Madison Made Music Project coordinator Jeff Burkhart
The requests of the Madison Made Music Project were simple -- feed the hungry, house the homeless, and enjoy the music. On Thursday night, in five venues surrounding the square, they made that very easy to do. A benefit for Porchlight and the Community Action Coalition, the MMMP chose 15 artists from the over 150 who submitted entries to be featured on the CD and on one of the stages. Though I have to admit, I counted them several times and only came up with fourteen.
The night kicked off at the Overture Center with introductions from Jeff Burkhart, one of the project coordinators. Mayor Dave was on hand to discuss how he became involved in the project, which seemed to have something to do with an ill fated run for the Assembly some time ago. Before The Gadjo Players took the stage, Steve Schooler from Porchlight showed a short but affecting documentary about how one of their programs changed one man's life.
With as many as four shows occurring simultaneously throughout the night, I had to choose my destinations carefully. It seemed to make the most sense to stay right in my seat, mostly because I had no idea what a "gadjo" was. OK, so I'm still not exactly sure, but after watching upright bassist Ben Johnson, guitarist Mike Cratchowill and guest guitarist Ed Fila, I'd call it eclectic acoustic Latin jazz (er, so would their MySpace). Their instrumentals had me tapping my feet and demonstrated early on that the committee had succeeded in their attempt to select a diverse mix of Madison music.
One cover charge got you into all the venues for the evening, so from the Overture I simply crossed the street to the Orpheum. The Selfish Gene was the first band up at the big theater, and unless it filled up significantly for the next couple artists, the Stage Door might have been a better choice. Still, despite a crowd dispersed throughout the room, the band demanded our attention. While older songs were definitely heavier, the newer songs have a poppier edge. In fact, their contribution to the CD, "Autopilot," featured three part Beatlesque harmonies and a ridiculously infectious melody.
I snuck out before the end of their set and raced around the square to Brocach to catch the end of Corey Hart. A familiar name due to his selection as Madison Songwriter of the Year, he was not what I expected. Accompanied by a bass player and drummer, he rocked on songs like "Haunting Smile," which expertly rhymed the title with "intrigue and beguile." His "New Song," which is, you guessed it, brand new, shone with a Dylanesque charm and more smart lyrics.
The involvement by Goat Radio in this project is what got me hooked in the first place. Over the last couple years, I've seen them go from their first shaky shows through a few membership changes to become the charming and entertaining band they are now. Original members singer/guitarist John Wiedenhoeft and force of nature drummer Tony Bitner, along with new additions Don Moore on guitar and Jack Rice on bass, contributed their rocker "Gary, Indiana" to the CD. Tonight also saw the debut of a new song. "Barmaid" is a tear-in-your-beer heartbreaker laid over a melody cribbed from "Knockin' On Heaven's Door," made even more effective by being only one of two ballads in their set.
I stuck around for the first couple songs of Latin punk from Aniv de la Rev, but decided perhaps I had been diverse enough already tonight. Since the King Club had pushed their schedule back (much to the dismay of several people who had planned their nights based on the published schedule), this was the only music left to see.
In their first year, the Madison Made Music Project did a lot of things right in their effort to raise awareness and money for a very worthy cause. Better publicity and a schedule that staggered the bands rather than having them all running simultaneously may have resulted in a few more people in the seats, which could only be better for everyone involved.