The Gentleman Loser

Thoughts and Musings of a Loser

FRIDAY NIGHT (or Saturday morning)

It’s 4am and I am driving around Madison. Too awake to go back home and not ready to call it a night. I checked out the official afterparty. It wasn’t for me. Immediately I was greeted by a drunk fratboy yelling “Brandon!” at me. Clearly I was in the wrong environment, and clearly, my name was not Brandon.


So now I am just driving aimlessly around Madison, the streets eerily empty this time of night. I’m listening to “I knew that you knew” by The Love Generation. I’d change the radio, but there wouldn’t be anything else on anyway. I want to smoke a cigarette, but I’m out of matches. Doesn’t matter though, Denny’s is on the horizon and I can start writing all this down.

Last night I had the singular pleasure of opening the Reverence Showcase of Forward Fest at The Frequency. We had been practicing and writing new material for almost two months leading up to the show. It was a success and I could now start enjoying the shows.

The Dark Clan played after us. Dan looked like a pirate. A far cry from the image portrayed in their previous album “The Vampire Wore White.” But perhaps a proper choice for their new EP “Goths on a Boat” which I was too drunk to remember to pick up.

As I am writing this, something like half of the performers for tomorrow night’s Reverence lineup walk into the restaurant, say “Hi,” and take a seat in the booth on the other side of the room. I am suddenly conscious that I am still wearing my “artist” pass.

Thursday night concluded for me with two more bands in the Reverence lineup. The Atomica Project brought their trip-hoppy sound and provided a nice segway from Dark Clan’s rock to glassGhosts’s dark atmospheric goth.   Atomica does a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “We’re In This Together” a nice reminder of the band who recently played their last show.   glassGhosts then wrap the night up with one of their strongest performances ever. Vocals were perfect, and the sound mixing was more balanced than ever. For their stage show, a man dressed as a skeleton appears to resurrect a dead lover by turning her into a marionette puppet, only to have her escape her bonds and do the same to him.

Tonite played out differently thought. Due to clusterfuckary in the festival schedule I was unable to see three of the bands I planned on catching: Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, Sleeping in the Aviary, and The Gusto. So my home base for the night was mainly The Orpheum for the Reverence and Wongz Wok showcases.

Pezzettino stomps at The Orpheum Lobby

First up for me was Pezzettino, energetic accordion rock from Milwaukee.  Margaret Stutt stomps on the cement floor in her stockings while working the accordion like it were a living thing in her hands.  Needless to say, I was impressed.

The New Loud was, well, quite loud, though audio issues kept Jessi’s vocals from having their proper impact.  She was visibly frustrated by the problems, but compensated by screaming that extra bit harder.  I was about to leave to The High Noon to try to catch Margot, but was duly informed that I should check out the next band Terrior Bute and I was glad I did.  I have no idea how to describe them except to say that it was like a controlled fusion reaction occurring in a small corner of The Orpheum Lobby.  Bonus points to having the equipment cabling hang from the overhanging stairs down to the band.

Arriving at The High Noon Saloon, I was surprised to not be hearing any music.  Shortly thereafter I was informed that the band just getting on the stage was the first band, and the show had been delayed something like an hour and a half from it’s start time.  I stayed to watch the first band Princeton.   Wow, they sucked.  They were dreary and the singer seemed to be trying to emulate John Lennon crossed with The Weakerthans.  Then they finish their set with a cheesy synthpop wannabe song that made me lose faith in humanity.

I realized that I wouldn’t be able to stay here long enough to see Sleeping in the Aviary nor Margot.  As it turned out, Sleeping in the Aviary got moved to the end of the night anyway, and played a really weird long and possibly improvised song.  Margot played with only 2 of the band members present.  So basically both of the bands I had went there to see but couldn’t ended up played really unique sets that would have been a great experience to see.  It wasn’t a total wash, I picked up some vinyl from both bands at the merch booth as a consolation.

Terrior Bute 1

The second band, Archie Powell and the Exports were a breath of fresh air though.  I resolved to catch a few of their songs before leaving for The Corral Room.  I go up nice and close to the front of the stage.  Ra Ra Riot’s gear was piled up in front of me and made a nice place to stash my newly bought records and rest my camera on.  Archie et. all played good old fashioned rock with more than a few nods to classic rock roots.  The vocal styles reminded me The Selfish Gene songs where Webber did the vocals.  What ever happened to that guy?

I then went to The Corral Room hoping to catch a few songs by The Gusto before heading back to The Orpheum for Cyanotic.  Unfortunately I found that not only had none of the bands started, but The Gusto had been pre-empted by one of the bands from the showcase that got bumped over from that showcase running too long.  So my stop there was useless, though I ran into my brother which was nice, and was able to apologize to Jason at least for missing the show.

Back at The Orpheum, Los Bastardos Guapos was in the middle of their set.  Pretty much exactly what I expected from them, except louder and harsher.  Industrial beats, faux Mexican accents,  tequila, sombreros and calling cards for escort services.  Cyanotic’s set was intense.  Probably the most metal-infused I have heard industrial music be, while still being decidedly industrial-styled.  Lots of songs about society, drugs and decadence.


I closed the night out with YACHT out in the lobby.  A band with their own built in cult-like  belief system was a must see (though YACHT is not a cult and would like you to know this).  Arriving through the back entrance I immediately could smell pot smoke, something I would never have expected within The Orpheum.  Looking at the mass of bodies in the center of the lobby, it was clear that the audience was thoroughly indoctrinated.  There was trippy (often alternating) black and while video splashed across a wall.  The bass vibrating through the projector made the video stranger still, giving it a stuttering quality.  Jona is in the middle of the crowd holding a microphone dressed all in white like a preacher.  Earlier in the set he was dressed all in black.  The duality of lightness and darkness is a big deal with this band and more information about their philosophy can be found on their website.

And so, having now finished eating my Taking Back Sunday-branded Denny’s late night meal, I end this rambling scrawl, snag a book of matches, and head home.

SATURDAY NIGHT (or Sunday morning)

I’m tired.  I smell.  The rather cold night’s air has dried off all the sweat though, and a trip to Woodman’s (where I ran into fellow Reverence-goers) yielded some butternut squash ravioli that is currently in a boiling pot in my kitchen.  The day started out nice.  Slept in (as was necessary) and woke up hangover-free.  Relaxed.  Ripped video footage from my Thursday performance as well as footage from Cyanotic’s performance last night.  Then headed out to The Frequency to start things out with a little bit of Little Red Wolf.

Little Red Wolf 3

It was the right way to ease into things.  A beautiful sunny day, though merely warm, not hot, with a slight breeze.  Too calm to just jump into the Reverence Showcase which I would be spending the remainder of the day at.  Their music was mostly a mellow experience to soothe me into the afternoon.  Though that changed.  We saw Emily Mills play the accordion (hot damn, two accordion acts in one festival) and that eventually gave way into “Bella In the Elm” which saw the tempo and the volume rise considerably.   The band members all changed places and the closing track brought things back down, though only a little.  I did my best to help them move some equipment back to their van and then I raced off to The Inferno to catch Parasite Twin.

Parasite Twin put on a good third year Reverence performance.  The vocals on Twins of Pleasure seemed somehow improved, but only hearing the song once a year made the change hard to pinpoint.  Of course there was their new cover of Lady GaGa’s “Pokerface” which was a real crowd pleaser in it’s irreverence.  That lead into Captive Six’s first live performance.  Powerful basslines and drums meshed with distorted vocals and samples.  Sadly their merch box got misplaced by the airline and apparently ended up in Texas.

Perhaps CTRL, hailing from Austin, could have brought it back.  Instead they brought the noise (did you see what I did there, I am such a wordsmith).  CTRL brought your standard level of industrial harshness but the vocals were more melodic and position them to stand out a bit from the crowd.  Sensuous Enemy was up next with their seductive brand of electronica.  Near the end of the set they busted out a cover of Garbage’s “Push It” that appropriately pleased the Madison crowd.  Cover’s seemed to be hot that night, as  Null Device pulled out quite the surprise with a cover of Jace Everett’s “Bad Things,” best known from the intro music to True Blood.  In addition to that, Dan Clark from The Dark Clan got called up to stage and together they did a companion piece to Dark Clan’s “Lestat in Cuba” called “Lestat in Punjab” which complemented Null Device’s diverse middle east to eastern instrumentations.

Alter der Ruin 3

Alter der Ruin pretty much stole the show though.  Intense beats, samples, and unrepenting glitch made this band almost an endurance challenge.  Bonus points go to both keyboardists using apparent home made keytars with Kaossilator attachments.  Did I mention that they were wireless?  Yeah they were, and one of the keyboardists repeatedly bulldozed through the audience.

The Gothsicles started off their set with a little video making light of the fact that they had to follow Alter der Ruin, though they didn’t need to worry.  The crowd was wound up and ready to shout along to “Konami Code IV” and freak out to “Nine Dudes Freaking Out.”  They successfully debuted a song about a video game I have never heard of.  Then Matt Fanale of Caustic got on stage as his alter-ego “Sega Lugosi” to sing about balls.

Izoloscope finished out the set with brutal beats.  He would seemingly come to the end of a song only to punch you in the face with a full throttle return of force.  Following his set, Caustic announced that he would do a surprise performance since he was cut from the previous night’s lineup to do festival mishaps.  He debuted a new track called “Shrapnel Condition” and though my earplugs made his vocals less intelligible that usual, the crowd ate it up.

Click HERE to see photographs from the fest.

PEELANDER-Z hangin' around.

Saw a very cool Japanese punk band called PEELANDER-Z that really was into crowd interaction. This band knows how to put on a show. They found, at least a slight way, to get the crowd involved in each song. Wheather handing out percussive instruments to everyone, or starting a massive limbo then jump rope competition, or even moving the drumset from the stage into the middle of the crowd, they sent us all to ninja highschool, and we loved it.

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Venus DeMars and All The Pretty Horses 1As I approach the door to The Inferno, I can already hear the voice of Jai from Sensuous Enemy beckoning, a mix of seduction and soul-rending emotion. However, tonite, they are not the reason I came. I came to see something different, something that practically begs to be seen live.

Venus DeMars and All The Pretty Horses is a Minneapolis, MN-based glam rock band. The leadsinger, Venus, is the talented and transgenered S. Grandell whose performance art past lends itself to the band’s presentation.

It only took a few songs for me to note an interesting dichotomy. Venus DeMars and All The Pretty Horses, while having the appearance and presentation of a glam-rock band, were for the most part playing music that harkened back more to grunge rock than to anything Gary Glitter would have envisioned.

The show itself was rather straightforward. What makes the show interesting are the people on the stage, no fancy light show, no (well few) weird props. Both Venus and the bass player LeFreak have fantastic outfits. LeFreak, seemingly taking Jermaine/Ziggy-Stardust-Tour-Bowie’s advice about the eyepatch, is a show in himself, while Venus coordinates chains and feathers brilliantly. Just the way they move around the stage, how they interact with each other and their instruments brings to mind some sort of Bachhian nightmare. When this band plays, there are sparks, litterally.

Check out the small video below showcasing a taste of what this band can do.

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img237-795035Last Saturday, May 9th, I went to see Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s at The Orpheum Stagedoor. I had first discovered the band a little over a year ago when I saw their video for “Quiet as a Mouse” on a DVD sampler. I loved the video and immediately went to the video store and bought the CD, every song was a gem. Quiet, emotional folk-tinged music.

Starting out their live show were some newer songs. If they are any indication, you can expect their next CD to be a less quiet affair. Electric guitar seems to have been heavily added to the mix even in the performances of tracks from “The Dust of Retreat.”

Did I mention that this was a big band? It really is. We are talking about an 8-piece band with two guitarist’s, two bassists, two drummers (okay, one plays drums, the other bangs on a wide assortment of things while performing other strange rites), a violinist/lap steal guitarist, a keyboardist and a brass player. Stealing the show, for me at least, were Hubert Glover (the brass player) and Casey Tennis (the aforementioned jack-of-all-trade’s percussionist). Not only does the brass give the band a sound that is often looked over by today’s bands, but Glover’s collection of instruments lent a distinct visual flair to the performance. Mr. Tennis…well he seems like a strange, squirrelly fellow. He had some sort of design written on his face, and the strange bravado the went into each often overexaggerated swing of the mallet or shake of the…shaker commanded attention. Did I mention that the entire band came on stage wearing animal mask’s, with Richard Edwards (the singer and guitarist) dressed as an expeditionist (not exhibitionist)? They did, but it didn’t take long for the masks (including Glover’s cigarette-enhanced white tiger mask) to come off. It was then that I took note that the memebers of this band looked nothing like I had envisioned them to. I expected some sort of well dressed band with trendy haircuts, instead I was pleasantly surprised to see a group of gangly fellows (and one lady) with the half-strung-out look of a grunge band.

There was a good blend of new and old material, jumping back and forth between the two in a bi-polar spree. At the end of the show, Edwards simply got up onto the mic with an acoustic guitar and kept on doing songs as much of the rest of the band quietly took apart and put away the stage. Tennis would occasionally shake a cymbal or something to the beat of the music as he packed away his playpen of toys, occasionally joining Edwards. One of the last songs played was a tribute cover of “He’s on drugs again” by LonPaul, a fellow musician and friend that had died a few days prior. Footage of the song is viewable on the YouTube clip below.

Some bands are better live. Some bands are worse. In the case of Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, they are a completely different animal altogether.

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French-Kicks-746788French Kicks take the stage and the crowd rushes to the front to…stand there and look too cool. Fear not, however, later in the show, with an adjustment of his belt and a sway of his hips, Matt Stinchcomb turns the crowd all the way up to listliss swaying and half-hearted swing dancing. To the right of me, Ryan attempts to break the mold with a brief burst of The Roboto.

Their music is conducive to this behavior, it’s the sonic equivalent to Quaaludes. Matt alternates between guitar, and running over to the left side of the stage to play keyboards. The guitar buzzes into the type of haze one associates with Sonic Youth. however, out of the haze, the bass player chimes in precisely accented notes that cut through like church bells.

Vocals seem to be a mash-up of The Appleseed Cast and M83 with the enunciation of The Twighlight Singers, though their world-weary, raspy voice is replaced by youthful energy.

The music follows the indie post-Radiohead stuff most of the time, but occasionally takes a dive to some more classical styles that almost seem reminiscent of the 1950′s. The vaguely retro-stylings suit the band well and leave the listener with a non-specific nostalgia. The feeling that we can remember when there was a better time, when things were okay, if only we can concentrate hard enough.

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