Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo
Local music is as much a part of Madison's fall traditions as Badger football.
Head over to the Annex this Saturday, Sept. 11, around 3 p.m., to see for yourself. That's when Madison rockers the Trailer Kings will be amped up and ready to blast a few hundred folks who just left the home-season kickoff game at Camp Randall Stadium.
But the game-day series the Annex is featuring this September and October isn't the only evidence that local music's most active season is getting under way.
The students are back, and house parties from Mifflin to Spaight streets inevitably feature a few guest guitarists and drummers. It's still warm enough to see bands play on the Memorial Union Terrace. The outdoor festival season won't end until State Street's Freakfest wraps up at Halloween. And with the peak of touring band season in October, more local bands will be opening more shows.
Pocket schedules make football season easy to track, but the wide array of clubs and artists makes local music harder to navigate. Isthmus is here to help. Our fall 2010 local music roundup puts a sonic itinerary in your hands. This 10-week guide steers you to 10 different venues featuring 10 different artists who play 10 very different styles.
Week 1: Jam rock's electro evolution
High Noon Saloon, 701 E. Washington Ave., Friday, Sept. 10, 9:30 pm
This innovative Madison band brings energetic electronic effects to its brand of improvisational rock. Jam bands have a long tradition of popularity in Madison. Steez has updated jam rock by infusing it with layers of synth. The band's 2009 debut, Creepfunk Crusade, remains one of my favorite Madison albums.
Steez is a good example of how UW-Madison students influence local music. Three of its five members met while attending the UW, and they all once lived together in a big house on Gorham Street. They have no shortage of experience playing gigs around campus.
The show takes place at the spacious and well-appointed High Noon Saloon, considered by many to be Madison's premier music club. Opened in 2005, the High Noon is the successor to O'Cayz Corral, a revered and now defunct Madison music club that operated from 1980 to 2000 before it was destroyed by fire.
Week 2: Pop with strings attached
Mother Fool's Coffeehouse, 1101 Williamson St., Saturday, Sept. 18, 8 pm
Local music doesn't follow a format, and Ida Jo is proof. The local violinist's debut album blends luxurious strings with bass and drums while avoiding rootsy fiddle or orchestral indie clichés. The understated way she plays on "Eileen" helps establish the song's bottled-up emotional feel. At the microphone, Ida Jo shows herself to be a soulful vocalist.
Before fronting her own band, Ida Jo played in another Madison group, Mike Droho & the Compass Rose. Her backing bassist is Compass Rose bassist Scott Lamps. Fred Ecenrode plays drums. The trio perform as Ida Jo & the Show.
Mother Fool's Coffeehouse is Willy Street's longstanding eclectic art and music space. Co-owned by a couple of scenesters themselves, Jon Hain and Stephanie Rearick, Mother Fool's is perfect for those who like to watch a local gig and eat a vegan muffin, too.
Week 3: Industrial part of town
Angelfire and NeeHigh
Inferno Nightclub, 1718 Commercial Ave., Friday, Sept. 24, 9 pm
"Goth club" is only one side of the Inferno Nightclub's personality, but it fairly represents the east-side venue as the kind of place where corsets and black lipstick aren't scarce.
Mostly, the Inferno is Madison's leading electronic music club. Located near the airport and Oscar Mayer, the club isn't a stone's throw from downtown, meaning the people you'll meet there seek it out as a destination.
Angelfire and NeeHigh typify the breadth of electronic music styles you'll find at the Inferno. Angelfire is a breakbeat DJ who spins tracks that are polyrhythmic or follow nontraditional beat patterns. His mixes are a wide-open exploration of mood and sound. NeeHigh spins techno, drum and bass, electro, and dubstep.
Week 4: Regent Street punk
Fortune and Glory
Annex, 1206 Regent St., Friday, Oct. 1, 8 pm
Fortune and Glory's new song has a fitting title: "And the Crowd Goes Wild." The band's energetic punk is sure to send your adrenaline surging. The song includes plenty of punk guitar licks and vocal chants.
Before joining Fortune and Glory, chief songwriters Andy Bechdolt and Matt Schroeder played in a variety of bands. When I interviewed them earlier this year, they said what keeps them in Fortune and Glory is the band's uncomplicated, have-fun ethic.
"I hate pretentious music," Schroeder said.
"I just wanted to play something fast and melodic," added Bechdolt.
The quintet fits the musical vibe at the Annex, which favors alternative and hard-rock styles. Attached to the Regent Street Retreat, the Annex is easily accessible to UW students living just south of campus. Fortune and Glory's Oct. 1 appearance there is a CD release show.
Week 5: Country with an attitude
Earl Foss & the Brown Derby
Crystal Corner, 1302 Williamson St., Wednesday, Oct. 6, 9:30 pm
Madison's eclectic northern scene doesn't always lend itself to country music, but bands like Earl Foss & the Brown Derby figure out how to keep it weirdly comfortable for local audiences.
Their mix of originals and classic country covers thrives on songs that are uncool in funny and joyous ways. Their recording of George Jones' "Where Does a Little Tear Come From?" begins with stage banter and chuckles. So it's hard to feel sad when they sing, "It comes when you find that you love the roving kind."
The Crystal Corner is the historic Willy Street tavern that's been in business since 1947 and was the first bar in town to have a liquor license issued to a woman.
Week 6: Homegrown hip-hop
F. Stokes, Ice Mantis, Stink Tank, J. Dante, DJs Vinnie Toma and Radish
Majestic Theatre, 115 King St., Friday, Oct. 15, 9 pm
The Madison hip-hop scene is heavy on collaboration. This Majestic show features a group of local artists who spend a lot of time working with each other to produce new kinds of tracks.
First, Madison rapper Laduma Nguyuza (from Smoking with Superman and dumate) hooked up with a turntablist new in town (Man Mantis), to form Stink Tank. Then Mantis connected with another local hip-hop veteran, DLO, to form Ice Mantis. Last spring, Mantis handled production on an EP released by UW-Madison student and local rapper J. Dante.
Add in Madison-connected, Brooklyn-based rapper F. Stokes, plus local DJs Vinnie Toma and Radish, and this show gives you a glimpse of some top rappers and beatmakers.
With its century-plus history as a vaudeville and movie theater, the Majestic has emerged as a leading Madison music venue that features high-profile touring acts and local talent, too.
Week 7: Rocktober roots rock
Mighty Short Bus
Great Dane-Downtown, 123 E. Doty St., Thursday, Oct. 21, 10 pm
Roots rock is no stranger to Madison. Some of the most popular local bands of the past two decades have played this style. The 1990s saw the success of Marques Bovre & the Evil Twins. More recently, bands like the Blueheels and Mighty Short Bus have carried the local roots torch.
The narrative themes on Mighty Short Bus' 2010 CD, Forever Endeavor, are - as the album's title suggests - enduring. Songwriters Frank Busch and Nic Adamany are comfortable penning lyrics about women, bourbon whiskey and pot. The music frequently switches gears between country and rock.
The Great Dane's downtown location was its first, before branches opened in Fitchburg and at Hilldale Mall. There'll be plenty of space to play pool and sip your favorite microbrew when Mighty Short Bus play this late October gig.
Week 8: Instrumental indie rock, in disguise
Halloween party with El Valiente as Pavement
Frequency, 121 W. Main St., Saturday, Oct. 30 at 10 pm
Eric Caldera's band El Valiente can usually be found around town playing instrumental guitar rock. But at this Halloween show, the members are dressing up as Pavement. So expect plenty of lo-fi slacker classics to heat up the back room at the Frequency.
All Murder will dress as the Misfits and the Handsome Dickz, a.k.a. the Motorz, as the Dictators.
By day, Caldera is a UW-Madison Ph.D. student who studies ant behavior for clues about evolutionary biology. Despite his instrumental virtuosity, no one ever taught him to play guitar.
The Frequency is one of Madison's newer music clubs, just off the Capitol Square. Owned by local bassist Darwin Sampson, it has become an anchor for local bands.
Week 9: Showdown on Atwood Avenue
Madison Songwriters Showdown
Alchemy Cafe, 1980 Atwood Ave., Wednesday, Nov. 10, 8:30 pm
Sponsored by the Madison Songwriters Guild, the Showdown is a bona fide local talent show, a songwriter's version of American Idol. Each songwriter takes the stage to perform two or three original songs. The last of these is that artist's official Showdown entry.
The audience decides which Showdown song is the best one of the night. In December, the 2010 monthly winners compete for Showdown Song of the Year.
The Showdown is a great way to hear the newest music in Madison, written by artists who are serious about making songs. The Alchemy Cafe on Atwood Avenue is the ultimate neighborhood bar in one of the coolest sections of town.
Week 10: Late autumn blues
Aaron Williams & the Hoodoo
Brink Lounge, 701 E. Washington Ave., Wednesday, Nov. 17, 8 pm
Aaron Williams may be Madison's hardest-working musician. He's got a passion for playing live shows and wants to make a humble living entertaining audiences with his formidable blues guitar style.
Williams is the son of late Madison blues musician Cadillac Joe, but he didn't start playing guitar until he was halfway through high school. He favors a heavy blues-rock style in the tradition of Hendrix and Cream.
The Brink Lounge resides in the same building as the High Noon Saloon, making it an easy place to begin a night of club hopping.