Much-missed instrumental trio El Valiente plays a one-off reunion set. Info
Instrumental-rock trio El Valiente operated from 2006 to 2016, and over the course of those 10 years became one of Madison's most beloved and most distinctive bands. Even audiences who wouldn't normally seek out long-form post-rock instrumentals found El Valiente approachable, because for all its complexity the band knew how to lash everything together with warm, twangy melodies. Guitarist Eric Caldera brought a pronounced Southwestern flavor to the band, channeled through playfully off-center phrasing and a gorgeous sense of space. Just about everyone who wrote about the band, me included, made perhaps inevitable comparisons to spaghetti-Western scores, even though El Valiente's emotional range went far beyond moody suspense. Percussionist Joe Bernstein simultaneously gave shape to the band's twisty song structures with three limbs and used the remaining arm to play glittering counter-melodies on glockenspiel. All of this required a lot of flexibility from bassist Kris Hansen (and his predecessor, bassist David Sperka), who sometimes kept pace with the songs' fast-moving melodic themes and sometimes hung back to provide an anchor in El Valiente's dreamiest moments. From the flickering introduction of "Emergency Caller / Utah Desert" (on 2007's El Topo) to the restless tension of "Chico Chism & Chico Hamilton (Two Chicos)" (on 2009's Daceton) to the fanciful jump-cuts of the title track of 2012's White Comanche, these songs also translated powerfully in the band's live sets.
El Valiente played its official "last" show in 2016, as Caldera prepared to move to L.A. to pursue his career in entomology, which also spelled the end (or at least a break) for Caldera's other long-running project, Oedipus Tex. This reunion set, at Mickey's, will likely just be a one-off, and the band plans to play material from all three of El Valiente's albums. The members left things on good terms, so hopefully they can rekindle their live chemistry without a hitch. El Valiente will also be playing a live set on WORT on Friday afternoon (around 3 p.m.), and Caldera will be reprising his role as a member of Cribshitter, for that band's Thursday, August 22 show at the High Noon Saloon. —Scott Gordon