Rock of the Arts web site went live on July 21, 2009. Becoming part of the indie music blogosphere over the last five months has been an exhilarating experience. Besides writing about decent shows in the Madison area, we’ve met a lot of really cool, passionate people that truly love music.
We are constantly amazed at the sheer volume of indie bands that come through Madison. On more than one occasion, multiple shows of high caliber competed for our attention; Bloodshot records BBQ or Rural Alberta Advantage? Daniel Johnston or the Breeders? Fiery Furnaces or Real Estate? And the list goes on.
Anyway, Rock of the Arts has plans for an exciting 2010, with more local band coverage, a trip to South by Southwest and a foray into the realm of direct-to-fan marketing. You will be hearing more about that in January.
With the flurry of end-of-year lists, we decided to put together our top ten Madison area show videos. Some of your favorites may not be on the list simply because we didn’t attend the show. Like your average indie music fan, we buy all our tickets to attend shows. We also work day jobs. Of course, we would like to see every band, but schedules, budgets and common sense prevents us from pulling that off. Here’s our list of top ten videos:
#10 Two Cow Garage - Suburban Home Records Tour
What could be better than Two Cow Garage? How about Two Cow Garage with Jon Snodgrass and Austin Lucas! This early show at the High Noon Saloon was an excersise in camaraderie among touring bands. All three acts played together and solo virtually nonstop for two hours. We look forward to them coming back to Madison!
#9 Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons – Majestic Theater
Appleton’s favorite son put Wisconsin on the music map in 2009. Cory Chisel's breathtaking melodies on the new release “Death Won’t Send a Letter” drew accolades from Rolling Stone, Spin and the music blogosphere in general. High profile help from Brendan Benson certainly didn’t hurt matters either. This performance at the Majestic Theatre was the record release show with opener Joshua James.
#8 Cage the Elephant - Freakfest
Ok, we know the music line-up at Freakfest was rather lame this year, but there was one bright spot. Cage the Elephant put on a raucous show that was the highlight of the evening. How can you not love that stage location with the Capitol dome in the background?
#7 Megafaun – Forward Music Festival
Although, the Forward Music Festival may not have been the most organized event this year, two of our favorite shows came from their expansive line-up. Megafaun, the former back-up band for Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon displayed a level of musicianship and originality that really sets them apart from just about any other band we saw this year. The High Noon Saloon showcase kicked off the three day Forward Music Festival and we managed to capture the spirit of the Megafaun show in this video. I’ve already started three days growth of beard in their honor.
#6 Langhorne Slim – High Noon Saloon
Langhorne Slim must be seen live to be appreciated. While we like his recorded material, the additional energy in a live setting makes all the difference as evidenced by the wild stage antics in this video of “Honey Pie.”
#5 Cracker Duo – High Noon Saloon
Cracker may not be on the Pitchfork indie flavor of the month list, but that doesn’t prevent David Lowery and Johnny Hickman from putting on extremely entertaining shows based on years of touring and songwriting experience. We also have a sentimental place in our heart for this video. The overwhelming response from YouTube viewers for the “Low” video led us to start the Rock of the Arts web site. Johnny and Dave, we owe you one.
#4 Tallest Man on Earth – High Noon Saloon
You wouldn’t think a country known for musical exports like Abba and Yngwie Malmsteen could produce someone like Sweden’s Kristian Mattson better known as the Tallest Man on Earth.
The Dylanesque phrasing and masterful acoustic guitar chops contribute to Mattson’s unique ability to tell a story like no one else. In one of the largest turn-outs that we’ve seen for an early weekday show at the High Noon Saloon, Mattson kept the audience glued to his commanding stage presence and impressive repertoire. This video for “A Thousand Ways” is unreleased material that will more than likely be on his new album slated for release in 2010. We think the Tallest Man on Earth could be part of our dream Monsters of Acoustic tour with Joe Pug and A.A. Bondy.
#3 Justin Townes Earle – Bloodshot Records BBQ
Bloodshot Records 15th anniversary Beer-B-Que was an alt-country fan’s wet dream with The Bottle Rockets, Waco Brothers, Bobby Bare Junior, The Deadstring Brothers, Ha Ha Tonka and The Meat Purveyors. Justin Townes Earle along with Cory Hanes topped off the free show at the High Noon Saloon that goes down in our book as one of the top highlights of 2009.
#2 Dawes – Barnstormer II
Daytrotter represents the true indie ethic of the Do It Yourself ethos by offering a web-based canvas for artists to strip down their compositions to the basics that we can all relate to. Putting that DIY ethos into the Barnstormer tours was a stroke of genius. Just think, a traveling caravan of indie music artists playing barns and attics across the Midwest.
Madison was fortunate enough to have both Barnstormer tours come through the area. The last one in October played a 180 year old barn on the Treinen Family Farm in Lodi, Wisconsin. Dawes put on a magical performance in Lodi that has now taken on legendary status. A third Barnstormer Tour is in the works this spring and Lodi may be on the itinerary once again.
#1 Sleeping in the Aviary – Forward Music Festival
What do you do if your opportunity to open for Ra Ra Riot in front of a sold-out crowd is suddenly yanked from underneath you on the night of the show? You put on a blistering performance so intense that showers of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cannot cool it off. In what we like to call “being in the right place at the right time”, Rock of the Arts got down on video the best performance of the Forward Music Festival with Sleeping in the Aviary! Oh yeah, Flip video recorders can still work after being dowsed in PBR.