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Saturday, January 31, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 34.0° F  Overcast
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It's showtime for Madison bands

A complete reenactment of an Allman Brothers' 1970 concert at the Fillmore?
A bluegrass band that started in the basement of a Johnson Street liquor store?

Unnerving poetry rants set to music?

Yes, that's (respectively) Clovis Mann on Aug. 29 at the High Noon Saloon, the Cork n' Bottle String Band Thursdays at the Memorial Union, and Venice Gas House Trolley on Sept. 21 at the King Club.

This gives you a sense of the Madison music scene's diversity. The scene may not be Austin or Brooklyn, but it is big enough to host local shows every night of the week, every week of the year.

And not just your garden-variety gigs. In Madison we have festivals, benefit shows, reunions, CD-release parties, weeklies, openers, showcases, and on and on.

With summer all but over, football starting and the UW getting back to full strength, local music is queued up and ready to roll. Here's a taste of what's on tap in the weeks ahead.


We may be living in the age of the MP3, but the CD-release party is still an anchor of local music. It's a rite of passage for Madison bands and solo artists. They share their latest creations and get a chance to earn some precious currency in return.

There's no shortage of release parties already scheduled for this fall.

The one I'm most eager to hear is the Venice Gas House Trolley at the King Club on Friday, Sept. 21. The Trolley is the latest vehicle for Adam Gregory Pergament, local poet extraordinaire, known for his jarring lyrical rants set to music.

Few people in this scene are as creative as Pergament, who turns music into performance art. An old pal from his previous band, StoneFloat, will return from Prairie du Chien for this show.

One of Madison's most promising young rock bands, Apparently Nothing , unveil their shiny new disc at the Middleton Good Neighbor Festival on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 8 p.m.

Rising rap star Ox debuts his new tracks at the High Noon Saloon on Monday, Sept. 10. The lineup showcases the core of local hip-hop talent, including Jack Cracker of the Crest.

The King Club is emerging as ground zero for local CD releases. This fall's schedule includes the Treats (Sept. 7), the Arge (Sept. 14) and the Vibe Syndicate (Oct. 26).

Love jazz? Barb Cheron releases her new CD Sept. 6 at the Brink Lounge.


With 42,000 college students passing through town every year, there's a heap of Madison musicians who get their start here and move on to larger markets. Brooklyn indie rockers Rainer Maria , who met in a class at UW-Madison, are Exhibit A.

Two recent graduates of the scene are coming back for a visit in September. Carl Johns was a leading voice in our scene for a decade, and over time he earned the attention of Pitchfork. He moved to Philadelphia a year ago but brings his band Charlemagne back to the King Club on Saturday, Sept. 22.

Bro DJ founded the influential website That effort was widely credited by local hip-hop artists as a turning point for Madison rap.

A musical artist himself, Bro DJ takes the stage of the King Club again on Saturday, Sept. 15. He'll be welcomed back by some of his former collaborators, like DLO.


Two years ago, an Edgewood College student named Tom Klein began cornering the local all-ages market. His Journey Music coffeehouse on Regent Street was a short-lived success. Klein has since turned to promoting shows at the Loft.

Adopting an underused venue inside a teen center on East Washington, Klein has revitalized Madison's all-ages scene. Log onto for the incredible lineup of touring-band shows Klein brings to the Loft this fall.

He hasn't forgotten the local kids who make up our own underage bands, either. One example, from the first weekend of September: Local experimental noise-rockers Oregon Falls play the Loft on Friday, Sept. 7. Two days later, Klein taps the raw energy of Call You Out . As with all Loft shows, the doors open at 6 and the music starts at 7.


Summer seems to burn out before it fades away in Madison. Over the course of the next month, local yellow jackets get their chance to sip your beer as outdoor festival season churns into its grand finale. That provides more than a few opportunities for experiencing Madison music in broad daylight.

On Friday, Aug. 24, at the Middleton Good Neighbor Festival, you can meet your musical neighbor Clear Blue Betty , known for their Bodeans-style Midwestern rock. On Saturday, Sept. 1, Muzzy Luctin play hard rock at the Taste of Madison on the Capitol Square.

UW radio station WSUM changes the name of its annual Party in the Park gig this year. It's now the Snake on the Lake Fest. The Union Terrace lineup on Saturday, Sept. 8, includes the German Art Students .

At the venerable Willy Street Fair, you can catch indie pop-rockers the Pale Young Gentlemen at the WORT stage on Sunday, Sept. 16.

Then, take shelter for the next six months.


A lot of gigs this fall don't have a special purpose, other than bringing you some great music.

Local musicians have happily embraced one of their own, Darwin Sampson, who's now booking shows at the Annex on Regent Street. The upswing in Madison music there has been noticeable. Upcoming gigs include two high-profile Madison bands, the Box Social and A wesome Car Funmaker , on Thursday, Sept. 13.

The Baghdad Scuba Review offer artful takes on politics (check out their heartwarming Bush/Hussein gig flyers on local utility poles). They play the Annex on Saturday, Sept. 8.


Sometimes local record labels like to show off their stable of artists, all in one night. One of Madison's most reliable labels, Crustacean Records , is doing more than that on Friday, Aug. 31, at the High Noon Saloon. Crustacean is filming a documentary about its musicians. The movie is scheduled for DVD release in 2008, so if you want to be on video, here's your chance.

The show features noteworthy local acts, including theatrical rockers Screamin' Cyn-Cyn & the Pons . They rank among Madison's best bands right now.

The show also includes Droids Attack , our town's self-described "leader of the stoner-rock pack." If you think heavy metal is dead, check them out and think again.


Given all the musicians living without health insurance, it seems we have a benefit show just about anytime someone in our scene gets sick.

Some benefit shows support a larger cause. Fifteen local acts will take to five stages on Thursday, Sept. 20, in a benefit for Porchlight, the Madison nonprofit that aids the homeless. The locations include the Orpheum, the Overture Center, Brocach, the King Club and Café Montmartre.

The same 15 artists will also be featured on a CD to benefit Porchlight. They were chosen by Madison music luminaries, including Butch Vig and Ben Sidran, from a field of 150 applicants: JAH Boogie's Natty Nation, Aniv De La Rev, the Randall Harrison Trio, Roots Collective, the Selfish Gene, Goat Radio, Gadjo Players, Susan Hofer, Adem Tesfaye, Lou & Peter Berryman, Corey Hart, the Bar Code, Tony Castañeda Latin Jazz Sextet, Mark Croft and Calico Drifters . Their styles range from hip-hop to rock to jazz to folk music.


Using Isthmus' searchable Guide database at, you can find 95 ongoing weekly music shows in the Madison area. Some feature local legends like funky drummer Clyde Stubblefield , who performs Mondays at the King Club, and pianist Ben Sidran , who holds down Thursdays at Café Montmartre.

On Tuesdays, Mickey's hosts a trio of songwriters: Josh Harty, Blake Thomas and Kelly Pardekooper .

Down the street at Jolly Bob's on the same night, two of Madison's best-known DJs, Nick Nice and Mike Carlson , show off their skills.

Is pop your thing? Try Lucas Cates on Thursdays at the Bar Next Door. Piano lounge? David Bicknase Fridays and Saturdays at the Edgewater Hotel. Roots music? Catfish Stephenson Mondays at Brocach.


While the weather's still nice, you can check out the Cork n' Bottle String Band before sunset on the Memorial Union Terrace on Thursday evenings. They're a beloved Madison bluegrass band that formed in the basement of a Johnson Street liquor store a decade ago. They became a staple of local music via a weekly show at the now defunct dive bar Ken's, in the shadow of the Capitol.

The UW embraces local music, and not just through the venues booked by the Wisconsin Union Directorate - the Memorial Union Rathskeller and Union South's Club 770. There are makeshift stages along Greek Row as well.

"The Greek houses that have the best taste in music are the fraternity Delta Upsilon and the sorority Delta Gamma," says John Paul Roney of We the Living . "Over the past few years we have played several events with each house and have had really great results."


Some shows define their own category of local gig.

The best example is Rock Star Gomeroke, at the High Noon Saloon on Tuesdays. This is where karaoke meets Madison's Gomers , who back up would-be singers from the audience. The band seem to know about 10,000 songs-they're like Napster, only live.

And finally, back where we started: that Clovis Mann show reenacting the 1970 Allman Brothers concert at the Fillmore. If you were born a ramblin' man, this show - and maybe this whole music scene - is for you.

Faces in the crowd

Saturday, Sept. 8, High Noon Saloon
Trin-Tran's songs are short bursts of frenetic energy blending Devo art-punk with Japanese sci-fi synth-rock. That's what it sounds like when Steve Coombs plays guitar, drums and synthesizer all at once, and sometimes blindfolded. Photos of him doing this have the look of a house concert at Abu Ghraib.

I can imagine Coombs prompting his own Letterman category someday - "Stupid Musician Tricks" - if only the music weren't whip-smart.

This is the stuff cult followings are made of.

Tret Fure
Saturday, Aug. 25, Orton Park Festival
Michigan-born Fure left the Midwest to attend Berkeley in the 1960s. Then she headed to L.A. in the early '70s to partake of the heady singer-songwriter movement. She was signed to MCA Records in 1973, and her first solo album was produced by Little Feat's Lowell George. Soon she was touring in support of the J. Geils Band.

In the 1980s, Fure forged a musical and personal relationship with folksinger Cris Williamson. The two recorded and toured together for many years on the original "women's music" label, Olivia Records.

Since she moved to Madison five years ago, Fure has operated the Tomboy Girl retail clothing store on Atwood Avenue. She released the album Anytime, Anywhere in 2005.

"Lefty" Frank James
Thursday evenings, Country Corners
Madison may only be a little bit country, but James makes McFarland feel like Nashville every Thursday night. That's when he plays his honky-tonk, traditional and rockabilly songs at the nightclub he founded years ago, Country Corners.

During the 1970s, James landed writing jobs at Nashville TV and radio stations, befriending country personalities like Hank Snow and Ernie Ashworth. He spent a lot of time backstage at the Grand Ole Opry and on the set of Hee Haw.

In 2005, James released All Over Again, recorded in Nashville with the help of top players from the Music City.

For a full dose of Madison nostalgia, imagine the years in the '60s when Frank James sang live from the Park Ponderosa Ballroom on WMAD-AM. Yes, AM.

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