Tag Archives: marielle allschwang

Local Coverage challenges and unites Milwaukee musicians

By Joey Grihalva

A few years back Milwaukee’s arts and culture scene lost an important voice with the demise of the local branch of The Onion A.V. Club. Thankfully, city editor Matt Wild went on to team up with freelance writer Tyler Maas and launched the website Milwaukee Record in April 2014, offering a unique brand of “music, culture, and gentle sarcasm.”

Since its inception, Milwaukee Record has produced a signature benefit event called Local Coverage. The idea is simple: local bands and rappers cover each other’s material. Proceeds from the event are donated to worthy local organizations like Girls Rock Milwaukee and COA Youth & Family Centers.

On the surface the event might seem a bit like “inside baseball” something only the musicians and critics such as myself might enjoy. However, after attending Local Coverage 2017 at Turner Hall Ballroom last Friday, I learned that the event has a surprisingly broad appeal.

The fact is that good musicians are good musicians, no matter what material they are performing. Not to mention, as someone who covers local music, it’s always refreshing to see an act perform new material rather than run through their usual set. In addition, the event brings together a diverse cross-section of the Milwaukee music scene, exposing the musicians both to each other and to a wider audience. The musical pairings are chosen at a draft a few months before the event.

VIncent VanGREAT (Photo: Kristy Tayler, Milwaukee Pit Pass)

Like David Ravel’s Uncovered series which I featured in the last issue of WiG and the next installment, Tribe UNCOVERED, takes place tomorrow at Turner Hall  Local Coverage is a one night only event. As such, my girlfriend and I made sure to arrive promptly. Kicking things off was Americana band Devil Met Contention covering hip-hop artist Vincent VanGREAT, which they previewed on an episode of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s 414 Live.

Vincent VanGREAT followed with his rendition of Abby Jeanne’s soulful rock music, with help from his band Ninja Sauce and SistaStrings. VanGREAT teased his singing skills on the excellent 2016 album UnGREATful, but VanGREAT’s performance at Local Coverage put even more of a spotlight on this additional talent. The emcee/singer brought out Abby Jeanne who was leaving the next morning for India — to join him on a song, a move that he assured the crowd was pre-approved.

Some acts like Devil Met Contention and Abby Jeanne presented their covers through the lens of their own musical sensibility. Others — like Midwest Death Rattle — did more true-to-form covers. The art rockers did an incredible job rapping along to D’Amato’s sexy and thought provoking lyrics.

Midwest Death Rattle (Photo: Kristy Tayler, Milwaukee Pit Pass)

“I’ve wanted to rap since the first time I saw 2 Live Crew,” exclaimed John Dykstra of Midwest Death Rattle after catching his breath. The band’s earnest rendition of D’Amato’s funky rap songs was a highlight of the night. Even their drummer couldn’t help but dance as they played the final song.

From the looks of her, you wouldn’t expect gentle folk singer Marielle Allschwang to absolutely own the rap stylings of Lorde Fredd33. But after learning about Allschwang’s penchant for hip-hop and R&B, along with the dark, hypnotic tone in each of their music, this was far and away our most anticipated performance of the night.

After a few sets I ran into Nathaniel Heuer who plays bass in Allschwang’s band as well as another project, Hello Death and I mentioned that most of the musicians seemed to be taking the challenge quite seriously.

“Oh yeah, we take this very seriously. We’ve rehearsed a bunch. At this point we know it as well as we know our own material,” replied Heuer.

Allschwang’s set was nothing short of a revelation. Her confident, controlled delivery of each and every one of Fredd33’s obscure lines of poetry was glorious in and of itself, but her band also created a mesmerizing soundscape that bounced between doom folk and alt hip-hop. Her set contained a political subtext as well, with Allschwang wearing a solidarity with Standing Rock t-shirt and closing with “MWME,” which contains the chorus, “Trynna turn the Midwest to the Middle East.”

With all of our hype centered on Allschwang’s set, I hadn’t thought about who would be covering her fantastic songbook. That task went to power-pop garage rockers Midnight Reruns, who delivered the best surprise of the night. Allschwang’s folk soul spoke directly through their jangly, crackling guitars. Every time I see the Reruns I love them more and more.

The Pukes (Photo: Kristy Tayler, Milwaukee Pit Pass)

Another takeaway from the night included Jay Anderson creating synth sounds with his tiny saxophone via an effect pedal during Lorde Fredd33’s loose covers of Midwest Death Rattle. I also learned that while I’m not a fan of country music, I can get into country songs performed by a punk band. At least when that band is (two of the three members of) The Pukes covering the music of Buffalo Gospel.

D’Amato closed the show as only D’Amato knows how with bravado and style, turning The Pukes snappy, punk tunes into his own sensual brand of get down. Between ticket sales, raffles and an exclusive beer made by Company Brewing, Local Coverage 2017 raised over $3,000 and counting, as the delicious sweet and spicy porter is still available at some local establishments. The audio from Local Coverage 2017 will be online later this year, but until then you can listen to and purchase recordings from past Local Coverage events here.

 

Wisconsin Sound #2

Wisconsin music makers have been busy these last few weeks. Appleton’s Mile of Music pulled off their fourth festival. One of the most anticipated Wisconsin albums of the yearNosebleeds by Soul Lowwas released on August 5. For more on Soul Low see my upcoming feature in WiG.

The attention of the international media will be on Eau Claire this weekend, as Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) and friends host the second Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival. I will bring you my report in the next issue of WiG. Now I offer my rundown of Mile of Music, the Milwaukee Public Library’s inaugural “Library Loud Days,” a couple Company Brewing shows, and the latest addition to Milwaukee’s impressive roster of festivals.

Synth Fest MKE

A new Milwaukee festival debuted last month in the Bay View neighborhood. Produced by the people at Acme Recordsa music store on S. Kinnickinnic Avethe inaugural Synth Fest MKE put the spotlight on electronic music. Barry Paul Clark, bassist in several Wisconsin bands including Field Report and the mind behind adoptahighway, told me that what made the festival unique is it provided an outlet to artists who don’t often perform live.

Synth Fest MKE

The experimental, electronic music scene in Milwaukee can be very introverted. It is usually one person spending a lot of time working with different recording technologies and machines in isolation. The festival was really special because it showed us that we’re all kind of speaking the same language and living in the same universe, so there can be a community around it.”

One of those people who rarely plays out is John Goezler, who performed as BTS.WRKNG on the second night of the festival. Clark was happy to see Goezler, as he was one of the first people Clark met in the electronic scene after moving back to Milwaukee from New York City. Synth Fest MKE comprised two nights of music at Cactus Club and two days at Acme Records on July 23 and July 24.

I caught Clark as adoptahighway on the first night and he delivered a powerfully haunting set. On my way out of Cactus Club I ran into a guy who looked like but was not Nick Schubert of GGOOLLDD, which made me sad he wasn’t playing the festival as his Holy Visions side project. Maybe next year.

“Library Loud Days” inaugural event

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In an attempt to redefine Milwaukee’s concept of their library, the Central Branch became a lively, interactive destination on July 28. Out front on Wisconsin Avenue there was a block party with V100 DJs, food and beer vendors. Inside there was an instrument station, a music video display, free popcorn, a photo booth, spoken word, and a headlining performance from New Age Narcissism (NAN), Milwaukee’s premier hip-hop collective. The stage was set up inside the Schoenleber Reading Room. The packed audience, from toddlers to senior citizens, gave NAN a warm reception, feeding off their infectious energy. It was a beautiful night of music in a place where I never thought I’d get the chance to chant, dance, sing and stomp.

The Lion’s Ball and Strange Fruit

Company Brewing in Milwaukee is usually closed on Monday, but when Milwaukee saxophonist Jay Anderson requested that his birthday party fall on his actual birthdayMonday July 25owner George Bregar gladly complied. After all, Anderson helps book Company’s Wednesday night jazz supper club series. “The Lion’s Ball” also honored Tarik Moody of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. It was quite the social affair, with some good music thrown in.

The Lion's Ball poster by Rachel Hughes.
The Lion’s Ball poster by Rachel Hughes.

D’Amato turned in an inspired set with a smaller backing band than usual and dedicated a cover of Amy Winehouse’s “I Heard Love Is Blind” to Anderson, who is a huge fan of Winehouse. The headlining band featured Fred Boswell Jr., arguably the best drummer in town, and Angie Swan, an accomplished guitarist from Milwaukee who is spending some time back home before another high profile gig elsewhere. They jammed along with Quentin Farr, Alan Harris, Terry Harris, and B-Free.

This weekend (August 12 – 14) Anderson has co-curated the Strange Fruit music festival, which seeks to “explore the thoughts and emotions of local musicians, regarding the current climate of racial relations both in Milwaukee and the country as a whole.” It was inspired by a community dinner that included Anderson, Chauntee Ross (SistaStrings) and others. It is co-produced by Tarik Moody and David Ravel (former director of Alverno Presents), will be held at the Hotel Foster, Company Brewing, and Cactus Club, and features a very strong lineup of hip-hop, jazz, folk, rock and poetry performances.

Siamese and the new Nightgown lineup

Company Brewing hosted another special event on Tuesday August 2, as Dallas, TX glam rock band Siamese visited Milwaukee. This weeknight show also saw the debut of Nightgown’s new lineup, Milwaukee singer Gina Barrington’s latest project. She was joined by Amelinda Burich, Thomas Gilbert (GGOOLLDD) and Erin Wolf (Hello Death, WMSE). Local artist Kristina Rolander created her fourth custom, hand painted backdrop for the Company stage. (Full disclosure, Rolander is my girlfriend.)

Nightgown at Company Brewing. (Photo by Joe Kirschling)
Nightgown at Company Brewing. (Photo by Joe Kirschling)

The glittery, neon, geological rock inspired backdrop flowed seamlessly with Siamese’s outfits and face paint, elevating the young band’s gorgeous, groovy sound. Milwaukee’s Marielle Allschwang, who made one of the best Wisconsin records of 2015Dead Not Donefinished the night with a spirited set. At one point she improvised a song with fellow Hello Death member Nathaniel Heuer in which she sang, “I want to be the dirt.” The sentiment seemed morbid until she followed it up with, “I want to help it grow.” It was a magical midsummer evening with an excellently curated lineup.

Cory Chisel and Mile Of Music 4

Appleton-native Cory Chisel has carved himself a nice place in the music industry, splitting time between his hometown and Nashville, TN. On July 29, his “World Tour of Wisconsin” stopped at the newly-opened MobCraft Brewery in Milwaukee. The sound wasn’t great as it reverberated between the brewing tanks, but Chisel and his band had an enthusiastic crowd. The vocal talents of J-Council were a highlight of the performance, part of a nine-city tour sponsored by USA Today that takes Chisel and his band to non-traditional venues representing what they love most about our state: breweries, barns, bookstores, supper clubs and riverboats.

Four years ago Chisel founded Mile of Music, an Americana/roots festival that has attracted thousands of visitors to downtown Appleton. The 2016 installment featured over 800 performances by more than 200 acts at 70 venues over four days on one mile. I visited “Mile 4” on Saturday August 6, staying at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel right in the heart of the action on College Avenue.

The festival can be overwhelming, with so many performances in bars, storefronts, alleys and outdoor stages. During my time I discovered the sweet, nervy indie-folk rock of Idle Empress (Eau Claire), the saintly-voiced Paul Otteson (Madison), and the derivative electro-hop of Oh My Love (Madison). It was no magic trick when Milwaukee favorites GGOOLLDD got Houdini Plaza dancing and debuted an uncharacteristically dark new song (working title “Undercovers.”)

The highlight of “Mile 4” for me was the festival’s first hip-hop showcase, curated by Milwaukee’s Lex Allen of New Age Narcissism. His collective headlined the five-hour block, which also included Milwaukeeans Fivy, Queen Tut, Mic Kellogg, AUTOmatic, Chakara Blu, Zed Kenzo, Rahn Harper, Cree Myles, Bo and Airo, and Chicago’s Ric Wilson.

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The showcase was held at Lawrence University’s Stansbury Theatre, which was somewhat hard to find on the east end of the mile and had no beverage service. Even so, it was a success in that it exposed interested festival-goers to an underrepresented and often misunderstood genre of music, and some of its most talented local creators. After his show at MobCraft Brewery I spoke with Chisel about the hip-hop showcase.

“I’ve loved Lex for about two years. We played Summerfest and he was on the stage across from me. When I saw him I was like, “Who the hell is that?” So I tracked him down and we’ve become really good friends. He comes up to Appleton and visits. When I had the opportunity to expand the mind of our town with some new programming I immediately thought of Lex. The singer-songwriters are great but I think the festival needs what he brings.”

New videos by NO/NO, The Fatty Acids, and Airo Kwil

The last couple of weeks saw the debut of videos from one of the best Wisconsin albums of the year (NO/NO’s “Television” off Sound and Light), one of the best Wisconsin albums of the last 20 years (The Fatty Acids’ “Little Brother Syndrome” off Boléro), and the first single, “Run Away Now,” from Airo Kwil‘s upcoming album Best Served Cold.