Archive for July, 2006

July 20, 2006

W-O-R-T

Driving a cab means listening to the radio (I’m too poor for an iPod) and I’m blessed with classy programming during my Tuesday overnights. WORT offers three shows in a row that I like, starting right at 8 when I do. The Original Wilson Brothers (where’s your website, guys?) play pretty decent new stuff as well as highlighting re-issues and the like. Jimmy works at B-Side Records and Ted must have some real job but whenever Soren and I visit Dave at Mad City Music X he’s always in there (I’m not kidding, folks, just ask Dave & Dave). Seeing as I’m probably around the same age as these guys our tastes intersect–even though they do play too much Morrissey!

Jenni runs the The Leopard Print Lounge and she plays a really cool mix of ragin’ punk, old tyme country, dirty garage and all sorts of other stuff. She also plays Elvis Costello and Tom Waits which is enough to endear me to a radio host forever. Jenni does something that the Wilsons (and every other WORT dj) should do which is that she posts her playlists!. I listen faithfully but can’t always keep track of everything (especially when chatting with my fares) and much of what Jenni plays is stuff I’ve never heard of and would never be able to identify, so her lists are invaluable for me.

Dave 3000 hosts Kosmik Radiation which popped on the air last April, replacing a rather bland overnight show. His first show included “Rocket Ride” by Kiss (one of my favorites) and a song about doing washing by some band that sounded like Led Zeppelin on acid. I drove around until I found a pay phone (no easy feat in this city) and called to find out that the band was The Human Instinct (sorry no link) which were an obscure band from New Zealand. From then on Kosmik Radiation became my favorite show and not just because it helps pass the slow hours of 2-5 am. While the format is loaded with 60’s psych and 70’s heaviness–both of which I am enthusiastic about–Dave mixes in doses of prog and newer stuff, some of which I don’t care for but a lot of which I’m willing to give a shot. He did a whole show on Kraftwerk which I found really entertaining even though they’re not a band I would ever have though I would enjoy. Dave has carefully maintained his playlists on the KR website which, again, is of ultimate value. Recently he’s taken it to another level and started archiving actual shows!. I’m up on Tuesdays to hear the live broadcast but most people are not and its exciting to be able to tell my friends “Hey I heard this crazy song in my cab and not only do I know who it’s by but YOU CAN GO DOWNLOAD IT!”

We are blessed to have such good radio in Madison and I am grateful to the Tuesday Night WORT folks for making my job that much more enjoyable. With the webstream up and more djs keeping track of what they play, our little back porch radio can spread its influence out beyond the limits of an FM signal to the rest of the world.

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July 18, 2006

10 years gone

This Wednesday marks a special anniversary: On July 19th, 1996 I played my first show here in Madison. I was still living in Ames at the time but I came up for a week to celebrate my birthday (On the 16th a group of us travelled to Milwaukee to see The Reverend Horton Heat and The Butthole Surfers) but mostly I was in town to join The Ultramaroons. I arrived on Sunday and, apart from the day off for the Rock Show, we practiced like madmen. I learned 14 songs in 5 days which we then dutifully reproduced to a mostly empty room at The Chamber (which is now The King Club). We were the opening band and were followed by an all-chick band called Ellie. The headliners were our good buddies Junior High.

The show was pretty good even though nobody saw us. It was a drunken, sweaty, smoky, coming-of-age experience that left me thinking we were going to conquer the world. Two weeks later I drove all night back to Madison for a Saturday show (my first at O’Cayz) with headliners The Martini Gunmen. Sadly I do not have a flyer from that show, though I do have a battered one from my first. After I moved up here the ‘maroons played out regularly for a year and then sporadically over the next couple of years. When O’Cayz burned, it pretty much sealed the fate of what was now a part-time band for me. I had already put out my first “solo” album and now had another band to focus on. Despite all our shortcomings, the Ultramaroons were a pretty decent band. We had good songs and real chemistry and were much much more than the sum of our parts. I was frustrated that we never got any press and garnered little attention from other local bands. We never got our recordings finished and that didn’t help our fate much as every other chump band in town had something they could sell and we were just too drunk/lazy/clueless to get our shit together. My solo stuff got reviewed in the papers (thanks to Carl Johns) and while I never developed any sort of following or stable lineup–besides Eric Salisbury being my drummer through it all–I still felt like I had arrived on the scene. My second record got more press and we played a ton of shows and sold many discs but then Soren was born and I spent less and less time working on (and caring about) music. Eric split to Texas in the late summer of 2004 and it seemed like a good reason to shut down the bandwagon and go back to being a solo acoustic show. Things got pretty quiet and I liked it that way but I still played out in whatever capacity I could come up with. The most recent highlight was doing my regular Sunday night at Mickey’s Tavern. I had some grand ideas that I would create a nice following and open the door for others to do their thing but mostly it was me and whatever ghostly folks were out late on a Sunday night. I had a blast and I became a better and stronger musician for the experience–I was sad to see it go but I was grateful for the opportunity to show off everything I could think of to play.

Just tonight I picked up last week’s Isthmus and saw this article about the Country scene in Madison. Featured prominently were the Junkers and Pupy Costello and many others–even Carl Johns got a mention even though his new band is not country–and I was amused that I was not mentioned. Is it pompous to think I should be included? It has been 4 years since I put a record out and I don’t have a band anymore and though I did just play 6 months of a weekly gig it didn’t garner any attention outside the world of Mickey’s. I am not really a part of the scene anymore and I had a good laugh to think that in 10 years of playing in Madison I’ve gone from an unknown to a sort-of recognized artist and back to an unknown. I’ve always hoped that playing well and writing good songs was enough to elicit a response from the masses but there’s so much more to it than that. I know I’m blessed to be doing shows and having fun and I’m ready for another 10 years of getting better at whatever it is that happens.

July 4, 2006

Weddin'

I’ve spent the last few days hauling through a mountain of vinyl to put together a perfect set of wedding music. The choices for the Non-Wedding band (which I guess should be the Anniversary Band since these folks are already hitched) are actually quite easy–most of what was played last year (plus whatever we didn’t get to) and embellish on that front and we’ve already come up with some choice additions. The actual Wedding Band is a bit more of a challenge in that we want to rock but we also want to make folks hang out and dance a bit. The Groom’s requests have been most helpful and right now I’m grooving on what will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the set: Madonna’s “Beautiful Stranger”. I’m not a huge Madonna fan though I am partial to some of her earlier hits and over the years of playing in different bands have found that her pop songs make excellent rock songs. “Borderline” really rocks as does “Ray of Light”. “Beautiful Stranger” really hit me when it came out, despite the goofy video featuring Madonna slinking on stage and Mike Meyers being a big dork. Years later I discovered one of the reasons why “Beautiful Stranger” is so good–its a chord for chord rip-off of the song “She Comes in Colors” by Love. Front man Arthur Lee was probably in prison when Madonna and William Orbit put their version (which, admittedly, is written a third higher than the Love song) on the charts and may not have been aware that someone was cashing in by creating a retro feel with actual chords from 1967.