The final Wisconsin Pop Explosion poster
The grand finale of the Wisconsin Pop Explosion imploded with an enthusiastic bang in last night's incendiary July heat. A boisterous farewell was in order as the Madison collective's three-year dedication to forging art-minded live music was brought to a close upon the relocation of cornerstone couple Abby Kinchy and Nathan Meltz to Troy, New York. Though bittersweet, it was a night of celebration.
The theme for the debauchery was "Summer New Year's 2007," apparently for those who missed the first celebration while hibernating through the Wisconsin winter. But more important, it was the reunion, CD-release, and farewell show for Madison's The Super Eights (as well as the final bow for The Nervous System with drummer Nathan Meltz). The King Club was feverishly decorated with a web of twisted crepe paper streamers, and the stage was meticulously lined in a pastel rainbow of over-inflated balloons. The entire room was ready to pop.
Intensely talented local songwriter Vid Libert opened the showcase with a "Happy New Year's, Everyone" and some of his characteristic stripped-down folk-pop. The songs glistened with accessible charm, focus, and a bit of a foreshadowed nervousness. He picked an acoustic guitar painted peripherally green around a brown rectangle that suggested strumming rubber bands stretched across a cardboard box; a quirk that would completely fit Vid's low-fi aesthetic. The openness of accepting volume cues from the audience and coyly apologizing for his occasional missteps set the stage for intimate audience participation that would span the entire night.
Vid rested his guitar on his knee and segued by describing a premonition he had of The Super Eights playing together in forty years at the Memorial Union terrace. He uttered reassuringly that he knew this wasn't the band's last show, really just the "last show for a while."
This brought up The Super Eights, dapper in suits and slicked in the mood of a fifties Honolulu sock hop. The band's sound was incredibly clean with hyper tempos, dexterous bass, driving guitars, synchronized handclapping, flittery high-pitches from the bells and Wurlitzer, and plenty of collective "Woo-Hoos." Head bobs and foot taps were common audience responses, but the rhythms were bouncy enough to inspire hip twisting -- and maybe even inspire approaching the co-ed in the pink dress and sneakers across the room to invite her to dance. The set was the night's highlight and probably the most fun possible in a wool cardigan on a 90 degree day.
At 11:59 p.m., the crowd pulled out their celebratory kazoos adorned with ribbons of Mylar. The cheering of the clock striking midnight was the perfect way to usher in a new year on 07-08-07 and welcome The Nervous System to the stage. Where the Super Eights pleased, the Nervous System rocked. They ground their guitars into the floor and harmonized with the associated feedback in passionate yelps.
As The Nervous System's muddy buzz faded, the night sat content as another uniquely artistic and rocking success in the collective's impressive legacy. The end of the organized Wisconsin Pop Explosion is a significant loss for Madison's independent creativity. The vision will certainly be missed. But a great farewell gift would be making a contribution to figuring out how to maintain the energy and carry it forward.
Kyle Pfister also publishes I'm Just Sayin Is All....