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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

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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