Filtering by Tag: local music

Report: First Gig as Next Paperback Hero

Well, I made it. It was a nerve-wracking and sweaty evening, but I am pleased to report that I didn't totally shit the bed. Exactly a week after my initial decision to just be open to the prospect of gigging again, I put together a set and performed before a small crowd for the first time under the name Next Paperback Hero.

I haven't stayed up that late for anything but New Years in a long, long time, especially on a Friday after a tiring work week. So I was definitely feeling it as I drove up to Frank's for load in at 9 pm (I know, I'm old.) It was clear that as the last act to be added to the bill, that I was going to have to go last. In this case, that meant starting around midnight. But beggars can't be choosers and I was grateful for the opportunity.

I was actually quite thankful I didn't have to go after the opening funk/jam band. Their vibe simply did not mesh with mine at all. The touring band, Wild Age, was a great transition as their set was still energetic, but brought in more of the indie vibe. (Read more about my thoughts on Wild Age here!) 

I found a couple of things I need to do:

1. Build a pedalboard. All of the other guitarists had it was a bit awkward to pull out all of my pedals one by one, check the dials, plug them in, etc. Not only did I feel like an amateur, but I saw how easy it was for them. They literally took their pedalboard out of its case, plugged it in, and away they went. #Jealous


2. Buy a handkerchief. Despite it being pretty cool outside, the venue was warm and the stage lights were radiating heat. I'm a sweaty guy in general, but this really took the cake. Sweat streamed down my face and into my eyes. I know that wiping it away with sleeves is weird, so I tried to power through. Kristen tells me she's seen people carry handkerchiefs while playing shows, wipe their brow between songs, and it is far less distracting. Well, that's what comes next!


3.  Practice. Now that's not to say I didn't practice enough for this gig. I put in quite a bit of time and did what I could. And while I had a few misfires with the loop pedal, they were relatively easy to overcome. The real issue was comfort. It a bit harder than I remembered being alone out there and I could tell that I wasn't as moving nearly as much as I did when practicing at home. But I've been gigging for years, alone for the better part of three years. So why now? 

Well, in my experience, a new band or new set up hits the reset switch in many ways. There are so many new unknowns that you can't anticipate how it's going to go or feel, no matter how many times you practice. Sometimes, you just need to get that first gig out of the way and learn from it.

I can tell you that this gig felt significantly better than my last performance from over a year ago. I don't know if I technically played any better, but overall it felt good to have some of these songs out in the world again, not just online. At the end of the day, this was all I needed to start moving forward again.

In summation, I'm glad I got out there and did it, learned some valuable lessons, and feel more prepared for the next one. I can't say I'm going to go book a bunch of shows, but I am open to playing more and striving to find balance between gigs, studio, family, and everything else in life. 

Not All Heroes Wear Capes...(but some do)

Milwaukee is full of crazy talented musicians. But it's taken me a long time to acknowledge that. I've been skeptical about the local scene for a long time for a variety of reasons. Despite my love of the city, Milwaukee has never received a free pass on this. I am glad to have finally sorted through the shit and would like to share with you some of my picks for top Milwaukee music. 

Field Report - Thomas Wincek, Devin Drobka, Christopher Porterfield, Barry Clark

Field Report - Thomas Wincek, Devin Drobka, Christopher Porterfield, Barry Clark

1) Field Report - Field Report is an anagram of frontman/songwriter Chris Porterfield's last name. Brilliant! His prior affiliation with Justin Vernon is well-documented, but I have to tell you that that was a reason I was initially skeptical about his music. Back in 2012, I was way into Bon Iver and saw Field Report as a knock off without falsetto. As the folk revival started to die down in 2014, I heard Porterfield do a track by track analysis/interview of his sophomore record with one of our favorite radio stations. At that moment, a switch flipped and I became a super fan. Field Report's third record, Summertime Songs, was released earlier this year and it has only increased my mania. The first things you'll notice about Field Report are Chris's voice and lyrics. Chris has an non-traditional voice that carries his songs through a highly emotional, sometimes pained presentation. His lyrics have enough meaning on the surface to draw in a casual listener, but the depth to give you something new for each subsequent listen. They are specific enough for you to believe every word he sings is autobiographical and true, yet broad enough for you to put yourself in them. In short, the songwriting is simply masterful. Here are a few of my favorite tracks:


"If I Knew"

Buffalo Gospel - Ryan Necci, Kevin Rowe

Buffalo Gospel - Ryan Necci, Kevin Rowe

2) Buffalo Gospel - Here's another band that I was not particularly fond of the first time I heard them a few years ago. It just didn't grab me. Frontman/songwriter Ryan Necci has come a long way in a short amount of time though. I first saw him perform as a part of another event and his passionate performance caught my attention. Earlier this year, Buffalo Gospel released their new record, On the First Bell. I'll spare you the details, but Necci went through some real shit over the last few years. The result was a record with a new approach to songwriting, heartbreaking delivery, and some of the best damned country music you'll ever hear on this side of the Mason-Dixon line. These are tightly constructed songs with memorable hooks and emotions. It's no coincidence that Chris Porterfield is a dear friend of Necci and contributed to the record. Take a listen to these tracks to get you started, but the entire record is fantastic:



GGOOLLDD - Margaret Butler

GGOOLLDD - Margaret Butler

3) GGOOLLDD - While Buffalo Gospel and Field Report represent two of my favorite songwriters in the world, not just Milwaukee, GGOOLLDD is bit different. The Google machine classifies them as an electro-pop band and they're admittedly pretty new to me. I've heard the name for years, wondered if you pronounce each letter, and didn't pay much attention. But recently I started to re-examine "established" Milwaukee bands to see if I was missing out on anything. GGOOLLDD is fronted by Margaret Butler, a cape-wearing powerhouse of a vocalist. Her voice is perfectly complimented by an ensemble of guitars, drums, and synthesizers that match her energy and charisma. These are catchy and unique songs that really stand out. Take a listen and you'll be hooked. The most recent recording is an EP called Teeth, I highly recommend it.



Brett Newski..(.of Brett Newski)

Brett Newski..(.of Brett Newski)

4) Brett Newski - Similar to GGOOLLDD, I've heard about Brett Newski for a long time, but never gave him the time of day. A few weeks ago, I saw an article that contained Newski and a drummer going in to a Wal-Mart and playing a pop up show. They were promptly asked to leave, but I was intrigued. After listening to his most recent work, I found him to be a great mix of straight-forward lyrics and 90s alternative music. I can best describe his work as a mix of the Presidents of the United States of America's "Gump", Ben Folds; "Rocking the Suburbs", and Cake's "Daria." If you know all of those songs (and like them), you'll be a fan. Brett Newski just released a new record called Life Upside Down that I recommend you pick up.


"Can't Get Enough"


The Belle Weather - Tom Abromaitis, Eric Cox

The Belle Weather - Tom Abromaitis, Eric Cox

5) The Belle Weather - I met writer and front man Eric Cox at a "Songwriters in the Round" gig. I was immediately impressed by his vocal prowess and storytelling abilities. I know it embarrasses him each time I say it, but I think his voice is reminiscent of Station to Station era David Bowie. It sails over a rich ocean of indie folk/rock that grabs your attention and sets the scene for whatever story he wants to tell, from the folks fighting the good fight in Standing Rock, longings for home, or a "what if" story about the life of crime he almost had. These guys work hard and gig often. I highly suggest you purchase their music and seek them out when they come to your area, because they will. Waukesha, Sheboygan, Milwaukee, Brookfield, wherever. You're never far from the next Belle Weather gig.


"The Accomplice"


Layers & Layers - Thea Vorass, Tyson Allison, Robert Jokala, Adrian Esguerra

Layers & Layers - Thea Vorass, Tyson Allison, Robert Jokala, Adrian Esguerra

6) Layers & Layers - My friend and former band mate Tyson Allison has been making truly excellent music for much longer than I have. His current band, Layers  & Layers, takes some of the best of the darker side of 90s alternative (Uncle Tupelo, Radiohead) and puts a totally unique spin on it. His songs are instantly memorable without having traditional hooks. And like Field Report, Tyson's lyrics are intensely personal while being completely universal. Layers & Layers is currently recording their debut album. Look out for it, it's going to get some attention. Check out their videos for some live performances.

"Red Rover"

"Songs for Black Swans"