always it’s in my head

I know I’ve said it many times already, but another affirmation won’t hurt: Night Moves is one of my favorite bands to see live. Last week we featured a video mixtape from bassist Micky Alfano before their show in Madison, Wisconsin at the High Noon Saloon on January 24, 2013 for FRZN Fest and then caught up with the band that night. Their performance was one of the tightest I’ve seen by them – they’ve settled into a well-worn groove of a band whose members are comfortable with each other. Be sure to catch them on tour and let us know what you think!

Click on any of the photos for more shots from the night, or click here.

pondamonium 2012 part one: i’m only happy when it rains

“It began here; it could end here. I can think of worse places to die.”

As rain poured down on the crowd at Pondamonium 2012, hosted by the Madison Mallards at their Duck Pond stadium on August 9th, 2012, Garbage’s Shirley Manson joked about slipping and breaking her neck. Storming throughout the day, the rain held itself off in the early evening only to open in a downpour within minutes of Garbage starting their set.

After seven years away, the band sounds re-energized and as good as ever. I had first seen them in 2005 at the Orpheum, but my love for them began ten years before with the release of their self-titled debut. I lived in a small town outside of Madison, which as a sixth-grader felt much farther away than the seventeen miles that separated my home from Garbage’s. Even as a sixth-grader I was music-obsessed, watching MTV every chance I got and listening to the now-defunct 92.1 WMAD.

The first time I saw the music video for “Only Happy When It Rains” I fell totally and completely in love with the band (further detailed here) and that head-over-heels feeling hasn’t really subsided. While shooting the band in the photo pit at Pondamonium I was the one singing along when not grinning ear-to-ear or staring slack-jawed at the idol of my teen years.

For their homecoming, Garbage played an ideal set: a fair amount of new songs bolstered by the best of their previous releases (including, much to my friend’s and my delight, “#1 Crush” off the Romeo & Juliet soundtrack). I was impressed with how undated their songs remain – no one sounds like Garbage and they don’t sound like anyone else, yet their sound continues to evolve. The first time I heard their new album’s lead single “Blood for Poppies” was by catching an instrumental bit while using the scan feature on my car radio. Within seconds I knew it was Garbage. The new material sounded polished and melded nicely into the band’s catalog – none of the awkward ‘waiting for the new song(s) to be over so they’ll get back to the hits’ that sometimes happens when an established act comes back after a long hiatus.

Nearly as entertaining as the music was the band’s love affair with Madison and the fans. Said Manson, “I didn’t go to school here. I didn’t fall in love here. Oh, yes I did. Oopsie!” She then proceeded to offer up each member of the band, forcing them to say a few words about the occasion. Drummer Butch Vig offered gratitude for the career-spanning support he’s found here, from his bands Spooner and  The Know-It-All Boyfriends to his and guitarist Steve Marker’s Smart Studios. Marker also offered thanks, and hometown fixture Duke Erikson expressed more through the look of joy on his face while performing than with the kind he words he shared at Manson’s insistence.

Regardless of where Erikson, Marker, Vig, and Manson take up residence, the Pondamonium show made one thing clear: Madison will always be Garbage’s home.

Check out more photos from Garbage’s set here. | Next up: The Flaming Lips at Pondamonium 2012

i am the silence, you are the marching band

The Mess We’ve Made, the new album from Bad Veins, is power-pop at its finest. Most of the tracks make you want to dance, but it’s not mindless beats and easy repetition that get you there.

The album kicks off with “Child”, full of thick bass and strings. Single “Dancing on TV” follows it up, calling back to some of the fun of mid-90s tracks like Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” and Weezer-offshoot The Rentals’ “Friends with P“. “Don’t Run” closes out the top of the album. One of the more memorable songs from their live show, it radiates pure joy with its cascading strings.

“Not Like You” is appropriately titled for its departure from the sound found on the rest of the album. Loose and jazzy, the bass punches as saxophones slither and hand claps keep the time. There’s a distinctly live feel about it; you can practically see the sidemen in front of you.

Beautiful strings and poetic lyrics mark “If Then” as the takeaway track. While it’s not representative of the majority of the band’s sound, it provides an emotional anchor for the album, much like “Go Home” did for their self-titled debut. Lines like “I am the harbor / your ship has sailed” hit right where it hurts, and the pain is exquisite.

“If Then” was one of the band’s most striking songs during their set at the Majestic Theater in Madison, WI on March 24, 2012. Bad Veins’s songs are multi-layered and lush, so as a two-piece they had the potential to fall short. Not to worry; frontman/guitarist Benjamin Davis is quite funny and drummer Sebastien Schultz is entertaining to watch, his technique full of large, sweeping movements. To flesh out their sound to match what they can do in the studio, Davis and Schultz employ keys, a telephone mic, and, most importantly, a reel to reel named Irene. Their set is polished but not mechanical; Davis is dry but has heart. We are the silence; they are the marching band.

The Mess We’ve Made dropped 04.24.12.
Find out more at their official website.