I knew coming into this past weekend that Forward Music Festival (FMF) would be fun and a chance to return to the city of my college years, but I was also impressed at how easily that fun was had. It was one of the better weekends that Madison has ever had to offer me, and that’s coming from a city that has two of the largest parties I have ever seen in Halloween and the Mifflin Street Block Party. Maybe it has more to do with my tendency to enjoy concerts more than Badger games, but whatever the reason, it’s Monday and my neck is sore from rocking out. Always a good sign.
The two day festival was just long enough for me to get into festival mode and short enough not to drain my soul or wallet. Plus, I got to see great bands in some old haunts like Cafe Montmartre and The Project Lodge, which, by the way, is owned and operated by the newly engaged Chris and Kendra. Congratulations all around!
Every time I arrived at a venue I saw one of the five organizers enjoying the show and making sure everything was cool. Wyndham was wearing a tie at Dan Deacon, Jesse was literally working the Stage Door, Bessie gave me scheduling advice, Jamie was hugging the speakers at High Places and Kyle was dapper on the street. Good people, good festival, good vibes. A definite recommendation for anyone around the midwest next year.
My favorite thing about the fest was that every show, including big names like Mason Jennings and Killdozer, had enough space to move around and dance. They didn’t try to pack the venues for more dollars and I was able to move around the city, seeing a different band in a different venue every other hour. It was a lot of fun and I hope it becomes a Madison tradition. I predict Phish will headline next year, so get your tickets on the Badger Bus now.
One band I cannot say enough about is High Places. Their collection of songs available physically are perfectly balanced between the serene and the groove, but I did not know if it would “transfer” well into a live setting. It did and I was dancing and bobbing. It was high energy and actually impressive for a two-piece playing electronic boxes. Some were turned off by their distance from any actual instrumentation, but I found it incredibly intimate and inviting. I felt like I was in their well-lit living room grooving to some found noises not so dissimilar to a jam session with found objects which I often participate in when given the chance. Very, very fun.
After High Places was Monotonix. I did not hear one word the singer said all night except for when he made the entire audience take their shirts off and proceeded to point out his superior likeness to our forest-dwelling mammal brothers and sisters: “I am one man from Israel and I have more chest hair than all you Americans combined!” Cheers followed by thrashing. Seriously, they fought the audience and won, yet I felt like it was the greatest participatory event I have ever been to. I was drenched in beer and sweat when I left and I never felt better. I actually left the venue and chilled at the Capitol with two of my friends for an hour just basking in the insane energy I just put out and subsequently reabsorbed from others around me.
Monotonix @ Pygmalion Music Festival [YouTube]
I went back for the cult-fest that was Dan Deacon and was able to have fun acting like a peon. That’s how good the energy was from Monotonix. My friends at Drag City have been telling me they were crazy for a while now, but you really have to be in the middle of a sweat circle face down in a garbage can to know exactly how good life can actually be. That being said, I took a shower and amazingly felt even better.
Saturday was a day of exploring for me. I saw some local bands that showed promise and heart and I saw Killdozer. It was strange and exciting. I am not in the right audience to truly appreciate the power of Killdozer, but it was really interesting to see so many people so excited about a band reuniting that is not The Pixies or My Bloody Valentine. It was like a small town Homecoming Queen coming home to marry the Mayor. A perfect match only appreciated by those in the actual town. It was good to be there for the ceremony, though. Plus, they rocked pretty hard and brought back shock humor, which goes something like, “My mother couldn’t be here tonight. [pause] She’s in Arizona.” Then song. I miss that simple loosening of the ornate curtain that surrounds most indie rock bands. Maybe we need someone like Reagan in the White House to bring back that absurdism. Can we still vote for Ron Paul? Or that guy who believes in aliens?
Sadly, I did not get to see everything and most of my photos were s*** because I was drinking with old friends. Luckily our friends at Muzzle of Bees got some good photos, so head over there for some stellar shots. I can tell you, without even seeing them, that Pale Young Gentlemen were great. They are one of the two best bands in Madison right now. The other, Sleeping in the Aviary, was absent from the fest, but they have a new album coming out soon (as does PYG) so that should make up for it.
Below are some links to local coverage, but if anyone has some stories they would like to share, please post in the comments and we can get the ball moving on expanding the FMF for next year!