Lucien Parker and Broadway make for a bright spot in the BTW lineup. Info
Between The Waves, a combination of locally focused music festival and music-biz conference, debuted in 2017. It wasn't quite clear what the event was trying to accomplish, or why it merits a big chunk of the relatively small amount of funding the City of Madison devotes to music programs. In any case, it's back for round two and doesn't look a whole lot different. This year's conference schedule features a bunch of the same speakers who visited last year—though admittedly, Sunday morning's panel on "Fostering Diverse & Inclusive Music Communities," with Elyse Clouthier (of Gender Confetti and Clean Room), Huan-Hua Chye (Gentle Brontosaurus), Jonathan Brown (Coordinated Suicides), and Sarah Akawa (Queer Pressure), is a step in the right direction (full disclosure: The panel's host, Emily Mills, is an occasional Tone Madison contributor). The clear highlight of this year's festival portion is Friday's hip-hop showcase at the High Noon, featuring a lineup of MCs who are either working in Madison now or have made a significant mark on the local music community.
Headlining is Lucien Parker, a Minneapolis native and onetime UW-Madison student who over the past five years or so has established a resilient but emotionally nuanced voice while exploring a range of approaches as an MC, singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Parker has followed 2016's album Black Sheep with a string of singles and EPs. "Impossible," from last year's Tireless EP, captures his ability to move fluidly between juicy hooks and staccato flows. He performs here with longtime collaborator DJay Mando. Broadway Muse, who moved back to her native Chicago after graduating from UW-Madison's First Wave program, is a ferociously skilled rapper, often starting off a song softly before escalating into intricately constructed rhymes. Her latest single, "Can't Love Me," is a bit of a departure into spaced-out reggae. Her verse on "Interlude," a collaboration with Parker, features exactly the kind of slippery wordplay that keeps me coming back to Broadway's music: "I can tell you haven't had the best yet / Lookin' like you wanna take a rain check / Figured I'm just trying to get your brain wet / Slip a thought in your ear, you go crazy just to catch that." Madison quintet 3rd Dimension and charismatic young rapper Red The Bully round out this very solid lineup.—Scott Gordon