A January jam-packed with live music

A local line-up, some festive girl power and a...
A January jam-packed with live music
Modern Mod

A Rare Community
The basement rock scene in Madison is one of the most interconnected. There’s got to be a multi-circle Venn diagram of overlapping band members who occupy different roles across the vibrant punk/garage/power-pop line-up of local bands. A drummer in one band plays bass for another and vice versa, a lead singer takes a backseat in another project, et cetera. The double-ups are endless. It comes from the rub of being a local musician–there’s a limit to how often a band can play locally. Musicians who want to play more get involved in other projects.

The tight-knit community also makes for an extremely supportive atmosphere. If you go to a lot of these shows, you see the same faces in the crowd bopping their heads to other local bands. This was most evident at the Rare Plant Showcase at the High Noon Saloon on January 8. Rare Plant is a small, Madison-based tape label that represents many bands in this scene and is founded by musicians Erick Fruehling and Claire Nelson-Lifson. Tarpaulin kicked off the night (a band I wrote about in November’s post), followed by garage punk band The Minotaurs. Both bands played on the floor in front of the stage, a move that may capture the essence of basement rock, but is bad news for a five-foot-three concertgoer like myself trying to look past the front row. Bobby Hussy, lead singer and guitarist for punk outfit The Hussy, took the stage for his solo project, Cave Curse. Backed by live drums, he sang a short intro set while playing on an ell of keyboard and synthesizer.

One of my favorites of the night was Wood Chickens, self-described as “acid-barn psych.” Fresh off touring country bars, their set was tight, professional and fun. Wood Chickens’ Alex Reilly, a charismatic cowboy boot wearing front man, did double duty that night as bassist for the Minotaurs as well (see what I mean about overlap?). The packed line-up made for a late show. The Rare Plant founders’ bands closed out the show with a loud set from Fruehling’s Dumb Vision and the signature back-and-forth vocal melodies and knees-on-the-floor shredding from Claire Nelson-Lifson and Tyler Fassnacht of Proud Parents. You can catch Proud Parents next month at the High Noon with The Hussy and New Orleans band, Trampoline Team on February 17.

Warming Up at FRZN Fest
Another standout show was the first night of FRZN Fest at the High Noon Saloon. Thursday was a good night for girl power. I must confess my bias toward a female-fronted rock outfit. It’s my kryptonite. I fell more in love with Palehound‘s Ellen Kemper, especially when she played a solo song without backup. She’s got the understated confidence that comes with undeniable talent. Her asides about Avril Levigne definitely resonated with girls like me who also took style inspiration from her ties and studded belts as kids. Their set was followed by a rather generic brand of indie from Eternal Summer. Torres closed the night with a commanding set. Mackenzie Scott on vocals and guitar has the ability to be extremely vulnerable in her crooning, emotional lyricism while turning it around into a rollicking guitar riff. Seeing her live cemented my girl crush.

Saying Goodbye
Modern Mod‘s penultimate show at Majestic for Pop Fest marks a moment of loss in the Madison music scene. The fresh-faced band of youngsters has put in three years in the local scene, defined by ’60s melodies and beachy riffs. Their farewell show was January 21 at the High Noon Saloon.

Music Forecast
Fans of world music will enjoy the Handphibians’ Carnaval at the High Noon Saloon on February 5th. Featuring a lineup of exuberant Brazilian music from local acts headlined by the Handphibians, it’s a chance to celebrate Carnaval and hear the diversity of the Madison music community. If you can’t make that one, the show moves to the Majestic the next night, February 6. Another danceable show next month is Metric, a fresh synth-pop ensemble with some rock and folk riffs at the Orpheum on February 13. Expect a little bite on the tunes from their bold new album, Pagans in Vegas. Hip-hop enthusiasts will delight in Minneapolis-based female hip-hop artist Lizzo, who channels the flow of Missy Elliot and the R&B swagger of early 2000s girl groups at the Majestic Theater February 19. The night after that, February 20, Duluth chamber pop band Cloud Cult performs at the Barrymore Theater. Last but not least, Family and Friends brings some earnest folksy goodness to The Frequency on February 26.

What did I miss? Share your favorite live music favorites with me on twitter @heglandia.