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Smiley Gatmouth, Jonnychang, Zhalarina, Son! (free)

  • Memorial Union Terrace 800 Langdon Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

One of First Wave's most charming and eccentric alums returnsInfo


Eli Lynch never sounds firmly tethered to any one vocal, production, or songwriting approach, or at least he always likes to make room for a bit of sonic and emotional chaos. Performing as Smiley Gatmouth, Lynch takes the dexterous wordplay he learned as a young slam poet and channels it into a mix of taut rapping and slightly unhinged, free-form singing, with a voice that leaps playfully between octaves and personas. On "Home (Forreal)," the second track of his 2016 album Carousel, Lynch paints a surreal scene of gentrification in his native Denver, doubling his own raps in a resiny baritone and a cracking high register, a wistful vocal approach that perfectly suits the lyrics' mix of nostalgia and anxiety: "It's raining ashes, now I wonder what they used to be."

Lynch has returned to Denver since graduating from UW-Madison's First Wave program, and he's been working for a youth-advocacy nonprofit, making new music, and published a new poetry collection this summer, The Breaking Of Clay: Excerpts From The Making Of Clay. A couple of recent tracks released on YouTube, "Triflin'" and "Won't Take Much," find Lynch accompanying himself on ukulele and taking a more melodic vocal approach, albeit with a dash of cryptic verbiage ("You kiss like Icarus"?). For this Terrace show, he's planning to play a mix of solo-ukulele songs and more beat-driven material. This show will also promote The JVN Project and its annual JVN Day Hip-Hop Festival, a series of performance and workshops that will take place Sept. 6 through 9 in honor of John Vietnam Nguyễn, Lynch's friend and fellow First Waver, who drowned in 2012 at age 19. Three other artists with connections to the First Wave program—rapper/singer Jonnychang, MC-turned-singer-songwriter Son! (playing a DJ set here), and poet/rapper Zhalarina—will share the bill. —Scott Gordon

Later Event: July 29
Tony Barba