Tonight’s Set Details: White Denim 11.05.09

Doors: 7:30

His and Her Vanities: 8:30

Brazos: 9:30

White Denim: 10:30

*Note: The band is traveling direct from a radio gig in Minneapolis so there is a chance these times could get pushed back 15-30 mins.

High Noon Saloon $10 – 18+

Xavier Rudd Tonight!

Known not just for his wholly original approach to making music and must-be-seen-to-be-believed live shows, Xav is also recognized as a great Australian activist, advocating for indigenous rights and environmental responsibility.  Both his social conscious and sense of hopeful exultation co-exist on Dark Shades released Aug 19.

The past few years have been a whirlwind for Xavier.  In between sold out tours in Europe, Australia and the US, both headlining and supporting the likes of the Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson and Ben Harper, he has been working on the film score for fellow-surfer and Rudd-enthusiast Matthew McConaughey’s Surfer Dude, a film starring McConaughey, Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson.

Guitar-driven jams expand on a sound only hinted at on previous releases, and distortion often supplants the pretty jangly guitars heard on earlier work.  Mixed by Joe Barresi (Tool, Queens of the Stone Age), Dark Shades of Blue shows Xav at his most assertive, heavy and psychedelic, and while Xav’s signature didgeridoo remains.

With special guest Griffin House Tuesday, Sept 23, 8:00 pm show, 7:00 pm doors Majestic Theatre 608.255.0901 $20 adv $22 dos – all ages

Xavier Rudd “Stargaze” on Jimmy Kimmel

An Interview with We Are Scientists

The first thing you need to know about We Are Scientists is that they are not, in fact, scientists. Shock! Horror! Yes, it’s true. In sharp contrast to rock and roll tradition, this Brooklyn-based indie outfit’s tour bus is devoid of any chemical experiments (for all we know).

“We have no affiliation with the field of science. I think we’re as happy about that as the field of science is,” bassist Chris Cain jokes.

The trio of Cain, Keith Murray (lead vocals and guitar), and Michael Tapper (drums) became We Are Scientists after graduating from college at the tail end of the ‘90s. Initially, the band was conceived with little more intent than to be a way to pass time. Cain acknowledges that their success in music came somewhat unexpectedly.

“I listened to music when I was younger, but it wasn’t really a passion for me, I wouldn’t say,” he admits. “I didn’t play any instruments until we started this band. Keith, on the other hand, has been playing guitar since he was twelve, I think. His parents forced him to take up guitar because his older sister had played the guitar her parents bought her for three months and then cast it aside, and they decided that somebody had to play that guitar.”

However modest their early motivations were, it quickly became apparent that they had more musical talent than they had given themselves credit for. After gaining popularity playing live gigs around Berkley, CA, the band released their debut album, With Love and Squalor in 2005 to much acclaim from the British press. As to why they rose to success so quickly in the UK while remaining relatively unknown in the states is a mystery to the band.

“I think our style of music is more mainstream in the UK,” explains Cain. “Beyond that, I think it’s just a bit of a crapshoot, I would say, really. I think there’s work involved in success anywhere—in music I mean. For us things started to take off in the UK, so we really just pushed it. We toured there really consistently for almost the entire first year, and sort of neglected the US where things didn’t take off as quickly. I don’t know, I think the UK gave us the initial spark, combined with our willingness to apply a solid year of hard work to seal the deal. Here, we’ve just never really felt that we’ve been in the same position.”

Now a duo following the departure of Tapper last year, Murray and Cain are carrying on, touring in support of their sophomore release, Brain Thrust Mastery. Heavy on 80’s post-punk and pop influence, the album is sure to bring to mind hints of modern artists as well. The urgent savagery of The Strokes, the witty charm of Kaiser Chiefs and the glossy dance-friendly euphoria of The Killers are present in high quantity. We Are Scientists explained that they wanted Brain Thrust Mastery to be an album that was “difficult to define, but easy to absorb.” Mission accomplished. Their myriad of musical influences and unique personalities addresses the former desire, and their pop sensibility and relatable lyrics satisfies the latter.

“Certainly I think our lyrics usually tend to deal with interpersonal relationships–often romantic, but not always. That’s really what every song’s pretty much about. It’s not the same incidents being retread over and over again, but there’s that theme.”

Despite their undeniably hip sound, the members of We Are Scientists haven’t been able to shake the “geek rock” label that journalists seem to love to affix to their descriptions. Cain, with the band’s signature good sense of humor, assured me that they don’t mind.

“I think it’s a label that, to be honest that we have sort of secretly fostered. It’s little more than a marketing angle…really we’re more the sort of jock, frat boy-type dudes, but I think that doesn’t fly very well in indie rock. It’s not really what the fans are looking for, so as the band started to take off, we sort of finessed it. Tossed on some glasses, dropped about 50 pounds of muscle and beefed up our vocabularies a little bit.”

Arguably just as entertaining as the music itself is the band’s website, where Murray and Cain offer responses to queries of advice from fans and review everything from the quality of a public restroom’s sink (“You’ve never felt manual vertigo till you’ve held your hands out there over the basin of the sink in the public toilet at the Ekko in Utrecht.”) to Cain’s moustache (“My mustache, were it a sandwich, would be a club. Were it a plane, it would be a MiG-28.”), which offers fans a rare opportunity to appreciate the band members’ personalities underneath the veil of their sound.

“I think it changes the way people digest the art if they know something about the creator,” Cain considers. “I don’t think it’s necessarily better. I don’t know if it’s even good. It’s certainly different, but I think that any art that’s published, one should be able to appreciate it without any knowledge of the author or creator. In the case of pop music, it does feel like there’s a strong urge for people to know something about the musicians. But I guess it’s unlike painting, for example. Music involves performance as well as composition, so it stands to reason that the personalities of these people onstage who are performing live for you have an image and voice you’re familiar with. I don’t know….music is a weird situation. I kind of think that in a painter or a dancer or in literature the artist should be irrelevant. That’s not to say that we aren’t curious about them, but I guess in music there’s something inherently legitimate about the inquiries of the artists.”

So what should concert-goers expect when We Are Scientists hit the stage at the High Noon Saloon this Wednesday night?

“They can expect a lot of magic tricks, and I don’t mean that in a glorified way,” Cain deadpans. “I just mean that we literally do a lot of card tricks and coin tricks onstage, which not everybody does. That’s a trick we picked up from Jimmy Buffet, actually—a rather unlikely source for an indie rock band, but it worked for him and frankly it works for us. They’re going to see a lot of synchronized dance, which is a tradition that goes back to the golden era of musicals and cinema, and also vaudeville.”

In addition to picking a card—any card, and shaking those jazz hands like nobody’s business, rumor has it that We Are Scientists will also be setting aside a decent amount of time to perform their unique brand of fun, indie “geek rock” that you won’t want to miss. Oxford Collapse and Brighton MA open the 8:00 show.
-Shelley Peckham

Media Roundup: Women who rock, from newcomer to legend, and more

Add Ingrid Michaelson to the always growing list of indie musicians who have lent their tunes to play in the background of prominent national ad campaigns — at least in this case the original lyrics of the song were unchanged, unlike the Of Montreal Outback Steakhouse fiasco. Michaelson is grabbing a lot of attention with her song “The Way I Am” being used in Old Navy’s national campaign, in addition to other featured songs on the past season of television shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “One Tree Hill.” She is also gaining cred with a very important demographic — the techies — with her innovative use of social networking widgets that could be setting the trend for indie musicians to follow.

Shortly following her return to Madison (after headlining March’s sold-out Hotel Cafe show) headlining a show at the Barrymore on Saturday, June 7, she will be setting out to support the Dave Matthews Band in a number shows of their summer tour. Michaelson seems to be taking all of the attention in stride, however, even when the major labels come a knocking: “I’m definitely having a lot of luck right now; I don’t know that it’s the way it’s going to be for everyone from now on … [I’ve] decided that I wanted to remain independent, so I said no [to the major labels] — and they’ve kind of left me alone,” she recently said in an interview. “I don’t owe anything; I can keep my career going at the pace that I want it to be going.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Wanda Jackson — playing the High Noon Saloon on Wednesday, June 25 with her band the Lustre Kings — has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post and other prominent newspapers over the past few weeks with her new documentary, “The Sweet Lady With the Nasty Voice” for the Smithsonian Channel. The documentary aired this past Sunday and told the 70-year-old rocker Jackson’s story, from dating Elvis Presley in the ’50s to paving the way for future generations of female rock stars with her hard-edged style. Both Michaelson and Jackson’s shows are not to be missed — representing bookends of achievement for women making it in the music industry.

Langhorne Slim, coming to town with his band The War Eagles on Monday, May 26, for a Memorial Day show at the High Noon Saloon, is featured as the lead act for a recent “things to do” roundup for the Capital Times, and also played last month on NPR’s World Cafe.

Stephen Marley, son of the late reggae legend Bob Marley, is currently in the midst of a national tour that will include a stop at the Barrymore on Wednesday, June 11. The show is a benefit for the Ghetto Youths Foundation, and will include the option of a $6 meal deal from Jamerica before the show. Marley’s shows have been noted for their honesty and passion: “I want to make a statement and continue this legacy, this musical legacy with my family,” he recently told a Charleston Post and Courier reporter. “Good music, good message, good vibe.”

Finally, check out the following reviews from recent shows in Madison, to find out what you might have missed:

“Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince of The Kills took to The Annex stage on Saturday night, [May 10] with an unforgettable aural assault of bone trembling rock and roll.” — Dane101

Josh Ritter has a better time on stage (or at least appears to) that 89% of the bands I’ve seen this year. He actually seems to enjoy his work. Refreshing.” — Muzzle of Bees

“Last night’s show at the High Noon Saloon has entered the books amongst my all time favorites for the venue.” — Dooga Dooga

“My favorite part of the show, in fact, was about 5 or 6 songs in when the band departed and it was simply Josh Ritter and an acoustic guitar. It was amazing how intimate he could make the High Noon Saloon feel, even though it was a sold-out and anxious crowd…” — Dane101

“Thursday’s sold-out crowd at the Barrymore Theatre gave KT Tunstall an inkling of what kind of show she was going to have before she and her band ever played a note. ‘With all the seating, I thought you’d be sitting,’ said Tunstall as she scanned the audience that had risen to its feet and would stay there for the next hour and 45 minutes. ‘I’m impressed.'” — The Capital Times

That’s all for now. Have a lovely weekend!

Concert Photos- American Music Club

Missed the show? Want to re-live the joy? Tell us what you thought!

American Music Club

Photos: Bryan Gladding, In the Muck Photos. Copyright 2008