we would never be the same

Built to Spill – Never Be the Same

There’s something pleasantly familiar about the bass line of this track from Built to Spill, and sometimes that’s what you want. BTS and I have a weird history, in that I got into them late, listened to them a fair amount, and then subconsciously stopped when they ended up being the soundtrack to me getting robbed while on a crowded bus in San Francisco’s Chinatown. I’ll never be the same, but it might be time to be different again.

Built to Spill hits Madison’s High Noon Saloon on May 26th. More dates here.

the black rose, the screaming eagle of soul

Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires brought soul, funk, and sequins to the High Noon Saloon on December 4, 2013. The victim of love himself shouted and shimmied his way through two sets and an encore, often proclaiming his love for the crowd and even stepping offstage to hug his fans. Click on any photo below to see more shots from the night, or follow this link.

back, back, back

Caroline Smith has been very popular in Madison, and for years I’ve been on the outside looking in. I first saw Smith with her band The Goodnight Sleeps at the High Noon Saloon a couple of years ago and was so bored that I actually went to go sit down in the back. I tend to be overly picky about female singers, and women in the singer-songwriter category almost never are a hit with me. I saw the band again after the release of Little Wind and while there was a song or two that wasn’t bad I still just couldn’t get excited about Caroline Smith the way so many of my friends did.

Smith released a new album, Half About Being a Woman, in October and it was reported that her sound was markedly different. When I saw she was opening for Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires at the High Noon Saloon on December 4, 2013 I thought I should give her another look.

What I’d heard was right – she has taken a new approach to her style. Most notably she’s replaced her band and moved from acoustic to electric. The more robust instrumentation allows Smith to push her voice and for the first time I noticed how lovely it really is. While some remnants of her shared past with Haley Bonar and Colbie Caillat remain, the new material references soul and 90s R&B. Generally Smith seems to have left some of the wide-eyed earnestness behind and has embraced fun – her set was full of smiles and dancing and even a few of Kendrick Lamar’s verses. I’m still not head over heels for Smith, but I can say that I’ll no longer skip her set when she’s on the bill.

Caroline Smith returns to Madison & the High Noon on January 16, 2013 as part of FRZN Fest.
See more photos from her December show here.
You can find more from Caroline Smith here.

all the city’s left for you

I’ve been digging on California Wives since we first heard them this summer. On January 25, 2013 I finally got a chance to check them out at the High Noon Saloon as part of FRZN Fest in Madison, Wisconsin. Playing a bulk of their album, Art History, California Wives evoke the 80s without being kitsch. Their sound is firmly planted in the present but one immediately knows the familiar landscape of the band’s upbringing.

Art History‘s songs are well-crafted, but they take on a new urgency and depth live. “Better Home” was the set’s apex, crashing relentlessly over the crowd during the song’s last two minutes. The band smartly reserved their self-proclaimed danciest songs for the end, knocking out “Marianne”, “Purple”, and “Blood Red Youth” in quick succession. Combined with charming banter and visual panache, California Wives gave one of the most solid performances I’ve seen in awhile.

Click on any of the photos below to see more pictures of California Wives, or click here.

Jayson Kramer
Graham Masell
Joe O’Connor
Dan Zima

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.

the night moves video mixtape

Over the course of 2012, I fell in love with Night Moves. The first time I saw them play “Horses” I was hooked, and having a hard-won, mid-set staring contest with vocalist/guitarist John Pelant at the Swan Dive in Austin during SXSW sealed the deal. Pelant, bassist Micky Alfano, and multi-instrumentalist Mark Ritsema bring the sounds of the sun-baked south of the 70s to their Minneapolitan home, drenching it in Purple Rain-soaked vibes. On Thursday, January 24th, 2013, Night Moves will play the first night of FRZN Fest at the High Noon in Madison, Wisconsin along with Wild Belle, Psychic Twin, and Ramona Falls. When we heard Night Moves was coming to town, we asked them to make us a mixtape. Below is their video mix, just in time to set the mood for their upcoming set. Hope to see y’all there!
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Burt Bacharach – Nikki
Lil Wayne – This What I Call Her
Leon Russell – Tightrope
Link Wray – Tucson, Arizona
Black Sabbath – Changes
Billy Nichols – Girl from New York
The Impressions – You Want Somebody Else
Rolling Stones – Plundered My Soul
The Flying Burrito Bothers – To Love Somebody
The Isley Brothers – The Highways of My Life

 

we are yearlings

Animal Joy, Shearwater’s latest, has a ragged edge about it – lots of catches and snags that grab your attention. The elevator bassline of “Open Your Houses” is simple, but it digs its heels in. On “Insolence” the chilling guitar and skittering drums raise the hackles on the back of your neck, and lead single “Breaking the Yearlings” is dark and primal – the beating heart that lies beneath.

On February 19, 2012, Shearwater played their new songs for Madison, Wisconsin, at the High Noon Saloon. The songs translate well to a live setting; the sound is thick, every note deliberate. Singer and founding member Jonathan Meiburg’s voice is extremely powerful, nearly taking the house down on its own. While Shearwater’s songs generally have a serious, almost urgent feel, Meiburg and company are affable and clearly happy to be on stage.

Unsurprisingly, the songs that stood out most on the album are the same songs that shone brightest on stage, with the addition of a lovely performance of “I Was a Cloud” off of 2008’s Rook. While a bit of a sleeper on record, it hit a nerve when performed live, harnessing the electricity of the room to feed its quiet intensity.

Animal Joy dropped 02.14.12.
Find tour dates and more at Shearwater’s website.
Click to download “Breaking the Yearlings” and “You As You Were“.
Stream the entire album here.