Big Thief – Thursday, January 12, 2017

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Big Thief – Thursday, January 12, 2017
High Noon Saloon
Madison, WI

Big Thief’s music, rooted in the songs of Adrianne Lenker, paints in vivid tones “the process of harnessing pain, loss, and love, while simultaneously letting go, looking into your own eyes through someone else’s, and being okay with the inevitability of death,” says Adrianne.

Masterpiece, Big Thief’s debut album (Saddle Creek), is filled with characters and visceral narratives, songs that pivot in the space of a few words. Adrianne’s voice and guitar playing speak of rich emotional territory with grace and insight. In her words, the record tracks “the masterpiece of existence, which is always folding into itself, people attempting to connect, to both shake themselves awake and to shake off the numbness of certain points in their life. The interpretations might be impressionistic or surrealistic, but they’re grounded in simple things.

Adrianne met her longtime musical partner, guitarist and singer, Buck Meek, in Brooklyn a few years ago, and they quickly formed a creative bond tempered by the experience of traveling and performing for months on end in old dive bars, yards, barns, and basements together. They recorded a pair of duo albums (A-Sides and B-Sides), and Adrianne showcased her songs on a solo album, Hours Were The Birds.

Now, as a full rock and roll band, with Buck on guitar, Max Oleartchik on bass, and James Krivchenia on drums, they bring a steady wildness, giving the songs an even deeper layer of nostalgia. “These guys feel like a pack of wolves at my back,” says Adrianne, “they make the songs howl and bark with a fierce tenderness that gives me courage.”

After spending last July in an old house that they turned into a studio on Lake Champlain with producer Andrew Sarlo, the resulting collection soars on what Big Thief fan Sharon Van Etten calls “… a real journey, with intelligent stories and twist-and-turn melodies.”

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Ceremony – Friday, January 13, 2017

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Ceremony

Friday, January 13, 2017
High Noon Saloon
Madison, WI

Breakup albums mark a turning point for a band: the moment when their sound completely changes and reaches a new level of emotional clarity. All that heartbreak and malaise condensed into any single record often makes for a defining piece of work, no matter the genre. The best records explore the nooks and crannies of sadness, learning it inside and out — celebrating it.

Ceremony’s fifth studio album, The L-Shaped Man, uses singer Ross Farrar’s recent breakup as a platform to explore loneliness and emotional weariness, but it is by no means a purely sad album. Rather than look inward, Farrar uses his experience to write about what it means to go through something heavy and come out the other side a different person.

In order to tell Farrar’s story, Ceremony have almost completely stripped back the propulsive hardcore of their previous records, turning every angry outburst into simmering despair. “We’ve always tried to be minimalists in writing, even if it’s loud or fast or abrasive,” says lead guitarist Anthony Anzaldo. “It’s really intense when I hear it. Not in a way where you turn everything up to ten. Things are so bare, you’re holding this one note for so long and you don’t now where it’s going—to me, that’s intensity.” That intensity is apparent on “Exit Fears,” the first full song on the record. It meticulously pairs Justin Davis’ loping bassline, which pulls the track along, with Anzaldo’s icy, minimal guitar work. It brings to mind some alternate version of Joy Division that hasn’t quite lost all hope. It gets close to exploding, but instead plays the shadows, never quite rising above a nervous simmer.

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“A lot of the content has to do with loss, and specifically the loss of someone who you care deeply about,” Farrar says. “There is no way for you to go through something like this artistically and not have really strong emotions of loss and pain. There’s not really any way to hide that.” Farrar, for his part, is singing with a new kind of intensity, his baritone swooping and retreating from stressed angst to unsettling near-mutter as he sings, “You told your friends you were fine/ you thought you were fine too…” and later, “nothing is ever fine/ nothing ever feels right/ you have to tell yourself you tried.” It’s the first of many lyrically direct moments, and it should be hard to listen to, but Ceremony have so effortlessly nailed the sound of sadness that it feels great to live inside for awhile.

The sound is abetted by producer John Reis, who honed his sound in seminal bands like Rocket from the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, and Hot Snakes. Much of the gravelly aggression he experimented with in those bands is present on The L-Shaped Man.

There’s a story behind the title too. “I was speaking to our driver Stephen while on tour,” Farrar says. “We were talking about men in general and what shape they are…their body type. I said, ‘I guess men are in the shape of an L. The torso is straight. Vertical. And then you have the little feet at the end.’ There’s this painter named Leslie Lerner who was living in San Francisco in the ‘70s and ‘80s and made these beautiful paintings. He died on my 21st birthday. A lot of the record is about the similarities in our ideas. In what we’re trying to make. Things that have to do with love and losing love.”

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Noname – Saturday, January 14, 2017

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Noname

Saturday, January 14, 2017
High Noon Saloon
Madison, WI

Noname (born Fatimah Warner) is an American artist from Chicago, Illinois, who blurs the lines of poetry and rap through the music she creates.

Noname grew up in Bronzeville, a historic neighborhood on the southside of Chicago that famously attracted accomplished black artists and intellectuals of all types. Noname first discovered her love for words while taking a creative writing class as a sophmore in high school.

She became enamored with poetry and spoken word, pouring over Def Poetry Jam clips on YouTube and attending open mics around the city. Noname regularly attended and performed at an open mic at Harold Washington Library,YouMedia’s Lyricist Loft.

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After sessions at YouMedia, Noname would participate in cyphers and started getting into freestyling. When she was just a senior in high school, she placed third in “Louder Than A Bomb”, a poetry competition with 120 Chicago high schools in participation. She remained connected with the artists she met at YouMedia and in 2013, her verse on Chance the Rappers “Lost” attracted the beginning of her large fan base, most of whom have been following her every move since.

On July 31st, Noname released her debut project entitled Telefone which was 3 years in the making and highly anticipated by fans and media alike. The project instantly gained critical acclaim, with a rave review in Pitchfork and praise from major outlets like Rolling Stone, Complex, and Dazed & Confused. Noname has been hailed by The FADER, Complex, and Rolling Stone as one of the most exciting and important new artists of 2016.

Thanks to Telefone’s success, Noname played some shows in support of Ms. Lauryn Hill, who handpicked Noname to open for her on tour. When first approaching the project, Noname set out to emulate the feeling of talking on the phone with someone for the first time. She describes Telefone as “an introductory conversation with someone you’re interested in”. But as Noname continued to work on the tape, it also transitioned a bit into mortality: the idea of life and death and the duality between those two things.

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Sam Evian – Thursday, January 12, 2017

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Sam Evian

Thursday, January 12, 2017
High Noon Saloon
Madison, WI

Sam Evian Announces Debut Single On Saddle Creek

Sam Evian is a new music project from New York City, and the latest signing to Saddle Creek.

“Sleep Easy” is the first track to be shared from Premium, the debut Sam Evian LP, scheduled for release in 2016. The limpid ease of Premium was captured in just a handful of days at Figure 8 studio in Brooklyn, where Sam is a resident engineer and producer.

Glowing lead guitar, aching pedal steel, Wurlitzer keys and iconic 20th-century synths coalesce over a sublime, supportive rhythm section, guiding Sam’s melodies through a semi-familiar mist: the post-’60s zeitgeist, a sun-baked cassette of Pet Sounds, the modern struggle for emotional involvement in the internet age.

“Someone once told me that having one penny is 100% better than having no pennies. Making Premium was like picking a lucky penny up off the street. I wrote the songs ten days prior to my first show, though the ideas had been living under the surface for some years. Sometimes a deadline is all you need. The band came together effortlessly and we found ourselves in the studio on borrowed time, smiling a lot. The use of ‘Premium’ is funny to me. Bottled water is funny to me. We’re all hustling the same thing and packaging it in different ways. Stay hydrated,” says Sam.

‘Oh, it was wonder of wonders. And then, a bird of like rarest spun heavenmetal, or like silvery wine flowing in a spaceship, gravity all nonsense now, came the violin solo above all the other strings, and those strings were like a cage of silk round my bed. Then flute and oboe bored, like worms of platinum, into the thick thick toffee gold and silver. I was in such bliss, my brothers.” -Anthony Burgess

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theMIND – Saturday, January 14, 2017

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theMIND

Saturday, January 14, 2017
High Noon Saloon
Madison, WI

26-year-old vocalist, TheMind, real name Zaris Wilder has years of experience working with a who’s who of Chicago’s finest future stars as part of production crew ThemPeople bagging credits with the liked of Mick Jenkins, Vic Mensa, G Herbo, Alex Wiley and Pro Era’s Kirk Knight along the way. Now, it’s time to put all of his experience into action, stepping out into the limelight with his debut project Summer Camp.

Summer Camp, aims to take listeners on a journey – back to Wilder’s childhood, which he says wasn’t the most pleasant, but is full of vivid, fond memories of the innocence from a camp he and his sisters attended one summer in his native Philadelphia. “I don’t know how that got snatched away,” he says. “With responsibilities and becoming an adult and seeing how fucked up the world and society is… I want this to be this moment of innocence when you’re like 16 years old and you walk outside and it’s after school and you’re like ‘I can just live.’”

Now, having relocated to Chicago, stepping off the plane in the middle of Kanye West’s Graduation era his adventures comes from solo visits to the back of the cinema or holing himself up in a library or bookstore for five hours reading cover to cover. “I just want the people to have this vacation that they can listen to at any given moment,” he says. “And I think that comes from the spirit of the records, they take you on this adventure and on this journey.”

Refusing to be placed in a box and being labeled as “R&B” – he views himself as a ‘lyrical exhibitionist’ rather than a singer – TheMind doesn’t mind being sprinkled amongst the ‘Alternative R&B’ artists that have been breaking through over the past few years, feeling more sonically related to British artists like Sampha, James Blake and Kwabs than his US peers dominating the pop charts. When asked how he’d describe his sound, he’s quick to reply ‘Rabbit Hole Music’, explaining that it’s something that his listeners can get lost in. At times his music goes off on tangents, one song might be making a very direct point, whereas another could conceptually drag him back-and-forth through sometimes contradictory thoughts and feelings. “I like it that way,” he admits. “I think that’s the way that our minds work: they talk a mile a minute, we’re constantly thinking about different things while we’re trying to focus on one thing. So I like that my music does that too, and you get that out of these situations and songs.”

When asked how he’d describe his sound, he’s quick to reply ‘Rabbit Hole Music’, explaining that it’s something that his listeners can get lost in. At times his music goes off on tangents, one song might be making a very direct point, whereas another could conceptually drag him back-and-forth through sometimes contradictory thoughts and feelings. “I like it that way,” he admits. “I think that’s the way that our minds work: they talk a mile a minute, we’re constantly thinking about different things while we’re trying to focus on one thing. So I like that my music does that too, and you get that out of these situations and songs.”

Summer Camp, has taken advantage of his current living situation; an artist loft, directly above the studio that he and his ThemPeople brothers built to continue the development of the Chicago scene. He’s made good use of it, joining the dots between the notes and voice memos spewing out of his phone. “I write constantly,” he admits. “If something happens to me I’ll just write it or record it and then later on in the studio I have pretty much a blueprint of what I want to do.” Like his own favourite records, Donnie Hathaway’s ‘A Song For You’, James Blake’s ‘I Never Learned To Share’ and Brandy’s ‘Bring Me Down’, he strives to keep the creative output as vivid and real as possible, believing that to be the key to reach his goal, which is simply for it to connect with people. Other than that he believes in actively setting small targets along his own journey through the rabbit hole. “I’m slowly coming to the realisation that if I set it for myself I can do that,” he says. “But most of the time I’m going to supersede anything that I thought that I was going to do.” For now, just follow TheMind on a lucid sonic adventure through Summer Camp, you never know where you’ll come out on the other side.

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Hoops – Thursday, January 12, 2017

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Hoops – Thursday, January 12, 2017
High Noon Saloon
Madison, WI

Hoops, a Bloomington, Indiana based four-piece, conjures the idea of breezy afternoons and sticky summer nights – both in name and sound. Not named for the sweltering blacktop accompaniment, nor the waist-slinging hobby, but for hoop houses in the greenhouses where founding member Drew worked in high school. All told, Hoops began as Drew’s solo ambient project. Over the course of 2014’s (particularly sweltering) summer in Bloomington, Hoops naturally filled out into a four-piece lineup featuring; Drew Auscherman, Kevin Krauter, Keagan Beresford, and James Harris.

To date, Hoops has self-released three tapes which draw on influences such as Prefab Sprout and The Clientele. After playing occasional shows around Indiana, the guys slowly began taking weekend trips to nearby midwestern cities. Early adopters My Old Kentucky Blog and Gorilla vs. Bear were soon joined by the likes of FADER, Gold Flake Paint, NME and more in their praise of Hoops.

Still ingrained in the Bloomington music scene (Drew plays in Gum, Daguerreotype, Manneqin), their tapes are available to stream on YouTube – as well as other bands’ tapes from around town. Hoops recently pressed “Tape #3” which contains all three tapes in one and is available to order by emailing the band.

Hoops self-titled EP is due out August 26th on Fat Possum.

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Mic Kellogg – Saturday, January 14, 2017

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Saturday, January 14, 2017
High Noon Saloon
Madison, WI

Mic Kellogg: Coming on the scene with a trippy melodic style, and soulful laid back production, Madison’s own, Mic Kellogg broke through last year with his self produced E.P., Breakfast.

Currently living in Milwaukee, Mic has worked with multiple artists, including producing Webster X’s “Lately” and composing/writing the hit single “Morning” with Rahn Harper. In the last year, Mic also debuted a stellar visual directed by Cody LaPlant & Damien Blue for his song “By 3”

After wrapping up his first midwest Tour, Mic opened up for ASAP Ferg & Tory Lanez in June. He recently headlined at Mile of Music Festival in August and is currently in the process of producing a new album to be released next year.

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Ian Sweet – Thursday, January 12, 2017

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Ian Sweet

“I have a way of loving too many things to take on just one shape,” Jilian Medford sings over and over again on the title track of the Brooklyn-based band IAN SWEET’s debut album, Shapeshifter, repeating it like a mantra. This is Medford’s thesis statement, a narrator to carry us through Shapeshifter, which is above all else a meditation on loneliness and displacement. It’s about losing love and your sense of self in the process, about grabbing at the little things in life that bring joy when nothing else is going according to plan. It’s also an ode to the bandmates, and the friends, that see you through.
IAN SWEET started in 2014 with a string of text messages. Medford was a few days away from embarking on her first tour when the driver and drummer she recruited cancelled. Medford sent IAN SWEET drummer Tim Cheney — whom she barely knew — a series of desperate messages, asking if he knew how to drum and whether or not he would be willing to take two weeks off of life to go on tour. Cheney responded soon after with a simple: “Yes.”

Medford and Cheney’s friendship evolved from their time spent on the road into something that she describes as intuitive, telepathic. At the time, Medford had been performing solo under the moniker IAN — in honor of the nickname her skater friends gave her in high school — and put out a self-recorded EP titled Have You Ever Loved Anything This Much. That year, she and Cheney enlisted bassist Damien Scalise, and IAN SWEET became a trio. Medford describes Cheney and Scalise as polar opposites that compliment one another; two charged forces that she mediates, forming a platonic balance that brought Medford stability at a time when she didn’t have any.

While she was writing Shapeshifter, Medford’s life was in turmoil. She ended an emotionally abusive relationship in Boston, graduated from Berklee College of Music, and briefly moved home to the San Fernando Valley, thinking she would stay there. Medford was unsure of the band’s future and suffering from a severe, undiagnosed panic disorder. When she returned to Boston to record the album in July of 2015 alongside Cheney and Scalise, Medford was reminded of everything she’d hoped to escape after graduation. She felt stagnant; trudging through a quicksand made up of heartbreak and severe depression, a process she references on Shapeshifter stand-out “Slime Time Live.”

That’s one of many lighthearted, nostalgic references on the album that subvert the pain beneath. Like its title suggests, most of the songs on Shapeshifter don’t settle in a particular scene so much as they delve into a sensibility. Whether Medford’s singing about Slime Time Live, eating ice cream in bed on “All Skaters Go To Heaven,” or honoring her favorite athlete Michael Jordan on “#23,” Medford displaces loneliness by falling in love with the small things that make her happy; like skateboarding, basketball, candy, and her preferred footwear: Crocs.

Accompanied by Cheney and Scalise’s playful instrumentation, Shapeshifter becomes a celebratory purging, an album that finds humor in self-deprecation and vice. IAN SWEET’s debut interrogates capital-e Existence through a candy-coated lens, their mathy precision scaffolding the chaos of Medford’s personal neurosis and turning those anxieties into something hook-laden and relatable.

And though the narrative of Shapeshifter clings to an ex-lover, the yearning felt on this album isn’t directed at a particular individual so much as it’s turned inward.

“You know the feeling. When you really like someone, you forget to do anything for yourself, you forget all of the things that gave you your shape,” Medford says. “The things that form your absolute.”

On Shapeshifter, IAN SWEET prove that there is no one absolute; just the ease that comes with knowing everything will be OK as long as you hold tight to the pocket-sized things in life that bring happiness while you watch the rest of your world fall apart in slow-motion.

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