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  • Show Reviews

    by Max Ink Staff Writers


    Crowd-surfing Mime at the of Montreal Show Madison - photo by Russell Kershaw

    Crowd-surfing Mime at the of Montreal Show Madison - photo by Russell Kershaw

    of Montreal with Lily and Horn Horse
    March 10th, 2020 Majestic Theater Madison WI
    Show Review By John Noyd
    Posted: Mar 2020
    (344) Page Views

    A musical cornucopia brimming in kaleidoscopic show-stoppers, of Montreal has long put the sizzle in the glitter on record and in concert. Riding high on the new, love-struck, “UR FUN,” the antics of the band’s quasi-psychedelic romantics were bright and shiny when they visited Madison’s Majestic Theater. Frivolous mischief fitted into power-pop riffs with radiant stadium reach, the paisley pranksters threw a multi-sensory extravaganza that leaped, slithered and grooved from transcendent frenzies to churning jams with barely a breath in between.

    Beginning with a dark stage and a recording of a weirdly whimsical, “I’m Glad To Be Me,” the lights came up to reveal three giant skulls washed in swirling colors that suggested a Mexican Day of the Dead fiesta, as the band and dancers kicked off the evening with, “Peace To All Freaks.” Flamboyant frontman Kevin Barnes’ hyper-verbose songs needed no introduction and defied explanation as the spectacle melted time and space joining old songs next to new in a vivid mythology versed in gender politics and accompanied by anthropomorphic gorgons, crowd-surfing mimes, middle-finger puppets and fun-loving Furbies.

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    Joseph on fire Valentine's Day 2020  - photo by Dave Robbins

    Joseph on fire Valentine's Day 2020 - photo by Dave Robbins

    Joseph with Deep Sea Diver
    February 14th, 2020 Majestic Theater Madison, WI
    Show Review By John Noyd
    Posted: Feb 2020
    (323) Page Views

    Last Friday night, Madison’s Majestic Theater was turned into the House of Love when Pacific Northwest bands Joseph and Deep Sea Diver turned up the heat on a freezing single-digit Valentine’s Day, doling out locomotive vocals and firing pile-driving kindness with upbeat themes burning in tender independence. Establishing a safe zone to open the flow of emotions, both bands immediately earned the audience’s respect as couples, groups, first-timers and long-time fans made room for each other, their swaying, their camera-phones and their singing along. Filled with honest songs dressed to kill, the Majestic couldn’t help but surrender to the feverish affection generated that night.

    Moving Heaven and Earth with angelic harmonies and ground-shaking beats, Joseph’s three-sister voices carried confidence inside their questions, standing their ground while charging forward. Wisely dividing their set into thirds, the band began with a front-loaded half hour packed in dramatic passion and driven by oldest sister Natalie’s brisk guitar and three non-family musicians the twins fondly called their babies.  Opening with, “In My Head,” and the lines, ‘I always start at the very end,’ Joseph made every minute count from start to finish.

    Letting their hair down, the middle section consisted of the three sisters on their own where they celebrated Valentine’s Day by asking the crowd their favorite love songs. An a capella rendition of Dolly Parton’s, “I Will Always Love You,” soared and snippets of Celine Dion’s, “Because You Loved Me,” and, “My Heart Will Go On,” brought de-thorned roses tossed from stage. Maria Carey’s, “Fantasy,” topped off the fun that included ace guitar shredder Jessica Dobson of Deep Sea Diver sitting in and rocking out.

    Besides the crowd-sourced love songs and a sweet Tom Waits cover, Joseph focused their set-list on this year’s, “Good Luck, Kid,” and 2016’s, “I’m Alone, No You’re Not.” The final half hour reassembled the band and kept to the evening’s theme of fortified resolve and active compassion before ending with a touching story behind their lullaby, “Room For You.” “Fighter,” and Good Luck, Kid,” made an appearance as the encore and nicely summarized Joseph’s sweetness and strength. 

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    Doug Aldrich and Dave Amato remembering Ronnie Montrose in Anaheim - photo by Sal Serio

    Doug Aldrich and Dave Amato remembering Ronnie Montrose in Anaheim - photo by Sal Serio

    Ronnie Montrose Remembered - 2020
    Friday, January 17 at M3 Live in Anaheim during the NAMM Show
    Show Review By Sal Serio
    Posted: Jan 2020
    (558) Page Views

    A definite highlight for hard rock fans attending the 2020 Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, was the 5th annual Ronnie Montrose Remembered tribute concert. Organized by later-day “Montrose” vocalist Keith St. John, and with proceeds going to assist the Sweet Relief charity fund which helps to aid musician’s medical needs, this was another star-studded rotating cast of rock n’ rollers all assembled to pay tribute to the late great hugely influential guitarist Ronnie Montrose.

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    Joan Shelley and band December 7th 2019 The Back Room Milwaukee WI - photo by Dave Robbins

    Joan Shelley and band December 7th 2019 The Back Room Milwaukee WI - photo by Dave Robbins

    Joan Shelley with Daughter of Swords
    Back Room Milwaukee WI December 7th, 2019
    Show Review By John Noyd
    Posted: Dec 2019
    (419) Page Views

    Kentucky folk-singer Joan Shelley describes her latest album, “Like the River Loves the Sea,” as a haven for over-stimulated heads in uncertain times. Visiting Milwaukee’s Colectivo Coffee Back Room for the third time in as many years, Shelley created a welcome sanctuary playing songs anchored in tradition and transformed by a warm, rich voice detailing nuanced feelings and conjuring shaded places. Geography figures prominently in much of Shelley’s literate songwriting with a passive patchwork of pastoral allegories populating her set-list, from odes to hometown mountains to portraits of mounting storms. She drew primarily from her last three albums, chatting between songs with childhood memories sprinkled alongside adult confessions that drew warm smiles from the attentive crowd as her artistic eye and writer’s thirst revealed anecdotes inside lyrics expressing spiritual connections in shared awareness. Milwaukee was fortunate to host what Joan called her dream band with long-time cohort guitarist Nathan Salsburg shining a constant light on Joan’s lyrical delivery and sophisticated folk-songs via acrobatic trills and swift melodic runs; fluid bass player Nick Macri on upright and electric, both bowed and plucked, and drummer Spencer Tweedy who succeeded to drive each groove with nary a drumstick in sight, relying entirely on brushes to rally the troops. Each musician exhibited an unerring ear for cohesive allegiance, cradling Shelley’s polished Southern Gothic softness in waxing arabesques and subtle flutters employing graceful patience and mathematical restlessness. Seamless stories poured over rippling rhythms, the evening passed all too quickly traversing emotional landscapes and personal journeys quietly enlightening and casually comforting. Minnesota-born nomad Daughter of Swords started the night with a lovely solo acoustic session touched with sweet country warbling fusing cultivated roots to post-modern blues.

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    Reina del Cid at Madison's High Noon Saloon Dec 1st 2019 - photo by Dave Robbins

    Reina del Cid at Madison's High Noon Saloon Dec 1st 2019 - photo by Dave Robbins

    Reina del Cid
    High Noon Saloon Madison, WI 12/1/19
    Show Review By John Noyd
    Posted: Dec 2019
    (5689) Page Views

    Minneapolis’ Rachelle Cordova, whose stage name Reina del Cid also refers to the band she fronts, wrapped up their Morse Code Album Release tour in Madison’s High Noon Saloon Sunday after the long Thanksgiving weekend. Officially the last show of the tour, the band theorized the Madison show may have the band at its sharpest performance-wise, but also possibly the stinkiest. As it turned out, the only time the crowd held its breath was in anticipation of the band’s next move as their casual professionalism brought a smart charm and joyous fluidity to an evening rifling through their rock-solid discography. The set-list’s subject matter ran the gauntlet, roaming from serial killers to ghosts, zombies and death-bed promises, with tangential banter that included Fond du Lac haunted houses, Google-less flip-phones and literary trivia. RCD’s chosen covers also revealed a sardonic side, from Janis Joplin’s snide, “Mercedes Benz,” and the done-me-wrong of Tennessee Waltz to the twisted love of The Cars’, “Just What I Needed,” and Bill Withers’, “Use Me Up.” Adept at casually radical folk-pop ballads, the outfit’s tight chops and agile faculties brought funk, country and blues into the already rich mix with ace sidekick and guitar wizard, Toni Lindgren laying amazing flat-picked bluegrass over “Sugar” Shane Akers’ sweet mournful dobro.  Powered by the versatile Andrew Foreman on bass and Nate Babbs on drums, Reina’s warm matter-of-fact sass jumped, nudged and uncoiled, beautifully accentuated by Joe Peterson on keyboards and harmonica. As the only act on the bill, RCD came on strong, paced themselves with tour stories and gave the gentlemen a break with a set within a set from Reina and Toni. Patterning the latest album and tour around the live spontaneity of her weekly YouTube series, “Sunday Mornings with Reina del Cid,” Reina combined coziness with catharsis, applying wicked wit simmered in friendly phrases to turn the last bits of a long weekend into a shiny final hurrah.

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    John Lohn of The Moody Blues at Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Casino - photo by Tommy Rage

    John Lohn of The Moody Blues at Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Casino - photo by Tommy Rage

    John Lodge of The Moody Blues
    Live at the Northern Lights Theater in Milwaukee
    Show Review By Tommy Rage
    Posted: Nov 2019
    (3571) Page Views

    John Lodge of The Moody Blues dazzles Milwaukee at the Northern Lights Theater Potawatomi Casino with a brilliant night of music from The Moody Blues, and his stellar career.

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    Armchair Boogie and their loyal crowd at the Sylvee - photo by Tony Mueller Phine Art Photography

    Armchair Boogie and their loyal crowd at the Sylvee - photo by Tony Mueller Phine Art Photography

    Armchair Boogie
    Live at the Sylvee
    Show Review By Tony Mueller
    Posted: Nov 2019
    (1510) Page Views

    Armchair Boogie opened for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at the Sylvee

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    A view of Crumb and the crowd at Majestic on a Thursday night - photo by Tony Mueller Phine Art Photography

    A view of Crumb and the crowd at Majestic on a Thursday night - photo by Tony Mueller Phine Art Photography

    Crumb
    Live at the Majestic
    Show Review By Tony Mueller
    Posted: Nov 2019
    (777) Page Views

    Crumb showcased their new album at the beautiful Majestic Theater in downtown Madison.

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    Margo Price with Wisdom Indian Dancer - photo by Linette Britt

    Margo Price with Wisdom Indian Dancer - photo by Linette Britt

    Farm Aid 2019
    Alpine Valley Music Theater E. Troy WI September 21, 2019
    Show Review By John Noyd
    Posted: Sep 2019
    (2530) Page Views

    Nestled in the very type of community they set out to support, this year’s Farm Aid at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, WI had many stories to tell, but none so on point as one with one of its musical participants, Margo Price. Herself a product of a farm family that experienced firsthand the economic downturn of Family farms struggling to survive in the face of corporate competition, Ms Price attended the press conference, opened the festivities singing, “This Land Is Your Land,” alongside Native American dancers, sat on a panel focused on stress among farmers and then gave a kickass performance that had a rock choir’s fire and country-gospel tenderness. No surprise then to find her back on stage at the end of the night singing with Willie and family, clutching her newborn who wore the cutest pink ear protectors.

    Family really sits at the heart of Farm Aid; from the sons, fathers and cousins that populated the stage to the artists who supported each other performances. As a mid-afternoon high point, Lukas Nelson had the Night Sweats’ brass, songbird Margo Price and British sensation Yola singing back-up, Particle Kid on guitar and his drummer’s son, half the size of his electric guitar, throwing devil horns and enjoying every minute in the limelight. Many performers mentioned returning time and time again to play Farm Aid, donating their services to the cause and reuniting with old friends whose mutual admiration is palatable as voices soared and roared and guitar licks ripped and ricocheted filling the ears and feeding the soul.

    During Price’s time on the panel she talked about the concerns musicians and farmers share regarding stress, mentioning the lack of health insurance and mental health resources, the economic uncertainty and burdened family dynamics. Wisconsin lost almost 700 dairy farms in 2018 and 2019 is on pace to be even worse. Hit by tariffs, seed patents and extreme weather, farmers nation-wide suffer as does the land they tend. Currently, the U.S. farm rescue is more than twice as expensive as the 2009 bailout of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, which cost taxpayers $12 billion. 34 years ago Farm Aid was about bankruptcy and foreclosures, today it is about sustainability and the future. Despite the bleak economic forecast and the relentless drizzle that beat down on the sold-out show, the vibe was downright happy. “Buy Local Food,” “take care of the people who take care of us,” “reconnect to the earth,” the sense of active community went from the human ridge that helped people across a particularly slippery hillside with calls of, “Come up high, come up high,” to the food stand helping out their local marching band by selling one of the tastiest cheeseburger and fries I’ve ever devoured.

    This year’s line-up included a slew of exceptionally strong songwriters playing their tunes and honoring their influences, covering Crosby Still and Nash, Elton John and the Talking Heads; building from country-blues roots, the fifteen bands covered soul, rock, honky-tonk, funk and folk. From Neil Young playing, “Heart of Gold,” and giving you a piece of his mind to John Mellencamp admonishing the crowd for missing the second verse of, “Jack and Diane,” Tanya Tucker singing the hell out of, “Delta Dawn,” and a recovering Willie Nelson opening with, “Whiskey River,” Farm Aid 2019 created good vibes, lasting memories celebrating the year-long efforts to promote a cleaner, healthier world.

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    Rival Son's Scott Holiday  - photo by Rockpicschick Photography

    Rival Son's Scott Holiday - photo by Rockpicschick Photography

    Rival Sons swing into Milwaukee for special night at The Pabst Theatre
    Rival Sons / Live at The Pabst Theatre
    Show Review By Linette Britt
    Posted: Aug 2019
    (2426) Page Views

    Rival Sons bring Feral Roots to Pabst

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    Khruangbin, Julia Holter and black midi - photo by Dave Robbins

    Khruangbin, Julia Holter and black midi - photo by Dave Robbins

    Pitchfork Festival 2019 - Chicago
    in search of something new
    Show Review By John Noyd
    Posted: Jul 2019
    (1340) Page Views

    I went to this year’s Chicago Pitchfork in hopes of finding something new. My first time back since 2016, it soon became apparent how much the city had infiltrated and influenced the festival. Windy city artists as diverse as sizzling knob-twiddlers Bitchin Bajas, ultra-smooth DJ Valee, gospel legend Mavis Staples and sunshine folk-rockers Whitney populated all three stages. Fifteen young poets from Young Chicago Authors’ Louder Than a Bomb festival spoke volumes in their short performances between bands on the Blue Stage. Native son Ric Wilson brought the bombastic Lane Tech High School marching band, adopted daughter Lala Lala’s Lillie West fleshed out her stage with hometown aces Sen Morimoto, Kaina Castillo, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya and Vivian McConnell and goofball synth-pop duo Grapetooth brought their entire posse on stage to close out their set. The tribal vibe was infectious, and it was great seeing and hearing Chicago represented on so many different levels.

    There was glitz and there was grit; rappers, rockers, jazzbots and funkateers. Ferocious commotion from a shadowy, sumptuous Low, a mad jagged black midi and intergalactic magicians The Great Black Music Ensemble stood shoulder to shoulder with chic sophistication from art-pop surrealist Cate LeBon, cool subversive disconauts Stereolab and multi-lingual groovologists Ibeyi.  There were national acts and international acts, from Texas’ exquisite fusionists Khruangbin and D.C.‘s sleek Flasher to England’s hip hip-hop icon Neneh Cherry and Japan’s theatrical kitsch ambassadors CHAI. Each night’s headliners united generations, delivering baby boomers, The Isley Brothers, Gen Xers, Haim and millennials Robyn. All in all Pitchfork seem to cover all its bases, but did any of it qualify as new?

    What does new really mean, anyways? Rising stars? Break-through performances? Beyond the aforementioned events Pitchfork hosted alt-pop balladeer Jay Som introducing new songs from her forthcoming album, indie-rocker Snail Mail brought R&B chanteuse Clairo on stage after having fellow spitfire Soccer Mommy sing the night before at an after show and boppy iconoclasts Belle and Sebastian played their classic, “If You’re Feeling Sinister,” from front to back. Premieres, spontaneous collaborations; these are never before heard moments, but are they new? Quite a few Pitchfork artists are devilishly good at updating fertile traditions, adding new spins on old ideas like Standing On The Corner or infusing fresh energy to well-worn forms like Rico Nasty, but what about new music, daring, different music? Did Pitchfork deliver its promise of a hipster getaway where cutting edge met popular culture?

    The answer is a resounding yes! Personally, electro-classical maverick Julia Holter, insurgent black midi and tasty Khruangbin opened my eyes, pricked my ears and punched me in the gut with their new takes melting delicious licks and wily styles into a unique musical hybrid that stood on its own.  Each year I attended I came away with new groups to follow and a renewed hope for a bright musical future. 2019 was no exception and primed the pump until next year when I anxiously look forward to discover what Pitchfork Chicago deems in, important and new.

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    Phish performing at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin in July of 2019. - photo by Graham Washatka

    Phish performing at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, Wisconsin in July of 2019. - photo by Graham Washatka

    Phish
    Three Night Run at Alpine Valley Music Theatre
    Show Review By Jon Schinke
    Posted: Jul 2019
    (1255) Page Views

    Legendary Vermont rockers Phish returned to Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin after nearly a four year absence to play a trio of unforgettable shows, capping it all off with one of the most memorable performances in the bands’ illustrious history on Sunday night.

    The career-spanning set of shows saw the group dip into their massive catalog of material, playing songs from their inception in the 1980s, to songs off their most recent album, 2016’s Big Boat, as well as material from virtuosic guitarist Trey Anastaio’s solo career, including cuts from his newest project Ghosts in the Forest. The band even revisited tracks from their famed 2018 Halloween show, where they covered an entire album by a little known Scandinavian prog rock band, Kasvot Växt, which turned out to actually be Phish; yet another piece of lore “Phistory”. For more information on the Kasvot Växt Halloween prank, please visit your local search engine and prepare to “faceplant into rock”.

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