Heartbreaking Bravery

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Tag: Minneapolis

Sauna Accident – Mary Jane (Song Premiere)

A week or so into September and there’s already been a handful of exhilarating releases, several of them standing firmly as Album of the Year contenders. It can be easy to be swept up in the glitzy press blitzes assembled for those records and it can be even easier to overlook new music from bands with little to no name recognition while it’s happening. Fortunately, there are still a small handful of people out there who care more about the acts that are breaking than the ones being gifted massive roll-out packages.

One of the smaller bands in question is the duo Sauna Accident, who excel in crafting a sort of hyper-specific, intriguingly woozy brand of post-punk. Lo-fi and unapologetic, the project — which consists of Sophie Ballman and Daniel Hughes — has only released two songs prior to now. Thankfully, “Mary Jane” has arrived to push that song count a tick higher. Arriving in advance of their forthcoming EP, Run to the Log that’s Rotten, which is due out next Friday.

“Mary Jane” takes all of the most promising elements of the project’s opening tracks and watches them coalesce into something greater. Tenacious, foreboding, and a little insidious, “Mary Jane” makes each one of its three minutes and 22 seconds count. It’s a hard-hitting piece of minimalist post-punk that seemingly celebrates its own murkiness. Dark and decisive, the song paints a very promising picture of Sauna Accident’s future.

Listen to “Mary Jane” below and keep an eye on the duo’s bandcamp for further updates on Run to the Log that’s Rotten.

Watch This: Vol. 158

Last week’s Monday-Sunday stretch yielded a large handful of outstanding live videos. While normally Watch This segments run on Sunday, this one (and the posts soon to follow) were held back by outside circumstances. The posting on Heartbreaking Bravery will be more frequent going into the future. Getting that rotation started is this crop of clips, which were strong enough to render compelling takes from the following as honorable mentions:

Jesca Hoop, Sigur Rós, Los Gold Fires, AJJ, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Dolfish, The New Pornographers, The Regrettes, Amy O, Sean Rowe, Desert Mountain Tribe, Weyes Blood, Hollerado, Vagabon, Future Islands (x2), Craig Finn, Noname, Deap Vally, Jonny Grave, The Smith Street Band, Car Seat Headrest, Hannah Lee Thompson, Hinds, Beach Slang, Liz Cooper & The Stampede (x2), Lou Canon, Sue the Night, Peter Silberman, Mipso, Juliet K, Ceschi, Anna Tivel, Lillie Mae, Bruise Violet, Hayley Heynderickx, Cold Country, Kyle Morton, Lisa Hannigan, and Kim Janssen.

As is typically the case, that’s a uniformly strong crop that reflects well on the selected features. So, as always, take a seat, calm down, take a deep breath, adjust the settings, lean in, and Watch This.

1. Vagabon (Audiotree)

A staple on this site for a few years, Vagabon‘s finally beginning to receive the levels of admiration, acclaim, and attention they’ve deserved for some time. Touring heavily on one of 2017’s finest releases thus far, the band recently found time to stop by the Audiotree studios and deliver a mesmerizing set. Running through several highlights from Infinite Worlds, the band remains in sharp form throughout and delivers one knockout blow after another, solidifying their status as one of today’s most exciting musical prospects

2. Lady Pills (BIRN)

Lady Pills have made a few brief appearances on this site but this two-song take for BIRN virtually guarantees them expanded coverage. Both “I Hate You” and “Irrelevant” reveal an understanding — if not outright mastery — of a very specific style of songwriting. Energetic, commendably contained, and compelling, the band lights into both tracks with both force and feeling. The instrumental segue that bridges the two songs is a thing of beauty and Lady Pills never stop providing reasons to commit their name to memory.

3. IAN SWEET (PressureDrop.tv)

When a label like Hardly Art shows interest in a band, there’s usually a handful of good reasons behind why they’re paying attention. Occasionally a band crumbles under the pressure or disintegrates in the face of a new set of challenges. IAN SWEET repaid that kindness in full, and then some, with their debut full-length, Shapeshifter. Following the record’s release, the band made a name for themselves on the live circuit. This full session acts as both a document and as definitive proof of their live prowess.



4. Forth Wanderers (KVRX)

A short while back, Forth Wanderers released one of the best EP’s of 2016 in Slop, a staggering career highlight by any metric. They’ve been hard at work ever since, promoting that EP and working on new material. In this intimate, stripped-down KVRX session, the band splits the selections between SlopTough Love, and offers a look ahead. All of the songs remain mesmerizing, even when scaled back to only guitars and vocals, aptly demonstrating that the band’s appeal — and talent — runs far deeper than the surface offerings.



5. Creepoid (Audiotree)

Creepoid‘s built a deeply impressive run over the span of their career, offering up plenty of fascinating twists along the way (the short film Ernest Undead being a notable example). In that time, they’ve also honed their live abilities, transforming into a tightly-knit wrecking crew that knows how to both enhance and accentuate the heaviness of their recorded material while still doing the ambient trappings justice. In this Audiotree session, they bare their teeth and clamp down, drawing a fair amount of blood.

PUP – Live at 7th St. Entry – 6/3/16 (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Last Friday night, Minneapolis’ famed 7th St. Entry played host to a powerful bill that included three bands who have earned coverage on this site: Charly Bliss, Rozwell Kid, and PUP. The three and a half hour drive out to catch the show had been a foregone conclusion since its announcement and a large part of that decision had been the involvement of Charly Bliss, who opened the show. Ever since the band topped this site’s list for EP’s in 2014 with their best-of-decade contender, Soft Serve, they’ve been covered and endorsed relentlessly in these pages. One of the most unavoidable factors in ensuring that heavy focus was their overpowering strength as a live act.

Over the past several years, the band’s been meticulously tweaking their stage show and seeing their dedication paying a steadily increasing number of dividends. They’re an extremely dynamic act making exceptionally well-crafted basement pop that comes with a serious bite, despite the immediate sugary high that it so frequently induces. Guitarist/vocalist Eva Hendricks is (understandably) the focal point of their live show, operating as a bundle of joyous squeals that can’t be contained for longer than a few seconds at a time.

All of the band feeds off of her example and put their heart into the kind of showmanship that clearly underlines that they have a legitimate love for playing music. No one’s overshadowed and everyone seems like they’re continuously out to prove something that they couldn’t accomplish with just a music-related degree (something that’s been acquired by all four members). A handful of recognizable favorites were brought out into the set — including recent single “Ruby” — but the real power was derived from a trio of brand-new tunes.

The band’s been sitting on a collection of songs for well over a year that’s more than enough to constitute a great album (an album that they hope to have out sometime in the relatively near future) so to see them confidently surging ahead with even more material is a great sign that the various delays in release haven’t left them deterred. On the contrary, those delays seem to have set something off in the band that makes them even more eager to obliterate the slowly-forming expectations surrounding their eventual debut. After yet another set that was constantly on the crest of perfection, the question no longer rests with whether or not the band will have their breakout moment, the question is when that moment will come.

Playing in the wake of such an explosive act can be a daunting task but Rozwell Kid seemed more than up to the challenge (and have had a long history playing intimidating bills) and they stuck to their formula: conjure up some propulsion by blending recognizable recent influences with over-the-top stage theatrics that go back a little further, all the while maintaining ear-shattering volume. While the constant mugging, windmills, rock poses, and general mugging from the band’s bassist and lead guitarist could be slightly off-putting at times, the other half of the band kept things relatively grounded to create a weirdly compelling contrast effect.

Every bit of the band’s theatrical gimmickry was balanced out, at one point or the other, by something that felt more genuine than showy from one of the band’s less complacent members. At times, the physicality of the theatrics largely overshadowed the band’s music, which veered from Guitar Hero-aping classic rock stompers to numbers that felt more indebted to a surprisingly unexplored space between late-era Replacements and early-era Weezer. Even with all of the additional Rock God 101 bells and whistles, Rozwell Kid never inspired active boredom and wound up being a very strong connecting bridge between the spiked-punch rush of Charly Bliss and the no-holds-barred chaos that PUP was about to set off.

The fourth article that ever ran on Heartbreaking Bravery — and the very first album review — centered on PUP’s self-titled record, immediately after it was released in Canada. The band had just recently changed their name from Topanga, put out a music video that would begin a shocking dominance in that format, and weren’t anywhere close to breaking through stateside (that would come well over a year later). In the time that followed those events, I tried and failed to see the band on multiple occasions. A perfect combination of circumstances positioned me at the lip of the Entry’s stage, anxiously anticipating what would become one of the most formidable displays of angst-powered aggression I’ve ever witnessed.

PUP, the band’s official debut full-length, impressed a whole lot of people and led to an ever-expanding cast of die-hard fans. This year’s outstanding The Dream Is Over didn’t just aid that trend, it increased its velocity tenfold. One of the best punk records in years, the record played a large role in selling out the Entry and packing it to the brim with a cast of characters (that ranged an impressive spectrum), who seemed hell-bent on throwing down. All it took was the intro of “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” to get things started.

Literally less than thirty seconds into PUP’s set, the entire main floor of 7th St. Entry became a thriving pit of chaos, unchecked aggression, and intense camaraderie. Guitarist/vocalist (and principal songwriter) Stefan Babcock would later reveal to me that in those moments, the crowd established his ideal for an audience: rowdy to the point of violence but never crossing the threshold into a territory that made its participants afraid. That mode never ceased for what was over an hour of blistering anthems about self-doubt, self-loathing, anger, regret, fear, and loss.

In the first five minutes alone, Babcock asked if the audience was alright on three separate occasions, unable to suppress a grin as the audience grew increasingly out of control. After “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” bled into “DVP”, just as it does on the record (easily 2016’s best moment of sequencing on record), I was forced up onto the stage, clinging to a PA for dear life while attempting to maintain enough balance to shoot/film the show. Not long after, the show was stopped so that an audience member could look for their glasses. A “very busted” pair made their way up to the stage but turned out to belong to an entirely separate owner. Later, a single show made its way up to the stage and the show was stopped once more. Glasses: repeat.

A handful of songs into their set, Babcock could sense that the crowd’s insane levels of aggression weren’t going to wane and instructed everyone on the rules of a “Canadian mosh pit”, which mostly just amounts to apologizing to anyone you touch. It was the first of two Canadian-themed jokes of the night, with an endearing crack later on about how “no one wants to hear four white Canadians cover Prince”, following a very sincere expression of gratitude over being able to play in a space that was The Purple One’s de facto home.

Immediately after that announcement, PUP hit the highlight of the night in a searing, volatile run through “Old Wounds” that saw Babcock leaping into a stage dive while still screaming his brains out. Unsurprisingly, “Old Wounds” wound up amplifying the audience’s energy, allowing both band and audience to feed off each other in a state of total symbiosis. Each propelled the other forward to the point of near-exhaustion, loving every single moment of collision that the relationship generated on either side.

Every shout-a-long became a scream-a-long and every riff, snare hit, and Cheshire Cat grin took on additional meaning as the band ripped through what’s already an astonishing arsenal of songs only two full-lengths into their career: “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will”, “DVP”, “Dark Days”, “Lionheart”, “Familiar Patterns”, “Old Wounds”, “Factories”, “Yukon”, “Mabu”, “Guilt Trip”, and “Reservoir” all earned particularly strong reactions, while the audience used brief moments of the songs that came between to re-position, reset, and resume their wild-eyed thrashing.

“Reservoir”, the band’s final song, left everyone scrambling for extra breaths as they screamed, writhed on the stage, flung themselves off the rafters of the Entry’s ceiling into crowd-surfing the mosh pit, or — in the case of one fan — laid flat on the stage, screaming into a microphone that Babcock brought down to his level so that they could share in one of the evening’s final defining moments. As they screamed into the mic together, the communal aesthetic of the night solidified even further and the barrier separating band from artist was temporarily lifted so that everyone could truly be in it together.

Through the whole ordeal, like Charly Bliss at the start of the night, PUP wore their feelings with pride; no moment in the show looked like anything less than a moment that meant something to the band on a very real, personal level. After the smoke from the scintillating run through “Reservoir” cleared, the band would lean over the lip of the stage to embrace the battered front lines, shake their hands, give them high-fives, and mouth “thanks” repeatedly.  Babcock would express this throughout the night in repeated asides of affectionate expletives and stunned exclamations, gazing out over the crowd like the band had found a new home that they never wanted to leave.

Watch live videos from each of the bands sets below (including some very shaky PUP captures) and underneath the embed, view an extensive photo gallery of the show. Enjoy.

2015: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Jerard Fagerberg)

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I first came across Jerard Fagerberg’s writing thanks to a piece for Consequence of Sound’s (sadly defunct) aux.out section that wound up focusing on an important aspect of my own personal musical development: the soundtracks to skate videos. Ever since then, I’ve been keeping an eye on what he’s been writing and following his work at Minneapolis’ City Pages, which has included gems like this article dissecting the differences between Mike Krol and Mikal Cronin in a quest to find out whether or not they’re actually the same person. Here, he offers up a piece that touches on other writers (including Nina Corcoran and Sasha Geffen, two prior A Year’s Worth of Memories contributors) and the crippling self-doubt (and queasy self-loathing) that tends to mark any author worth their salt. Read it below and remember to keep chipping away at the things you want to achieve because that struggle won’t go unnoticed by the people who will ultimately get you there.

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Frappe

I’m sitting across from Nina at Charlie’s Kitchen when she orders a chocolate frappe. Not a milkshake, not a malt, but a frappe — a charming expression from a place where I no longer belong.

I had to use Google Maps to find my way to Charlie’s from the Red Line, and when that word — frappe — leaves Nina’s lips, I realize how many of Boston’s colloquialisms I’ve forgotten. I’ve only lived in Minneapolis for a year, but if find myself gradually losing reciprocity with my home state.

Nina and I talk about my dog and Allston Pudding. We talk about how Steven asked me to write this piece. I keep rewinding the word “frappe” in my mind, and then I tell her something I’d promised myself not to tell her.

I tell her I admire her. I tell her that I used to resent her because I admire her. And I tell her that she is really only one of many writers I’ve felt this way about.

2014 was my first year as a professional writer. It felt like competition that whole year. I focused on my Twitter brand too much. I obsessed over what to wear when I went out to meet media people. I agonized over not getting bylines at sites I’d never even pitched to. I regretted being 25 and never once being considered prodigal. I had a very unsexy day job that I knew I’d probably never quit. I felt like a fraud every minute I lived in Boston.

The jealousy was ugly, but that didn’t make it any less real.

2015 was tonic. In moving to Minnesota, I removed myself from a lot of the anxiety of trying to make it as a writer. At first, I wondered whether it would’ve been more writerly to move to Brooklyn. Or if sundering what few roots I had meant I’d disappear. These concerns dissolved. Catching on at City Pages was the easiest gig I ever scored. Working with Reed, Pete, Hannah, Jessica, and now Jay has been nurturing in a way Boston never felt. I’m nostalgic enough for the East Coast that I no longer see other people’s successes as a threat.

I still have my day job, and I still, in social settings, try to project the illusion that I work full-time as a writer, but I’m becoming habituated to the idea that I’ll always be halfway there. I’ll never be like Jeremy — the first editor to ever take a pitch from me and a writer whose nonchalant talent is frankly intimidating —  who caught on at VICE full time after an unceremonious canning at Radio.com. Or Phil, who turned himself into one of the best working photographers in music and shared the beautiful, sordid details of how he’d gotten there. Or Sasha, who’s been a smarter, better writer than me for 26 straight years and has done it without a sliver of my ego. Or Nina, who is three years younger than me and became the Dig’s music editor this year.

A year ago, all this would’ve fucked with my equilibrium. I would’ve seethed. I would’ve sulked for these things not happening to me. I would’ve schemed to politely outdo them. But sitting in that dive bar and hearing Nina order a drink and perplexing over it, that jealousy felt as foreign as Beantown parlance.

-Jerard Fagerberg

Splitting at the Break: A Visual Retrospective of 2015’s First Half (Pictorial Review, Live Video)

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Over the first course of the year, I’ve made several major life decisions with the largest being a move to Brooklyn. Saving up for that paired with a work schedule that at one point had me logging roughly 75 hours a week meant sacrificing a lot of the things I love. None of those things hurt more than the severely limited number of shows I was able to attend. However, it was likely that same scarcity that made the shows included in this piece so memorable. From conducting an artist profile on Johanna Warren for Consequence of Sound (where a few of these photographs were first printed and where you can also find auxiliary video of Warren performing) to finally seeing a few site favorites- like Saintseneca, Krill, and Vacation- for the first time after years of waiting.

While it may not be much, this is still a collection that has deeply personal value. It’s a reflection of a region I called home for the entirety of my life and it’s a place I will miss when I leave it in just over a week. I’ll always be grateful that I was provided the opportunities to attend the shows contained in the multimedia portion of this post- and for the friends I made who were connected to those shows in literally any way. Writers, bands, editors, promoters, venue owners, label execs, or even just fans, they helped make some of these places feel like home. So, take a trip below with shots (and some videos) of: NE-HI, Oozing Wound, Protomartyr, Perfect Pussy, TRITA, Disasteratti, Buildings, Adron, Johanna Warren, Mutts, Two Inch Astronaut, Krill, Speedy Ortiz, Fox Face, The Midwest Beat, Mexican Knives, Vacation, FIDLAR, METZ, Saintseneca, and Murder By Death. The regional focal post of Heartbreaking Bravery may be shifting drastically in the months to come but a large part of its heart will always be lodged in the Upper Midwest.

Hope you enjoy.

NE-HI // OOZING WOUND // PROTOMARTYR // PERFECT PUSSY

 


TRITA // DISASTERATTI // BUILDINGS


ADRON // JOHANNA WARREN

MUTTS

TWO INCH ASTRONAUT // KRILL // SPEEDY ORTIZ



FOX FACE // THE MIDWEST BEAT // MEXICAN KNIVES // VACATION

 




FIDLAR // METZ

SAINTSENECA // MURDER BY DEATH


Watch This: Vol. 29

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Another few days have come and gone since a feature-less Sunday. This time, for the first time in a while, technical issues weren’t the cause of the brief delay in posting; I’m currently going through an exhaustive- and exhausting- training that’s consuming most of my time. A lot of content has been organized during this brief interim and will be posted over the weekend.]

During the compilation of the 29th installment of Watch This it became clear that we currently live in an extraordinary time for music. Image is becoming less of an issue, creating on synthesizers, loops, decays, and manipulations are considered organic, and raw talent is being earnestly celebrated. It’s something that allows this feature, and this installment, to be diverse. Without that opportunity for diversity, anything can run the risk of being inclusive. While there is a definite focal point of music that gets emphasized here, this feature allows for a broader range than usual in terms of style just for the sake of showcasing incredible live music. It’s an open-door policy and was inspired by similar policies that help keep great art vital. So, read a book, watch a film, attend a showcase, or Watch This- but, above all else, do everything possible to ensure great art continues to get made.

1. Gap Dream – Shine Your Light (Jam in the Van)

There were a lot of memorable music videos released in 2013 and, even with that considered, “Shine Your Light” still manages to stand out. Whether it was the concept, how well the music and imagery played into each other, or something else entirely- is up for discussion. As much impact as that video had, it seems the same can be said of the song. Jam in the Van made their usual stop at Burgerama and had Gap Dream climb in to deliver a knockout performance of “Shine Your Light” and a few others that are worth watching.

2. Pink Mink – Campbell’s Soup Kids (Radio K)

Pink Mink has been making their gloriously weird powerpop-indebted lo-fi punk for a few years now and have only managed to grow fiercer because of it. Here, they take to the Radio K studios to unleash “Campbell’s Soup Kids” on anyone who’ll listen. It’s a great performance from one of Minneapolis’ longer-standing bands. While the space restriction does make everything come off as just a touch too stunted, make sure to see this band live whenever possible; they were one of the small font highlights of the one-and-done SoundTown Festival back in 201 and have become even sharper over the past three years.

3. The London Souls – The Sound (Jam in the Van)

Jam in the Van strikes again. This time, they’ve brought The London Souls along for the ride. That The London Souls were scooped up at the New Orleans Jazz Fest for this showcase shouldn’t come as a surprise; just listen to the drums. What does come as a surprise? How satisfying this band’s live performance winds up being by taking a slightly off-kilter approach to a genre mix that would usually just result in a reserve-for-fairs situation. Everyone’s on top of their game here, lending this performance an unusual amount of impact.

4. Mansions – If You’re Leaving (Little Elephant)

Little Elephant continues its exception streak of outstanding sessions. Only a few weeks after Ovlov monopolized this series, Mansions seem poised to do the same. All of the hallmarks from their Vol. 27 entry are still present; a gnarled-to-hell bass tone, a strong sense of dynamics, and a fascinating structure. Genres collide and everything just explodes forward. It’s astonishing. Don’t be surprised if they wind up making a few more appearances in this series as it goes on.

5. Kishi Bashi – Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It! (WNYC)

Perfect Pussy. Tenement. Swearin’. Technicolor Teeth. These are the only artists I’ve ever broken the narrative rule of Heartbreaking Bravery for. Add Kishi Bashi to the list. Ever since seeing the nearly inhuman performances on KEXP and for the Cardinal Sessions, I’ve been certain of one thing: Kaoru Ishibashi, the man at the center of Kishi Bashi, is a genius. There’s really no other way to explain or phrase this. Easily one of the most commanding and obscenely talented solo performers I’ve ever encountered, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to feature him in this series. In this respect, WNYC has delivered emphatically. Unbelievably, since those jaw-dropping solo performances, Ishibashi has managed to wrangle a supporting cast around him that manages to complement his project perfectly while still managing to stand out on their own (take note of the stuttered, shuffling drums and the absolutely killer distorted banjo tone just past the bridge). We’re all lucky to be alive to witness this kind of artistry.

Watch This: Vol. 20

In one of the more recent pieces to run on here, I bid adieu to a camera that’s served me well over the years. There were vague allusions to various sets that I’ve been lucky enough to catch with that camera scattered throughout the piece- and while this may be dangerously close to tipping into the self-serving spectrum I do my best to avoid on here (and the fact that the audio quality is far from the best), it only seemed appropriate to showcase a few of the more memorable captures over the years. To that end, this installment of Watch This will likely wind up as the one the more unique entries in the series.  One last look at the past before pushing towards what’s ahead.

No matter what it was, whether it be powerpop legends The Figgs playing Tenement’s living room, Thee Oh Sees taking apart one of Wisconsin’s best venues, Desaparecidos returning to the stage for the first time as an official band again, Okkervil River playing to a criminally sparse outdoors crowd in the middle of an absolutely gorgeous day, The Mountain Goats taking a victory lap, The Antlers entrancing a room of strangers on a stormy nightMutts stripping way back for a radio performance, or finding myself in a bar, restaurant, or basement with the likes of Big Eyes, Technicolor Teeth, The Cost of Living, Buffalo Moon, Sycamore Smith & the Gray Beast, The Midwestern Charm, Ramma LammaThe Sleepwalkers, Wett Nurse (shrouded in an impossible amount of fog, at that), Heavycritters – and yes, Perfect Pussy (along with a handful of others)- filming these has always been something that’s been extraordinarily gratifying.

It’s never to fulfill a sense of pride, it’s never for bragging rights, it’s always, in each and every instance, to support an artist that I love or that deserves as much support as they can possibly get. Established or not, this is my way of giving thanks and hopefully extending their music out to other places that may never have heard them otherwise. This holds true for my writing on Heartbreaking Bravery as well. One of the most important things anyone can do is support the art they believe in and this place will always live by that law. So, watch this or don’t, but it’ll always be here as both a reminder of some very personal memories and a showcase for some bands who deserved more attention than they ever received. Sit back, support local music, support local music, support local music, support local music (SERIOUSLY, SUPPORT LOCAL MUSIC), and Watch This.

1. Tenement – Morning Mouth (Live at the Afterdark)

This video will be the only one that actually predates the Canon PowerShot I’d been using to shoot these videos over the past several years (this set was shot on a low-end handheld Sony camcorder), it’s included because it serves as a beginning for a myriad of things: my introduction to Tenement (who would subsequently open up an entire world of music to me through their kindness), the beginnings of when I became serious about film, and the start of when I became serious about booking shows. Their five-song set, to a crowd of people they invited up onto a small stage to make them feel more at home, blew my mind and has stuck with me for approximately six years now. My opinion on this band hasn’t changed as I’ve filmed set after set after set, year in and year out- they’re one of the best, if not the absolute best, band currently going. I’ll forever be grateful to them for a number of reasons and delivering this set will always be one of them.

2. Good Grief – Holy Smokes! (Live in Stevens Point, WI)

There isn’t always a lot of options for live music in the middle of nowhere but at the height of Good Grief’s run, there were a few spells where there seemed to be an incredible show happening every other week. I attended every single one I possibly could, not just because of an undying love for live music and the DIY community but because Good Grief had tapped into something genuinely special during their time as a band. It was evidenced by the mass basement singalongs, by Mutts coming all the way from Chicago to play an unforgettable cover of a song from their final record, by the people who had little to no connection with the band who showed up at nearly every show- right up through their final marathon set at K Bueno (this is a band that will likely always have the distinction of being the only one I ever see tearing things up inside of a Shopko that was giving away free hot dogs, chips, and soda)- with a smile on their face and a beer in their hands, and by the fact that more times than not, the first time I would hear a song played for the first time, I would get chills (“Lab Rats” is still one of the most incredible pieces of music I’ve ever heard and a lock as an entry for my 50 Favorite Songs of All Time list). “Holy Smokes!” was never officially recorded, as far as I know this is the only known recording of it, which is why it takes this spot on the list- a look at some incredible music, and some incredible musicians, that too much of the world missed out on.

3. Midnight Reruns – Too Tall (Live at Frank’s Power Plant)

Like Tenement before them, this was the first time I saw Midnight Reruns (coincidentally, if anyone asks me who I think the best bands in the state are, those are usually the first two names out of my mouth) and even just a few minutes into the first song, it was apparent it’d be far from the last. They tore that place to shreds and threw out a fiery Wreckless Eric cover in the middle of an all-out blitz of a set that showcased Graham Hunt’s beyond-his-years songwriting ability and the band’s undeniable musicianship. They’ve (somehow) only steadily improved since then and have built an impressive expanding fanbase including members of The Replacements, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, ThirdCoastDigestBrooklynVegan, and Milwaukee Record, who just ranked their debut s/t (still less than half a year old) as the 16th best record to come out of Milwaukee since 2010. Word on the street is the material they’re currently working on blows even that out of the water. Keep both eyes out and both ears open for this one.

4. Sleeping in the Aviary – So Lonely (Live in Stevens Point, WI)

Apart from Good Grief, Used KidsThe Goodnight Loving, and Hot New Mexicans (especially The Goodnight Loving and Hot New Mexicans), there are few bands that can come even remotely close to Sleeping in the Aviary as far as the “bands I wish would reunite” conversation goes. The only places I ever saw Sleeping in the Aviary play, curiously enough considering their level of name recognition, were basements (with one surprisingly touching exception being the vinyl LP release party for Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel at the High Noon Saloon, thrown five years after the records initial release) . In one way or another, I was a part of each and every one of those shows and they wound up being a few of the most memorable nights of my life thanks to both the people around me and Sleeping in the Aviary themselves. Ever the manic pranksters, they would usually come armed with cardboard cutouts, bubble machines, various props, or adult-themed piñatas. They’d also always play with a reckless abandon and unparalleled fierceness while still clinging onto a carefree nature and clearly having the time of their lives doing it. Kyle Sobczak was a late addition to the group but provided them with a few of their most memorable songs in their final stretch. “So Lonely” is one of them- and, as mentioned before, being in the middle of nowhere means that when a basement show happens with a band of Sleeping in the Aviary’s caliber comes to play, things tend to go off the rails pretty quickly. No one has seen the regular lead personality, Elliott Kozel, since he disappeared into that crowd… (entirely untrue as clearly evidenced in the video- but still, a great myth to try to start).

5. Charley & the Cynics – St. Christopher (Live at the Crunchy Frog)

Writing an In Memoriam piece for Charlotte was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I debated whether or not to include this as the fifth slot or keep it stored away due to its extremely personal nature but I realized that the few videos I did manage to capture of Charley & the Cynics during her time here had a profound effect on why I kept filming and knew it had to occupy this spot. After her untimely passing it was next to impossible to bring myself to watch the videos of her that I’d previously put up out of both respect and unfailing admiration. It’s not like I knew Charlotte all that well; I won’t pretend I did and I won’t glamorize her or try to turn her into some flawless saintly figure. I did know her well enough, though- well enough to consider her a friend and well enough to know that she was a generally positive person who always seemed to treat others with both care and affection, which is something I try to extend to everyone that gets coverage on this site. After enough time had passed, I could watch these videos without needing to spend a night drinking afterwards and I realized that they’re the crux of why I film to begin with: to celebrate the people and music I love while they’re around. Ever since the full extent of that realization hit me, these videos of Charlotte have factored into every time I’ve plugged in a camera charger, every time I’ve replaced an SD card, every time I’ve spent hours making sure an upload doesn’t crash, every time I’ve pointed a lens at a stage, she has been there as a reminder to capture the things that are important while you still can. That lesson is something I’ve carried with me every day and something that’s been a part of the majority of my decisions within music journalism. For that and for all the times I’ve been reminded of that, I’m thankful- and I keep filming.

Perfect Pussy at 7th St. Entry – 3/30/14 (Live Review)

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First of all, deepest apologies for the delay in content. It’s been an incredibly busy week and there hasn’t been much time to post anything between driving over 1,300 miles, prepping all of the content that came out of that trip, and the crippling side effects of getting a total of nine hours sleep over four days’ time. There was a reason for all of that insanity and the reason, for anyone even remotely familiar with this site, won’t come as a surprise.

It had only been two short months since the last time the coverage of Perfect Pussy’s incendiary Chicago set, which was something that played a definite factor in the decision to drive from central Wisconsin to Minneapolis to Chicago over three days to see them play two more sets. While there will be more to come on the second Chicago show, this piece will be devoted to their Minneapolis stop at the legendary 7th St. Entry, which more than lived up to its reputation.

Not only was the drive down much more pleasant than the potentially life-threatening Chicago trip back in January but there was actually time to spare before the opening acts, ensuring both time to settle in and the ability to see all three bands on a characteristically impressive bill. First up were local stalwarts The Miami Dolphins. All wiry nerve and frenetic energy, the quartet ripped through one of the most memorably spastic sets there’s been in quite some times. Seamlessly transitioning between a shrill metallic dissonance falling somewhere between Shellac and Sonic Youth at their most aggressive, the completely left-field work of The Minutemen at their strangest, and moments of both staggering heaviness and genuinely bouncy surf-inflected powerpop sounds like a mess on paper. Luckily, the written word doesn’t dictate motion. The Miami Dolphins’ set managed to be unpredictably thrilling and left a deep impression- they control their future by the sheer virtue of fearless originality. There’s not many things in music that are more commendable than pulling that feat off.

A set as jumpy and insanely bug-eyed as The Miami Dolphins’ one, especially when used in the opening slot, has multiple benefits- one of them being that it can cover a wide range as a set-up for the ensuing act. Condominium‘s abrasive hardcore noise somehow seemed to dovetail quite nicely with their preceding act despite occupying two very different ends of the hardcore spectrum. Their unifying ground may have come via what seems to be a distinctly unique debt to the readily apparent influence of Steve Albini but the level of intensity both brought to their live sets wound up being what pushed them into a comfortable coexistence (and wound up heightening the expectations for Perfect Pussy’s set). They played as loud as possible and approached frightening with their militaristic precision but really seemed to live for the moments of pure noise (usually generated by guitarist Greg Stiffler’s penchant for maximum-impact feedback sections). More than anything, they obliterated any lingering doubts (if their were any to begin with) that their Sub Pop signing and subsequent release was a fluke.  Last Sunday their set seemed to indicate that they were far from done. Expect to be hearing about them quite a bit more in the coming years.

After two incredibly loud sets (neither lacking in the intensity department), the stage had been set and the bar had been raised. Perfect Pussy came out, sans vocal amp, set up and looked downright tranquil for a few moments to the point where it became an effectively eerie calm-before-the-storm situation, all members looking down at their feet or out at the void that exists pasts the blinding stage lights. Meredith Graves, one of the most seductively intimidating and forceful performers on the face of the planet, paced silently.  Then, it happened. Drummer Garrett Koloski counted the band in and they took off with enough velocity to send the crowd into immediate hysterics. All of the band poured every inch of themselves into their near-twenty minute set (a marathon by their past standards) and absolutely tore through the majority of Say Yes to Love while also making sure I have lost all desire for feeling wasn’t completely neglected either.

Both the band and the audience fed off of each other in another strong example of the most supportive symbiotic relationships imaginable, reaching a fever pitch during the band’s last stretch that kicked off with the back half of the unbelievably gorgeous-turned-unbelievably fierce “Interference Fits” (a highlight even without an introduction containing a dedication worth eternal gratitude for).  Shaun Sutkus’ body shook violently, as if he was possessed, guitarist Ray McAndrew couldn’t stop thrashing around even during the very few song breaks that the band allows, and bassist Greg Ambler seemed to be everywhere at once. At several points, being on the stage looked about as risky as being in the center of the audience. That potential danger seemed second nature to everyone between those four walls, though, as it was nearly impossible to find anyone in 7th St. Entry without a massive grin on their face.

Feeding into that relentless energy and making Perfect Pussy’s set even more memorable was the fact that it sounded incredible (seriously, major props to whoever was behind the soundboard, bands that loud and chaotic are not easy to mix- especially when the singer’s notorious for wanting to drown the vocals in swells of interference and pure feedback). Actually hearing Graves yell things like “Ain’t that a big drag?!” over the staggering wall of noise her bandmates conjure up around her was nearly as cathartic on its own as the presentation as a composite whole. There were times where it really was all whirlwind, heat, and flash. Photographers staked out their ground early only to be swallowed up in the chaos surrounding them, beer was spilled on just about everyone, converts were made and the band was onstage, doing what they love, clearly having the time of their lives, unafraid to show their adoration for anyone in the audience reacting to something they created.

By the time Sutkus’ epilogue showcase had finally run itself into silence, McAndrew, Ambler, Koloski, and Graves had all exited the stage, visibly exhausted but still feeling the overwhelming excitement that comes with being at the center of a groundswell. They may have their detractors, they may also have the accompanying anxieties of being a band that’s incredibly visible so early on, and they may very well have escalating levels of doubt- but one thing’s for sure- they put on one hell of a show. All fingers crossed that this thing they’re at the center of lasts as long as it possibly can- and that they get every ounce of enjoyment out of it as humanly possible. They deserve it.

Photographs below.

 

 



 

Mutts and Buffalo Moon Release Music Videos, Get People Dancing

This week saw two of the Upper Midwest’s best fringe bands release music videos, both of which include dancing. First came Chicago, IL band Mutts’ DIY slacker-goofball video for “Pickpocket”, which was an incredibly welcome and lighthearted affair following their absolutely stunning music video for “Prizefighter”. Both “Pickpocket” and “Prizefighter” were taken from the band’s extraordinary career high-point, 2013’s Object Permanence.

After Mutts unleashed “Pickpocket” on the world, Minneapolis, MN band Buffalo Moon unveiled the impressive music video for the first single (and title track) from their upcoming Machista. Buffalo Moon have been relatively quiet since the release of 2011’s Selva Surreal, playing a handful of dates whenever (and wherever) they could manage. Like Mutts in their most recent acoustic form, Buffalo Moon have frequently flirted with the basement punk scene. While both are capable of delivering full-blown post-punk (look at Mutts’ first three full-lengths for proof and check either band out live), it’s always nice to have some variety. Both Buffalo Moon and Mutts are continuing to deliver in full. Watch the videos for “Pickpocket” and “Machista” below.