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Tuesday, July 29, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 64.0° F  Mostly Cloudy


Minneapolis and Madison meet up at the High Noon
Minnie/MadFest II delivers a cross-border battle of the bands

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Cultures clashed and genres collided during the second annual Minnie-Mad Fest at the High Noon Saloon on Friday.

Seven -- count 'em -- seven bands took the stage at the High Noon sponsored event, with Pale Young Gentlemen and Birthday Suits being surprise guests. The latter group's drummer Matthew Kazamo was originally unsure if they would be able to make it, considering they finished a show late Wednesday night in New York at CMJ, but he decided to burn rubber to get here. "We needed gas money, and we love Madison," he said. "We're really glad we made it."

So are we, incidentally. Kazamo and partner Hideo were riveting to watch, thumping and jumping through their hard rock set, with hair and legs flying every which way. Did it matter that the lyrics were unintelligible? Hardly. Birthday Suits is pure music, with any lyrics being an afterthought. One song bled into another with Kazamo's brilliant (and barefoot) drumming providing the backbone. The duo may never make the mainstream, but they have enough talent to pave a path similar to where Deerhoof is today -- quietly maintaining a rabid cross country cult following.

Fellow Minneapolitans MC/VL took an energetic romp next with their Beastie Boys inspired hip hop. With sweatbands on their foreheads and elbows, the two giddy MCs shouted and wiggled their way through a formidably tongue tying set. It never hurts when half your ensemble bears a startling resemblance to Ashton Kutcher, but MC/VL are more than just pretty faces. They have chops, and a unique sampling style, too. It's safe to say they're the only ones around dabbling in Spoon licks while simultaneously attempting the Worm. In the audience, on the stage, to each other, on the floor -- you can't take your eyes off them, only because they won't let you.

Though it's hard not to cheer for the home team in a city to city match, a couple of Madison 's offerings looked more cheesy than usual vis à vis the sheer spread of sound. Clothes may make the man, but they certainly don't make the band. The sequined leotard on the frontman for Screaming Cyn-Cyn & the Pons and the ridiculous getups of Awesome Car Funmaker lent an air of performance art, if not high school talent show. Costumes are fine, if that's what you dig, but one wonders if these bands should focus first on making a more memorable sound.

Luckily for us local yokels, Pale Young Gentlemen came in for a pinch hit following a family emergency in Sleeping in the Aviary. They delivered yet another stellar performance, this band creating the most unique sound in Madison with their gypsy folk rock. Brothers Mike and Matt Reisenauer, who moonlight as baristas at State Street's Fair Trade Coffeehouse, are the best sound Pitchfork and its indie disciples are only just starting to hear. Here's hoping that someday soon they can pack up their piano and cellos for the road and hit the big time.

Ultimately, it was a long night. Not that I'm complaining, but punk to piano to hard rock to hip hop? Minnie/Mad Fest was musical ADD. The bands are packing up to play in the Twin Cities tonight at Stasiu's Place in Nordeast. I'm staying put and contemplating Ritalin, for my ears are still buzzing.

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