• Milwaukee Psych Fest 2017

    Posted 05/15/2017 by cal

    You knew this thing would eventually outgrow Cactus Club. As sick as music writers have got to be of typing the word ‘psych’, still it persists as a catch-all tag for reverb, drone, and general weirdness in music, and its popularity shows no signs of fading despite the hiatus of Levitation (formerly Austin Psych Fest, the mother of all psych fests). The plus side of its omnipresence is that a psych festival can encompass virtually all genres nowadays, and this year’s Milwaukee edition boasted by far the most eclectic lineup to date. I caught most of the Friday and Saturday performances, and I wrote little bits about 'em.

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  • 2016 In Live Music

    Posted 12/29/2016 by cal

    Believe me, I realize this is partially a case of rationalization, but 2016 was the year I learned to stop being aggravated that most of the touring bands I love are gonna keep skipping Milwaukee, because almost all the live music I’ll ever need is already right here. Plus, I do relish an evening in Chicago whenever I can make it happen. It's no use getting hung up on this issue, I keep telling myself. There are plenty of negatives to focus on from 2016, if that's your bag. Personally, I can't keep it up. Music lives on, and this current moment right this second is all that’s even real anyway. But if I were to live solely in memories of local shows, I'd want to pull a good percentage of that life from 2016.

    Musician friends, I love you all, and your shows were all amazing, and ranking shows is silly and I apologize for doing it anyway. It’s just a thing I do. It doesn’t mean anything.

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  • Levitation: Chicago

    Posted 03/15/2016 by cal

    The venerable Austin Psych Fest changed its name to Levitation last year, which was probably wise, considering that the term is at once ubiquitous and potentially constricting nowadays. Also, it would seem silly to have an Austin Psych Fest: Chicago (there’s one in Vancouver, too). The Thalia Hall (What a superb venue. I want to live there.) event this past weekend shared exactly two common artists with the Austin version happening next month, but what the Chicago incarnation lacked in Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds, it made up for with, well, mostly current, relevant artists.

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  • 2015: Live Music

    Posted 12/29/2015 by cal

    As I’ve ranted on twitter, 2015 was a fairly shitty year in terms of live music in Milwaukee. The Pabst group’s renaissance appeared to be over, as those venues welcomed lots of youtube sensations and actors and 88nine bands and not many artists I was very interested in seeing. What’s that? You say I’ve aged out of the venues’ target audience? Well shit. There were exceptions of course, and 2016 is already looking like it will destroy 2015 in this regard. We need slow years from time to time. And maybe the big events from this year will ultimately shine brighter in my memory for years to come. It certainly seems like they ought to. Here are the ones (excluding Altos and associated acts, since I'm married to an Alto and friends with the whole gang) that I most love reliving in my mind.

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  • Magnaball

    Posted 08/28/2015 by cal

    Sometimes you have to look on the bright side, and sometimes the bright side is all around you. As soon as our crew parked our cars and started setting up camp, it was apparent that we'd been directed right to the perfect spot. Plentiful space, cool neighbors, nearby showers and water spigot, and most shockingly, an actual restroom facility right across the path. For a second time this summer, I found myself at a festival with most of the usual festival bullshit stripped away. There weren't even any long beer lines at Magnaball.

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  • Milwaukee Psych Fest 3

    Posted 05/19/2015 by cal

    I won't lie, it was an ordeal, navigating normal life in addition to this Milwaukee Psychology Festival (third annual), down at the ol' Cactus Club. I think we all learned a lot about ourselves.

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  • The Best Shows I Saw In 2014

    Posted 12/23/2014 by cal

    In an effort to impress upon people who need these things explained the ultimate meaningless of the numbers involved in these lists I like to write, there is a tie for number one this year. The shows were so completely different and earth-shattering that I couldn't possibly choose. BUT THEN NUMBER TWO SHOULD REALLY BE NUMBER THREE. Are you happy now?

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  • Dave Matthews Band: Summerfest, 7/2/2014

    Posted 07/03/2014 by cal

    Ten years ago I would've been coming at this from a pure fan perspective. At that point I knew every song Dave might play and had a pretty good handle on when he might play it. Last night I had trouble singing along to "Rhyme & Reason" and couldn't remember the name of "The Stone". I guess I'm not the fan I once was. There are probably a lot of reasons for this. Let's see...

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  • Milwaukee Psych Fest 2014

    Posted 04/29/2014 by Cal

    In its second year, Milwaukee Psych Fest has already doubled in length to four days, and despite an apparent flagging fervor in the genre while the world waits for a new Tame Impala album or marquee Sacred Bones release, the Brew City is as jazzed up as ever, thanks in large part to the enthusiasm of our local record stores and WMSE programs like Tom Wanderer's and The 5 & Dime Show. Plus, after a slew of top-notch local psych-rock records last year, the Space Raft debut is mere days from FINALLY being released, Elusive Parallelograms are changing their name to Tapebenders (still no web presence that I can locate for the newly-named band, but they are apparently readying a new release), and according to my sources,
    Catacombz are still a band and presumably will start acting like it one of these days. Counter Culture Club, the organizers of Psych Fest, have been ramping up their efforts to bring artists from all across the trippy spectrum to Milwaukee like never before, and the weekend lineup for this little fest was pretty stacked, to the point where you have to wonder if Cactus Club will be able to contain the crowds if this thing gets any bigger.

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  • The You-Phoria Guide To Festivals: 2014

    Posted 04/09/2014 by cal

    Because tweeting my disdain isn't enough.

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  • #EMT2014

    Posted 03/04/2014 by cal

    Any seasoned festival-goer knows that the nature of the beast requires you to be prepared for AN ORDEAL. As such, any complaints about the weather during the second annual Eastside Music Tour are probably inadmissible. But come on. Traipsing up and down Brady Street in that freezing wind and snow was taxing despite all the whiskey. Sure, NEWaukee can't predict the weather when they're planning a festival in Wisconsin on the first day of March, but...seriously, was this the only weekend of the entire year available?

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  • #phishfork

    Posted 07/23/2013 by cal

    A little background: Several months ago, Pitchfork announced Björk would be headlining one night of its yearly festival.  As Björk was very near the top of our bucket list of live acts, my wife and I eagerly purchased weekend passes, even though Phish, as usual, was dragging its feet on announcing summer tour dates--WHAT ARE THE CHANCES, I scoffed.  Under normal circumstances, I might have seriously considered skipping a Phish show for Björk, having never seen her before.  But the problem with the Phishhead affliction is that you can't skip a Phish show on your birthday when you're already going to be only a few miles away from where it's taking place.  On the off chance that they play the greatest version ever of your favorite song, and you chose to skip it, you'd never be able to live with yourself.  On the other hand, your wife might not be so severely afflicted...

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  • Violent Femmes: Summerfest, 6/26/13

    Posted 06/27/2013 by cal

    I was really supposed to be watching Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Diplo last night, but since I'd never seen the Femmes before, I figured it was my duty as a Milwaukeean to check them out once in my life...

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  • Four Days And Seven Nights In Illinois

    Posted 06/02/2013 by cal

    At some point in the future, Honest Tune might get around to publishing my review of Summer Camp.  If not, I don't really care.  It's a load of crap that required only slightly more energy as the staff at Honest Tune put into helping me set it up, and it's not like it was going to garner me any pay.  But I couldn't leave it at that, so here's what actually happened during my end-of-May marathon seven-of-eight consecutive nights of live music in Illinois.

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  • Summerfest Day 8

    Posted 07/11/2012 by cal

    Thursday night was earnest white guy night at Summerfest, but before I get to the part with the swooning teenage girls, let’s talk about swooning Gen-X punk rock dudes who grabbed the opportunity to get nostalgic with The Smoking Popes.  They never tried to be the fastest, most aggressive band in the scene, leaving the obnoxious whiny vocals to Screeching Weasel in favor of clean, melodic singing and some of the catchiest pop music that could still be considered at all punk.  Now approaching a decade into their reunion, the Popes still don’t sound much different than they did in 1994; maybe a bit slower but still punchy, and freed from the tired notion of “sellout,” they can mash up a “Do You Feel Like We Do” jam with Jawbreaker’s “Do You Still Hate Me” and not worry about repercussions.

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