Youngblood Brass Band
The music of Madison was transformed this decade in ways that mirrored broader changes in the identity of the city itself.
Our media changed. Wide and thick newspapers became a relic of the past. Broadcast radio changed its business model to become a mostly prerecorded medium. CD sales fell and record stores closed.
The city and its musicians connected in a new digital world. We downloaded songs on our iPods. We bought and sold our stuff on Craigslist. We loaded our profiles onto MySpace and found friends on Facebook and Twitter.
We got more upscale. The smoking ban cleared the air inside Madison music venues, giving a whole new fragrance to a night out on the town. Our newest and most successful music venues weren't the kind of beer-stained dives that went out with O'Cayz Corral. The High Noon Saloon and the Majestic came with amenities like gleaming wood floors, balconies and chandeliers.
That mirrored the newfound luxuries of local culture. UW students moved out of Mifflin Street two-flats and into air-conditioned high-rises. Lattes, wine bars and downtown condos were in vogue until the economy crashed in 2008. At decade's end, the closing of Cafe Montmartre signaled the end of a gilded age.
We became more diverse. A new wave of Hispanic immigrants settled in Madison. Our elementary schools increasingly taught Spanish. The international foods aisles at Woodman's expanded.
Musically, Latin bands like Kali Kalor and Grupo Candela gained popularity. The Palace Latin Club opened in the space that was once Luther's Blues on University.
Madison hip-hop gained a voice in the forefront of local music. Despite unruly crowds that lingered at Club Majestic for its ill-advised all-you-can-drink specials, high-minded hip-hop by Rob Dz, El Guante, dumate, Da Ricanstructa and the Fall Guys made an impact.
Rock 'n' roll evolved. Remember the blues and roots-rock artists who defined the Madison sound in the '90s? The list included Marques Bovre, Paul Filipowicz, Paul Cebar, Honor Among Thieves, Mel Ford, Westside Andy and Paul Black.
This decade, rock ventured beyond guitar, drums and bass. Indie rock embraced the sounds of Decemberists and Sufjan Stevens, who brought horns and strings to their music. In Madison, Carl Johns undercut the conventional rock sound with his accordion. Pale Young Gentlemen played flutes, violin and xylophone, and took multi-instrumental rock to another level.
The evolution of rock signaled a broader search for new cultural boundaries in the wake of 9/11 and two new American wars.
These were the touchstones of our decade. And here are the bands, events, people and places we'll remember when we look back on a decade of Madison music.
The 10 most influential Madison acts of the 2000s
Charlemagne - Carl Johns brought all the sensibilities of indie rock to Madison music, first through NoahJohn, then through Charlemagne. His impressionistic pop-rock meandered from acoustic folk to psychedelic rock, and national music websites like Pitchfork took notice.
The Youngblood Brass Band - D.H. Skogen and his Oregon High School buddies formed the ultimate musical melting pot, a brass band big on hip-hop, jazz and punk. In 2000, their Unlearn CD featured appearances from Talib Kweli, Mike Ladd and DJ Skooly.
Stromkern - The industrial hip-hop of Stromkern was one of Madison's most impressive musical exports this decade, making a splash across the Atlantic. The success of Ned Kirby and crew advanced the cause of Madison's electronic music scene.
El Guante - Spoken word artist Kyle Myhre made some of the best and most socially conscious local hip-hop of the decade, before signing to Tru Ruts records and moving to Minneapolis in 2007.
Screamin' Cyn Cyn & the Pons - The theatrical punk of Shane O'Neil and Cynthia Burnson was high on humor, androgyny and excellent songwriting.
Pale Young Gentlemen - Their orchestral sound featured harp, violin, flute and xylophone and marked the height of Madison's decade-long flirtation with indie rock.
Awesome Car Funmaker - Ryan Corcoran's power-pop outfit was the ultimate UW campus band this decade. Of Lovers and Monsters was one of the best local releases of 2006.
Blueheels - No other local band made better Americana rock this decade. Their Lessons in Sunday Driving was my favorite CD of 2008.
The Rob Dz Experience - The raps of Rob Franklin were a staple of the club scene earlier this decade. His collaborations with DLO, DJ Pain 1 and Da Ricanstructa created a wave of local hip-hop success.
Steez - They're new and just beginning to make their mark, but Steez have already reinvented the Madison jam band for the electronic era.
The 10 people who most influenced the direction of Madison music in the 2000s
Cathy Dethmers - After O'Cayz Corral burned on Jan. 1, 2001, Dethmers spent more than three years planning a replacement. When she opened the High Noon Saloon in 2004, the venue instantly defined the Madison club scene. The large, well-appointed room became a haven for indie-rock touring bands, and Dethmers kept her commitment to booking local shows, too.
The Founders of the Forward Music Festival - Bessie Cherry, Wyndham Manning, Kyle Pfister, Jesse Russell and Jamie Hanson all played a role in creating this large, ambitious music festival in 2008. It may not be South by Southwest yet, but it's put Madison on the music-fest map.
Rick Tvedt - He started the Madison Area Music Awards in 2004. He published the local music magazine Rick's Cafe from 2003 to 2007. Now Rick Tvedt is the man behind Local Sounds, an online e-zine of Madison music.
Tag Evers - His promotion company True Endeavors grew to become the dominant player in the small clubs market. If you visited the High Noon, the Barrymore Theatre or Cafe Montmartre to see an indie-rock touring band, chances are you'd see Tag watching the show through black-rimmed glasses at the back of the room.
Bro DJ - Brody Rose started a website dedicated to Madison hip-hop before he moved to Washington, D.C., in 2006. became the rallying point for the local hip-hop scene and sparked one of the genre's most productive periods.
Matt Gerding and Scott Leslie - The historic Majestic Theatre tried mightily to succeed as a music venue this decade. Its incarnation as a dance club that frequently featured hip-hop became a flashpoint when violence flared outside the club after midnight more than once. In 2007, Gerding and Leslie bought the Majestic, renovated the historic space and successfully transformed it into a touring-band concert space.
Matt Fanale and Apollo Marquez - The local electronic music scene wouldn't be what it was this decade without these guys. Fanale started Reverence, an electronic-music festival that became part of the Forward Music Fest in 2009. Marquez is the owner of the Inferno, the predominant venue for beats per minute in Madison.
Darwin Sampson - This musician-turned-club-owner booked shows for the Annex and the Anchor Inn earlier this decade. Then opportunity came knocking when the King Street space occupied by the Slipper Club closed. Darwin's dream of his own venue became the Frequency.
Jake Shut and Chris Langkamp - Langkamp founded Crustacean Records in the late '90s. This decade, Shut helped extend the reach of the local record label to regional and national bands.
Tom Klein - Klein founded the Journey Music, the former musical coffeehouse on Regent Street that became a production company in 2006. Klein focused on bringing national bands to Madison that specifically appealed to an all-ages audience. His niche changed the course of Madison's all-ages music scene and brought music alive at the Loft.
National events and music trends that shaped the local scene
The iPod - Launched in October 2001, the iPod fundamentally changed pop music more than anything else this decade. It reinvigorated singles, killed the CD and had local bands scurrying to post downloads to their websites.
Indie rock - This 21st-century brand of rock didn't just represent music on an independent label. It became a genre all its own, experimental rock that incorporated broader instrumentation as well as folk and electronic influences. Madison was a roots-rock town in the '90s, but this decade, bands like Sleeping in the Aviary and Icarus Himself made us an indie-rock city.
9/11 and the Iraq War - These events defined the decade in politics and helped shape the sound of local music, too. The recordings of artists like Flat Atom, Tangy, Kill Junior and Stephanie Rearick didn't treat George W. Bush too kindly.
MySpace - Just about every significant local band now has a MySpace page, making it strange to think the ubiquitous networking site has only been around since 2003. What did Madison music ever do without it?
Pro Tools - The audio recording software transformed the way musicians made records this decade. Using Pro Tools, artists without a lot of money could bypass the recording studio and make a professional CD on their own. Lots of locals did just that.
Synth-rock revival - The genre came of age in the 1980s with the popularity of bands like Depeche Mode and the Human League. This decade, Passion Pit and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs brought dance-beat rhythms to synth rock. On the local scene, Steez rode the electro-pop trend.
YouTube - The file-sharing service became the ubiquitous platform for band videos. Tech-savvy Madison artists like Sunspot posted regularly on YouTube as a way to connect with fans. At venues, fans held up cell phones to record the moment and share it later online.
The decline of radio - At the beginning of this decade, local radio was mostly live and staffed 'round the clock. By the decade's end, broadcast radio was almost exclusively prerecorded outside of drive-time hours. With few music-loving DJs or music directors left to navigate our local airwaves, radio was no longer a taste-making medium for new music.
Record-store retrenchment - Madison still has B-Side, the Exclusive Company, MadCity Music Exchange and Strictly Discs, but gone were the days where new and used record stores lined every block of State Street. As record companies scrambled to sustain physical product, vinyl albums were reintroduced in modest quantities at retail stores like Best Buy.
Beyond labels - The implosion of CD sales vastly reduced the role of major record labels. This decade "getting signed" was something local bands no longer aspired to. Music artists worked harder to build audiences and gain a following in venues and online. Self-released albums became the status quo.
We Will Never Forget...
Underwear parties. The mid-decade fad brought folks out to clubs in camisoles and boxer briefs. The Imperial Palace. The performance space in the basement of a Chinese restaurant was cool in a very odd way. The Sunspot van. The vehicle that powered Madison's most relentless touring band gave all its cylinders to rock 'n' roll before facing the junkyard in 2008. Luther's Blues. The music venue stranded on a concrete island on University Avenue from 2001 to 2005. Rock Star Gomeroke. It's hard to forget a tradition still with us. Gomeroke arguably fueled the local cover-band fad of the '00s. The Junkers. I still remember when these whipsmart UW graduate students wore cowboy hats and sang about Susan B. Anthony. The old New Loft. The Fairchild Street teen center and underage music venue was evicted in 2000 to make room for the Overture Center. It was a sad tale of the arts establishment turning its back on grassroots community artists. The King Club. Jane Wiedlin. Kiki's house shows. Pooley's.
They were all so '00.