Best Best Of I have read in a while, someone actually listening to what is going on in and around Madison. None of the MAMA's Clique's here!
10 Must See Bands To See In And Around Madison, (Or Anywhere Really)
This list is not exactly non-partisan. As a band guy, I play in Clovis Mann, Crooked Barn, Unhinged el Camino; I’ve had the pleasure to play on bills this year with most of these bands. Others I caught in one of my rare nights off. Nonetheless, they are extremely talented. Most of these wicked pickers are pretty unheralded or less than well known. If you have a chance, check them out. They are, in no particular order:
The Smokin’ Bandits. Lacrosse’s most popular country rock act features the volcanic dueling guitar tandem of Gregory “Cheech” Hall and Pat Ferguson, smoky, down home vocals from Christian Staehly and the juggernaut-tastic rhythm section of Tim “Super” Powers and Matt Mahlum. They prove time and again why they are rank with the Midwest’s best. The annual “Bandit County Fair” festival they put on in DeSoto, WI each year is a showcase for some of the of acts to follow on this list.
Honest Monday. Vocally without peer, they mix ragtime, blues, and pop seamlessly. Craig Baumann, who does a killer Otis Redding tribute a few times a year, could knock down a wall with his voice. Harmonica maestro Danny Miller plays with a fluid style that is remarkably clean and pristine at times, and also ditch weed dirty at others.
Corey Hart. No reason this Madison favorite isn’t featured on the national stage. Every time I hear him sing it makes stare in disbelief. Also an excellent guitar picker, he’s not afraid to mix up delta bends with those freaky Beatle chords.
The Campaign. Paul Mitch and the Wedel boys, Joey and Danny, are another pitch perfect vocal group. They write neo-classic roc/ pop gems, but unlike some groups, they easily replicate, and in most cases elevate, the studio versions on the live stage. Whether they are playing acoustically or electrically (they switch it out a bit) they perfectly blend grit and finesse.
Sky Road Fly. Basically, if the Foo Fighters grew up on a farm, they would probably be Sky Road Fly. They write majestic anthems with intricate interplay. Live, guitarist Robert Halstead careens about and flails with a rock and roll St. Vitus dance of pure ecstasy.
Meantooth Grin. Tom Jordan, the singer and nasty slide guitar founder of MTG, bulldozes through some of the gnarliest blues-rock coming from Wisconsin today. Blurring and slurring slide lines hover over an evil nest of riffage that would make Humble Pie red with envy.
Moon Boot Posse. Another LaCrosse based favorite, they play dizzying sets of reggae and original party rock loudly and proudly. Guitarist Paul Matushek is one of those rare birds that, while destroying ridiculously technical solos and riffs, never falls into the often-triggered traps of the guitar hero noodlers. Watching him, while not only wildly entertaining, is extremely educational. On a side note, MBP are not afraid to bust out such classics as “America F#%k Yeah!” If you are on a bill with them, my fellow musicians, do yourself a favor and opt to play before first.
Mojo Radio. Sadly, time travel is not possible for most of us. Mojo Radio is in the small minority who has found the flux capacitor. With the help of some sort of wormhole, they dropped in from the skanky clubs of the UK circa 1973. This might not be true, but you would never know from listening to their live show. My favorite song from them is “Throw Your Hat in the Ring.” Layers of lyrical double-meaning peer around an alley’s corner while the boys rage through the streets of rock. Adam Ziertan’s vocals are double edged like the sweet buzz from a whiskey sour.
Nuggernaut. Trying to describe Nuggernaut with out saying “funky” or “jazzy” would be impossible. Funky jazzy. There, I said it. When John Hoel rips into a sax solo, be it over a standard or one of Nug’s own tastefully complicated originals, you forget that those sometimes violent, sometimes serene melodies are coming from a musical instrument. Hoel and trumpeter extraordinaire Andrew Traverse’s interplay is not unlike other great musical teams like Miles and Coltrane or Dickey Betts and Duane Allman. (I know those guys aren’t horn players, just trying to stress the transcendent theme.)
Little Legend. Madison is fickle when it comes to rock and roll. That being said, these guys will either become the new darlings of Madison rock, deservedly so, or will be yet another band that rips there brains out and ferociously plays to half filled rooms. Either way, they bring an intense sound that is rare in the town where quirkiness and funny hats are prerequisites for success. These guys bring it, and they do it in a monstrously grotesque blend of styles. It’s as though a gang of 50’s greasers crashed into a 90’s grunge band on the side of a lonely road.