in the backwoods they understand

Sometimes a body just needs some boot stompin’, beer-swiggin’ American rock and roll. That’s precisely what the crowd got at the Majestic Theater in Madison, Wisconsin on February 15, 2014 when they saw The Wild Feathers.

Affectionately dubbed “The Snowed Out Tour” according to Taylor Burns due to the sub-freezing temperatures the Nashville quintet has been encountering throughout the Midwest, the band warmed up the room with a blazing set that hit every track on their debut record along with a new song. Highlights included “Hard Times,” crowd-sing-along favorite “Left My Woman,” and barn-burner “Backwoods Company”.  Also of note were their well-chosen encore choices by The Band and Led Zeppelin – where their main set was a stone-solid performance the encore was more akin to a jukebox sing-along with your best pals.

Part of The Wild Feathers’s appeal is the diversity found among the members – drummer Ben Dumas can bang it out with the best of them, Burns has a bluesy bent that calls to mind Chris Robinson, and Joel King’s garage-rock howl is tempered by Ricky Young’s gorgeous delivery. Preston Wimberly rounds out the four-part harmonies but really shines on guitar; his solos actually add to the quality of the songs as opposed to being indulgent or distracting. Such a wealth of talent in one place led to a truly memorable evening.

Opening acts Saints of Valory and Jamestown Revival were no slouches either – SOV’s anthemic rock is ready for an arena stage and the Jamestown boys have buckets of charm. The three bands will be touring together into March. Click here to get dates and free tour sampler.

You can check out all the photos from the show here.

Hard Wind, Backwoods Company, I Can Have You, If You Don’t Love Me, Got It Wrong, Hard Times, I’m Alive, How, Tall Boots, [New Song], American, Left My Woman, The Ceiling
Hey Hey What I Can I Do (Led Zeppelin cover), The Weight (The Band cover)

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.

a trip’s what i need

“Half-convinced the singer of Vacationer is Kenny from The Starting Line.” I received this text from a friend who was at Spotify House last month during SXSW. It turns out she was totally right. M|H had featured Vacationer last year on the Summer Jams mixtape, completely unaware that it was fronted by Kenny Vasoli. Having been in love with The Starting Line for a number of years, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Vasoli’s new, beachy project when they opened for The Naked and Famous on April 14, 2012 at the Majestic Theater in Madison, Wisconsin.

As “the Eastern seaboard’s foremost relaxation specialists”, Vacationer is about more than just the music – it’s about the vibe as well. Vasoli kicked things off by telling the crowd, “this is like a big cuddle in music form.” While the band may have intended for the crowd to chill out, the audience had a different idea. Madisonians are a dance-y people; when we like what we hear, we’re going to move. Remarked Vasoli, “this may be our danciest show yet,” and, “we’re going to pick up the pace because you guys are great dancers and we want to take advantage of that.”

Playing a good portion of their debut album, Gone, singer Vasoli radiated joy throughout. From the bass thump of the earnest “Great Love” to the sweet longing of “Be With You” the message was love, love, love – and dancing. “The window to dance to our music is closing but that’s okay because the next one’s a banger. It’s called ‘Trip’.” While yielding more of a blissed-out sway than a body-shaking dip, it was high point of the band’s set.

For tour dates, a free download, or to book a trip of your own, visit Vacationer’s website.

Click either photo to see more shots from the show.

songbook: neighborhood #3 (power out)

In M|H’s weekend feature, songbook, I’ll be looking at some of my favorite songs. Some I haven’t listened to in years, some I keep in regular rotation, but all having in some way informed my life, my taste, and and how I view music.

Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)

I was at a show last night at the Majestic and the between-bands music was Arcade Fire’s stunning debut, Funeral. Arcade Fire has consistently released great material, but there’s always something special about the first time you get to know a band. The first time I heard Funeral in its entirety was at a super-girly sleepover party comprising mostly music nerds. That night my friend Meara taught me two very important things: boxed red wine tastes better cold and Arcade Fire was something special. I love the whole album, but from the very first listen “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” has been my jam. When it came on last night I couldn’t contain myself, I was dancing despite everyone else standing still. Suckers. I could do an entire series on Arcade Fire songs I love (and maybe I will), but for today I invite you to find the light with Funeral and “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” all over again.

project lodge forever

Last Saturday the Majestic in Madison, WI played host to the Project Lodge Benefit Show featuring Julian Lynch, All Tiny Creatures, Icarus Himself, Whitney Mann, and Anna Vogelzang. For those unacquainted with The Project Lodge:

Project Lodge is a home for creators and explorers. Our small storefront on the near East side of Madison serves as an art gallery, performance space, and de facto community center for artists, musicians, filmmakers, authors, and anyone else interested in collaborating towards a thriving creative culture in Madison. We are all ages, 100% volunteer-powered, and completely donation-driven.

The five-band bill moved along swiftly – a decent set from everyone and not a whole lot of downtime (truly living the dream). Anna Vogelzang kicked off the night, her lovely voice and banjo bolstered by upright bass and cello. Next up was Whitney Mann, joined by Allen and Amanda Rigell of Count This Penny. Mann’s voice could easily knock over a linebacker, but she’s got a great sense of when to reign it in and when to belt away.

Transitioning from the country slant of the first two acts was Icarus Himself. Super-solid as usual, I can’t say enough good things about them. All Tiny Creatures put together a great set – interesting drumming, and an overall sound somewhere between indie and jam but sounding like neither genre. ATC was a nice segue to Julian Lynch, who similarly tiptoes around the outside of the indie-rock box.

In all, it was nice to see a solid block of hometown talent, the cornerstone to the success of The Project Lodge. If you want to support The Project Lodge but were unable to make the benefit (or you came to the show and want to give more), check out the ProLo’s Kickstarter campaign.

For more photos from the evening, click here.

south by northeast

Confidential to Madison, WI and surrounding environs: our good friends from Chicago Brighton, MA are coming through Madison on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at the Majestic. They’re hands-down one of our favorite bands to see live (put their name in the search box to your right and you’ll see we’re not exaggerating) and to sweeten the deal they’re playing with Will Hoge. All ages, 8:30 PM, info and tickets here. Let us know if you’re planning on going!