• 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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  • Phish: Alpine Valley 2015

    Posted 08/12/2015 by cal

    Sorry if the Blossom review was a bit insubstantial. I promise this piece is way longer.

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  • Phish: Blossom, 8/7/2015

    Posted 08/08/2015 by cal

    My primary gripes about Phish 3.0: the crappy new material, the tight song rotation, the bungled compositions, the terrible first sets, the lack of jams, the second sets that peter out into cock-rock jukebox mode. None of these things happened at Blossom.

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  • U2: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Chicago

    Posted 07/04/2015 by cal

    Last December, I received an email from Bono. Okay, not really; it was a U2.com subscriber email, but in it, Bono talked about the upcoming iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour, which would be a series of two-night stands, and this quote got me a little jazzed up: "We are going to try to have a completely different feeling from night one to night two."

    Ha.

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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 Prematurely Air-Conditioned Arts Collective Presents John Zorn's Cobra

    Posted 03/20/2015 by cal

    Pro: There's an ensemble in Milwaukee playing John Zorn's Cobra—twice so far, but hopefully many more times. Con: I didn't know about it until the day of the second installment (last night). It took place at Woodland Pattern Book Center, five blocks from my house. Clearly I am not as in-touch with my community as I ought to be.

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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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  • Secret Chiefs 3: Cactus Club, 10/8/2014

    Posted 10/09/2014 by cal

    I keep thinking that at some point they're not going to be as good. Probably just trying to lower my unreasonable expectations of this band. Fortunately Secret Chiefs 3 are unreasonably good. Every time they pick up instruments and play.

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  • King Crimson: The Vic, 9/26/2014

    Posted 09/29/2014 by cal

    In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a prog-nut from way back. Yes started me down the road, but it wasn't long before I became almost as obsessed with ELP, and since Greg Lake had been in King Crimson prior to forming that band, it was inevitable that I'd find my way to In The Court Of The Crimson King (as if the cover art alone weren't enticing enough). Crimson is different from all the other 70s prog giants in that over the course of its nearly half-century of on-and-off existence, it has never become an utterly lame anachronism. Robert Fripp has always been mindful of the Crimson legacy. Still, each successive reformation of the project brings an increasing threat of tarnish. For the few of us who care about such things, anyway.

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  • Phish: Midwest Run 2014

    Posted 07/23/2014 by cal

    Reviewing Phish is quite a different undertaking than reviewing other music. For one thing, there's a whole dictionary of jargon and mythology that's taken for granted, making the critique virtually unreadable to the uninitiated, but going about it any other way would make the review tedious for almost anyone who might be interested in reading it. Also, rather than just take into account the experience of a single show, it's important to put it into a thirty-plus-year context and assess where it stands in the pantheon of live Phishdom. There's also a lot of puzzling over the intentions of the band, particularly Trey, and conjecturing about how much effort he's putting in and what sort of statement he might be making--mostly by people who've never had a conversation with the man himself.

    I didn't feel like thinking about all that crap on my birthday weekend this year. I just wanted to relax and enjoy myself. In the long run, though, I have a lot of thoughts about the Midwest run, and I can't keep them all to myself. So here are some of them. Read more... Pre-Disqus Comments (2)
  • 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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