In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.
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The music lineup at World's Largest Brat Fest has often made itself a ready target, about as easy to dunk on as it is to hit, say, a large barn door with a rotten squash. There are times when bagging on the free Memorial Day weekend hog-gobbling ritual's choice of bands falls at the spicy intersection of "too easy" and "downright obligatory," and those times are... practically all years ever.
But before the person running the event's Twitter account blocks us again, let me just admit that redeeming moments are possible even among Brat Fest's customary mix of butt-rock, has-beens, the guy from Staind who's doing sort of a libertarian country thing now that Brat Fest apparently has to book every year, and people who tweet about Benghazi a lot. Last year brought the pioneering George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic—nothing to sniff at under any circumstances, especially when it's free. This year, another treat has come to my attention, if admittedly less historically important than George Clinton: A headlining set from Gin Blossoms on Saturday, May 26.
I'm hardly arguing that the Arizona-founded band has ever approached anything resembling greatness, but they claimed a little sliver of my heart when I was 12 or 13, and I'm at peace with that. If you're around that age and not particularly up on things and a song like "Til I Hear It From You" does something for you before you've got the context of jangly power-pop to help make sense of it on a level beyond the emotional, then, well, there are worse formative listening experiences.
How original is the current lineup? Well, that's even more of a moot point than it usually is on the wash-up circuit, given that one of the band's foundational songwriters, late guitarist Doug Hopkins, was kicked out shortly before Gin Blossoms released their breakthrough album New Miserable Experience in 1992. Tragic but true. I can't say I've followed the band avidly, though I did see them about a decade back at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. All I know is that the music is catchy and tender and might enable you to have some kind of a vulnerable moment to offset the pure dipstickery of other bands featured at this year's festival, like Stryper and Bobaflex.
There's no denying that Brat Fest tends to scrape the bottom of the barrel with its headlining acts, but sometimes they scoop up something decent in the process.
New this week:
Veteran electronic producer and Madison native David Last sat down for a talk with Scott Gordon about his two recent releases, which grapple with the past and the future.
Chris Lay ate all of the items on the new State Street Taco Bell Cantina's "Shareables" menu and lived to tell the tale.
Chali Pittman shares her Reporter's Sketchbook from actor/writer/producer Lena Waithe's recent visit to the UW-Madison campus.
On the podcast: John McCracken talks with fiction writer and current UW-Madison fellow Tia Clark about her work.
Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Madison electronic/experimental tinkerer Kleptix dropped a new release, Earthcraft. Madison-based artist Jennifer Bastian was a guest on the Bad At Sports podcast. Visual artist and musician Jeremy Nealis (Double Ewes), will provide the cover art for Larry Heard's new album. The Wisconsin Historical Society is planning an expansion. And finally, batten the hatches, because Stormy Daniels will be blowing through Silk this June.
This week's Madison calendar: Adam Cayton-Holland at the Comedy Club on State, Porches at the High Noon Saloon, Christian Dior at Art In, Dai Burger at Robinia Courtyard, Micro-Wave Cinema: A Feast Of Man at Vilas Hall, Corridoré and Drug Spider at the High Noon, and more!