About T.J.

Editor-in-chief and writer for Midwest music site Playground Misnomer and WUD Music blog contributor.

Saturday: Sidewalk Chalk w/ Phonetic ONE, K. Raydio

The Olympics are great, but you need to pace yourselves – they’re more than two weeks long. You need to get away from the television for awhile, but, as a side effect of long-term exposure to constant displays of national pride, you may find yourself searching for a way you can use the time to do something active but still satisfy the Patriotic flame that arises from within. It’s simple: Head to the prime Wisconsin summer setting of the Terrace to hang with your peers, feast on some good ole American cuisine (and libations if you’re of age), and jump around to the upbeat hip-hop of three acts hailing from various parts of the wonderful Midwestern US of A. Chicago’s Sidewalk Chalk, UW-Madison rapper Phonetic ONE, and Minnesota-stationed Badger alumnus K. Raydio will take your mind off medal counts and difficulty scores for a few hours.

Sidewalk Chalk is a Chicago octet that creates organic hip-hop featuring the vocals of singer Maggie Vagle and emcee Rico Sisney. Though the brass duo of Sam Trump on trumpet and David Ben-Porat on trombone are also features rarely seen anymore in popular music of today, the most unique aspect of the group is the full-time tap-dancing role of Jumaane “The Bearded Hoofer” Taylor.

In March, after a steady rise to popularity in the Chicago area, Sidewalk Chalk released their debut record, Corner Store. The socially-conscious subject-matter of the LP addresses various issues in American culture, such as poverty and materialism, but maintains an air of positivity and hope, even in tackling such subjects. Through bright instrumentation and determined, unwavering vocals, virtually every track makes you want to get stuff done, even if it’s as simple as expressing yourself through movement or connecting with the people around you.

As a result, their live show is endlessly enjoyable for crowds, which has been a big part of landing them gigs with acts like ?uestlove, Company of Thieves, Action Bronson, De La Soul, and The Budos Band (They’ve also received plugs from a rapper called Lupe Fiasco). To paraphrase a recent Epitonic article that pins Sidewalk Chalk as one of the Chicago acts to watch, the nation’s eyes have recently become fixed on the Chicago hip-hop scene, so take every chance to see stand-outs like Sidewalk Chalk “before they hit the big time.” Check out some of their tunes at the official Sidewalk Chalk website, and be sure to scroll to the bottom of this preview to download an mp3 and watch a music video from the Windy City group.

Leading in for Sidewalk Chalk will be UW-Madison’s own Phonetic ONE, a.k.a. Andrew Thomas, a Minnesota-raised rhymer who got his own taste of national success recently when he made it to the finals of the Chegg College Battle of the Bands. Boasting a list of previous contestants who have been propelled into the national spotlight in recent years, including Local Natives and Mike Posner, the Chegg College Battle of the Bands picks the best college-age acts in each region of the country to compete finals in the Los Angeles-hosted finals. Phonetic ONE, representing UW-Madison, was victorious in the Midwest regional and punched his ticket out to the West Coast as one of five finalists. As a member of UW-Madison’s First Wave program for gifted spoken word and hip-hop artists, Phonetic ONE has released various party-starting, hook-filled tunes and albums to the delight of his fellow classmates. Sample his tracks at his YouTube channel for evidence of his skillful flow.

K. Raydio, kicking off the show at 9, also has roots in Minnesota and attended UW-Madison. After graduating with a degree in Communicative Arts in 2010, Krysta Rayford decided to take a leap of faith and pursue a career in music. The decision has paid off, as she’s released two successful EP’s, Signifact (Other): Parts 1 & 2, both available for free download at her bandcamp. Her music contains catchy melodies and clever lyrics, most notably in the aptly named “Catchy Hook,” where Rayford explains in the song’s lyrics that its infectiousness was designed to get stuck in her head so as to push out thoughts of a failed relationship (The song also has an awesome 3D-like music video). K. Raydio has established herself as a staple in the Twin Cities and Madison hip-hop scenes, sharing the stage and tracks with many of its major players (See: Doomtree members, F. Stokes, Man Mantis, JDante, etc.) and making featured appearances on songs for prominent national artists – notably singing the chorus on Time’s “5th Horseman.” Oh, and she’s been known to collaborate with Phonetic ONE, so don’t be surprised if they share the stage at some point Saturday.

OK, so you may be all info’d out by now. Let me sum this up for you: Come to the Terrace Saturday night for danceable hip-hop that will lift your mood. No matter how you get there – whether you run like Usain Bolt, do flips down the sidewalk like Gabby Douglas, swim across Lake Mendota like Missy Franklin, or bike like… some Olympic biker – just make sure you’re there for the 9 p.m. start of the show. You won’t want to miss a second!

Download “Ten Seconds (feat. Psalm One)” from Sidewalk Chalk’s Corner Store, below, and check out the colorful video for the same album’s “Water Song.”

Download >> Sidewalk Chalk – “Ten Seconds (feat. Psalm One)” from Corner Store.

Friday: Now, Now with Tu Fawning and AU

Three indie-pop acts take over the Terrace Friday night at 9 p.m. The Midwest meets the Pacific-Northwest when Now, Now shares the stage with AU and Tu Fawning.

Now, Now have been attracting attention in the Midwest for half-a-decade (As “Now, Now Every Children” until 2010) with their meloncholy indie-pop songs featuring Cacie Dalager’s delicate vocals and room-filling instrumentation. With March’s release of the Minneapolis trio’s sophomore LP, Threads, the attention-grabbing has reached a far greater scope. The album was their first on Trans Records, owned by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla, who made them his second signing to the label. Produced by Howard Redekopp (Tegan & Sara, An Horse), the young band’s Threads is described by Consequence of Sound as “an exploration of the push and pull of growing up and growing apart.” The success of the album landed them recent tours supporting The Naked and Famous and fun. After playing the Terrace, and before supporting Motion City Soundtrack on a 29-date national tour in October and November, Now, Now will jet off to the UK to support the August 27th release of Threads – so don’t miss them before they leave the States.

As Now, Now are now on a Pacific-Northwest-based label, run by one of its legendary residents, they’ll surely have a lot to talk about with the two opening bands from the indie utopia of Portland. You may have caught AU opening for WHY? in Der Rathskeller a few years ago.  If you did, then you probably know something that someone introduced to the band through their April-released third LP, Both Lights, probably wouldn’t be able to detect: They’re a trio. Their experimental pop sound is so full, and at many times frantic, it’s hard to believe that beings with only two arms and two legs could produce it. No shortage of praise can be found from publications like Pitchfork and Stereogum for their sophisticated sound and unique instrumentation. Head over to Stereogum to download two songs from Both Lights and watch the trippy, colorful video for “OJ.”

Tu Fawning released their sophomore album, A Monument, in May. However, with 31 Knots frontman and Menomena touring member Joe Haege on its creative team, they were able to bypass the normal growing pains of a band working of its follow-up and release complex-but-listenable tunes. Perhaps the best word one could use to describe Tu Fawning would be “eclectic,” with each member of the band rotating through various instruments, both recognizable and not, throughout their live sets. It’s definitely a unique and enjoyable experience, not to be missed. You can download “Anchor” over at their bandcamp. Oh, and did I mention Corrina Repp and Joe Haege are featured in a Portlandia skit also starring Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse?

Fun fact: Between the three bands on the Terrace tomorrow night, the lineups are made up of five males and five females. I’m not sure how to segue from that, but I thought it was too cool not to share. Just come to the Terrace for the 9 p.m. start of the show. You won’t regret it. Download an mp3 of Now Now’s “School Friends” and watch the video for “Dead Oaks” below.

Download>>Now Now – “School Friends” from Threads

Saturday: Maps & Atlases with Mutts, Brontosarus

Did you contribute precious tourism money to Chicago last week by attending Pitchfork Music Festival? Well, this weekend the Windy City gives back. It’s a Chicago showcase on Saturday when Maps & Atlases, Mutts, and Brontosaurus hit the Terrace.

The members of Maps & Atlases are some of the finest musicians you’ll ever encounter. Dave Davison, besides sporting a pleasing southern rock-flavored voice (and a most impressive beard), makes up half of a wicked tandem of guitarists, with the other being Erin Elders. It won’t be long into their set on Friday before your jaw drops as their fingers fly with seeming effortlessness. Their rhythm session will produce no less amazement, as it may be tough for you to spot Chris Hainey’s arms once the music starts. Speed is impressive, but when you add to it that he creates some of the most imaginative and complex beats, it’s not surprising that many fans walk away floored by Maps & Atlases’ sets (“walking away floored” may be an oxymoron, but we’ll go for it). Bassist Shiraz Dada provides the pulse of the band.

Formed in 2005, Maps & Atlases released numerous EP’s before 2010’s highly successful debut LP Perch Patchwork, which was followed up by this year’s Beware and Be Grateful. Their music appeals to fans of all different kinds of music, as their tour history hints at: they’ve traveled the country with Ra Ra Riot and Minus the Bear, as well as acts like Circa Survive and The Fall of Troy. The diversity of their backgrounds and influences brings a little bit of everything to their music. It’s melodic like pop, active like experimental rock, easy to connect to like alt-rock, and avant-garde and occasionally surprising like indie rock. Maps & Atlases is a mutt, but one made up of the best parts of the purebreds.

Speaking of Mutts, the fellas leading in for Maps & Atlases happen to go by that moniker – and they deserve it just as much. Though often described as “if Tom Waits fronted a garage band,” that doesn’t even begin to describe the uniqueness of Mutts. How many garage bands do you know that don’t have a guitarist? Don’t get me wrong, however – they make a lot of noise. Theirs is just supplied by keyboards, bass, drums, and the growls of frontman Mike Maimone. Chicagoans seem to like it, as The Deli Chicago and their readers chose Mutts as Chicago’s Emerging Artist of 2011, largely due to their fantastic release Pray for Rain. Wisconsinites clearly approve, too, as there was such a demand for Mutts in the Dairy State that they played shows at Summerfest, at High Noon Saloon, and live on UW-Madison’s own WSUM… all within 24 hours of each other (and they documented it on video). Lucky for you, all their music is available for free download at their website, so you can see what all the fuss is about. In case their debut LP and three EP’s aren’t enough for you, they’ll release Separation Anxiety LP on August 2nd.

Brontosaurus will kick off the evening at 9 p.m. with their eerie pop melodies. A dynamic duo of members both named Nicholas (Kelly and Papaleo), Brontosaurus debuted in 2010 with Cold Comes to Town. Available for free preview (or download for a single dollar) at their bandcamp, the EP features sullen guitars, haunting piano, and beautifully dark vocal melodies. Continuing the theme of the night, the two members’ influences cover a diverse range of genres: classical, indie rock, metal, and prog rock.

Make sure you find your way to the Terrace at 9 p.m. on Saturday for this night of some of the Midwest’s finest rock… We’ll even supply the Maps & Atlases. I’m sorry, that was corny. Just check out Maps & Atlases’ “Solid Ground” music video below and we’ll forget I ever said that.

Just Announced: Mount Eerie, August Festival Lineups Complete

Mount Eerie

The announcements weren’t over with this morning’s news of September 13th’s Saul WIlliams / Dessa show. We have another special Thursday concert to announce, along with the acts that will round out the various festivals we have lined up for you throughout August on the Terrace. No frills here; let’s get right to it.

Mount Eerie is the lo-fi indie rock moniker of Olympia, Washington’s Phil Elverum. From 1998 to 2003, Elverum gained a following and record deal with Olympia legend Calvin Johnson‘s K Records while fronting The Microphones, a collaborative project behind which Elverum was the principal member. After 2003’s Mount Eerie album as The Microphones, Elverum announced that the project was complete, and that his new focus would be a solo venture named after the The Microphones’ previous album. His material as Mount Eerie is more solitary, leaving behind the frenzied instrumentation and layered vocals for a more intimate, personal aesthetic.

The most recent creation of  the almost-decade-old project is a series of two albums – May’s Clear Moon, and September-scheduled Ocean Roar. Pitchfork raved about Clear Moon, honoring it with the elusive title of ‘Best New Music’ with a a score of 8.3. The ideas for the albums were both conceived, according to Elverum, in walks from his home to the studio. He shared details with Tiny Mix Tapes on how the albums serve as foils to one another, as “[Ocean Roar] acts as a counterpoint to the soft synth walls and landscape pondering of Clear Moon, presenting the opposite of that album’s clear glints of awareness: a total wall of blue-grey oceanic fog, a half remembered dream of a trip through dense old growth hills to the gnarly winter ocean, in the middle of the night, decades ago.”

Luckily for us, we’ll be able to listen to Clear Moon on September 4th, days before he plays Music Hall here in Madison on Thursday, September 6th. Some of you may be a little stumped as to why the show won’t be in one of our normal locations at Memorial Union or Union South. The simple answer is that we think this Victorian Gothic venue located at the foot of Bascom Hill is perfect for the intimate aesthetic of Mount Eerie’s music. We think you’ll agree, so you’ll want to come out on Thursday, September 6th to experience it yourself.

Speaking of things you’ll want to experience, you may have noticed we have a series of festivals lined up for the end of the summer Terrace schedule. These include Country Fest on August 11th, Blues Fest the weekend of August 17th and 18th, Funk Fest on August 24th and 25th, and Reggae Fest on the last day of August and first day of September. The lineups to those festivals are now complete with the additions of Vintage Red to Country Fest, Paul Flipowicz Blues Guitar Savage to Blues Fest, and Kingtown Rockers and Dumate to Reggae Fest. Check below for the full lineups of each festival.

As always, head over to the updated calendar to see all the shows we’ve got lined up thus far. Thanks for making this a fantastic summer so far on the Terrace.

8/11/12 Country Fest: Hoyle Brothers, Ghost Town Council, Vintage Red – The Terrace: Memorial Union

8/17/12 Blues Fest, Day 1: Cash Box Kings, Rockin’ Johnny and Mary Lane, Paul Flipowicz Blues Guitar Savage – The Terrace: Memorial Union

8/18/12 Blues Fest, Day 2: The Right Now, Kane Place Record Club, Johnny Chimes and Gatur Bait – The Terrace: Memorial Union

8/24/12 Funk Fest, Day 1: Tweed Funk, The Mustache – The Terrace: Memorial Union

8/25/12 Funk Fest, Day 2: Mama Digdown’s Brass Band, Afro-Zep – The Terrace: Memorial Union

8/31/12 Reggae Fest, Day 1: Roots Collective, Kingtown Rockers – The Terrace: Memorial Union

9/1/12 Reggae Fest, Day 2: Taki Allstars, Dumate – The Terrace: Memorial Union

9/6/12 Mount Eerie – Music Hall (925 Bascom Mall)

9/13/12 Saul Williams Presents CHORUS — A Spoken Word Tour, with a special monologue performance by Dessa – The Terrace: Memorial Union

Just Announced: Saul Williams Presents CHORUS – A Spoken Word Tour with Dessa

It’s been more than a decade since Saul Williams last visited the UW-Madison campus, and both nothing and everything has changed. At the time of his 2002 slam workshop and performance here at Madison, Williams had established himself as one of the leading figures in slam poetry, gaining recognition for winning national competitions and both starring and writing in the 1998 Sundance Grand Jury Award-winning Slam. In the years since his visit, Williams has shown the depth of his talents, now recognized as much for his music as his poetry and acting. His unique industrial hip-hop has gained a wide audience, propelled by the success of “List of Demands (Reparations)” from his 2004 self-titled album and collaborations with other top-tier talent like Trent Reznor, Zach de la Rocha, Serj Tankian, the Fugees, and Janelle Monae.

Ten years later, Williams returns to campus to once again perform spoken word, the facet of his life that not only spurred his recognition, but has influenced everything he’s done in his career. This summer sees the release of his new book of poetry, CHORUSThe Terrace will play host to a performance of this new material and other spoken word pieces from his extensive career on Thursday, September 13th. While the Terrace has seen many performances over the years, spoken word has been a genre relatively unexplored on its stage. The setting lends itself beautifully to such a raw and intimate art, which will truly make the show something you won’t want to miss.

Kicking off the show will be a special monologue performance from a talent that the Midwest is lucky to call their own. Dessa hardly needs an introduction around these parts, known for her skillful blend of singing and rapping, both as a solo artist and as a member of the Minneapolis collective Doomtree. In the last year, Dessa released her highly successful Castor, The Twin while still finding time to release No Kings with Doomtree and tour behind it. That tour included a March date in the Sett that saw the venue packed to a previously unseen volume. No matter how many times you’ve seen the homegrown artist, you probably haven’t seen her perform the way she will on this date; with her own roots in spoken word, Dessa will perform a monologue.

We couldn’t be more excited to host this show on the Terrace, scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. Like all Terrace shows, in the event of bad weather the show will be moved inside Memorial Union to Der Rathskeller. Don’t miss this unique show with a master of his craft and one of the Midwest’s shining talents. Check out Williams performing “Children of the Night” below.

Just Announced

We’ve got fall announcements this week! Now, don’t be alarmed; you still have almost two months left to enjoy your summer. We’re just planning ahead to ensure that you have concerts to attend with your friends when you and/or they get back into town. Your happiness makes us happy.

Ok, enough of this sappy stuff. You want to know who’s coming. Here’s a question: Did you catch the TV show The Voice this last spring? If you did, you were probably enamored with a contestant who used to be in Mickey Mouse Club with judge Christina Aguilera (but chose to work with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine instead). That fella is Tony Lucca, who finished as second runner-up on the show’s second season. He’ll bring a voice that entertained millions of viewers around the world to Madison on September 8th at the Terrace.

On September 29th, Der Rath will play host to Laetitia Sadier, lead singer and creative mind behind Stereolab for two decades. Pioneers of futuristic post-rock, Stereolab’s Emperor Tomato Ketchup was named the #51 album of the 90’s by Pitchfork and #51 indie album of all-time by Amazon. Since the band announced an indefinite hiatus in 2009, Sadier has shown that she’s not done flexing her creative muscle, producing pleasing, gentle ballads on her 2010 solo debut, The Trip, to critical acclaim. There are no doubt many calendars out there that have June 24th circled, as Sadier will release follow-up Silencio on that date.

Is homegrown music your thing? Check out some of Madison’s favorite acts this fall. Madison folk favorites Pioneer will team up with Houston’s Buxton to support Chicago’s Dastardly on September 28th. Dastardly makes some seriously good Americana music, even if their tumblr is anything but serious. Then there’s Blueheels, a true rock band if ever there was one. The Madison quintet was sorely missed during their hiatus of (according to their Facebook) 1.63 years, so there are surely fans giddy with excitement at the news that they release a new album on August 31st and make a live return to their hometown on October 13th at Der Rath.

Our Wisconsin acts don’t just rep Madison. There’s Jaill, the Milwaukee band that impressively found a home at Sub Pop, the prestigious label whose roster is predominantly made up of Pacific-Northwest bands. The psych-pop band rolls into town on October 26th in support of their June-released, third full-length, Traps. Then we have The Daredevil Christopher Wright from Eau Claire (a city whose mayor, I believe, is Justin Vernon. No? I’m being told I’m wrong). Released two weeks ago, The Daredevil Christopher Wright’s sophomore effort, The Nature of Things, is already making waves with its impressive harmonies and scattered instrumentation that interweaves to create pleasingly melodic music. You can see how that translates to a live setting when they are joined by Cuddle Magic on November 2nd in Der Rathskeller.

That’s not all we’ve got, so make sure you check out the full set of announcements below. Included on that list are a few opener announcements for upcoming shows (one of which is tonight), so make sure to check those out. Not completely up-to-date on the schedule? Then after you check out the new shows, head over to the calendar to see what’s already been announced. Have at it.

7/11 Oedipus Tex joining Pushmi-Pullyu and Icarus Himself for A.V. Club Local Wednesday – The Terrace: Memorial Union

7/20 Bailiff opening for These United States w/ Will Phalen & The Stereo Addicts  – The Terrace: Memorial Union (9 p.m.)

7/21 Brontosaurus opening for Maps & Atlases w/ Mutts – The Terrace: Memorial Union (9 p.m.)

9/8 The Voice‘s Tony Lucca – The Terrace: Memorial Union

9/28 Dastardly w/ Buxton, Pioneer – Der Rathskeller: Memorial Union

9/29 Laetitia Sadier w/ Orca Team – Der Rathskeller: Memorial Union

10/13 Blueheels – Der Rathskeller: Memorial Union

10/19 Army Navy – Der Rathskeller: Memorial Union

10/20 Ivan & Alyosha w/ Chamberlin – Der Rathskeller: Memorial Union

11/2 The Daredevil Christopher Wright w/ Cuddle Magic – Der Rathskeller: Memorial Union

Madfork! Thursday: Lotus Plaza, Dent May, Milk Music. Friday: Wild Nothing, Night Moves.

It’s that time of year, again – when the indie acts that have gotten the most buzz over the last year make their way through the Midwest to play a certain festival in Chicago. Whether you’re among those heading down to the fest and its after-shows in or not, you can benefit its existence right here in Madison. The Terrace has been lucky enough to be a stop that many of the acts love making on their way up or down I-90 (technically “up-west” or “down-east,” if you like). As a result, we’ve been able to bring you our free Madfork Festival for four year’s now. I’m happy to report that this year’s will be a doozie.

Milk Music will kick off the action on Thursday at 8:30 p.m., followed by Dent May and Lotus Plaza. Friday’s show starts 9:30 p.m., where Minnesota’s Night Moves will lead off and Wild Nothing will keep the night rocking. For descriptions of each band, keep reading. And also create your own…

…as you go along! Four of the five bands were kind enough to send along mp3’s for you to download and jam to in the days leading up to the festival, while Wild Nothing sent along a stream of a track from their upcoming album. That should keep you busy until Thursday. Enough jabbering, let’s get to it!

Thursday, 8:30 p.m. start

Lotus Plaza (10:50 p.m.)

Guitarist for Deerhunter by day, multi-intstrumentalist Lockett Pundt brings his shoegaze solo project to Madison. Lotus Plaza’s sophomore LP, Spooky Action at a Distance, evokes feelings of floating through a dream through echoing, driving guitars. The album has received massive critical acclaim, labeled ‘Best New Music’ by Pitchfork and securing them a spot in Pitchfork Music Festival.

Download>> Lotus Plaza – “Strangers” from Spooky Action at a Distance

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Saturday on the Terrace: R. Ring w/ Archie Powell & The Exports

Kelley Deal’s résumé is nothing less than impressive. She broke onto the music scene in 1992 when she joined The Breeders, led by identical twin sister and Pixies member Kim Deal. Even casual music fans would recognize the trademark bendy lick of “Cannonball” from 1993’s Last Splash, a song that for which the music video was directed by Spike Jonze and Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, and an album that The Breeders supported with a tour on which they opened for some band called Nirvana. The Breeders didn’t release a follow-up to Last Splash for another nine years, but Kelley was successful with various other projects in the meantime, heading alt-rockers The Kelley Deal 6000 and forming a supergroup with members of Skid Row and the Smashing Pumpkins called ‘The Last Hard Men.’ After releasing two more albums with The Breeders in 2002 and 2008, Deal has formed yet another band with Mike Montgomery of Ampline. That band is R. Ring, who will be playing the Terrace this Saturday with Archie Powell & The Exports at 9:30.

After decades of making loud music with her various projects, R. Ring is a departure for Deal, with songs that are dynamic and described in their bio as “sparse, chaotic, abrasive and lulling, often within the same song.” Deal has traded in the aggressive vocals common of The Kelley Deal 6000 for a more melodic and relaxed approach. Predominantly acoustic guitar, the instrumentation makes no effort to be flashy, stripped down to complement Deal’s honest vocals. Their sole release so far is a 7″ for this past April’s Record Store Day (which you can listen to at Misra Records), but there is no shortage of buzz surrounding this duo of rock veterans. Make sure to check them out on Saturday.

Opener Archie Powell & The Exports are also a must-see, a power-pop quartet from Chicago. Their tunes are nothing short of infectious, making your heart shake like the tambourine that makes an appearance in many of their songs. A mix of Elvis Costello and The Replacements, pure rock guitars and Powell’s boyish voice make the band’s catalog a collection of feel-good tunes, even though the subject-matter of their songs is often commentary on the darker aspects of life. Their third album, May’s Great Ideas in Action, is no exception, featuring “Powell’s signature blunt, sardonic lyrics,” as Sam Clark of Playground Misnomer describes them. You can preview that album and the band’s other releases for free at their bandcamp, so there’s no excuse to not be singing along with every catchy hook tomorrow night. Also head over to their YouTube channel to view their collection of fun, humorous music videos.

Both bands are definitely worth your time tomorrow, and it looks like this heat wave is supposed to let up by then, so it should be a great night for music. Watch R. Ring play “Fall Out and Fire” at the Texas State Capitol Building for this year’s SXSW below, and we’ll see you at 9:30 on Saturday.

Saturday: The Promise Ring and Rhythm & Booms on the Terrace

I fear I don’t have the linguistic skills to effectively describe how amazing tomorrow’s show is going to be, and specifically how important The Promise Ring has been to Wisconsin and shaping music as it is today. I take comfort in knowing that many who will read this are probably aware of the reunited Milwaukee band’s illustrious career. For those that aren’t, I’ll do my best to show you why this is a concert that many have been waiting for more than a decade to happen.

Let’s start at the end. In 2002, The Promise Ring called it quits after seven years as a band, to the chagrin of a devout fanbase. Frontman Davey von Bohlen went on to create Maritime with drummer Dan Didier, Scott Schoenback went on to play bass with Dashboard Confessional, and guitarist Jason Gnewikow did graphic design work for bands. With each member carrying on successful careers, many wondered if a The Promise Ring reunion tour would ever occur. 2005 saw a one-off in Chicago for Flowerbooking’s 15th Anniversary, but after the show the band went quiet again… until November of last year. At that time, it was announced a rarities album would be released this summer through Dangerbird Records. and the band would play two February shows, at Turner Hall in Milwaukee and The Metro in Chicago. A barrage of articles from virtually every esteemed music publication followed. Both the 900+ capacity Turner Hall and 1100+ capacity Metro sold out. Lucky for us, those two shows paved the way for a summer tour.

So, what did this Milwaukee band – which was never meant to last more than one performance at its inception – do in its seven-year lifespan that kept fans sitting on the edge of their seats hoping for a reunion for a decade? Simply put, they were at the forefront of a movement – along with bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Braid, The Dismemberment Plan, Jawbreaker, and Get Up Kids – that popularized emo through infusing it with pop. It’s important to distinguish that the term “emo” had a different connotation at that time, originally coined in the late 80’s to distinguish punk bands that had shifted lyrical themes to a focus on the individual rather than the “punk community” and politics. To a new, present-day listener, The Promise Ring would probably be characterized as an “indie rock” band, owing much to the fact that The Promise Ring did much to influence the direction of the indie rock scene today with dancey, personal, guitar-driven songs.

To do justice to The Promise Ring’s history would make for a long read. I’ll do my best to be adequate with a single-digit number of sentences, but if you have the time, I highly recommend you check out the A.V. Club Chicago’s fantastic “Oral History of The Promise Ring” piece from February. Here are the cliff notes:

The Promise Ring started as a creative outlet for Davey von Bohlen, who was a member of beloved Chicago band Cap’n Jazz at the time but didn’t have much creative input. After a rocky start and the dissolution of Cap’n Jazz, The Promise Ring began to click at the end of 1995, drawing the attention of Jade Tree Records. With modest expectations for their first album, 30° Everywhere, they ended up selling the entire initial pressing of 500 copies in a single show at New York’s CBGB’s. 1997’s follow-up Nothing Feels Good is often regarded as a critical album for the popularization of emo music, with accolades from Spin Magazine (and an 8.6 rating from a fledgling music review site called Pitchfork Media) and music videos getting air time on MTV. The album even inspired the title of a 2003 book on the evolution of emo by Spin writer Andy Greenwald, entitled Nothing Feels Good: Punk Rock, Teenagers, and Emo. Through von Bohlen’s own words in the A.V. Club article, the band took care to make 1999’s Very Emergency “tightly executed,” which along with the popularity they’d gained with Nothing Feels Good helped make Very Emergency a huge commercial success. In the years to follow, a lot changed – Davey went through treatment for a brain tumor, families were started, and the band left Jade Tree for newly formed ANTI-. These aspects contributed to the formation of a mature, mellow sound on the band’s final album Wood/Water. While it disappointed some fans of their previous sound, the album is now seen by many as criminally underrated.

Ten years have passed, but the band’s live show is as great as ever. As someone who was at the February Milwaukee reunion, I can say first-hand that Davey is extremely energetic and witty. The band is tight, as the ten extra years of experience from their respective post-TPR projects has made them seasoned veterans. The show is a party in every sense of the word, which makes it fitting that the show will follow fireworks.

That’s right, the show will start immediately following the Rhythm & Booms fireworks, which are scheduled to begin at 9:30. You’ll want to get to the Terrace early to grab a spot, which will certainly sound more appealing when you find out that we’ll also have  performers from Mazomanie Movement Arts Center walking around on stilts from 6:30 to 8:30.

Stilt-walkers, fireworks, and a reunion show of one of the most influential Wisconsin bands of all-time. What other form of entertainment could you ask for from a single night (all for free!)? Check out the videos for “Why Did We Ever Meet?” from Nothing Feels Good and “Emergency! Emergency!” from Very Emergency below. Don’t miss this one.

Just Announced

Okay, I lied. One more post solely about summer acts, but they’re exciting. Take for instance Phonetic ONE, who has been added to the Sidewalk Chalk and K. Raydio show on August 4th: He just participated in the finals of the Chegg College Battle of the Bands, a competition whose list of alumni includes Local Natives and Mike Posner. Then there’s Chicago power-pop act Archie Powell & The Exports, who will get the party started for R. Ring on July 7th. Then get this: Stilt-walkers from Mazomanie Movement Arts Center will be on the Terrace from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. this Saturday before the Rythym ‘n Booms fireworks and The Promise Ring. Those three things are pretty much every form of entertainment you could ask for in a day.

Check out a summary of the additions below, and make sure to head over to the calendar to see the rest of the summer lineup. Next week we’ll begin to announce the fall schedule, so be on the look-out for that!

6/30 Stilt-walkers from Mazomanie Movement Arts Center before Rhythm ‘n Booms fireworks and The Promise Ring – The Terrace (6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.)

7/7 Archie Powell & The Exports opening for R. Ring – The Terrace

8/4 Phonetic ONE opening with K. Raydio for Sidewalk Chalk – The Terrace