The stylish streets of Mineral Point
In Microtones, our newsletter-first column.
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MICROTONES by Scott Gordon, editor-in-chief and publisher
You may or may not have asked yourself of late, "What are people in Mineral Point wearing?" but it turns out the answers are pretty interesting. An Instagram account launched in May 2017, MPstreetstyle, has brought a burst of lively color to my feed, and maybe yours, courtesy of this city of 2,500 or so people about 50 miles west of Madison. From adorably bundled-up dogs to folks in eye-zingingly green coats to exuberant Pride outfits to aggro biker T-shirts to just tasteful everyday getups, the account offers us a cross-section of how people approach style when they're going about their days in downtown Mineral Point.
When you first encounter MPstreetstyle, it becomes clear pretty quickly that the person behind it is going about all this in a spirit of neighborly affection, and sees no irony or contradiction in celebrating the fashion sense of a small Wisconsin town. It turns out the account's operator is someone Tone Madisonreaders should already know about anyway, singer Leslie Damaso. She performs in Madison often and collaborates with musicians here (full disclosure: Damaso and Madison-based ensemble Mr. Chair are playing the September 20 opening night of Infamous Local Fest, which we at Tone Madison are co-presenting), but lives in Mineral Point and runs a teaching studio on one of the main drags there. Damaso herself occasionally shows up on MPstreetstyle, but mostly points the camera at neighbors and visitors passing through.
Damaso decided to start the account after the 2016 death of Bill Cunningham, a beloved New York Times photographer who spent decades documenting what people were wearing on the streets of Manhattan.
"I read this quote from [Cunningham] a few years ago: 'Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.' I'm fascinated by what people choose to wear because of that," Damaso says. "That also extends to my interest in why people do what they do. You can tell a lot about what kind of people you meet by what they wear. Besides Mineral Point, I absolutely love observing what people wear in airports."
Damaso's place of business is well-positioned for fashion-spotting. Just down the street is The Red Rooster, a restaurant where both locals and visitors stop for Cornish-style foods like pasties and figgyhobbin. "I have these huge windows, so when I see someone with an interesting outfit pass by, I go out and introduce myself, or I see them when I'm out with my dog or when there's an event happening," Damaso says. All in all, she believes the fashion on display here is just as interesting as that in New York or anywhere else. "Maybe it's because many artists and transplants from all over the world and the United States live here. It is unique for a small town in rural Wisconsin," she says. There's no rigid criteria at work on MPstreetstyle, no distinction between high and low, dressed-up and dressed down: "I think I have a knack for picking interesting personalities. So I'd say, I pick them by the sparkle in their eyes and the color of their ensemble."
One of my favorites (and, as of this writing, the account's most recent post) is of a man in a lavender dress shirt holding a small bouquet of actual lavender. Just looking at the post, we have no idea who this person is or whether he set out that day to be particularly stylish. But the color works for him, and the happenstance of running into Damaso (who was selling the lavender outside her studio, and singing songs for passerby into the bargain) created a moment of vulnerability and joy.
Two photos on the account capture Damaso's late friend Bruce Howdle, an artist who founded a long-running clay and ceramics studio in Mineral Point. "My all time favorite from the account was my friend Bruce, wearing this buffalo check coat," Damaso says. "I may have said something like he was the king of the hipsters when I took the pic. You can also see him in the account wearing a Chinese hanfu jacket with his feet dusty with clay."
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Elsewhere on the Madison internet: Kayo Dot has announced a September 23 show at BarleyPop Live. The Frequency's bar finds a new home in Waterloo. Madison synth-pop outfit Null Device has announced a new album and is streaming three tracks from it on Bandcamp. The 2019 Fermentation Fest schedule is out.
Upcoming Tone Madison Events!
Saturday, August 10: John Wiese, Erik Kramer, Jeremy Van Mill. Arts + Literature Laboratory, 7 p.m. (Tickets available online, no fee)
Wednesday, September 11: Avola, Elrond, Saint Saunter, Woodman/Earhart. Communication, 8 p.m.
September 14 and 15: Half-Stack Sessions and Tone Madison Stage at the 2019 Willy Street Fair.
September 20 through 22: Infamous Local Fest at The Winnebago and Communication.
December, date TBD: Tone Madison Best of 2019 Listening Party