WUD Music’s Official List of Lists: #1

What’s up, loyal blog readers! It’s your friendly WUD Music leadership team here. We’re a music blog, and everyone knows that in order to keep your official music blog certification, you’re required by law to publish at least one “Best-of” list every year. So we’re being overachievers, and having our whole team make a best-of list of their very own. We’ll be publishing a new one each day, so keep checking back! 

Tori Dexter (Director): Top 10 Concerts of 2014

This is a total cop out of a list. In addition to bending the rules in order to include 12 shows in my list of 10 (hey look at me, I’m the Big 10 Conference!), I added a whole bunch of honorable mentions. But hey, I’m in charge, I do what I want.

Honorable Mentions:

Jack White w/ Benjamin Booker (The Rave, Milwaukee WI)
Pretty standard explanation here – Jack White was amazing and this was a great introduction to Benjamin Booker but The Rave is just the worst. Bad sound quality, and about 6,000 degrees with 900% humidity. I looked like I’d just hopped out of a bathtub when we finally got out of there.

Jack White forbids photography at his shows, so instead, here's a picture of me doing stupid human tricks before the show started.

Jack White forbids photography at his shows, so instead, here’s a picture of me doing stupid human tricks before the show started.

Outkast (Lollapalooza, Chicago IL)
Seeing Outkast live, while fireworks exploded overhead, on what was probably their last tour ever made a ticket to Lolla worth it even if I hadn’t watched a single other show. This show would be higher on the list, but the stage was so packed that I was almost half a mile from the stage (and I’m only barely exaggerating). However, I could have been on the other side of the park and would have still mentioned Outkast on the list- c’mon, they’re living legends!

This is actually a picture that I took on my phone while physically witnessing this happen. I know, right?

This is actually a picture that I took on my phone while physically witnessing this happen. I know, right?

Revelry Music and Arts Festival (Langdon Street and Memorial Union, Madison WI)
Revelry was AMAZING, but I was working it for so long that I hardly got to see any of the artists. However, I managed to find a free half hour to watch Dillon Francis from backstage, and the experience of watching a crowd go nuts in front of a stage that you watched appear out of the back of a truck 12 hours earlier is an experience that 100% deserves a mention. Long live Revelry.

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WRECKFAST (Somewhere on Charter Street, Madison WI)
The CATCH WRECK label in Madison put on a house show where $5 got you CRASHprez, Lord of the Fly, Kiazma, *hitmayng, whoever else played before I got there, AND unlimited beer, bacon, and pancakes. I have yet to go to a single rap show that couldn’t have been improved by the addition of bacon and pancakes. Everyone else should be taking notes.

Sumo Cyco and Tartar Control (The Bovine Sex Club – NXNE, Toronto ON)
This was possibly the single strangest night of my life. Have you ever seen one of those dogs that’s so ugly it’s cute? It probably had something to do with all the Vodka Redbulls or the fact that I’d only slept once in 3 days, but this show was so weird, it was good

Now, on to the list! Drumroll please…

10. The Mowgli’s w/ Misterwives (High Noon Saloon, Madison WI)
The Mowgli’s also did a show at the Sett that was SO much fun, which would have made this list over the High Noon show, EXCEPT for the addition of Misterwives at the High Noon. The Mowgli’s are such professionals and they put on a happy, dopamine soaked set every time I see them, but I fell newly in love with Misterwives that night, and at the same time as this show went rocketing into the top ten, their EP went rocketing into my “most played” on iTunes.

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9. St Vincent (Yonge-Dundas Square – NXNE, Toronto ON)

I didn’t quite know what to expect going in to this one. I’d had her most recent album on repeat for months and she was one of the artists I was most excited to see at this festival, but her recorded stuff was just so perfectly weird that I couldn’t imagine how it would carry that over to a live show. Suffice it to say, I’m a convert, and I completely stand by the statement that a love of St. Vincent isn’t even complete until you’ve seen her live. She comes out blazing with metallic outfits and teased purple hair, dances robotically, falls off of set piece in slow motion, and does all this while continuing to be one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen. We dipped out early to catch LE1F and Danny Brown (a show that also deserves a shout), but I’m so ready to see her again and stick around for the long haul this time. Check out this video of her set at Pitchfork Paris for a taste.

8. Volcano Choir w/ Sylvan Esso (Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee WI) / Astronautalis w/ Steve Roggenbuck (The Sett, Madison WI)
Could NOT choose between these two, so I’m cheating and including them both. Volcano Choir is a collaboration between Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and members of Collections of Colonies of Bees, and this show was the last stop on their tour/maybe their last show together? Ya never know with Justin. Anyway, they had one of the most phenomenal stage and lighting setups I’ve ever seen and my GOD that music is beautiful. Justin Vernon’s voice just breaks my heart every time I hear it. Plus, Sylvan Esso was the un-announced opener, which was one of the more pleasant surprises I’ve ever experienced.
Astronautalis was part of LitFest at UW Madison, and was one of the WUD Music shows I most enjoy bragging about. For as much as I’d talked about him and obsessively listened to his albums, I’d actually never seen him live, so I was looking forward to this for a long time. Steve Roggenbuck, a spoken word artist, was a really interesting opener, but Astronautalis was the main attraction and he did NOT disappoint. After a great set in a packed room, he went on a glorious rant about getting what you want in life right before he left the stage, and then I got to take a picture with him and he complimented my shirt. It was a good day.

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7. Dessa w/ Caroline Smith (The Majestic, Madison WI)
I know, I know, Tori put a Dessa show in her top 10, what a surprise. I don’t even need the sass from ya’ll right now. Dessa and her band regularly put on a great show, but the addition of the goddess that is Caroline Smith and Dessa’s glorious whiskey-soaked rant at the end of the show about how we live in a wonderful and unique place and should appreciate that made this show even better than any of the other 15 Dessa sets I’ve stalked.

At this show, Dessa recognized me in the crowd from when I booked her at the Sett and called me out by name - at least I hear that's what happened, but think I blacked out.

At this show, Dessa recognized me in the crowd from when I booked her at the Sett and called me out by name – at least I hear that’s what happened, but think I blacked out.

6. The Naked and Famous (The Majestic, Madison WI)
Holy guacamole TNAF puts on a great live show. It was sold out, which is always fun in the Majestic, and the lighting was gorgeous. Everyone in the band just radiated energy and passion, and my ears were ringing for hours. I was not upset about it. I honestly don’t have much more to say, this show just filled me with so much joy and every time I listen to their album, it brings me right back.

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5. Chance the Rapper (Lollapalooza, Chicago IL)
I’ve seen Chance a few times and it was honestly an amazing experience going from seeing him in The Sett with maybe 200 other people, to watching him headline one of the biggest music festivals in the world. Chance the Rapper is a natural performer – he’s goofy and charming and it was written all over his face how happy he was to be up on that stage. I really can’t say enough good things about this kid. But what really took this show from good to insane was the fact that R. FREAKING. KELLY showed up and they did “Ignition” together. Add that to the list of things I never in a million years thought I’d see. Also, shoutout to his surprise appearance during Vic Mensa’s set earlier that day – you can really tell how much those two genuinely enjoy performing together in the place they both call home.

4. Sylvan Esso (Majestic, Madison WI) / Lizzo (Some random streetcar – NXNE, Toronto ON)
Cheating again. Sylvan Esso is the coolest. With the notable exception of the topless chick gyrating all over her boyfriend directly in front of us, I loved everything that happened this night. Their album is great, but their live show blows it out of the water.
Lizzo bounced and twerked and rapped her face off on a moving train car as it careened around the city of Toronto. I have rarely seen someone tear it up as hard as she and Sophia Eris did, much less while standing on a seat or hanging off a handrail. The single bad thing about this set was that it didn’t go on for longer.

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3. Doomtree Blowout (First Avenue, Minneapolis MN)
The Doomtree Blowout is an annual banger at First Ave, and it’s been going on for 10 years now. However, the Minneapolis rap collective decided that doing this for an 11th year sounded sad (I’d beg to differ, but nobody asked me), meaning that this year was the #LastBlowoutEver. Because it was the last one, they did a show every day of the week from Sunday to the following Saturday, and we drove 5 hours up for the Thursday one. If I hadn’t known, there’s no way I’d have guessed that we were watching their 5th show in 5 days because they tore it up like they hadn’t performed together in months. I’ve been to Blowout before, but there was an energy, an urgency to this one that was completely new. Add to that the fact that P.O.S. is finally healthy and performing again after a 2 year long health scare and the killer intermission set from a bunch of local performers (including the inimitable Har Mar Superstar), and you have a near-perfect way to spend a December night in Minneapolis while skipping your last two days of fall semester.

As many members of Doomtree as I could get in a single frame

As many members of Doomtree as I could get in a single frame.

2. Run The Jewels (Lollapalooza, Chicago IL)
Killer Mike’s dancing. That is all. On top of that, the banter between him and El-P always makes you feel like you’re kicking it in your living room with a couple of friends, if your friends happened to be some of the best rappers in the game. A lot of their material came from RTJ1, they played almost every song on the album, but the best part was that they also drew HEAVILY from RTJ2, which was still 2 or 3 months away from being released at that point. It really says something about what a devoted audience they’ve created that the crowd went nuts for every single track, old and new. Even though Run The Jewels performed at a small stage in the middle of the afternoon, they turned up like they were headliners and made the whole audience believe that they should have been.

Your girl was in the 2nd row for this one. Awwww yeah.

Your girl was in the 2nd row for this one. Awwww yeah.

1. Betty Who w/ DJ Nick Nice (The Terrace, Madison WI)
I’m almost certainly biased because I booked this one, but this was THE MOST FUN show. It was a gorgeous June night, the sun was setting, I got to hang out with Betty Who’s parents for a while, I danced a lot, Betty’s set was great, tons of people showed up for it, and I witnessed Nick Pjevach (the Director in 2012-13) pluck a mayfly out of a cup of beer and eat it whole. If I remember right, we even went to Plaza (the world’s best bar, for the uninitiated) after the show was over. It was as close as I’ve come in all of my 21 years to a perfect night.

Betty Who

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Monday Feature: Revelry is Coming

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You know a weekend is going to be great when you’re already anticipating for the week to be over on Monday at one in the morning. Whether you’ll be attending the annual Mifflin Street Block Party, hitting up capitol square for the weekly fresh market, or kicking back and watching a Star Wars trilogy (preferably the original one), there is no shortage of funtivities available for Madison citizens this first weekend of May.

And while all of these funtivities are respectable means of entertainment in their own right, I want to highlight the weekend event I will be attending: Revelry Music and Arts Festival. DISCLAIMER: I am in no way being prompted to write this feature by any member of WUD Music. I chose to write this feature because it’s music related, it’s Madison news, I love music, live concerts are awesome, and I want to give those that are or may be going a small preview of what they can expect out of the musical talent at the festival. So let’s get to that. I am going to give my short, unarticulated opinion of the artists that were highlighted in the wonderfully crafted video below. Here goes nothing.

Toro y Moi – Contrary to what your initial reaction may be, Toro y Moi is actually one man. And he may be one of the chillest men I’ve ever heard on a track. For starters, he combined both the Spanish and French languages to create his stage name. It doesn’t matter as long as it translates to English easily (Bull and Me) and sounds cool, right? Beyond this, his calm vocals and looped electronic beats are combined to him consider him a part of the genre known as chillwave. It doesn’t get any more chill than that.

Hoodie Allen – One of my close friends has been a Hoodie fan well before the Revelry lineup was released, and since its release I have hopped on the bandwagon hard. His All American EP was only $5 on iTunes, and provides eight solid tracks that exemplify his catchy music and smart lyrics. In addition, his newest mixtape Crew Cuts is on his website for free! Outside of his music, the former Google employee and UPenn Sprint Football player has collaborated on comedy videos with CollegeHumor that are just too funny to only watch once.

Phox – This seven-piece band from Baraboo, Wisconsin utilizes instruments that run the gamut of sounds, resulting in songs that are most often whimsical, but can also be hectic and heavy. No songs particularly called out to me, but there’s no doubt that the band is unique.

The Mowgli’s – While the only music I could find of theirs was the five songs from their Love’s Not Dead EP, this pop-rock octet has an established pedigree with a recent performance at SXSW 2013 and a scheduled performance at Lollapalooza 2013. Their eight-person chorus is extremely catchy, and “San Francisco” is an irresistible summer jam. 

Chance the Rapper – Chance the Rapper is definitely a different sounding hip-hop artist, with a significantly higher voice than your typical MC. His second mixtape, Acid Rap drops tomorrow, so hopefully Madison will be receptive to his new material come Saturday.

Delta Spirit – This band has a strong alternative rock sound, and many of the songs I listened to have the feel of a live show even though they’re master tracks. I trust that their live performance will be nothing short of a great display of musical talent. In addition, they have a song on the official first volume of The Walking Dead soundtrack, so I am sold.

Julian Lynch – Chill, instrumental, and articulate all at once, Julian Lynch’s music gives off good vibes. With a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology (!?) from UW-Madison, I think concert attendees will give the former city resident a warm reception.

Oh Land – Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Nanna Øland Fabricius serves as singer, songwriter, and producer, for her music. Pianos and an extensive palette of electronic sounds make for a plethora of experimental tunes for Oh Land to sing over. It will be interesting to see how her music translates to a live performance.

So there you have it: A preview of the biggest acts that Revelry has to offer. It would seem that there is a little something for everyone in the festival’s first installment, and I couldn’t be more excited. Here’s to the joys of live music, summer, and the continued success of this festival for years to come. Revel on.

Monday Feature: Phoenix; From a Mess to the Masses

The band.

You wish you looked this cool while running.

If Phoenix was a type of fruit, it would be a strawberry. You taste it don’t you? Picture this: the year is “1901. You’re “Run Run Running through a strawberry patch, and you are snagged by a “Lasso. Now you’re in the hospital with a horrible case of “Lisztomania and while you’re wondering, “If I Ever Get Better,” a beautiful young woman (not “Too Young”) enters your room. You fall in love and ride off into the “Love Like A Sunset Pt. I.” If that doesn’t sound like a strawberry I don’t know what does.

As if it’s not already cool enough to be from Versailles, France, Thomas Mars,  Deck d’Arcy, Christian Mazzalai, and Laurent Brancowitz have made quite the name for themselves. Formed in the early 90’s as a garage band, the quartet had three studio albums before their breakout album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, in 2009. “Too Young, off of their first album, United, was featured in Lost in Translation, directed by Sophia Coppola, lead singer Thomas Mars’ now wife.

Official music video for “Too Young,” from Lost in Translation

The band has a rich history in the suburbs of Paris. The thirty-somethings wrote almost all of their songs in Mars’ parents house, literally across the street from the palace grounds of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. So dreamy. So chic.

Phoenix is on my Bands-I-Would-Sell-My-Soul-To-See list. They are renowned for their energetic shows and their performances make for great “Entertainment (see what I did there?). Who can’t like the romantic vocals and pulsing, synthetic sound? Phoenix has been busy playing Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Kimmel, Coachella, and Osheaga this year and I will finally be able to check them off my list when they play Lollapalooza this August.

Phoenix performing "Entertainment" on Saturday Night Live

Phoenix performing “Entertainment” on                         Saturday Night Live

If you’re not swooning to the wavy, synthetic streams of “Girlfriend,” then you’re bopping your head uncontrollably to “Lisztomania.” The group prides themselves on perfection. In Follow Phoenix, an 18 minute Spotify documentary highlighting a day in the life of Phoenix, Broncowitz was asked who the band listens to when seeking inspiration. “Bronco” he replied, “we like everything. Actually, we don’t like anything, but in every genre there’s a few guys who get it right.” Mars chimes in that editing is crucial. They record everything, so they can go back and squeeze out every last drop of musical genius created.

Follow Phoenix, a Spotify documentary

Phoenix’s long-awaited, fifth studio album, Bankrupt!, will be released this Tuesday in the United States; and the world is ready for it.

Monday Feature: Glocca Morra

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Madison weather remembered it is the middle of April, and finally stopped keeping the temperature in the 30’s.  There is no better way to celebrate than opening your windows, listening to the steady dripping of rain drops, and then turning up your speakers to LOUD and blasting punk rock.  Show nature who is boss.  She can’t do anything now, it’s spring.  People usually assume “oh it’s so purty outside, lemme just put on dis quiet, pretty Bon Iver song on and then take a nap.”  No.  Stop that.  You need to drive cars at high speeds (only five miles above speed limit. Safety!) and jump around excessively.

“But,” you might argue, “all of the songs I listen to never exceed noise levels around the same volume as a solitary singing bird!” Well then listen to Glocca Morra, who’s music makes me want to run around outside and yell.  According to their Facebook page, there are four guys in the band; their names are Zack, Arik, Nate, and JP.  They happened to make two of my favorite albums from last year with their LP Just Married and their EP An Obscure Moon Lighting An Obscure World.  It’s on their bandcamp.

I have no idea how to describe what they sound like, but they make some of the best indie/punk/rock/whatever music on the planet.  And they pass through Chicago on the twentieth, so if anyone wants to give me a ride…

SONGS!!!!!!

Monday Feature: An Ode to Justin Timberlake

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Photo by Dana Edelson

In honor of Justin Timberlake’s fifth appearance on Saturday Night Live, I’ve decided to write a blog post entirely dedicated to the beauty that is JT. Acting, singing, dancing–rarely in history is there a triple threat as triply-threatening as this man.

Who would have thought that he could go from his *NSYNC days, looking like this

…Yikes

To now, looking like THIS

Well done, Justin. Well done.

Any college-aged kid remembers JT from the boy band days, and weren’t they a doozy. The kid could really move, even back then. I mean, who here doesn’t remember the “No Strings Attached” dance? And for the rest of you who were glued to his Grammy or SNL performances, he’s clearly still got it. Smoother than silk–that boy.

And then there’s the acting. I am a bit of an Saturday Night Live aficionado, and I must admit I was a little nervous way back in the day, the first time I heard Justin Timberlake would be hosting. Would the boy(band) wonder actually be funny? Or stand there opening and closing his mouth like an awkward trout? As you might imagine, any doubts I had were pretty immediately dispelled and replaced with hysterical laughter. Not to mention, he did a hilarious (and, I must admit, accurate) imitation of one of my all time favorite artists, Bon Iver, in this sketch.

But this blog isn’t about dancing or acting, it’s about music. As it happens, music is another specialty of JT’s. I’m a huge fan of the way Justin’s style has evolved musically, from hyper-enthusiastic, sugar coated boy band jams to the smooth, classy, big-band sound of his new releases. His crooning on “Suit and Tie” shows off his still-impressive vocal range while clearly exhibiting how much he’s matured. He swings from high notes to low with the same acrobatic ease as ever, but now he does it while backed by a full band, including a brass section. Going from bubble-gum pop to R&B that practically oozes class isn’t a transition many can make, but JT, amazingly, has managed.

To sum it up, we’ve grown up with Justin Timberlake. We got to watch him go from bouncing around with frosted tips to rapping “D*** in a Box” with the wonderful Andy Samberg, to singing next Jay-Z himself (in what is quite possibly the most attractive suit I’ve ever seen). Justin, for giving us the soundtrack for our middle school dances, dating Britney Spears and becoming the power couple of the 1990s, collaborating with Madonna, being a part of the 100th digital short, and continuing to bring SexyBack (YEAH), we say thank you.