Thursday, May 31, 2007

Report from new guy

Some people say that you should never see sausage produced because it will make you realize what goes in there. Now that I’ve had my first electronic music festival experience, I can ecstatically say that electronic music is nothing like sausage. Why not? Well, for most of the time we were in Detroit, we constantly saw exactly what went into this music, and it was good. At DEMF and the packed, intimate afterbar parties, we gazed at the vinyl from a few feet away while some of the best DJ’s in the business (and some assorted technicians of other instruments) deconstructed beats and put them back together in different and better ways. As someone who has seen precious few live DJ’s, and ocassionally bobbed his head mockingly to a techno beat while at a stoplight, it was a mind-opening music experience.

The bonus for me, new as I am to this world, was the people scenery. All types of people floated around Hart Plaza looking for other members of their given tribe. The result was crystalline - sharp as a tack, not dulling like other sun-soaked music events might be. Add in the otherworldly experience of being in central Detroit, and you get a weekend that may be as stimulating as any you can have in music. Consider my brain, like the beats, taken apart and put back together again. In a different, better way.

Anyone for WEMF or Sundance?

new guy

DEMF - Great Value or the Greatest?

This weekend was an epiphany for me, and I feel as though I’ve been well and truly initiated into the full pleasure and appreciation of live electronic music.

It was just this past March that I experienced my first all-night dance party; and it was on my first trip to Amsterdam, and my first trip to Europe, and it was celebrating the Spring Equinox. So you can see that for me, it was an event of some note. It was a great party too: in and outdoor, North Sea beach on a calm night, two stages and nine artists, playing progressive- and trance- for 12 hours. So Movement 07 was just my second such experience – and what an awesome time it was!

Charles Webster works his magic

But I don’t think that it was only my “newbie enthusiasm” that made this such a great personal experience. Props have got to be given to Paxahau for the incredible quality of this production. My traveling companions are the true audiophiles, but I thought the sound was outstanding. I’ve got some good (not great) quality earplugs, and I try to always remember to have them on hand at a show. But I rarely felt the need for decibel relief at DEMF– despite the fact that the beat was loud enough to create a deeply visceral experience.

Oh, Canada!

Hart Plaza is a great setting too. The views are really interesting all around, and its always great to be on a waterfront. I was a particular fan of the Beatport stage, and I really liked the configuration of the room; the low stage; and the overall “club” feel there. (Although I do think that a wider tent would be better.) The Main Stage was more majestic in scale, but during the early sets it was still real easy to freely dance up close.

Richie Hawtin

There is an element of magic and theater to the performance of a good electronic artist that has to be seen to be understood. Here the artists were all world class, and even legendary. But I was particularly drawn to the unpretentiousness of many of the artists. They showed obvious pleasure while playing their sets, and also danced at other artists sets. The early morning hours would find them still performing at the plethora of after parties in the area. To be sure, Downtown Detroit was bumpin.

Heidi. . . in the running for most upbeat, joyful artist

So the cost is $40 for continuous music on 4 stages for 3 days/12 hours a day. As Stephen Colbert would ask, “Movement 07. Great value or Greatest?”

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

So Long Detroit

Well the party at DEMF is over for 2007, and we're about to hit the road. The boys and I are planning to make a tradition out of this event. It's just that much fun.

On Monday, I got to killer sets by Theo Parrish, John Acquaviva, Luciano, Richie Hawtin and Jeff Mills. They were all great - but Richie's set was completely unhinged.

I now count myself as a fan of many artists that I heard for the first time this weekend. That's been a real pleasure. . . Again, we'll get pictures and more commentary up after we get home - and maybe take a nap!


Mr. Bill

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Brief Report from the DEMF Front

We've been having a great time here at Movement 07 - the Detroit Electronic Music Festival. Nice vibe, awesome artists, excellent sound, great crowd and a cool venue. How can you go wrong with this?

Ankur, Rusty and I arrived in Detroit a little later than planned, but we got checked-in to our hotel and over to the fest in time to catch Delano Smith. Over the next 8 hours, I also witnessed impressive sets from:
> Losoul
> Aux 88
> Charles Webster
> King Britt
> Guido Schneider
> Kerri Chandler
> Claude VonStroke
> Kerry Chandler
> Marco Carola.

The sets here have all reinforced my belief that a great music performance can be a holy experience. The artists here succeed in tapping into our deep tribal collective consciousness. The beat is so natural, it just feels good to be moving with the music. Some of us might just be bopping along with the groove, while others dance up a storm - but the crowd seems to literally throb. And I've never seen so much energetic dancing at a show - including some fantastic break-dancing. After the last set at DEMF, we found our way to an after party at Club 150, where the party was still going strong when we left at 3:30a.

On Sunday, Tim joined us (to celebrate his 40th!) and we made our way over to Hart Plaza where I enjoyed sets by:
> Milieu
> Lee Curtis
> Robin Judge
> Kate Simko
> Heidi
> Mistress Barbara
> Monolake
> Bad Boy Bill
> Mathew Jonson
> Steve Bug

Again, we went to an after party featuring Mistress Barbara and Claude VonStroke, and made a late night out it. Ankur, Rusty and I have all been carrying our cameras and have gotten lots of fantastic photos. (Thanks to the cool folks at Paxahau for helping us with photo access!) We'll put them up soon, and some more reviews, of course. In the meantime, stay posted!

Ciao for now!
Mr. Bill

Friday, May 25, 2007

Battles Blew-Out My Brain Today

I took the day off today to start the weekend right. Hustled around this morning getting ready to go to DEMF and fooling around on the blog. I also went over to Madison Birth Center, where I normally “keep the books” on weekends, and hung out with “the gals in the front office” a bit. But I kinda had to keep my head down and quickly pay bills coming due, because I wanted to get all my other errands done by noon or thereabouts.

The afternoon was for relaxing, listening to music and getting ready for our road trip to Motown. My dog, Abbie took me out for a walk in the Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Highly recommended by the way – the violet and white phlox are exploding in the woodlands there. It’s almost surreal in its beauty. [See postcript]

Based on Fred’s recommendation, I got Battles newest recording, and listened to it on the headphones. . . WOW! Really great Yes-tinged psychedelic sound. I’m sure we’ll have a more articulate review later. All, I can say is get it, put on your headphones if necessary, then Play it Loud. (By the way, I will stipulate right now that my advice is always to "Turn it Up". . . . But that may just be me; I don’t know.)

Got to get things pulled together and meet up soon with Ankur and Rusty! More later from the road. . .

Mr. B

p.s. Those who know have informed me that these woodland flowers are not actually phlox, but Dame's Rocket - an extremely invasive species that is considered a "pest." . . . Still pretty tho.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Movement 2007... Getting Ready for The Detroit Electronic Music Festival

Motor city. The home of Motown and the city where John Lee Hooker got down to boogie. It is also the home of techno - what I call 'Detroit Electronic'. Think Carl Craig, Derrick May, Theo Parrish, Richie Hawtin/Plastikman (he's from Windsor from across the river/border but we don't believe much in political and geographic boundaries), Kevin Saunderson, Juan Atkins... the list goes on.

Thanks to my buddy Jason for introducing me to the music back in '99 and with whom I got a taste of DEMF first hand in 2000. And then made a trip back in 2001 when I was joined by Tony, Ashwini, Ms. Fox and Luis (crazy Spaniard cousin of Tony's who did not speak a word of English and flew in from Madrid just for the show). I don't remember much from those trips but do recall some spectacular DJ'ing by Stacey Pullen and then a marathon spin session by Laurent Garnier at an after party at the City Club(?). In any case, it is time to refresh those brain cells and head back for some kick ass, booty shaking music. My homies Bill, Rusty, Tim and I get on the road to Detroit on Friday evening and will keep you posted on the weekend happenings. Have a good weekend and catch some live music!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Coming up...

Detroit Electronic Music Festival Movement 2007
May 26, 27, 28 @ Hart Plaza, Detroit, MI

Richie Hawtin, Pole, Theo Parrish, Stacey Pullen, Juan Atkins/Model 500, Kevin Saunderson, Jeff Mills.. (see complete schedule and list of artists here)

John Butler Trio

June 5 at the High Noon Saloon, Madison, WI

Richie Hawtin Stellar Spark: Summer Session 2007
Also Donald Glaude, DJ Funk, DJ Icey, Magda, Jack Trash, Alex Hall...
June 9 at the Rave, Milwaukee, WI

The National

June 9 at the High Noon Saloon, Madison, WI

Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 Madison World Music Festival
June 27 at the Memorial Union, UW-Madison, WI

10,000 Lakes Festival
July 18, 19, 20, 21 at the Soo Pass Ranch, Detroit Lakes region, MN
Bob Weir and Rat Dog, Trey Anastasio, moe, Government Mule, Zappa Plays Zappa, The Disco Biscuits, Particle, The Tragically Hip, Toubab Krewe

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How LP's are born

A short 10 minute clip from TV shows the process of turning PVC pellets into warm and lush sounding music... Click here to see the YouTube video.

Califone : A review of the High Noon Saloon Show

A while back I once read an interview with Califone’s Tim Rutili about how their songs translated into a live setting. He replied to the interviewer, "We’re trying to forget what we recorded and just play the songs".

As a musician, I find that I am consistently intrigued with the non traditional and genre crossing band arrangements. Enter Califone: Joe Adamik (drums), Jim Becker (banjo, violin), Ben Massarella (percussion), and Tim Rutili (vocals, guitar, keyboards).

I have to be honest when I say that I have only recently become familiar with this band’s sound. I have not drifted far from their latest release Roots and Crowns but have purchased several tracks from their back catalog (Heron King Blues, Roomsound and Quicksand/Cradlesnakes) which I found to be equally as impressive.

Playing to a respectable sized crowd on Friday (indeed surprising due to The Hold Steady’s sold out show in town) Califone began their show at the High Noon Saloon. After Rutil’s opening prayer and avant-guard keyboard number, he pulled out his acoustic and broke into the familiar chords from "Spider's House". The crowd seemed to suddenly become more focused and direct their energy to the band. The High Noon Saloon can be a phenomenal place to witness a rock show, but sometimes the subtle sounds from an acoustic guitar can easily get lost in the mix. And unfortunately at times (throughout the night), this was the case.

By the time the driving rhythm of Pink and Sour began the audience was in the groove. I was pleased to hear how they held onto the song for a while and strayed off into the darkness for a while. Mixing the tribal rhythms with Rutili’s effects loops made for an entrancing version. It was fascinating to witness Massarella in action; picking up random percussive instruments, staying in time and holding the songs together. Overall I would say that this show was more than expected from Califone after comparing them to their recordings. I was impressed by the dynamics of this band and would see them again.

Madison Music Review is looking forward (and so should you) to their upcoming show at the Pitchfork Music Festival on Saturday, July 14th (Chicago). If you get the chance, make sure to catch them as well as the other acts on July 13 and 15th.


(all photos by AM)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A night with Doc Watson @ The Overture Center, Madison, WI

Wow! This was one performance I was glad not to have missed. I had been eagerly awaiting this day since the announcement in early 2006. I was able to score a pair of front row tickets for me and my lovely wife in the main hall at the Overture Center (how I got these is a story for another day!) For those of you who have not attended a music performance at the Overture - redeem the situation! The sound is fantastic and the hall itself is beautiful, if somewhat spartan looking. You will not be disappointed!

On to the show review... At 84 years old, Arthel 'Doc' Watson is still going strong as a freight train. His songs and music conjure up all sorts of emotions in me and transport me to place that seems so familiar yet never experienced.

It was a fine night of story-telling and finger-picking by the gentlemen from down south. The show started at 8 pm with Doc Watson being led onstage by David Holt. While I am quite familiar with Doc's music (through his various LP's - a treasured part of my collection) and having seen him play with Sam Bush and others at Bonnaroo 2004 (listen to the set here), David Holt's music was an unknown entity to me. Needless to say, not only is he a guitarist worthy of being on-stage playing with the bluegrass legend, he also did an excellent job of getting Doc to share some of his life stories and the history behind his music.

One such story is of how Doc and his brothers came to own their first record player (or a Victrola as they used to be called then!) The 6-year old Doc and his brothers labored at an uncle's sawmill for four days to earn a little pedestal-mounted record player along with the 50 records it came with (The uncle had upgraded to a floor-standing model - maybe he was an early day audiophile!) It was the music on these records that Doc heard and learned to play and sing. As Doc put it "the records were the real treasure."

Doc and David Holt started with some bluegrass standards such as Shady Grove and Deep River Blues that had the audience in rapture from the very first note. Doc was playing a Bourgeois Vintage D guitar and frequently showed a sense of humor in his interactions with the guitar - "Now behave yourself", "Be good now" while tuning or trying to get the right note. (It should be noted that Doc was not playing his regular guitar - the Gallagher G50.) In contrast, David Holt had a trio of stringed instruments (a Bourgeois Vintage D, a banjo and a shiny National steel guitar) by him and switched through instruments as the set progressed. He kept time with Doc as they went through the unrehearsed set and when prompted by Doc to "take it away , son" displayed his flat-picking prowess and singing abilities.

"The hall has just the right reverb to it" commented Doc Watson on the setting. Both artists were highly appreciative of the audience. At one point, David announced they would be signing their albums at the end of the show. Upon hearing that and at the risk of missing out the beginning of the second set, come intermission and I raced home to pick up my collection of vintage Doc on vinyl. Thankfully, made it back to my seat in time clutching my 'special 6 pack' of vintage Doc on vinyl. The second set started with Doc solo on stage. He began with a couple of slow blues and gospel numbers before he had his grandson Richard join him on stage. Richard Watson (Merle's son) seemed quiet, almost shy on stage but did not hold back playing his guitar. The duo jammed for a while and did a couple of blues numbers before David Holt joined them on stage with his guitars.

There were plenty more songs and stories that Doc delighted the audience with that night. Doc sang the blues, the gospel, mountain ballads and country songs. He flat picked and finger picked. He yodeled and he played the harmonica. He told stories about the pastor from Deep Gap, North Carolina. He fondly remembered playing music with and enjoying the 'slow' home cooking of Elizabeth Cotten, the folk and blues singer and guitarist, while on tour in Washington D.C.

The trio wrapped up at around 11 pm with a fast-paced finger pickin' jam on their guitars. No encores, for the duo were off to the lobby to sign their CD's. With hundreds waiting patiently in line, I felt guilty standing there with 6 records for Doc to sign when David Holt noticed them in my hands and called out "Doc, he's got your records for you to sign." I was lucky to spend a few minutes with the two talking about the records. Here's what Doc had to say when he was signing the Reflections - Chet Atkins & Doc Watson record released by MCA in 1980 - "I enjoyed making this record with Chet Atkins. I got to know him well during the making of the record."

Unfortunately, I did not have a pen on me (some reporter!) so do not have the entire set list here. Next time, I will be better prepared. Some of the songs played on Saturday night included Shady Grove, Deep River Blues, Telephone Girl, The Cat's Back, Corrina Corrina, Way Downtown, Freight Train, Louise, Chicago Blues, St. James Infirmary, Stand By Me, Slow Cookin' and many more.

Sorry, no pictures from the show. The Overture Center enforces a strict no cameras or recording allowed policy inside the hall. However, I did manage to get a picture of Doc and David Holt signing my records.

All in all, one of the best shows I have ever been to.

- malliman/AM

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Sea and Cake "Everybody" - release date May 8, 2007

Check this album out. After a four year break, the rock/pop quartet from Chicago is back with it's signature tone, guitar work and lush sound encapsulated in their latest album "Everybody" out on the Thrill Jockey label.

The Sea and Cake are:
John McEntire - drums, keyboards, vibes, percussion
Sam Prekop - vocals, guitar
Eric Claridge - bass, keyboards
Archer Prewitt - guitars, vocals, keyboards
(also on this recording - Ken Champion on pedal steel)

The vinyl version of the album (that I bought at one of my favorite record stores in town 'MadCity Music') sounds great and is also beautiful to look at with black and white photographs by Sam Prekop and a silvertone album cover.

For those of you headed to the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago this summer, be sure to check out the band and send us your review, pictures, ramblings (preferably when not smashed at 3 am)

Other recommended listenings by The Sea and Cake:
"The Biz"

- malliman/AM

The Tragically Hip – Barrymore Theater, 05.15.2007

I was one of those poor shmucks that had never heard, much less seen, the Tragically Hip. Lucky for me a couple of my well-respected acquaintances revealed that the Hip were "their favorite band of all time." That caught my attention. I did go – and now I understand. The Hip are a very tight band, with a theatrical and charismatic lead singer. And I’ve always been a sucker for the 3-guitar and bass line-up. Gordon Downie was incredibly dynamic and expressive.

I was raving throughout, but Ed kept telling me that they hadn't even played his favorite songs yet. . . He might have been playing with me, but I found the promise of this exciting. I knew none of their material, but I was lovin' every song. The only Hip song from the show that I could name is Dire Wolf, because Gordon introduced it with an outrageous story about the Dire Wolf, with webbed feet and ability to save the drowning. They also did a great cover of "Come Together." Click here for their setlist, if you are interested.

It was incredible to see them at the Barrymore with perhaps a crowd of 800. But I’ve got to say the Hip gave it their all – as if they were playing for a crowd of 15,000 - and they repeatedly expressed appreciation to the music lovers that came out. I'm sure their Canadian fans would kill for an opportunity to see them in such a venue. And I certainly felt privileged to be there. I’m their newest fan. . .

Here are a few of my photos. More are up on my Flickr page. [Of course, Ankur would do a much better job with his digital gear. . . Yes, Shannon, I am talking to you!]

Cheers! - Mr Bill

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Califone - May 18th at The High Noon Saloon

Califone is a critically-acclaimed experimental post-rock band from Chicago. The band is named after Califone International, a long-standing manufacturer of audio equipment commonly found in schools, libraries and businesses.

After the disintegration of Chicago's blues-rock innovators Red Red Meat, the band's four remaining members struck out on their own, initiating several varied endeavors but never straying too far from their home base, or each other. Ben Massarella and Tim Rutili revived their Perishable Records imprint, Brian Deck opened the Clava recording studios, adjacent to the Perishable offices, and Tim Hurley recorded and released his own Sin Ropas project on the resurrected label. Amid the flurry of activity, all four also found the time to contribute to the ill-fated, A&M-commissioned Loftus LP. While enduring the fluctuation between crisis and monotony inherent in the daily operation of a small, independent record label, Rutili began work on his next musical project, Califone. (read more from

Califone's latest release, Roots and Crowns (Thrill Jockey) has been highly praised by many trusted critics and should not be overlooked. It boasts bits of dark americana, delta blues, electronica sealed with exceptional songwriting. Those of you longing for an amazing experimental alt-country live experience should plan on attending this show.


LCD Soundsystem - Metro, Chicago 05.06.2007

LCD Soundsystem recordings have great wit and an infectious energy. . . their live show is even better. James Murphy and the other four members of LCD brought their A-game to the performance at the Metro on Sunday night. Fred and I were there.

When performing live, Murphy is accompanied by the following band members:

* Al Doyle - guitar, percussion (also of Hot Chip)
* Phil Skarich - bass
* Nancy Whang - keyboards, synthesizer
* Pat Mahoney - drums

All players were quite versatile, and with the exception of drummer Pat Mahoney, the configuration changed from song to song. Sometimes there were three players on keyboards or two on bass or two on guitar or three on percussion.

Metro is a really fine venue, and highly recommended. A great sound system, clear and well balanced even at high volume. The capacity is just 1100, including the balcony area, and it feels very intimate. Wider than deep, the main floor is only about 25 feet deep. The place was packed and rockin' for this show. I certainly worked up a sweat – even with my awesome physical conditioning!
Despite the cost and hassle of reclaiming my car from the tow yard, it was well worth the trip! By the way, be sure to look all around for "No Unauthorized Parking" signs when parking in Chicago – they are not f-ing around. Although I must say, when your car is missing it’s actually a relief to discover that it has only been towed!


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Joseph Arthur and the Lonely Astronauts

I had been looking forward to seeing Joseph Arthur since the show at High Noon was announced a couple months ago. The only recording of his that I had was Nuclear Daydream, but I had found that I really enjoyed it at anytime of day or night or mood. His cryptic, cosmic, Zen flavored lyrics are right up my alley - and the melody and arrangements of his songs are really pleasing to me.

The surprise for me was the calibre and composition of the Lonely Astronauts. I was there to see JA and had no idea of the talent in the band. But it did not take long to realize that each and every member was a really gifted musician. They could all sing well and the harmonies were spot on. . . The next day I got on the web to learn more about them and realized that the lead guitar was Jen Turner (Furslide, and lead guitar on Natalie Merchant's Tiger Lilly record and tour). Rhythm guitar was only Kraig Jarrett Johnson (Jayhawks and Golden Smog). And the bass player was Sybil Buck - a really fascinating character, who I thought was one of the grooviest bass players I've ever watched. (It didn't hurt that she is quite attractive either.)
The three guitar + bass lineup is always a powerful one, and this was three really strong performers that melded nicely together. It was interesting to watch JA work his effects - all those years touring alone and using loops etc to build his songs have given him an easy attitude that masked the virtuosity of his technique.

They played a lot of familiar material from Nuclear Daydream and great songs from their new release Let's Just Be. After the show, I bought the limited edition version that has hand-pressed lithography cover art. And I like this recording a lot too.

Here's the setlist (4/26/2007):

Baby's got a new friend
Too much to hide
Black lexus
Cocaine feet
Slide away
Enough to get away
Diamond ring
Lack a vision
Sunrise dolls
Good life
Precious one
Take me home
I donated myself to the mexican army

Even tho *
Honey and the moon *
In the sun
Let's just be
I will carry
Star song

* Joseph solo

One last thing - do not tell your wife that you think a certain bass player is one of the hottest musician you've ever seen. . . This is not a good idea.