in the indie rock world really knows what to make of them. I heard their first record back in 2003 and thought it was OK, but really same-y -- two stand-out tracks and a bunch of indistinguishable mud. Then the next two got a lot of glowing attention (the third, in particular), and I didn't really hear much different on them. Their new one I think does sound different -- they went from Sub Pop to Kill Rock Stars, but the change actually sounds more like the reverse -- and is quite catchy, but hasn't gotten nearly as much attention from what I've seen.
Meanwhile, it turns out they have a surprisingly big and active fan base. This show was full of not just indie kids, but more then a few frat boys and aging scenesters. The response all night was pretty ecstatic -- to the new stuff, and to the somewhat older stuff, like this one.
NO!: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE (#473, APR 19 2009).
This was my early favorite track from Narrow Stairs and I was quite glad to be able to record it here. Those new songs in general were exciting to hear live, especially "I Will Possess Your Heart" with its epic build. Also nice to see Ra Ra Riot again, who get better every time, and they did a nice job despite the fact that the venue really wasn't built for their sound. And for the third time we saw Cold War Kids by accident as an opening act; as usual they were decent but a little repetitive. Can't go wrong with "Hang Me Out to Dry" live, though.
NO!: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE (#472, APR 19 2009).
Somewhat to my surprise, they played quite a few old tunes before getting into the Narrow Stairs material in earnest. To their credit, the crowd seemed to appreciate it just about as much as the newer stuff -- sadly, this just got my hopes up for "Lowell, MA," which never came.
NO!: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE (#471, APR 19 2009).
So obviously with my dissertation in progress and an impending move, my enthusiasm for the podcast has waned. I've been sitting on the clips from this show for about a month and a half, and finally got on them because I got a new computer that I wanted to put through its paces. Also, I shot these clips on my old camera (though upon arrival at the show I realized I probably could've got my bulkier new equipment in with no fuss), which I find super-annoying now. How did I ever use that thing to shoot video for so long?
But, the show itself. I never saw any direct evidence, but I assume this show was set up by some student activities committee at Carroll College, because the school's fieldhouse was a very odd place for it to be. First of all, Waukesha turns out to be a much more strangely laid-out city than I ever realized. Getting from the freeway to the show -- with iPhone in hand, luckily -- was an absolute maze of twists, off-shoots and sudden one-way streets. And secondly, wouldn't the Rave or the Dane County Coliseum have made more sense for a southern Wisconsin show? At least as campus shows go, the sound was generally decent on the technical side (though the building's acoustics were not optimal).
But beyond that, this was a show that I wouldn't have gone to a year ago, but which, after Narrow Stairs, I was quite excited for. Death Cab's major-label debut -- from which this song is taken -- sounded very major-label-debut-y to me and I lost a lot of confidence in the band after it. Then I heard that the lead single from their follow-up would have a five-minute instrumental intro and thought, oh, terrific, they're going "mature." Instead, they produced something complex and experimental, which is easily the best record they've ever made (I never got around to writing up my top albums of 2008, but I've got it at #4 on that list). On top of that, they probably won't be playing within 45 minutes of us again any time soon.
NO!: JAIL (#470, FEB 27 2009).
We think this show sold out, though it appears that nobody was really working the door once the first band started so it's hard to say. The upstairs at Y-Not III was certainly packed for the Jail set and hopefully they sold a bunch of copies of their new record. Everybody seemed pretty into it, though in the darkness and from the front of the crowd, I couldn't see too much of what was going on around me.
NO!: JAIL (#469, FEB 27 2009).
Most of what the band played were tunes off their new album, for which this was the release show. This one has been in their live set for a while and has a nice solid pop structure to it, which should be enough to satisfy you even if you can't make out any of the visuals.
NO!: JAIL (#468, FEB 27 2009).
As the show went on, it seemed like the room got darker and darker (with the exception of the backstage window, lit by a nearby streetlight). Hopefully you can see some of what's going on in this clip, as Jail introduces a new song that's even newer than the new songs on their new record.
NO!: THE TRUSTY KNIFE (#467, FEB 27 2009).
All right, so I've quit trying to figure out what song this is. It's another non-album track, and another one that's livelier than most of what's on the record. Curious note: the bassoon player switches to flute on this one, to make the band's instrumentation just a bit odder.
NO!: THE TRUSTY KNIFE (#466, FEB 27 2009).
Perhaps for the last time in quite a while, we went to Milwaukee to see Jail play last Friday. Opening in the somewhat oddly laid-out club was a band with a somewhat odd instrumentation, the Trusty Knife, Milwaukee's presumably only indie rock band with a bassoon player. They played a spirited opening set, which included some tunes from their recently released debut, and also some non-album tracks like this one. The energy on display here is generally quite a bit higher than that on their record and I hope they find a way to capture it in the future.
NO!: CRACKER (#465, FEB 5 2009).
Last time I saw Cracker they had a new album out, but I don't recall what they played from it other than this song. That was the case again this time -- the set was full of album cuts, but they tended to be older stuff (the singles, too -- I didn't notice any post-Kerosene Hat). Emily said she saw them way back when and they were kind of hostile about playing "Low," and it's nice to see they're now embracing their catalog holistically.
NO!: CRACKER (#464, FEB 5 2009).
Last time I saw Cracker they played a two-hour set drawing from all periods of their nearly 20-year history, and the acoustic set David Lowery and Johnny Hickman put on a couple weeks ago was just as sprawling, if a little shorter. The stuff from their self-titled debut -- a 1992 release! -- may have been the best of it. This mournful, extended take on "Dr. Bernice" was terrific, and the highlight of the show for me was "Teen Angst" with Hickman using only knobs to play the song's main lick.
NO!: THE VIRGINS (#463, FEB 3 2009).
The Virgins' LP has grown on my considerably since my first listen. Then I could only hear the changes to the EP songs, which didn't sit well with me, and only later did the new ones -- particularly "Teen Lovers" and "Murder" -- begin to resonate. Ironically, this is one tune on the record that I've never been able to get into, but even it's not bad. The record will be at #5 on my 2008 best-of list whenever I get it written up and posted.
NO!: THE VIRGINS (#462, FEB 3 2009).
We first saw the Virgins opening for Tokyo Police Club in Vancouver in the fall of 2007, and I spent a lot of time listening to their debut EP back then. All five songs on it were rerecorded for their Gossip Girl-approved LP, and I think all of them are a bit worse for it. On the other hand, their live set just seems to get better and better. Donald Cumming has almost entirely quit playing guitar live, which frees him up to pose a lot (in a good way), and having a headliner's crowd works great with the dance-friendliness of their tunes.
NO!: LISSY TRULLIE (#461, FEB 3 2009).
One of the really nice things about this show was how quick-moving it was. Anya Marina had almost no equipment to speak of, and Lissy Trullie used the Virgins' drums (and maybe amps, too). The downtime between sets was minimal and the bands were focused on spending time playing music. It's a nice change of pace, though since we went to iPhones I guess I mind sitting around between sets that much.
NO!: LISSY TRULLIE (#460, FEB 3 2009).
Next up were a downtown New York quartet with a namesake singer, Lissy Trullie. Everything I'd read about them before the show made frequent references to Andy Warhol and the late 70s scene, but their sound didn't really measure up to the revolutionary language. They were a lot like the Strokes being fronted by Chrissie Hynde, which was fine but I think would've worked better with a bigger crowd or material I was already familiar with.
NO!: ANYA MARINA (#459, FEB 3 2009).
Anya Marina's new album is a full band recording, but her stage act is still just her. But, she still played her new songs with band backing thanks to a CD player on the stage floor. It sounded pretty good, and this is one of my favorite songs on the record, but I think she's still getting used to lining herself up with the backing music. This song had a couple false starts, and some other songs did as well, but if anything it seemed to endear her to the audience more.
NO!: ANYA MARINA (#458, FEB 3 2009).
What a drought! The winter thus far has brought not just very few shows I'm interested in to Madison, it feels like fewer shows in general are going on. Could be the economy hitting the live music industry, or maybe just a confirmation bias-fueled misperception on my part. Whatever it is, the drought came to a dramatic end when the Virgins came to town for a frigid mid-week show. Opening things up was a singer/songwriter who reminded by a lot of Inara George (The Bird from The Bird and the Bee), Anya Marina.
I'm guessing she developed her act in the coffeehouse scene, because her set featured a lot of interstitial storytelling. I don't usually include a three-minute lead-in on my clips, but on this one I felt it was worth keeping her extended acupuncture story as she introduced a song from her first album about L.A. This song was on Grey's Anatomy (or at least one of its soundtrack releases) so you may recognize it from there.
NO!: THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS (#457, NOV 15 2008).
I don't remember the last time I saw this song performed live, maybe way back when I first saw these guys playing a lunchtime gig at the Capitol a few years ago. This whole block of old stuff (much of which was also on their sort-of-secret first record, What Did You Expect? Heartland Rock?) was a lot of fun, and makes for a nice set of clips that might be closing out my year of recording. The remaining 2008 show calendar is pretty sparse and I'm going to be out of town a lot between now and 2009. We'll see -- hopefully some good stuff comes up!
NO!: THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS (#456, NOV 15 2008).
So Annelies and Andy's wife are both going to give birth pretty soon, which means another G.A.S. hiatus is upon us. Along with two songs on their new 7" they've got a third new one that they've been playing out, so hopefully when they return they'll have a new record to bestow upon us. Also, hopefully it will be before I move.
NO!: THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS (#455, NOV 15 2008).
In something of a paradox, this show was both a 7" release show and a 10th anniversary show. So not surprisingly, the set relied heavily on stuff from the earlier part of their decade. Lots of folks reacted really well to these old songs, and I think a lot of them haven't been played much recently -- I know there were a bunch that I don't remember hearing live.
NO!: VANCOUGAR (#454, NOV 2 2008).
I'm an absolute sucker for guitar pop with girly harmonies, so it's no surprise that this is my favorite song on Canadian Tuxedo. With the sing-song harmonies and science-related lyrics, it reminds me a lot of the Hot Toddies, though I think the bands are largely dissimilar otherwise.
NO!: VANCOUGAR (#453, NOV 2 2008).
The nice thing about this show was finding out about an excellent new band, but the other nice thing is that they have a secret first album from a couple years ago that I didn't know about until we saw it at the merch table. It features this song (among others) and we picked up a copy after the show, and then I discovered later that it's only available in the US as a pricey import. We saved like $15 on this thing!
NO!: VANCOUGAR (#452, NOV 2 2008).
When this show was announced a few weeks ago I was drawn to it largely for the description including terms such as "Canadian," "all-girl" and "power-pop." It's also true that their terrific pun of a name was pretty attractive. So I checked out their new album and it's pretty good stuff, and this is one of the really good tunes from it. I realized listening to it live that they weren't as much like the Dials as I'd originally thought, but were actually more like a Canadian, indie version of the Bangles -- there's something very Hoffsian about singer Eden Fineday.
NO!: MARGOT & THE NUCLEAR SO AND SO'S (#451, OCT 31 2008).
I believe Margot have two songs with "Nightmare" in the title, and I managed to record both of them at this show. The first one I posted is one of my favorites; this one is from one of their disappointing new releases, the version of their new record that the label didn't want to put out.
NO!: MARGOT & THE NUCLEAR SO AND SO'S (#450, OCT 31 2008).
We found ourselves wondering a lot of things before this show. Would there be anywhere to park downtown on Madison's crazy Halloween night? How would all eight members of Margot and all their equipment fit in the Rathskeller's little "stage" area? Would they be wearing themed costumes? Well, yes, it looked like a squeeze, and yes. The band's Peter Pan costumes seemed like a good look for them, though it was hard to tell in the can't-see-anything venue (and really, campus shows are going to be quite unfortunate when Union South closes).
I don't remember if they played this song the other times we saw them, but it's one of the unexpected treats of their debut album. Midway through you might find yourself thinking, "hey, is that guy meowing?" And he is!
NO!: THE SPINTO BAND (#449, OCT 24 2008).
I may have a new favorite spot to record from in the High Noon. After having been squished in down on the floor for Frightened Rabbit, we went up to these straight-on seats in the balcony and had a great, unimpeded view. The sound isn't great (it might just be me, but the vocals seem a touch muddled in these clips), but that could be the band or the mix or whatever. I'll try it again at the next show and see what it sounds like then.
NO!: THE SPINTO BAND (#448, OCT 24 2008).
Emily got a shirt that she really likes from the Spinto Band, which I think makes them her New Favorite Band for the time being. I find myself also enjoying their new album a lot more than their last one (though I actually like that one a bit more than I used to, as well), partly because I think they sound a lot like Office now. Emily thinks they sound like pre-crazy Of Montreal, but I feel like this song and much of Moonwink tilts in my favor.
NO!: THE SPINTO BAND (#447, OCT 24 2008).
Headlining the show were the older-than-you'd-guess Spinto Band, who've recently come into some prominence after spending nearly a decade on the self-releasing train. This tune, from their first "real" but fifth overall album, features, among other things, a couple of catchy kazoo melodies. I believe this is the first time I've ever seen a six-person rock band with a multi-part kazoo section, which I'm glad to have checked off the list.
NO!: FRIGHTENED RABBIT (#446, OCT 24 2008).
This opening track from The Midnight Organ is one of the two Frightened Rabbit songs that are really sticking with me (the other being "Keep Yourself Warm") and hearing it live really added a lot to it. If you find yourself enjoying these guys I think it might actually be worth checking out their new live record, Liver! Lung! FR!, over the studio version, at least as a first take.
NO!: FRIGHTENED RABBIT (#445, OCT 24 2008).
Frightened Rabbit are the latest in a series of blog bands to visit Madison this year -- we've had Ra Ra Riot, the Virgins, Vampire Weekend, Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, White Rabbits and the Whigs already. These guys are a bit different in that they are Scottish rather than American, but they largely fit with the blog band mode.
I'd been led to believe that their new album, The Midnight Organ, was somewhat more subdued than their live show, and it's true. Their set reminded me a bit of what I expected from their fellow countrymen of The Twilight Sad when they put the Terrace to sleep last summer -- pushy but not brash, and with a touch of fun in the dour.
NO!: PLANTS AND ANIMALS (#444, OCT 2 2008).
A day after overexerting my elbow in an intramural football game, maybe I should've been recuperating. We went to this show mainly to see the headliners, Born Ruffians, and figured we'd be arriving right before they started. Instead we got there early in the Plants and Animals set and I decided I ought to grab a song or two from them as well.
Nine minutes later, this one song was done and my elbow was absolutely killing me from holding the camera that whole time. And foolishly, we played some air hockey between sets, since this was likely our last trip to Union South for anything (it's scheduled for permanent closure in December). After all that I couldn't record anymore as the pain in my arm had gotten pretty persistent, so we left a few songs into the Ruffians set. Not the way I would've wanted my Club 770 experience to go out, but at least this is a pretty interesting song.
NO!: THE DIALS (#443, SEP 20 2008).
So, my show calendar is in a real drought. The Forward Fest came in a long span where basically nobody else was coming to town, and it's going to continue for a while yet. With gas prices cratering lately, hopefully that'll change soon. Dials, come play here again, we're close!
NO!: THE DIALS (#442, SEP 20 2008).
This opening track from the Dials' first LP is a great taste of the bouncy energy they bring to the stage. We've only seen them in the much more wide-open space of the High Noon before, and being in the Frequency's smaller area really amplified things (sound included). They got a really good crowd for a somewhat early show and I think it's clear they're developing a solid base in Madison.
NO!: THE DIALS (#441, SEP 20 2008).
We last saw the Dials at the High Noon new year's extravaganza, where they teased us with a bunch of new material. Their record didn't come out until summer, though, and it took a while to get them back to Madison, so we were pretty psyched for this show. They played a pretty healthy mix of old and new songs to cap off a boisterous evening, with this being one of the energetic new tracks.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#440, SEP 20 2008).
So on the second day of the Forward Fest we saw... the Box Social again. This time they were opening for the Dials, who we were really excited to see after it'd been a while, and also to buy their new record. This was also our first visit to the Frequency, which is in the old Slipper Club space, and is also hopefully going to fill the void left by the King Club's closing. As you'll see and hear, it's a small performance area with a regular little bar out front; we were about ten feet from the stage, and there's unfortunately a bit of distortion in the recording. This is another one of the Box Social's new tunes -- some behind-the-scenes stuff from their recent demo sessions should be going up soon.
NO!: BOB MOULD (#439, SEP 19 2008).
This one's taken a while to get up here because, again, the crummy Majestic acoustics made it nearly impossible to decipher the lyrics in this recording, and I don't know the Mould catalog (or in this case, the Hüsker Dü catalog) well enough to pick the song out by melody. I talked to the Box Social's Nick Woods about the venue before things got started and he said they've played some great shows there, so I'm sure there's some good energy going on in the building, but I just can't stand the way loud music sounds in there.
But anyway, Bob and his Santa beard were a lot of fun and I'm glad we got the chance to see him. I've already started poking into his back catalog through the library, and it's nice to know there's a lot there if I really get into it.
NO!: BOB MOULD (#438, SEP 19 2008).
Not being super-familiar with Mould's solo or band catalogs, I was surprised to hear a song I knew early in the set. I don't know why I know "See a Little Light," from Mould's 1989 solo debut, but I do, and it's a good one.
NO!: BOB MOULD (#437, SEP 19 2008).
Bob Mould's set was odd. It wasn't acoustic, and it wasn't solo, but it also wasn't a full-band set -- it was him on electric guitar and also a bass player. I'd guess the song arrangements were just like normal, except with no drummer or second guitarist.
This first tune comes from the first album by Mould's post-Hüsker Dü band, Sugar. Despite a lot of critical praise, Sugar never burst through like the early 90's bands featuring other 80's college rockers like Cracker or the Breeders. It was clear that the audience at this show appreciated their tunes as much as the rest of Mould's catalog, though.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#436, SEP 19 2008).
Among the Box Social's new material is some revamped old material, such as this tune that appeared on their self-released EP Golly Gee Whiz! (old school fans take note, they've also brought back "Rooney and Vlad"). Of those older tunes, this one with its lullaby-ish structure is easily the one that fits this setting the best, though I appreciated the way they reconfigured some of the rhythm section moves on "Hot Damn!"
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#435, SEP 19 2008).
There was a reasonable but not great crowd at this show (it started at 5:00 on a Friday, so I'm sure plenty of people just couldn't get there) and I heard that the Neko Case show later in the evening was about the same; hopefully that kind of Friday attendance was enough to make the Forward Fest a success. The shows we went to were not only a lot of fun, but also great exposure for the many local acts that opened most of them.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#434, SEP 19 2008).
The first Forward Music Fest was held in Madison last weekend and the Box Social -- or some of them -- kicked things off with an acoustic set opening for Bob Mould. Frontman Nick Junkunc started the show by himself and was later joined by guitarist Nick Woods for a variety of new and old material that fit the stripped-down arrangements well and seemed much appreciated by the early crowd.
NO!: TOADIES (#433, JUL 31 2008).
This is the minor follow-up hit the Toadies had way back when, and despite the raucous reaction that "Possum Kingdom" got during the regular set, there was probably even more anticipation for this one. It's a pretty great song -- although I think Hell Below/Stars Above has a lot that are better and didn't get nearly the crowd response -- and was a terrific cap to a show that I'd have never guessed would be so excellent.
NO!: TOADIES (#432, JUL 31 2008).
The encore featured a lot of classic rock songs being teased and generally a healthy dose of goofing off. The band did a great job of working the crowd, capping the night with a encore that was as varied as their set had been.
NO!: TOADIES (#431, JUL 31 2008).
Generally speaking I'm not a fan of these little two-minute instrumental bits, either to lead off albums or as interludes. This one is no exception. I always skip it when listening to Rubberneck and it seemed like an aberration in the set. Now I guess it's an aberration here, too.
NO!: TOADIES (#430, JUL 31 2008).
Well, as it turns out, I don't have any better things to say about the new album than I did two days ago, because I haven't listened to it at all since then. This lead single isn't great, but it's decent and does the job of making me want to listen to more in general.
NO!: TOADIES (#429, JUL 31 2008).
I loved the Toadies' commercial failure of a second album, and I also liked their first one a lot, but it was still just two records in the 13 years preceding this year. And yet somehow the Annex was packed to the gills from the very beginning of the night -- maybe the biggest crowd I've ever seen there -- with people who would cheer for album cuts like this one from Rubberneck. I'll be really interested to see what happens with their new album if they've still got this kind of support all over the place.
NO!: TOADIES (#428, JUL 31 2008).
If ever there's been a band that got the full major-label roller coaster, it's the Toadies. After scoring a major modern rock hit with "Possum Kingdom," then a smaller one with "Tyler," their would-be second album was trashed by the label and their follow-up didn't come out for six years. Then they totally collapsed and broke up.
Now, astonishingly, they're back with a new record, and this is the first track on it. It fits well with their old stuff on stage, but I haven't listened enough to say whether that's true in the studio. By the time I post the next new song, maybe I will have!
NO!: THE WHIGS (#427, JUL 31 2008).
The Whigs' second album, Mission Control, got a lot of early buzz, but I found myself brushing it off after a couple listens. I appreciated their updating of the early 90's college rock sound (which is happening a lot lately -- see also the Hold Steady, Presidents of the USA, System and Station, and Dinosaur Jr., who are essentially updating themselves) but just couldn't get into most of it. The one song that stuck out was the soft, loopy "1000 Wives," one of the few from the record they didn't play at this show. But then the whole thing started growing on me somehow, and even though I still don't love it, there are definitely quite a few good tunes on there. On top of that, their live set was a lot of fun, making me appreciate the album all the more. Hopefully they've got a fourth Madison visit on their schedule sometime soon.
NO!: THE WHIGS (#426, JUL 31 2008).
For a band from Georgia, the Whigs play Madison an awful lot. This was, I believe, their third Madison show of 2008 in support of their second album, Mission Control. They had a fun, loose vibe on stage, as demonstrated on this cover of a song by Dutch band Bingo Trappers. It seemed like they included it in their set just because they really like the song, sort of off-the-cuff. "OK, here's this song we like by a band from Amsterdam." Fun stuff.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#425, JUL 31 2008).
OK, I've finally got these clips processed. I've been sitting on a lot of stuff from the recent Toadies show, in large part because my regular camera was out of juice and I had to use the crummy old one; as such, these videos don't look great, and also could sound better. But here they are nonetheless.
This show, incredibly, was packed from start to finish. Usually Madison shows, even for big touring acts, don't start filling up until halfway through the last opener's set, but there was a big crowd on hand for the Box Social to open the show with a smattering of new songs and a couple of their standard covers. This is one of a handful of shows they played around the region this summer, as high gas prices kept them off the road for the most part, but they've been writing new material and I'll be documenting their upcoming new demo sessions, so look out for that soon.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#424, JUL 21 2008).
I just can't seem to get the first Hold Steady album into my head. Earlier in the evening I stopped recording in the middle of "Barfruit Blues," thinking it was this song, which I recorded at their Orpheum show. It wasn't, obviously, and by the time I figured out that I was re-recording it in the encore I kind of didn't care anymore.
So, about the Majestic. After we went there for the Dethklok live show, I decided I hated it, despite all the praise the rest of the locals seem to have for it. Since I felt like I couldn't pass this show up, this was the opportunity for the place to prove me wrong. It didn't. The first thing happened before the show -- when I went to one of the "local outlets" to buy tickets, I wound up paying $6 in convenience charges to have some undergrad go to a computer and buy tickets off the web site for me. I'm sure I don't have to point out that that's never been the case with any other venue's outlets, and it's of a piece with the biggest concern I had with the Majestic from the day it reopened -- it seems desperate to be Madison's mini-Rave, complete with frequent Cowboy Mouth and Glen Phillips shows. Meanwhile, inside, the acoustics (or the mix, it was hard to tell) were not good. The balcony lines of sight were OK, except for the constant waitstaff interference. It was an all-around unpleasant place to see a show, except for the show itself. We probably won't be going back anytime soon, and I hope they don't take up more bands that would otherwise play High Noon or Stage Door.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#423, JUL 21 2008).
Stay Positive has three or four additions to the band's catalog of great songs, of which this is the only one I managed to record. The criminally relegated-to-bonus-track-status "Ask Her For Adderall" wasn't even played, unfortunately, but "Stay Positive" and "Constructive Summer" were both superb. On the whole, I think the new album is not quite as good as Boys and Girls in America, but it's still on the inside track to my top album of the year.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#422, JUL 21 2008).
I believe Madison's last Hold Steady set contained all of their then-newest album; by constrast, this show left out a couple of tracks from Stay Positive. Two that I noticed go missing -- "Both Crosses" and "Magazines" -- have musical and lyrical themes in common with this one, but I think this is the best of the three and it made for a nice late-set slow-down.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#421, JUL 21 2008).
Much like their last Madison show, the Hold Steady came out with some oldies and rarities early. "Modesto Is Not That Sweet" may only be available as a bonus track on the Australian edition of their debut album, but it stands with the best of their early material. Tellingly, the crowd was excited when the tune started -- more than a lot of others, this band seems to have integrated their old and new fans and used their pre-fame catalog to great effect in their live shows.
NO!: TESTA ROSA (#420, JUN 28 2008).
Testa Rosa played some other new stuff besides "My Sin," but I don't think you can really put this in that category. This is the theme song to a Milwaukee cable-access show about HO slot-car racing, which I assumed at first was a wrong-lyricked cover of "Blitzkrieg Bop." Not really the sort of thing I'd've predicted would be in their set, to be sure.
NO!: TESTA ROSA (#419, JUN 28 2008).
Dropped in with the 60's harmony-pop that dominates Testa Rosa's debut are a couple of soft, almost ambient ballads. This one in particular shows off Betty Blexrud-Strigens' voice spectacularly, though I'm not sure the acoustics of the High Noon are quite meant for it.
NO!: TESTA ROSA (#418, JUN 28 2008).
Perhaps the only silver lining of the current high gas prices is that bands who can't afford to tour this summer are instead staying home and putting new music together. This was one of a couple new songs Testa Rosa played at this show, recently recorded and too be released soon-ish. You can check this out at their MySpace page; hopefully next time they're here they'll have a new record.
NO!: R.E.M. (#417, JUN 6 2008).
This was one of three album-closers included in the set -- it and "Electrolite" both got terrific receptions, while Accelerate's awful "I'm Gonna DJ" brought the main set to an awkward close. Other highlights included an excellent acoustic arrangement of "Let Me In," the Kurt Cobain memorial from Monster, and a version of "Fall on Me" with Johnny Marr of Modest Mouse (and late of the Smiths) during the encore. All in all, an incredible show and an experience I hope to be able to have again -- here's hoping their next good album and big tour isn't 12 years away.
[ #remunited ]
NO!: R.E.M. (#416, JUN 6 2008).
This song is the last one from R.E.M.'s last great album, and the last one from the original line-up era. It's been one of my favorites since the first time I heard it, a terrific synthesis of the Automatic and Monster approaches. In a lot of ways I think of it as a cap on the whole 90's alt. rock era, and listening to Michael Stipe's introduction and the way the crowd reacted to it, I felt like a lot of other people see it the same way. Has it really been 12 years?
[ #remunited ]
NO!: R.E.M. (#415, JUN 6 2008).
My first time through Accelerate, I hated this song and nearly let it ruin the album for me. Probably my least favorite R.E.M. song is "Final Straw," the ham-handed Iraq War protest song they released on their website in 2003 (and the only Around the Sun entrant played at this show) and from the opening line I thought this was going to be the Katrina version of the same song. Instead it turns out to be a tight and compelling dirge, and like the rest of the album it doesn't belabor the point.
[ #remunited ]
NO!: R.E.M. (#414, JUN 6 2008).
We were in New York last weekend, and the torrential rainstorm that washed out the second half of the first day of Emily's craft show also delayed R.E.M.'s performance at Jones Beach by a couple hours. The next morning it was all over the news, which leads me to think that they're "back" in a way they wouldn't have been had a 2004 show been delayed. Which is an interesting reminder that it wasn't so long ago that they needed to make a comeback at all -- "Man on the Moon," the Andy Kaufman biopic named after one of their songs and including this then-new single came out in 1999, when it seemed their first Bill Berry-less album was just a blip rather than a herald of several years in the wilderness. Their return to greatness couldn't have been more welcome.
[ #remunited ]
NO!: R.E.M. (#413, JUN 6 2008).
This is so far my favorite song from the unexpectedly good Accelerate. It combines elements of the both the hard mid-90's and jangly mid-80's versions of the band. In the live set it actually seemed to fit more with the older stuff, and like most of the new songs got a terrific reception from the audience.
[ #remunited ]
NO!: R.E.M. (#412, JUN 6 2008).
Though "career-spanning" is a good description of this show -- their second and third songs were both from Lifes Rich Pageant -- it doesn't quite hit the depth of the material they pulled. I had no clue what this song was when they played it, and figured it was either one of the forgettable tunes from Around the Sun or one of the bonus tracks from the deluxe version of the new record. Instead, it's one of the two new old songs (Pageant-era is what I've read) they recorded for their 2003 best-of-the-Warner-era release. It was overshadowed at the time by the single that was released from that compilation, "Bad Day," which they played later in the set.
[ #remunited ]
NO!: R.E.M. (#411, JUN 6 2008).
I don't think I could overstate how important R.E.M. were to my musical taste-development as a tween and early teen. Along with Nirvana's Nevermind, Out of Time and Automatic For the People helped to open up a whole world of alternative rock, both directly and by opening up channels to music's mainstream for subsequent acts like Radiohead, the Breeders, Weezer, the Cranberries, etc. Until I moved to Madison I was never within 200 miles of the sort of venue they might play in the superstar phase of their career, so that I was planning to skip this show is kind of a big deal.
When the show was announced, I was just starting to get into their new record, Accelerate, and while I appreciated that it was much better than their last three albums, it still wasn't great. On top of that, $45 upper deck tickets + $60 to drive to Chicago and park + we'd have to come back that night so Emily could work the next morning meant it was a non-starter. But then we found out a couple of friends were going, so travel costs were halved, and I found myself getting more and more into the album. I'd also been hearing good things about the career-spanning sets they've been playing and I thought, you know, they're on The List, and we should just do it, so we did.
This was the first big single they played, the song that launched the hard rock version of the band and began their short reign as perhaps the world's biggest band. With the stage all lit up, the video quality on these clips is quite a bit better than those from the openers, thankfully.
[ #remunited ]
NO!: MODEST MOUSE (#410, JUN 6 2008).
I was looking forward to a rousing mid-show set from Modest Mouse, but something seemed off about them the whole time. Contra Muzzle of Bees, they sounded really thin to me, and even their newer, bigger arrangement stuff didn't fill up the arena the way it should have. I was also surprised at how much they didn't play from Good News -- not just hit single "Float On," which you'd think they'd play for an audience that probably doesn't know them for anything else, but also "The World at Large" and "Bury Me With It." Still, it left me curious what they could do in a smaller space, and the next time they come through to someplace like the Orpheum I may check them out.
NO!: THE NATIONAL (#409, JUN 6 2008).
Even though I've been disappointed with so much of their material from the past decade, R.E.M. has long been on my list of bands to see if the opportunity came up. It finally did last Friday, and they had some pretty decent support on the bill in the National and Modest Mouse. The only problem is that big arena shows are no good for whipping out a camcorder and microphones, which meant I had to fall back on the old camera for this show. As a result, the sound is pretty good but the video largely stinks, especially from the opening sets before all of R.E.M.'s big lights came on.
We got to the show just as the National began their set, and spent their first three songs wandering around and getting some really bad United Center food. Unfortunately, my two favorite songs of theirs, "Slow Show" and "Mistaken For Strangers," were in those three, but I like this one a lot too. They were really well received by the still-small crowd and got more applause than Modest Mouse did when Michael Stipe thanked them both near the end of the show.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#408, MAY 31 2008).
As the show wore on, it got to be too loud and too hot to stay inside. Luckily, the sound carried out onto the sidewalk just fine, and I was able to record through the storefront windows. This set-closer actually sounds a little bit better than my clips from inside, I think.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#407, MAY 31 2008).
With gas prices going totally bananas these days, the Box Social is off the road for the summer. Instead they'll be sticking around Wisconsin and Illinois, including a June 28 set at Summerfest. They'll also be continuing to work on material for their next album -- this show had several new songs, including this one, that ought to become set staples as the summer wears on.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#406, MAY 31 2008).
It tends to be hard to record these guys, because I've seen them so many times that there aren't many songs left that I haven't gotten yet. Both parts of this two-song medley qualify, though, so that helps.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#405, MAY 31 2008).
So last Saturday we went to the Project Lodge for the first time to see the Box Social, whom I think we hadn't seen last fall. It turned out to be a pretty weird show, so it almost made sense that they opened with the theme song from The Kids in the Hall as a birthday request from somebody in the audience.
NO!: WHATFOR (#404, MAY 23 2008).
The guys in Sleeping in the Aviary have many side projects, of which this is just one. Another is the Lark Voorhies, where this tune originates. Dig it!
NO!: WHATFOR (#403, MAY 23 2008).
This is a little solo piano ballad, not on the album and possibly from one of Michael's other bands. It's a nice, soft piece about loss, but probably wouldn't have fit all that well on the record.
NO!: WHATFOR (#402, MAY 23 2008).
Though billed, pretty accurately, as a Beatles/Kinks style affair, the Whatfor album also has a bit of sweet crooning on it. This one in particular stuck out, and I've been humming it all week.
NO!: WHATFOR (#401, MAY 23 2008).
I was supposed to be in Montreal when this show happened, but at the end of the two-day drive home from New Orleans, I realized that getting back into a car for 16 hours right away, with a grading deadline looming, was probably going to be a bad idea. A great local band showcase for $5 was a terrific consolation prize.
But since I was skipping what could have been a productive conference with the job market coming up for me next fall, I figured I shouldn't fritter the whole night away. Thus, I spent the first three sets -- from local favorites National Beekeepers Society, His & Her Vanities and Pale Young Gentlemen, the latter of which played a ton of new material -- sitting at the side bar, reading articles for my upcoming prelims. This also had the side-effect of helping me to not be thinking about recording the whole time, which was nice.
That brings us to the stars of the evening, Whatfor, a Sleeping in the Aviary side-project made up of basically an instrument-shifted Sleeping in the Aviary. This song, for instance, is from the CD that was released at this show, but it's also been played at Sleeping in the Aviary shows at least as far back as the first time I saw them.
NO!: 8889 (#400, MAY 10 2008).
(I got an e-mail yesterday from 8889's singer, Ross Benbow, and he says downloads for the new record are coming soon. Also, I just met Kris Hanson from National Beekeepers Society at the AAPOR conference in New Orleans, which is weird.)
About three and a half years ago, I went to the release show for 8889's EP and recorded video footage for the first time -- the song, "An Introduction," is up on YouTube. It's kind of fitting, then, that the 400th episode of this podcast should be a rearranged acoustic version of another tune from their debut record.
Also, it brings me full-circle and gets me to thinking about scaling this whole thing back. I've been realizing lately that I've been going to shows that I don't especially enjoy, even when I like the bands. The night before this show we went to see Margot & the Nuclear So and So's, whom I like a lot, but Emily got a bad headache and wanted to go home. For some reason, even though she wanted me to, I had no interest in going back. I've seen them twice fairly recently, and I don't know the new material they're playing; it just seemed like I'd enjoy myself more being at home doing something else. So I'll probably be getting more casual about all this pretty soon and probably posting more infrequently (and it doesn't help that there is literally nobody I've ever heard of playing in New Orleans while we're here). Hopefully what does go up will be more interesting stuff overall.
NO!: 8889 (#399, MAY 10 2008).
The band noted during the show that they only play one cover, and this is it. I don't know Snake River Conspiracy at all, but 8889's version of the song works well, so I assume it's a good fit.
NO!: 8889 (#398, MAY 10 2008).
When Radiohead all but gave away an album last year, and when Nine Inch Nails made one totally free just a couple weeks ago, some scoffed at the idea that it could really represent a new business model for the music industry as a whole. Since both those bands are already so well-established, it seems that they could run off and do their own thing, making big bank from publishing and touring, but that smaller bands couldn't get by doing it on the smaller scale. Nonetheless, Madison guitar popsters 8889 are trying a similar approach with their new record. Copies were given out free at their $5 release show, and the liner notes indicate that they're not making any money from distribution of the record -- they're doing everything they can to get it to people free of charge. They've got something set up on their site for people to donate if they want to, though no download links as far as I can tell.
A fair number of people showed up for the release show, and seemed to know the band pretty well, which surprised me a little. I saw them several years ago, but haven't heard much from them in the interim. They seem to still be going strong, though, and their new material came together quite nicely live.
NO!: EVANGELICALS (#397, APR 2 2008).
I still have no idea what song this is -- I'm pretty sure it's not on either of their records, and it's not the unreleased "Halloween Song" that's in their Daytrotter session, so hopefully somebody out there knows. It's unfortunate, too, because it was probably my favorite bit in their set and I'd love to include it on this year's DVD. The song itself is a nice jump between loud and harsh and soft and melodic, and the singer's eye-cape gives it a nice visual touch.
NO!: EVANGELICALS (#396, APR 2 2008).
This one I was finally able to figure out -- it's from the band's somewhat less crazed debut, So Gone. The live version sounds a bit more like the spacey tunes on The Evening Descends, part of a whole set drowning in smoke and reverb.
NO!: HEADLIGHTS (#395, APR 2 2008).
You can really hear the quietness of Headlights' new material on this song, even more so here than in the album version. I almost stopped recording after half a minute or so, because I wasn't sure they were actually beginning a song -- there was nothing but a low drone going, and the guitar players were down on the floor twiddling their knobs without any apparent regard for anything else that was going on. It's a nice one on the album, but it works somewhat less well like this, I think, because the acoustics aren't quite right for it and nobody seemed to know what was happening.
NO!: HEADLIGHTS (#394, APR 2 2008).
Generally I post clips in the order they happened at the show. In this case, however, I'm having a hell of a time figuring out what songs I recorded from the Evangelicals set. In the hopes that a couple more days will lead me to the answer, I'm leading with the headliners, Headlights.
The new Headlights record is lighter and quieter than their older stuff, which was quite a contrast with the Evangelicals set. This is a nice bit of lilting indie pop that almost feels like a throwback to part of the early 90's college rock scene. They've been slowing gaining some notoriety, but I wonder how they might fit if they were to break through to the indie rock mainstream.
NO!: THE BRAVERY (#393, APR 21 2008).
After I finished recording this clip, we went to the back of the room to get out of the mass of heat for a little while, and they immediately dove into a couple of my favorites from their first record, "An Honest Mistake" and "Swollen Summer." Still, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the same-y material from The Sun and the Moon and we bugged out not long after.
NO!: THE BRAVERY (#392, APR 21 2008).
I guess the Bravery became kind of a big deal at some point, with their second record becoming a bit of a hit. I don't know if this song was a single, but I know I've heard it in commercials and promos. The crowd reacted well to it, leading me to believe I was in the minority in thinking they've stepped down from their first album.
NO!: THE BRAVERY (#391, APR 21 2008).
This very night, the New Pornographers (or some of them, at least) were at the Orpheum, and I assume that's a big part of why there wasn't quite a full house at this show. The Bravery came out with a lot of energy nonetheless and got a warm response from the crowd. Unfortunately for me, it took several songs before I could get a good view of the stage, during which time they played a bunch of stuff I really like from their first album. Luckily, this is one of the few from their second album that I enjoy.
NO!: NORTHERN ROOM (#390, APR 21 2008).
So there was this dude at the show, Sully, who's pointed out at the beginning of this clip. Sully appeared to be Northern Room's number one fan, and also a big fan of Jack Daniel's. After a lot of shouting and jumping around during their set he got himself escorted from the venue during the intermission for something or other, possibly his constant attempts to get on the stage. Cheers, Sully!
This is a new tune, and it continues to cue the main thought I have when I listen to these guys -- they sound a ton like Mute Math. That may have colored my perception of their stage show, too, since what they were reaching for reminded me a lot of the Mute Math show I saw last fall. It was interesting seeing this kind of thing at the High Noon, since it's usually such a low-key place at the shows I go to.
NO!: NORTHERN ROOM (#389, APR 21 2008).
Last year's free Jack Daniel's show with OK Go was a lot of fun, but I was somewhat skeptical about this year's show featuring the Bravery. As much as I liked their first album, their second left me completely cold. But, it's a free show, and the opening act is a Milwaukee band I'd been hoping for the chance to see, and it was certainly worth a few hours of my time. If nothing else, we got some free Jack-branded drumsticks just in case our Rock Band sticks break.
Opening the show was Northern Room, who were way too big for the venue. That is to say, their approach seemed like it was from a theater- or arena-style show, and a headlining gig at that. I think it worked for some of the crowd, but other seemed taken aback by the notion that they ought to know the songs or be singing along. I like their album well enough, and this was one of the tunes I was really interested in hearing (the other, "We're on Fire," was held for the closer).
NO!: KARMELLA'S GAME (#388, APR 20 2008).
I imagine that some of the biggish crowd that was on hand for this set was there, like me, to see Karmella's Game, but the rest of the bill was pretty attractive too -- local indie pop recluses His & Her Vanities, and well-liked touring electro-popsters Enon. On balance it would've been nice to see both of them, but Sunday night shows are poorly timed for me this semester. On top of that, this supposedly 8:00 show didn't even open it's doors until about 8:30. I thought about sticking around for just HHV, but as I often do with local bands, decided I could see them again later. Emily was home not feeling well, and I was getting tired after another long weekend, so I bugged out after KG got done one song after this one. They got a terrific reception, but for the new stuff and the old, and hopefully they're back soon touring a new record with all these songs on it.
NO!: KARMELLA'S GAME (#387, APR 20 2008).
Now that I've finally recorded Karmella's Game, my lone white whale is ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, whom I've failed to record twice. Throughout the KG set I actually found myself really worried that the battery in my mic pack would die, or some other disruption would happen to complete a trifecta of failure, but everything went smoothly. The audio for the new songs even came out decent enough to listen to on my iPod, though as an OCD ID3-tagger I'm loathe to mark something as "unknown new song."
NO!: KARMELLA'S GAME (#386, APR 20 2008).
More new stuff, with no title. It occurs to me that each time I've seen Karmella's Game they played a lot of new material. The first time the stuff I didn't know were probably the song that wound up on The Art of Distraction; last time about half their set was new, and could've been some of these same new songs. Either way, I'm really primed for a new record to come out now.
NO!: KARMELLA'S GAME (#385, APR 20 2008).
In their eight-song set, Karmella's Game had five new tunes, of which this was the second. They've posted on their MySpace that they have six new demos done, so I'm hopeful this means a new album is on the way soon. The reception was good -- and who knows how much of the crowd was familiar with them to start with -- and I'm eager to hear how they sound on record.
NO!: KARMELLA'S GAME (#384, APR 20 2008).
It took about a year and a half, but I've finally got some clips of one of my favorite bands, Karmella's Game. Both previous times I saw them something kept me from recording, but thankfully nothing weird happened at this show, unless an advertised 8:00 show not being open until 8:30 is "weird."
With Enon and His & Her Vanities appearing later on the bill, I expected this to be a better attended show than the set KG played last August, which only four people showed up to. It was -- there were probably 30-40 people in the stage and bar areas, including a noticeable number who were really into songs like this one from their debut LP.
NO!: JAIL (#383, APR 4 2008).
I wasn't that surprised that I was able to lighten up the picture on these clips, but I was kind of surprised that the sound came out so well. The Corral Room is basically a bomb shelter underneath a downtown Madison steakhouse and I stood about 4-5 feet from the PA while recording -- I figured there'd be some significant wash-out issues, but since there's no stage it was the only way to get a decent show. The sound came out pretty good, though, I suppose due to the smaller power of the PA compared to bigger venues. I'm particularly glad because these are both new songs, and I hate posting new stuff that winds up being nothing but garble.
NO!: JAIL (#382, APR 4 2008).
Time for a slight change. When I started shooting in widescreen at the beginning of 2007, there were no widescreen iPods and YouTube didn't properly support the 16:9 aspect ratio. Those things have both since changed (YT still doesn't actually support 16:9, but it does automatically letterbox now). So, as of this clip, I've moved from pre-letterboxed 320x240 to native widescreen at 480x270. I chose that size because I was pretty sure it would play on the iPod Video, but I'll be doing some testing to see if I can go a little bigger. You should notice somewhat better picture quality at this resolution, but any changes should be transparent if you're not watching on a widescreen display.
So, this show. We zoomed over from the High Noon as soon as Vampire Weekend finished, and got to the Corral Room just as the band before Jail was tearing down. My only previous Corral Room experience was my first Karmella's Game show a few years ago, which I failed to record because it was so dark. Nothing's changed since then, except that now I know how to lighten up a dark image without losing too much detail. Case in point, this clip has been lightened up considerably and, despite the occasional weird color shift, it looks pretty much fine.
There's a new Jail record out soon, and presumably the songs from this show will be on it. For the most part they're more insistent than the earlier material, with a generally fuzzier sound. The crowd -- I'd guess a mix of Madisonians and transplanted Milwaukeeans -- seemed to dig it, so hopefully it won't be years again before they're back.
NO!: VAMPIRE WEEKEND (#381, APR 4 2008).
The fact that there was so much enthusiasm for these guys was kind of surprising, but even more surprising was the number of people who were literally falling down drunk at this show. It was almost certainly the drunkenest show I've ever seen at the High Noon, and I can't imagine those folks felt too good about this song. Before launching into it, the band asked us all to dance and challenged us to be better than the previous night's Minneapolis crowd. The resulting explosion of crowd movement was enjoying by most and I'd guess cursed by a few.
NO!: VAMPIRE WEEKEND (#380, APR 4 2008).
I always find myself a little frustrated with this song. The last few tracks on the record all have kind of similar intros, and every time it comes on I find myself thinking this is the next one, "Walcott," which is my favorite track on the album. Then it turns out not to be, and half the time I just skip forward. But when you can't skip forward, it's kind of a nice tune. Sounds kind of crummy in places, since I was a little close to the stage and it's bass-heavy, but most of it's OK.
NO!: VAMPIRE WEEKEND (#379, APR 4 2008).
This is probably the last time we'll see Vampire Weekend, and I'm sure it's the last time in Madison. They're already too big to be playing the High Noon, frankly, but the show was booked a while back; next time they're out it's likely to be the Barrymore, or skipping Madison entirely. So with that in mind, this was a fun show.
We skipped most of the opening act, but the sell-out crowd was mostly all there by the time we arrived. This tune was only the second in the set, but everybody got revved up pretty quickly. The high energy is one of things that makes me think they're on their way out of the level of shows I tend to go to -- they've only been in the spotlight for a few months and they've already got 400 Madisonians going nuts.
NO!: HELIGOATS (#378, MAR 27 2008).
This was one of the songs that I recognized from the last Heligoats show, though I recognized it as much for the introductory description of it than for the song itself. It's about some older folks trying to relive their glory days by raiding their kids' medicine cabinet, which is kind of hard to forget. It's also one of many songs that have been posted on MySpace over the past few years, which hopefully will see some real release sometime soon.
NO!: HELIGOATS (#377, MAR 27 2008).
(Fixed? Seems that way. Hey Apple, Compressor still doesn't work right with Leopard, and it's been like six months. Hint, hint.)
When we leave Madison -- even if we wind up in Chicago -- these Heligoats shows will be one of the things I miss the most. A couple times a year Chris Otepka comes to Indie Coffee with an acoustic guitar and plays through a bunch of mostly new material for an audience that's nothing but music-lovers. It's mostly the same bunch of us each time, I think, but it doesn't get old.
This time Chris almost had a full band with him. He was accompanied by a violinist friend named Kara and would have had a drum-brusher, except he got caught by the bad whether between here and Chicago. They were stopping by on their way up to Michigan Tech of all places, where they had a show scheduled the next night in the black box theater where I played a number of shows as an undergrad. Hopefully it went well -- nobody ever came up there while I was in school, and it'd be nice to see it become something of a regional destination.
Anyway, apropos of nothing, this is, I think, a new tune about a marathon-runner, which Chris introduced with a story somebody dying during the Chicago Marathon. Cheery stuff! But on the whole, the show was quite fun, as usual. Also, this was the first of these shows that we ate at instead of just getting coffee, and the waffles are great!
NO!: THE GUTTER TWINS (#376, MAR 9 2008).
I've heard Mark Lanegan described as a recluse, but I didn't realize just how true that was until this show -- I don't think he said a single word between songs and left the stage noticeably before the rest of the band. The intensity that he brought to the performance just made his presence darker. It was the same incredible effect that he had when I saw him a few years ago with Queens of the Stone Age; he came out mid-set, sang a few songs, and left after burning the stage down.
By contrast, Greg Dulli totally ran the show on stage, talking a bit between songs and occasionally throwing in a solid rock-out maneuver. It's a striking difference from their album, which sounds dominated by Lanegan to me. I guess it's like the difference between watching or listening to the Kennedy/Nixon debate -- if all you can do is hear, Lanegan's voice destroys your mind, but if you can see, Dulli will pull you back from the brink while Lanegan hangs back in the shadows. This song is a great example of it. On the album, it follows the mostly-Lanegan barnburner "Idle Hands" (an early front-runner for my favorite song of the year) and sounds like a wind down while Lanegan refills his reservoir of horror. Live, Dulli makes a lot more of it and directs the energy of the show his way. I haven't seen that kind of record/live shift in quite a while, especially one that didn't involve some major instrumentation or personnel change.
NO!: THE GUTTER TWINS (#375, MAR 9 2008).
So, where to start? Last year, I certainly wouldn't have expected to care about either this act or this show, but once I got hold of their record, well, there is was. I couldn't get enough. I've been an on-and-off fan of Mark Lanegan for a while (Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age, mostly yes; anything with his name on the front of the record, mostly no), but Greg Dulli and his various projects have always left me cold. Something about the collaboration just clicks incredibly well for me.
You may notice that this clip is extremely dark, despite a bit of lightening-up in post-processing. In addition ot the general lack of stage lighting, there was a "no flash photography" sign on the door, which leads me to think somebody in the band is either light-sensitive or just really likes hanging around in the dark. On top of that, I was probably standing a bit too close to the stage and caught a lot of distortion. Though, their sound is so bass-heavy -- Lanegan's voice alone is probably enough to cause some fuzz at the bottom end of the spectrum -- that it may not have mattered how far back I was.
This tune is a cover of a Massive Attack song that first appeared on a Twilight Singers EP with Lanegan doing a guest appearance. They turn into a kind of down-tempo rock assault that fits in surprisingly well with the rest of their set. I wouldn't have expected a couple of early 90's Sub Pop survivors to do that kind of thing with a Massive Attack song, but there you go.
NO!: GREAT NORTHERN (#374, MAR 9 2008).
There's a lot to say about this show, and probably not enough room to say it, but here goes. This was one of my most anticipated shows in a while, with the Gutter Twins record not just having spent a ton of time playing on my iPod, but also sounding like it had to be majestic live. On top of that, I really enjoyed Great Northern's debut LP and figured this to be a terrific Sunday-night double-bill.
For the most part it was, but I must say I was disappointed to find that Great Northern didn't play as a full band, but as a coffeehouse two-piece, with occasional soft rhythm support. This song, as an example, has a really full, boisterous sound on the record that's not captured in this live setting. In general I can't fault small-time acts for cost-cutting on the road, but it was a step down from what I'd hoped. They were well-received by the crowd, though, which was probably the most attentive audience I've ever seen at a skewing-older High Noon show. There was no ubiquitous layer of chatter, no constant picture-taking, no cellphone douchery -- a nice surprise, to be sure.
NO!: THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS (#373, FEB 26 2008).
The highlight of this set was the block of new material that they played, kicked off by this new tune. It sounds somehow different from their previous stuff, maybe fuller, I can't quite describe it. I really think the little hitch that permeates the opening guitar line is a great touch -- at first it sounds like the opening lick has just been blown, but then it keeps going and fits the song well. The couple songs that came after this one will soon be released on 7" vinyl, with hopefully a new record to follow.
NO!: THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS (#372, FEB 26 2008).
Even though I forgot that I'd recorded "Hear It" before, I did have a mental list of songs to skip at this show because I'd previously recorded them -- the result was that the second song I got, "MENSA Girl," was something like the sixth song in the set. Luckily they've got some new material on the way, including one song in my next clip, so at upcoming shows it'll be easier to get unique stuff, but it's always a challenge thinking about the podcast with my favorite local bands because I see them so frequently.
NO!: THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS (#371, FEB 26 2008).
Normally I try not to record songs I've already gotten at previous shows. Unfortunately, I forgot to check and see what I'd recorded at the G.A.S. Terrace show from last fall before going out to last week's happy hour set, and wasn't on the ball enough to realize that I'd probably recorded their standard set-opener in the past. But, it's a good tune, it's a high-energy performance, and I think it might be the stage debut of Andy Larson's beard, so it's certainly worth a peek.
NO!: THE WRONG WAYS (#370, FEB 26 2008).
I was planning to record just the one song from the Wrong Ways set, until Lisa pulled out a pair of scissors and said she'd be "playing" them on the next tune. I don't want to say she used them as a percussion instrument because the snipping sound isn't especially "percussive," but she and drummer Peter Kaesburg used them to provide rhythm both going in, coming out, and during the body of the song. It added a pretty cool sound and visual effect to the song, but I couldn't help but wonder at what point she was going to accidentally cut her mic cable.
NO!: THE WRONG WAYS (#369, FEB 26 2008).
The Wrong Ways used to be MaeRae, and their lilting alt. country never really did much for me. I wasn't expecting to enjoy them -- same band, new name -- at this show, but it turns out the name change is accompanied by a significant stylistic change. The material they played in this set was all a kind of hard-edged college rock, which I liked much more than I would've guessed. Singer Lisa Marine, despite a foot injury, had a big stage presence that really drove the whole set and got the happy hour crowd going.
NO!: THE DAN ANDREAS FAULT (#368, FEB 24 2008).
Things come together nicely with this contemplative duet originally by Ben Harper. The harmonica line gives it kind of a wandering feeling which fits the song really well. Fun fact! I was recently in a bar in Pittsburgh and heard the original version of one of the DAF's tunes, but had no idea until it was pointed out to me. Their version is much more enjoyable.
NO!: THE DAN ANDREAS FAULT (#367, FEB 24 2008).
You might not think a brief McCartney Beatles tune would be the best feature platform for bright female vocals, but here you go. Singer/guitarist Andrea Ward brings a sunny tunefulness to their collection of covers, and I suspect will be a major focal point once they start debuting original material.
NO!: THE DAN ANDREAS FAULT (#366, FEB 24 2008).
My pals in the Dan Andreas Fault -- headliners at my last ever King Club show -- are back out for a few shows over the next month or so. I imagine they're on their way to becoming well liked by local clubs, as they put about 40 people in the High Noon for a Sunday night show last weekend. They've got two March shows coming up at the Crystal Corner, which might burst if that kind of crowd shows up.
NO!: RA RA RIOT (#365, FEB 2 2008).
When I first heard Ra Ra Riot's demo, I thought this song was by far and away the best one. The one thing I didn't like about it was that it was over six minutes long, and ready didn't need to be -- I always find myself thinking it's time to wrap up at about the four-minute mark. Well, luckily for me, this is one of the few songs in the set that didn't come with some extra flourishes and instead came in a couple minutes shorter than the recorded version. So enjoy the tight little melody line, and don't fret about any extended noodling sections, because it's already been excised.
NO!: RA RA RIOT (#364, FEB 2 2008).
This tune hadn't really grabbed my attention on the EP, but I found it really compelling live for some reason. The deep, dark opening really resonated in the concrete box that is Club 770, bringing some nice ominous atmosphere to the latter part of the set.
NO!: RA RA RIOT (#363, FEB 2 2008).
By my count, Ra Ra Riot have released eight full songs -- their six-track EP and another two songs from their Daytrotter Session. This set was much longer than that, I'd guess about a dozen songs, and this was one of the new ones they played. I would assume they have a full-length album in the works, and this will make a nice addition, particularly if it has some of the live flourishes that the EP songs had in this set, but don't on the record.
NO!: RA RA RIOT (#362, FEB 2 2008).
If there were enough hi-hat-and-strings bands out there to constitute a trend, Ra Ra Riot would be the latest contender to rise in what would surely be a blog-fueled genre. They add a little string intro to the live rendition of this song, the opener from their self-titled EP, which all but dares you not to focus on the soaring strings throughout the tune.
NO!: THE VIRGINS (#361, FEB 2 2008).
When I first checked out the Virgins in preparation for seeing them last fall, this opener from their EP was the song that really grabbed me. It's catchy as hell and has a great walking bass line that really sets up the rest of the record -- though, ironically, they played it in this set as their closer. Somehow I didn't include this song on my best of 2007 mix, and I think it's because I just forgot about it for no particular reason. It should've been there, though, and it was a lot of fun to see people dancing around and singing to it.
(Also, something interesting I just figured out about YouTube. I posted my National Beekeepers Society clips, and at the moment "Amputee" has 420 views, compared with 27 and 8 for the other two. I assume this is because people are searching YouTube for videos of amputees -- I wonder if they're disappointed when they realize they're just getting indie rock and no sexy stumps.)
NO!: THE VIRGINS (#360, FEB 2 2008).
A couple years ago, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah came up out of nowhere and got a lot of comparisons to the Talking Heads. I never thought that made much sense, and I think it makes even less when you compare them to some of last year's new New York band success stories -- the Virgins, Vampire Weekend and even White Rabbits, to a certain extent, have the sort of quasi-tropical guitar bounce that makes me think of "Life During Wartime" or "Once in a Lifetime." For the Virgins, I think this song exemplifies it most. Their sound is still a little thin, but I think we're going to hear some ambitious growth from them.
NO!: THE VIRGINS (#359, FEB 2 2008).
Before this show, the Virgins were on a short list of touring acts I'd seen in the last few years but not recorded, due to a dead battery in my microphones. They opened for Tokyo Police Club at the show we went to in Vancouver, and were really impressive. Emily was especially taken with them -- she was out of town for this show and asked me to say hi to them for her. I tried, but unfortunately the merch area was a little packed at the end of the night. This song is available in demo form on one of the three pieces of merch that the band as (one EP, one white shirt, one black shirt), but this version sounds a lot more fleshed out, with some light keys replaced by a more striking guitar line.
NO!: NATIONAL BEEKEEPERS SOCIETY (#358, FEB 2 2008).
When a local opening act gets a good response from the crowd, it's always hard to tell if they won a bunch of people over, or if there's just a bunch of their friends in the audience. NBS were well-received by both the kids and the handful of surprisingly older people at the show, so I expect it was mostly the former. I'll certainly be trying to check out one of the upcoming Icarus Himself shows, and will be keeping my eye out for the full band.
NO!: NATIONAL BEEKEEPERS SOCIETY (#357, FEB 2 2008).
The NBS set contained a mix of songs from their self-titled album and songs from their singer's solo EP, such as this one. His solo act, Icarus Himself, has a couple of shows coming up that I'll try to catch one of. The material is somewhat lighter and softer -- solo-er, if you will -- but the full band versions fit pretty well with the other full band stuff.
NO!: NATIONAL BEEKEEPERS SOCIETY (#356, FEB 2 2008).
Sometimes I feel like Club 770 is the best venue in town (except for the inevitable technical problems). Even though I often find myself not caring about the acts that play there, when I do, it's usually with other bands that I like. Exactly one year before this show it was Maritime, Bound Stems and Kid, You'll Move Mountains. This time it was Ra Ra Riot, with the Virgins and local up-and-comers National Beekeepers Society opening. I'd been meaning to see NBS for a while -- they actually sent me an invite to a show last summer, but it was on my birthday and my schedule was already spoken for -- so I was really glad to see them on this bill. They play a raucous kind of indie rock that reminds me a lot of Sleeping in the Aviary, if a little more restrained. This clip and the next one both come in at under two minutes, but they manage to sound like songs and not just bursts of sound.
NO!: WHITE RABBITS (#355, JAN 19 2008).
This tune is Emily's favorite one on the record, and it's grown on me in large part thanks to the shambly explosiveness of the live version. In a lot of ways it's representative of their whole show, with people moving and playing different things, various people banging on stuff, back-and-forth vocals. It's the sort of complex production that makes you forget how new they are as a band.
NO!: WHITE RABBITS (#354, JAN 19 2008).
Fort Nightly opens with a charge with this song. It was one of the high points of both White Rabbits sets we saw and really drove home their seemingly experienced showmanship. Piano player Steve Patterson's sing-along yells really got things moving in the crowd, a pretty decent segment of which seemed to be quite interested in the band. We didn't stick around for the Walkmen, and I'm curious how many other people just came to see White Rabbits. The response they've gotten here has been really strong, hopefully they make Madison a regular stop.
NO!: WHITE RABBITS (#353, JAN 19 2008).
The first of Madison's high-power club bills happened on a freezing night a week back, featuring a big name indie rock act (The Walkmen) and two openers who could have easily carried their own shows. Our interest was the middle band of the night, White Rabbits, who blew us away last summer and recently landed at #1 on my list of top 2007 albums.
We got to the High Noon about 15 minutes after the posted show time, and the line had already begun stretching down the parking lot. This only seems to happen at winter sell-outs -- a couple years ago, Andrew Bird actually apologized to everybody for having to stand out in the below-zero temperatures. Surprisingly, the show started close to on time, and by the time the will-calls had cleared through the line we only got to hear the last couple songs from SXSW favorites White Denim, who were pretty good. I bought their 7", but haven't gotten around to getting my turntable hooked back up right to listen to it.
Unlike a lot of High Noon sell-outs, everybody seemed to get there early for this show and the place was basically full before White Rabbits came on. They opened their set with this new song -- one of a few they played -- and it sounds like they have a good base for their next album. The only problem is that we wound up so close to the stage as people filed in behind us that my audio started to get a bit blown out. I think this was the closest I'd been to the stage since I started using this camera and my little bootleg mics, except maybe the Jail show I shot at Mad Planet last year, which was also blown out. It's the only limitation I've found with them, but worth dealing with if only to get out of the big front-of-crowd press.
NO!: THE BIRD AND THE BEE (#352, JAN 11 2008).
So, some things that were kind of weird about this show, or rather, the venue. The ticketed show area is separate from the main bar, and though there is a small bar in the back of the room, there's also wait service throughout the room. This seemed reasonable during the intermission, but it was really odd to have a couple of waitresses squeezing in and out of the sold-out crowd while the show was going on. It was less noticeable during the opening set by acoustic singer/songwriter Charlie Wadhams, since fewer people were in the crowd, but that set was greeted by maybe the least attentive audience I've ever seen. Basically nobody even noticed that the guy had started his set and everyone just continued to chit-chat -- much worse than some of the loud High Noon shows in recent years.
But anyway, the end of the Bird and the Bee set. I'd started to think they weren't going to play anything from their recent EP, but late in the evening they pulled out this opening track, which is another one with the Grey's Anatomy seal of approval (this makes me think I may need to recalibrate my taste-meter). Their encore was also taken from the EP -- their cover of the Bee Gees' "How Deep Is Your Love -- with the other three tracks left for next time, hopefully to be coming soon.
NO!: THE BIRD AND THE BEE (#351, JAN 11 2008).
I don't know if being a two-piece band makes recording more efficient, but the Bird and the Bee are really cranking stuff out. They've already followed up their debut LP with a new five-track EP and a holiday single, and we learned at this show that they'll release another new EP on Valentine's Day, which will feature this song. This is only their third crack at it live, but the recorded version is available on their MySpace page for you to enjoy.
NO!: THE BIRD AND THE BEE (#350, JAN 11 2008).
After the show, Emily said she was really impressed with how Inara George used the microphone not just as an amplifier, but as an instrument. You can really hear it on this slowed-up, hyper-expressive version of "I'm a Broken Heart," in which her voice carries 90% of the tune. You can also hear somebody's phone ring in the near-silence of the song's beginning, and that somebody get yelled at by somebody else.
NO!: THE BIRD AND THE BEE (#349, JAN 11 2008).
I knew early on that this would be a special show. During this Grey's Anatomy-approved song I pulled one of my fancy camera moves -- especially important when there're only two people in the band and not much visual variety -- pulling in tighter and tighter as Inara George approached the end of a verse. Then, just as I get all the way in, she looks up, looks right into the camera, and smiles on the last word. Now, at that zoom level it's entirely possible that she wasn't looking exactly into the camera, but still, it's rare that I get a live shot I think looks so terrific.
NO!: THE BIRD AND THE BEE (#348, JAN 11 2008).
We were in Chicago for something last year, maybe a craft show, and realized on the way home that it's really a quick two and a half hours down from Madison and we should maybe take advantage of that more often. So over semester break we decided to head down for a weekend, and scheduled it based on good show availability. The most attractive club show in January was this appearance by the Bird and the Bee at Schubas, which I was kind of surprised to realize was only my second Chicago show ever.
Schubas turned out to be a pretty nice venue -- I could certainly get used to spending a lot of time there if the opportunity came up -- and it was a really good all-around show experience. This first clip features a bit of weird coloring, as my white balance settings were out of whack, but it's nothing too distracting. This whole set also features my first title card experimentation of the year, which didn't come out that great -- it looks a lot better at DVD resolution than at podcast/YouTube resolution. Next week's clips will have some different stuff with them, and so on, until I come up with something new that I like.
NO!: THE DIALS (#347, DEC 31 2007).
This title track from the Dials' debut LP is somewhat unusual in their catalog in its length and subdued sound. But in the way it stands out it sets up a nice atmosphere for the rest of their material, constructed out of coos and keyboard rhythms. This is also my last clip of 2007, with the new stuff coming next week. I'm putting a lot of mostly wasted effort into screwing around with Final Cut and Motion, so the graphics that come with it may be... strange.
NO!: THE DIALS (#346, DEC 31 2007).
Of the new stuff the Dials played, this one was my favorite, and it's conveniently available at their Myspace page. I tend not to notice the difference between songs sung by the two singers on their records, but when Patti Gran takes the lead live, as she does here, she brings a kind of crazy punk pixie energy to it that's really invigorating. This song plays it up really well, too, with a bit of rawness to it.
NO!: THE DIALS (#345, DEC 31 2007).
Although the Dials were the third band of a six-band bill, they were the last one we saw. After their set, but before the clock flipped over to 2008, we got to the point of Too Much Crowd and headed home. Shows like this always bring out a ton of people who don't really care about live music, and those are the sorts of crowds that drive us nuts -- if all you want to do is stand in a circle with your friends and chit-chat, or take pictures of every possible two- or three-person combo in your group, why wouldn't you do it someplace a little quieter that didn't cost $10 to get in? The good news is that you can see in this clip what looks like a small core of Dials fans near the stage who are really getting into it. Despite leaving early, our main thing at this show was seeing the Dials, and I'm sure we'll make a point of getting to another Pons show sometime soon.
NO!: THE DIALS (#344, DEC 31 2007).
About two years and over 300 podcast clips ago, we went to the Dials' Madison release show for their debut LP and had a great time. Them being on the High Noon New Year's bill was one of the big draws for us, and they didn't disappoint. With a new album -- Amoeba Amore -- coming out in a few months, they had a bunch of new material sprinkled throughout their set. I'm guessing this set-opener is called "Antonio," but I'm not going to put song titles in their mouths, so to speak.
NO!: TRANSFORMER LOOTBAG (#343, DEC 31 2007).
This one I think is new -- it's not on their LP, it's kind of short and is instrumental for its first half, so I'd guess it's a work in progress -- and I like where they're going with it. There's an angularness to these guys that's kind of disappeared in the last few years that I'd like to see come back. Coincidentally, I'm listening to White Denim at the moment, in advance of their upcoming High Noon appearance, and they've got a bit of it.
The one thing I really wanted to mention, though, is the beard on bassist Steven Riches. If you go looking for info on this band you may see older pictures of them featuring a much smaller beard; what once was plain is now truly a sight to behold. While they were setting up I told Emily that I wanted to have a tenure beard like that one day, and it's true. The only problem is, unfortunately, my facial hair doesn't grow quite that straight, so it may not work. I can dream, though.
NO!: TRANSFORMER LOOTBAG (#342, DEC 31 2007).
I'd sort of forgotten how noisy Transformer Lootbag were until they got to this song. They're pretty noisy, as it turns out! It got me wondering what the Madison scene might've been like around the beginning of the decade, though -- with these guys, System and Station, Hum Machine, old Rainer Maria, among others, I suspect it was generally more ramshackle and forehead-poking than it is now. This is pure speculation, of course, as I guess there could've been a wave of folk acts controlling the city right up until I moved here, but I doubt it.
NO!: TRANSFORMER LOOTBAG (#341, DEC 31 2007).
A bit of digital media nerdage first. Since I have a bunch of footage from this show -- three Transformer Lootbag clips, four from the Dials -- I'm going to use it to experiment switching to Final Cut Pro. The first thing I've noticed in doing this, which I've noticed on other occasions as well, is that the Final Cut interface sucks. Indeed, I find it inferior to AviSynth, which I'm switching from, and that has essentially no interface at all. Doing it in Final Cut allows me to more easily incorporate Motion and streamline the whole process, though, so I think I'll stick with it. More commentary to come as I fiddle with it. Moving on...
I've sung the praises of the Madison public library before (probably with the first of my System and Station clips), but I'm going to do it again. Our library is great! Among the many terrific things they have is a fairly well-stocked local music section, which I went through pretty thoroughly after moving here. Transformer Lootbag was among the local acts that I discovered in that exploration that had split up or largely gone on hiatus by the time I found out about them. In fact, this show may have been the first time I ever saw their name on a bill. I don't know if they've got new material on the way or what, but this tune from their self-titled album helped get things going in a way the crowd seemed to respond to.
NO!: AWESOME CAR FUNMAKER (#340, DEC 31 2007).
This is another that I suspect is new, although at first I was positive it was one of the quick hits toward the end of Of Lovers and Monsters. It's a nice example of how they're refining their approach, and hopefully it indicates that a new album and more local shows will be upcoming. Madison needs an influx of nerd rock, and though the German Art Students are now off hiatus I think they're more nerd pop than rock.
NO!: AWESOME CAR FUNMAKER (#339, DEC 31 2007).
There were a number of catchy songs that I liked on Awesome Car Funmaker's last album, but this one was my favorite. It's mixed into a run of terrific quick bursts of melody and Aquabats-style weirdness in the record's first half, which is an approach they seem to have zeroed in on pretty well. The next clip from this set demonstrates it even better, I think, clocking it at about two minutes of nothing but pop bounce.
NO!: AWESOME CAR FUNMAKER (#338, DEC 31 2007).
Man, I hate the winter lulls. I know nobody wants to tour small-ish upper midwest cities in December, but I bet this was the longest show drought since I moved to Madison. As you can imagine, New Year's Eve is an easy way to end such a drought -- this year the High Noon put on a six-band/$10 showcase, which is pretty hard offer to refuse.
All the bands were local except for the Dials, who are up here from Chicago often enough to be quasi-local. Starting things off were Awesome Car Funmaker, who were probably making more fun than I've ever seen them do before, and that's saying something. They opened with what they said was a Screamin' Cyn Cyn & the Pons cover, then this tune which might be another cover, or something new, or something that's otherwise not on either of their records. It sounds like their kind of tune, so I suspect it's a new one, or a really old one.
NO!: PALE YOUNG GENTLEMEN (#337, NOV 9 2007).
Despite various logistical and technical problems at the various Pop Fests, they've always had good line-ups and been fun shows to see, and this one appeared to continue in that vein. But after missing Baby Teeth due to falling asleep on Friday, we wound up missing everybody we wanted to see on Saturday due to the parking crunch caused by football, hockey and something at the Overture Center. Of the bands I'd penciled into the schedule, the Selfish Gene are local, and easily seeable later, but Montreal's Malajube probably won't be back in the immediate future. On top of that, there's a general lack of good shows coming up in Madison for the rest of the year -- the Box Social play Thanksgiving weekend at the King Club, and that's basically it. But if this was going to all we saw of the Pop Fest, and nearly the last show we saw in 2007, it was a nice one to see, and a good reminder of the solid construction of the PYG sound. The new songs they played were enjoyable, and the band's growth is clearly giving them new avenues to explore.
NO!: PALE YOUNG GENTLEMEN (#336, NOV 9 2007).
As I noted in the last clip, there was a flood of people out of the auditorium after the Pale Young Gentlemen set, and it was a crowd that was bigger than I expected. The band is certainly attracting a lot of attention these days, but they nearly filled the main floor of the room and had probably a third of the balcony full. As you can hear in this clip and in the others, things sounded a bit louder than a typical local indie rock show, and I think they may be on the verge of becoming Madison's Biggest Band (pending new Garbage material, natch).
NO!: PALE YOUNG GENTLEMEN (#335, NOV 9 2007).
After getting no footage of Tokyo Police Club due to my own foolishness, and then waiting out a drought of local shows, the Madison Pop Fest returned this weekend to quench my musical thirst. But oh, Pop Fest, my love-hate relationship with continues apace.
There were four bands that I kind of wanted to see on the Pop Fest schedule, two on each night, and all in Music Hall's Carol Rennebohm Auditorium. The trouble is that I was on a huge project deadline all week and got almost no sleep Thursday night before a full day of Friday meetings. When we got to Music Hall for the scheduled 10:15 set by Pale Young Gentlemen and the previous set was just starting, I could already feel myself not making it all the way through. How a show like this can get an hour off schedule so quickly is a mystery for the ages, I suppose, as is the question of how backdrops and strung lights can come crashing down from the rigging so easily, but the upshot is that I simply could not stay awake past midnight and had to miss the Baby Teeth that followed the PYG's. This was unfortunate since I really wanted to see them again and had even indicated as such to their frontman, Abraham Levitan; also it's a pretty cool auditorium and I'd've liked to have stuck around just in general. But instead I had to half-consciously leave, along with all the other tools without the decency to stick around for the touring act that followed their friends on stage. Hopefully what looked like a mass exodus after the PYG set was just people going outside to smoke and Baby Teeth got a decent reception; listening to their new album a bunch last week reminded me of how really solid they are.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#334, OCT 12 2007).
Of course, the times the Box Social sound most like Nirvana playing Tom Petty covers is when they're actually playing Tom Petty covers. They play "I Need to Know" fairly regularly, but at this show it was "Refugee," to show off their friend and album organist Ryan Lynch, whom I believe was sitting in live for the first time. During his part of the set, they also played (perhaps for the first time live, since it needs the organ part) "Galoshes," which Emily got to do handclaps on for the record, and a synthed-up version of their cover of the Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime." At the end of their set, with another band still to come, they got called back up for encore and played the Ramones' "Rockaway Beach" to huge cheers. They play next at the Annex this coming Thursday, and should be seen if you haven't already had the chance.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#333, OCT 12 2007).
The Box Social sometimes describe their sound as being like Nirvana playing Tom Petty covers, and it think that description is most accurate on this song. The shimmery, dropped sound and dripping bass of Nevermind can be heard throughout the tune and makes me wonder what Madison resident Butch Vig might've made of their record. On an album full of guitar pop, it's a big rock that grows on you the longer you stick with it.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#332, OCT 12 2007).
It's a sure sign of the Box Social's growing prominence and popularity in Madison that a handful of fans belted out the "Fuck M.O.!" rejoinder in the last verse of this tune. While shooting the documentary of this album's recording process, that was probably the best bit as well -- looking to get a good echo effect to emphasize that line, producer Dave Rieley sent the band halfway down a concrete stairwell and had them shout it out several times, then layered it way back in the mix. The effect sounds pretty great, and it's apparently a hit with the fans.
NO!: THE GRIZZLIES (#331, OCT 12 2007).
About halfway through the Grizzlies' set, the left side of the stage inexplicably lost power, leaving one of the guitar players strumming away in futility. They borrowed some of the Box Social's equipment, I think, but it still took a few minutes to get things straightened out. As luck would have it, that's just when the other guitar player and bass player were going to switch spots anyway, which led into some more folk-rocky stuff than their earlier songs had been.
NO!: THE GRIZZLIES (#330, OCT 12 2007).
The crowd was surprisingly strong for this show, even at the beginning of the evening. The Grizzlies seemed to feed off that a bit, and once they got into the poppier section of their set it really showed. Check out how into it (and possibly drunk) that singer is!
NO!: THE GRIZZLIES (#329, OCT 12 2007).
After a couple near-misses, we finally saw local folk-popsters the Grizzlies at last week's Madison Music Project showcase show, as they opened an all-local three-band bill. I picked up their record on our way out, but this song doesn't seem to be on it. I also can't find the lyrics online, so I assume it's not a cover. New material at the top of the set already? Perhaps -- only time and YouTube comments will tell.
NO!: EISLEY (#328, OCT 7 2007).
Although they didn't play much from their much-loved-by-me debut LP -- I thought "Trolleywood" would've made a superb closer -- they did play this terrific cut, which got them some decent radio exposure in their early days. It's one of my favorites, and it does a great job of showcasing the excellent vocal harmonies that are so prevalent on Room Noises. I had generally assumed that those were a product of the studio, but they were perfectly recreated live, revealed a kind of singing talent that I don't a chance to see too often.
NO!: EISLEY (#327, OCT 7 2007).
I was pleasantly surprised to hear the reaction to this old Eisley song, from one of their early EP's. I don't know what kind of fanbase they have -- I guess enough to have released a second major-label record -- but that there was excitement about this track gives me hope that they'll keep growing. I'm also glad that they're not just tying themselves down to only playing new material as an opening act. They've got a relatively deep catalog given their age, and I like that they're using it.
NO!: EISLEY (#326, OCT 7 2007).
I was, and still am, a huge fan of Eisley's first full-length album, but their new one is taking a while to grow on me. The lead single, "Invasion," is a nice burst of light psychedelic and synth lines, but the rest mostly isn't clicking. This track is one of the exceptions that I find myself singing along to when it pops into my ears, and its fragile, sing-songy melody would've fit in well with the best of their first record.
NO!: EISLEY (#325, OCT 7 2007).
Despite the fact that I hate the venue, I was really excited about Eisley finally coming through Madison, even as an opener. They were the only opening band on the show, so they got to play a pretty decent-length set and seemed well-appreciated by the audience, hopefully enough so that they come back on their own soon.
Now, being a Barrymore show, the usual caveats apply. Primarily, the sound is awful. The treble bounces all over the room in that place, and in an effort to offset it (and to sound like a bigger venue, I suspect), they crank the bass. Surprisingly, the sound in these clips is actually a little better than what got to my plugged ears, but it's still a bit too muffled and distorted on the low end. This song, the opening track from their new album, features a glimpse at the beautiful vocals they bring to most of their tunes, but suffers from the room's acoustics during the breakdown B-section.
NO!: THE BRUNETTES (#324, SEP 25 2007).
About midway through their set, the band stopped to tune or something, and things get really quiet. So Emily shouted out for "Mars Loves Venus," the title track from their previous album. So naturally, they played it. But not only that, they used it to kick off a two-song dance contest, the winner of which would get a free CD or shirt or whatever. And we danced the shit out of it -- seriously, we were awesome, and almost nobody else in the audience really threw themselves into it. So naturally, some dude in a red shirt won. A dude that happened to be part of the opening band! A bit fishy, I think.
Anyway, they also played this fun little number about hairstyling.
NO!: THE BRUNETTES (#323, SEP 25 2007).
This was the song that woke people up when we saw the Brunettes in 2005, and it did it again this time. The makeshift horn section, the posing, the handclaps, all of it goes together to form a superb pop symphony, which helps to kick off the slightly darker and fuller sound of their new record. One of the top tunes of the year.
NO!: THE BRUNETTES (#322, SEP 25 2007).
Emily and I first heard of the Brunettes when we went to see the Shins in Milwaukee about two and a half years ago. They were completely new to us, and we were surprised to see an oversized New Zealand indie pop band as the only opener -- I believe they may have had even a couple more people than the six they have on their current tour. From start to finish, they blew us away -- I immediately regretted having not brought my camera to the show -- and they absolutely stole the show from the mostly lifeless Shins.
We weren't the only ones, as it turned out. Having impressed audiences all over the country, they landed a deal with Sub Pop to distribute their then-current second album in the US, and to eventually release its follow-up. This is the title track to that follow-up effort, a slightly darker and fuller-sounding take than their first two albums, though it would just about have to be given the incredibly twee lightness of the Brunettes' sound.
NO!: TESTA ROSA (#321, SEP 21 2007).
Most of Testa Rosa's album fuses 60's pop with 90's/00's indie influences, but this is song is probably the purest example of the former. The girl-duo harmonies recall a lot of simple, pre-British Invasion pop, and make for a sweet closer -- it's just a little sad that it had to come only four songs into the set.
NO!: TESTA ROSA (#320, SEP 21 2007).
I discovered after the show that Testa Rosa contains most of one of my most-missed Milwaukee bands, the short-lived Mustn'ts. I don't think they were around long enough for their EP to make much of a splash outside Wisconsin, but I hope that if Testa Rosa's album finds the success it deserves that they get another look. They're not terribly similar, but they're similar enough to be worth checking out if you like these guys.
NO!: TESTA ROSA (#319, SEP 21 2007).
Something kind of weird happened during the two opening acts, which I figure must be a result of the usual bad mixing at campus shows. Le Loup, who started things off, have an album that I just can't get into, but their set sounded much better than the record. It wasn't just that the songs they played were the better ones from it, but the sound itself was better. By contrast, Testa Rosa, whose album I like, were really ill-served by the sound of the room. Although their record doesn't sound big by any means, it's not nearly as thin as they sounded in the Rathskeller. It's probably most noticeable on this song, which has a little spoken word interlude that you may not be able to make out. More volume and more reverb next time, please!
NO!: TESTA ROSA (#318, SEP 21 2007).
Weird night; weird weekend.
I caught something late in the week -- might have been a stomach bug or minor food poisoning -- that had me in bed most of Thursday and Friday. But what, I'm going to let that keep me from seeing Maritime and Charlemagne touring new albums? Well, as it turned out, yes. But it didn't keep me from seeing the openers of the Maritime show, including their terrific Milwaukee compatriots in Testa Rosa. Let's start at the beginning, though.
This show was scheduled for the Terrace, but the rain came in the evening and it was clear things would be moving inside. Having not eaten in over a day and wanting not to exert myself, I figured on arriving late. The first opener, Le Loup, I don't much like and wouldn't have minded missing. A bit before 10:00, I get to the Union with rain falling again, and there are hundreds of people milling around outside while a fire truck idles on Langdon St. Many of these people are all dressed up, having come from either a wedding reception or some formal Greek event. With the delay of moving inside, plus the ultimately false fire alarm, the show didn't start until about 10:30. Le Loup played for 15 minutes, and were followed by Testa Rosa for about the same amount of time. It turned out to be just four songs, all of which I recorded. This one, the lead track from their self-titled album, is representative of the set's focus on harmony and slight pop melodies; they're a welcome and interesting addition to the Milwaukee landscape, to be sure.
NO!: THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS (#317, SEP 8 2007).
The character studies continue on the most recent G.A.S. record, but they tend to be a little more contained musically. This song and the others that come with it are much more the "nimble-witted new wave pop" that they describe themselves as in "Dick Clark" than their earlier, wilder but less musically developed material.
NO!: THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS (#316, SEP 8 2007).
Another self-consciously quirky song from the G.A.S. Tunes like this make it seem weird that I've seen them so often outside, on sunny afternoons, when clearly the more appropriate place would be somebody's living room around bartime. Their early material is so silly for the most part that you kind of expect it to be a drunken dream.
NO!: THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS (#315, SEP 8 2007).
The German Art Students' first real album -- their first two albums, if you count their demo that was largely remade as Kissing By the Superconductor -- is full of oddball character studies like this one. The lyric "You drink the whiskey/I'll cut your leg off" was simply made to decorate a t-shirt, and it does -- buy one if you see them live!
NO!: THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS (#314, SEP 8 2007).
The other big event of September 8 was the Snake on the Lake Fest, the horribly renamed version of WSUM's Party in the Park, transplanted from James Madison Park to the Terrace. Lucky for me, given my recent recording mishap at their High Noon show, the German Art Students were the first band of the afternoon, early enough to get home, collect Emily, and head over to the big show. This track, the opener from their first full-fledged album, kicked things off with a bang, getting the surprisingly big crowd going early.
NO!: COLD WAR KIDS (#313, SEP 8 2007).
Compared with the Jack Daniels show we saw in March, the pitch put on by Southern Comfort was almost non-existent. There were logos everywhere, of course, and there were no other liquors available, but there was also no free swag for those of us who didn't get into the VIP section. There was a really bad MC, but he didn't get up there to pimp the brand, so much as to fail at ingratiating himself to the local crowd. Some of bands made pretty heavy-handed thanks to the company, but nothing that pushed the product in particular. There's another one of these shows already scheduled for next year, and if they can get someone of the caliber of the Flaming Lips to headline, it should be pretty great again.
The one band who seemed a little irked by the corporate setting was Cold War Kids, but even that only showed in a couple of off-hand comments. Their set was as driven as the set we saw at the Annex last year, and their reputation as a terrific live band was certainly validated. I wasn't sure if they had any new material yet, but they gave the old stuff all they had and seemed to win over the bulk of the crowd.
NO!: COLD WAR KIDS (#312, SEP 8 2007).
When last we saw Cold War Kids, they were an up-and-coming young band opening for an even upper-and-coming young band, Tapes 'n Tapes. In the intervening 15 months, they've become a minor phenomenon, and I was eager to, perhaps, re-evaluate my initial feeling about them, which is that they have three of four good songs that they play over and over in different configurations. I still kind of think that, but I did generally like them a lot more this time out. It could be just because they were following the awful Cowboy Mouth, I guess, or it could be that they took a few pointed jabs at SoCo™ during their set. In this clip, frontman Nathan Willett actually apologizes to the crowd about the price of drinks, which he said they'd been told were free. Somewhat more subtly, they introduced their first song as being about the dangers of alcoholism. It was hard not to appreciate that while drinking $5 drinks with about as much alcohol as a medicated cotton swab in them.
NO!: THE FLAMING LIPS (#311, SEP 8 2007).
An autobugle looks almost exactly like a regular bugle, unless you're looking right into the bell. If you do, and the light is right, you'll see two little LED's, and if you look closer you'll see a speaker. The autobugle is a bugle that's had a machine inserted into it, which automatically plays a recording of "Taps"; it was invented because there aren't enough buglers in the military to cover all the military funerals going on these days. At any given service the bugler off in the distance may just be pressing a button and standing there until the thing stops playing.
I don't know how Wayne Coyne got hold of one of these things, but he did, and its incorporation into the show was one of several extremely touching moments. He'd brought it out earlier, playing it -- without explanation -- over a partial cover of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir," which is not the easiest thing to hear "Taps" through. Later in the show he pulled it back out and explained what it was. While his bandmates played an unresolved dirge, he pressed the autobugle to his third eye and turned it on. After an earlier extended riff on George Bush and the sudden provenance of "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" as a protest piece (really?), I think the audience appreciated this gesture a lot more. It was showing, not telling, and it's something that I think a lot of us have a reflexive reaction to. In my high school years, I played "Taps" at a number of military funerals -- on a trumpet, not a bugle, and when they couldn't get a real bugler to trek up to the UP -- and it means something. As symbolism, it creates a reality that literalism couldn't.
The shows other best moments were in many ways symbolic as well. This version of "Yoshimi Pt. 1" came courtesy of a synthesized toy piano sound and the voices of thousands of people acting as one. Drummer Kliph Scurlock's gigantimous hands extended the dream-state a bit, and along with the set-closing and widely tear-inducing "Do You Realize??" and encore of "She Don't Use Jelly," made for a communal experience that belied the capacity crowd and half-hour we spent waiting in the parking lot afterwards. That they have made bringing this from town to town into a successful commercial enterprise is testament to the occasional awesomeness of us all.
NO!: THE FLAMING LIPS (#310, SEP 8 2007).
It's kind of weird to realize what an immense back-catalog the Flaming Lips have -- they've been together since the early 80's and have released 11 albums, plus a ton of non-album material. But for their first 15 years or so, they got only a glimpse of the big time, peeking through as part of the Summer of Alternative Rock in 1993 with "She Don't Use Jelly." Imagine if there were an episode of TRL where the bands being counted down were the Flaming Lips, Belly, Soul Asylum, the Breeders, the Lemonheads, 4 Non Blondes, the Proclaimers, Porno For Pyros and Green Jelly, all of whom were beat out by the new Dinosaur Jr single. Some of us who were 14 at the time actually thought it would go on forever.
The Lips' encore was announced with ancient footage from the old Jon Stewart Show on their big backdrop screen, an introduction for a TV performance of "She Don't Use Jelly" from half a lifetime ago. That they would close on the type of song that many bands in their position would try to bury -- can you imagine Foo Fighters encoring "Big Me"? -- and do it in a totally earnest way says a lot about their approach. Nonetheless, tracks from records other than their last three were few and far between; just "Jelly" and this one, from their last indie record, 1990's In a Priest Driven Ambulance.
It felt a bit like an unearthed fossil, an epic batch of fuzz and streamers as Wayne Coyne tried valiantly to fire his confetti blaster through a cymbal, and then closed the song out with a series of massive gong strikes. That they could construct a stage show so intertwined with, in particular, their last two albums' worth of music, but also seamlessly drop in a 17-year-old album cut, was really impressive.
NO!: THE FLAMING LIPS (#309, SEP 8 2007).
So Madison is now party central for these free liquor marketing shows, and this was the biggest one yet. I'll get into the details throughout this week's posts, but suffice it to say that the Southern Comfort marketing part of this event was much more low-key than the Jack Daniels-sponsored OK Go show we saw last March.
I actually started the day seeing the German Art Students at the other big free fest, while Emily took a post-market nap (and I'll have clips of that set up next week). We arrived at the Willow Island grounds probably a little after 5:30, in the middle of what we later discovered was Cowboy Mouth's set. And boy, let me tell you, they sucked something fierce. Watching (or more accurately, listening to) their set was like being at one of the Summerfest rock stages at 2:00 in the afternoon, when some band nobody cares about is putting as much energy into convincing you that you love them as they are into playing. The singer/drummer did not miss an opportunity to note how wonderful it was here in "the great state of Wisconsin," or to thank Milwaukee -- yes -- for their hospitality. Also, he told us they were from New Orleans at least half a dozen times in the half-set we saw. Most of the detail is kind of irrelevant, since bands suck all the time and it ain't gonna stop the world spinning, but the first thing you're going to see in this clip is the SoCo™ MC bringing that self-same singer/drummer out to introduce the Flaming Lips for some reason. You will then hear the guy next to us, who was pleasantly mock-happy throughout the intermission, mocking the poor SOB for his many New Orleans callouts; you may also be able to pick up on some boos.
I could go on about how bad Cowboy Mouth and this guy in particular were, but it was fleeting, and anyway, what an opening! From a plague of dancing, floodlight-bearing Santas, Wayne Coyne and his hamster ball emerged and began to float across a thousand raised hands. The first bit of this clip, with Coyne rolling over the crowd, is an instrumental piece, and I suspect it's called "The Mothership Descends," or that it's at least the track with that label on the Lips' recent live DVD release. As it ended and Coyne emerged from his bubble, they dove into the first track from The Soft Bulletin, amid a storm of confetti blasts. The enthusiasm from the audience upon recognizing it was something I haven't seen in Madison since... well, the last time was probably when I first saw Nine Inch Nails about seven and a half years ago, and that was before I even lived here. It's the ferociously blissful energy of a Big Show, and I don't know anything else like it.
NO!: THE GERMAN ART STUDENTS (#308, AUG 22 2007).
So this was the one working clip I got from the German Art Students' recent High Noon appearance -- frustrating since they've been on hiatus for so long, but not that frustrating since they're local and will be out again this Saturday at the newly christened Snake on the Lake Fest (formerly Party in the Park) at the Memorial Union Terrace. This song is the closer from their most recent album and features the same playful pop and theatricality that they bring to most of their material. They're well worth seeing live, especially when it's free, as Saturday's show is. They play at 3:00, which leaves plenty of time to get over to the free Flaming Lips extravaganza by early evening.
NO!: THE HUSH SOUND (#307, AUG 25 2007).
This song was dedicated to the band's buds in the Villains of Verona, who provided a terrific opening set to the evening. In between were local pop-rock heroes the Box Social, just back from several weeks of touring and playing in front of one of their biggest Madison crowds. It was, on the whole, one of the more solid bills I've seen in recent memory -- at least as good as the Mates of State/Starlight Mints/Molitor show we saw there last fall.
NO!: THE HUSH SOUND (#306, AUG 25 2007).
Having released their first two records in 2005 and 2006, the Hush Sound have already got a third on the way for early next year. They played two bouncy new songs at this show, both of which were pretty good. The mix is a little rough on this one -- just try to make out Greta Salpeter's vocals, I dare you! -- but the basic shape of the song is there and has me looking forward to the LP.
NO!: THE HUSH SOUND (#305, AUG 25 2007).
The best spot in the Stagedoor to shoot from is, unfortunately, in the balcony, where the close walls and short ceiling, which means there's a bit more distortion on clips from there than from other venues. This one still sounds OK, but I think next show there I'll try to find a good spot on the main floor that's not too echoey.
NO!: THE HUSH SOUND (#304, AUG 25 2007).
In this year's recently released Isthmus Annual Manual, the Barrymore Theatre was voted Madison's best music venue. When I saw the results, it was a little bit like watching George Bush win in 2004. Had these people ever been to a rock show there? I wondered. Anyone with working ears should've been able to tell that, if you want a larger venue, the Orpheum is where it's at, including the Stagedoor. And then this show happened.
Apart from the generally bad mix (which was tweaked during the show into various different-sounding bad mixes), the Hush Sound lost power twice during this song, their second of the set. Amazingly, they plowed right through -- it turns out something like this had happened to them before -- literally without missing a beat. When the power came up, they came out of their vamp and dove right back into the song. Opening with this and "Don't Wake Me Up," my two favorite songs of theirs, it was an exciting way to start the show.
NO!: THE VILLAINS OF VERONA (#303, AUG 25 2007).
A couple days after getting back from DC, I'm walking down State St. and I literally do a double-take and spin around as I pass by a kiosk. The Hush Sound playing at the Orpheum? Great! The Box Social opening? Super! The Villains of Verona also opening? ... Who?
These guys seem pretty new, and the material on their Myspace page doesn't really do them justice; they sound much better live. They are similar to the Hush Sound and a third Chicago band called 1997 (Chicago suddenly seems to be the epicenter of boy-girl rock harmonies), and were certainly well-received by the early arrivals to this show. Their debut LP is out soon and should be one to look out for.
NO!: THE TWILIGHT SAD (#302, JUL 13 2007).
Lest you think, "Why on Earth did you go to this show if the band sucks so hard?" well, there are actually some good tunes on their LP. This is one of them, though I understand if you can't tell from this noise-laden, poorly mixed performance. Despite the kind-of-decentness of this song, they'd totally lost the audience at this point, who didn't seem interested in paying attention to more and more drone on one of the hottest and humidest Friday nights of the summer. Indeed, it was too much for me to take, and I left the show after this song for cooler environs. Here's hoping they can find a more appropriate venue if and when they return to Madison.
NO!: THE TWILIGHT SAD (#301, JUL 13 2007).
Apparently the Twilight Sad started out as an extended-length noise band, an approach that is mostly gone from their recorded material these days, but which was all too present in their live set. This song was where it bottomed out during their Terrace show -- with singer James Graham turned away from the audience and all but motionless for over six minutes, he repeated the song's sparse lyrics over a set of tuneless tones to what turned out to be more than a few boos. Afterwards, a middle-aged man who was clearly out of his element asked me what kind of music it was; I told him it was Scottish.
NO!: THE TWILIGHT SAD (#300, JUL 13 2007).
To celebrate the 300th of these podcasts, I'm afraid we've got the most disappointing show of the year.
I'd had the Twilight Sad's debut LP in heavy rotation ever since I first heard about them, and had been quite looking forward to this show. Sadly, it turned out to be one of those things where the band just seems to have it in for the audience for some reason. Things started reasonably, if oddly, with this obscure b-side to open the set -- after working through the feedback and doing a bit of detective work, it only took me five and a half weeks to figure that out.
NO!: WHITE RABBITS (#299, JUL 31 2007).
When they came back out for their encore, they played kind of a spazzed-out version of "Maggie's Farm," and then had to beg off the stage, saying that they were a young band and didn't have anymore songs. In fact, during their set, they played beyond their debut album, including this song currently only available in their Daytrotter session. It's a bit of a bouncy shanty, and would make a nice centerpiece on a new album.
NO!: WHITE RABBITS (#298, JUL 31 2007).
I wouldn't have expected White Rabbits to have such a propulsive drum attack in their live show, but there it was, two full sets plus some extra kit for the piano player to pound on every once in a while. This was the song where they brought it out in fullest force, also edging into the quasi-tropical sound that winds in and out of most of their songs. The more I listen to them, the more I find them difficult to sort with other bands in my mind
NO!: WHITE RABBITS (#297, JUL 31 2007).
Generally, I am not one to give in to Pitchfork hype, but they really got it right with White Rabbits. They are Yet Another New York Indie Rock band, but they don't have much in common with the likes of Interpol or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah -- the band they remind me most of, though not much, is Ann Arbor's Mason Proper, but with more of a fancy dance feel. This song is one of their bouncy piano numbers, and encapsulates their sound quite well; the dual drummers give it a drive onstage that's hard to resist.
NO!: PALE YOUNG GENTLEMEN (#296, JUL 31 2007).
I never expect Emily to like new bands when we see them live, because she's just not wired that way, and Pale Young Gentlemen are not the type of band I'd think she'd like in general. Surprisingly, she got into it right away and came out of their set thinking they were pretty awesome. I agree.
NO!: PALE YOUNG GENTLEMEN (#295, JUL 31 2007).
In the brief period between the Boston and Detroit trips, White Rabbits visited the High Noon and local up-and-comers Pale Young Gentlemen opened the show. I'd listened to their record, but the songs clicked much better on stage, and I'm looking forward to seeing them again. This one, like most of their set, was a higher-energy affair than I'd have expected, and was well-received by the band's sizable fan core.
NO!: MATT AND KIM (#294, JUL 19 2007).
It's weird, but the first band at this show -- How Are We, Hawaii? -- was really bad, and yet had what seemed to be a core of extremely enthusiastic fans near the front of the room. Many of these same people were the craziest of the Matt and Kim fans, even though the bands don't sound much alike at all. The whole atmosphere of the show was actually much more unified and community-oriented than I would've expected for a big city show, and not much like the show I saw in San Francisco last spring. Hopefully someday I'll get a chance to go back and see if that's always the case.
NO!: MATT AND KIM (#293, JUL 19 2007).
The only thing more exciting to Matt and Kim fans than hearing their favorite Matt and Kim songs is hearing new Matt and Kim songs. This one -- presumably part of a batch of new ones along with a couple others that are on their Myspace -- amped the craziness up a notch, just as the room was really starting to literally heat up.
NO!: MATT AND KIM (#292, JUL 19 2007).
It's weird, I probably would not have gone to see Matt and Kim and they played in Madison. Their overdriven and reversed take on early Mates of State never seemed that interesting to me, but I noted yesterday, there was just nothing else to see in Boston while I was there. So in the crazy heat and humidity, I headed down one T stop to Central Square and stood in line for ten minutes to get into the upstairs, all the while getting in the way of people who were just hanging out in the bar. Why was the line stopped? No clue; they just stopped moving people in at one point. Then we started up again and packed into what turned out to be a much smaller room than I expected.
It seems that Matt and Kim, now in Brooklyn, are both New Englanders, and have played the greater Boston area many times. Kim's family was in the house, as were lots of hardcore fans. As you can see during this clip of their big hit single, they were pretty much all ready to go nuts throughout the entire set.
NO!: MAGIC PEOPLE (#291, JUL 19 2007).
My two weeks in the Boston area were apparently the sparsest weeks of the year for live music. When all was said and done, I only got a chance to go to one show -- Matt and Kim, with a couple of local bands opening. The second one was Magic People, who I found myself liking quite a bit. Their sound reminds me a bit of the late 90's Boston emo scene, but mixed with Detroit acts like SSM. I believe this song is called "To the Moon," and I assume it's from their forthcoming new record, but this is speculation; all I know for sure is that it's not on last year's record, which I bought after their set.
NO!: ROBBERS ON HIGH STREET (#290, JUL 14 2007).
In perhaps not my wisest move ever, I decided to go to this show even though it was the night before I flew to Boston for two weeks -- in my defense, it was an afternoon flight, but there was still packing and planning (and video encoding!) to do in the morning. I'm glad I went though -- leaving before the headliners played helped -- because I was able to spend a lot of my travel time re-appreciating tunes like this one from their first album, but also listening to their new one with a different perspective afforded by the live show. On my first few listens to it, I was really disappointed, but I'm finding it a lot more enjoyable now.
NO!: ROBBERS ON HIGH STREET (#289, JUL 14 2007).
Looking at the audio for these clips, I suspect that the battery in my mic filter (which is meant to keep the bass from overwhelming everything else) is dead, since the frequencies aren't clipped at all. The good news is that the baseline quality of the external mics is much better than the camera's poor built-in mic, and everything here sounds pretty decent. This was the one worry I had about these mics, since there is no indicator of remaining power and I didn't know how long the battery would last (about six months, it turns out). This song, the first track from their new album, is driven by the acoustic guitar and piano lines, which helps a lot, but the rest of the stuff I've recorded since then has been OK as well.
NO!: ROBBERS ON HIGH STREET (#288, JUL 14 2007).
The Redwalls headlined this show, but my main interest was Robbers on High Street, who we saw play a sparsely attended show at the Annex a couple years ago. At the time they'd just released a better Spoon record than Spoon made that year, and I was pretty excited to see them again, even though their new album is a little tepid. They started with a few from their first album, and they seemed to do well with the bigger crowd and venue.
NO!: BABY TEETH (#287, JUL 14 2007).
Despite having recently released a new record, Baby Teeth played at least this one new song, which fit well with the rest of their material. For an opening band that had probably next to no previous exposure to the audience, they played a really strong set and worked the room quite well; given they're from Chicago, I'd hope to see them back here sometime soon.
NO!: BABY TEETH (#286, JUL 14 2007).
When I probably should've been preparing for my flight to Boston the next day and subsequent two-week stay, I instead went to the High Noon to see two opening acts at the Redwalls show. Robbers on High Street became my favorite Spoon tribute band a couple years, but the surprise of the show was how good Chicago's Baby Teeth were. I'd heard and enjoyed their new record, The Simp, but their live show -- particularly as the first act of the night, when nobody was paying much attention -- was a real powerhouse, producing a kind of Elton John-led indie rock act that mostly got the crowd off their phones and looking toward the stage.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#285, JUL 5 2007).
Elsewhere in Madison's strata, the Box Social have been touring on their debut LP all summer -- this show happening during the week-long break between the western and eastern halves of their nationwide tour. They've also built up a really solid local fanbase, as you can see from this clip of what could be their break-out hit. Going for adds now, radio directors!
NO!: THE MOTORZ (#284, JUL 5 2007).
This is another one of the Motorz' rockers, a result of too much Wii playing. Having tired my arm out on tennis and bowling, I wanted to get two early songs recorded and then put the camera down for the rest of the set, not realizing that their sweet pop material was going to come later on. So when I see them next -- probably in mid-September -- I'll hold off until several songs in to start taping.
NO!: THE MOTORZ (#283, JUL 5 2007).
In between the halves of their nationwide tour, the Box Social stopped home for a week and played a show at the Annex, with local rockers the Motorz opening -- if you missed it, they'll reprise their pairing on September 13. It was an interesting match-up, I thought, providing me my first opportunity to see the Motorz. Madison has always struck me as having a stratified local rock scene -- permanent, college and high school -- with not much overlap, and there are a lot of bands in the permanent level who generally produce a kind of music I don't like. There's this straight-ahead hard rock approach that strikes me almost entirely aesthetic, married as it often is to a separate-bedrooms 60's britpop aesthetic. The Motorz recently took this to its logical extreme, by releasing two albums -- one harder and one poppier. As it happens, the pop material they played at this show was pretty good. The harmonies and crunchy melody lines didn't break much new ground, but they were nice to listen to and I'll probably pick that record up after I get home. The rock material did a lot less for me, but then so does that stuff's inspirational material.
NO!: KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS (#282, JUL 8 2007).
I had about 35 minutes of blank tape when I arrived at the Summerfest grounds, and had briefly thought about recording the entire KYMM set, just to have some good daytime footage to play around with. The heat put a stop to that, though, making it an effort just to hold my camera arm up for a couple of songs at a time (I later discovered that I had what appear to be first-degree burns under my wedding ring), and of course, the announcement that they'd be playing for two hours made the whole plan moot anyway.
After these two songs I had to pack the camera away for good and start thinking about hydration and shade. The second one, which can be found on their live WMSE EP, is maybe my favorite KYMM song (of the ones that I know), or at least has my favorite little keyboard move in a KYMM song. "Volts" is pretty terrific as well, and I'm quite looking forward to their album coming out.
NO!: KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS (#281, JUL 8 2007).
When you're a young band with less than two hours of material, playing a two-hour set can be kind of tough. This piece was one of the tunes that was played in both halves of the show, though it looked like a mostly different crowd was hanging out by the time it came up after the intermission. I'd guess they played for at least 40 different people during the time I was there, including the middle-aged couple I saw at the merch booth talking about how the band "really had it figured out."
NO!: KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS (#280, JUL 8 2007).
I haven't been to Summerfest in quite a while, because the value has plummeted in the last few years. At $15/ticket, it's roughly a $70 event for us to come over from Madison, and since Liz Phair and OK Go played together in 2004 there haven't been any nights with more than one act we wanted to see.
Totally free is a much better value, however. On the last day of this year's edition, admission was free from noon to 4:00, and I was already in town for Art vs. Craft. Luckily, one of my favorite Milwaukee/Chicago bands was playing then -- Kid, You'll Move Mountains won a competition put on by Shepherd Express to play the 12:30 slot, and since nobody ever got scheduled for the following slot, they played for two hours in 95 degree heat. It was kind of intense.
NO!: LOCKSLEY (#279, JUL 6 2007).
With recent gigs at Summerfest and on the Terrace, Locksley have been exposed to a lot of people who probably weren't interested in them before, if they'd even heard of the band. This track is one of my favorites from their new record, and the packed summer crowd seemed to be paying a decent amount of attention to it, which is more than you can say for most hot summer night shows at the Terrace.
[Late edit: I'm dumb; this is "The Past & the Present."]
NO!: LOCKSLEY (#278, JUL 6 2007).
If you notice a bunch of little white dots and lines around the stage in these clips, it's because the heat and humidity of the evening brought out an armada of flying insects. The band seemed to be bothered by them a bit -- or at least they clearly noticed the invasion -- but if they were it didn't affect their raucous set, which combined their pristine power-pop with stage energy that was more OK Go than the Beatles.
NO!: LOCKSLEY (#277, JUL 6 2007).
Finally! After an extremely light June, I've got a bunch of early July shows to post, starting with this Locksley set from the Terrace.
Locksley left Madison for Brooklyn several years ago, but they've played here several times already this year in support of their terrific sophomore full-length, which is a collection of tunes that owe a lot to the Beatles, but also to the Kinks, Cheap Trick, Elvis Costello and various other power-pop touchstones. Playing in front of maybe the biggest non-Michael Moore crowd I've ever seen on the Terrace, they dove in with this rousing short burst of a song, which set the tone for their whole show.
NO!: DEAR AUGUST (#276, JUN 10 2007).
Dear August apparently have a history with Dylan covers, which is not much of a surprise given their sound. This faithful cover of "The Man in Me" -- explicitly dedicated to the Dude, in case there were non-Lebowski nerds in the audience -- fit well with the rest of their set, but the switch in vocalists was kind of jarring. They have a few songs of their own sung by their male vocalist, but they hadn't played any of them and I didn't really see it coming.
NO!: DEAR AUGUST (#275, JUN 10 2007).
Thanks to additions to their Myspace page made today, I discovered that this song has a name and is from Dear August's upcoming album. It's also probably my favorite tune that they played -- it's a little more folksy, with a sweet melody underlying it that doesn't quite recall other folk-pop acts quite so much. I hope it's representative of the record as a whole.
NO!: DEAR AUGUST (#274, JUN 10 2007).
I only had a chance to see one band at this year's Marquette Waterfront Festival, and coincidentally it turned out to be a kind of similar outfit to Charlemagne, the only band I had a chance to see last year. Dear August (fka Box Elder) played an enjoyable set of folk-pop in the vein of R.E.M.'s early Byrds-y stuff or, let's say, the Byrds. Unfortunately, I had to bug out and didn't have time to buy their record, so I don't know if this song is from that (though a quick scan of the titles makes me think not) or from their forthcoming follow-up.
Being outdoors, this set also gave me a chance to experiment with my audio a bit. This song was recorded with my camera's built-in mic, and the clips to come were recorded with my regular external mics. As you'll hear tomorrow, the externals win hands down, capturing a much fuller range of sound.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#273, JUN 2 2007).
I only wound up recording one clip from the Box Social's set (though they've got more that they'll be putting up somewhere), partly because I already have tons of footage of them laying around, but also because I wanted to go jump around on the floor. This song in particular is probably the biggest grower of their new record for me -- the first time I heard it I thought it was a dud, but now I find the tune sticking me pretty tightly. If you'd like it to stick with you, well, you can buy the record online, in a number of fine record shops, at one of two Milwaukee release shows on Saturday, or at the High Noon Saloon tonight, where the band will be opening for the legendary Local H, to whom they owe a bit of a stylistic debt. Should be a good one, I'd wager.
NO!: APPARENTLY NOTHING (#272, JUN 2 2007).
The last time I saw Apparently Nothing, it was at the Cacti Hi-Fi's release show in January, and while they did an admirable job of shilling for their friends' record at that show, it was nothing compared to the way they shilled the Box Social's record last weekend. The pronouncement captured here -- that during their set the Box Social would cum and cum and cum in our ear-pussies -- was, shall we say, par for the course. The most hilarious thing? As far as I can tell, chief shiller Aaron Shekey's mom was at the show, and she spent the whole time dancing like crazy.
Prepare for an eargasm, ma!
NO!: APPARENTLY NOTHING (#271, JUN 2 2007).
Well, the Box Social's album finally came out on Saturday, and the Madison release show was a veritable cornucopia of local talent. Power-popsters Apparently Nothing were the first full band of the evening, playing a rare hometown set ripe with material from their upcoming EP. This song debuted in demo form on their website something like a year and a half ago and has been developed into the just the kind of song that can cut short a discussion about the sliding scale of hotness which determines how much you must pay for the Box Social's record.
NO!: MINIPOP (#270, MAY 24 2007).
Unfortunately, Minipop played far too short a set -- only seven songs -- but their dream pop sound seemed to go over well with the crowd and I was very happy to have seen them. In fact, as they appear to be a regional touring act at best, this may have been my only chance to see them, or at least my only chance in the foreseeable future. I've got some smallish local acts in mind for my upcoming trips to Boston (Taxpayer) and Washington (Karmella's Game), and I'm hoping I can find a good local act or two for my Vancouver trip as well.
NO!: MINIPOP (#269, MAY 24 2007).
The first band on the bill -- starting their set just as I walked in -- was something called Potion, which was two people playing with additional recorded music. It was really kind of unimpressive, and yet I think their late addition to the bill got the cover bumped from $8 to $10. Go figure.
Meanwhile, this title track from Minipop's debut LP is one of a handful of tracks from the that album that keep threatening to move into greatness every time I hear them. The first four tracks in particular are really superb to listen to repeatedly -- though my iPod's shuffle reminded me on the plane that they're not quite up to the level set by their most similar competition, Eisley.
NO!: MINIPOP (#268, MAY 24 2007).
The only show I got to see while in San Francisco was one featuring my favorite newly discovered band, Minipop, who played as the second opener for French scuzz act Nous Non Plus. I'm not sure if this song is a cover or what, as it's not on either of their records, but it's a nice one whatever it is and was a smooth way to open their set.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#267, MAY 18 2007).
When the band came out for their encore, all they had left from Boys and Girls was this song, and if that didn't tip off that it was coming, Tad Kubler's acoustic guitar deployment did. It didn't wind up as the actual closer -- the encore ran about 20 minutes -- but it was a nice cap to newer, bigger-than-club-sized material. The show wasn't as intimate as either of the other shows I've seen them at -- one an acoustic set in Brooklyn, the other a crazed Halloween-night event at the Annex -- but it was certainly the same kind of huge shared experience. It's hard to know after a show like that whether I'd prefer them to stay on the road for a while longer or to get back into the studio and crank out another great record. Either way, rock fans win.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#266, MAY 18 2007).
I didn't expect the Reputation to suddenly break late last year, but they did anyway. So one of the real treats of this show was seeing Elizabeth Elmore joining the band onstage to sing part of "Chillout Tent," as she does on the album version. The only downside? No Dave Pirner to sing the other part of the back-and-forth. It's not like he's doing anything else -- come on!
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#265, MAY 18 2007).
This was my favorite song on Boys and Girls -- one of my top favorites of 2006, in fact -- and judging by the audience reaction I suspect I'm not alone. At the beginning, Craig Finn roots the song in rock's fantasy nature, which I'd never really thought about before, but it fits the song in a heartbreaking way. The one spot in the chorus where they replace "There's always other boys" with "There's always other scenes" particularly sticks out that way, since, for Finn's characters, there are plenty of other boys, but there are never any other scenes. As much as the "you" in that song is stuck in a bad relationship, she's even more stuck in the scene.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#264, MAY 18 2007).
The last time I was at a show with a sizeable, high-energy crowd like this was, well, I don't know -- probably Nine Inch Nails last spring. It's the kind of thing I usually have to go to Milwaukee to see, unfortunately. The crowd had been going pretty well already, but this song -- the big fun climax to Boys and Girls in America -- turned things up a notch. The really awesome thing is that the band kept things at that level for the rest of the show.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#263, MAY 18 2007).
You know those guitars are, like... double guitars? Yes, it is indeed one of those double guitars, whipped out by Tad Kubler for the mid-section of the set.
This is probably as good a time as any to point out just how bloody dark it was onstage during the show. I'd only seen one Stagedoor show before, but it was plenty well lit. This time out they had two small rigs onstage, pointing at nothing in particular, and that was it. It's kind of unfortunate, since Craig Finn is such an expressive guy when he's performing, that most of the room probably couldn't see much if any detail of what was going on.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#262, MAY 18 2007).
Astonishingly, of all the stuff I recorded at this show -- and it was quite a bit -- this is the only clip that's not from Boys and Girls in America. Instead it's from the band's debut album, which it's hard to believe is only a little over three years old. It's generally a much rougher sounding album than their other two, with more bar band feel. They played a few songs from it, which mixed in pretty well with the newer stuff (that is to say, all of Boys and Girls and a few from Separation Sunday), and had more of the crowd than I'd expect going crazy.
NO!: THE HOLD STEADY (#261, MAY 18 2007).
Before heading out to the Hold Steady show yesterday, I wondered aloud to Emily if they might be in a position to steal away the "best band" title I'd given to the Long Winters after we saw them play in March. And I think they sort of did, but only sort of. If I ever finish writing my top albums of 2006 post, the two bands will share the #1 spot, because I found it impossible to think of ways in which one was clearly insurmountably better than the other. In the same way, their live shows are too divergent to really compare -- the Hold Steady has become the holy grail of would-be arena rock for indie scum like myself. This song, their set and latest album opener, hits that nail pretty squarely on the head and set the sell-out crowd jumping for the next hour.
NO!: SYSTEM AND STATION (#260, MAY 1 2007).
Late in the set, another solid tune from a show with no clunkers. Watching this clip, I realized who it was this band most reminds me of -- a British could-have-been band called My Vitriol, who briefly flared up in 2002 and haven't been heard from since. There's maybe a little bit of Jawbox in there, too, and it combines in a fuzzy sound that nobody else seems to be doing right now. It's a lot of fun to watch get recreated live, especially because the band is so loose onstage, unlike, say, any Ken Andrews-fronted fuzz band.
NO!: SYSTEM AND STATION (#259, MAY 1 2007).
The last time System and Station played Madison it really was an awful shame -- only seven of us stuck around to see their set at the High Noon, which started well after 1:00am. Things went much better this time out. The show started earlier, and even without a big-draw local band on the bill (last time the Selfish Gene brought in probably 30 or so people), there were at least a dozen civilians hanging out for the System and Station set. At a $4 show, I'd expect they all got their money's worth and will hopefully be back for more next time.
NO!: SYSTEM AND STATION (#258, MAY 1 2007).
I don't get why this band doesn't blow up. If I ever finish my write-up, you'll note that their 2006 release, Here Is Now, is among my top 15 albums of that year, and I've only come to appreciate it more since we ticked over to 2007. Their early alternative approach to fuzzrock -- exemplified well on this terrific Here Is Now cut -- should fit well with the crowd that's clamoring for the well-received new Dinosaur Jr record, but for whatever reason their engaging recent output hasn't broken through. Perhaps it's because I can't seem to get a live recording of them without significant bass distortion; I guess we'll never know.
NO!: THE BLOODY AWFUL (#257, MAY 1 2007).
I think Madison's got a hot new band on its hands with the Bloody Awful, who made their debut last week supporting System and Station. Fronted by former solo act John Mars, the band has a clean power-pop sound which I imagine will play well in a town that's still missing Charlemagne, though whether we needed another shirt-and-tie band right now is a question left unanswered. They were a little rough in places, but very solid for a first show. My only real complaint is that I think they closed with what was by far their best song, a rollicking stomper about zombies.
NO!: FROM THE HEADLINE (#256, APR 13 2007).
I, ah... I actually have nothing to say about this clip. It's a rocker from the end of their set. The crowd's started to get into a bit by this point -- I think they may have something here, with a bit more tightening up and stage-assuredness.
NO!: FROM THE HEADLINE (#255, APR 13 2007).
Since posting the first of these clips I figured out who these guys remind of -- Thursday, which is weird, because when I actually think about it they don't sound that much like Thursday. Certainly there is no screaming to start with, but Thursday just seems to have a much harsher, crunchier sound. On this song it's a little easier to see the comparison, I think; it's a piano-driven ballad-y tune done up in post-classic emo style. Also, see if you can spot the audience members with balloon hats!
NO!: FROM THE HEADLINE (#254, APR 13 2007).
We went to the Miramar Theatre last weekend to record the Box Social's single release show -- something of a Milwaukee pop-rock showcase, actually, though we only got there in time to really see one of the opening acts. Comprised of guys from various other Milwaukee bands, From the Headline have what I would call a pre-2003 emo sound that they're still growing into on-stage. One of things that I really liked about them is that they said the name of each song they played -- very helpful for someone who's recording a handful of clips, since they don't have a record out yet -- but this one they got out of order. They announced it as "All-Purpose Room," but then before the next song said, hey, no, this one is actually "All-Purpose Room." So I don't know what this one's called.
NO!: BOUND STEMS (#253, MAR 22 2007).
We had the pleasure of witnessing the public debut of this new Bound Stems show, which was made all the better by the big recorder melody in the middle of it. Or would have been, that is, if the band's keyboardist/recorder player knew which part of the recorder needed to go by the mic in order to be heard. I think the recorder is woefully underused in indie rock, but it's too bad that you can't really hear it in this performance.
NO!: BOUND STEMS (#252, MAR 22 2007).
I was quite glad to have another dose of the Bound Stems so soon after we saw them open for Maritime. In just two sets they've become one of those regional acts that I really look forward to seeing. Their playfulness on-stage did a nice job of corralling the crowd and setting things up for the Long Winters to come out -- hopefully they also made enough fans of their own to be back here frequently.
NO!: STARS OF TRACK AND FIELD (#251, MAR 22 2007).
Stars of Track and Field are coming back to the High Noon later this month to play a show with Joseph Arthur & the Lonely Astronauts, and I'm not sure about going to it. I liked their set a lot, and I generally dig their music, but as you can hear in this clip, I don't think the room really agreed with them. Their atmospheric approach echoed a lot, to the point where you really can't discern any of the lyrics in this non-album track. Their show is the same night as Ted Leo's in town, though, which means it probably won't be too crowded; I guess I'll have to see if I like Joseph Arthur enough to push it over the top.
NO!: STARS OF TRACK AND FIELD (#250, MAR 22 2007).
And now, back to the skipped opening acts from the Long Winters show!
One of the many great things about this show was the terrific support on the bill. The second band of the evening, Stars of Track and Field, surprised me by putting on a set that was a lot more engaging than what I'd heard of their recorded material. They also brought along a more involved light show than the High Noon usually hosts, the only downside of which was that the stage was generally much darker than at any other time during the evening. Still, I think the atmosphere of it comes through in this clip.
NO!: THE NERVOUS SYSTEM (#249, MAR 30 2007).
While the more rocking songs in their set seemed a little undernourished at this point in their career, the ones that tried something a little different, like this heavy surf numer, worked really well. It's a simple tune and built on a simple pound-and-shimmer riff, which they wisely tend to stay out of the way of. I'd say about half their record is like that, and half is stuff that isn't quite ready. Hopefully as they continue growing as a band they'll focus more on the idiosyncratic stuff that's already standing out as their stronger material.
NO!: THE NERVOUS SYSTEM (#248, MAR 30 2007).
I'm still very much on the fence about the Nervous System. I first became interested in them because they have two guys from the late, great Super Eights, whom I thought they'd be like. They're actually much less fully formed, though, and less energized. This song -- the album opener and lead promo track -- illustrates well the trouble with their approach. It's a nice little jangly pop song, but it doesn't quite know where it's going and takes a minute too long to get there. All the necessary parts for a pretty good song are there, they just aren't put together in the right order.
NO!: THE NERVOUS SYSTEM (#247, MAR 30 2007).
The Nervous System took about 45 minutes to take the stage after Sleeping in the Aviary, and some of the crowd had taken off by then. The first few songs in their set were a little ramshackle -- and this one in particular came with some unidentified little intro song -- as they began to settle in to what was their first show with a new member.
NO!: SLEEPING IN THE AVIARY (#246, MAR 30 2007).
At about 75 seconds long, this song is shorter than the average SitA tune, but not by much. Unlike the short bursts of melody played by big-time pop-punk bands, which usually come out to three minutes or so, these guys really do play short bursts. Following the recent release of their new album, they've been touring a lot, and this was something of a rare Madison appearance for them. I wonder, then, if they're on the verge of breaking through with these near-fragments. Their live shows get deservedly great press, and maybe in the modern age that's enough to overcome a songwriting style that's no good for radio.
NO!: SLEEPING IN THE AVIARY (#245, MAR 30 2007).
I listened to Sleeping in the Aviary's record a couple times last week, and I was struck by how good it was. A lot of the songs -- despite being just fragments in some cases -- have a really bright pop sheen to them, which is just the opposite of the lo-fi buzz that my mind expects; the first of these two songs is particularly surprising to listen to when you haven't heard it in a while. I wonder if that has to do with how popular they seem to be in the local scene -- the King Club was fairly packed for their opening set at this show, but had thinned out a bit by the time the headlining, and CD-releasing Nervous System took the stage.
NO!: THE LONG WINTERS (#244, MAR 22 2007).
This was the first song to really capture my attention on Putting the Days to Bed, and it's the only one of my big, rousing Long Winters favorites that I managed to record. According to the anecdote from yesterday's clip, at least one person thinks it's anti-feminist, but I'm not sure I see that. It's certainly harsher than most of their older material, but I think that's mostly true for the record as a whole.
NO!: THE LONG WINTERS (#243, MAR 22 2007).
To be honest, I'd totally forgotten this song even existed. I haven't listened to 2005's Ultimatum EP -- what the band calls a "studio experiment" -- in a while, but this song does a terrific job as the lead track of setting an atmosphere that wouldn't quite fit on any of their full-length albums. It's ethereal and icy in some ways, but also warm and welcoming in the tender calls of Roderick's vocals. This performance shot the song right back into my set of favorite Long Winters songs, and into heavy rotation this week on my iPod. (And bonus: the amusing story of one person's reaction to "Rich Wife"!)
NO!: THE LONG WINTERS (#242, MAR 22 2007).
One of the really awesome things about this show is that it reminded me just how many great songs they have in 3+ albums (2+ really, since their first was kind of tonally different). This is a song I sometimes skip when listening to When I Pretend to Fall because it follows three sublime opening tracks, and its just-pretty-goodness isn't always enough for me. Live, I was reminded what a terrific piece of work it is. Indeed, I said to Emily afterwards that they had enough great material that they didn't play ("Shapes" and "New Girl, come on!) to do an entire extra set that would stand up to the quality of the first. If only Zach Galifianakis hadn't been in town the next night, we might've followed them to Milwaukee to find out.
NO!: THE LONG WINTERS (#241, MAR 22 2007).
After starting with a couple slower ones, the band moved into their faster, more rockish material with this song. From our position in the balcony we could see the crowd -- probably half a sell-out, not bad for a Thursday night -- beginning to get into it. This was the first of several requests solicited by Roderick, and you could tell that he was really connecting with the crowd right from the start.
NO!: THE LONG WINTERS (#240, MAR 22 2007).
Normally I post my videos in the order they came in the show, but I'm bumping the opening bands this time because I can't wait to get these Long Winters clips out there. This set-opener is actually the last track on their most recent album and gives a nice taste of what they had coming. Frontman John Roderick's playful tone (and surprisingly Will Ferrell-like appearance) lit the show up from the very start, giving us probably the best concert of the year thus far.
NO!: OK GO (#239, MAR 13 2007).
OK Go did their "A Million Ways" dance in their encore, but first they played their second album's first single. Everybody kind of went crazy because it was the last song of a long night, and it didn't hurt that they blew off the confetti cannons a couple more times to make for probably a ton or so of total confetti blown out throughout the show.
NO!: OK GO (#238, MAR 13 2007).
The lads of OK Go are showmen first and foremost, and they always seem to have a great cover or two somewhere in their set. At Summerfest a few years back they played a note-perfect cover of Toto's "Hold the Line"; this time it was an amazing, rock-out on ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down," which found singer Damian Kulash traipsing out into the audience for the song's peak. This was the kind of thing they're really great at -- a big moment to drive through into the last third of the show.
NO!: OK GO (#237, MAR 13 2007).
One of the many pieces of unnecessary branded swag that Jack Daniel's handed out before the show was a light-up pen. This pen is designed such that when you press the button at the end -- the kind of button many pens have -- it lights up, but the pen tip doesn't emerge. You have to swivel the end to get the pen out, which is a totally brilliant design.
Anyway, when I saw it I decided that it would be awesome to ironically hold up during a ballad, like maybe this song. My plans were thwarted, however, when the band asked that everybody hold up their phones, cameras and whatever during the second verse, which they obligingly did. So I filmed, while Emily held the pen up non-ironically amidst a sea of technology. And now we let the cats play with the pen.
NO!: OK GO (#236, MAR 13 2007).
One of the treats of this show was an apparently rare performance of "A Million Ways," which the band got mildly famous for dancing to on YouTube. Never wanting to disappoint, they still ended their encore with the dance routine version. The bad part? I really wanted to hear the "fucking train song" that they mentioned not being able to play anymore. At least release a demo of it or something -- come on!
NO!: OK GO (#235, MAR 13 2007).
The thing about these corporate-sponsored free shows is that winning an "invitation" isn't enough to get in. To ensure that they get a packed house, they notify way more "winners" than they can fit in the venue, and the first 250 or so get in. Knowing this, we arrived and got in line about 40 minutes before the doors officially opened. My hope was to get a prime spot up at the front of the balcony, because I knew there'd be a lot of waiting around before the main event started and also because the sound on my Apples in Stereo clips was a little distorted from being so close to the stage. Well, come to find out just after we got in line that the balcony was reserved for the VIPs brought in by the sponsors. We wound up instead standing in just about the same spot as we stood for Apples, which was a decent enough spot, but again a little distort-y. Still, it's nothing that can't be overlooked in this clip from early in the set, which set the tone for the bombast and fun to come.
NO!: THE APPLES IN STEREO (#234, FEB 26 2007).
In the second half of their set, with all their technical problems sorted out, the Apples began to really dive into their newer material. In particular, they played three of my favorites in succession: "Same Old Drag," "Skyway" and "7 Stars," which I think is probably my favorite track on the new album. None of the songs were quite the same as the recorded versions -- they lacked both the studio experimentation that got laid to tape and the female backing vocals that are scattered around the album takes -- but they all got huge responses from the crowd. New Magnetic Wonder had only been out for three weeks before this show, but the audience's familiarity with the new songs makes me think that not just a few people in attendance downloaded the leak that appeared online in late 2006.
NO!: THE APPLES IN STEREO (#233, FEB 26 2007).
When the band came out, they were led by one of their keyboard players, who, for whatever reason, was wearing some sort of space-magician outfit and glasses with blue lasers on the temples. We expected the rest of the band to also be dressed in some crazy way, but it was just space key guy. He would've fit better stylistically with the opening band, Casper & the Cookies, who played sort of a glammed up version of the Elephant 6 sound -- a little more Of Montreal than Apples. They were a good fit for a show and seemed to be pretty well-received by the crowd.
NO!: THE APPLES IN STEREO (#232, FEB 26 2007).
This song is the first single from New Magnetic Wonder, and also among my least favorite tracks on that album. It's OK, but feels much less dynamic than the really good stuff that surrounds, and I also have a prejudice against songs that begin with the word "and." The odd thing is that early on in their set, they played so much old stuff combined with all the stuff I like least from the new record, and I found myself wondering if I just had a completely different idea about what made this band good than the band themselves. It was all cleared up later, though, when they played about half a dozen great new tracks in a row.
NO!: THE APPLES IN STEREO (#231, FEB 26 2007).
It was a packed house last night for the Apples in Stereo -- probably a sell-out, but it was hard to tell from where we were standing -- and they did not disappoint. The early part of their set was both marred by technical difficulties and full of older material like this song, which really got the true believers going. With such a big back catalog, it seemed like they spent about half the set just trying to establish the point from which to begin their first Madison show in years. Their new record is both a big step forward and a long time coming, and they did a nice job setting up the big block of new stuff that came later in the set.
NO!: MARITIME (#230, FEB 2 2007).
The second new song of the evening was a bit longer and came with an accompanying discussion of the doomsday clock, so think upbeat. It's got the feeling of what you might expect from a Maritime epic, despite the fact that they don't really have any "epics," per se, in their catalog. A third new song was featured in their encore, and the three of them give me a good feeling about their upcoming album, which I hope will be out by the end of the year.
NO!: MARITIME (#229, FEB 2 2007).
We probably won't get to see Maritime again too soon, as they're beginning work on their third album and only playing out sparingly. But as a going-away gift, we got three new songs at this show, and they all sounded pretty good and well evolved. The sound steps out into pushy rock a bit more than We, the Vehicles did, and I liked it based on the songs we heard.
NO!: MARITIME (#228, FEB 2 2007).
Maritime closed out this cold show to an extremely warm welcome from the large crowd. While touring We, the Vehicles, I think they've really established themselves pretty firmly as Wisconsin's best band, and also a friend of Madison, as this was their third free campus show in a year. This opener was one of I think only two tracks they played from their first album, to go with almost all of their second.
NO!: BOUND STEMS (#227, FEB 2 2007).
Bound Stems are another up and coming Chicago band, but their sound takes more from the angular emo heritage of Washington, DC, than from Chicago's past. They're another one of those regional bands that I've been wanting to see for a while, and it turns out I'll have a chance to do so again soon when they open for the Long Winters. Hopefully this foreshadows them becoming a frequently visiting act ala the Dials or the Reputation. Madison could use more regular appearances by touring acts that aren't a) jam bands, or b) the Electric Six.
NO!: BOUND STEMS (#226, FEB 2 2007).
Ted Leo's coming to play at Club 770 in April, at a student price of $14. I like Ted Leo a lot, but I've not had any intention of going to that show, for just the reason one of the Bound Stems mentions at the beginning of this clip. During the previous song all the lights in the room went off. At other times during the show, various instruments or mics weren't playing out through the PA. Club 770 has equipment problems at every damn I see there, which is fine when it's free, but not so much when it's not.
On the plus side, Emily became a fan of these guys during their set, even though a) she didn't like them when I played Appreciation Night for her, and b) she almost never starts liking bands by hearing them live. So, bonus.
NO!: KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS (#225, FEB 2 2007).
I'd been wanting to see these guys for a while -- with two former Troubled Hubbles and Jim Hanke from El Oso, they've got a winning pedigree -- but I don't know if they've played Madison before or if they've really been pushing it in general. This song is from their only release to date, a EP documenting a live set they played on Milwaukee's WMSE. It's a lot less than I wanted to buy from them after their set, but the cool thing about it is that each CD is covered by a unique polaroid shot just before the show. The one I bought featured an extreme close-up of the drummer from Maritime.
NO!: KID, YOU'LL MOVE MOUNTAINS (#224, FEB 2 2007).
I know that, as a Wisconsinite, I'm supposed to hate Chicago and everything in it, but it's hard not to notice how super-fine their local music scene is compared to Madison and Milwaukee these days. Kid, You'll Move Mountains (which is actually 80% Chicago, 20% Milwaukee) is the latest entrant in the long Chicago indie rock line and should be making big noise if and when they get an album out. They have two former members of Troubled Hubble, but come more out of the Braid/Cap'n Jazz tradition than TH did. Impressive stuff, and hopefully they're back here soon.
NO!: ZOLOF THE ROCK & ROLL DESTROYER (#223, JAN 30 2007).
As they ended their set I was surprisingly satisfied. We'd driven all the way over to Milwaukee to see a half-hour set (the headlining act was actually the Loved Ones, whom we didn't care about) that was just as hot as the last time we saw them, albeit in a much more cavernous room. The first band was done by the time we arrived, but we still wound up sitting through two local opening bands before Zolof came on -- both of which basically stunk -- and it was still an evening full of fun.
NO!: ZOLOF THE ROCK & ROLL DESTROYER (#222, JAN 30 2007).
Until I looked up the origins of this song, the only time I'd ever heard reference to Chamillionaire was a running joke on an early episode of 30 Rock, and yet, this song went over like gangbusters. They recently posted a live recording of it to their myspace page, which could explain why some people toward the front had a dance routine they were eager to try out.
NO!: ZOLOF THE ROCK & ROLL DESTROYER (#221, JAN 30 2007).
The second new song they played doesn't have a name yet that I could find, but it does have a much poppier, more old-school-Zolof sound than "Can't Stand It" -- the beginning actually sounds a lot like "The Hot Situation" for a moment before transitioning into a different melody. It's another winner, and I've been scouring the Intertubes to no avail looking for a high-quality live recording of it -- higher quality than my back-corner, mono one, at any rate.
NO!: ZOLOF THE ROCK & ROLL DESTROYER (#220, JAN 30 2007).
Zolof recently put out their first release since 2004 -- a split covers EP with Reel Big Fish. Unfortunately, they didn't play their scorching cover of the Human League's "Don't You Want Me," but they did play a couple of their own new songs from what I hope is an upcoming new album. This one is available at their myspace page and is catchy as hell, despite sounding a bit different from their Jalopy Go Far/Popsicle stuff. It's a good start, to be sure, but now I need more!
NO!: ZOLOF THE ROCK & ROLL DESTROYER (#219, JAN 30 2007).
It takes a lot to get us to go to shows in Milwaukee these days, but Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer -- even in an opening slot, even in a less than perfect venue -- is more than enough. With the Journey now closed and with Zolof recording new material, they probably won't be back to Madison soon, but this show at the Miramar Theatre was well worth the trip. This track, their standard opener, provided a hot start to the set and got the sizable crowd jumping.
NO!: HELIGOATS (#218, JAN 19 2007).
While he's been recording songs for his record in a proper studio with real mixes and stuff, Chris has also been posting new material on the Heligoats myspace page. He said that some of it was just experimenting and messing around, so I guess those songs may not be on the album. He played several of them during his set, including this one, which, as he explains, is a complicated story about a porn actor who's surprised to find that the guns being used as props in his porn movie are... not real. If they're not on the album, hopefully they'll see some kind of permanent release, because they're all pretty good tunes.
NO!: HELIGOATS (#217, JAN 19 2007).
About a year after seeing the amazing Heligoats/Jason Anderson show, we saw Heligoats again, but this time it was Chris Otepka by himself. He's been in the studio working on a new record for several months, and this is presumably one of the songs that will be on it. Like most of what he played in his set, Chris gave a description before playing this one -- shorter than most of them -- that expanded on what the song was all about. Some of them, like the one about the middle-aged couple that pretend to sleep, were really more like extended complementary stories than song introductions.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#216, JAN 6 2007).
I noted a couple weeks ago that I'd gone to a show at the Loft and gotten almost all useless footage because of the camera's less-than-capable built-in mic. In fact, this clip was the only salvageable thing out of an hour or so of footage that featured four different bands. And even this -- just Box Social singer Nick Junkunc and his guitar -- is almost too much in places. The needle tips into the red a bit when the lyrics peek, which makes me really thankful for those little bootlegger mics I found.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#215, JAN 18 2007).
Probably my favorite song of the Box Social's new material is this song, "Pay Attention." The opening back-and-forth presents a lot of opportunities as a video transition (which betrays how I'm thinking of these things lately) but I also find the change in tone from the verses to the chorus to be really catchy.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#214, JAN 18 2007).
Over the course of the last few months I've been producing a documentary for the Box Social about their album-recording process. During my time in the studio with them, this song and "Easy Does It" (which I posted an early version of last spring) are the ones that I heard the most, and consequently they're the ones that tended to get stuck in my head. Above and beyond my chronic exposure to it, though, I think this is a solid pop song that has some potential. It's got a Local H-ish vibe to it, but thicker, and it makes for a good set opener.
NO!: THE BOX SOCIAL (#213, JAN 18 2007).
The Box Social are getting their upcoming LP ready to go and also heading back to school, so they're off the road for a while and playing a few home shows like this one at the King Club. This song is the first single from the record and got a pretty good crowd response. I've warmed up to it a lot since I first heard it -- I generally don't like music about music, but I really like the way the bright verses transition to a much darker metal sound in the chorus.
NO!: JAIL (#212, JAN 11 2007).
Every once in a while, Jail turns out a song that's entirely in the vein of the pop gems of the mid-60's, and this new song is one of those. The jangly verses and call-and-answer chorus would, I think, make for a nice centerpiece on their next record.
NO!: JAIL (#211, JAN 11 2007).
When we went to Michigan for four days after Xmas, the weather was crap the whole time. We only saw a little bit of actual rain, but we had total cloud cover the entire time we were outside of Madison. As soon as we got home it cleared up, only to turn dim again when we left town to go to this show. It was that kind of awful wetness were you can't even see the lane lines anymore and everybody keeps slamming on their brakes for no good reason. This was trumped two days later when I drove back to Milwaukee out of a snowstorm.
All of which has nothing to do with this new song, one of three new ones they played during their set.
NO!: JAIL (#210, JAN 11 2007).
This week (and, indeed, next week) I'd planned to be running clips from a local band showcase at the Loft a week ago. Turns out, though, that my new camera's one weakness is the built-in mic. Almost everything I recorded was just a wall of garbled, distorted noise. Luckily, it does have a connection for an external mic, and I went right out and bought a hand-built audience mic set from AudioReality.com. My first chance to test them out was this Jail show, in what I expect will be some of the worst conditions I'll record in -- a small room with not that many people to absorb soundwaves, and standing right by a wall to boot. Despite all that, the sound came out decent enough considering I didn't have time to test the bass filter settings.
NO!: CAKE (#209, JAN 1 2007).
The biggest difference I noticed between this show and our previous Cake show a couple years back was the lack of songs like this -- severely extended versions in which John McCrea spends three or four minutes giving audience participation the hard sell. There were a few this time, but at the last show it seemed like they did nothing but. It was probably for the best this time, as he seemed to have trouble getting some of the crowd going and it was a less intimate venue.
NO!: CAKE (#208, JAN 1 2007).
I suppose this is as good a place as any to talk about the show in general. Here's the thing: When you knowingly overpay for a new year's "event" show, you really oughtn't have any lingering ripped-off feelings afterwards. Somehow, whatever Milwaukee radio station put this show together managed to cause just that, however. Most of what was advertised for the show simply wasn't there. The first opening act, the Scarring Party, actually played a "pre-party" before the main show. The complimentary hors d'oeurves apparently didn't last until showtime. We'd read about tarot card readers somewhere, which didn't happen. The midnight champagne toast was apparently just for the band, who used the stroke of 2007 as an opportunity for an unannounced ten-minute break in their set. And, of course, cocktails were almost $8 at the bar. I guess what I'm saying is, if your MOR radio station wants to put on a show like this and not come through, fine, but please don't have your stupid morning zoo crew DJ's spend fully a half an hour on stage doing their schtick. I'd have gladly chipped in an extra $5 to not sit through that idiocy, which is the biggest reason I don't listen to the radio as it is.
That said, please enjoy this cover of Bread's "The Guitar Man."
NO!: CAKE (#207, JAN 1 2007).
It's sort of ironic that this is the song with which I debut my flashy new graphics for 2007. It's also sort of ironic that it's from a show we paid almost $200 total to see. Easily the best song from Cake's first album, it's a bouncy screed against scene kids, music industry stooges and the product that we call "rebellion." Most of the people there didn't get it, I think, in particular the people behind us who kept screaming out random lyrics without a hint of self-awareness -- these same people had spent the intermission loudly complaining about some guy they thought was a "fuckin' homo," so maybe I'm just choosing not to give them the benefit of the doubt. The point is, it's as good a reality check as there is for the Gen XYZ narcissists who think their $30 Hot Topic t-shirts make them unique, and that anyone thinks they're scary. Whatever happened to rock and roll, anyway? I don't mean the music, which remains at least as vibrant as it's been for the past ten years or so, and I don't even really mean the attitude, but the viewpoint. Why do I see band members' parents at every fucking local show I go to these days? Why do I see 98-pound boys with four-inch spacers singing songs that land somewhere between John Mayer and James Blunt? How did contemporary American youth come to absorb marketing imagery to such a degree? Can I assume this is somehow the fault of the Baby Boomers? I hope so, because I do.
"Excess ain't rebellion," the song says, "Your chaos won't convert them." And all they want to say is that they want to be heard.
(Oh yeah, halfway through the song, some woman somehow got on stage and started shaking her junk, and it just happened to be right in frame. Serendipity, I'd wager.)
NO!: CAKE (#206, DEC 31 2006).
I love going to see a band that I haven't listened to in a while, and then early in the show they play a really great song. Just some amazing album cut that isn't one of their hits, or a song that necessarily comes immediately to mind when you think of them, but a killer song that makes you want to cheer just hearing the first few notes. Seriously, this is a fucking awesome song, one of their best.
NO!: CAKE (#205, DEC 31 2006).
After our second set of "extreme juggling," which maybe I'll get around to YouTubing one of these days, Cake came out to the roaring admiration of the crowd. They opened with, of all things, this album cut from their fourth record. A surprising choice, I thought, but one which provided plenty of moments for both the trumpet and the vibraslap to shine.
NO!: SCREAMIN' CYN-CYN & THE PONS (#204, JAN 7 2006).
I'd meant to post this last month sometime, but forgot about it until I was finalizing the DVD's, which uses this clip under its credits sequence. I recorded this clip one year ago today, at the Dials' High Noon show, for which Screamin' Cyn-Cyn & the Pons were the last opening act. The Pons are a local noise/speed metal/drag punk act that everybody really ought to see once in their life. Their short bursts of energy -- this one coming in at about a minute long -- are hilariously engaging, and their set is really a kind of cracked-out lounge act unto itself. See them.
NO!: MARITIME (#203, DEC 31 2006).
With a sell-out crowd of about 2700 in the seats, this was Maritime's biggest ever hometown show. They played up to the occasion, at least to my eyes and ears. Unlike many club bands, who don't know how to use all the space of a theater stage, they spread out, moved around and used the whole room. Unfortunately, there were still lots of ushers wandering around with latecomers in the aisle, so I had to duck the camera out of sight here and there, not wanting it to be removed half an hour into the show. Turned out that they didn't really care, I think, but you never can tell with bigger venues.
NO!: MARITIME (#202, DEC 31 2006).
Well, with a new year here, it's upgrade time. I got for Xmas a Canon Elura 100 DV camcorder, and its first time out was the big new year's eve show with Cake and Maritime at the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. This first Maritime clip is the very first thing I recorded with the camera -- you may notice that it's in widescreen, that there are zooms in and out, that the video is really clean-looking, etc. It's a terrific little camera, especially for its size -- it's not much bigger than the Sony Cybershot I'd been using, and fits right in the palm of my hand. I'll be using it to record most stuff I post from now on, except for shows where I have to sneak a camera in very sneakily.
This song was the first one that made me take notice of Maritime, when I heard it on their debut EP back in 2003. It's a great, simple pop song that encapsulates the earliest incarnation of their sound really well. Not everybody in the audience thought so, though, since as you'll see tons of people were coming and going or just standing in the aisle for no particular reason during the set.