Sunday, January 24, 2016



With all of the recent and painful goodbyes in the musical world, I must admit that I was just a little bit nervous to attend this concert due to any possibilities of injecting even more sadness into my life. What surprised me, however, was how superbly healing of a night it actually was.

Dear readers and listeners, it was just a little over one year ago that I found myself introduced to and fully enraptured by the music of a collective of the young Madison, WI musicians that have formulated the bands of Post Social and Modern Mod. If you have been regular visitors to this blogsite over the past year, you will have already seen the steady chronicling of my passionate ravings for both bands and their music, from the album reviews to the extensive interviews I was fortunate enough to have conducted with several of the band members during last summer and fall. Yet, it was through my conversations with Modern Mod bassist/singer/songwriter Alivia Kleinfeldt that I have been privy to a certain tidbit of very important information for quite some time: Modern Mod would soon disband.

Yes, Modern Mod, whose current and longest running incarnation, who in addition to Kleinfeldt, includes drummer Brendan Manley, guitarist Cal Pocernich and lead vocalist/guitarist Emily Massey, have decided that after five years of existence, that it was time for all of them to move onwards for different musical and life experiences. As a promise to Kleinfeldt, I held onto this information tightly because frankly, it was not my information to release. The end would and should arrive as the band saw fit, on their own timetable and besides, I not-so-secretly held out some hopes that maybe, possibly, they just might change their minds. Aside from myself, I knew that their families, and I would assume, some close associates also had this news, and I was certain that they equally housed the same hopes. And truthfully, as the band exited the stage for the final time and delivering what some longtime fans have already been celebrating as being possibly the very best concert they ever performed, those hopes of continuing still echoed through the hearts of their fans, including myself. And how could they not?

Modern Mod's final concert only re-confirmed everything we already knew about the band in spades. That this is a collective of superlative and superior musicians, singers and songwriters who are made for the stage and designed to be creative artists and who just have that inexplicable knack for forging a powerful connection between themselves and the audience as well as with each other. It is rare that an ending has proven itself to be so joyous, so affirming, so uplifting and just so much damn fun with smiles, laughter and open camaraderie rampantly abound and set to music so fervently inventive, open hearted and body slamming.

But, let's rewind a bit....
On a frigid Thursday night, I entered the High Noon Saloon to find the members of opening act Post Social already upon the stage preparing themselves for the evening and their role as one of Modern Mod's opening acts. On my way to the stage, I was happily intercepted by Modern Mod auxiliary member, guitarist Henry Stoehr who graciously presented me with a copy of one of his multiple band's new releases per a previous on-line discussion. We quickly exchanged pleasantries before he had to return to the backstage inner-sanctum where the members of his band Trophy Dad would also be performing on this special night. And after a few more moments of just milling around, checking out the sound board and saying a few quick words to Post Social guitarist Mitch Deitz and drummer Brendan Manley, it was time for the night to begin.
Shannon Connor: Guitars, Vocals
Mitch Deitz: Guitars, Vocals
Sam Galligan: Bass Guitar
Brendan Manley: Drums

I am truly finding that anytime that I am able to witness the band Post Social in a live setting is a most special thing due to the infectious spell they weave through their increasingly ambitious arrangements and songwriting plus the sheer exuberance of their musicianship and overall performances. Believe me, it is one of my greatest wishes that this group finds the level of support and adoration that Modern Mod has been able to cultivate as Post Social is more than deserving of any and all accolades and attention. As with the previous times that I have seen the band, as well as through listening to both of their albums, Post Social's musical foundation is superbly textured, seasoned and deeply sophisticated while also possessing a boundless kid-in-a-candy-shop enthusiasm that is tremendously infectious.

The bulk of their performance on this night centered around material from their second album "Young Randolphs" (released October 3, 2015), proving again that they have amassed a body of work that is tailor made for the stage and more than worthy of re-visiting through the album as the dynamics, melodics, and qualities of their performances demand the fullest of your attention.
Mitch Deitz again proved himself to be the consummate showman. From shredding his vocal register to rambunctiously leaping about the stage, he is a figure that you simply cannot take your eyes off of for his energy is that captivating. Deitz simply looks happy to be alive while upon the stage, as if he is doing the only thing that he would ever wish to be doing, regardless of how many people happen to be in attendance. His energy is that of the Pied Piper, you become excited simply because he is excited himself. You're drawn inwards and closer and then pulverized by the full band's expert delivery as they demonstrated over and again on selections like "Online," "Wall," "Gentle Ben," "Everyone" and the band's personal favorite track to perform live, the monumental "Ohio."
As a counterpoint to Deitz, guitarist/singer Shannon Connor offers a dreamier yet no less complex stage presence as selections like the stunning, shimmering "Green Screen" and "Haunt Me" transfix beautifully. It has been really something watching Connor grow as a singer while the interlocked guitar patterns he constructs with Deitz possess a glistening psychedelia that is just pleasurable to the ears and brought out to blissful delight on "Days," a track from the band's debut self titled release.
Bassist Sam Galligan, who confirms himself as the band's John Entwistle, only continues to impress with his dazzling musicianship that simply flows from his stoic, and therefore, nearly enigmatic stage presence. Rumbling and fluid, Galligan surrounds the music with muscle and that ever present and always important melodicism, always allowing the songs to continuously reveal themselves with every new listen and performance.
I will speak more to the undeniable strengths and skills of Brendan Manley a bit later as I focus upon Modern Mod, but simply stated, he is a phenomenal drummer. Hunched fully over his trap set with long locks flowing freely and often obscuring his face, Manley's drum performances are filled with palpable swing and force, thoroughly cementing the lockstep rhythm section he has formulated with Galligan.

And I think that is the beauty of a band like Post Social when it comes down to it. It is not always just enough to be a fine songwriter or even stellar musicians in and of themselves. What Post Social is able to achieve is firmly established through the combination of their skills, their love of music and the fellowship they share with each other as bandmates and as lifelong friends. Throughout this entire night and at other concert performances I attended over the last few months, I have seen the members of Post Social just hanging out together, supporting other musicians and artists and even happily cheering Manley and his Modern Mod co-horts onwards at their performance last month at the Barrymore Theater. Their affection for their music, their position as being creative artists and doing so with each other within this unique community all flows within to the music they create and share. The alchemy of that combination is nothing less than magical as far as I am concerned, making Post Social exist as so much more than a band. They are truly a brotherhood.

Justin Huber: Drums
Abby Sherman: Vocals, Bass Guitar, Trumpet
Henry Stoehr: Guitar, Keyboards
Jordan Zamansky: Vocals, Guitar

This was a great surprise and only served to fully elevate the night even further.

After witnessing Henry Stoehr's excellent guitar work performing with Modern Mod at the Barrymore Theater last month and having a few very warm and animated conversations with him, I was more than curious to see what he would offer within one of his own musical projects. Trophy Dad, a four piece collective in which Stoehr serves as guitarist/keyboardist, struck a musical palate that was possibly even a tad left-of-center from the already idiosyncratic Post Social!

With even stronger lead vocals from singer/bassist Abby Sherman leading the fray, the music of Trophy Dad also stems from a certain post-rock approach a la Tortoise or The Sea and Cake, while also finding ways to inject familiar motifs, which range from '60s and '70's pop to '80s new wave and punk rock, to '90's alt-rock to '00's indie rock, all of which is fueled by strong melodics augmented with priceless boy/girl harmonies that I have heard in bands like The Anniversary or Papas Fritas.
And yet, there was also something so arcane or even unfamiliar about the band's approach that nearly lended itself to something as ephemeral as jazz. Often times during their performance, I discovered that I was somewhat musically lost and I wondered if the increasingly packed house was feeling the same as I was. Still, I believe that we were all mesmerized as portions of Trophy Dad's performance felt as if we were witnessing their music being invented on the spot. I was unsure at times as to how and where the vocals were aligning themselves alongside the chords being played, and then, like placing that final piece into an elaborate jigsaw puzzle, the music would just snap together triumphantly, all making sense and becoming gracefully transportive as the whole house jumped and danced exuberantly together.
Trophy Dad's performance was a remarkable and dexterous display of musical agility that was also coupled with a fully down-to-Earth and at times goofy charm from the band members, who were clearly enjoying themselves, laughing openly and smiling broadly throughout, even as they created sonic textures that flew into forms of atonal psychedelia. Abby Sherman made for an excellent frontwoman, again propelled by her clear, assertive vocals, bass playing and even, at one point, picking up a trumpet to provide some deeper musical colors. Sherman was supported heroically by her excellent bandmates as guitarist/singer Jordan Zamansky provided equally terrific instrumental and vocal textures while drummer Justin Huber delivered the deep grooves.

As for Henry Stoehr, he was captivating. Despite Sherman's magnetic stage presence, my eyes continuously drifted to Stoehr, who seemed to function as the musical glue holding all of the various elements of the music together valiantly. He was the expert team player, never once calling attention to himself and providing whatever each song needed at precisely the right time.
Once Trophy Dad concluded their performance, I was so deeply impressed with their skill and their inventiveness that all I could ask for was to hear even more of it. I felt as if I was finally being let in on a certain musical secret within the Madison music community, one that often congealed into a vibrant musical stew that had the crowd happily upon its feet--including members of Modern Mod who gleefully danced at the lip of the stage.

photo courtesy of SCOTIFY
Adam Gilmore: Drums
Johnathon Mayer: Vocals, Guitar
Ryan Reeve: Bass Guitar

The evening's third opening band hailed from Milwaukee, WI., and delivered a set that was raw and ragged yet also tight and soulful. Surgeons In Heat, led by the scruffy, scrappy Johnathon Mayer and aided by the ace rhythm section of bassist Ryan Reeve and the Herculean drummer Adam Gilmore, performed a brief set of aggressive, agitated soul tunes that often made me think of a slightly updated version of "Get Happy!!" era Elvis Costello and the Attractions.

Clad in a flannel shirt and carrying a demeanor that sort of suggested the barfly balladeer of a figure like Alex Chilton crossed somewhere with Paul Westerberg, Mayer carried a more mercurial presence on stage, whether adjusting his guitar speakers or directing the proper tempos to his bandmates, leading to several moments of anticipatory pauses between songs. Yet when the songs arrived, they came on with an urgent slow jam seductiveness, a wicked energy that possessed a more authentic force of what romance, love and sex actually tends to really feel like.
While Reeve's prowling bass lines were expertly hip swaying with Gilmore's pulverizing drums supplying the lusty beat, Mayer sang pleadingly, often with a gorgeous Smokey Robinson-esque falsetto that gave every song that vulnerable edge that sat at the core of the persistent grooves and rock and roll power.
photo courtesy of SCOTIFY

And I do have to give special mention to Adam Gilmore, who nearly stole the show as his drumming was monstrous! Every hit felt to be a body slam, so much so that I was convinced that drum sticks would be broken before reaching the conclusions of songs. But there was much finesse to this particular behemoth, who confessed to me afterwards that there is a certain showmanship at work with his gyrations. Even so, they only added to the excitement contained within Surgeons In Heat's vigorously dynamic performance.

And now, it was time for the main event...

photo courtesy of SCOTIFY

Alivia Kleinfeldt: Bass Guitar, Vocals
Brendan Manley: Drums
Emily Massey: Lead Vocals, Guitar
Cal Pocernich: Guitar
with special guest 
Henry Stoehr: Guitar on "Moonage Daydream" 

With the strains of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" appropriately filling the room, the evening's main act, Modern Mod entered the stage to a full house and rapturous applause before blazing into a head snapping opening knock out punch, a letter perfect cover of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid."

Immediately, there was something noticeably different in the air with this particular performance as compared to what I experienced at the Barrymore last month. As much as I was impressed with the band's performance one month ago, this time Modern Mod was coming out of the gate white hot, instantly feeding off of the energy of the crowd's shouts, screams, energy and the frequency of flashing lights from a variety of photographers, including myself. Modern Mod delivered the first shot brilliantly and they just basked in the glory, smiling away inside of the maelstrom they were creating.
And so it went for the remainder of their spectacular farewell performance. To best describe the experience, it was precisely like the saying of an artist giving their all as if it would be the last time they would ever perform because for Modern Mod, this night was indeed the final night and they make every single second of it count beautifully. Perfectly sequenced and presented fast and furiously, Modern Mod performed many of their now beloved songs as featured upon their album "Tunnels" (released April 21, 2014) from the propulsive "Don't" and "SLUTS," to the gloriously catchy "N.Y.C.," my personal favorite "Undefined," and of course, their signatures "Papercuts" and "Monday Morning" with its infectious chorus of "like John and Yoko" which had the packed High Noon Saloon in constant motion and singing along loudly.
photo courtesy of SCOTIFY

Modern Mod then only expanded their canvas with explosive cover versions of The Who's "I Can See For Miles" and Dinosaur Jr.'s "Feel The Pain." Both "A Reminder" and "Capture," two unrecorded/unreleased original selections also made their return, bringing the dark psychedelia a la The Smashing Pumpkins tinged with The Doors into the proceedings. The band truly achieved complete lift off with their jaw dropping cover version of David Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" with guitarist Henry Stoehr returning to the stage, making the band five members strong, and supplying an even more sky scorching solo than he achieved last month. Once the strains of that song faded, leaving the crowd successfully obliterated, I was certain that Bowie was beaming proudly from somewhere in infinity.

In fact, Modern Mod's final performance fully eclipsed what I had seen one month ago. As I have stated earlier, there was truly something in the air. When I addressed several of the band members afterwards and expressed my feelings about the show on this night, they each expressed similar feelings. Massey proclaimed that they were really "feeling it" on this night and Kleinfeldt even exclaimed to me afterwards that she hadn't even really seen Pocernich perform at the level to which he played on this night before. While the band was firmly in lockstep, they impressed each other, a quality that I am certain only helped to raise their individual games while functioning superbly as a unit.
photo courtesy of SCOTIFY

Where Emily Massey displayed an ethereal confidence at the Barrymore last month, on this night she fully embraced her role as Rock Goddess!!! Massey completely soared from the first note she sang all the way until her final sung note faded into the ether. She was stunning to behold as she was a vision in white, flowing from one end of the stage to the other, dropping to her knees in rock star rapture, holding her mic into the audience and even jumping into the audience at one point during "Undefined."
photo courtesy of Anita Sattel

Emily Massey did not just exist as a strong frontwoman for this final bow. She owned the stage, grabbing the night powerfully with both hands, demonstrating fully that she is indeed a creative force to be reckoned with, for now and wherever she chooses to head in the future.
photo courtesy of SCOTIFY

As for Cal Pocernich, I was tremendously excited to finally see him in action (as well as officially meet him afterwards) and he was dynamic. Like a prowling prizefighter, he struck a silent yet anxious pose initially but when it was time to bring the noise, Pocernich burst from his corner and slayed the crowd with his guitar fireworks while shaking and quaking in constant motion. With his mop-top of hair flailing around and his tall, thin frame jerking violently, he truly reminded me of a young Pete Townshend crossed with a young Elvis Costello.
And finally, there remains bassist Alivia Kleinfeldt and drummer Brendan Manley, the dangerously tight rhythm section who executed their combined skills flawlessly. As with Massey, Kleinfeldt fully owned the stage and the night as a whole as she, a vision in scarlet, twirled magically while laying down the rock foundation with superior melodicism and again, a certain muscle that was pile driving.
photo courtesy of SCOTIFY

For Brendan Manley, already having performed with Post Social earlier, felt fully warmed up and efficiently stretched out as he was especially limber with Modern Mod, becoming faster, more fluid, more malleable and shape shifting. Whatever jazz influences that are sprinkled within his overall playing felt to be firmly in essence by this point of the night. I felt his confidence as never before and therefore, the full extent of his considerable power which was a privilege to witness once again.
photo courtesy of SCOTIFY

In fact, the entire evening was a privilege to witness as all four bands represent something truly special within our local music community and frankly, for the music genre as a whole. Remember at the outset of this posting when I expressed my trepidation that this night just may exist as another sad night of musical goodbyes or at least something where the bittersweetness of the evening contained more bitter than sweet? Not once did I ever capture those melancholic feelings. Certainly, seeing Modern Mod take their final bows contained elements of sadness and how could it not. But, I just saw this band do what the very best are able to achieve when they call it a day: Modern Mod concluded upon their own terms, upon their own timetable and closed the door of the band in peak, fighting form. They transformed the High Noon Saloon into their house and we were all the honored guests. They went out completely on top and most importantly, the band members remain friends as well. 

Just take a moment to really think about what these young people, all aged between 18 and 20, have achieved within the five years of the band's existence. These people were inspired to learn instruments and formulate a band. They have written songs together, began performing and built a loyal and loving fan base while also eventually attaining praise from their peers, critics and even Garbage's Butch Vig. They have recorded an award winning album, starred in music videos and television commercials, and achieved copious radio airplay around the country. They have participated in numerous interviews and have performed several concert tours. They have weathered several band personnel changes and now, they have performed a farewell concert. There are long established bands that have achieved far less than Modern Mod and to think about everywhere they have been in such a short span of time, it is staggering, and just so amazing, especially as I think about where they can go from this point. 
The members of Modern Mod have truly been to the circus, so to speak, and now that they have had a front row seat to the experience of the full life of a band, and at such a young age to boot, the end of Modern Mod only signifies a much grander and brighter future for all of its members as whatever they choose to pursue from here, they can do so with the full knowledge of all that they have experienced so far. The Modern Mod experience will fully inform all of their future decisions and the knowledge that if the experience is not fun and free, then it is not an experience worth having.

It thrills and warms me to see that after all they have accomplished, these musicians continue to not possess any jaded feelings or a world weary "been-there-done-that" attitude. These are music professionals still filled with the excitement of performing, playing together and creating, and also just being surrounded by other creative people and being fans of music overall. This was a powerful element I witnessed throughout the night with all of the bands as this felt to be a supportive group of people. I was so pleased to see various members from all of the bands checking out each other's shows and gleefully so. And it also felt to be more than fitting that between sets, the music of David Bowie permeated the High Noon Saloon, uniting the audience in song, sound and vision as this particular artist has most likely inspired and has been embraced by everyone in the room at some point. 
photo courtesy of SCOTIFY

A grand finale this night was indeed! Celebratory, communal, invigorating, illuminating, rapturously ecstatic and euphoric. Modern Mod closed their existence in high style, uncompromising artistry and a whirlwind of fun and excitement. I do realize that it is more than a bit of a cliche to say that we shouldn't be sad because it is now over but to be happy that it happened.

But, this did happen and man, how could I not be happy?

All photos by Scott Collins except where indicated...extremely special thanks to SCOTIFY who took the best photos of the night by a mile and in turn assisting me greatly as my battery ran out!!! 

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