Tuesday, December 12, 2017



I needed to have a night out.

Dear readers and listeners, while it is not typical for me to go out to many concerts and live shows, this year was certainly front-loaded with four wonderful events starring four treasured bands  and artists (Fishbone, The Flaming Lips, Aimee Mann, The Revolution), all of whom have created music and delivered performances that were wholly unforgettable. Despite going out to those shows, what I have missed this year were the opportunities to catch some local artists, and now friends, in action.

Throughout the late Spring, all of Summer and the beginnings of Autumn, my friends in the local Madison, WI based bands of Dash Hounds, Post Social, Trophy Dad, Slow Pulp and Squarewave, plus new friends in Wood Chickens, Thompson Springs, Disq, Kainalu and Skyline Sounds have all performed in one live event after another and for reasons due to my work schedule which clashes against their live performance schedules plus incorporating my fatigue from my aforementioned work schedule, I saw none of these bands for the bulk of this year. And in all honesty, I missed them.

Finding my way into the Madison music community over these last couple of years has been nothing less than wonderful and without any sense of over-exaggeration, meeting these individuals and having the opportunity to see them perform and witness their artistic process, seemingly in real time, have been absolutely re-invigorating to my passion for music. No, that passion had no chance of ever finding itself extinguished. But I cannot over-express what it meant (and still means) to me to hear music being created by a collective of serious artists with such unfiltered inspiration, skill, inventiveness and craftsmanship and who also all reside right here in and around my fair home base city of Madison, WI. Honestly, if more music lovers had any idea of what is happening around these parts...

Anyhow, and returning to this particular night, a night that arrived after an especially stressful work week which itself arrived on the heels of a series of stressful work weeks, I was more than ready to step out and enjoy some live music made my friends and acquaintances.
Billed as "A Night Of Madison Music," it was an evening of firsts as I ventured to the Williamson Magnetic Recording Company to see the local bands Disq and Squarewave--artists that I had not previously seen in a location that I was curious about and once I entered into the space, I was ready for a musical night of rare intimacy.

Williamson Magnetic Company, in addition to existing as a live music venue of that aforementioned rare intimacy, the location serves as a full analog recording studio, a photo of which appears at the very top of this posting. The space is  housed in the basement of a long running bakery on Williamson St.(affectionately known to all around the city as "Willy St."), an eccentric neighborhood as well as a busy thoroughfare on the east side of the city--in  fact, the very thoroughfare I travel almost every single day.

When I miraculously found a parking space directly across the street from the studio, just paces away from a local pet store I consistently frequent, I entered the building on this lightly cold night to find myself the first soul in the place, save for who I thought may have been one of the owners of the studio quietly setting up for the performances. I casually walked around the very tiny room, looking at the artifacts and instruments present.
Not terribly long after my arrival, people began to appear including Squarewave's Jeff Jagielo, a person while whose introspective demeanor precedes him, certainly ingratiated himself to me very warmly as we introduced ourselves to each other. He was soon followed by the band's keyboardist Andrew Rohn, even quieter than Jeff but no less kind and who seemed to be perfectly at home seated at the archaic organ which sat in one corner of the room, an area where he and Jeff quickly ran through some last minute song check-ups together before simply playing and playing softly as more people, from band members to patrons, arrived.
As Jagielo soon placed himself seated on the small stage and gave what I would assume to be a truncated soundcheck with just an acoustic guitar, the languid, tranquil yet atmospheric sonics weaved the perfect soundtrack for the arrivals and the beginnings of the evening's performances, which both the members of Squarewave and Disq foreshadowed as being more of a "subdued" quality--most likely due to the smallness of the actual space.
But how excited I was to see not only my musician friends like Alivia Kleinfeldt (Squarewave/Dash Hounds), Brendan Manley (Squarewave/Dash Hounds/Post Social/Disq) as well as Disq's Isaac de Broux-Sloane and Raina Bock, but also B-Side Records owner Steve Manley and his glowing wife Anita Sattel, former Bongo Video owner Nancy Streckert and even local singer Sally de Broux (Isaac's Mom). Their presence, plus the arrival of more individuals who eventually filled the room all the way to the small staircase leading to the outside door of the building, more than increased the warmth of the evening, room temperature and all.

Isaac de Broux-Sloane: Vocals, Guitar
Raina Bock: Bass Guitar
Zoe Dennis: Guitar, Keyboards
Brendan Manley: Drums
Evergreen Wildingway: Guitar

As the lights turned down, placing the room of the Williamson Magnetic Recording Company in near total darkness, the members of Disq took to the stage for the first set of the night.

Unlike the band's stellar, kaleidoscopic debut album entitled "Disq 1" (released July 11, 2016) on which the music was solely the work of the band's two official members, bassist Raina Bock and singer/multi-instrumentalist Isaac de Broux-Sloane, Disq on stage swelled to five members, beautifully appropriate considering the lushly deep layers of sound contained within the recorded music (an album de Broux-Sloane proclaimed that he spent 16 hours in this very studio creating the final mixes). 

On this night, Disq was in more than fine form and it made for a terrific introduction to the band as a live unit for me, even as promised, their set was of a  more subdued nature. Performing songs from their debut plus some exciting new material, I truly was impressed with hearing Isaac de Broux-Sloane's singing voice in such close proximity. While excellent upon the album I was indeed struck by the strength of his singing in this live setting--so clear, so full and rock steady. To that end, I was also thrilled to be able to bear witness to de Broux-Sloane's guitar heroics, which he displayed with equal parts flash and class, again always serving the needs and demands of the song itself and without any sense of ego.
Equally impressive was Raina Bock, who I was particularly interested in viewing as I just wanted the chance to see how she represented herself. Bock struck a certain pose of stoicism on stage, a visage that ran in full contrast to the smooth fluidity of her bass playing, a rumbling yet flowing musicality that stood out vibrantly in person as it was removed from the kaleidoscopic layering of Disq's album, while still serving as a certain emotional glue with in the songs themselves.

Again, Disq impressed me tremendously on a variety of levels. Yes, the band has the goods for the sole, simple reason that this is a band that has the songs and the overall skills to make their songs sing so gloriously. I do not wish to keep bringing up the young ages of the band members over and again as it may inadvertently suggest that there is a certain novelty to the band and that assumption would be demonstrably unfair.

But I do bring up their ages again (de Broux-Slone has just recently graduated from high school while Bock is involved in her Senior year) to signify the importance of having musicians that are so young and within the instant gratification era of the 21st century who have taken up the challenge of learning how to play instruments, write complete songs, perform and produce them all the while leaving ego at the door and serving themselves up to music itself. That level of purity instilled within their considerable talents is what has ingratiated Disq to me, their friends and fans and to those who are indeed decades older than themselves. Jeff Jagielo's warmly repeated comments of praise towards the band spoke volumes to me as they completely echoed my own impressions of what Disq has already accomplished.

And I would not be surprised if Jagielo's words echoed throughout the patrons of the night's event as well for Disq more than delivered the goods.

Patrick Connaughty:  Vocals, Guitars
Jeff Jagielo: Vocals, Guitars
Alivia Kleinfeldt: Bass Guitar
Brendan Manley: Drums
Andrew Rohn: Keyboards

After a short break, Squarewave took to the stage and truth be told, I needed to find a place to sit down as my legs were indeed finding themselves growing fatigued after the length of the day, and for that  matter, the week and the prior month! So, fixing myself a perch upon the stairs, I sat and allowed myself to get lost, so to speak.

While I am not terribly well versed in the fullness of the Squarewave history and discography, their most recent effort entitled "A Tighter Knot," released just last year, ended up as being one of my favorite albums of 2016. Their exquisite, multi-layered, densely dark psychedelia made for a listening experience that was profoundly transportive as it was th every type of album that alters your senses by being music whose allure comes from being entirely immersive. It is like sinking deeper and deeper into a warm bath...or a grim moat. The fact that the album was the work of only two individuals--Jeff Jagielo and Patrick Connaughty--was staggering as the overall sound of the album was so enveloping in its reach and scope.

Since the album's release, Squarewave has increased their official lineup to include former Modern Mod/now Dash Hounds members Alivia Kleinfeldt and Brendan Manly (clearly the hardest working young drummer in Madison) within their ranks. On a pure visual level, it was initially odd to witness the generational gap between the band members of Squarewave, a gap which possibly may hold a good 30 years between the teams of  Jagielo and Connaughty and Kleinfeldt and Manley. Yet, once the band began to play, the music created made for a perfect matching of musical sensibilities.
Anchored by the sublime vocals and guitar work of both Jagielo and Connaughty, Squarewave's performance was dynamically captivating, conjuring an overwhemingly enveloping spell that, as with the album, was transformative as it transcended its location, making me feel as if I had been delivered to a new frontier. With a sound that often felt like David Gilmour fronting The Velvet Underground performing variations of the track "Heroin," Squarewave's performance created a wealthy yet disturbing tonality of drones and atmospherics that would not have sounded out of place within David Lynch's cinematic universe.

With no intended disrespect given towards the venue, Squarewave's music was almost too big for the room of the Williamson Magnetic Recording Company. I say these words because to my ears, this music feels designed to meet the open air, the night skies, the stars and perhaps even the moon and cosmos itself. While not remotely bombastic, song after song simply boomed in its sonic beauty and cavernous power and again, I found myself so blissfully impressed with Kleinfeldt and Manley, two people that I am very fortunate to have had the chance to know a bit better over these last couple of years as the generators of their own material within their respective past and current bands.

Despite the age differences between all of the Squarewave band members, every single musical moment worked to perfection and in fact, the combination of these two distinct music forces from varying age groups beautifully displayed the links in the musical chains that do indeed connect the eras that exist within themselves as well as the Madison music community. Frankly, the music of Dash Hounds does not sound too far removed from the goings-on in Squarewave and vice versa, and hearing how they comfortably compliment each other is quite exciting indeed. Jeff Jagileo informed me afterwards that he hopes that writing and recording between all four members can occur this Winter, and for that I am extremely excited to hear whatever results from the sessions.
But before those sessions can even begin in earnest, meaning that any potential new music will not arrive for quite some time, I was just so very happy to have been in the spot I sat on this night. Of course, I was enraptured and enthralled with the music. But to be in such intimate surroundings with friends old and new, made for a night that I realized that I needed more than I may have originally thought.

As the night ended, I stepped out into the chilly night air on Williamson Street with Steve and Anita as we watched the four official members of Squarewave clear out their equipment and make plans to grab something to eat nearby. I can't explain it but the sight of those four, shy, introverted and enormously gifted artists in communion was somehow quite warming to witness, as warm as the feelings of friendship that I share with Steve and Anita an dot hers I shared this evening with.

I watched the members of Squarewave move on into the night just as I eventually did the same as I hopped across the street to my awaiting car, which was ready to deliver me back home with the music of the night still echoing in my spirit.
all photos by Scott Collins

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