Tag Archives: The Fatty Acids

Wisconsin Sound #9

Brett Newski’s latest album arrives Stateside

When I was in my mid-20s I liked to think of myself as a nomad. After college I lived, worked and traveled in Europe for a year before moving to Canada for grad school. The next three years I lived in Montreal, traveled across Canada, and held a writing residency on a farm in Oregon between stints at my parents caring for elderly relatives and in Minneapolis working at my college videography job. My girlfriend recently suggested that I wasn’t a true nomad because I collected possessions, which I continue to store at my parents place.

Brett Newski
Brett Newski

Eau Claire-born/New Berlin-raised musician Brett Newski is the real deal. Since the late 2000s Newski has trekked the globe spreading the DIY rock gospel. With his friend, manager and website designer “The Danimal,” Newski has covered every continent save for Antarctica. As they collect beaucoup frequent flyer miles, Newski has played countless gigs, met a ton of strangers, slept on a variety of couches, and were unfortunately blackmailed in Germany.

Newski, 29, and “Danimal” chronicle their international escapades in the entertaining YouTube series “Crusty Adventures.” This summer Newski launched the One Man Garage Band Tour, literally playing fan garages around the Midwest. Newski also had the honor of opening for Milwaukee icons The Violent Femmes on the West Coast, at First Avenue in Minneapolis, and at Summerfest.

To keep the enterprise afloat Newski has written for various websites, hawked merch, crowdfunded, and exchanged his music wisdom and performances for food, lodging, and transportation. Recently, Newski did a time-honored music tradition; he released a full-length album, the aptly titled Land Air Sea Garage.

Album artwork
Album artwork

Naturally, the 11-track record was written abroad. “A good chunk” was penned two winters ago in South Africa. A few other songs were born while Newski was living in Vietnam, between 2012 and 2014.

“It was partially tracked in the middle of the Sri Lankan jungle, which was wacky,” Newski writes me. “There was a Komodo Dragon walking around camp a few days. Them dudes are dangerous so we had to be careful.”

Land Air Sea Garage sticks to the earnest power-folk that Newski has become known for, while the polished production is a bit of a departure from his DIY aesthetic. The album features some beautiful arrangements and endearing storytelling. Music may be the engine that keeps Newski running, but the journey is just as important. Land Air Sea Garage is a delightful glimpse into Newski’s odyssey. 

A couple weeks ago Newski and company celebrated the release of the record at Cactus Club in Milwaukee.

“There’s always more pressure at hometown shows, even though you have ‘home court advantage,’” writes Newski. “But the show went off smashingly and I couldn’t have hoped for a better night. I love Milwaukee.”

Record release show at Cactus Club.
Record release show at Cactus Club.

On stage: Brett Newski will play the Stone Cellar Brewpub in Appleton on November 22.

Electronica artist Luxi appears on WMSE’s ‘Local/Live’

Luxi
Luxi

When I lived in Canada two female led indie-electro projects topped my musical discoveries: Grimes (Montreal) and Austra (Toronto). Their ethereal, dance-friendly pop sounds continue to be in heavy rotation around my house. Earlier this year, my girlfriend hipped me to a local electronica composer by the name of Luxi (Alexandre Maxine Hill). Her experimental brand of chillwave is not as brazen as Grimes, and Hill doesn’t hit the operatic vocal heights of Austra’s Katie Stelmanis. Still, Luxi has a lot of potential and an impressive catalogue of music under her belt.

Not much has been written about Luxi, who started making music in 2006. Her first official release — [Infinistesma] — is from 2012. Last week she appeared on 91.7 WMSE’s ‘Local/Live’ program for an in-studio performance and interview. What follows are excerpts from her on-air conversation with hosts Erin Wolf and Cal Roach.

On her musical beginnings: “When I was in high school, and even before that, I would record just piano and vocals. Piano was my first instrument. Eventually it evolved when I started wanting to record myself into the computer. I probably started piano classes when I was 5. I was in dance before that. I’ve always been putting myself out there. I begged my parents for lessons and luckily they came through, so thanks mom and dad.”

Luxi at MKE Synth Fest 2016
Luxi at MKE Synth Fest 2016

On her inspiration: “It comes and goes in cycles. This past summer I had a two-month span where I was just writing songs over and over, and I’m not sure where it comes from. It just kind of streams through me. It’s always based on my emotions or whatever is going on. I look inward. I also love finding new artists.”

On her live performance: “I think I’ve definitely gotten more confident. I used to kind of freeze up when I got onstage and I didn’t know what to do with my hands. Now I go out there and have fun. I feel like if you’re having fun it’s always going to be something enjoyable to watch.”

On computers: “I’ve always had an interest in computers. I loved playing games when I was a kid. We had this old PC and you could only get to the games through DOS, so you had to type in the code to open the game. That snowballed into eventually wanting to learn how to design websites. Then I started getting into technical stuff more and that helped the recording.”

On her setup: “I like to sample stuff so it becomes a blend of analog and digital. I’ll sample stuff off of my Nord Electro, which I have at home. I used to have a Roland Gaia, which has unfortunately quit working, but I still have a lot of the sounds sampled off of that. So I try and blend organic and digital sounds together.”

luxiastralmemories
album artwork

On her videos: “I think video production in general is a lot more accessible than it used to be. The cost of all the equipment has gone down and you can get free editing software now. One of my emphases in college was video production. It’s helped meld everything together and I really like the way you can express yourself in that way with visuals.”

On video collaboration: “It’s been mostly me. Recently I did one for a single called “Wandering” with Angelus from LA. Shout out to him. He flew in for a weekend and was looking for a creative project to do and it was just offered to me and I said, “Yes,” which was kind of nerve-wracking because I didn’t have an idea yet. It was pretty awesome. So that one was pretty much the only collab. But it’s been mostly just solo DYI for the videos.”

Luxi at WMSE
Luxi at WMSE

In addition to her music, Luxi has also developed a 3D interactive exploration game on HitRecord.org, an open collaboration production company founded by the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Her latest project — astral memories (p a r a d i s e) — is one of the strongest Milwaukee records of the year. During her appearance on ‘Local/Live’ Luxi premiered the song “Next to You,” which will be on her new album, Geometric Universe. For this upcoming project she has begun to expand her sound and has collaborated with drummer Joshua Jenquin. The album is scheduled to be released in January 2017.

WMSE’s ‘Local/Live’ airs every Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 91.7 FM in Milwaukee and online across the globe at wmse.org.

Vote for the 9th Annual Radio Milwaukee Music Awards

rmmaWhile most of us are emotionally and psychologically exhausted from the 2016 election cycle, there is more voting to be done. That is, if you care to dictate who takes home the Radio Milwaukee Music Awards. I’ve attended the annual awards party the last two years and it’s always a good time. In fact, the 2014 edition was where my girlfriend and I first saw WebsterX perform with what would become New Age Narcissism. There are still three more performers to be announced for this year’s party, but so far the lineup includes Ian Ewing from Noh Life, D’Amato, and NO/NO.

Because 88Nine doesn’t trim the categories down to a manageable number, it can be overwhelming deciding who to crown. For those less familiar with the artists, albums, videos, and songs, perusing the categories is a great entry point into local music. Whether you click to discover new music or vote for your favorites, make sure to do so before November 25. Click here to vote.

Trapo mini-doc & debut album + the return of bliss&alice

Our friends over at Explain News released their first mini-doc this week. The subject is up-and-coming 18-year-old Madison rapper Trapo. Earlier this year Trapo released the 10-track EP She, which made my top 6 Wisconsin hip-hop releases so far this year. His debut 16-track album — The Shade Trees — was released this week. Listen to it by clicking here.

Speaking of up-and-coming rappers, Milwaukee’s enigmatic poet laureate bliss&alice is reemerging after an extended hiatus. The scribe behind 2014’s best Wisconsin hip-hop release — Poetry Volume One – The Shit Talker Tape — recently wiped his Instagram account and began posting peach colored tiles. Three of them have information, including the producer names for each track, the title of each of track, and the release date for what is presumably a new 8-track project. The date is tomorrow, so be on the lookout for what has quickly become one of the year’s most anticipated Wisconsin releases.

bliss

THIS WEEKEND — The Fatty Acids and Soul Low prep new albums

Two of Milwaukee’s most beloved “boy bands” perform this Saturday night November 19. Pysch pop rockers The Fatty Acids will headline Club Timbuktu in Riverwest while heavy pop rockers Soul Low will be across the street at High Dive.

Soul Low are coming off the release of their long-awaited and critically-acclaimed sophomore album Nosebleeds. In the intervening time between recording and releasing Nosebleeds the busybody quartet managed to write another record, which they will be recording in the near future. They’ve indicated that they will use the High Dive set this Saturday to run through some of the new material. Also playing this free show is BRENDA (Kentucky) and Soddy Daisy (Chicago). Click here for more info.

The Fatty Acids
The Fatty Acids

Over The Fatty Acids nearly decade-long career the band — founded by Josh Evert and Derek De Vinney — has gone through a few lineup changes. Since putting out 2013’s exquisite Boléro they’ve settled on a stately quartet that includes one of Wisconsin’s finest guitar slingers: Matt Pappas. Their new record — Dogs of Entertainment — is set to be released in early 2017. Having only played a handful of shows this year, Saturday night will be a rare chance to hear some of the new material. Supporting the Fatties last show of 2016 will be their “best friend band” Sat. Nite Duets, Ruby Yacht’s Antilia Raid, and a “SUPER SPECIAL SURPRISE SPECIAL GUEST.” Click here for more info.

More 11/19 WiG recommended events (click text for more info):

Art House Trap at Jazale’s Art Studio w/ Klassik

The Riverwest Sessions: Gauss & Ravi/Lola at Public House

Bum ileum, Chalk, Falling, Hi Suffer at Bremen

Cream City Chiefers w/ Mic Kellogg, Lucien Parker, Rahn Harper at Cactus Club

Sista Strings and [ ] at Company Brewing

The Birthday Party w/ DJ Fox, TMack & Elechronic at The Gig

Wisconsin Sound #7

 

Tenement at Panther Arena. [PHOTO - Joe Kirschling]
Tenement at Panther Arena. [PHOTO – Joe Kirschling]
PUNK ROCK AT PANTHER ARENA

“They’re America’s greatest rock and roll band,” Joe Kirschling told me as we stood in the lobby of the UWM Panther Arena in downtown Milwaukee. The photographer and SIN BAD drummer was referring to Tenement, a cult punk band from Appleton. “I used to think I was the only one saying that, but they’ve been written about in The New York Times and Grantland.”

Indeed, Kirschling’s words weren’t mere hyperbole. And yet there we were, hanging out in the lobby of the UWM Panther Arena before a motorcycle race, waiting to see “America’s greatest rock and roll band.” It was an odd affair to be sure, with (free) music starting at 5:30 p.m. from Platinum Boys, Milwaukee’s premier power-pop party band.

Tenement at Panther Arena. [PHOTO - Joe Kirschling]
Tenement at Panther Arena. [PHOTO – Joe Kirschling]
Arena employees were seen complaining about the volume being too loud. Luckily most kids came prepared with ear muffs for the motorcycles. There wasn’t a big crowd hanging around to see the bands. Most people just walked on by. But for about 15 minutes or so that lobby got an unanticipated performance from one of the best bands in Wisconsin, if not America.

The traditional Tenement trio was joined by an endearing tambourine/vocal duo for a fiery three-song set. Frontman Amos Pitsch is a fantastic guitar player, even when tucked into what my girlfriend described as “a public bathroom.” Tenement’s brief set made us regret missing the band at Eaux Claires and Mile of Music.

Milwaukee hardcore group Midwives finished off the lobby lineup, eliciting some “rock on” hands and air drumming from the crowd making their way to the motorcycle event. Free pre-game lobby rock (or rap/folk/jazz/electronic/etc) would be more than welcome during the Admirals debut season in the Arena.

THE ECLECTIC BACK ROOM @ COLECTIVO

Siren at The Back Room @ Colectivo [PHOTO - David Szymanski]
Siren at The Back Room @ Colectivo [PHOTO – David Szymanski]
The Pabst Theater Group began revitalizing Milwaukee’s live music scene in 2002. Renowned artists who once skipped Milwaukee on tour now find themselves playing sold-out shows at The Riverside, The Pabst, and Turner Hall Ballroom. Last year the Pabst Group extended their reach by adding The Back Room at the Colectivo on Prospect to their roster of venues.

The Back Room debuted last summer and in just over a year has established itself as one of the best (albeit only) intimate all-ages venues in town for national touring acts. While it has stuck mostly to folk and acoustic-leaning indie rock acts, The Back Room has expanded its jazz programming and began featuring harder rocking bands.

Gosh Pith at The Back Room @ Colectivo [PHOTO - David Szymanski]
Gosh Pith at The Back Room @ Colectivo [PHOTO – David Szymanski]
Local bands have been added to a few Back Room shows, but on October 7, Detroit’s electro-rock duo Gosh Pith were joined by three of the finest and most eclectic local artists. The lineup was curated by Sam Ahmedbetter known as experimental hip-hop artist WebsterXand included his New Age Narcissism collaborator Siren, synth wave rockers NO/NO, and electronic artist Liquid City Motors.

While you might not think the back room of a coffeehouse can fit that many people, the capacity in The Back Room is 297. It’s a warm space with wood floors, plants, brick, and a quality sound and lighting system. The Gosh Pith show did not reach capacity, but those who made it out were attentive and engaged. It was an early start and early finish, ideal for the all-ages crowd. It was also my first time seeing Gosh Pith and they impressed with a unique blend of electronic, rock, and hip-hop.

HALLOWEEN CONCERT PREVIEW

Madison Halloween 2005. [PHOTO - Joey Grihalva]
Madison Halloween 2005. [PHOTO – Joey Grihalva]
The highlight of my one semester at UW-Madison was the chaotic, riotous, entertaining, and momentarily scary Halloween. The night did not become frightening because of some spooky holiday vibes, but because riot police eventually marched down State Street, blanketing the thoroughfare with pepper spray and making mass arrests.

After bar close State Street got out of control, with huge piles of costumes set ablaze, storefront windows being broken, and all kinds of drunken revelry. I went to visit Madison for Halloween the next year and the situation got worse. That year police used sound bombs, rubber bullets, floodlights, pepper spray and a brigade of police horses. That was 2005.

In 2006 the City of Madison decided to finally do something to curtail the violence and vandalism associated with Halloween. They began charging a small admission fee to enter State Street, which was gated and contained. Arrests were cut in half. In 2007 the city partnered with Frank Productions to bring live music to what is now called Freakfest. The event has grown into the region’s largest Halloween party and music festival, having featured headliners such as OK GO, Matt and Kim, Mac Miller, and Atmosphere. The city reported only 9 arrests in 2015, down from 334 in 2005.

Freakfest 2016.
Freakfest 2016.

The 2016 edition of Freakfest has arguably the best lineup to date, with one of hip-hop’s hottest stars headlining. Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals delivered my favorite set at the Soundset music festival this year and that was early in the afternoon. The rest of the State Street mainstage lineup includes Minneapolis dance-pop rocker Har Mar Superstar, ex-Foxygen drummer Shaun Fleming’s solo project Diane Coffee, Sweet Spirit, and St. Paul and The Broken Bones.

Freakfest 2016 will also have a country stage on Gilman Street headlined by Kip Moore, plus Jon Pardi, Wheelhouse, Greta Van Fleet, and Adam Bartels Band. There will be a third stage on Frances Street featuring regional talent including Madison’s own rap phenom Trapo, Milwaukee-based/Madison-born hip-hop producer/rapper Mic Kellog, Chicago indie rockers The Kickback, Minneapolis rapper Lucien Parker, and Chicago rapper Rich Robbins.

img_7729Milwaukee will have a number of options for Halloween weekend concerts. Gloss Records is hosting a two-night Spooktacular. Friday will feature Sex Scenes, Surgeons in Heat, Rio Turbo, and Soul Low at Cactus Club. Saturday will feature Moon Rats, Piles, Soup Moat, and NO/NO at Riverwest Public House.

In 2015 Company Brewing held their first annual Nightmare on Center Street, which was a sold-out affair featuring Chicago’s Kweku Collins, Minneapolis’ MaLLy, Soul Low (in full KISS costume), Klassik, Foreign Goods, and New Age Narcissism. This year the event has expanded to include nearby Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts (all-ages), Club Timbuktu and High Dive. You can buy a $15 wristband for entry to all venues and gets you a free beer at High Dive.

There will be a wide array of musical talent at this year’s Nightmare on Center Street. Carl Nichols (guitar player for New Age Narcissism, De La Buena, Painted Caves, RAS Movement) will debut a new hardcore punk band at the Jazz Gallery that includes Bo Triplex, Taj Raiden, and Jake Diaz. Funky reggae, hip-hop influenced jam band Recalcitrant will headline Club Timbuktu, while High Dive will feature the No Stress DJs and performances by Kyndal J. and Chakara Blu.

Company Brewing will host a “Dinner and a Movie” at 7 p.m. featuring the Joshua Backes (New Boyz Club) led DIY Chamber Music ensemble accompanying the 1915 silent film Alice in Wonderland with a soundtrack written by four local composers. Beloved local psych-pop rockers The Fatty Acids will headline Company Brewing. There will be a special late night menu and drummer/dancer extraordinaire Christopher Gilbert will host a costume contest.

nightmareoncenter

NEW MUSIC FROM SEX SCENES, FIVY, AR WESLEY, CHAKARA BLU, AND ZED KENZO.

Back in the fourth installment of this column I mentioned running into Connor LaMue of Bad Wig at High Dive in Milwaukee. He told me about a new hardcore band he was in with Harrison Colby (Gloss Records, NO/NO), Zach Otto, and Chelsea Hayes. It didn’t take long for the band to release a fast and dirty demo, which you can listen to by clicking here. They hope to put out a record before the year is up.

fivyOur friends at Explain News premiered a new EP from Milwaukee songstress Fivy last week. The 5-track release is entitled “Dreamscape” and is definitely worth a listen. For more head over to Explain News.

Explain News also wrote up the new release from Milwaukee rapper AR Wesley. Check that out by clicking here.

Two Milwaukee femcees, Chakara Blu and Zed Kenzo, each put out a new track recently. Chakara’s is a woozy, bass-heavy track produced by Mr. Kou that you can listen by clicking here. In anticipation of her first project since moving back home to Milwaukee from Los Angeles, Zed Kenzo has released a single, “Scary Spice.” Listen to it by clicking here.

NEW VIDEOS FROM HEAR HERE PRESENTS

Last night Hear Here Presents celebrated one year of capturing live music performances from Wisconsin and touring musicians by doing what they do best, video recording new performances by the Rusty P’s and Klassik. In the fourth installment of this column I wrote about an experience attending a Hear Here Presents shoot in their new studio space. In the last month they’ve released four new videos from Lex Allen, King Courteen, New Boyz Club, and Chicago’s Grood. Watch them all below.

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.

 

Wisconsin Sound 1

Salutations, WiG readers, and welcome to Wisconsin Sound, a new column that will explore the state’s thriving music scene. My name is Joey Grihalva, and I’ll serve as your intrepid guide, focusing on recent and upcoming events and releases from local musicians.

It’s been my pleasure to cover local music for various media outlets over the past few years, and I’m honored to continue my journey at Wisconsin Gazette.

Milwaukee raised me. After high school, I traveled for most of my 20s before returning home in late 2013. I came back to discover a more vibrant city than ever and a local music scene that’s driving a cultural renaissance.

We live in a world where 1,500 streams are equivalent to an album sale on the Billboard charts, and music videos can be seen by millions without ever being broadcast on TV. The internet has allowed musicians to reach an international audience without living in a major market or depending on a corporate network.

Touring is now the primary source of revenue for most musicians, elevating the importance of great live performances. Wisconsin has begun to carve out a place within this ever-evolving, globalized music industry.

This debut column will recap some of the major moments in Milwaukee music that I’ve experienced since returning home:

• The first time I heard “Gold” by GGOOLLDD on the radio.

I immediately Shazamed this dreamy, infectious single, but didn’t learn the group was from Milwaukee until months later. GGOOLLDD’s synth-pop sound and stylish, theatrical look is more than ready for late night TV. The sold-out audience who attended its January performance at Turner Hall Ballroom would agree. The group is one of just two local bands to headline and sell out Turner since 2000. (The other being Kings Go Forth.)

NAN performs at Siummerfest 2016
NAN performs at Siummerfest 2016 —PHOTO: Mahdi Gransberry

• Klassik releases “YRP” at Fire on Water on Dec. 13, 2013. Klassik was the golden child of Milwaukee hip-hop at the time, hot off the success of his funky single “Boogie.” He went on to redefine himself as both a powerful soloist and a member of two of the city’s finest supergroups — Group of the Altos and Foreign Goods.

But the primary significance of Dec. 13, 2013 was the birth of New Age Narcissism. That night, WebsterX met Q the Sun and together, along with Lex Allen, Lorde Fredd33, Siren, Christopher Gilbert, and a gang of affiliates, they ultimately created NAN — the vanguard of Milwaukee music. The collective’s intimate, all-ages debut on Jan. 30, 2015, at the Jazz Gallery Center for the Arts is a recent highlight of Wisconsin music history.

• Arte Para Todos 2015 and 2016. This benefit festival, founded by The Fatty Acids frontman Josh Evert and Made in Milwaukee’s Chuck Watson, took the city by surprise in the winter of 2015. The weekend long event, spread out over three neighborhoods, showcased a uniquely collaborative spirit throughout the local music scene. It also raised awareness and resources for struggling arts and music programs in Milwaukee schools.

Milo (aka Scallops Hotel)

APT 2015 was also my introduction to critically acclaimed rapper Milo (aka Scallops Hotel). It was his first show since relocating to Milwaukee from Los Angeles. APT 2016 expanded into an additional neighborhood and brought more musicians into schools for private, interactive performances just for students.

• Rio Turbo’s self-titled release show at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn on March 27, 2015. Linneman’s was definitely at capacity that night. The delirious, throbbing crowd was led by Joey Peterson (aka Joey Turbo). The beloved singer, bassist, label owner, bartender and party boy is a staple of the Milwaukee scene. Gloss Records, his label with Harrison Colby, is a leader in defining and supporting Milwaukee’s emerging sound, including NO/NO’s fantastic new record “Sound and Light.”

Jan. 22, 2015, was for me another significant night at Linneman’s — my introduction to Gloss artist Soul Low and Whips, two of the best rock bands in town. It also happened to be the day WebsterX’s game-changing video for “doomsday (feat. siren)” debuted.

• Jam sessions at Jay Anderson’s house. Saxophonist Jay Anderson was on his way to a rehearsal for Alverno Presents: Jones Uncovered when we first met. That production brought together multiple generations of Milwaukee musicians and since then Anderson has hosted informal jams at his Riverwest home on Humboldt Boulevard.

The warm, plant-lined space, packed with friends and musicians, brings to mind the St. Albans house jams that spawned the era of the Soulquarians (J Dilla, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Common, Mos Def, and others) in late 1990s/early 2000s Philadelphia, as described by Questlove (of The Roots) in his memoir Mo’ Meta Blues.

• Inaugural Eaux Claires Festival, July 17–18, 2015. Grammy-winning indie rock outfit Bon Iver, fronted by Eau Claire native Justin Vernon, is internationally adored and the most recent group to put Wisconsin on the music map. Vernon’s inaugural hometown festival, co-curated with The National’s Aaron Dessner, attracted fans from all over the world.

Wisconsin’s Eaux Claires Festival

The lineup relied heavily on Vernon’s circle, which is more Minnesota-heavy than Wisconsin, given Eau Claire is closer to the Twin Cities than our state’s urban areas. Milwaukee’s Field Report and Jon Mueller took part in EC 2015 and Appleton’s Tenement will play EC 2016. Like Arte Para Todos, a collaborative spirit characterized this Chippewa River-adjacent camping festival. In two weeks I will “Return to the River” and bring you a festival recap.

• Group of the Altos on a boat, Sept. 16, 2015. At one point GOTA had as many as 16 members. Even with their recent restructuring, they remain the most interesting band in Milwaukee. GOTA creates beautifully epic indie rock that builds and explodes. What better way to hear GOTA than on Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River?

The combination of our scenic waterways and music scene makes for magical evenings aboard the Vista King and Voyageur. It is one of the things that make Milwaukee a special place. With concert cruises, cheap rent, local labels, a pair of supportive non-commercial radio stations, and an abundance of festivals, the Milwaukee music scene is ripe. This column will keep you connected to music and bands from all over Wisconsin.