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Monday, January 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 18.0° F  Overcast
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Near-death experience

Sparklehorse with Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter
Tuesday, Feb. 20
High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.

Tuesday nights are not usually the stuff of deep thought and swirling emotions, but this week might be the exception. That's because Sparklehorse is coming to town, and few bands swim in a deeper end of the musical ocean.

Sparklehorse is Mark Linkous, son of a Virginia coalminer whose musical career has long been defined by a self-induced near-death experience in 1996. On his very first Sparklehorse tour, Linkous overdosed on a combination of alcohol, Valium and antidepressants. For 14 hours he remained unconscious, his legs pinned underneath the rest of his body. To this day, Linkous wears braces on his legs to compensate for the injuries he sustained in that episode. It's a story that's remained the centerpiece of nearly everything written about Sparklehorse over the past decade ' a fact Linkous hasn't always appreciated.

As a counterpoint, he released It's a Wonderful Life in 2001. The title track is as buoyant and chipper as a party DJ's mix.

'I got fed up with people in America thinking that my music is morose and depressing and all that,' he was quoted as saying in an interview with Free Williamsburg. 'That song is like a 'fuck you' to journalists, or people who are not smart enough to see what it is.'

Last fall's Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of the Mountain was the first Sparklehorse record in five years. Linkous has said in interviews that the gap was partly due to his continuing bouts of depression. The title track is a 10-minute instrumental rock dirge that contrasts sharply with more hopeful songs like 'It's Not So Hard.'

A decade removed from his near-fatal overdose, Linkous' latest batch of songs drive home this point: He doesn't just feel sadness, he tries mightily to transcend it.

Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter are an opening act not to be missed. The Seattle band bring a driving, psychedelic darkness to, of all things, country music.

Sykes is one part Neko Case, one part Janis Joplin, framed by the long black hair of Cher. Her atmospheric new album is titled Like, love, lust & the open halls of the soul.

Get ready for a show light-years removed from your average Tuesday night.

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